Using grazing to remove non-native weeds at Violet Prairie-Scatter Creek Preserve

Much of the prairie land that remains in Thurston County has been converted to cropland or grazing land. Removing the non-native forage grasses and restoring these lands to functional prairie can be extremely labor intensive. At Violet Prairie Scatter Creek Preserve, a property that used to host a dairy farm and hay growing operation before it was acquired by CNLM, our scientists are investigating ways to use cattle to remove non-native grasses. CNLM has partnered with the Fishers, who have a prairie conservation easement on their ranch, to use ‘managed overgrazing’ to reduce the forage grasses on the site. This practice involves grazing the forage grasses down to about 1 inch several times a year, which damages the meristem and limits re-growth, as opposed to a sustainable grazing practice, which typically entails leaving three or more inches for maximum grass productivity. Once there is enough open ground available after multiple rounds of grazing, we will heavily seed native species to establish a prairie community. Depending on the level of forage grasses and other agricultural weeds still present, we will continue to graze in the fall when the native plants are dormant to remove aboveground biomass.

Cattle grazing at Violet Prairie-Scatter Creek Preserve. Credit: Sarah Hamman.