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Fire Ecology

What is Patch Burning?

What is Patch Burning?

Patch burning is the purposeful grazing of a section of an landscape or management unit that has been prescribed burned, and then burning another section to move the grazing pressure, thus creating a shifting mosaic on the landscape or management unit (Figure 3). Patch burning allows livestock to freely select the most recently burned part of a unit or pasture. Livestock spend 75% of their time on these patches and typically evenly utilize all the palatable plants within the entire burned patch. Then within 6-12 months burn another portion of the unit. This will shift the focal grazing point to the new burn patch. After the heavy utilization (1.5-2.5 years post burn) a transition state of bare ground, forbs, and low amounts of standing biomass and litter occurs. Within 2.5 -3 years post burn the patch receives very little grazing pressure, which allows biomass and litter to accumulate (Figure 3). This patch is then ready to be burned and grazed again. This is all accomplished without fences or other management input besides the use of prescribed fire.

Figure 3. Patch burning is the purposeful grazing of a section of an landscape or management unit that has been prescribed burned, and then burning another section to move the grazing pressure, thus creating a shifting mosaic on the landscape or management unit.

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Caption: Cattle spend 75% of the time grazing on the most recently burned patches. This allows the other patches to recover. Photo Samuel D. Fuhlendorf.

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