McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm

Rotationally Grazed Pastures as Bird Habitat



Little is known about the use of rotationally grazed pastures by wild bird species, particularly in Midwestern landscapes. What is known is that continuously grazed pastures tend to have low bird production and use due to the lack of sufficient vegetative structure and to trampling of ground nests by cattle. Long-term rotational grazing (where livestock are shifted between several pastures every few days or weeks, as opposed to intensive rotational grazing where they are shifted every day) has the potential to produce high-quality cattle grazing and grasslands for wildlife. Early in the grazing season, farmers could use cool-season grass and forb (CSG) pastures for rotational grazing, leaving warm-season grass and forb (WSG) pastures to produce wildlife, especially birds. At the end of June or early July, cattle could be shifted to the WSG pastures for rotational grazing. Not only does this allow the WSG to grow to excellent grazing height, it also allows ground-nesting birds to potentially complete a nesting cycle. Further, as CSG are left to grow (although slowly) until fall, late-nesting birds and re-nesters may utilize the CSG, as well. Depending on the length of time between rotations, early nesters may also use the CSG early in the nesting season.

Keywords: Natural Resource Ecology and Management

How to Cite: Pease, J. L. (2003) “Rotationally Grazed Pastures as Bird Habitat”, Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms Progress Reports. 2002(1).