Grazing Handbook

(Research Report, Dickinson REC, December 2016)

This collection of reports provides information enabling livestock producers and grassland managers to understand and operate twelve-month pasture-forage management strategies that are both biologically effective and economically efficient.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Llewellyn L. Manske PhD, Research Professor of Range Science
Web only
Publication Sections


Biologically effective management of grazinglands consists of an assemblage of strategies that are an antithetical paradigm change from traditional treatments and  gimmicky practices. Biologically effective management of grassland ecosystems provides the biological requirements to all of the above and belowground components by activating the biogeochemical processes in the ecosystem and the defoliation resistance mechanisms within the grasses and rhizosphere organisms through coordination of partial defoliation by grazing animals with phenological growth stages of grass plants. These revitalized conditions cause improvement of 
soil structure and functional quality, mineralization of greater quantities of essential elements, enhancement of grass growth and tiller development, increases in forage quantity and nutritional quality, and improvement of livestock growth and weight performance which result in the capture of greater wealth from the renewable land natural resources. This compendium of reports provide the basic information needed to understand and to operate a specifically designed twelve month pasture and harvested forage management strategy for beef cattle that is biologically effective and economically efficient.

Llewellyn L. Manske PhD
Research Professor of Range Science
NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center


Restoration of degraded rangeland ecosystems has been a primary research effort of the rangeland scientists working at the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension  Center for over 80 years with at least 110 scientist years devoted to this subject. The research challenge has been that rangeland ecosystems are complex consisting  of numerous biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) components which are connected through complicated mechanisms and processes. The major biotic component are  the grass plants, soil organisms, and grazing graminivores that have biological and physiological requirements. The abiotic components are comprised of the radiant  energy from sunlight, the numerous environmental factors, the four major essential elements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, and the minor essential  elements of seven macrominerals and ten microminerals. The major and minor essential elements are transformable between organic forms and inorganic (mineral)  forms. The major ecosystem processes are the defoliation resistance mechanisms, the biogeochemical processes, and the grass resource competitiveness. All  traditional concepts for management of rangelands can interfere with any of the components or processes and cause ecosystem degradation. The conceptualized potential restoration treatments, which have been fertilization, alfalfa interseeding, prescribed burning, long-term nongrazing, traditional grazing  management, and biologically effective grazing management, have required indepth evaluations to determine the treatment effectiveness at rebalancing the  interactions among the ecosystem components and at reestablishment of the functionality of the processes. Included in this compilation of reports are the results of  this extensive effort to identify treatments for the restoration of degraded rangeland ecosystems.

Evaluation of Processes that Inhibit Encroachment of Woody Species into Native Rangelands of the Northern Plains

Management of Western Snowberry aka Wolfberry and Buckbrush

Western snowberry is a serious pasture weed, and its encroachment into North American grazinglands has been an increasing problem for over one hundred years.  Traditional grazing management practices are antagonistic to the biological requirements of grass plants and to the biogeochemical processes in grassland  ecosystems; the result of such antagonistic management is less than healthy grass plants. Because they have diminishing competitive abilities, these grass plants  relinquish greater quantities of ecosystem natural resources that then become available for western snowberry colony expansion.

The aerial stems of western snowberry can be killed relatively easily with single burning, mowing, or herbicide application treatments. The belowground plant parts,  however, are more persistent and not easily damaged. Western snowberry has biological mechanisms and processes that provide the shrub with capabilities to survive aerial stem removal treatments and to completely replace the aerial stem density and biomass by the third growing season following treatment.

Implementation of biologically effective grazing management like the twice-over rotation system improves the health and competitive abilities of the native grass plants  but does not remove the aerial stems and reduce the size of preexisting western snowberry colonies. Additional management that uses burning, mechanical, or  chemical treatments is needed to reduce western snowberry colonies.

This project summarizes available information about western snowberry with the intent to improve understanding of the shrub’s strengths and weaknesses so that  management strategies to effectively reduce western snowberry colonies on grazinglands can be developed.

Chemical Management of Silver Sagebrush

Evaluation of Nitrogen Fertilization on Native Rangeland. 2nd Ed.

