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Grazing Method Effect on Topographical Vegetation Characteristics and Livestock Performance in the Nebraska Sandhills

Stephenson, Mitchell B., Schacht, Walter H., Volesky, Jerry D., Eskridge, Kent M., Mousel, Eric M., Bauer, Dennis.
Rangeland ecology & management 2013 v.66 no.5 pp. 561-569
Calamovilfa longifolia, average daily gain, cow-calf operations, forbs, grazing, heifers, highlands, pastures, spaying, stocking rate, topographic slope, vegetation, Nebraska
A study was conducted on upland range in the Nebraska Sandhills to determine differences in plant species frequency of occurrence and standing crop at various topographic positions on pastures grazed with short-duration grazing (SDG) and deferred-rotation grazing (DRG). Pastures within each grazing treatment were grazed at comparable stocking rates (SDG = 1.84 animal unit months (AUM) · ha−1; DRG = 1.94 AUM · ha−1) by cow–calf pairs from 1999 to 2005 and cow–calf pairs and spayed heifers from 2006 to 2008. Plant frequency of occurrence data were collected from permanently marked transects prior to, midway through, and at the conclusion of the study (1998, 2003, and 2008, respectively) and standing crop data were collected annually from 2001 to 2008 at four topographic positions (dune top, interdune, north slope, and south slope). Livestock performance data were collected during the last 3yr of the study (2006 to 2008). Positive change in frequency of occurrence of prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia [Hook.] Scribn.) was 42% greater on DRG pastures than SDG after 10yr. Total live standing crop did not differ between DRG and SDG except in 2001 when standing crop was 23% greater on DRG pastures. Standing crop of forbs and sedge was variable between grazing methods on interdune topographic positions depending on year. Average daily gain of spayed heifers (0.84± kg · d−1 SE) did not differ between SDG and DRG. Overall, SDG was not superior to a less intensively managed grazing method (i.e., DRG) in terms of vegetation characteristics and livestock performance.