Skip to Main Content

The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Little bluestem tiller defoliation patterns under continuous and rotational grazing
Year: 1994
Author(s): Derner, J. D., Gillen, R. L., McCollum, F. T., Tate, K. W.
Source Title: Journal of Range Management
Source Type: Journal
pages: 220-225
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: Defoliation patterns of little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash] on tallgrass prairie were compared using continuous and rotational grazing systems on six 24-ha pastures for each system over a range of stocking rates (0.28 to 0.49 AU ha-1) in 1991 and 1992. We tested the generalization that rotational grazing provides greater managerial control over the frequency, intensity, and uniformity of tiller defoliation compared to continuous grazing. Rotational system pastures were subdivided into 8 paddocks with 4 grazing cycles (3-7 day graze periods) per grazing season. Tillers were sampled biweekly in continuous system pastures and at the beginning, midpoint, and end of each grazing period in rotational system pastures. Multiple regression prediction equations were developed for grazed height, number of defoliation events in a grazing season, percent of tillers defoliated per sampling period (of continuous system) and grazing cycle (for rotation system), and number of defoliation events within a grazing cycle (rotational system). Grazed height decreased as stocking rate increased, but was not influenced by grazing system. The number of cumulative defoliation events per tiller increased with increasing stocking rate over the grazing season. Under similar stocking rates, a higher percentage of tillers were defoliated during the grazing season in the continuous than in the rotational grazing system. Within both grazing systems, percentage of tillers defoliated increased with increasing stocking rates. The percentage of tillers defoliated biweekly in continuous system pastures was similar over the grazing season; the percentage of tillers defoliated per cycle increased as grazing periods lengthened in rotational system pastures. A large number of tillers were defoliated during the second half of each grazing period. Less than 10% of tillers were regrazed within a grazing cycle, even at the highest stocking rate and longest grazing period. Rotational grazing provided greater managerial control over the frequency and uniformity of tiller defoliation; intensity of tiller defoliation was similar between the 2 grazing systems. We hypothesize higher range condition will be maintained over the long-term in rotational system pastures as little bluestem will remain more competitive and productive resulting from fewer defoliation events throughout the grazing season.