Management strategies for optimal grazing distribution and use of arid rangelands
Journal of Animal Science , 82 , 2004
Application of existing and novel management techniques can alter traditional livestock grazing patterns and significantly improve the sustainability of arid rangelands. Livestock often congregate and heavily graze riparian areas and other sensitive rangeland, while abundant forage remains in other areas. Increasing the uniformity of grazing can help protect fisheries, wildlife habitat, and other vegetative and watershed resources. For years, managers have improved grazing distribution in extensive arid pastures by developing new water sources. In addition, strategic supplement placement can be used to lure cattle to graze areas that typically receive little use. Placement of lowmoisture molasses blocks in steeper areas that were far from water increased forage use by 14% at distances up to 600 m from supplement in foothill rangeland. Recent research has examined the potential of breed and individual animal selection to improve grazing distribution patterns. Cattle breeds developed in mountainous terrain utilize rugged rangeland more uniformly than breeds developed in more gentle terrain. In pastures that were grazed by cattle identified as “hill climbers” (previously observed on rugged terrain), more residual vegetation was left on gentle slopes and areas closer to water than in pastures grazed by cattle identified as “bottom dwellers” (previously observed on gentle terrain near water). Cattle may use rugged rangeland more uniformly after weaning and during periods when temperatures are more moderate and the forage is more homogeneous (spring, early summer, and autumn). Herding shows great promise for protecting sensitive rangeland. Preliminary data show that residual riparian forage in pastures where livestock were herded was up to two times higher than in a control pasture. The integration of herding and strategic supplement placement seems to be more effective than herding alone. Many concerns associated with the sustainability of grazing on arid rangelands can be resolved by manipulating livestock grazing behavior through management.