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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #345216

Title: Targeted livestock grazing to improve and restore rangelands

item WALKER, J - Texas A&M Agrilife
item BAILEY, D - New Mexico State University
item LAUNCHBAUGH, K - University Of Idaho
item FRAKER-MARBLE, M - Montana State University
item Hendrickson, John
item MOSLEY, J - Montana State University
item BURRITT, B - Utah State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item HORNEY, M - California Polytechnic State University
item CIBILS, F - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2017
Publication Date: 7/23/2017
Citation: Walker, J.W., Bailey, D.W., Launchbaugh, K., Fraker-Marble, M., Hendrickson, J.R., Mosley, J.C., Burritt, B., Estell, R.E., Horney, M.R., Cibils, F.F. 2017. Targeted livestock grazing to improve and restore rangelands [abstract]. 52nd Annual Congress of the Grassland Society of Southern Africa, July 23-28, 2017, Mpumalanga-Limpopo Border, South Africa. Paper #330.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Targeted grazing is the application of a specific kind of livestock at the appropriate season, duration, and intensity to accomplish defined vegetation or landscape goals. Grazing by wild and domestic animals is a powerful natural force working in all ecosystems. The ability of selective herbivory to shape plant communities was recognized early in the history of range management when plants were classified as increasers and decreasers, which indicated changes in their prevalence in plant communities in response to grazing. Along with fire, grazing is the oldest vegetation management tool. Knowledge of selective grazing habits of livestock and of how grazing influences vegetation communities can be used to address contemporary land management challenges, such as suppressing invasive exotic weeds on rangelands, reducing fire risk in the wildland-urban interface, and finding chemical-free ways to control weeds in organic agriculture. The major difference between good grazing management and targeted grazing is that targeted grazing refocuses outputs of grazing from livestock production to vegetation and landscape enhancement. Targeted grazing should be considered as another tool in the kit for constructing desirable ecosystems. It can and should be used in combination with other technologies, such as prescribed fire, mechanical or herbicide treatments, and seeding. The most important skill for people applying targeted grazing for vegetation management is patience and commitment. The effects of correctly applied targeted grazing are generally slow and cumulative. A minimum of three years is usually required before noticeable differences in perennial herbaceous composition become apparent. Browse may take much longer. A successful grazing prescription for vegetation management should: 1) cause significant damage to the target plant; 2) minimize adverse impact to the surrounding desirable vegetation; and 3) be integrated with other control methods as part of an overall landscape management strategy. A clear understanding of the palatability and effect of defoliation of all plants in the community is needed to design a grazing strategy that will compromise the target plants and benefit the desired plants. The challenge is to select the correct animal, grazing time, and grazing intensity to maximize damage to target plants or defoliation level of target location and minimize adverse effects on the surrounding desirable vegetation without compromising the animal's welfare. Vegetation management and landscape enhancement strategies must be ecologically based with careful attention to positively directing community change, not just suppressing an undesired species. Using grazing animals to purposely enhance rangeland landscapes is a viable approach because livestock grazing is already the dominant use of rangelands and may be as simple as switching to the appropriate livestock species for the current botanical composition of the land. Examples of successful application of targeted grazing will be provided.