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Abstract Understanding the grazing conditions under which plant populations are limited by seed availability (seed limitation) is important for devising management schemes that aim to manipulate the establishment of weed and forage species. Seeds of three weed species (Cirsium arvense, C. vulgare and Rumex obtusifolius) and five forage species (Lolium perenne, Lotus uliginosus syn. L. pedunculatus, Paspalum dilatatum, Plantago lanceolata and Trifolium repens) were broadcast sown into L. perenne–T. repens pastures in Manawatu, New Zealand and five sheep-grazing and two slug-grazing (with and without molluscicide) treatments were imposed in a split-plot design. Of the five sheep-grazing treatments, four compared continuous grazing with rotational grazing at intervals of 12, 24 and 36 d in spring, with all four grazed under a common rotation for the remainder of the year. The fifth treatment was continuous grazing all year. Seed sowing increased seedling emergence of C. vulgare, L. perenne, P. lanceolata, R. obtusifolius and T. repens under all sheep- and slug-grazing treatments, with differences in seedling densities persisting for at least 21 months. Seed sowing did not increase seedling densities of C. arvense, L. uliginosus or P. dilatatum. The effects of sheep-grazing management on seedling emergence and survival were uncoupled. For the five seed-limited species, seedling emergence was greater on pastures that were rotationally grazed during spring compared with those that were continuously grazed. However, seedling survival was lower in pastures grazed rotationally during summer, autumn and winter, so that after 21 months seedling numbers were greater on plots that were continuously grazed all year. Exclusion of slugs increased seedling recruitment of T. repens but had no impact on the other species. As weed and forage species responded in a similar way to sheep-grazing management (increased under continuous, decreased under rotational), it is unlikely that the goals of reducing weed invasions and enhancing forage species establishment could be carried out concurrently in established pastures with the same management.