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Read: an article on this research in Agricultural Research.

Research Aims To Help Ranchers Manage Forage

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
November 6, 2000

The annual weed called Japanese brome can make up 40 percent of the spring forage available for livestock in the Northern Great Plains. But studies show it can provide adequate nutrition for only a short window.

Agricultural Research Service scientists in Miles City, Mont., have found that if ranchers graze animals on brome-infested pastures too early and stay too long, they can hinder development of perennial grasses. These grasses form the mainstay of livestock nutrition for the rest of the spring and summer. The scientists are helping ranchers use the weed without depleting native grasses.

The tricky part is predicting the amount of forage likely to be produced during any year. Sometimes, annual brome grasses produce 600 pounds of forage per acre, while in other years, they provide only 20 pounds.

The scientists are measuring soil water, nitrogen and precipitation to determine what factors drive brome productivity. Eventually, they'll produce a decision-support tool to help ranchers better plan their annual grazing strategies.

An article on this research appears in the November issue of Agricultural Research, the agency's monthly magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Marshall R. Haferkamp, ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, Mont., phone (406) 432-8211, fax (406) 432-8209,