Summary: To assess whether adaptive management using multi-paddock grazing is superior to continuous grazing regarding conservation and restoration of resources we evaluated the impact of multi-paddock (MP) grazing at a high stocking rate compared to light continuous (LC) and heavy continuous (HC) grazing on neighboring commercial ranches in each of three proximate counties in north Texas tall grass prairie. The same management had been conducted on all ranches for at least the previous 9 years. Impact on soils and vegetation was compared to ungrazed areas (EX) in two of the counties. MP grazing was managed using light to moderate defoliation during the growing season followed by adequate recovery before regrazing after approximately 40 days and 80 days during fast and slow growing conditions, respectively. The vegetation was dominated by high seral grasses with MP grazing and EX, and dominated by short grasses and forbs with HC grazing. LC grazing had a lower proportion of high seral grasses than MP grazing or EX. Bare ground was higher on HC than LC, MP and EX, while soil aggregate stability was higher with MP than HC grazing but not LC grazing and EX. Soil penetration resistance was lowest with MP grazing and EX and highest with HC grazing. Bulk density did not differ among grazing management categories. Infiltration rate did not differ among grazing management categories but sediment loss was higher with HC than the other grazing management categories. Soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity were higher with MP grazing and EX than both LC and HC grazing. The fungal/bacterial ratio was highest with MP grazing indicating superior water-holding capacity and nutrient availability and retention for MP grazing. This study documents the positive results for long-term maintenance of resources and economic viability by ranchers who use adaptive management and MP grazing relative to those who practice continuous season-long stocking.
Guest post from Vermont Hub leader, Jesse McDougall of Studio Hill Farm