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Grazing

Grazing

There are two major grazing animals in the prairie, bison and cattle. Bison were historically the dominant grazing animal in the prairie.

Cattle are domestic grazers and are now the most dominant grazing animal in the prairie.

Grazing affects where fire occurs and fire effects where grazing occurs. When bison or cattle graze an area heavily, there is a small chance that area will burn in the near future due to the lack of fuel (grass and forbs). Bison and cattle follow fire and graze recently burned areas because of the fresh green nutritious plant growth. Plants in the areas that they do not graze are given a chance to grow and produce more fuel for a fire. This is called a fire and grazing interaction.

Grazing also creates habitat for wildlife. Prairie-chicken leks are usually on a hill top with very short vegetation. This is often caused by bison or cattle grazing the area off after a recent burn.

When stocking rates are kept at proper management levels, grazing by bison or cattle is necessary for maintenance of the prairie ecosystem. When landowners allow too many bison or cattle to graze in a certain area, it is called overgrazing.