This anthology is a compilation of data collected during the 48 year period between 1957 and 2004 that scientists at the North Dakota State University  Dickinson Research Extension Center conducted investigative research into the potential use of nitrogen fertilization treatments to improve native rangeland ecological conditions by returning the natural balance of the botanical species composition and by restoring the productivity of the total herbage biomass to 
the declining and deteriorating Northern Plains mixed grass prairie resulting from the unmanaged negative aspects of traditional grazing management  practices. Five nitrogen fertilization treatment plot studies were conducted between 1957 and 1987. Plot studies I and II (1957, 1962-1963) were conducted  by Dr. Warren C. Whitman. Plot studies III and IV (1964-1969, 1970-1978) were conducted by Dr. Harold Goetz and Dr. Warren C. Whitman with  collaboration from Paul E. Nyren (1976-1978). Plot study V (1982-1987) was conducted by Dr. Harold Goetz and Dr. Llewellyn L. Manske. Two grazing trials on nitrogen fertilized native rangeland were conducted between 1972 and 1982. Grazing trial I (1972-1976) used yearling steers and was conducted by Dr.  Warren C. Whitman and Dr. Harold Goetz. Grazing trial II (1978-1982) used cow-calf pairs and was conducted by Paul E. Nyren and Dr. Harold Goetz from  1978 to 1981 and by Dr. Llewellyn L. Manske and Dr. Harold Goetz from 1981 to 1982. A long-term plant species composition shift study was conducted by  Dr. Llewellyn L. Manske from data collected during 1972 to 1988 and 1997 to 2004. This extensive nitrogen fertilization on native rangeland research  program did not result in the development of a recommended cultural practice for management with nitrogen fertilization because of the excessively high  cost of the additional herbage produced and the objectionable shift in plant species composition. Nevertheless, the results from this research program  provided insightful understanding into the complexity of the nitrogen cycle and plant growth activity in native rangeland ecosystems and identified the reduction in plant water use efficiency and the problem of herbage production at below potential quantities on native rangelands managed by traditional  grazing practices to be caused by the ecosystems deficiency of soil mineral nitrogen.

Evaluation of Alfalfa Interseeding Techniques

This report summarizes the twenty years of research that scientists at the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research Extension Center dedicated to  investigation of the problems related to procedures of interseeding plant material into existing plant communities and to the management of interseeded  grassland pastures. Three research programs pertaining to the development of techniques to interseed plant material into grassland plant communities were conducted between 1969 and 1989. The first techniques study, conducted from 1969 to 1978 by Dr. Harold Goetz and Dr. Warren C. Whitman,  evaluated the feasibility of interseeding native and tame grass species and legume species by mechanical treatment into native grassland to increase  herbage production. The second techniques study, conducted from 1976 to 1980 by Paul E. Nyren, developed and tested modifications of no-till drills for  interseeding native and tame grass species and legume species into native grassland. The third techniques study, conducted from 1982 to 1989 by Dr.  Llewellyn L. Manske, evaluated the component processes of interseeding techniques and identified the portions with advantages. Selected segments were 
combined to develop techniques and mechanical processes performed by a rugged simple machine that could be used to interseed alfalfa into grassland  ecosystems. A pasture management study, conducted from 1977 to 1981 by Paul E. Nyren and Dr. Harold Goetz and continued from 1984 to 1988 by Dr.  Llewellyn L. Manske, evaluated grazing alfalfa interseeded native grassland pastures.

Evaluation of Biological Restoration Management of Degraded Native Mixed Grass Prairie

Proactive Management of Pestiferous Rangeland Grasshopper Habitat of the Northern Plains

Pestiferous rangeland grasshopper population outbreaks can be extremely detrimental to the plant resources of a region, which in turn, can have  devastating consequences for the livestock that depend on those plants for forage and for the beef producers that depend on the nutrients produced by the  forage plants for family income. The information in this report explains what, why, how, and when Northern Plains beef producers and land managers could change traditional grazingland management practices three years before the next grasshopper problem to prevent or reduce the damaging ecological  and economical impacts caused by pestiferous rangeland grasshopper population increases. These paradigm changes are proactive long-term land  management strategies that are favorable for livestock production and create habitat unfavorable for pest grasshopper production and that are sensible  alternatives to the typical reactive short-term chemical insecticide spray treatments implemented after the grasshopper numbers have intensified.

These guidelines for proactive management of pestiferous rangeland grasshopper habitat of the Northern Plains are based on recent discoveries of  grasshopper biology and population dynamics and on the latest technologies for activation of the defoliation resistance mechanisms within grass plants and  activation of the biogeochemical processes within rangeland ecosystems. The resulting habitat changes in residuum vegetation structure during the growing season inhibit access to direct sunlight that decreases day-degrees of heat reaching the eggs, reducing embryonic development, and delaying hatch date,  and that restricts thermoregulation of grasshopper body temperature at optimal high levels, reducing developmental growth rates of nymphs and adults,  increasing mortality rates, and reducing population numbers to tolerable densities.