• Integrated Grazing and Prescribed Fire Restoration Strategies in a Mesquite Savanna: I. Vegetation Responses

      Teague, W. R.; Dowhower, S. L.; Ansley, R. J.; Pinchak, W. E.; Waggoner, J. A. (Society for Range Management, 2010-05-01)
      This study evaluated the efficacy of prescribed fire applied within landscape-scale rotational grazing treatments to reduce mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) encroachment and restore herbaceous productivity and cover. One-herd, multiple-paddock rotational grazing was used to accumulate herbaceous fine fuel for fires via prefire deferment and to provide periodic postfire deferment for grass recovery. Treatments were an unburned continuous-grazed control, a four-paddock-1 herd system with fire (4:1F), and an eight-paddock-1 herd system with fire (8:1F), with two replicates per treatment (1 294-2 130 ha per replicate). The management plan was to burn 25% of each system (one paddock in the 4:1F; two paddocks in the 8:1F treatments) and defer grazing during all or portions of the 9 mo (May to January) prior to burning. Deferral was ‘‘internalized’’ by grazing on the remaining 75% of each treatment without reducing stocking rate determined for the entire system. Mesquite cover increased on clay-loam soils from 22% to 40% in unburned paddocks over 7 yr (1995-2001). This increase, coupled with extended drought, reduced fine fuel amounts for fire and limited the number and intensity of fires that were applied. It was possible to burn one paddock in the 8:1F treatment (12.5% of total area), but not in the 4:1F treatment (25% of total area) during drought. Fires reduced mesquite and cactus (Opuntia spp.) cover by 25-79% and 24-56%, respectively, but cover of these species increased to prefire levels within 6 yr. All fires reduced (P < 0.05) total herbaceous biomass for 1 yr postfire. The 8:1F treatment increased (P < 0.05) grass biomass on loamy-bottom soils and reduced (P < 0.05) bare ground on clay-loam and loamy-bottom soils in unburned paddocks compared to the unburned continuously grazed control. The 8:1F treatment, through internalized grazing deferment, facilitated the application of fire to reduce woody cover during extended drought without degrading the herbaceous understory. 
    • Integrated Grazing and Prescribed Fire Restoration Strategies in a Mesquite Savanna: III. Ranch-Scale Cow-Calf Production Responses

      Pinchak, W. E.; Teague, W. R.; Ansley, R. J.; Waggoner, J. A.; Dowhower, S. L. (Society for Range Management, 2010-05-01)
      Beef cattle production from rangelands in the Southern Great Plains has decreased in concert with herbaceous forage production declines in response to woody plant encroachment by honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) over the past 120 yr. Combinations of livestock overstocking and fire suppression are considered to be primary drivers of these changes. This experiment evaluated cow-calf production responses over a 7-yr (1995-2001) period to ranch-scale (1 294-2 130 ha) integrated restoration strategies involving prescribed fire and grazing management. Restoration strategies tested in this year-round grazing ecosystem were 4-pasture, 1-herd rotation with fire (25% of pasture acreage burned each year; 4:1F); an 8-pasture, 1-herd rotation, with fire (8:1F); and a 4-pasture, 1-herd, with fire and aerial application of 0.28 kg ? ha21 clopyralid + 0.28 kg ha-1 triclopyr herbicide (4:1F/H). Restoration strategies were compared to a continuous grazing strategy with no mesquite treatment. All cattle stocking rates were moderate (7.5-15 ha animal unit-1 year-1) and all fires were applied during late winter. Beef cattle (cow-calf) production variables measured included conception rate, weaned calf percentage, weaning weight, weight of calf per exposed cow, weight of calf per hectare, and supplement fed per cow. We observed significant differences in beef production among strategies primarily during the first 2 yr where the continuous grazing strategy exhibited better overall livestock production than the integrated restoration strategies. Differences in livestock production among strategies were minimal over the last 5 yr of the study. These livestock production results suggest livestock and management adapted to restoration strategies after the first 2 yr. Results point to the need to cautiously transition into integrated grazing and fire restoration strategies when cattle and management are changed and intensified from prior historical protocols.