Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance

Final report for EW17-025

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $42,369.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: Nevada
Principal Investigator:
Sherman Swanson
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

Nevada Range Management Schools focused on how plants grow in relation to grazing, emphasizing timing and duration plus recovery and intensity. In this project we’ll build on that foundation, conducting workshops on “stewardship ranches,” striving to meet rangeland objectives. To learn about application of management for plant growth we’ll use the grazing response index (GRI) as we seek to learn each ranch managers’ strategies for rangeland stewardship and livestock production. We’ll focus on plant communities and use areas within pastures to help ranchers evaluate and improve GRI scores through movement or distribution of livestock. Later, we’ll convene stewardship ranchers with visitation teams and leading agency rangeland management personnel to discuss concepts learned from stewardship ranch workshops to create a range management school related to application of GRI and other grazing strategy indices.  Presentation of application-focused schools will include selected stewardship ranchers as teachers or presenters, describing what management techniques work on their ranch and why. Evaluation will be ongoing throughout the project and include interviews and/or surveys, of stewardship ranchers and public and private land rangeland managers attending RMS classes.  We will seek to learn about management changes resulting from this process. Products include revised curriculum for schools, extension fact sheets about using GRI or other indices to improve rangeland conditions by timely moving animals from pasture to pasture and within large pastures. Finally all of the above will be written up for sharing with Western SARE and the rangeland management community with an article for Rangelands.

 

Project Objectives:

The goal of this project is ranchers and agencies working in concert to achieve mutual goals for rangeland productivity, rangeland health, riparian functions, fire and fuels management, and wildlife habitat. It is also successful sustainable producers applying GRI or similar indices to evaluate and teach the strategies of their success. And finally, it is using the process to inform the development of a Range Quality Assurance Program patterned after the successful and well known Beef Quality Assurance Program (Bennett 1992). The vision of the RQA program is to develop “An incentive based producer program that facilitates rancher’s ability to train, plan, implement, and demonstrate sound range management practices that result in healthy and resilient landscapes, marketability of their cattle, and continued viability of their ranching operations.”  RQA principles are based on “good management practices” that are or become standard operating procedures. These are designed to achieve the federal land management agencies’ land health standards and guidelines, conserve greater sage-grouse and other fish and wildlife species habitat, and produce food with practicality, flexibility, and assurance.

RQA programming will eventually focus on educating and training cattle producers, wildlife managers, and land management agency range staff on issues regarding livestock management and rangeland health. It will also provide tools for verifying and documenting positive rangeland management practices using appropriate monitoring. The objectives for Nevada ranches in this RQA complimentary program are:

  1. Increase knowledge of GRI-related principles of plant growth and animal production
  2. Focus rangeland livestock producers’ and managers’ short-term monitoring to facilitate GRI-like planning tools for ecological sustainability, economic resilience, and quality of life
  3. Provide support for flexibility and increase application of grazing management infrastructure (e.g. water developments and strategically placed fences) and strategies (e.g. placement of animals with stockmanship and use of supplementation) to optimize animal movement for rangeland health and productivity on federal and private land.
  4. Help rangeland managers avoid succumbing to the simple solution that usually does not work, i.e. reducing AUMs, to address distribution and timing/duration problems.

Project objectives remain unchanged through 2017.

Introduction:

Throughout Nevada and much of the West, rangeland livestock production is the largest agricultural industry. Producers depend upon productivity of public and private pastures. Sustained productivity depends upon plant growth influenced by highly variable seasonal and annual growing conditions, and producer’s ability and flexibility to manage livestock numbers and movement in relation to this variability. Most pastures are not overgrazed, but many undermanaged pastures have overgrazed areas, especially riparian areas. Yet reduction of livestock grazing is frequently ineffective (Swanson et al. 2015) and resulted in increased occurrence of megafires (Young and Clements 2009; Strand et al. 2014; Swanson 2016).

 

While fire is perhaps Nevada’s primary sage-grouse conservation issue, the principal target of some litigators is reduced livestock grazing. Years of process is now leading to many anticipated actions on allotments to meet agency commitments. The September 2016-142 BLM Instruction Memorandum for sage grouse requires thresholds and responses (use/disturbance levels). Future environmental impact statements and environmental assessments in many sage-grouse areas will empower more timely and restrictive adjustments to livestock grazing. While instruction memoranda may not preclude management strategies for movement and control of season, duration, and rotation of animals, specific focus on stocking rate and utilization levels will likely continue without deeper thinking and creative resolutions. We will create solutions and support for active grazing management tied to principles of plant growth, habitat quality, and animal nutrition.

 

Ironically, discussions are ramping up with agencies, producers, and other stakeholders for appropriate use of grazing fine fuels for the Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy for Secretarial Order 3336. This management needs clear concepts for addressing fine fuels and managing grazing for resistance and resilience of rangeland ecosystems.

 

Nevada Range Management School presented foundational concepts for plant growth in relation to grazing management (McAdoo et al. 2010; Schultz et al 2015). We taught the Grazing Response Index (GRI) (Reed et al. 1999) because it provides a simple scoring system based on plant growth, scoring frequency, intensity, and opportunity for growth or regrowth. It should effectively capture grazing impacts and recovery by emphasizing timing and duration in addition to intensity of grazing, all in relation to forage growing seasons. GRI is presented by rangeland management educators’ publications in eight states or provinces, both BLM and Forest Service, and is featured at over 1000 web pages. Yet, GRI evaluations may contrast with perceptions of benefit from institutionalized grazing systems that harvest AUMs during a single use period that often encompasses most of the growing season. In choosing and using GRI, individually evaluating different use areas or plant communities improves effectiveness, a skill set not developed in current Range Management School curricula. Stewardship Ranches and we will focus on rationale and tools for strategic animal movement.

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Paul Meiman, Paul (Educator)
  • Sam Lossing, Sher (Educator)
  • Agee Smith (Educator)
  • James Rogers, (Educator)
  • Jon Griggs, (Educator)
  • Mitch and Rhonda Heguy (Educator)
  • Jesse and Ricarda Braatz,
  • Jerry Annis

Education

Educational approach:

Dates have been selected for seven Stewardship Ranch Grazing Strategy Index Workshops and the session where we all convene to share what we learned. Two of the Ranch Workshops occurred in 2017, at the Smith Creek Ranch and the Cottonwood Ranch.

The agenda for each workshop features:

Nevada Range Management School components including the Grazing Response Index (GRI) WSARE Extension Team

An overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range – Rancher

A discussion of the ranch’s interest in applying GRI – from a use area or pasture to the whole ranch – All

Work with maps, air photos & actual use data to apply GRI to this past year’s grazing management -- All

List the plant communities in the use area or pasture (perhaps only riparian and upland)

Identify the beginning, end and peak of the growing season for each plant community (the growth curve) and use this to decide when forage grows fast and slow

Record the dates of use for each plant community

Estimate intensity of use if possible

Identify the period of previous use

Use these data to score each plant community using GRI

Discuss how the GRI score could be improved in a future year – Rancher and All

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – plant communities, soil, and riparian (rotation of use, litter management, shrubs, habitat structure, distribution, etc.) – Rancher and All

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – animal production (range nutrition, breeding, grazing out vs. feeding, labor, etc.) – Rancher and All

Discuss whether a modified index would better capture the strategies for this pasture or ranch and serve to ensure flexibility with responsibility – Rancher and All

Discuss whether this approach has been helpful and what else could have made it more useful – Rancher and All

Thank you all for your time in doing the doodle poll and in attending the Workshop

Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Smith Creek Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Four Ranch Grazing Strategies Workshops,
Objective:

A) Increase knowledge of GRI-related principles of plant growth and animal production

Description:

The agenda for each workshop features:

Nevada Range Management School components including the Grazing Response Index (GRI) WSARE Extension Team

An overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range – Rancher

A discussion of the ranch’s interest in applying GRI – from a use area or pasture to the whole ranch – All

Work with maps, air photos & actual use data to apply GRI to this past year’s grazing management -- All

List the plant communities in the use area or pasture (perhaps only riparian and upland)

Identify the beginning, end and peak of the growing season for each plant community (the growth curve) and use this to decide when forage grows fast and slow

Record the dates of use for each plant community

Estimate intensity of use if possible

Identify the period of previous use

Use these data to score each plant community using GRI

Discuss how the GRI score could be improved in a future year – Rancher and All

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – plant communities, soil, and riparian (rotation of use, litter management, shrubs, habitat structure, distribution, etc.) – Rancher and All

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – animal production (range nutrition, breeding, grazing out vs. feeding, labor, etc.) – Rancher and All

Discuss whether a modified index would better capture the strategies for this pasture or ranch and serve to ensure flexibility with responsibility – Rancher and All

Discuss whether this approach has been helpful and what else could have made it more useful – Rancher and All

Thank you all for your time in doing the doodle poll and in attending the Workshop

Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Smith Creek Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension

Outcomes and impacts:

Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance – Smith Creek Ranch Workshop Agenda

Before the workshop, GIS files were converted by Tom Dilts into KML files and brought into Google Earth. By zooming in to Google Earth throughout much of the Ranch the computer cached the high resolution images and then at Smith Creek Ranch when not connected to the internet, the high resolution image was presented on screen and this enabled Sam & Brittany Lossing, Ranch manager and his wife, and Ray Hendrix, ranch owner to work with me to plot many additional waters onto the Google Earth Image.  This seemed to be a good way to get all of us accustomed to the imagery and the rationale is that waters are so critically important to cattle grazing management. Sam and to a lesser degree Ray also took some time to fill out the pre-survey that Steve Lewis had prepared.  Thus it was very useful to get to the ranch about two hours early.

Nevada Range Management School components including the Grazing Response Index (GRI) WSARE Extension Team –

The slide set I used was from 12/16 and did not have the Susie Creek GRI Scores It was well received, but did not contain a Nevada Example.

An overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range – Rancher

Sam presented this and it was short but very effective. This preliminary discussion and some earlier discussions about the waters provided information about the wild horse situation. Then or sometime later we came back to wild horse grazing and concluded that over substantial areas of white sage (winter fat) in the Smith Creek Playa horses are grazing intensely year round and thus the GRI score is minus 4. White sage is probably the most economically important forage type on the ranch because it is high quality feed that can be sustainably used in the winter (as long as grazing is removed or well managed after the beginning of the growing season.)

A discussion of the ranch’s interest in applying GRI – from a use area or pasture to the whole ranch – All

While some discussion about the impact of the horses may have focused the conversation on the low country where they are having their big impact, prior conversations with Sam and his pre-workshop thinking shifted us onto the mountain. We created five polygons that represented different use areas where cattle are moved into each area held more or less there for a period and then moved on. Within each use area there is typically daily or almost daily (often 6 days per week from previous conversations) riding so that the animal distribution can be made more even and animal behavior and condition along with range condition can be observed to better time management actions.  This time on the mountain and in the cows is considered very valuable to the ranch because it has allowed them better know the mountain and how cows use it, see indications of the appropriate time to move before the cows fall off significantly in condition or cause resource issues.  This has garnered a high degree of trust from the agencies (BLM NDOW FWS) and thus it has created a high degree of flexibility and easier conversations about the need for vegetation treatments such as PJ treatments on a Mountain where altered fire regime has led to significant changes.

Work with maps, air photos & actual use data to apply GRI to this past year’s grazing management -- All

List the plant communities in the use area or pasture (perhaps only riparian and upland)

The first area we chose to discuss was the Lower Smith Creek Use Area between the reservoir and the old abandoned fish hatchery, and we considered the forage in that pasture to be mostly riparian. We discussed three important plants, aspen, willows, and riparian greenline stabilizers (e.g. sedges). For each, we discussed the beginning peak and end of growing season.  In general the time of rapid growth was not simply the period from half way between beginning of growth and the peak of growth to half way between peak growth and end of growth, but it was not hard for the ranch managers to identify the periods of slow, rapid, and slow growth. These time periods were not the same for each species or group (aspen, willows or herbaceous stabilizers).

In scoring GRI, Sam was interested in scoring the use he planned to make in 2018 which he had well-conceived. We later went back in time to the summer of 2016 to evaluate grazing in a different season. See Steve’s notes for the details.

Regarding frequency, the foundation for the concept is consumption of regrowth because it is fresh. This did not seem to be a useful concept for aspen or willows.  Rather it was understood that a leader was either browsed or not browsed, but not browsed and re-browsed. Is this a phenomenon of relatively light use on the woodies because cattle are coming into an area with a substantial amount of fresh herbaceous feed that is very attractive even when it is late in the summer? The concept was more intuitive for herbaceous and grasslike plants, however the 10-day period during slow growth for considering growth to have been substantial enough for plants to re-graze a plant seemed arbitrary since the plants are gradually decreasing their growth rate as the phenology matures and the weather becomes cooler. Still the concept of frequency seemed useful.

Regarding intensity, it was important to clarify that for the woodies, it was only relevant to discuss the use on the fraction of each plant’s leaders that were low enough to be within reach of the cow. That is the ones that will need to grow to escapement height to be safely established.

Regarding opportunity for growth and regrowth, it was noted in this discussion that there is nothing in GRI that rewards grazing over no grazing and yet compensatory growth is a known phenomenon and I pointed out that one of the authors of GRI had instructed in the riparian grazing management course this summer in Winnemucca and he had pointed out that no grazing or over resting can be as hard on plants as over grazing.

I recalled on the drive home that we did not discuss the question of whether opportunity should be evaluated as the portion of the calendar year when plants can grow or re-grow versus the idea that opportunity could be scored as the period between one grazing period and the next grazing period (i.e. often a part of two calendar years).

While the overall score for 2018 planned was neutral, this area has recovered nicely in recent decades of active management. Prior to the mid-1990s, the cattle on this ranch were left to go and stay where they wanted and this creek was incised and in poor condition.  Perhaps the GRI is too conservative. Perhaps this is due to the frequency score during 45 days of late summer use. Perhaps the cattle are not re-grazing so much as grazing new patches. Perhaps the late grazing is actually stimulating the sedges to start new buds (tillers from axillary buds) and this is allowing the plants to do better during growth the next spring.

Identify the beginning, end and peak of the growing season for each plant community (the growth curve) and use this to decide when forage grows fast and slow

We next discussed the Upper Smith Creek Watershed Use area which was more like a square in shape. Thus it had riparian stringers and upland mountain big sagebrush/mountain brush community types. Although the cattle up there eat a fair amount of browse, the key species were considered to be upland bunchgrasses and willows.  Again for these plants, the periods of slow, fast, and slow growth were identified and then used for scoring GRI. For the uplands the scores were noted to vary from +4 in those years when grazing is after plants go dormant to a lower score when grazing is earlier.  During the earlier grazing period years the duration of the period of use seemed to be the cause of less than a high score with frequency =-1. At this time, cattle are easier to move off of the bottom because the uplands are green, but without riding, cattle would hang in the bottoms.  During the late use period years, cattle are more drawn to the riparian areas, but easy to move by using protein supplement because this compliments the high energy of a dry grass diet.  Even though the GRI scores were positive and relatively high, the ranchers noted that the willows were not doing as well as the score would indicate and so we discussed deer as a confounding influence. There is a riparian exclosure and the willows are not doing well in there either.

Record the dates of use for each plant community

Estimate intensity of use if possible

Identify the period of previous use

Use these data to score each plant community using GRI

Discuss how the GRI score could be improved in a future year – Rancher and All

The biggest opportunity to improve the scores seemed to be in shortening the period of use. There did not seem to be much appetite for dividing use areas into smaller use areas, but no strongly voiced opposition, just a hesitance about do-ability. This eventually led into the discussion about whether it could be useful to keep cattle on a continuous move during the growing season and then coming back to re-graze each use area after the upland plants have gone dormant.  This seemed to need further time for thought.

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – plant communities, soil, and riparian (rotation of use, litter management, shrubs, habitat structure, distribution, etc.) – Rancher and All

The most obvious omission is the stutter rotation that this ranch uses so that areas get two years of riparian woody plant favoring timing of grazing to enable plants to escape and then two years of grazing at a different time to enable plants to over the long period get the opportunity to grow and regrow at all seasons and to take advantage of animal tendencies to go to different places and graze different plants at different time of the year. Another omission is the positive effects from some grazing.

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – animal production (range nutrition, breeding, grazing out vs. feeding, labor, etc.) – Rancher and All

The biggest marker of long-term success is the percent calf crop. With that as the annual objective, what strategies would be useful to score this or track what drives it through the year?  Would GRI do this because shorter periods of use (higher frequency score) and lighter intensity (higher intensity score) would lead to animals having more opportunity select the most nutritious forage in a use are? And longer recovery (higher opportunity score) during which forage has been able to grow, provides the mix of forages to enable selection?  Tracy Jean Wolfe suggested maybe it is as easy as noting whether cattle are falling off, holding, or gaining in weight or condition. Sam was strongly in the belief that being with the cattle allows him to see very quickly when that happens and it’s time to move.  This is not as dramatic as a change in body condition score, but much more subtle.

Discuss whether a modified index would better capture the strategies for this pasture or ranch and serve to ensure flexibility with responsibility – Rancher and All

Again the concept of adding a point for rotation of use was brought up. Litter management for cheatgrass management was also considered.

Discussion shifted back to the continuous horse use in some important areas with numerous springs and waters accessible. In one area the mares were going 14 miles between forage and water and the colts died with empty stomachs due to the excessive travel time and lack of foraging opportunity.

Discuss whether this approach has been helpful and what else could have made it more useful – Rancher and All

All agreed that the day had been very useful for consideration of ideas important to rangeland and ranch management.

It would have been good to have Duane provide answers to the pre-survey. This would have provided some recent historical context.

While the subject of gentle horse management with pastures/use areas or turning on and off waters came up, we did not take the time to evaluate such an idea using GRI.

Having a better way to capture our conversation might have been useful. I did not ask Steve to do this until we were part way in and I should have cleared this with Steve and planned this ahead of time. I had planned to use a second computer to capture GRI scores, but we moved ahead with paper notes. 

A flip chart would have been very useful for recording key information such as dates of use, seasons of growth, etc.

People really liked the use of Google Earth. Getting more of the ranch cached as high resolution imagery would have helped.

Thank you all for your time in doing the doodle poll and in attending the Workshop

Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Smith Creek Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension

11/29/17 Smith Creek Ranch

Ray, Tracey Jean, Sherm, Steve, Brittany, Sam, Duane

Sherm presented his powerpoint presentation. The issue of permissible supplementation use on public lands was discussed. It was thought that if supplements were located in areas less conspicuous and in smaller qualities that would not raise unwanted attention and produce less impacts to the landscape. It was thought that the compressed protein blocks were a better option than the big tubs. We were talking about supplement use as it is an effective tool to locate/relocate grazers.

The discussion shifted briefly to “extensive focus on anything will results in those very things” such as with wildfire and BRTE. The main message was that we need to take our focus off what we don’t want and start concentrating on what we do want.

One needs to have clear objectives in mind to make best use of GRI. And if possible, it is helpful to know the GRI scores needed to reach set objectives. We could use some scoring examples and the corresponding results produced.

The rancher would like to make better use of the white sage in Smith Creek Valley but the wild horses hit this highly valued forage base hard resulting in a -4 GRI score from just horse use. We talked briefly about ways to “mange” the horses such as fencing off the white sage or fencing off the water sources that facilitate close water access from the white sage areas.

Establishment of use areas was suggested as a means to best apply the GRI tool. Or did we want to use the entire ranch or a key area spot or point. We ultimately established five use areas with polygons on a Google Earth Map:

  • Pole Milkhouse
  • Upper Smith Creek
  • Haypress
  • Smith Creek Riparian
  • Dalton Canyon Riparian

 

The ranchers selected Upper Smith Creek and Smith Creek Riparian as the two for GRI and decided to establish scores for the coming grazing season and the 2016 season of use. Key plant communities were identified as aspen, willows and wet meadows in the Smith Creek Riparian Use Area.

