- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: grazing - multispecies, range improvement
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
- Pest Management: competition
- Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
This study determined the difference in disappearance of vegetation between cattle and prairie dogs on pastures with prairie dog towns. During the summers of 2002 and 2003, data were collected on pastures in south-central South Dakota. Forage removed by prairie dogs on the on-town sites was three times as great as forage removed by cattle on the on-town sites for the June and July sampling periods. Cattle removed two times more forage on off-town sites than on on-town sites. Stocking rates on pastures with prairie dog towns should be adjusted to account for forage disappearance due to prairie dogs.
The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a native rodent found throughout the shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies of North America. The presence of prairie dog towns and their effect on forage availability for large ungulates, such as cattle, has been very controversial. Ranchers contend that prairie dogs severely reduce forage available to their livestock, increase weeds, and increase erosion, while other groups claim that a variety of studies suggest that prairie dogs have a beneficial or neutral effect on livestock (National Wildlife Federation, 1998).
It is known that prairie dogs clip vegetation in addition to what they eat in order to see predators. Laboratory studies reveal how much prairie dogs eat, yet little work has been done to quantify total disappearance of vegetation attributed to prairie dogs. The level of competition between cattle and prairie dogs is another area of concern. Cattle and prairie dogs have similar diets, which consist of approximately 87% graminoids (Uresk, 1984; Uresk, 1986) suggesting considerable overlap and competition between the two herbivores. Competition between cattle and prairie dogs may create a problem when stocking cattle on pastures supporting prairie dog towns. The objective of this study was to determine the difference in disappearance of vegetation between cattle and prairie dogs on pastures with prairie dog towns.
The objective of this study was to determine the difference in disappearance of vegetation between cattle and prairie dogs on pastures with prairie dog towns.