PROACTIVE MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE RANGELAND PRODUCTION
Location: Range and Livestock Research
Project Number: 5434-21630-002-00
Start Date: Jan 31, 2008
End Date: Jan 30, 2013
Objective 1: Develop strategies and decision tools to proactively manage livestock grazing, fire, and drought impacts on Great Plains community structure and function.
Sub-objective 1.A. Determine plant community and livestock response to post-fire grazing deferment.
Sub-objective 1.B. Determine plant community response to fire return interval and seasonality.
Sub-objective 1.C. Determine patch burning effects on plant community dynamics, animal performance, grazing distribution, and foraging efficiency.
Sub-objective 1.D. Characterize grazing history effects on rangeland integrity and stability.
Objective 2: Improve animal productivity and product quality based on predicted nutrient intake, forage dynamics, and diet selection processes in the northern Great Plains.
Sub-objective 2.A. Determine effects of forage quality on autumn forage intake as it interacts with cow lactation and gestation status.
Sub-objective 2.B. Determine rumen microbial response to noxious weed consumption by sheep and cattle.
Objective 3: Develop management strategies to restore rangelands degraded by weeds and prevent weed invasions in the northern Great Plains.
Sub-objective 3.A. Determine interacting effects of fire and grazing on annual brome dynamics.
Sub-objective 3.B. Provide weed management protocols adjusting for inter-annual variation.
Sub-objective 3.C. Develop an internet-available system to quantify site-specific invasive weed impacts.
Sub-objective 3.D. Develop grazing strategies to reduce invasive weed population growth rates.
The planned research is designed to improve sustainability of rangeland production by addressing the interacting effects of disturbances on stability and integrity of rangelands and efficiency of livestock nutrient conversion. Objectives are to: 1) Develop strategies and decision tools to proactively manage livestock grazing, fire, and drought impacts on Great Plains community structure and function; 2) Improve animal productivity and product quality based on predicted nutrient intake, forage dynamics, and diet selection processes in the northern Great Plains; and 3) Develop management strategies to restore rangelands degraded by weeds and prevent weed invasions in the northern Great Plains. Experiments are integrated across objectives and will determine the interacting effects of grazing, fire, drought, and invasive plants on plant communities (production, species composition, diversity, heterogeneity, propagation, and survival) and the effects of changes in vegetation and animal physiology on livestock (weight gain, distribution, diet quality, diet selection, diet diversity, foraging efficiency, forage intake, and rumen microbial diversity). Two experiments are replicated across three locations (Miles City, MT, Nunn, CO and Woodward, OK) to determine ecological ramifications of fire seasonality, return interval, and grazing interactions in semiarid rangelands on a north-south gradient across the western Great Plains. Understanding the mechanisms that control disturbance effects on rangelands and animal responses to alterations in the plant community will promote development of proactive management strategies for improved stability in rangelands and rangeland livestock production systems.