Research Briefs


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The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers: Keeping the Dream of Farming Alive

As older farmers retire, fewer young farmers are stepping in to take their place. The number of beginning farmers dropped 20 percent in the last five-year census period, and the average US farmer now tops 58 years of age. more

CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

CIAS supports innovative graduate student research addressing the challenges faced by small- and medium-sized farms and food businesses. Awarded annually, our competitive mini-grants aid students as they initiate their research in sustainable agriculture and food systems. more


Announcing the 2019 Market Farm Madness Champion!

Hoophouse is your 2019 Market Farm Madness champion! They withstood high winds, late snow storms and controversy over cost share payments to win the tournament. more

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Effects of Grassland Bird Nesting Refuges on Pasture Forage Quality and Yield

Posted December 2020

Well-managed pastures on livestock farms can provide high-quality habitat for grassland bird species that are declining in number, especially if areas within the pasture acreage are left ungrazed during the nesting season. Nearly all of Wisconsin’s original grasslands—commonly called prairies—have been lost over the past century, and, in tandem with this loss, grassland bird populations have declined. Some of these bird species are categorized as threatened or endangered. Today, many of these birds nest on or near the ground in pastures and hayfields, and previous research in Wisconsin has shown that leaving some portion of this land unharvested during the nesting season—by designating a ‘nesting refuge’—can increase reproductive success. This practice, however, is not common due to uncertainty surrounding the extent of losses in forage yield and quality and questions on how to manage these areas following the refuge period.

Laura Judge, Alicia Dixon and Mark Renz, researchers with the UW-Madison Department of Agronomy and the Agroecology master’s degree program, quantified the loss in forage yield and quality under different management scenarios in a nesting refuge established in southern Wisconsin cool-season pasture. Establishing nesting refuges with ungrazed and unharvested forages resulted in losses that varied with different management practices, but only in the year that the nesting refuges were in place.

Read the full brief (pdf)