Evaluating Grazing Management Effects on Soil, Animal, and Plant Productivity in Western Canada

Project Title

Grazing Management Across western Canada: Uncovering the Role of the Microbiome and Implications for Forage Productivity, Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Jillian Bainard and Luke Bainard (AAFC Agassiz) jillian.bainard@agr.gc.ca

Wade Abbott (AAFC Lethbridge), Aklilu Alemu (AAFC Swift Current), Jon Bennett (University of Saskatchewan), Edward Bork (University of Alberta), Cameron Carlyle (University of Alberta), JT Cornelis (University of British Columbia), Mae Elsinger (AAFC Brandon), David Ensing (AAFC Summerland), Lauchlan Fraser (Thompson Rivers U), David Gagne (AAFC Quebec), Monika Gorzelak (AAFC Lethbridge), Kirsten Hannam (AAFC Summerland), Bree Kelln (University of Saskatchewan), Eric Lamb (University of Saskatchewan), Mary-Cathrine Leewis (AAFC Quebec), and Rhiannon Wallace (AAFC Agassiz)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2028 ENV.06.21C


Grazing lands are important as feed for livestock, but they also contribute to many ecosystem goods and services. Grazing management practices directly impact soil health and plant productivity, as well as the soil microbiome (the collective living microbial community including bacteria, fungi, etc.). The advancement of molecular tools allows us to more thoroughly understand the role of the soil and plant microbiome in mediating nutrient cycling and how this impacts soil carbon (C) dynamics and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


  • Evaluate short-, mid-, and long-term effects of grazing management on soil and plant paramiters across western Canada.

What they will do

Across Canada, grazing research is being conducted on government and university sites but often differences in methodologies and measures taken means that it is difficult to compare across sites. This project will collect similar soil microbiome and forage measurements across sites so that cross- comparisons can be made. Importantly, new information about the role of the living components of the soil (the microbiome) will help us understand how the microbiome influences nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration in grazing systems.

This collaborative team of researchers will use pre-existing university or government grazing sites along with producer cooperators to look at the effects of different grazing management techniques on forage measures, soil carbon, and soil health as compared to non- grazed preexisting controls in close proximity. In each province, at least one research site will be used where researchers are able to have control over grazing practices.

  • At Thompson Rivers University they will use existing plots and trials on native range and manipulate density and timing of grazing, and also utilize the current BCRC funded silvopasture plots.
  • Alberta: At the University of Alberta they will utilize look at preexisting pastures comparing research trials at the Matthies and Kinsella Ranches to compare adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) to non AMP grazing  as well as look at using virtual fencing.
  • Saskatchewan: At the University of Saskatchewan they will use a research site at Kernen Prairie to compare different grazing intensities to take a pasture that has been continuously grazed and do one of 3 treatments , short duration/low intensity, short duration/high intensity, season long low intensity, as well as an un-grazed control.
  • Saskatchewan: At AAFC Swift Current: they will use treatments from the preexisting trials comparing “native deferred rotation study” (established in 2001) where cattle will continue to graze continuous vs. deferred rotational grazing in a seeded native pasture. They will also use the greencover study (established 2006) looking at continuous grazed vs. hay of different forage mixtures.
  • Manitoba: At Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiatives (MBFI) they will sample use pasture that has been managed in replicated rotational grazing trials looking at varying grazing rest intervals and forage utilization.
  • Researchers will also collect measurements on producer pastures across western Canada through collaborators and the Living Labs program.


This project is the first of its kind that will look at linking grazing management practices with soil health parameters on such a large, Canadian scale.