Utilizing Patch Burning to Enhance Vegetation Management in the Southern Great Plains
Keywords:patch-burn, grazing, prescribed burning, pricklypear, brush encroachment
Prescribed burning and livestock grazing can increase plant diversity by reducing the competitive ability of some invasive plants. The research objectives of this study were: to quantify vegetation response to patch burning, to determine cattle grazing distribution patterns following patch burning, and to quantify performance of grazing heifers following patch burning. Ten percent of 3 pastures was patch-burned. The remaining 3 pastures were not patch burned. All pastures were exposed to cattle grazing at a moderate stocking rate. Vegetation and livestock response were monitored. In addition, we monitored cattle grazing patterns. Pricklypear cover decreased, and pricklypear density tended to decrease. Patch burning increased mesquite mortality. Bitterweed densities were similar between burned and non-burned patches, while annual broomweed densities were reduced by fire. Forage production on the burned patches was similar to non-burned controls, but decreased following burning and grazing by heifers. Heifer weights were greater, but only during certain times post-fire. Heifers grazing in pastures spent more time grazing in burned patches especially early in the grazing season. Patch burning can be used to improve livestock distribution while reducing the cover and density of some invasive plants.
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