Project Description

Can grazing and conservation land management be mutually beneficial?

Yes, grazing and land management can be employed to create successful land use management plans that incorporate both conservation and grazing goals.

What was done and why?

Grazing cattle on reconstructed prairies is a solution proposed by land managers and grazers in Iowa to the problem of meeting multiple conservation goals. It allows for incorporating perennial, native plants into the Iowa landscape while maintaining the productivity and profitability of the state’s agricultural lands.

Reports from The Leopold Center:

Our appreciation goes to the Leopold Center for the primary grant for this project. Additional thanks go to Rachael Cox, a graduate student working on the project and the following sources of additional funding: an Agronomy Endowment Scholarship, a NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant, and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The project also received a grant from the Grass-Based Livestock Working Group to create a nutritional grazing calendar

Project Highlight: Grazing as an Ecological Management Tool

Of Iowa’s indigenous 30 million acres of grassland and savanna habitat just over 10 million acres remain. These remaining acres are divided into approximately 5 million acres of ungrazed grassland, 1.5 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, 2.5 million acres of pasture, and 1 million acres are alfalfa fields (Rosberg, 2010).

Although there have been immense economic benefits to Iowa by the large scale conversion of its indigenous grasslands to row crop production acres, this has also come at a steep price to Iowa’s biodiversity, water quality, soil health, and overall ecological stability. Maintaining, enhancing, and expanding Iowa’s perennial grassland cover, whether managed with or without cattle production, is of critical importance to Iowa’s long term ecological health.

The Grazing as a Management Tool project is designed to address a growing set of concerns involving the use of managed grazing on restored landscapes in Iowa. While ecological research points to the benefits of the fire-grazing interaction in prairie landscapes, the necessity of multi-functioning landscapes and interest in using prescribed grazing as a management tool is growing, there are significant obstacles to successful implementation of prescribed grazing as a management tool.

Grazing as a Management Tool Summit Info:

Project Summary

Meeting Packet

Intro Presentation

Grasslands in Iowa: Tom Rosburg

Indoor Field Session

Post-Meeting Summary