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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Grazing as a tool to manage grassland habitat: Implications for forage production in the Mid-South
Year: 2010
Author(s): Birckhead, J., Harper, C., Keyser, P., Waller, J., Bates, G.
Source Title:
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 44
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Habitat loss, habitat degradation, and agricultural intensification are primary factors contributing to the decline of many birds that use grasslands, including the endangered grasshopper sparrow and the northern bobwhite. Current grazing practices in the Mid-South focus on getting high yields from dense, monotypic stands of non-native forages, which provide no bare ground, little vertical structure, and poor plant species richness. Few studies have examined the vegetative response of native warm-season forages to various grazing systems with respect to bird habitat, and none have been conducted in the Mid-South. We measured vegetative response to two grazing strategies on three native warm-season grass forages at Ames Plantation Research and Education Center, Grand Junction, Tennessee, May-July, 2010. Our grazing strategies were full-season, low‐density grazing (4-5 head/acre, approx. 100 days) and short-duration, intensive grazing (6-8 head/acre, approx. 28 days). Forages used were eastern gamagrass, switchgrass, and a mixture of big bluestem and indiangrass. Plant species richness was similar between pastures in full-season, low-density grazing (25 species) and short-season, intensive grazing (24 species). Full-season, low-density grazed pastures (31%) had less coverage of undesirable grasses and forbs than short-season, intensively grazed pastures (37%). Short- season, intensively grazed switchgrass pastures had the highest coverage of undesirable grasses, such as dallisgrass (47%), and full-season, low-density grazed eastern gamagrass had the lowest coverage (7%). Neither grazing strategy promoted desirable seed-producing forbs (<1% coverage). Full-season, low-density grazed pastures were slightly more open at ground level (84 cm) than short-season, intensively grazed pastures (78 cm), with switchgrass pastures being the least open (76 cm). First year results indicate full season, low-density grazing of big bluestem/indiangrass and eastern gamagrass pastures increases openness and creates more diverse habitat than short-duration intensive grazing, particularly during brood rearing periods.
Publisher: Proceedings of the Seventh Eastern Native Grass Symposium. Knoxville, TN, October 5-8, 2010
Editor(s): C. Harper