Posts Tagged: grazing
Improved soil health, increased profitability, and reduced spread of wildfire are among the many benefits that arise from keeping livestock on the landscape. Efforts are underway in California and South Dakota to connect landowners with livestock managers for their mutual benefit.
Farmers can increase the organic matter in their soil and reduce their fertilizer costs by allowing livestock to graze crop residue or cover crops on their land.
Nick Jorgensen, CEO of Jorgensen Land and Cattle in Ideal, SD, said that grazing every acre allows his operation to increase soil organic matter by up to 0.75% per year and cut fertilizer costs by $50 per acre with no yield loss.
Livestock managers can rest their pastures and reduce their feed costs by seeking out crop residue, cover crops and additional pasture or rangeland for their livestock to graze.
Jorgensen said that grazing cattle on all crop and cover crop acres cuts his feed and manure management costs by up to $2 per head per day.
Grazing livestock is also a cost-effective way to reduce the accumulation of fire fuels on the landscape, helping to slow the spread of wildfires. This can be especially important for land that is too steep, rocky or remote for mowing or chemical treatment.
“I've noticed on several fires, including extreme fires, the fence lines where the fire just stopped. And the one variable, the one difference, was grazing,” CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Marshall Turbeville said.
As this year has proven, fire is a serious risk to California landowners. That's one reason University of California Cooperative Extension has launched Match.Graze. It's a map-based website designed to help livestock owners find pasture, rangeland, cover crops or crop residue available for grazing and help landowners find cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock to graze their land.
“Every property is different and requires thoughtful consideration of how it should best be grazed,” said Stephanie Larson, director of UCCE in Sonoma County, UCCE livestock and range management advisor and co-creator of the livestock-land matchmaking service. “UC Cooperative Extension is here to serve. Put Match.Graze to work, and let's prevent catastrophic fire while helping landowners and agriculture.”
California landowners and livestock managers can visit MatchGraze.com, set up a free account, create a pin on the map and find a grazing partner.
The California website is based on the South Dakota Grazing Exchange, the original site launched by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition with work supported by Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Many farms in South Dakota have moved away from livestock to focus on row crops. However, increased diversity and incorporating livestock are two key principles for good soil health management.
At www.sdgrazingexchange.com farmers can find livestock to graze their crop residue or cover crops in order to capture the soil health benefits for their cropland without having to own livestock. Similarly, ranchers can give their pastures and rangeland a rest and reduce their feed costs by finding farmers with cropland to graze.
The Match.Graze and SD Grazing Exchange websites are not limited to California and South Dakota. Users from anywhere in the nation can create accounts on either website and advertise their land and livestock. The more people who use the websites, the better resources they will become.
When landowners partner with ranchers to keep livestock on the landscape, everyone wins, so the SDSHC will work to help other states create Grazing Exchange websites and connect to the maps and users of Match.Graze and SD Grazing Exchange. For more information, contact Cindy Zenk, SDSHC coordinator, at (605) 280-4190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matchmaking grazing animals with grass and rangelands
Professional grazing of overgrown rangelands, pastures and parcels is proven to reduce the spread of dangerous and costly wildfires.
Do you have land but no livestock and feel concerned about fire fuels on your property? Or are you a livestock owner that can provide a grazing service and/or need land and forage for your animals? Match.Graze can help.
Match.Graze is a free online platform connecting landowners statewide who want grazing animals to livestock owners with animals that can provide vegetation management services, created by UC Cooperative Extension.
From small semi-rural communities to large open spaces, grazing can provide an affordable solution to the inevitable accumulation of fire fuels. Grazing can be more cost-effective for reducing fuels on landscapes that are too steep, rocky or remote for mowing or chemical treatment, or in the wildland-urban interface where burning is not an option.
“I've noticed on several fires, including extreme fires, the fence lines where the fire just stopped. And the one variable, the one difference, was grazing,” said Marshall Turbeville, CAL FIRE battalion chief.
Cattle, sheep, goats and other grazing animals all have different roles to play in grazing for fire fuel reduction. If you want to use livestock to help reduce fire risk in your area, visit MatchGraze.com.
