Submitted to: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/8/2006
Publication Date: 11/1/2006
Citation: Derner, J.D., Detling, J.K., Antolin, M.F. 2006. Are livestock gains affected by blacktailed prairie dogs?. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 4(9):459-464. Interpretive Summary: The influence of prairie dogs on livestock gains in shortgrass steppe is unknown. We compared grazing season (mid-May to mid-October) gains of yearling steers on pastures with and without prairie dogs. Grazing season gains decreased with increasing percentage of the pasture colonized by prairie dogs and economic reductions to land managers were $14.95 per steer and $5.51 per acre with 20% of the pasture colonized by prairie dogs, and $37.92 per steer and $13.79 per acre with 60% of the pasture colonized by prairie dogs. Livestock managers in shortgrass steppe with pastures colonized by prairie dogs will need to reduce stocking rates to increase livestock gains per animal, but this will reduce gains per unit land area.
Technical Abstract: There is little empirical data addressing the important and controversial question of the effect of prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in western rangelands on livestock gains. This is particularly relevant in the shortgrass steppe where the area colonized by prairie dogs has increased substantially exacerbating conflicts with livestock producers. Relative livestock gains linearly decreased with increasing percentage of the pasture colonized by prairie dogs, but this decrease was slower than the increase in area colonized by prairie dogs. Reductions in livestock gains during the grazing season in pastures colonized by prairie dogs were manifest in lower returns per steer and per land area. The 5.5% decrease in livestock gains with 20% of the pasture colonized by prairie dogs reduced returns by $14.95/steer ($859.67 - $844.72) and by $2.23/ha ($40.81 - $38.58). In pastures with colonization levels of prairie dogs at 60%, returns were reduced by $37.92/steer and $5.58/ha.