Managing Invasive Plants: Concepts, Principles, and Practices link

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
America's National Wildlife Refuge System

MANAGING INVASIVE PLANTS: Concepts, Principles, and Practices

Print  Click here to print this page  | Text Size: A A A
MIP Home | Contact Us 

Management Methods: Prescribed Grazing

Review, Resources, & References


Test Your Knowledge

Review the key points and then test your knowledge of prescribed grazing by taking a quiz.

Key Points

1. The role of grazing

The role of grazing is different in natural, domesticated, and prescribed grazing systems.

2. Grazing is powerful

Grazing influences the biological, physical, and chemical characteristics of ecosystems through herbivory, physical impact, and deposition and may have beneficial and detrimental effects.

3. Understand your grazing system

Designing effective and ecologically beneficial grazing prescriptions requires a solid understanding of plant ecology, animal behavior, and plant-animal interactions at a particular site.

4. prescription Ingredients

Grazing prescriptions include specific information on the season and intensity of grazing and the species, breed, sex, and age class of animals. The goal of prescribed grazing for invasive plant management is to manipulate grazing parameters to place target plants at a competitive disadvantage relative to other plants in the community.

5. Management Options for Prescribed Grazing

Prescribed grazing can be used to prevent, contain, or suppress invasive plant populations, but will rarely eradicate infestations if used alone.

6. Prescribed grazing Takes Time

Prescribed grazing, especially when used alone, requires a long-term commitment.

7. Prescribed Grazing should be integrated

Prescribed grazing may significantly enhance the effectiveness or facilitate implementing other invasive plant management tools.

8. Prescribed grazing Has Benefits

Prescribed grazing treatments can be removed at any time without long-term residual effects; treatments can be applied to steep, rocky, and remote terrain; grazing animals convert the target species into a saleable product (i.e., meat or wool); and prescribed grazing can provide long-term management while reducing the use of herbicides.

9. Prescribed grazing Has Limitations

Prescribed grazing requires continual monitoring and management to achieve desired results; livestock animals may not be compatible with some sites; and appropriate animals may not be available to target some invasive species.

10. Prescribed Grazing Should be Used with care

Prescribed grazing should be used sensibly, with careful consideration of its compatibility with the habitat, land management goals, infestation characteristics, livestock needs, and resources available to implement the program successfully.

Return to top


Prescription Grazing for Vegetation Management

Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation, & Ecosystem Management

Livestock for Landscapes

Prescribed Grazing Management Manual for New York State

The Nature Conservancy - Weed Control Methods Handbook

Return to top


Belnap J. 1994. Potential role of cryptobiotic soil crusts in semiarid rangelands. In: Monsen SB and Kitchen SG, editors. Proceedings of the Ecology and Management of Annual Rangelands. General Technical Report INT-GTR-313. US Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden (UT).

Belnap J. 1995. Surface disturbances: their role in accelerating desertification. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 37:39-57.

Belnap J, Gillette DA. 1998. Vulnerability of desert biological soil crusts to wind erosion: the influences of crust development, soil texture, and disturbance. Journal of Arid Environments 39:133-142.

Belsky AJ, Gelbard JL. 2000. Livestock Grazing and Weed Invasions in the Arid West. Bend (OR): Oregon Natural Desert Association. 31 p.

Coffey L. 2001. Multispecies grazing. ATTRA Publication #CT147. ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (324 KB PDF). <>. Accessed 2006 Aug 10.

DiTomaso JM, Johnson DW. 2006. The Use of Fire as a Tool for Controlling Invasive Plants. Cal-IPC Publication-01. Berkeley (CA): California Invasive Plant Council. 56 p.

Dormaar JF, Willms WD. 1998. Effect of forty-four years of grazing on fescue grassland soils. Journal of Range Management 52:122-126.

Escobar EN. 1996. Sustainable Use of Goats as a Vegetation Management Tool. In: Ebodaghe D, Bullen G, Lyons D, editors. Proceedings of the National Small Farm Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. Plant and Animal Production, Protection and Processing Division of USDA-Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Washington DC. <>. Accessed 2008 Jan 15.

Fleischner TL. 1994. Ecological costs of livestock grazing in western North America. Conservation Biology 8:629-644.

Frank DA, McNaughton SJ, Tracy BF. 1998. The ecology of the Earth’s grazing ecosystems. BioScience 48:513-521.

Frank DA, Kuns MM, Guido DR. 2002. Consumer control of grassland plant production. Ecology 83:602-606.

Freilich JE, Emlen JM, Duda JJ, Freeman DC, Cafaro PJ. 2003. Ecological effects of ranching: a six-point critique. BioScience 52:759-765.

Frost RA, Launchbaugh KL. 2003. Prescription grazing for wildland weed management: a new look at an old tool to control weeds on rangelands. Rangelands 25:43-47.

Hansen R. 1993. Effects of Aphthona flea beetles and sheep grazing on leafy spurge stands. In: Proceedings of Great Plains Agricultural Council Leafy Spurge Task Force Symposium; 1993 Jul 26-28; p 47-48.

Hart SP. 2000. Stocker goats for controlling sericea lespedeza. In: Symposium Proceedings, Sericea Lespedeza and the Future of Invasive Species. Kansas State University Department of Agronomy, Manhattan (KS). p 12-13.

