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1 September 2009 New Approaches and Tools for Grazing Management
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Abstract

Novel concepts and tools to promote progress in grazing science and management need to incorporate heterogeneity and nonlinear scaling of spatially and temporally distributed ecological interactions such as diet selection, defoliation, and plant growth. Traditional grazing management factors are number of animals, species and category of animals, spatial distribution of forage demand, and temporal distribution of forage demand. These traditional methods have been based on a paradigm that is static, assumes equilibrium conditions, and does not consider scaling issues, neither in time nor in space. Three related issues that can contribute to the progress in the understanding and management of grazing systems are spatial heterogeneity, event-driven dynamics, and scaling effects. Spatial heterogeneity of species and defoliation determine pasture stability by modulating competition and response to heterogeneous defoliation. When pasture species are well mixed, livestock are less able to select their preferred diet. When species are separated into larger and more easily identifiable patches, the selected diet approaches the preferred one. Simultaneously, patchiness in pasture components and redistribution of nutrients by grazing can lend global compositional stability to grass–clover pastures. Grazing at high animal density can be studied using the paradigm of event-driven dynamics. Several mechanisms suggest that grazing systems should have allometric spatial and temporal scaling in addition to the well-recognized allometric scaling of food requirements with body mass. Grazing system performance should scale allometrically with pasture size because both resource distribution and animal movements frequently have fractal properties. As pasture size increases, fewer hierarchical levels of grazing behavior are constrained, and the new spatial patterns introduce nonlinearity in the response to pasture size. Operant conditioning of foraging behavior, conditioned aversions, plant spatial pattern, pasture size and shape, timing and duration of grazing periods, and number of animals are discussed as precision tools to manage grazing systems.

Received: 14 April 2008; Accepted: 1 February 2009; Published: 1 September 2009
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