Monarch Conservation Toolbox

Best Management Practices

Using Cattle Grazing and Fire to Increase Pollinator Habitat in the Central United States

Xerces Society

Country
United States

Region
Central

Land Use / Land Cover
Pasture or Rangeland

Agency Type
NGO

Target or Affiliated Species or Habitat
Pollinators

Publication Type
Report

Original Language
English

This summary report provides an overview of the use of prescribed grazing to increase pollinator habitat in the central United States for private landowners or land managers. This document reviews the role of grazing in managing rangelands for pollinators and outlines practices that can provide multiple benefits, including soil and water conservation. Practices are reviewed with respect to rangeland research and in the context of various prairie regions, including tallgrass, mixed grass and shortgrass steppe. The role of factors, especially rainfall, on plant ecology and response to grazing is highlighted. In addition to prescribed grazing, this report summarizes the use of prescribed burning, pesticides and seeding as supporting beneficial practices. The report also covers appropriate plants for use in pollinator plantings in central US rangelands, identifying host plants for larval monarchs, species’ bloom time and grazer’s preference.

The report also discusses ecological differences among grazers, such as bison, cattle, sheep, horses and goats. Grazing practices that promote a diversity of herbaceous plants for pollinators are outlined, including the use of variable stocking rate and adjustments to the timing, duration and extent of grazing. Prescribed burning is reviewed as a supporting practice for grazed land, including the benefits and methods associated with combined management. Milkweeds and monarchs are briefly discussed in the context of milkweed toxicity to cattle. Because milkweed is unpalatable and must be eaten in relatively large quantities, the availability of preferred forage, itself dependent on grazing management, is the key factor. Seeding (overseeding) is also addressed, with regard to rangeland lacking an adequate seedbank.

The use of pesticides to control invasive plants is also reviewed, particularly the steps to minimize impact to pollinating insects. All practices are discussed with respect to National Conservation Practices funded through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service programs (Stine et al. in prep).

  • Stine, A. et al. In prep. Using Cattle Grazing and Fire to Increase Pollinator Habitat in the Central United States. Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

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