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Title: Cattle grazing on the shortgrass steppe

item Hart, Richard
item Derner, Justin

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/10/2007
Publication Date: 8/5/2008
Citation: Hart, R.H., Derner, J.D. 2008. Cattle grazing on the shortgrass steppe. In: W.K. Launeroth and I.C. Burke (eds.). Ecology of the shortgrass steppe: A long-term perspective. Oxford University Press. pp. 447-458. Book Chapter.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The focus of this book chapter is research pertaining to three management practices important to cattle ranching on shortgrass steppe: stocking rates, grazing systems, and extending the grazing season via complementary pastures and use of Atriplex canescens [Pursh] Nutt (fourwing saltbush) -dominated pastures. Average daily gain remains constant over a range of very low grazing pressures until a “critical grazing pressure” is reached. At this point, average daily gain declines linearly with increasing grazing pressure. Economic returns per unit area depend not only on the relationships between gains and stocking rate, but also on selling price and mainte-nance and operating costs. Grazing systems have been developed as an alternative to season-long or continuous grazing. Steer average daily gains, grazing season gains and beef production did not differ between grazing systems in shortgrass steppe. Seeded pastures of improved or native grasses can complement native shortgrass rangeland by supplying forage in greater abundance and with greater quality during late fall and early spring, concurrent with periods of lower nutrient quality of warm-season grasses. The saltbush-dominated rangeland would be deferred during the traditional summer grazing season to extend the grazing season and provide opportu-nities for additional animal gain via grazing. Research and over a century of experience have demonstrated that moderately-stocked cattle grazing on the shortgrass steppe is biologically sustainable.