Submitted to: American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/18/2009
Publication Date: 6/21/2009
Citation: Sollenberger, L.E., Vanzant, E.S., Agouridis, C.T., Franzluebbers, A.J., Owens, L.B. 2009. The science behind the use of prescribed grazing as a conservation practice [abstract]. American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Conservation Practice Standard 528 of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) defines prescribed grazing as “managing the harvest of vegetation with grazing and/or browsing animals”. Prescribed grazing or browsing incorporates a variety of management actions. For the purposes of this presentation the actions have been termed management “strategies”. The management strategies that comprise prescribed grazing include choices of grazing intensity, grazing method, season or stage of forage growth at defoliation, type and class of livestock, and livestock distribution in the landscape. It is presumed that appropriate prescribed grazing choices 1) protect grazing land ecosystems, 2) prevent soil erosion, 3) maintain or enhance soil quality, 4) sustain forage and livestock production, 5) improve water yield and quality, 6) allow diverse wildlife habitat, 7) enhance aesthetics and open space, and 8) provide quality recreational opportunities. We reviewed the scientific literature to assess whether these benefits were occurring and to address a specific question. Does managing the harvest of vegetation using these particular strategies allow the purposes of Prescribed Grazing Practice Standard 528 to be achieved? Because the breadth of the topic exceeds what can be discussed in one presentation, this talk will focus on the effects of only two of the five strategies, grazing intensity (i.e., stocking rate or stubble height) and grazing method (i.e., continuous or rotational stocking), on plant, animal, soil, water, and wildlife responses. A large body of literature describes the effects of these two strategies on plant and animal responses, and there is growing awareness of the effects of plant-animal interactions on the broader ecosystem. This is leading to increasing research emphasis and publication on soil, water, and wildlife issues, topics that will also be considered. This presentation will highlight qualitative and quantitative responses to prescribed grazing that apply across environments; however, in some cases the enormous complexity of grassland environments makes it impossible to develop overarching generalizations. In addition, the review process has confirmed that research results may not always match perceived patterns of response, especially across the diversity of pasture environments in the USA, and these discrepancies will be identified and discussed.