- Author: Stephanie Larson
- Author: John Gorman
Along with prescribed fire, grazing of domestic livestock may be the earliest vegetation management tool employed by humans. We suggest that the challenges of vegetation management on working landscapes may be addressed with the careful sharpening of this old tool. Prescription grazing is the application of livestock grazing at a specified season, duration and intensity to accomplish specific vegetation management goals. Controlled grazing of this type is being employed throughout California on public and private land and is proving to be a promising tool in reducing the fire fuels and unwanted, excessive vegetation.
Furthermore, livestock grazing has one distinct advantage over other control methods; in the process of controlling an undesirable plant, grazing animals convert it into a saleable product.
Steps in Developing a Grazing Prescription
Selecting the Right Species
The species of livestock best suited for the specific vegetation management goals depends on both the plant species of concern and the production setting. Cattle have large rumens that are well adapted to ferment fibrous material and are classified as grass and roughage eaters. They are therefore generally superior to goats or sheep to manage fibrous herbaceous vegetation such as dormant grasses. Goats have narrow and strong mouths well designed for stripping individual leaves from woody stems and for chewing branches. Goats also have a large liver mass relative to cattle or sheep and may therefore more efficiently process plants that contain secondary compounds such as tannins or terpenes. Sheep are generally considered an excellent species to accomplish control of herbaceous weeds. Sheep possess a narrow muzzle and a relatively large rumen per unit body mass. These characteristics allow them to selectively graze and yet tolerate substantial fiber content, and results in diets generally dominated by forbs. Sheep are also small, sure-footed, and well suited for travel in rough topography which may not be easily accessible for chemical weed control.
Grazing Workshops for Working Landscapes in Sonoma & Marin Counties
Creating resiliency in the rural landscape of Sonoma and Marin Counties is critical in preparing for the next natural disaster, managing biodiversity or achieving ecosystem service goals such as carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat and viewsheds. This growing recognition of the ecological benefits livestock grazing is important to our County's resiliency. However, grazing can be difficult to landowners that have never grazed their properties before. UC Cooperative Extension will hold several workshops on prescriptive grazing techniques to address the sustainability of our working landscapes while reducing the vegetation that leads to catastrophic wild fires. Private land owners manage the majority of the open spaces in Sonoma and Marin Counties and these workshops are aimed at those private citizens and other public land owners that are interested in using grazing as a vegetation management tool. Increasing the number of agriculture land grazed will benefit both public and private open space and the residents that benefit from them. The goal of the workshops is to increase understanding, interest and acceptance of using grazing as a vegetation management tool. Upcoming workshop held at SRJC Shone Farm:
DAY 1 – FRIDAY, May 17 (8:30 am - 7pm)
- Setting Achievable Grazing Goals
- Basic Principles of Managed Grazing
- Animal Nutrition, Body Condition Scoring
- Selecting the right grazer
- Animal Husbandry Basics
- Grazing 101
- Electric Fencing
- Drought & Flood Management
DAY 2 – SATURDAY, May 18 (8: 00 am - 5 pm)
- Graze Planning
- Pasture & Range Ecology
- Livestock Protection Tools
- Health Issues-Parasite Control
- Livestock Economics, Leasing
- Carbon Plan
- Monitoring, meeting grazing goals
Sonoma and Marin County's working landscapes, properly managed with prescription grazing, could prove to be a winning solution for all parties involved. Grazing not only provides a service to land owners and managers that may not be easily achieved in other ways, but it can also provide an income stream to aspiring livestock grazers just starting their grazing businesses. These workshops will provide educational opportunities for all parties to learn the “how to” in grazing, landowners who what to graze themselves, landowners who want to hire grazes and grazers who are looking to start or increase their grazing business enterprise. Let's work together to sharpen the “old” tool of “livestock grazing” into the “new vegetation management tool” for working landscapes./h3>/h3>/h3>/span>
UCCE Sonoma is committed to building climate resilient communities and ecosystems. Through our educational outreach and workshops on the better land and natural resource management practices. We are working to make sure that homeowners, landowners, farmers, and ranchers across California are better prepared and able to deal with the growing risk of fire, drought, and flood hazards in Sonoma County.
Protecting California's Economy & Natural Resources
UCCE Sonoma is working to return prescribed burning and grazing to land critical in preventing devastating wildfires. Rapid population growth in Sonoma County has led to an increase in housing development in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), urban communities adjacent to wildlands. Prescribed fire helps to protect critical infrastructure and resources like the Lake Sonoma watershed, bay area air quality, soil health and plant habitat by addressing fire fuels before peak fire season conditions occur.
Returning the Legacy of Safe Fire
Abatement of Hazardous Vegetation & Combustible Materials in Sonoma County
This spring, in the interest of having fire safe communities, the Fire Prevention Division of Permit Sonoma is starting an inspection program on parcels 5 acres or LESS in the unincorporated county. Permit Sonoma is working with local fire protection districts to conduct the inspections.
Learn more at Sonoma County Code Ordinance Chapter 13A “Abatement of Hazardous Vegetation and Combustible Materials”
Development in the WUI has halted the important indigenous legacy of facilitated burning that shaped Sonoma County's fire adapted ecosystem leading to a build up fire fuels in the wildlands. UCCE Sonoma has hosted and continues to educate the public through a series of workshops covering best practices for home hardening, prescribed burn, grazing, and other vegetation management tools. TheGood Fire Alliance (GFA) is a Sonoma County community based group that has formed to learn about and receive hands-on training on the best practices for fire fuel reduction, vegetation management, smoke management, home hardening, shaded fuel breaks, prescribed burning and grazing, etc.
For more information visit: Prescribed Burns Fact Sheet
Disaster Recovery Resources
In response to devastating October 2017 wildfires, UCCE Sonoma has compiled a compressive list of online resources for home owners and land across California living in high fire hazard prone areas. Disaster Recovery Resources includes information about how to prepare for a disaster, what to do after a fire, clean-up, food safety, erosion, and restoring and rebuilding homes .
For more information visit: Disaster Recovery Resources.
- Ongoing Master Gardener Firewise Landscaping workshops
- April 27 Post-Fire Food Safety Workshop
- April 27-28 Wildland Firefighter Training for Rx Burn Practitioners hosted by Audubon Canyon Ranch
- May 4 Shaded Fuel Break Workshop with Audobon Canyon Ranch and The Wildlands Conservancy
- May 17-18 Grazing School for Wildfire Vegetation Reduction