Study

Tallgrass prairie response to cattle grazing system and stocking rate, Oklahoma State University Research Range, Oklahoma, USA

  • Published source details Gillen R.L., McCollum III F.T., Tate K.W. & Hodges M.E. (1998) Tallgrass prairie response to grazing system and stocking rate. Journal of Range Management, 51, 139-146

Summary

North American prairies are often subject to livestock grazing. There needs to be an appropriate stocking rate and grazing regime to ensure grasslands are not degraded and that floristic diversity is maintained. In tallgrass prairie, high stocking rates tend to lead to increases of mid- and short-grasses, whilst tall species decline. In this study, cattle grazing system and stocking rate effects on standing crop and species composition of tallgrass prairies at Oklahoma State University Research Range (36º22’N, 99º04’W), central USA, were assessed from 1989 to 1993.

Twelve prairie pasture units (14-26 ha in area) dominated by big bluestem Andropogon gerardii, little bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium and indiangrass Sorghastrum nutans, were established.
 
These were randomly assigned, short duration rotation (6 units) or a continuous grazing system (6 units). Within each grazing system the units were randomly allocated one of six stocking rates (cattle/unit from 10 to 22). Stocking rates ranged from 51.5 animal-unit-days/ha (AUD/ha) to 89.8 AUD/ha (i.e. moderate to very heavy for such grasslands); cattle grazed from late April to late September (average 151 day grazing season). All units were burned on 1 April 1990 and 20 March 1993.
 
Relative vegetation composition was measured (within 100, 0.1m² quadrats in a grid pattern in each unit) between 15 August-1 September 1989 and 1993. Plants were grouped as: big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, ‘midgrasses’, ‘shortgrasses’, annual grasses, and forbs. Total standing crop was estimated in late September (clipping 45, 0.1 m² quadrats/unit, and scaling up to unit area).

The continuous and rotational grazing regimes trialled affected vegetation similarly over time. Standing crop declined as stocking rate increased (and over time from 1989 to1993); decreases of big bluestem, indiangrass and forbs were greatest at lower stocking rates. Concurrent increase in switchgrass occurred in both grazing systems. In 1993 (after 5 years grazing) shortgrasses were positively related to stocking rate (i.e. they were more abundant at higher rates) under both grazing systems.
 
Good growing conditions (above average precipitation) and the high seral state (i.e. a stable climax community) of the pasture vegetation may have reduced the responses to grazing treatments.
 
 
Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, this can be viewed at: https://www.uair.arizona.edu/holdings/journal/issue?r=http://jrm.library.arizona.edu/Volume51/Number2/

Output references

What Works in Conservation

What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, terrestrial mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 17

Go to the CE Journal

Subscribe to our newsletter

Please add your details if you are interested in receiving updates from the Conservation Evidence team about new papers, synopses and opportunities.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape Programme Red List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Bern wood Supporting Conservation Leaders National Biodiversity Network Sustainability Dashboard Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx British trust for ornithology Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Butterfly Conservation People trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust