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Range Objectives
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The long-term objective of this project is to develop proactive management strategies that improve sustainability of rangeland production through increased rangeland stability, efficiency of nutrient conversion, and community integrity. Over the next 5 years we will focus on the following objectives:

Objective 1: Develop strategies and decision tools to proactively manage livestock grazing, fire, and drought impacts on Great Plains community structure and function.

Sub-objective 1.A. Determine plant community and livestock response to post-fire grazing deferment.

Sub-objective 1.B. Determine plant community response to fire return interval and seasonality.

Sub-objective 1.C. Determine patch burning effects on plant community dynamics, animal performance, grazing distribution, and foraging efficiency.

Sub-objective 1.D. Characterize grazing history effects on rangeland integrity and stability.

Objective 2: Improve animal productivity and product quality based on predicted nutrient intake, forage dynamics, and diet selection processes in the Northern Great Plains

Sub-objective 2.A. Determine effects of forage quality on autumn forage intake as it interacts with cow lactation and gestation status.

Sub-objective 2.B. Determine rumen microbial response to noxious weed consumption by sheep and cattle.

Objective 3: Develop management strategies to restore rangelands degraded by weeds and prevent weed invasions in the Northern Great Plains

Sub-objective 3.A. Determine interacting effects of fire and grazing on annual brome dynamics.

Sub-objective 3.B. Provide weed management protocols adjusting for inter-annual variation.

Sub-objective 3.C. Develop an internet-available system to quantify site-specific invasive weed impacts.

Sub-objective 3.D. Develop grazing strategies to reduce invasive weed population growth rates.


Sustainability of rangeland production hinges on the stability of the plant community because changes in species composition, forage production, and forage quality fundamentally affect the animal community. The primary forces of change in rangelands are grazing, fire, weather, and alien plants. This research was designed to determine the consequences of these disturbances as they interact to affect the plant and animal communities. Objective 1 addresses the interacting effects of grazing, fire, and weather on native plant communities and ties in with Objective 2 by assessing those effects on animal performance, diet quality, and foraging efficiency. Objective 2 builds on Objective 1 by determining how diet composition and forage quality affect nutrient availability and intake by livestock and leads into Objective 3 by identifying ruminal mechanisms that affect livestock consumption of invasive weeds. Finally, Objective 3 extends the interactions of grazing, fire, and weather from Objective 1 to invasive weeds by examining their effects on weed establishment and control, and supports Objective 2 by determining livestock species effects on weed establishment through diet selection.

Much of this work is multi-disciplinary and involves significant cooperation among Fort Keogh scientists as well as collaborators listed in the Appendix. Internal collaboration by objective is as follows: Objective 1 - Vermeire, Waterman, andReinhart; Objective 2 - Waterman; Objective 3 - Rinella, Reinhart, and Vermeire. As noted in Milestones, most of this work spans more than one review cycle due to its long-term nature or pre-treatment sampling.



USDA, ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory
243 Fort Keogh Rd., Miles City, MT  59301-4016
Phone: 406-874-8200, Fax:  406-874-8289