Grazing & Habitat Management
Prescribed Grazing for Habitat
Many of Indiana’s Fish & Wildlife Areas (FWAs) have grassland habitats that depend on heavy disturbance to maintain their diversity and productivity. Disturbance is any event that delays the natural development of an area. Property managers use a variety of disturbance methods to achieve habitat goals. These methods include prescribed burning, mowing, disking, and herbicide application.
Prescribed grazing, also called conservation grazing, is another tool property managers are looking to use to create beneficial disturbance on FWAs. Historically, grasslands were maintained by large, hoofed animals like bison. Bison hooves turned the soil while these animals grazed. This exposed bare dirt for annual wildflowers and grasses to grow in and, in turn, created habitat for disturbance-dependent animals to feed and rest in. Livestock, such as cattle, have the ability to mimic the effect bison had on the landscape when such grazing is planned correctly.
Prescribed grazing is used to accomplish specific vegetation management goals through the use of domestic livestock. Livestock used in prescribed grazing browse or graze an area of land for a preplanned amount of time, with property managers ensuring overgrazing does not occur and that habitat disturbance goals are met. As with any other habitat management tool, managers can decide how and when to use grazing to best fit their site-specific goals.
Prescribed grazing is used on public lands in many other states and has a demonstrated ability to improve soil health, plant diversity, and structural diversity. Grazing creates patchy grasslands that leave some areas ungrazed, some areas grazed short, and other areas flourishing after past grazing. Some wildlife prefer different heights of grass to raise young or hide from predators in. Creating uneven areas with differing heights gives wildlife a variety of areas to choose from depending on their needs.
Ultimately, prescribed grazing will improve grassland habitat and, in turn, enhance hunting and recreational opportunities for Hoosiers to enjoy. By applying prescribed grazing on properties, managers can combat invasive species, increase native plant diversity, and provide ideal habitat for game species like Northern bobwhite, turkey, deer, and Eastern cottontail rabbit. Livestock can also beat down vegetation to create natural trails, making grasslands more accessible for hunting and walking in. Prescribed grazing is a cost-effective practice for property managers and benefits the livestock producers whose animals participate.
The Division of Fish & Wildlife manages public lands so Indiana’s fish, wildlife, and habitats can thrive and benefit present and future generations of Hoosiers.
At a Fish & Wildlife Area you can:
- Hunt and trap
- Enjoy shooting sports
- View wildlife and practice wildlife photography
- Walk in nature
- Enjoy scenic views
Camping is also available at Glendale, J.E. Roush Lake, and Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Areas. To plan a visit and learn more about Fish & Wildlife Areas, go to on.IN.gov/dfwproperties