Achieving economically optimum livestock production on rangelands can conflict with conservation strategies that require lower stocking rate to maintain wildlife habitat. Combining the spatial and temporal interaction of fire and grazing (pyric–herbivory) is a conservation-based approach to management that increases rangeland biodiversity by creating heterogeneous vegetation structure and composition. However, livestock production under pyric–herbivory has not been reported. In both mixed-grass prairie and tallgrass prairie, we compared livestock production in pastures with traditional fire and grazing management (continuous grazing, with periodic fire on tallgrass prairie and without fire on mixed-grass prairie) and conservation-based management (pyric–herbivory applied through patch burning) at a moderate stocking rate. Stocker cattle weight gain, calf weight gain, and cow body condition score did not differ (P > 0.05) between traditional and conservation-based management at the tallgrass prairie site for the duration of the 8-yr study. At the mixed-grass prairie site, stocker cattle gain did not differ in the first 4 yr, but stocker cattle gained more (P ≤ 0.05) on conservation-based management and remained 27% greater for the duration of the 11-yr study. Moreover, variation among years in cattle performance was less on pastures under conservation management. Traditional management in mixed-grass prairie did not include fire, the process that likely was associated with increased stocker cattle performance under conservation management. We conclude that pyric–herbivory is a conservation-based rangeland management strategy that returns fire to the landscape without reduced stocking rate, deferment, or rest.
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