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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #367287

Research Project: Sustainable Agricultural Systems for the Northern Great Plains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: Synthesis paper: targeted livestock grazing: a prescription for healthy rangelands

item BAILEY, DEREK - New Mexico State University
item MOSLEY, JEFFREY - Montana State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item CIBILS, ANDRES - New Mexico State University
item HORNEY, MARC - California Polytechnic State University
item Hendrickson, John
item WALKER, JOHN - Texas A&M Agrilife
item LAUNCHBAUGH, KAREN - University Of Idaho
item BURRITT, ELIZABETH - Utah State University

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/17/2019
Publication Date: 8/9/2019
Citation: Bailey, D.W., Mosley, J.C., Estell, R.E., Cibils, A.F., Horney, M., Hendrickson, J.R. 2019. Synthesis paper: targeted livestock grazing: a prescription for healthy rangelands. Rangeland Ecology and Management.

Interpretive Summary: Targeted grazing is a valuable tool for changing rangeland vegetation, including weed control and providing fire breaks but differs from more traditional grazing management in that focuses on land management rather than livestock production goals. This paper pulls together the science behind targeted grazing and identifies the needed information for developing a targeted grazing prescription. Additional research directions, which include animal welfare concerns, genetic selection, and supplements and pharmaceutical enhancements are identified. Interest in targeted grazing as a ecological alternative for vegetation is increasing and local, county and state land managers will be interested in this information.

Technical Abstract: Targeted livestock grazing is a proven tool for manipulating rangeland vegetation, and current knowledge about targeted livestock grazing is extensive and expanding rapidly. Targeted grazing prescriptions optimize the timing, frequency, intensity, and selectivity of grazing (or browsing) in combinations that purposely exert grazing/browsing pressure on specific plant species or portions of the landscape. Targeted grazing differs from traditional grazing management in that the goal of targeted grazing is to apply defoliation or trampling to achieve specific vegetation management objectives, whereas the goal of traditional livestock grazing management is generally the production of livestock commodities. A shared aim of targeted livestock grazing and traditional grazing management is to sustain healthy soils, flora, fauna, and water resources that, in turn, can sustain natural ecological processes (e.g., nutrient cycle, water cycle, energy flow). Targeted grazing prescriptions integrate knowledge of plant ecology, livestock nutrition, and livestock foraging behavior. Livestock can be focused on target areas through fencing, herding, or supplement placement. Although practices can be developed to minimize the impact of toxins contained in target plants, the welfare of the animals used in targeted grazing must be a priority. Monitoring is needed to determine if targeted grazing is successful and to refine techniques to improve efficacy and efficiency. Examples of previous research studies and approaches are presented to highlight the ecological benefits that can be achieved when targeted grazing is applied properly. These cases include ways to suppress invasive plants and ways to enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Future research should address the potential to select more adapted and effective livestock for targeted grazing and the associated animal welfare concerns with this practice. Targeted livestock grazing provides land managers a viable alternative to mechanical, chemical, and prescribed fire treatments to manipulate rangeland vegetation.