Master's Theses

Date of Award

Spring 2008

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

Advisor

Robert Nicholson

Abstract

In grasslands, traditional grazing management aims to utilize the landscape uniformly by homogenizing grazing patterns to evenly utilize available forage. However, livestock selectively graze rangeland based on feedback controls received primarily from the vegetation. As a result, cattle will return to grate these areas repeatedly because of the new, nutrient rich regrowth of the forage species. Research has documented that steers will alter foraging behavior in response to positive foraging feedbacks received from young, succulent vegetation inside burned patches initiated during the early grazing season. Other research has documented that early intensive grazing limits the use of patches by creating higher probability that steers will randomly graze any point on the landscape. This project was conducted to assess if steers would utilize artificial lawns created by mowing prior to steer stocking and if stocking density, size of the lawns, and distance from water source influenced the utilization of the lawns. Plot -sized artificial lawns were created February 2006 at the Agricultural Research Center-Hays in western Kansas on native mixed grass rangeland. Two stocking densities, season long stocking (SLS) and an intensive early stocking (IES) with extra steers removed midway through the grazing season matching SLS rates were used for comparison. Two other variables, distance from water source and size of artificial lawns were also examined. Each treatment consisted of seven randomly placed lawns in underutilized areas. Lawns were of three sizes, and distance from water was classified as either near or far. Exclosures were located between replicates in each treatment for forage disk calibration. Forage disk resting height measures were taken in the artificial lawns on four sampling dates during the 2006 grazing season. A repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) (Wilks' Lambda) indicated difference in estimated biomass of the artificial lawns between stocking treatment (P < 0.001) and distance from water (P = 0.001). One period between sampling dates (July-August) also differed (P < 0.00]). Size of lawn had no effect on remaining lawn biomass at the end of season or between sampling dates. Biomass remaining in the lawns compared to end of season production inside each enclosure also differed (P < 0.001). My study indicated that landscape patches created artificially by mowing attracted steers to graze. Throughout the season steers repeatedly returned to graze patches. Thus by doing so, they maintained patch size and shape, and in some cases connected patches. Data indicated that artificial lawns might be utilized to disperse grazing in areas where grazing had not previously occurred. The IES and SLS treatments both maintained artificial lawns; however, the IES system removed most of the forage in the lawns early in the grazing season whereas the SLS system maintained forage removal at a consistent rate throughout the grazing season.

Rights

Copyright 2008 James A. Leiker

Comments

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