Big Bluestem Management Using High Density/Short Duration Grazing

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $5,907.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Root Prairie Galloways
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Leslea Hodgson
Root Prairie Galloways

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    The problem is the encroachment of weeds into the bare areas of the big bluestem pastures between the grass clumps, and the lack of biological life and organic matter on the surface of the soil in those areas. The big bluestem grows as a bunch grass and in between each plant there are fairly large areas of soil just waiting for seeds to land and germinate. Many times the seeds that do germinate in these areas are undesirable and then you’ve got a weed to deal with. Our proposed solution is to use our Galloways as the tool to manage the lurking weed problem by putting them in to graze the pasture during certain weed growth stages. We will attempt to time the grazing so that it does not set back the big bluestem in the process of taking the weeds out. Secondly we plan to broadcast the seed of two native prairie legumes, the Illinois bundle flower, Desmanthus illinoensis and purple prairie clover, Petalostemum purpureum over the pasture and use the hoof action of the cattle to set the seed into the soil. The big bluestem sets seed every year and there should be a good bank of those seeds on the ground in the spring that will also be encouraged to germinate with the animal impact. We would like to demonstrate decreased weed pressure, increased bluestem yield through new plant germination and the added fertility the cattle will provide to the soil, and good establishment of native legumes using animal impact to “plant” the seeds.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Use cattle to manage weeds during the establishment of Big Bluestem by grazing them during certain weed growth stages.
    2. Use cattle to "plant" native prairie legumes by their hoof action which will set the seed into the soil.
    3. Use cattle to increase Big Bluestem yield by grazing so the added fertility from the cattle manure will improve the soil.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.