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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #362954

Title: Ecological sites: Can they be managed to promote livestock production?

item Reynolds, Averi
item Derner, Justin
item Augustine, David
item Porensky, Lauren
item Wilmer, Hailey
item JORNS, TAMARAH - Former ARS Employee
item BRISKE, DAVID - Texas A&M University
item SCASTA, J. DEREK - University Of Wyoming
item FERNANDEZ-GIMENEZ, MARIA - Colorado State University

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/10/2019
Publication Date: 12/10/2019
Citation: Reynolds, A., Derner, J.D., Augustine, D.J., Porensky, L.M., Wilmer, H.N., Jorns, T., Briske, D.D., Scasta, J., Fernandez-Gimenez, M. 2019. Ecological sites: Can they be managed to promote livestock production? Rangelands. 41(6):239-243.

Interpretive Summary: We assessed livestock weight gains and diet quality (crude protein and digestible organic matter) for pastures in shortgrass steppe dominated by Loamy Plains or Sandy Plains ecological sites. When growing season precipitation is “normal”, livestock gains are higher on Sandy Plains ecological sites, and diet quality is not limiting livestock production. Conversely, when growing season precipitation declines by = 20%, digestible organic matter, but not crude protein, influences livestock gains. These negative effects on livestock gains are more pronounced for the Loamy Plains ecological site. Pastures with multiple ecological sites can provide land managers greater forage diversity for livestock and higher livestock gains during dry growing seasons.

Technical Abstract: We assessed livestock weight gains and diet quality during the 2016-2018 grazing seasons (mid-May to October) from steers grazing pastures dominated by either Loamy Plains [key species: blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis)], Sandy Plains [key species: needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata)] or with both ecological sites mixed in the shortgrass steppe. Key findings to inform land manager decision-making during dry years were: 1) livestock gains were lowest for Loamy Plains, 2) digestible organic matter was more influential than crude protein for livestock gains, and 3) multiple ecological sites in a pasture could provide greater forage diversity for livestock and enhance livestock performance.