The effects of 3 levels of mowing and cattle (Bos taurus) grazing were examined on rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) range on the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in west-central Montana. Treatments were implemented in enclosures during the fall of 1997 and 1998 at 50%, 70%, and 90% removal of herbaceous standing crop. Elk (Cervus elaphus) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) forage measurements were obtained in spring and summer on standing dead vegetation, green grass and forb biomass, total biomass, and percent live vegetation, and compared between mowing and prescribed cattle grazing at the same removal level. At the 50% mowing level, there was increased (P<0.05) availability of grass and biomass in the spring, with increased standing dead and decreased percent live vegetation in the summer. At the 70% mowing level, there was increased standing dead and grass and decreased percent live vegetation available to elk and mule deer in the spring when compared with the same level of grazing (P<0.05). At the 90% mowing level, there was decreased availability of grass and total biomass during spring and summer (P<0.05). Results indicated that at moderate (50%) levels of vegetation removal, fall mowing might be adequate to increase grass and total biomass availability in the spring, but fall grazing by cattle might remove more standing dead material, leaving more nutritious plants available to wildlife in the summer. Fall mowing at 70% removal might provide more grass for wildlife in the spring, but reduces percent live vegetation and leaves more standing dead when compared to fall cattle grazing. This would make it more difficult for wildlife to select preferred forage in the spring, when nutrition is needed for calf and fawn production. Fall cattle grazing might be a better tool to use at the 90% level, since mowing removes more grass and total biomass, leaving reduced vegetation for elk and mule deer.
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