Grazing Deferment Effects on Forage Diet Quality and Ewe Performance Following Summer Rangeland Fire
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CitationWaterman, R. C., & Vermeire, L. T. (2011). Grazing deferment effects on forage diet quality and ewe performance following summer rangeland fire. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 64(1), 18-27.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractComplete rest or grazing deferment is a general recommendation to encourage vegetative recovery following fire in the western United States. However, effects of grazing deferments on animal performance have not been determined. Prescribed fires were individually applied to nine separate, 1.5-ha pastures each year (2006 and 2007) for a total of 18 pastures. Grazing was deferred until spring (16 May), early summer (19 June), or late summer (1 August) the growing season after fire. At the end of each deferment, a 70-d (2007) or 41-d (2008) grazing period was initiated. Stocking rates were consistent between treatments within year, but were adjusted between years to achieve the targeted residual biomass of approximately 300 kg ha-1. Diet quality was assessed approximately every 15 d throughout each grazing period (three pastures period-1) via collection of rumen extrusa throughout the 2-yr study. Ewe body weight was measured on and off-test for each grazing period. Diet extrusa samples for in vitro organic matter disappearance was less (P = 0.03) for late summer than early summer grazing periods and equal to the spring period (62.9, 64.6, and 61.0 +/- 0.90%, respectively for spring, early summer, and late summer grazing periods). In vitro neutral detergent fiber disappearance decreased (P = 0.01) by 10.6 percentage units from early grazing to late grazing period in 2007, whereas no differences were observed in 2008. Ewe average daily gain did not differ between spring and early summer grazing periods and were greater (P = 0.03) than the negligible body weight gains of the late summer grazing period. Total gain was 10.9 kg ha-1 greater in 2008, and a quadratic response was measured for grazing period in 2007. Results indicate that deferment until early summer may be preferable so that stocking rates can be more accurately determined and animal performance is not diminished.