 

Smith Creek Riparian Use Area

Plant Community                             Growing Season                               Rapid Growth Period

Aspen                                                   April 15 – Oct 1                                  June 1 – August 30

Willows                                                                April 1 – November 1                     May 15 – July 10

Wet Meadows                                  March 1 – November 1                  June 1 – June 30

 

2018 Grazing season of use = August 15 – September 30 = 45 days

                                                Aspen                   Willows                                Wet Meadows

Frequency                          0 (not relevant)                0 (not relevant) -1

Intensity                              +1                           0                              -1

Opportunity                       +1                           +1                           +1                          

Total                                      +2                           +1                           -1

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Grazing season of use = September 15 – October 15 = 30 days with a smaller herd

                                                Aspen                   Willows                                Wet Meadows

Frequency                          0 (not relevant)                0 (not relevant)                -1

Intensity                              +1                           +1                           0

Opportunity                       +2                           +1                           +1                          

Total                                      +3                           +2                           0

 

After some reflection on the differences in scores between the 2016 and 2018 season of use the question was posed, “how can we improve these scores – should we focus on the wet meadows?” If so, wet meadows should be grazed starting late June or first of July, but the use period should be short, ie. <30 days. Also the focus should be more on the herbaceous community and less on the woody species. GRI doesn’t seem to work as well on the woody species than the grass and herbaceous communities. It might take three weeks for regrowth on woodies and GRI doesn’t account for that slow regrowth period. Also, a negative GRI score may be viewed as negative to those not familiar with GRI. Removing willows may benefit understory and herbaceous vigor so a negative score on willows may be good for the wet meadows. And there were questions as to how GRI might be rewarding from year to year.

 

The Upper Smith Creek Use Area was described to include Mountain, Low and Wyoming big sagebrush, snowberry, chokecherry, mountain mahogany, pinyon, wild rose, currant, STCO, fescues, and other perennial bunchgrasses. We decided to focus on the willows and bunchgrasses for the purpose of the GRI.

 

Upper Smith Creek Use Area

Plant Community                             Growing Season                               Rapid Growth Period

Perennial Bunchgrasses                                May 15 – July 15                               June 1 – June 30

Willows                                                                May 20 – October 15                      June 1 – July 10

 

2018 Grazing season of use = July 15 – August 15 = 30 days

                                                Perennial Grasses            Willows

Frequency                          +1                                           0 (not relevant)               

Intensity                              +1                                           +1

Opportunity                       +2                                           +1          

Total                                      +4                                           +2

 

2016 Grazing season of use = June 10 – July 10 = 30 days

                                                Perennial Grasses

Frequency                          -1                           

Intensity                              0                             

Opportunity                       0                             

Total                                      -1                           

 

There was discussion again on how the GRI-frequency doesn’t work well for willows as they are typically grazed just once. The deer are hitting the willows more than the cattle but the score of +2 doesn’t make sense because the willows are actually hurting. Might the area be too cold for the willows to grow was a question. The aspen seem to be doing well and have come back nicely. Protein supplementation takes the pressure off the riparian areas. It takes stockmanship to move them out of the riparian and salt and protein to hold them off.

 

So what does the GRI miss and what might be another measurement to track? Cattle performance is not a consideration in the GRI. Frequency may measure minute changes in cattle performance – as more bites are taken from the plant the score decreases but that change isn’t reflected in cattle performance immediately. It really takes time to know the forage resources and what to expect in terms of cattle performance based on those fluctuating forage resources. It takes years of experience, factoring in

multiple variables, to predetermine cattle performance. Perhaps a better measure is percent of calves weaned. This meets the long term objectives of the ranch. Or better still it might make sense to determine if at the time of parturition to breed back, cows are gaining weight, losing weight or staying the same. Gaining weight in this time period would be the objective and it is a less fussy measurement than body condition scoring. Ideally, the biological cycle of the forage should match that of the cattle – to begin calve at the beginning of the growing season and breed back at the end of the growing season. (Note that Sherm recalls this as begin calving at the beginning of the growing season and have the peak (or was it end) of the calving by the peak of the growing season.)

 

People were thinking it would be helpful to mull the entire discussion over for a bit. All thought it was a helpful discussion with a small group of folks that know the ranch.

 

Other observations:

The conversation got quite deep and complex even though the idea is to establish a SIMPLE approach. I don’t think folks thought GRI is even close to simple. Their head’s hurt.

 

We should probably ask the participating rancher at the end of the program if they see themselves actually making use of the GRI tool. (Or a similar index and if so, what would it score)

Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance – Cottonwood Ranch Workshop

Sherm’s Recollections Augmented by Sherm’s and Gary’s photos Juan Carlos’s Notes

                Before the workshop began, as people were gathering, McKenzie and Agee filled out the Pre-survey.  While they were doing this Gary Reese and Sherm used the maps Gary brought that had the Forest Service and BLM allotment boundaries. This was used to augment the BLM shape files that had been loaded into Google Earth.  Later McKenzie and Agee helped to redo the FS boundaries in order to correct some location issues and include some information such as water gaps. We also spent a bit of time locating some developed FS waters.

The Agenda (here in bold) was made into a PowerPoint Slide and also handed out. That slide was used to introduce the Workshop. Those in attendance included: Agee (and sometimes Vicky) Smith, McKenzie and Jason Molsbee, Juan Carlos Cervantes, Kent McAdoo, Jeff Moore, Gary McCuin, Kari Hubner, Gary Reese, and Sherman Swanson. Sherm presented the slide set on GRI that included Susie Creek dated 11/16/17. Agee reported on the recent Shoesole Meeting and how frustrating it is that old and not updated NEPA documents are keeping the Home Ranch from doing enlightened management on both the BLM and FS just as it is doing on the Cottonwood Forest Service allotments. For the Cottonwood this requires long (2-month) seasons of use during the hot season, rather than rotation between early and late which is more like rotation of rest because of the difference in animal distribution between riparian and upland areas during the two seasons.

An overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range – Rancher --

Agee presented a bit of the historical perspective with the formation of the Holistic Management Team and how important the Team and holistic management has been to the ranch. McKenzie and Jason then described how the ranch was used this year and recently. Last year (2016), with the abundance of spring moisture, the North set of pastures were mostly rested and this year, the south side pastures were rested on both the BLM and FS.

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Agee: “Adaptive management is not possible at this point for us; the FS has pulled that ability away from us. The question is HOW DO WE GET AGENCIES TO ADOPT ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT?” The rangecons are a road block.

Jeff Moore: No we are not a road block. We have priorities to choose when we make decisions.

Cottonwood Ranch Personnel brief:

Agee: 21 years ago we followed the green up the hills, we were a season-long graze operation; we had no fencing, no plan

When we did fence, we created 4 pastures because riparian areas were overused mostly because we were too busy haying and thus ignored the cows; we did not like what we were doing so we decided to enter into holistic management and created a holistic management team. We have yearly meetings every September; the team has helped to create trust between the ranch and the agencies because we really try to learn from our monitoring every year; since 2000 we have been using a professional monitor to help us. The FS however is pushing us back to that season long grazing again because they are taking away that flexibility from us.

We ½ graze during hot season; other half until snow fall; we do have trouble getting all stragglers in FS allotment because of terrain. Late use has made a big difference for us, but FS wants to go back to ½ 6 – ½ 9 which will end up causing riparian over use.

Jeff Moore: why did NEPA not result in FS change?

Agee: I think it was because we did stay in experimental status with FS; Facilitation has been the whole thing to any success we have had with agencies, someone to bring it all together.

Management on FS has been different from management everywhere else on the ranch

Jason: we try to speed our grazing; we design our rotation to move into allotments within a 4 day time frame; we figure our goal for the year without varying our rotation on land; we keep track of the 3s that go in, we try to graze different parts of the year.

Gary: what would you like to fix in your grazing operation?

Jason: FS land, numbers and flexibility for use, our stocking rate is 200 head

A discussion of the ranch’s interest in applying GRI – from a use area or pasture to the whole ranch – All

We started doing GRI in the Choke-a-Man BLM pasture which was used as the snow was melting until 4/19. This led to only five days of use after the perennial grasses started to grow and most of the use occurring on remnant grasses and later on the cheatgrass that came up earlier. The animals (whole herd) and our GRI scoring then moved into the Goat Creek pasture. We did not have time to evaluate the whole year.

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Agee: Not FS land, too complex but GRI of all plants gets too complicated

CHOKE A MAN is a good place

We then went through the application of GRI to CHOKE A MAN

Work with maps, air photos & actual use data to apply GRI to this past year’s grazing management -- All

List the plant communities in the use area or pasture (perhaps only riparian and upland)

                Along with perennial grasses, primarily blue-bunch wheatgrass and Thurber’s Needle grass, bitterbrush was deemed valuable, especially for fall high protein browse for deer and also cows. In the Goat Creek Pasture, willows were also deemed a key species.

Identify the beginning, end and peak of the growing season for each plant community (the growth curve) and use this to decide when forage grows fast and slow.

These were captured in a table that Gary McCuin created and maintained during the Workshop.

 

 

GRI Scoresheet - Cottonwood Ranch

Use Area

Chokeaman

Per

Woody

Point D

Plant Comm

BB, Thurb, IDFes, WyBS,

Bitter Brush

PGBB Thurb

Bitter Brush

Cheat grass

Growth Begins

 

4/15

 

1/1

Peak Growth

 

6/15

 

5/8

End Growth

 

7/30

 

6/15

Period Rapid Growth

 

6/1-6/30

 

4/1-5/30

Graz Use Dates

 

3/5- 4/19

 

 

Frequency

 

+1

 

-1

Intensity

 

+1

 

+1

Opportunity

 

+2

 

+1

Total

 

+4

+4

+1

 

Use Area

Goat Creek

Per

Woody

Salix

Plant Comm

BB, Thurb, IDFes, BitterBrush,

PGBB Thurb

Bitter Brush

Salix

Growth Begins

 

4/15

5/1

4/15

Peak Growth

 

6/15

 

 

End Growth

 

7/30

10/20

10/10

Period Rapid Growth

 

6/1-6/30

6/1-7/15

6/1-6/15

Graz Use Dates

 

4/20- 6/5

4/20-6/5

 

Frequency

 

0/0

 

 

Intensity

 

-1/0

 

 

Opportunity

 

0/0

 

 

Total

 

-1/0

+4

+4

 

Record the dates of use for each plant community – See tables

Estimate intensity of use if possible – See tables

Identify the period of previous use

                We did not do this as the basis for creating an opportunity score, perhaps because these pastures had been rested in 2016. Rather, we thought of this (2017) growing season, and the opportunity to grow or re-grow this year.

Use these data to score each plant community using GRI – See tables

                After scoring use in Choke-a-man, we moved on to the goat creek pasture. The GRI score on the perennial grasses (the key species) was a plus 4 and on the cheatgrass a +1.  So some use was made of cheatgrass at this time of year with potentially some impact, but very little. 

Discuss how the GRI score could be improved in a future year – Rancher and All

Our conversations were more about how we could adjust management to maintain a high score on perennial grasses and increase the impact on cheat grass. We concluded that we could go from a +1 to a -1 on cheatgrass and maintain a high score on perennials with an additional 10 days of grazing, but that going beyond this to achieve a -3 on cheatgrass would begin to impact perennials too much.  This is not surprising since we have known for a long time that our opportunities to impact cheatgrass in the spring are not zero, but not great, especially after a wet winter.

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – plant communities, soil, and riparian (rotation of use, litter management, shrubs, habitat structure, distribution, etc.) – Rancher and All

                The ranch strongly felt that a very important strategy is the movement of use dates from year to year, yet it may be also important to be clearer about separating the use periods more strongly.  Late July is not much different phenologically from September.  For this reason it was thought that it is better to not score this with an abstract point system, but to use the dates and think about the complex signal that the actual dates send to the interdisciplinary group of Team stakeholders.  The advantage of having a diverse team is that they can do biological evaluation and planning in a more thorough and nuanced manner. 

Still, the power of GRI to capture an index to the quality/impact of management each year was thought to be a great tool worth adding.

Some animals are culled in recent years that may not have been culled earlier and this is improving the quality of the herd and the ability of the herd to fully use the landscape with better distribution.

Some other ideas were discussed and hopefully will appear in the notes of Juan Carlos, Kent, or Gary.

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Jeff Moore: Utilization will be a problem with GRI on bitter brush and willow. Grazing of bitter brush will not happen during the growing season but the grazing does affect the following growing season. Sherm: Amount use of bitter brush, why is that a problem? Jeff: it does not matter if cows or deer use bitterbrush. There is a qualitative and quantitative between browsed frequently vs. infrequently

JC to Agee: what is your grazing strategy? Agee: mixing it up. Sherm: GRI does not value mixing it up; but GRI can facilitate mixing it up.

Kent: the day intervals used in GRI are not relevant for this area. They need to be adjusted for this area

Others: GRI does not tell us how to manage for cheatgrass

Discuss whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – animal production (range nutrition, breeding, grazing out vs. feeding, labor, etc.) – Rancher and All

The need to match the biological cycle of the cow to the forage nutrient supply was mentioned, but not discussed in specifics. I know this has been a topic of discussion on the Ranch for many years.

There did seem to be some agreement that a higher frequency and intensity score would lead to greater opportunity for selectivity of the most nutritious forage. Also a greater opportunity score would correlate with more time for forage to grow and recover presenting fully valuable feed.  

Sometimes the ranch intentionally used the forage in a pasture evenly in order to improve the quality of forage (less older and leached out or lignified leaves and stems) and to ease distribution of animal use in a future year.

Stockpiling forage can work in the uplands where the plants tend to protrude through the snow. Whereas, on the meadows the snow in a heavy winter simply lays the stockpiled vegetation over to the point where it is not visible and the cattle will not eat it.

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Sherm: Does GRI score strategies for animal production?

Jason: we want cows where they get best nutrition from grazing before putting them out.

Weakness of GRI it does not capture the peak nutritional demands of cows and peak production of plants.

Others: keeping intensity score high is likely to meet animal needs but plant heterogeneity makes managing for intensity difficult.

Gary: match size of cow with production of land.

Discuss whether a modified index would better capture the strategies for this pasture or ranch and serve to ensure flexibility with responsibility – Rancher and All

It was emphasized that any useful index would need to be simple and well-focused on important driving variables. Also, not all useful information needs to be reduced to an index number. For example, dates of use are directly useful. (A thought not discussed is whether noting the phenology of the key forage plants at the time of entering and leaving a pasture or use area would make the dates of use more valuable given the variation in timing of weather events (warming, drying, and rewetting).

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Sherm: Can you manage for soil health in riparian areas by managing for a high GRI? Does a positive GRI score hurt riparian areas more than benefits them?

Others: a modified index would be best but do not modify too much

Discuss whether this approach has been helpful and what else could have made it more useful – Rancher and All

The Ranch was eager to implement the use of this tool because it is both simple and it connects well with long-standing efforts to graze in a manner that keeps plants, soil, and animals healthy and productive.

Notes from Juan Carlos:

Sherm: was this approach helpful?

Answer: GRI does offer promise as one of the tools to use for our monitoring. Hopefully, GRI will allow management of changes without a new NEPA

Thank you all for your time in doing the doodle poll and in attending the Workshop

                The Ranch was very gracious, fed us well and provided very useful information and thoughts for us to consider. People seemed to leave very happy about the time invested.

Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Cottonwood Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension

Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance – Humboldt Ranch Workshop Agenda
February 16, 2018 at Humboldt County Cooperative Extension

Workshop participants included Jesse and Ricarda Braatz and Dino Stauffer from the Humboldt Ranch and Brad Schultz, Gary McCuin, Steve Foster, and Sherman Swanson from UNCE.
Sherm presented the slides with components from Nevada Range Management School and including the Grazing Response Index (GRI). Jesse used slides of the Ranch he had prepared for SRM and a map reflecting the previous Ranch Name Squaw Valley Ranch, that he had hung on the wall to describe grazing management on the ranch.
In general the Ranch is at lower elevation to the west with the White house pasture on the Humboldt River and higher to the east and north in the Toe Jam pasture. The pink areas are private lands owned by the Ranch. Yellow lands are BLM. Parts of the Ranch have burned multiple times in recent decades and many parts of the ranch have had some fire.
The Ranch has emphasized better riparian management over these decades with much collaboration with Carol Evans, and Lahontan cutthroat trout habitat has substantially increased in extent and improved in condition. Upland areas have also improved with less bare ground and more perennials in many locations. However fires have been a major concern. This has caused fire closures and large investments in post fire reseeding. The Ranch managers’ grazing philosophy has been to focus on providing recovery after grazing if that grazing is timed during a season that is likely to be stressful to the perennial plants. To convey this concept to the BLM and others they have created red and green maps with the pastures colored red if upland areas were grazed in the growing season (May and June) or riparian areas were grazed in the hot season (July and August) and green if grazed in other seasons. This allows the Ranch to graphically emphasize those areas where recovery is desired and where the grazing provided recovery, such as the map below for 2017.
A series of such red and green maps shown below for 2010 through 2017 allows the ranch to track management and to assure themselves that across time the red areas do not occur too often or close in time. They want more green than red on the Ranch and in each place. They try very hard to graze pastures at a different time each year. The period of recovery on BLM pastures is always a complete growing season, and sometimes two. So it lasts from 12 to 18 months. They have seen recovery after the fires and are seeing sagebrush and sage-grouse come back where there have not been repeated fires.
Jesse, Ricarda and Dino described their base herd of mother cows with flexibility provided by yearlings, and their movement of animals. In recent years they have found that moving the herd as an “accordion” through pastures has caused less stress on the animals and the people moving animals. With forward movement cattle do not go back when they get to a closed gate at the other side of a pasture (because that gate would be open, but not the next one). We discussed that if the herd is too strung out, the tail end of the herd may be re-grazing growing plants. So the ranch often takes stragglers to the private meadows. However, they have realized through the years that they need as few herds as possible, generally two, cows and yearlings.
Often the first bite of plants is on old feed from the previous year, due to the rest that has allowed the forage to stockpile. The Ranch would very much like to have more opportunity to use dormant season (non-growing-season) grazing, but November 30 end dates on the BLM permit prohibit using unused AUMs at the end of the grazing season. The Ranch wants to use all their AUMs, and more, and they could with winter use. They are often off the BLM during weaning for 30-45 days in October and November. This allows them to use some private land in the dormant season and to use the cattle as a treatment for improved land health, scattering and planting seed, impacting brush, incorporating litter into soil etc. They discussed four pastures where by doing this and supplementing this in places with some Spike, light disking, and/or seed scattering (aroga moth also provided some brush kill), they have crossed a threshold back to abundance of perennial grasses. Ideally, they would often use pastures in the dormant season with a concentration of animals for herd effect, but also occasionally in the growing season (May-June) for 2-3 weeks. Great Basin wild rye is the potential and they see this plant and other perennial grasses increasing dramatically. This increases forage and helps the Ranch provide flexibility for management on some of the BLM pastures.
In general, the Ranch is pretty well watered, and this allows the Ranch a fair amount of flexibility to manage the timing of use. Timing has been a much bigger focus than utilization level. There are also areas where adding a well and/or pipeline with troughs that could be turned on or off would greatly enhance management opportunities. The Ranch calves in April and May to match the nutritional needs of the cow with calf to the green feed period of the vegetation. As the conversation came to focus on fires and the need for risk management, the question came up about whether the GRI could help the ranch provide for the need of the perennial plants, but do so with less rest which has been correlated with opportunities for increased cheatgrass.
Ricarda suggested that we Index the Willow pasture where there had been growing season use in 2017 and where the Ranch had intentionally forced use in some areas to address a problem of accumulated old forage/fuel. We decided that within the Willow Pasture, there were five key areas of concern to the Ranch:
1. A few private springs with their lentic meadows on the North side of the pasture (e.g. the small circle in the figure below;
2. The adjacent uplands near those springs where they had intensively grazed;
3. The very visible riparian corridor along lower Willow Creek (the southeast oval) ;
4. The terrace, “bench” adjacent to the riparian area where the Ranch wants more perennials; and
5. The ridge where the 2006 Esmeralda Fire had been reseeded and where the BLM and NDOW have objectives for sage-grouse habitat improvement.

