Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


A grazing strategy is a plan for accomplishing a set of objectives based on comprehensive knowledge of available resources, and the production and marketing environment. Management can be greatly simplified when grazing strategies are based on clearly stated and prioritized resource-management and livestock-production objectives (Fig. I ). Decisions on when and how to use plant resources have profound effects on the success of grazing strategies. Plant resources can be used for livestock production or wildlife cover and ecosystem functions such as hydrologic condition and site stability.

While many rangelands in the central and northern Great Plains are dominated by grasses and grass-like species, shrubs and forbs also are potentially valuable sources of nutrients and cover in these ecosystems. All of the above-ground, non-woody growth of plants is collectively called herbage, regardless of palatability .Livestock and wildlife also may consume browse, defined as the palatable portions of woody plant growth. Forage is composed of palatable herbage and woody plant growth that are accessible to the grazing animal.

Efficient use of herbage and woody plant growth can be evaluated only when all management objectives related to plant resources are clearly understood (Fig. I ). For example, if sustaining a prairie-grouse population is one of the resource-management objectives, uneven distribution of grazing may leave enough standing herbage in parts of pastures to provide adequate nesting cover. In contrast, if livestock production is the major objective, uniform grazing distribution becomes important. If adequate distribution cannot be accomplished with strategically-placed water or salting locations, cross fencing areas into smaller pastures and/or increasing livestock density with rotation-grazing systems may be effective methods of accomplishing livestock production objectives. Grazing systems define periods of grazing and non-grazing. They are important tools for executing grazing strategies. When different grazing systems have similar likelihood of accomplishing a prioritized set of objectives, the simplest system generally is the most economically and ecologically efficient.