Researching how cattle and birds coexist with various grazing systems | North Dakota Outdoors

Published: Aug. 13, 2022 at 7:33 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - In this week’s segment of North Dakota Outdoors, Mike Anderson takes us to the prairies where researchers and ranchers are learning how cattle and birds coexist.

University of North Dakota Graduate student Taylor Linder is researching how grassland birds respond with high intensity short duration grazing where cattle are moved more frequently through multiple paddocks.

“And we’re looking at that to more traditional rotational grazing where you have cattle in paddocks for about four weeks, five weeks at a time before moving them around. And we’re asking, you know, what does that mean for grassland birds? How does that impact their productivity?” asked Susan Felege, UND associate professor of wildlife ecology.

“By working with a lot of these private landowners and private ranchers out here, we can try to find the best outcome for both cattle and for birds,” said Taylor Linder, UND graduate research assistant.

Longtime cattle rancher Darrell Oswald is a participating landowner in this study because he’s interested in how his grazing system is beneficial to wildlife.

“We move these cattle about every 14 to 21 days. And so, our grazing system is all about rest and recovery. And so, you’re building soil, building plants. And hopefully, you’re aiding the desirable plants. And along with that comes I think an increase in your bird populations and your wildlife,” said Oswald.

One of the key questions researchers are looking to answer is if bird nests are getting trampled by cattle in a smaller area verses a more traditional rotational grazing system.

“We were expecting to see trampling being a bigger issue on sites where you have a lot of cattle in a small paddock with a short amount of time. And actually, we’re not finding that to be the case,” said Felege.

Oswald says he wants the whole ecosystem to function as well as it can on his family ranch.

“And this system allows that to, it fosters this system better because the wildlife, whether it’s pollinators, whether it’s birds, insects, deer, grouse. And so, this type of grazing helps foster that type of success for the different types of organisms,” said Oswald.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is providing funding to UND through a state wildlife grant for this research project.

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