Use Area Point 1 Point 2 Point 3 Point 4 Point 5
Key species Nebraska Sedge Idaho Fescue Three square Western Wheatgrass Bluebunch wheatgrass
Growth Begins 4/5 5/1 4/5 4/22 4/15
Peak Growth 6/15 5/30 6/15 5/30 5/30
End Growth 11/20 7/1 11/30 9/15 7/1
Period of Rapid Growth 6/1 – 6/30 5/5 - 6/20 6/1 – 6/30 5/15 – 6/30 5/1 – 6/20
Grazing Dates 4/10 – 6/1 4/10 – 6/1 4/10 – 6/1 4/10 – 6/1 4/10 – 6/1
Frequency* 50 days of slow growth = -1 5 days slow growth + 25 days rapid growth = -1 50 days of slow growth = -1 23 days slow growth + 15 days rapid growth = -1 15 days slow growth + 30 days rapid growth = -1
Intensity** -1 -1 +1 +1 +1
Opportunity*** +1 0 +1 +1 0
Total
**** Red/Green -1
Green -2
Red +1
Green +1
Red 0
Red
*In all these key areas it was recognized that the first bite was likely to be mostly of old feed, but the duration was long enough that the regrowth would become the most palatable bites after 10 or seven days and then preferred plants would be grazed again after 7 days during rapid growth. With three bites the frequency score would be -1
**The Ranch had particularly focused grazing in the northern part of the pasture and with a wet winter, this was the only area used more than lightly.
***Riparian species and western wheatgrass have long growing seasons and therefore much time for recovery with all or most of their rapid growth period and late slow growth period occurring during the post-grazing period. Both Idaho fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass have a much shorter growth period and they had some opportunity to recover (June), but it was just under half of the rapid growth period.
****Red/Green scoring was based on introductory comments, but these ratings were not generated in the workshop.
In this pasture, the GRI score could be improved in a future years with development of a pipeline from the Toe Jam pasture that would allow a series of troughs to be placed along the road and this would allow stock movement to be facilitated by turning on and off the waters in each trough.
We next discussed whether the GRI appropriately scores the strategies this ranch uses for long-term success – plant communities, soil, and riparian (rotation of use, litter management, shrubs, habitat structure, distribution, etc.). GRI does evaluate more than the Ranch has with their red and green system, and this as interesting. However, it would have been better to index the use in real time at the time that animals were leaving the pasture. This could be done with little extra work. The red and green tracks things at a large scale, but GRI opened eyes about problem areas and helps detect how much grazing may have been an issue, why, and to explore opportunities for what could be done to mitigate with management in the future. GRI helps to “set the eye” and to make things more objective which leads to ease of comparisons of different parts of pastures or different pastures with the same criteria. It could be a tool for tweaking management, and adjusting in and out dates. It was felt that not all plant communities or strategies would be served in the same way by GRI, but that diversity in dates of use and GRI scores could lead to increased diversity in plant communities. Later re recognized that GRI scores could be used for evaluating cattle use only and then in combination it could be used to develop a score for cattle with wild horses, elk etc. By considering the timing of use, it would be better than simply focusing on utilization levels.
GRI does not evaluate rotation of use among years and this is a very big focus of the Ranch. Fortunately GRI scores in the various pastures or use areas (or key areas) within pastures could be accumulated through the years and used to gain a broader perspective in space and time. “It’s an analysis tool leading to a strategy.” After some discussion we felt that it might be better to not change GRI, but to add other indices to it for overall management based on strategies and objectives.
Fires and fire closures have been a big issue for the ranch and GRI does not track closures or average amount of closures any differently than it would track very positive management with grazing that would also lead to a +4 score. Yet the difference might be quite different if with either dormant season use with high intensity or a short period of growing-season use with light intensity (say 35% utilization). So perhaps an index for fire risk based on fuels management could be helpful. Some early season use (say on cheatgrass) could keep soil moisture available to keep perennials green longer and this would have some fuels advantage.
While the Ranch hardly ever sees plants dying from over-rest, the Ranch does believe in the positive effects of grazing versus no grazing and GRI does not evaluate the stimulus of grazing. Perhaps there is a need to develop an index that rewards nutrient cycling, removal of thatch, stimulation of tiller growth, scattering and planting seeds, preconditioning of forage for wildlife, dormant season removal of litter that would otherwise facilitate cheatgrass, or targeted use of less desirable species. On the flip side, there are some advantages to having some places or some times when the big ungrazed plants provide some ecological benefits, just not every year. Ungrazed residual is also useful in the spring to ensure that there will be forage if the growing season has a late start or in general to provide more flexibility.
Because cheatgrass is such a big issue on this ranch and others, perhaps there is a need to develop an index that is targeted on cheatgrass management that would reward use from the time perennials become dormant up until the time that cheatgrass seeds out and becomes purple but penalized grazing during that short time when perennials would be the preferred forage.
The ranch wants it all - less bare ground, better habitat, decreased fire risk, economic viability, less cheatgrass, more perennials, flexibility, low labor costs, etc. Fortunately there has been a lot of progress and there are more perennials, etc.
In discussing the linkage between GRI and animal production, it was felt that the big benefit was in growing more plants, especially perennials. While animal health and production might be fine or go up with old styles of scattering cattle and letting them stay put. This is hard on riparian areas, preferred plants and it requires more bulls for covering the herd. Higher GRI scores would also correlate to more residual feed and this is a double edged sword. There are opportunities to tune up animal performance.
Adding in an animal performance index to GRI might complicate things too much. But perhaps an index could be also used that rated the number of days that the herd has green feed available to them during the months of the year when cattle need green feed. Or, what proportion of the time do animals get an opportunity to get at least the forage quality they need?
While the ultimate outcome is animal performance, rating body condition score was viewed as too subjective and a lagging indicator. Conception rate, weaning rate and economics would also be lagging indicators of ongoing management.
In summary it was noted that GRI does not rate distribution directly, but the use of use areas or key areas can help to do this. It also does not rate rotation of use and this is key to success on the Humboldt Ranch. Key areas helped focus the discussion on what’s important to the Ranch and to the agencies, on places where there is a known problem. It was suggested that a future workshop might start with the Ranch goals and constraints from the producer’s perspective, e.g. terms and conditions, water distribution, and ranch balance (forage across the seasons).
Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Humboldt Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension

Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance –
Winecup Gamble Ranch Workshop Notes
On March 1, Concepts from the Nevada Range Management School were presented to an audience that included a number of the Ranch personnel: James Rogers, Ranch Manager, Maggie Gentert, Arlen Gentert, Jake Brown, Mark Lundy, Allen Turner, Kevin Chapin, Tamzy Hopwood,
The concepts were presented in the form of four talks:
• How Plants Grow – Brad Schultz, Humboldt County Extension Educator – This is the foundational slide set for the NRMS and this talk is the basis for international classes and workshops in Morocco, Kenya, Georgia, and Uzbeckistan funded by the USDA Forest Service International Programs Office.
• Timing and Duration – Gary McCuin, Eureka County Extension Educator – This talk builds on the first talk by applying the plant growth concepts to the timing and duration of grazing and discusses some standard grazing management approaches.
• Riparian Grazing Management – Sherman Swanson, Extension Riparian Specialist – This talk is based on a combination of ideas published in the Swanson et al. (2015) and Swanson et al. (2018). It focuses on the many tools for riparian grazing management and the need to connect long-term monitoring to objectives, and short-term monitoring to the strategies employed to accomplish the objectives. It also emphasizes three principles: 1. Strengthen forage & stabilizer plants with either only short periods of use or moderate intensity use during the growing season; 2. Provide sufficient growing season recovery before next use; and 3. Graze at a different time from one year to the next.
• Animal Production/Range Nutrition – Steve Foster, Pershing County Extension Educator – This talk addresses materials from some of Steve’s recent Extension Cattlemen’s Update talks. It emphasized the importance of having cattle sized appropriately for the rangeland (not too big), the importance of timing of the biological cycle of the cow to the nutrients on offer from the rangeland (don’t calve too early), and touched on bloat management in grazing alfalfa.

After the day’s talks we traveled across the ranch for the evening lodgings and this provided the Extension team with an opportunity to discuss the Ranch, its rangelands management issues, and a variety of related subjects with James Roger, the Ranch Manager.

