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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Dubois, Idaho » Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research » Research » Research Project #431961

Research Project: Livestock Grazing in Rangeland Management Systems

Location: Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research

Project Number: 2056-31610-006-013-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 1, 2017
End Date: Feb 28, 2022

The objective for this cooperative research project is to determine the ecological value of multispecies grazing on management, care, and improvement of native rangelands.

Sheep, cattle, and horses have different grazing behaviors and different forage preferences. Sheep readily select forbs and exotic invasive weeds and also consume grasses. Cattle prefer grasses over native forbs and will consume some invasive weeds. Long-term sheep grazing during certain periods of the year will reduce forb and weed populations and enhance grass populations. By contrast, long-term cattle grazing will reduce grass populations and enhance some native forb and most exotic invasive weeds. Horses select a variety of forage species, but the forage species they select seem somewhat different from those selected by cattle and sheep. Long-term, single-species grazing can shift plant communities toward undesirable compositions. Because of their different grazing behaviors and forage preferences, we speculate that multispecies grazing with sheep, cattle and horses during defined periods of the year, and on defined areas of the range, will create a more uniform grazing pattern, enhance native plant communities, mitigate wildfire risks caused by excessive fuels, and improve forage quality for livestock and wildlife. Various methods will be used to assess rangeland site potential, forage communities, estimate biomass and carrying capacity, and define grazing objectives and expected outcomes. Stocking rates will be matched with carrying capacity and grazing needs, land will be grazed during defined periods of the year, and then the land will be assessed to determine whether the grazing objectives were met and expected outcomes were obtained.