Researchers receive grant to study cattle grazing in longleaf pine

Longleaf pine is shown burning.

Prescribed fire in a longleaf pine stand. Photo by U.S. National Park Service

A Longleaf Landscape Stewardship Fund grant has been awarded in Louisiana. The program prioritizes enhancing longleaf pine ecosystems through prescribed burning and silvicultural treatments that improve understory species and increasing outreach and technical assistance delivery success. The LSU AgCenter is partnering with Louisiana Technical University, the Louisiana Ecological Forestry (LEAF) Center and private citizens to study the impact of prescribed fire and cattle grazing on longleaf pine ecosystems in southwest Louisiana. The objective of the project is to educate landowners of southwestern and central Louisiana and southeastern Texas on the integration of cattle grazing into longleaf pine forests and associated ecosystem benefits.

The objectives and approach of this research project are consistent with the goals identified in the “Range-wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine” of the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative of improving understory communities of longleaf ecosystems as guided by strategic, science-based approaches undertaken by public and private sector partnerships.

The universities will provide expertise in wildlife management, applied ecology, forest health, soil microbiology, remote sensing, landowner training/outreach programming, animal science and economics. The two project locations are at the LEAF Center in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, and private forestlands near Lake Charles, Louisiana. The LEAF Center is committed to restoring and enhancing longleaf pine of their approximately 4,600 contiguous acres and is providing the initial establishment stands for this study. The property supports various wildlife species including wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). In 2020, a breeding pair of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Leuconotopicus borealis) were translocated to the property and are monitored for retention. There have also been efforts to search for a Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis ruthveni) as the LEAF Center has a healthy population of their primary prey, Baird’s pocket gopher (Geomys breviceps). The private longleaf pine stands in this study are 18, 40 and 60 years old and have been grazed by beef cattle and exposed to prescribed fire since 1993. The landowner has agreed to donate the use of his cattle and land for the proposed project. This affords the opportunity to teach landowners and natural resource professionals how to effectively implement the management of cattle on their longleaf pine understory, including proper stocking rates, nutritional content of the understory vegetation and use of rotational grazing methods. At all locations, there are also portions of the forests that were prescribed burned without grazing. This provides the opportunity to monitor vegetation, wildlife and soil conditions with and without grazing under a wide range of longleaf pine ages/stages of development. The range of sites is also conducive to on-site training events to discuss the unique needs for grazing cattle within longleaf forests at these stages of longleaf pine forest development.

After a delayed start due to the pandemic, the researchers have been collecting and analyzing data from these longleaf stands. The study is well underway and initial results should be ready to share with the public in the near future. Plans are also in development for a workshop at the LEAF Center in 2024.

Cows in a forest area.

Cattle grazing under silvpoasture. Photo by USDA NRCS Texas

This project has two focus areas:

  1. Monitoring of key ecosystem parameters (e.g., vegetation, wildlife, soil health) across a range of longleaf pine forests (i.e., juvenile, mid-rotation, late-rotation) in which cattle are grazed; and
  2. An outreach educational program using multi-media training program for landowners and land management professionals in the region to share operational experience and ecosystem benefits of grazing cattle within longleaf pine forests.
5/15/2024 10:31:55 PM
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