• Effects of Short-Term Cattle Exclusion on Plant Community Composition: Prairie Dog and Ecological Site Influences

      Field, Aaron; Sedivec, Kevin; Hendrickson, John; Johnson, Patricia; Geaumont, Benjamin; Xu, Lan; Gates, Roger; Limb, Ryan (Society for Range Management, 2016-12-01)
      On the Ground • Maintaining cattle and prairie dogs on rangelands is important ecologically, economically, and culturally. However, competition between these species, both actual and perceived, has led to conflict. • We explored the effects of short-term (2-year) cattle exclusion on plant communities both on and off prairie dog towns and among three common ecological sites. • Plant communities were different between on-town and off-town plots and among ecological sites but were similar between cattle-excluded and nonexcluded plots. • Plant community composition did not differ between rangeland targeted for moderate forage utilization and that in which cattle had been excluded for 2 years.
    • Using Weather Data to Explain Herbage Yield on Three Great Plains Plant Communities

      Smart, Alexander J.; Dunn, Barry H; Johnson, Patricia S.; Xu, Lan; Gates, Roger N. (Society for Range Management, 2007-03-01)
      Understanding the drivers that account for plant production allows for a better understanding of plant communities and the transitions within ecological sites and can assist managers in making informed decisions about stocking rates and timing of grazing. We compared climatic drivers of herbage production for 3 plant communities of the Clayey ecological site in southwestern South Dakota: the midgrass community dominated by western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii [Rybd.] A. Love); the mixed-grass community codominated by western wheatgrass, blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis [H.B.K.] Lag. Ex Griffiths), and buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides [Nutt.] Engelm.); and the shortgrass community dominated by blue grama and buffalograss. We used herbage yield and weather data for the period 1945-1960 collected at the South Dakota State University Range and Livestock Research Station near Cottonwood, South Dakota, to develop stepwise regression models for each plant community. Midgrass herbage production was best predicted by current-year spring (April-June) precipitation, number of calendar days until the last spring day with minimum temperature 18C, and previous-year spring precipitation (R2 = 0.81). Mixed-grass herbage production was best predicted by current-year spring precipitation and days until the last spring freeze (R2 = 0.69). Shortgrass herbage production was best predicted by current-year spring precipitation (R2 = 0.52). Midgrass plant communities were, overall, 650 kg ha-1 (SE = 92 kg ha-1) more productive (P < 0.01) than mixed- or shortgrass plant communities given the same climatic inputs. Our study enables managers to make timely informed decisions regarding stocking rates and timing of grazing on this ecological site in western South Dakota.