March 2, -- Grazing Response Index Applied to the Winecup Gamble Ranch to Think about Grazing Strategy Indices

• An overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range – James Rogers provided information on this topic on the first day. The ranch is roughly a million acres in size with about half BLM and half (60/40?) private. The precipitation varies from areas with 4-6 inches of precipitation on average through the bulk of the ranch at 8-12 inches and some mountain areas with 18 or more. Much of the private is alternate sections of checkerboard that is mostly not fenced on property lines and managed as mixed ownership pastures and therefore under BLM grazing permit stipulations. A substantial part of the private land is along the Thousand Springs drainage and along this corridor there has been substantial development of fenced pastures and other infrastructure. There has also been a history of more intensive grazing along this corridor where there is more abundant water and proximity to roads. For a period of about fifteen years after the current owner acquired the Ranch, the grazing was leased out and little effort was made to distribute animals and manage grazing. In some locations channel incision and range condition is a major concern of the ranch.
In recent years the Ranch is working with grazing management and direct riparian or wetland restoration projects to address multiple riparian and upland objectives. The Ranch or ranches are managed with two herds and thirty separate fenced pastures. This allows the ranch to provide for substantial post-grazing recovery time. In general, there has been a year of recovery after use on rangeland pastures if that use occurred in the growing season. This has provided for consistency in animal numbers because nearly a year of forage is stockpiled on the range, especially after the wet spring of 2016 and wet winter of 2017. This winter has been very much below average. However, with large pastures, the period of use in each pasture tends to be longer than the Ranch would prefer
The Ranch manager, James Rogers, expressed great interest in the Grazing Response Index and has presented a spreadsheet of “GRI scores” for the many pastures over the past four years. Because this is based on dates of use, the spreadsheet can be fine-tuned with greater consideration of the growing season and periods of fast and slow growth. The spreadsheet intensity was based on use of BLM AUMs and therefore is not based on the actual amount of leaf area left at the end of the growing season or end of the grazing period within the growing season. Furthermore, the Opportunity to recover is based on the number of days between grazing periods and therefore, with a full growing season it is usually a 2. However, this may or may not reflect opportunity within the year being evaluated in a specific tab of the spreadsheet. The work invested in this spreadsheet is a very good indication of the degree of interest the Ranch has in stewarding the rangeland resources and in managing grazing for positive rangeland effects.
• Overview of the Monitoring on the Winecup Gamble since 2011 – Y2- Brenda Younkin presented a summary of a substantial amount of monitoring that has occurred on the Ranch over the years with BLM nested frequency studies from 1986 (12), Y2 key areas (38 (BLM rejected all but 15 of these)), Great Basin Institute sampled BLM AIM sites (42 – we learned that these will not be sampled again as AIM will select new random sites each time they sample). As she pointed out the data are only as good as the location of the sites, and it is assumed that some to many of the randomly located AIM sites may not provide much information. On the data from the Y2 sites with data from 2015 and 2017, differences were shown in % by functional group of plants. Y2 also has photos for their sites and she pointed out the importance of the photos for data interpretation because people will see nuance in photos before changes become clear from data. Because of the short time period and differences in precipitation between 2015 and 2017 the data were interesting, but not necessarily reflective of long-term trend. The monitoring data were collected both for agency compliance and because of their utility to Ranch management.
• Overview of the Results of our Remote Sensing in 2009 and 2017 – Eric Sant and Tim Batner of Open Range Consulting which was hired by the Ranch in 2009 and collected data from 300 sample locations using ocular estimations and photographs. They used these to map landcover at 30-meter pixels and then they remapped land cover in 2017 using methods like those recently used for Danvir et al. (2018). In general there was much more grass and less bare ground in 2017. They focused our attention to the Toana Pasture with thirty field sample locations. Form their map of cover types by dominant vegetation, the old crested wheatgrass seeding was visibly a standout from the context of plant communities around it and it was more clearly grass in 2017 than sagebrush in 2009. With the precipitation in 2017, this was interpreted that the seeding still has resiliency to express a dominance of grass when there is sufficient moisture. This was viewed by James Rogers as a big signal regarding grazing management too. Previously (2009) Toana was used at the same time year after year. The data showed that for this pasture there was a 2,000 acre decrease in annual grass and a 1,700 acre increase in perennial dominance. There was also a map used to estimate carrying capacity (AUMs) by showing presumed piospheres around each water and the ranch has added two watering locations in the pasture, going from five in 2009 to seven in 2017. We then discussed how this addition of water allows the Pasture to be used in a manner that effectively allows more use areas since there is enough watering locations to not have the herd spread across all parts of the pasture at once, they can be turned in at one part of the pasture and then moved by turning on and off waters. This would increase recovery (opportunity) and decrease duration of use (frequency) in at least some areas.
We next discussed a land cover procedure that has generated some considerable conversation in the ROGER (Results Oriented Grazing for Ecosystem Resilience) group. This method has been used extensively in Oregon in the Burns District of BLM. The Process uses remote sensing with 12-feet off the ground photos (each with 24 million pixels) to classify the vegetation at each satellite image 1-meter pixel into one of four categories: A-Sagebrush with perennial grasses (providing the mix of vegetation needed by sage-grouse for nesting and early brood rearing); B-Perennial grass (as in after a fire where there had been a resilient understory); C-Sagebrush without a perennial understory (probably with a cheatgrass understory or vulnerable to transitioning to cheatgrass once a fire burns the sagebrush); and D-Annuals dominated (transitioned to an annuals state). This mapping process is accomplished by assembling a team of rangeland ecologists to discuss the ground photos in each of hundreds of locations, coming to agreement about each and then using the spectral signature for each location as the basis for classifying the landscape based on those spectral signatures. Eric reported that the discussions start with considerable length about each photo until the team has clarified their concepts and linked them to what they see in the photos. Thereafter the discussions speed up considerably as all are seeing the same ecological concepts in the photos. Having this conversation is critical because the difference between A and C is a “shades of gray” slippage of resilience. As is the differences between B and D with variable amounts of perennial versus annual grasses in a stand of herbaceous vegetation. Sandberg’s bluegrass can be hard to see and it has different ecological meaning than deeper rooted perennials or cheatgrass. However, as Eric pointed out, if the group sees these concepts differently, their different perceptions can easily inform the mapping process. By using this approach the Team and the Ranch are able to see the big picture of the Ranch and identify areas with different presumed management opportunities and needs or objectives. This process also identified areas with varying amounts of pinyon and juniper tree cover and the imagery has been used to assess the functionality of the many riparian areas on the Ranch.
• Grazing Response Index (GRI) – Sherman Swanson, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE Project leader – This is the slide set that has been used at each of the Stewardship Ranch grazing strategy index workshops. However, a figure was inserted for this workshop that was not developed until after the first workshops. This is the flow chart showing the approach of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook.

Figure 1 (not shown). A Framework for Monitoring shows that law, policy (agency or family) and budgets as well as knowledge from many sources (top row of boxes) informs land managers about priorities for what is needed and what can be accomplished with various strategies on rangelands. Priorities about vision lead to setting important resource objectives that focus long-term (effectiveness) monitoring questions, methods, and locations. The strategies that will be used to meet them are chosen in planning that checks to make sure the strategies should reach objectives. Chosen strategies focus short-term (implementation) monitoring questions, methods, and locations. Also monitoring is to adapt management based on analysis of the monitoring information. Needed adaptation would cause adjustment to priorities, objectives, strategies or monitoring methods or locations.

Following the slides we discussed an area to conduct GRI evaluation and chose the Dairy Pasture. Working with Mark Lundy, cow boss for the Gamble Ranch herd, we used GIS to delineate three use area polygons within this pasture. The one that caused the most challenges to the Ranch is an area with many springs where cattle will often return after they have been moved to other locations within the Pasture. Therefore this area is not representative of the Pasture, but because it was an area of focus we did GRI here to start the conversation. Within this use area, we focused our discussion on two key species, bluebunch wheatgrass for the uplands and Nebraska sedge for riparian areas, and on cheatgrass because of its invasive tendencies.
Use Area Point A Point B Point C
Plant Comm. Bluebunch Wheat Grass Nebraska Sedge Cheatgrass
Growth Begins May 10th May 30th Feb 20th
Peak Growth Jun 10th Jun 20th
Seed Head July 5th
End of Growth July 5th Sept 15th May 1st
Period of Rapid Growth May 20th – June 20th June 10th – Aug 10st Mar 20th – May 1st
Grazing Use Dates June 12th – Aug 1st June 12th – Aug 1st June 12th – Aug 1st
Number of Uses 1+1=2 7
Frequency 0 -1 +1
Total +1 -2 +4
Discussions that followed brought up the following concepts:
o Some pastures on the Ranch and this pasture have burned and some areas have a cheatgrass issue. The BLM turn out dates do not allow early use of pastures to address cheatgrass. The grazing use dates were after the cheatgrass growing season and that led to high GRI scores for cheatgrass. That leaves fall grazing along with grazing to keep the perennials healthy as the primary cheatgrass management tools. ,.
o Other vegetation management issues include expansion of pinyon and juniper trees, and pastures in various states and phases of the many ecological sites.
o The return of cattle to the area near the springs made the frequency score low and also the intensity score low on Nebraska sedge.
o GRI does not score bare ground. The goal is increasing bunch grass density for Ranch Success.
o GRI does not evaluate even use and less selectivity. A goal of the ranch is relatively even use across all grasses, less over selection of desired plants/species. That is less of the underused and overgrazed concept. They don’t feel GRI effectively evaluates achieving this ranch goal.
o Other strategies (rotation, litter, etc.) -- GRI doesn’t capture benefits of dormant season grazing for consuming fuels or litter that facilitates cheatgrass.
o What is the value of litter? How much is needed?
o On private lands, the Ranch is using goats for brush and weed control. Because GRI is focused on grasses, it may not be an optimal tool for evaluating the use of goats.
o The unfair advantage of this ranch is the large scale of the area with many use areas and many dependable watering locations.
o The Ranch uses rotation of use periods across years as a grand strategy to be good for perennial grasses and this is not captured by GRI.
o The winter range is getting better because the Ranch cattle leave the winter range earlier now (mid-March) versus in prior years (June 1).
o Manage carefully the drier vs better and more resilient communities.
o Very arid sites always end grazing before the growing season.
o A Ranch goal is keeping the livestock moving so they have green feed in front of cows to some extent.
o Protein blocks help with residual dry matter, stems, leaves, etc. (the ranch orders protein blocks with the Ranch’s needed minerals mixed into the protein supplement). These are used to draw livestock to places where greater utilization is desired or where there is excess residual dry matter.
o The Ranch stockpiles forage and uses protein supplementation as needed to create dependability in forage quantity and quality. This lessens the need for destocking during drought. Thus sales and destocking can be more focused on strategic and opportunistic sales.
o The Ranch used to graze too intensely during the growing season – GRI scores would signal this.
o The Ranch strives to use flash grazing during the growing season with the bulk of the grazing happening during the dormant season. However with large pastures, short duration grazing is a challenge.
o Their strategy is to use the desert in the winter. Its cheaper than feeding hay and the cows come off in better condition.
o The Ranch asks - How do we become relevant to the public good?
o If GRI was modified to include other variables, it would become too detailed and too bogged down. This would make it harder to communicate.
o Using GRI more out in the field with first hand or real time observations would likely provide more useful data than applying GRI in the office long after the fact. Visual observation is often different than distant memory.
o Other indices in addition to GRI would also be more useful in real time, for example to observe if use was at a damaging level.

Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western SARE Professional Development Grant, Winecup Gamble Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension
References cited
Blasi, D., G. Kuhl, and T. Marston. 1998. Spring vs. late spring, vs. fall calving: A veterinarian’s Perspective. Beef Tips, Department of Animal Science and Industry Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension Service. 4 pp.
Danvir, Rick, Gregg Simonds, Eric Sant, Eric Thacker, Randy Larsen, Tony Svejcar, Douglas Ramsey, Fred Provenza, and Chad Boyd. 2018. Upland Bare Ground and Riparian Vegetative Cover Under Strategic Grazing Management, Continuous Stocking, and Multiyear Rest in New Mexico Mid-grass Prairie. Rangelands xx(x):1—8 doi 10.1016/j.rala.2017.12.004
Hicks, B. 2016. Effect of Drought on Weaning Weight and Efficiency Relative to Cow Size in Semiarid Rangeland. Beef Cattle Research Update. Oklahoma Panhandle Research and Extension Center. 4 pp.
Schultz, B. Undated. Rangeland Plants Development, Growth and Physiology. University on Nevada Cooperative Extension. Handout, 60 pp.
Swanson, S., S. Wyman, and C. Evans. 2015. Practical Grazing Management to Maintain or Restore Riparian Functions and Values. Journal of Rangeland Applications, 2:1-28. ISSN: 2331-5512 http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/swanson/Extension/NV%20CCT/Swanson%20et%20al%202015%20%20%20%2016-225-2-PB.pdf OR http://journals.lib.uidaho.edu/index.php/jra/article/view/16
Sherman Swanson, Brad Schultz, Patti Novak-Echenique, Kathryn Dyer, Gary McCuin, James Linebaugh, Barry Perryman, Paul Tueller, Rixey Jenkins, Bettina Scherrer, Tara Vogel, David Voth, Mark Freese, Ryan Shane, and Kelly McGowan. 2018. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook -- Third Edition, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Special Publication SP-18-03 121 pp.

Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance – Maggie Creek Ranch Workshop
February 23, 2018 at Maggie Creek Ranch Office
Jon Griggs hosted the workshop at the Ranch office and the following UNCE personnel attended, Sherman Swanson, Brad Schultz, Gary McCuin, and Steve Lewis. Dave Voth, Nevada Department of Agriculture also attended, but had a conflict until mid-morning.
Sherm presented the PowerPoint slides about the project and GRI.
Jon Griggs provided an overview of the ranch and how the livestock use the range. The Ranch has two main wintering areas, near the headquarters at Hunter at about 5,000 feet elevation and at Red House up Maggie Creek at about 5,400. The highest part of the Swales Mountain, used by the Red House herd is at 8,400 feet. Most of the conversation was about the herd that winters at Hunter. 80% of the Ranch has burned in the past 15 years. We later learned of some ranch operations near Lamoille, but did not discuss that area or herd.
The herd that winters on aftermath and fed hay at Red house has had two pastures that are used in sequence fairly similarly year after year except with different turn out locations. However a recent fire and fence have created the opportunity to soon begin to use three pastures in a rotation. It is anticipated that this will provide opportunities for plants to recover after they may have been stressed by use in the growing season. In the recent past that area has been generally working in spite of the similar use periods because of relatively light stocking. The question came up about whether with the new fence the herd could be increased and Jon was not willing to do that because in one winter out of ten that would create a winter feed issue and he did not want to kill cows at such times because that would degrade his quality of life. The light to moderate stocking rate has caused the rangeland vegetation that is grazed in the spring growing season to be used rather lightly during the growing season and not for the whole of the growing season because cattle are later moved to the next pasture. In the future, when there are three useable pastures for rotation, similar use would likely occur only one out of three years in the early pasture. The surplus capacity has provided the Ranch with “critical flexibility” across years, especially after fires have burned forage and fire closures have prevented access to burned areas.
Crested wheatgrass is valued as a greenstrip, but in recent fires, it has become recognized that existing greenstrips are sometimes not wide enough. And, greenstrips or any fuel break must be managed/maintained for reduced fuels to remain useful after their creation. Crested wheatgrass has also been valued for its increased likelihood of successful seeding, especially in dryer areas and because the seed is less expensive for post fire reseeding.
The herd that winters at Hunter usually gets turned out after snow melt into low country where cheatgrass often provides some early spring forage. Last year there was an abundance of residual forage at this time due to the unusually good spring growing season in 2016 and there was abundant cheatgrass growth after a wet 2017 winter.
This herd generally makes a circle, going up one side of Susie Creek and down the other and reverses direction each year. Susie Creek is fenced into about six riparian pastures and the use of these was described in the slide set about GRI mentioned above. Because of these several riparian pastures, the use period in each pasture is only 1 to 1.5 weeks in either the spring or fall, rather than the 2-3 weeks in April to June, or 4-6 weeks in mid-September to late November that Sherm had previously thought (he has corrected that slide show to show Susie Creek GRI scores of +2 to +3. This further emphasizes the Nevada example of a positive GRI score with riparian improvement.
This “circle” means that forage grazed in the spring is not grazed again until after a full growing season for recovery. Every area gets grazed every year. The Ranch goal with cattle management is to allow every grass plant to produce a seed head every year. They work toward this goal with movement of animals during the growing season and management of stocking rate in each area. While the BLM may manage based on utilization; the Ranch manages within their flexibility to do so for the purpose of growing plants. The flexibility is needed because of variable climate, market, fire, etc. Typically the pinch point in the Ranch operation, or most intensive grazing management, occurs is in March to May when they want to manage for perennials and against cheatgrass. After that they manage summer long use with dispersed cattle. In the hot summer, most wells have less than 15 gallons per minute and storage/troughs will accommodate only about 300 head and so cattle must be distributed across several wells. This limits the mob size. Because of the expense of labor, there is not a surplus of labor to accomplish extra herding, etc.
We decided to focus our GRI discussions in the Hadley Pasture, 65,000 acres of checkerboard deeded and BLM lands (managed under the auspices of the BLM permit) that was used in the spring and summer of 2017. The ranch turns out and brands about 100 head at a time over five weeks until the pasture is stocked at about 800 pairs. At this time in 2017 they were eating a lot of residual feed from 2016 and a lot of cheatgrass. After branding, the cattle moved into the uplands. So, the first use area we evaluated was the low country to the southwest. In this area which has burned and been seeded, the key species to manage for is created wheatgrass. It started growing about March 20, grew fastest in May 1 and was done growing by June 15. The rapid growth period was 4/10-5/10. This area was grazed in April. So there were 10 days of grazing during slow growth and most of that would have been on residual forage, then 20 more days of grazing during the rapid growth period. Because of the residual forage, frequency was rated at -1/0; Intensity of grazing was light (+1); and opportunity to regrow was all of May and part of June (0/+1) for a total GRI of 0/+2. In 2017 Cheatgrass seeded out in Late May and cheatgrass probably was the majority of the forage used. Thus the higher score (GRI = +2) is likely more reflective of actual impacts on the key species.
The middle corridor, in the hills above the branding areas, was used from May 1 to June 15. In this area the vegetation featured cheatgrass, Sandberg’s bluegrass and basin Great Basin wild rye. Because of the value of wild rye for wildlife habitat and use during certain seasons when it is more likely to be used that during this period, it was selected as the key species. Basin wild rye growing season was 4/15 to 6/15 with rapid growth from 4/20 to 5/15. Thus the frequency was -1 (15 days of grazing during rapid growth and 30 days during slow growth), but only on those tillers available on the outside of plants and +1 on the rest of the tillers. We discussed the rapid growth of Great Basin wild rye that allows it to be used often in the spring, and we discussed the perception that during this time there appeared to be little use of the rye. This and the observation that grazing can take out plants by over-grazing the outside tillers while there appears to be little use of the plant because it remains tall caused Jon to want to make more careful observations of the extent of grazing of this plant in the future. Intensity was considered to be moderate (0) and opportunity was assumed to be -1 of the outside grazed tillers and +2 for the other tillers. Thus the total GRI score was -2/+3.
The uplands in the northern portion of the Hadley pasture was used from 6/15 to 8/15. The key species in this area were considered to be bluebunch wheatgrass and Thurber’s needlegrass. Their growth period was 4/1 to 7/15 with rapid growth from 5/15-6/15. Thus all grazing was during slow growth and frequency of grazing on preferred plants was assumed to be twice (frequency=0), Intensity was remembered to be right at the cusp of light to moderate (+1/0) and opportunity for growth before grazing was most of the growing season so +1 for a total of +1/+2.
None of the GRI scores suggest a problem. The Ranch might want to use these areas much harder in the fall and so we discussed that GRI would not evaluate that level of intensity because it would not be in the growing season. Such grazing could be used to create a fuel break or to graze the litter that promotes cheatgrass. This semblance of a fuel break occurred in the areas used again in the fall at the southern side of the Hadley pasture near and radiating out from the Susie Creek water gap and similarly associated with the water on the west side of the pasture. This reduced-fuels area was considered of value to the ranch because most fire winds come from the north.
After lunch, we discussed that Jon had realized that even though the Hadley pasture was used last year during the growing season, he could use it again this year. This can be used to avoid a problem the Ranch has experienced with the alternate year of reversed direction to the “circle”. That is, that going into a pasture that was grazed last the previous year means that there is less residual forage at the beginning of the growing season. He commented that the GRI will sharpen his observation skills and he will teach these concepts to his cowboys. We discussed that GRI would produce a +4 with either no grazing or with post growing season grazing that was heavy. Yet, the ecological and fire risk results of these would be quite different. So, GRI is not perfect or the complete story. However, what Jon liked about it was that it really focused on the growing season, and that is important, but it avoided the need to simply provide a full growing season after any growing season use. It could also help to think about and evaluate rotation among use areas within a pasture, that is the pattern of movement. Perhaps he could go into a pasture in a different location to take advantage of residual forage or to avoid piling on stress in one area, but not in another.
We discussed that GRI is designed for use with perennial grasses and not for shrubs. Jon pays attention to bitter brush and to willows. To be successful, he focuses on the perennial grasses because in general when they are doing well the animals do not focus on the shrubs.
Jon is very focused on the body condition score of his animals and strives to manage the Ranch and herd to avoid low BCS. He does this by culling those animals with a low BCS (especially at the time the bulls go out) that are not likely to continue to bring in a calf and by culling those that do not. Often these are the ones with bad teeth or bad genetics. He also is mindful about the forage available to the herd at various times. He calves starting mid-March with the bulk coming in April. With these dates, he can turn out as soon as the snow leaves. While he does not remove the bulls, he sells the cows that breed too late. He believes later calving is a problem for breed back as the forage quality goes down. Hopefully the cow herd can be kept on green feed by taking advantage of cheatgrass early and then following the green up the mountain. While he does not use riparian areas to specifically extend the green feed season (they are just not handy), he does use them to facilitate fall gathering
Jon considers GRI to be good as it is, that is it should not be modified, but it does not tell the whole story needed by the ranch. For telling the story to agency people, he would also want trend data that shows the progress made in resource conditions. Jon would also not suggest that the agencies implement management by GRI or use it as a monitoring factor because of the problems that such use could cause with restricted flexibility and difficulty in making changes as we learn more about the total set of tools and goals.
In addition to GRI, it would be useful to have an index related to size of the stockpile of residual forage available to livestock before the next growing season. Of course too much old forage is also a problem with fuels and with old poor quality forage. It could be a part of targeted grazing to reduce cheatgrass, but there would also be a need to index the residual.
To implement GRI it would be better to have better data on the dates of the growing season. Jon and Brad think that the more meaningful date for the end of the growing season than when the plant becomes brown is when it’s seed head is mature. There is usually little growth after that. Although Sherm missed that snippet of the conversation, he thinks it may be excluded from the period for considering frequency (additional grazing of regrowth because regrowth is minimal after seed ripe) but still considered for the opportunity. The green leaves may not grow, but they can photosynthesize and replenish roots with a bit of carbohydrate – although not much in comparison to periods of rapid growth.
Workshop sponsored by the USDA (NIFA) funded Western Sustainable Agriculture Education and Research Professional Development Grant, Maggie Creek Ranch, and UNR Cooperative Extension.

