Cattle and vegetation response to short duration and continuous grazing



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Texas Tech University


Comparisons were made between a 1-herd, 16-pasture short duration grazing regime (Si)G) and continuous, yearlong grazing (CG) on the Texas High Plains over a 4 year period. Animal performance, vegetation response, and diet quality were evaluated. Stocking rates were equal for the first year at 13.3 ha/AU, doubled on the SDG the second year and reduced to 1.5 times the CG rate for the third and fourth years. Average daily gain (ADG) of steers on each treatment was the same for the first year at equal stocking rates. When stocking was doubled in the second year, steers on SDG gained 40% less than steers on CG. In the third and fourth years with a stocking rate on the SDG at 1.5 times the rate of the continuous, ADG on the SDG was 10% less than steers on CG. Standing crop biomass on the SDG fell below that of the CG after one year of grazing. In the second year standing crop was higher on the SDG than on the CG treatment, and in the third and fourth years, standing crop on the SDG began to trend downward and was at least 20% less than under CG during the last two years. Changes in species composition were the same for both treatments. Steer diet composition and quality were evaluated during the growing season of the fourth year. Steers on SDG consumed 15% more forbs than steers on CG across the growing season. No differences between treatments were observed for dietary crude protein or in-vitro digestible organic matter. Steers on the SDG had a higher (P < 0.05) level of phosphorus in the diet and was attributed to forb consumption. It does not appear that stocking rates can be increased yearlong on SDG over that of CG without decreases In animal performance and available forage. SDG did respond well to increased stocking through the growing season, however, indicating that additional animals could possibly be carried through the spring and summer months.