Grazing Management For Wildlife

Migratory birds and insects need a place to rest and raise their young in an area that’s not disturbed, has a diversity of plants, and something to eat.  The pastures that livestock graze are the same ecosystems and habitats that grassland birds rely on. There are several grazing management techniques that can benefit both cattle and wildlife.

Adam Janke is an Extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State University. He says the number one practice is rotational grazing. The periods of rest and utilization create diversity.

"As soon as you move cows off of one paddock and exclude them from it, that vegetation starts to change instantly, and then as it starts to grow back, wildlife will respond," he says. "We’ve seen really substantial improvements in grassland bird diversity on rotationally grazed pastures in Iowa, and also throughout the Midwest."

Set aside a refuge area within the pasture where it’s not disturbed during May and June while birds are brooding. If you can, delay mowing until August first.

Janke says another idea is to stockpile forages.

"Leaving forages out in the pasture, out in the field to be used later in the season creates cover for a whole diversity of wildlife," he says. "I think this can be particularly useful for fall migrant birds, and they’re of course seeking cover where they can find flowering plants and seeds to fuel migration and also escape the elements."

These strategies also help the producer’s bottom line with more productive pastureland and less inputs.