Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published as Nebraska Conservation Bulletin Number 27, February 1945. Published by The University of Nebraska Conservation and Survey Division, Lincoln.


Native pastures in eastern Nebraska and adjacent states have undergone profound changes as a result of drought. Bluestems (Andropogon) and associated grasses have been thinned and weakened, although recovery has been marked since 1941. In many pastures they were replaced by western wheat grass (Agropyron smithii) or other invading species. In nearly all, wheat grass now occurs in considerable abundance. Kentucky bluegrass (Paa pratensis), into which many overgrazed native pastures had degenerated, was almost completely killed by the drought, or greatly damaged as in western Iowa. Despite these widespread changes, few studies have been made on the relative yields, preferences of stock, and consumption of forage in these several grazing types, and none where all three occurred in the same range or pasture. Consequently, in the fall of 1942, when a native bluestem pasture was found with a part of it degenerated into a good bluegrass sod and other portions covered with wheat grass, the present study was planned. Practical information on pastures, pasture grasses, and utilization of forage is much in demand. As pointed out by Allred (1941), the importance of livestock production at present assumes the deepest significance of historic time. A large part of livestock products must come from operators of native grasslands. The task of maintaining these grazing lands in a high state of productivity is fundamentally based upon a knowledge of the vegetation; in fact, a knowledge of native plants and forage conditions is vital to the successful management of pasture or range. Conservation of range land can be accomplished only by attention to correct grazing. Native prairie has been the home of grazing animals for untold centuries. Prairie plants are eminently adapted to grazing, and conservative grazing is little or no more harmful to native pastures than is total protection. But to maintain production, moderate grazing must be practiced. Forage production from a pasture in good condition may be several times as great as from one in an advanced degree of degeneration. Poor pastures, like poor crops, are expensive.

(80 pages)