There is a paucity of information concerning livestock and vegetation responses to rotational grazing in short-grass steppe. We compared effects between 1995 and 2003 of time-controlled, short-duration rotational grazing against season-long continuous grazing, at a moderate stocking rate (1.95 ha ·animal unit month−1), on livestock gains and on foliar and basal cover in short-grass steppe. Livestock average daily gains, grazing-season gains, and beef production did not differ between grazing systems. We observed no relationship between precipitation (annual or growing-season) and average daily gain. In contrast, both grazing-season gains and beef production exhibited a significant curvilin-ear response to both growing-season and annual precipitation. Basal and foliar cover of all plant functional groups (C3 annual grasses, C3 perennial grasses and grass-likes, C4 perennial grasses, cactus, annual forbs, perennial forbs, and shrubs/subshrubs) did not differ between grazing systems. Litter and bare ground were also unaffected by grazing system, with litter increasing and bare ground decreasing over the duration of this experiment. Land managers in short-grass steppe who are implementing rotational grazing at moderate stocking rates should not expect increased livestock gains or changes in basal and foliar cover of the plant community. Rotational grazing may be a useful management tool for achieving conservation goals through modifications of seasonality and intensity of use in paddocks within larger management units to accommodate spatial variability in vegetation and temporal variation in precipitation.
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Vol. 67 • No. 3