Enhancing botanical composition, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration of pastures in south central Iowa through soil disturbance by mob grazing of beef cattle

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Project Description: 
Mob-grazing is ultra-high stock density grazing, a practice where a large concentration of animals is restricted to graze a small area, usually for a very short period of time. This project looks at how mob grazing affects forage type and structure and soil quality over multiple years. The long-term objective of the study is to evaluate the strategic use of mob-grazing on pastures in south central Iowa to improve their botanical composition for forage, as well as wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and water infiltration.
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Lead Investigator: 
James R. Russell
Lead Investigator Affiliation: 
ISU Animal Science
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Lead Investigator Bio: 

Jim Russell is a professor of animal science at Iowa State University. His area of research is forage utilization systems that optimize long-term return on investment in beef production, as well as improve the quality of the environment. Russell received the Pioneer Hi-Bred Forage Award in 2003.

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Harris Sellers, Extension Livestock Specialistl Stephen Barnhart, ISU Agronomy; and Daniel Morrical, ISU Animal Science; and Helga Offenburger, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

As Iowa pastures continue to be dominated by cool-season grass species, strategic integration of a single mob-grazing event into pasture management offers a tool to simultaneously increase productivity of pastures and to improve grassland wildlife habitat through increased biodiversity. However, the success of the maneuver depends on climate, soil and landscape.

Key Question: 

Can strategic short-term use of mob grazing be used to enhance ecological services from pastures or ungrazed grass lands?


A single-mob grazing event significantly enhanced the botanical composition of either a pasture for grazing or ungrazed grassland for wildlife habitat. However, these responses were largely affected by soil moisture and land use history of the location as mob grazing was more effective at altering the botanical composition under high soil moisture levels on soils that did not have a history of cultivation.

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