The rapid increase of Poa pratensis L. (Kentucky bluegrass) on North Dakota grasslands during the past 30 yr has negatively impacted ecological services. Kentucky bluegrass grows earlier in the spring than many native grasses, which provides an opportunity to use targeted grazing to reduce Kentucky bluegrass and increase native grasses. A 5 year replicated study used 10 cow-calf pairs or pregnant cows to graze 3-ha paddocks in early to mid-May, early spring, (EARLY) until 30% of the native species were grazed. After 1 June, late spring–early summer, five cow-calf pairs were grazed on 3-ha paddocks (LATE) for twice as long as the EARLY treatment. Biomass was clipped inside and outside of cages after each grazing event and outside cages in the fall. In each paddock, a hundred 10-point frames were taken to determine percent native grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Bromus inermis Leyss. (smooth bromegrass), native forbs, and introduced forbs. After 5 yr, native grass abundance in the EARLY paddocks was 26% greater than in the LATE paddocks. Kentucky bluegrass abundance only differed the second year of the study when the EARLY paddocks had 32% less Kentucky bluegrass than the LATE paddocks. Total biomass was greater in the EARLY paddocks than LATE paddocks in year 2 of the study (886 ± 74 g m–2 vs. 608 ± 28 g m–2 for EARLY and LATE, respectively). Targeted grazing by cattle in early spring can increase native grass abundance and, depending on the year, decrease abundance of Kentucky bluegrass. Early spring targeted grazing should be used as a tool in adaptive management programs focusing on reduction of Kentucky bluegrass.
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Vol. 73 • No. 4