“Every property is different and requires thoughtful consideration of how it should best be grazed,” said Stephanie Larson, director of UCCE in Sonoma County, UCCE livestock and range management advisor and co-creator of the livestock-land matchmaking service. “UC Cooperative Extension is here to serve, put Match.Graze to work and let's prevent catastrophic fire while helping landowners and agriculture.”
To find a local grazing partner, visit MatchGraze.com, set up a free account, create a pin on the map and make a match.
Cattle can help reduce wildfire danger by grazing on fine fuels in rangeland and forest landscapes, reported Sierra Dawn McClain in Capital Press. The article also appeared in the Blue Mountain Eagle, the Westerner and the East Oregonian.
The article cited the preliminary results of research by UC Cooperative Extension that show that cattle consumed approximately 12.4 billion pounds of forage across California in 2017. The researchers believe the cattle could do more.
Many grazable acres aren't grazed, said Sheila Barry, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. According to the Capital Press article, Barry said the public doesn't always recognize the benefits of grazing; they see short grass and cow patties. Cattle's role in preventing wildfires is often overlooked.
Devii Rao, UCCE livestock and natural resources advisor for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties and the study's lead, said ranchers should target grazing around homes, infrastructure, roadsides and at the wildland-urban interface.
“There are so many things we can do better. Cattle grazing is really important to fire safety, and it's time we have more conversations about it,” Rao said.
The natural magic of grazing at the Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County is made possible by running cattle in targeted areas for carefully planned periods of time, reported Ashiah Scharaga in the Chico News & Review.
"If we reduce the amount of vegetation that is there through livestock grazing, we can reduce the amount of fuels that would be available to help a fire spread and carry and build up intensity," said Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor in Butte, Plumas and Sierra counties.
Targeted grazing, Schohr said, also keeps down grasses, weeds and invasive species, serving as an element in the land management "toolbox."
"If cattle were not actually on Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, essentially those invasive species would choke out those native plants, and they wouldn't be there," Schohr said.
In the past, grazing was considered destructive, however, perspectives have changed with fire science research. One such researcher is Kate Wilkin, the fire science and natural resources advisor for UCCE in Butte, Yuba, Sutter and Nevada counties.
Wilkin said that there has been a long history of grazing in the West, dating to the 1700s. Livestock historically overwhelmed the environment, causing degradation to wetlands and meadows especially. Using animals in a targeted way, however, can reduce fire risk without destroying the natural landscape.
Schohr and Wilkin will host a day-long Irrigated Pasture and Annual Rangeland Management Workshop May 31 at the Chico State University Farm.
With some recent forecasts bringing encouraging news about a potential El Niño, some ranchers have been asking about what they should expect in terms of forage production, if and when the rains come. What they want to know is how soon rangeland productivity will reach the pre-drought levels again. One issue that I always draw their attention to is the levels of residual dry matter (RDM) on the rangelands. Even with the reduction in herd sizes and shorter grazing seasons employed by most producers, more rangelands now have less than recommended RDM levels.
RDM is a measure of the old plant material (without counting summer annuals) that are left standing or on the ground before the fall precipitation comes. It is a great indicator of both forage production and grazing intensity. These leftover plant materials are critical on California rangelands to reduce erosion and nutrient loss, and to create a conducive environment for diverse plant communities to thrive. Optimum RDM levels are site specific, they range from 100-2,100 pounds per acre, and depend on precipitation zone, slope and tree canopy cover. Ideal RDM levels increases with precipitation and slope, and decreases with tree cover. Studies show that too low or too high RDM levels will reduce species composition and forage production, both factors critical to any livestock production system. The good news is that annual rangelands are resilient and will likely return to normal production within two years after bringing RDM level to recommended standards.
Knowing the RDM standards for one's rangeland and continuously monitoring is an important step towards achieving sustainable rangeland management and livestock production.
Details about RDM standards, data collection methods and more can be found in the free UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publication Guidelines for Residual Dry Matter on Coastal and Foothill Rangelands in California.
Author: Fadzayi Mashiri, Ph.D.