Grazing research and extension programs are a key part of supporting Nebraska’s multi-billion dollar beef industry. Grazing management is the manipulation of grazing animals to accomplish desired results in terms of animal, plant, land or economic responses.
The Gudmundsen Sandhill Laboratory and the Barta Brothers Ranch are two of the University’s Sandhills field sites where grazing research and extension programming occur. Research focuses on efficient and sustainable grazing management systems through in-depth study of plant and animal interactions as well as other biotic and abiotic factors associated with such systems. Educational programs play an important role in training students and continuing education for ranchers, conservationists, and representatives of federal and state agencies.
Grazing strategies are developed to target the spatial and temporal utilization of rangelands for a variety of ecosystem services. However, grazing induces pulses of energy and nutrients by defoliation, trampling of vegetation and litter, and deposition of dung and urine. The outcomes of these pulses on nutrient availability for rangeland production and other ecosystem services like soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are less understood. As such, advancing the knowledge of how the spatial and temporal pattern of nutrient return in rangeland ecosystems can influence nutrient cycling at the landscape scale will benefit not only the livestock industry but also society through contribution to the long-term mitigation of GHGs and groundwater pollution.
The Demonstrating Mob Grazing Impacts project at UNL aims to show the influence of mob grazing on rangeland vegetation composition and productivity, soil and water quality, and soil carbon sequestration, alongside conventional rotational grazing systems currently used in the Sandhills of Nebraska. The effect of mob grazing systems on rangeland health on both upland and meadow sites at different stocking densities are documented.