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Benefits of multi-paddock grazing management on rangelands: Limitations of experimental grazing research and knowledge gaps

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Abstract

The benefits of multi-paddock rotational grazing on commercial livestock enterpriseshave been evident for many years in many countries. Despite these observations and theresults of numerous studies of planned grazing deferment before the mid-1980s that showbenefit to species composition, most recent rangelands grazing studies suggest thatrotational grazing benefits neither vegetation nor animal production relative to continuousgrazing. Detailed comparisons of research methods and practical experiences ofsuccessful practitioners of multi-paddock grazing systems identify a number of areas thatexplain why such different perceptions have arisen. Consistent with producer experience,published data from small paddock trials on both temporal and spatial aspects of grazing management indicates the potential for significantly higher production under multipaddockrotational grazing relative to continuous grazing and conservative stocking.While research findings often suggest multi-paddock grazing management is notsuperior to continuous grazing, researchers have not managed trials to answer practicalquestions such as: how good is this management option, where is it successful, and whatdoes it take to make it work as well as possible? In contrast, successful ranchers managestrategically to achieve the best possible profitability and ecosystem health. They usebasic knowledge of plant physiology and ecology generated by research within anadaptive, goal-oriented management approach to successfully implement planned grazingmanagement.Published research and experience from ranchers have indicated that the followingmanagement factors are the keys to achieving desired goals: (1) Planned grazing andfinancial planning to reduce costs, improve work efficiency and enhance profitability andenvironmental goals; (2) Adjusting animal numbers or having a buffer area available sothat animal numbers match forage availability in wet and dry years; (3) Grazing grassesand forbs moderately and for short periods during the growing season to allow adequaterecovery; (4) Timing grazing to mitigate detrimental effects of defoliation at criticalpoints in the life cycle of preferred species inter- and intra-annually; (5) Wheresignificant regrowth is likely, grazing the area again before the forage has matured toomuch; (6) Using fire to smudge patch-grazing imprints and manage livestock distribution;and (7) Using multiple livestock species. In all these areas, management is the key tosuccess.Many researchers have failed to sufficiently account for these management factors,either in their treatment applications or in the evaluation of their results. To define thepotential impact, researchers must quantify the management strategies for best achievingwhole-ranch business and ecosystem results under different grazing management.Conducting research on ranches that have been successfully managed with planned multipaddockgrazing for many years, together with systems-level simulation modeling, offercomplementary approaches to traditional small-paddock field research. These methodsare particularly applicable where logistics preclude field experimentation, or whenassessing impact over decadal time frames. This chapter discusses these points, suggestsareas of research that may explain differences in perception among land managers andresearchers, and provides information to achieve the full potential of planned multipaddockgrazing management.
... Furthermore, 73 the relevance of broad-spectrum studies do not reflect a broad understanding of the ranchers' 74 perspectives regarding the efficacy of alternative grazing systems (Becker et al., 2017). The 75 existing treatments might neglect the adaptive nature of common management practices at which 76 livestock production occurs in grazing lands (Teague et al., 2008), leading to inconsistencies in 77 the outcome of these management investigations. Moreover, majority of research experiments 78 are performed in isolation, and thereby lack the systematic connection necessary to reach a 79 consensus of scaling-up strategies. ...
... Moreover, majority of research experiments 78 are performed in isolation, and thereby lack the systematic connection necessary to reach a 79 consensus of scaling-up strategies. This is partly due to limitations of narrowly imposed 80 experimental grazing research not to represent different soil, landscape and climate conditions 81 and partly is resultant knowledge transfer between researchers and ranchers due to the 82 inconsistent or very limited data (Teague et al., 2008; Becker et al., 2017; Briske et al., 2014). 83 Some studies found that even at low stocking rates, animal preferences lead to patch-selected 84 overgrazing due to inadequate recovery of the palatable species (Mann and Sherren, 2018; de 85 Bruijn et al., 2010). ...
... rainfall in (semi-) arid regions. Therefore, adaptive grazing systems can make a farm more 263 productive by balancing animal growth/production through forage removal, with the inherent 264 defoliation tolerance of the plant community and resilient plant species (Teague et al., 2008). ...
Article
Grazing lands provide many goods and ecosystem services, such as forage, livestock, soil carbon (C) storage, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of grazing lands requires optimal management to simultaneously balance livestock productivity for sustaining human food and nutritional demands while reducing environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and soil degradation. In this paper, we revisit grazing management in grazing lands exposed to different grazing systems. In Section 2, we briefly review parameterization and multi-faceted goals for sustainability of grazing systems considering broader sustainability from economic to environmental aspects. We also discuss the inconsistencies between grazing researchers and ranchers’ practices. In Section 3, we review the separate experimental data to examine the impacts of multi-paddock rotational grazing on soil carbon, nutrient and GHGs. In Section 4, we present status and upcoming challenges in monitoring and upscaling of grazing ecosystem research and management. In Section 5, new concepts of multiple source monitoring networks are presented that enable the analysis of scale-dependent processes. Finally, we point out future directions for monitoring and assessment of managing soil C and GHG emissions from grazing lands. The results show that the inconsistences are essentially due to (1) effects of spatiotemporal scales on both economic and ecological outcomes, and (2) simplistic representations of multi-faceted grazing systems and sustainability. The development of multi-faceted monitoring systems needs to be further parametrized and standardized to make consistent for meaningful and comparable assessment of grazing management impacts on SOC and GHGs.
... Management of pasture systems, which comprise~70% of global agricultural land cover, has been studied to both optimize farm productivity while maximizing ecosystem services such as soil carbon (C) sequestration (Conant, 2012;Teague et al., 2008). Much focus has been placed on the impacts of grazing intensity as it applies to stocking rates under continuous grazing (Abdalla et al., 2018;Han et al., 2008;Xu et al., 2014), showing that higher stocking rates are detrimental to rangeland ecosystems by reducing vegetation growth, soil nutrients (Teague et al., 2011), and C storage, and leading to undesirable forage composition due to preferential feeding habits of livestock (Watkinson and Ormerod, 2001). ...
... MIG is perceived as a management strategy with the potential for increasing soil C sequestration via positive impacts on primary production and forage quality that bring ecological and economic advantages to farmers (Teague et al., 2015;Wang et al., 2018). By allowing longer periods of regeneration and reducing grazing preferences, MIG can support higher stocking densities and increase forage species diversity as compared to continuous grazing (Guretzky et al., 2005;Teague et al., 2008). However, there is debate to the ubiquitous benefits of MIG (Briske et al., 2008) with some results showing greater soil C sequestration occurring in drier environments (Wang et al., 2018). ...
... Our study used a combination of spatiotemporally intensive measurements and process-based modeling to explore how MIG might increase soil C storage in cool-season pastures that are characteristic of the northeastern US and other temperate areas globally. We show that MIG can enhance soil C concentrations by about 4% over time (Oates and Jackson, 2014;Teague et al., 2008;Teutscherová et al., 2021), but that these increases are strongly influenced by baseline soil physiochemical conditions. Our field-based measurements revealed a negative correlation between initial soil C concentrations and change over time in soil C content. ...
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Pastures and rangelands are a dominant portion of global agricultural land and have the potential to sequester carbon (C), mitigating climate change. Management intensive grazing (MIG), or high-density rotational grazing through paddocks with long rest periods, has been highlighted as a method of enhancing soil C in pastures by increasing forage production. However, few studies have examined the soil C storage potential of pastures under MIG in the northeastern US, where the dairy industry comprises a large portion of agricultural use and the regional agricultural economy. Here we present a 12-year study conducted in this region using both field data and the denitrification and decomposition (DNDCv9.5) model to analyze changes in soil C and nitrogen (N) over time, and the climate impacts as they relate to soil carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and nitrous oxide (N 2 O) fluxes. Field measurements showed: (1) increases in soil C in grazed fields under MIG (P = 0.03) with no significant increase in hayed fields (P = 0.55); and (2) that the change in soil C was negatively correlated to initial soil C content (P = 0.006). Modeled simulations also showed fields that started with relatively less soil C had significant gains in C over the course of the study, with no significant change in fields with higher initial levels of soil C. Sensitivity analyses showed the physiochemical status of soils (i.e., soil C and clay content) had greater influence over C storage than the intensity of grazing. More extensive grazing methods showed very little change in soil C storage or CO 2 and N 2 O fluxes with modeled continuous grazing trending towards declines in soil C. Our study highlights the importance of considering both initial system conditions as well as management when analyzing the potential for long-term soil C storage.