Holland EA, Parton WJ, Detling JK, Coppock DL. 1992. Physiological responses of plant populations to herbivory and other consequences of ecosystem nutrient flow. American Naturalist 140:685-706.

Hubbard RK, Newton GL, Mill GM. 2004. Water quality and the grazing animal. Journal of Animal Science 82:E255-E263.

Huntly N. 1991. Herbivores and the dynamics of communities and ecosystems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 22:477-503.

Lacey JR, Wallander R, Olson-Rutz K. 1992. Recovery, germinability, and viability of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) seeds ingested by sheep and goats. Weed Technology 6:599-602.

Launchbaugh KL. 1996. Biochemical aspects of grazing behavior. In: Hodgson J and Illius AW, editors. The Ecology and Management of Grazing Systems. CAB International, Wallingford (UK). p 159-183.

Lym RG, Sedivec KK, Kirby DR. 1997. Leafy spurge control with angora goats and herbicides. Journal of Range Management 50:123-128.

Luginbuhl JM, Green JT, Poore MH, Mueller JP. 1996. Use of goats as biological agents for the control of unwanted vegetation. Use of Trees in Animal Production Systems International Workshop. Indio Hatuey Pasture and Forage Experimental Station, Matanzas. 1996 Nov 26-29. <>. Accessed 2006 Nov 17.

Luginbuhl, JM. 2000. Use of goats to manage vegetation in cattle pastures in the Appalachian region of North Carolina. Sheep and Goat Research Journal 16:124.

Norton AP, Hufbauer RA (unpublished). Integrating multiple biological control agents for Dalmatian toadflax and diffuse knapweed. Fort Collins (CO): Colorado State University, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management. Colorado AES Projects: Progress Reports. <>. Accessed 2006 Nov 17.

Olson BE. 1999a. Grazing and weeds. In: Sheley RL, Petroff JK, editors. Biology and Management of Rangeland Weeds. Corvallis (OR): Oregon State University Press. p 85-96.

Olson BE. 1999b. Manipulating diet selection to control weeds. In: Launchbaugh KL, Sanders KD, Mosley JC, editors. Grazing Behavior of Livestock and Wildlife. Moscow (ID): Idaho Forest, Wildlife and Range Exp. Sta. Bull. #70, Univ. of Idaho.

Olson BE, Lacey JR. Sheep: A method for controlling rangeland weeds. Sheep and Goat Research Journal 12:74-80.

Olson BE, Wallander RT. 1998. Effect of sheep grazing on a leafy spurge-infested Idaho fescue community. Journal of Range Management 51:247-52.

Olson BE, Wallander RT, Lacey JR. 1997a. Effects of sheep grazing on a spotted knapweed-infested Idaho fescue community. Journal of Range Management 50:386-390.

Olson BE, Wallander RT, Fay PK. 1997b. Intensive cattle grazing of oxeye daisy. Weed Technology 11:176-81.

Sheley, RL, Svejcar TJ, Maxwell, BD. 1996. A theoretical framework for developing successional weed management strategies on rangeland. Weed Technology 7:766-773.

Sheley RL, Jacobs JS, Martin JM. 2004. Integrating 2,4-D and sheep grazing to rehabilitate spotted knapweed infestations. Journal of Range Management 57:371-375.

Szaro RC. 1989. Riparian forest and shrubland community types of Arizona and New Mexico. Desert Plants 9:69-138.

Thomsen CD, Williams WA, Vayssieres MP. 1996. Yellow starthistle management with grazing, mowing, and competitive plantings. In: Lovich J, Randall J, Kelly M, editors. Proceedings of the California Exotic Pest Plant Council Symposium, Vol. 2; 1996 Oct 4-6; San Diego (CA). p 65-68.

Tu M, Hurd C, Randall JM. 2001. Weed Control Methods Handbook: Tools & Techniques for Use in Natural Areas. The Nature Conservancy Wildland Invasive Species Team. <>. Accessed 2008 Jan 15.

Walker JW, Hemenway KG, Hatfield PG, Glimp HA. 1992. Training lambs to be weed eaters: Studies with leafy spurge. Journal of Range Management 45:245-249.

Walker JW. 1994. Multispecies grazing: the ecological advantage. Sheep Research Journal Special Issue. p 52-64.

Walker JW, Kronberg SL, Al-Rawaily SL, West NE. 1994. Managing noxious weeds with livestock: studies on leafy spurge. Sheep Research Progress Report. No. 3, USDA-ARS 1994-4. p 125-135.

Wallander RT, Olson BE, Lacey JR. 1995. Spotted knapweed seed viability after passing through sheep and mule deer. Journal of Range Management 48:145-149.

Watkins BR, Clements RJ. 1978. The effects of grazing animals on pastures. In: Wilson JR, editor. Plant Relations in Pastures. CSIRO, East Melborne, Australia. p 283-289.

Watkinson AR, Omerod SJ. 2001. Grasslands, grazing and biodiversity: editors’ introdution. Journal of Applied Ecology 38:233-237.

Williams S, Prather T. 2006. Goats: A tool for controlling spotted knapweed. Journal of Extension 44(5). <>. Accessed 2008 Jan 15.

Wurtz TL. 1995. Domestic geese: biological weed control in an agricultural setting. Ecological Applications 5:570-578.

December 16, 2015