Effects of cattle grazing upon chemical constituents within important forages for elk

Dragt, W. J., K. M. Havstad
Publication Year: 
Dragt and Havstad quantified the effects of cattle summer grazing on the chemical composition (i.e. quality) of key winter forage species for Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni); Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) and bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum). Other than Idaho fescue, that when grazed at seed-shatter stage exhibited a reduction in neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber (ADF), grazing at any phenological stage did not affect chemical composition of plants. In general, bluebunch wheatgrass had the lowest crude protein and highest ADF and acid detergent lignin composition. Rough fescue had the lowest lignin values and intermediate crude protein values, and Idaho fescue was physiologically active through winter. From these results authors concluded one summer cattle grazing event has no harmful effects on forage quality of elk winter range, implying the primary consideration in a deferred rotation system management should be forage quantity.
Montana State University

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