... Grazing systems that incorporate periods of rest between grazing events have been widely promoted as improving both production and environmental sustainability (e.g. Savory 1983;McCosker 2000;Teague et al. 2008). Numerous systems have been developed, defined by the number of paddocks and number of herds/flocks, their dependence on vegetation dynamics, and the timing, duration and frequency of grazing and rest periods (di Virgilio et al. 2019). ...
... Dorrough et al. 2004;McDonald et al. 2019a;Waters et al. 2019). Rotational grazing systems are believed to favour biodiversity because they reduce selective grazing and allow for recovery of palatable species between grazing events (Norton 1998;Teague et al. 2008). However, few studies examining biodiversity under contrasting grazing systems have been undertaken in the southern rangelands. ...
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There is growing recognition of the need to achieve land use across the southern Australian rangelands that accommodates changing societal preferences and ensures the capacity of future generations to satisfy their own preferences. This paper considers the prospects for sustainable use of the pastoral lands based either on continued grazing or emerging, alternative land uses. After an overview of the southern rangelands environment, the status of the pastoral industry, its environmental impacts, and key issues for pastoral management, we propose four principles and 19 associated guidelines for sustainable pastoralism. Although some continued withdrawal of land from pastoralism is anticipated, we expect that pastoralism will continue throughout much of the region currently grazed, particularly in the higher rainfall environments in the east. Within these areas, sustainable pastoral land use should be achievable by the application of four broad management principles, as follows: (1) manage grazing within a risk management framework based on the concept of tactical grazing, (2) develop infrastructure to allow best management of both domestic and non-domestic grazing pressure, (3) incorporate management of invasive native scrub, where required, into overall, ongoing property management and (4) manage grazing to enhance biodiversity conservation at landscape scale. Application of these principles and guidelines will require the development of appropriate policy settings, particularly in relation to kangaroo management, climate change, and natural resource governance, together with innovative approaches to research, development and extension. Policy development will also be required if the new industry of carbon sequestration is to deliver socio-ecological benefits without perverse outcomes. Other emerging industries based on renewable energy or ecosystem services appear to have considerable potential, with little risk of adverse ecological consequences.
... Grazing practices that incorporate periods of planned rest are commonly promoted to avoid environmental degradation and improve productivity (Norton 1998a;Teague et al. 2008) but considerable debate exists around the benefits, or otherwise, of these grazing management systems (Briske et al. 2008;Teague et al. 2013). Previous reviews have generally concluded that there is little difference in outcomes for animal production (i.e., weight gain, production per unit area, reproductive success) or rangeland sustainability (i.e., maintenance of biomass or ground cover) between contrasting management systems (Gammon 1978;O'Reagain and Turner 1992;Holechek et al. 2000;Briske et al. 2008;Hawkins et al. 2017;di Virgilio et al. 2019). ...
Conference Paper
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With increasing pressure on grazing lands throughout the world, there is a growing need to balance sustainable management of livestock to meet food production and environmental impacts. Grazing management practices that incorporate periods of planned rest between grazing events (RG) may achieve both ecological and production goals simultaneously. We conducted a systematic review of global literature that compared ecological and production outcomes of RG systems with either continuously grazed (CG) or ungrazed (UG) areas. In addition, we evaluated the extent to which ecological and livestock production outcomes have been assessed simultaneously in these studies and identified future research needs. A large proportion of the literature reported no difference (neutral response) between the different management systems. However, where differences did occur, the response of biodiversity, land condition and livestock production metrics was more often positive under RG than CG. When RG was compared to UG areas, differences were predominantly positive for plant biodiversity metrics, but negative for invertebrate biodiversity, ground cover and plant biomass. Only a small proportion of studies considered the effect of RG on both ecological and production outcomes simultaneously. An understanding of both ecological and production trade-offs associated with different grazing management strategies is essential to make informed decisions about best-management practices for joint production and ecological outcomes across the world's grazing lands.
... Embedding residue within the soil can also potentially mimic the impact of animal trampling which has been reported to enhance the physical break down and incorporation of plant residue in the mineral soil-thereby increasing plant allocation belowground (Sanjari et al., 2008;Schuman et al., 1999;Southorn, 2002;Wei et al., 2021). In turn, grazing management strategies such as time-controlled grazing can affect the distribution and intensity of trampling (Teague et al., 2008). ...
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