http://www.noble.org/ag/wildlife/ag-practices-key-for-pollinators-birds/?emailMost farming and forage production management attempted to create uniformity and monocultures of plants for production purposes. For the long-term benefit of pollinators and grassland birds, the application of tools and processes that encourage a diversity of flowering plants on an extensive scale will be required. Perhaps it's time for more extensive use of prescribed fire and grazing management in a systems approach to create a greater diversity of plants on our grazing lands. Cover crops and the establishment of native plants in buffer areas and field edges on our croplands is also a systems approach to increase plant diversity. Properly applied, all of these practices improve overall health of the ecological system.
Changing management practices encourages novel thought to solve past issues.
Seven years ago we decided to quit broadcast spraying pastures for weed control which has led to greater diversity of plants and more diversity of beneficial insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds in pasture. IMO the surfactants in sprays are harsh on the exoskeleton of beneficial insects/animals.
Density of low preference forbs in selected areas is now kept in check by using a broadcast cover crop mix high in vetch (smother crop) and/or timely mowing at pollination. Low preference forbs indicate too low a stock density and/or time of grazing, but such are not the end of the world!
Sometimes you can reduce weed pressure simply by planting forage legumes. Not only do those legumes provide habitat for pollinating insects and supplemental food for other wildlife, but they also 'focus' cattle impact which helps beget new plant diversity or strengthens the warm season grass forage base the next growing season (provided ample recovery time is provided).
Three years ago we adopted planned grazing to improve plant diversity, wildlife habitat, help better match forage availability and quality with cattle needs, and extend the grazing season. The recovery period between grazings is far more important than how each pasture is grazed. High seral native grasses, such as big bluestem and indian grass in pic below, grow slowly and take time to establish, especially since the competing forage base is bermudagrass and tall fescue.
Three grazing disturbances for this paddock were done first week of March, last week of April, and one week in mid-June which ended just before summer solstice. Since 19 June, the paddock has been allowed to fully recover for 106 days. That length of time is necessary to allow slow maturing seral forages time to express themselves. No mowing nor overseeding has been done to accomplish the landscape you see....just grazing management to tap into the latent seedbank. The low preference forbs have been broadcast with a cover crop mix to reduce their numbers.....small areas with NWSG present were left as they be (no point in altering an area which you desire).
You are probably wondering what the cow herd has been doing for the past 106 days? They were housed on 1/4th of the ranch which contains excellent swards of tame warm season grasses, fescue, legumes, annuals, brush and forbs, etc. The summer recovery period for those areas is ~28 days to provide higher forage quality during reduced intake from summer heat stress. The short summer rotation also creates a fall shift toward cool season pasture species (both planted annuals and perennial forages) for winter forage stockpile (a combination of fall warm season grass regrowth and new green forage) of those 4 paddocks.
The threat of fall army worms and fire ants is nil in a paddock like this. Simply because insect predator numbers are too high in the dungeons of the dense canopy. Those pests retreat to the graveled roadsides where there is some short forage and suitable habitat. Fall is also a time when black-headed vultures migrate and pose a threat to newborn fall calves. This paddock provides 'cover' (tall forbs, briers, brambles) for the babies and ample mixed forage for older cattle. Cattle require 'cover' and 'habitat' just like any other animal species. This is the first of 4 adjacent 'calving paddocks'!
A friend asked if we have quail in that area. Two pair nested there this summer, but I have not seen the covey yet. Butterflies and honey bees?...very common and ample...here.