The University of Arizona

Utilization and grazing distribution of cattle at 4 stocking densities.

F.R. Burboa-Cabrera, W.H. Schacht, B.E. Anderson


The relationship between stocking density and grazing distribution was studied in eastern Nebraska pastures seeded to a warm-season, tall-grass mixture and grazed at 4 stocking densities: 9, 18, 27, and 54 steers ha-1. Each of 4 pastures was divided into 4 paddocks ranging in size from 0.18 to 1.12 ha. Paddocks within each pasture were grazed rotationally by 10 steers averaging 282 kg during 3 consecutive cycles (12, 36, and 24 days) from early June to late August in 1995 and 1996. Transects 12-m long were established in a grid pattern in each paddock. Six tillers each of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) were marked permanently in each transect. Height and leaf length of marked tillers were measured before and after grazing in the last 2 grazing cycles in both years. Utilization was estimated by the reduction in tiller height or leaf length. Estimates of grazing distribution were based on a uniformity index, which was calculated by summing the absolute differences of tiller height or leaf length between adjacent transects. Stocking density generally did not affect (P > 0.05) tiller height reduction which ranged from 19 to 22 cm and from 29 to 38 cm among the stocking densities in 1995 and 1996, respectively. In most grazing cycles, leaf length reduction for big bluestem was greater (P < 0.05) than for switchgrass while tiller height reduction was similar between species. Spatial grazing distribution was not affected (P > 0.05) by stocking density but big bluestem was grazed more evenly (P < 0.05) than switchgrass in the last cycle in each year. Stocking densities as high as 54 steers ha-1 on warm-season, tall-grass mixtures do not appear to be a major factor in affecting spatial grazing distribution or forage plant selection.



sown pastures;pasture management;leaves;spatial variation;height;rain;stocking rate;length;Nebraska;Panicum virgatum;Andropogon gerardii;tillers;grazing intensity;cattle;crop yield;feeding preferences

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