How Long Before a Second Defoliation of Actively Growing Grass Plants in the Desert Grassland?

Sarah Noelle, Timothy Lyons, Alessandra Gorlier, Mitchel P. McClaran, Mary Nichols, George Ruyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the Desert Grassland, second and subsequent defoliations on perennial grasses during the active growing season can have substantial impacts on grass recovery and reproduction following herbivory. Land managers implement tactics to avoid multiple defoliations on plants by way of rotational grazing, reduced stocking rates, and/or reduced time spent within a given pasture. We explored frequency and rate of defoliation by cattle on perennial bunchgrasses within an 11-day grazing period in three pastures including distance to water (300 and 600 m) and plant height to determine their influence on animal diet selection. Results indicate that 32% of all marked plants were defoliated by cattle and only 5% of defoliated plants were defoliated a second time by day 10 of the grazing period. Defoliation patterns in the studied pastures did not differ between two distances from water, or in relation to plant height. However, at the second defoliation cattle grazed plants that were shorter than at the first defoliation suggesting a selection for high quality re-growth over larger forage on offer. The results of this study show that a 10-day grazing period during the growing season of the Desert Grassland is an effective strategy to avoid second defoliations on individual perennial grass plants while maintaining sufficient forage for use during the dormant winter grazing season.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number600734
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Dec 10 2020


  • adaptive management
  • distance to water
  • grazing (rangelands)
  • regrowth rate
  • stocking rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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