Short-term management and stocking rate effects of grazing sheep on herbage quality and productivity of Inner Mongolia steppe

P. Schönbach, H. Wan, A. Schiborra, M. Gierus, Y. Bai, K. Müller, T. Glindemann, C. Wang, A. Susenbeth, F. Taube
2009 Crop and Pasture Science  
Degradation and decreasing productivity increasingly demand sustainable grazing management practices within Inner Mongolian steppe ecosystems. This study focuses on grazing-induced degradation processes over a wide range of stocking rates and aims to identify short-term sensitive indicators and alternative management practices. Shortterm effects of 2 grazing management systems (Mixed System and Traditional System) and 7 stocking rates (SR0, SR1.5, SR3, SR4.5, SR6, SR7.5, and SR9 for 0,1.5, 3,
more » ... 5, 6, 7.5, and 9 sheep/ha, respectively) on yielding performance and herbage quality were measured on experimental plots in which moveable exclosures were used on areas chronically grazed by sheep. The experiment was conducted in a typical steppe ecosystem in Inner Mongolia, P. R. China. Results are presented for 2005 and 2006. Sampling time was the main factor affecting yield and quality. Stocking rate also showed considerable effects on yield. Herbage mass decreased linearly from SR0 to SR9, by 85% and 82% in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Herbage accumulation was also affected by stocking rate, and was highest at SR1.5 and clearly reduced at SR9. Grazing effects on relative growth rate indicated grazing tolerance of plants in the short-term, since up to high stocking rates, relative growth rates remained stable. Precipitation also determined plant responses to increasing levels of grazing. The year of higher rainfall generated higher grazing tolerance of plants and higher herbage growth than the drought year. Despite considerable reduction of herbage mass, consistent short-term responses of herbage quality to grazing in 2005 and 2006 were reflected only in terms of crude protein and acid detergent lignin. Herbage crude protein content was highest at SR7.5 and SR9, while lignin was lowest at SR7.5 and SR9. Neither productivity nor herbage quality was affected by the management system, suggesting that both systems may be applicable on typical steppe in the short-term.
doi:10.1071/cp09048 fatcat:cvhikehs3jeediyhig4codu3du