 

 

Collective GRI Conversation,
Objective:

Harvest knowledge gained from the individual On-Ranch workshops

Description:

Convening of the Stewardship Ranchers and Visitation Teams
Lake House at Maggie Creek Ranch, March 29, 2018
Based on their experience at five Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance ranch workshops and their personal/professional knowledge, ten individuals representing livestock producers, Cooperative Extension, other agencies, and the Intermountain Joint Venture spent the day discussing a series of questions addressing the GRI tool and possible modifications that would make the approach more useful.
Dr. Sherm Swanson, an Extension Riparian Specialist and Rangeland Ecology and Management scientist and educator, opened the meeting by explaining that he was looking forward to the interaction and discussion about the Grazing Response Index (GRI) workshops that had been completed over the past several months.
Over the past century, broad discussions have occurred between academia, ranchers, and others addressing different avenues for improving management of America’s rangelands. More locally, over the past 10 to 15 years, Nevada’s range management school has served as one avenue for continual conversation, learning, and education for improving range management strategies and approaches. Rangeland managers continue to face major challenges (i.e., wildfires, cheatgrass, invasive species) that require a rethinking of past and current management strategies and approaches. How can our time be best spent to learn what needs to be done to successfully reach our rangeland management objectives?
The intent of today’s discussion is to determine how the relatively simple GRI concept, which is based on basic range management principles (e.g., plant physiology and plant growth and grazing) and was taught in range management schools for many years, could be applied or combined with other strategies for grazing management. It is recognized that the GRI concept as presented is not perfect and does not address all issues everywhere.
Introductions
Dr. Swanson welcomed and thanked everyone for taking time to participate in today’s meeting. Dr. Swanson noted that four of the five ranches that sponsored GRI workshops were represented at the meeting. In addition, the Maggie Creek Ranch was recognized and thanked for their willingness to host today’s meeting. Each person was asked to introduce themselves and describe their relationship to the GRI process.
Dave Voth - Mr. Voth works for the Nevada Department of Agriculture as a liaison between the Department, ranchers, and other agencies.
Brad Schultz - Mr. Schultz works for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) and is based out of Winnemucca, Nevada. Mr. Schultz has been involved with public land grazing issues for the past 30 years and is an instructor at Nevada’s rangeland management school.
Dino Stauffer - Mr. Stauffer is involved in the day-to-day livestock and pasture management for the Humboldt Ranch and is representing Mr. Jesse Braatz at today’s meeting.
Maggie Gentert - Ms. Gentert from the Winecup-Gamble Ranch works on irrigated meadows to fatten cattle. She participated in the GRI workshop hosted by the Winecup-Gamble Ranch and is representing Mr. James Rogers at today’s meeting.
Steve Foster - Mr. Foster works for the UNCE based out of Lovelock, Nevada. Mr. Foster also serves as Nevada’s representative to the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (WSARE), which funded the grant for the GRI effort. Mr. Foster is also involved with Nevada’s rangeland management school.
Gary McCuin - Mr. McCuin works for the UNCE based out of Eureka, Nevada and has a lifelong involvement with rangeland management.
Sam Lossing - Mr. Lossing is the Smith Creek Ranch manager.
Jon Griggs - Mr. Griggs is the Maggie Creek Ranch manager.
Duane Coombs - Mr. Coombs is the Sagebrush Conservation Specialist for the Intermountain Joint Venture principally focusing on implementation of sagebrush habitat in the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountain region. Mr. Coombs became involved in the Joint Venture effort to ensure the rangeland producers’ voice was heard. Prior to his involvement with the Intermountain Joint Venture, he was the Smith Creek Ranch Manager.
Jason Molsby – Cow boss Cottonwood Ranch. Some of the questions asked or discussed below were also asked and discussed with Jason Molsby on June 12 since neither he nor anyone else was able to represent the Cottonwood Ranch at the March 29 meeting. Jason’s thoughts are inserted below as if he had been there. Unfortunately, this did not allow Jason to be part of the broader discussion, including the follow on questions. It also did not allow others to respond to his thoughts.
Primary Discussion
Considering the variability of Nevada rangelands, there is need for planning tools when developing livestock grazing strategies. Application of GRI is one tool meeting this need. Eight major questions (below) were used to stimulate the meeting’s discussions. When addressing the primary questions, twelve other questions were raised and discussed by the participants. There were fifteen additional questions identified but there was insufficient time and/or group energy to address these too at the meeting.
1. As you recall the GRI focused workshop on your ranch (or the workshop you attended), what are the top take-home messages?
2. Do you use GRI on your operation and, if not, would you consider using it in the future? Why or why not?
3. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of GRI?
4. What, if anything, would you change, add, or delete from GRI?
5. All of you have identified that mixing up the timing of grazing among years is a strategy used on your ranch. Would it be useful to have an index for this?
6. Are there any barriers to implementing your ideal management strategy or GRI on your operation?
7. If you were to use the GRI or some other similar index for rating the management in a given year, what is the best size land unit to apply it to on your ranch?
8. Part of the motivation for this WSARE GRI conversation is an observation that at least for riparian areas, or pastures with riparian areas, the movement of livestock is very common in examples of success. What tools that facilitate movement of animals (and cleaned pastures or use areas) would be most useful to teach or facilitate by rangeland educators or management agencies? (water development, supplementation strategies, stockmanship, fencing technologies)?

1. As you recall the GRI focused workshop on your ranch (or the workshop you attended), what are the top take-home messages?
Mr. Griggs noted that the Maggie Creek Ranch is applying the GRI approach as they enter the grazing season. While the ranch continues its efforts to fully understand the approach, it is viewed as a good planning tool and to “set their eyes” to conditions on the ground. Mr. Griggs is hesitant to share the GRI approach with his contacts in the federal land management agencies, which will be done on a case-by-case basis, with those who he has developed a trust relationship. Mr. Griggs does not see the approach being instilled as a federal land management agency policy but considers it a tool that everyone can use.
Mr. Lossing agreed with Mr. Griggs in terms of the GRI tool being useful but is curious to see how the tool will be implemented in some areas. He believes the tool will not work as well in some areas.
As the workshops were conducted, Mr. McCuin has gradually changed his mind concerning the GRI approach. The beauty of the tool is that it is a simple tool for a very complex process. It is simple (but not simplistic) as compared to the utilization standards used by the federal agencies, which, he feels are simplistic and will never answer questions to a complex system. Mr. McCuin fears that when given to the federal agencies, they will make the simple GRI tool a simplistic tool. Mr. McCuin hopes that the GRI tool never get institutionalized by statue or regulation. There is value in the tool in the right places for planning to help management and to stimulate observations.
Mr. Foster wasn’t familiar with the GRI tool prior to the ranch workshops but agreed with Mr. McCuin that it is a simple tool not much different than the red vs. green approach used by the Humboldt Ranch to keep track of their livestock during certain times of the year and how long the animals are in one location. Mr. Foster doesn’t think the GRI tool is made to fit everything that is done on the ranch. Don’t make it more than it is.
Ms. Gentert noted that the Winecup-Gamble Ranch has used the past four years of data to generate GRI scores for their pastures. GRI is a valuable planning tool to (1) recognize when a pasture is trending in a downward fashion and (2) to determine how the grazing strategy can be changed to reverse that trend. GRI is also seen as a valuable tool to communicate with people who are not part of the ranching community and have a need or interest in understanding what the ranch is doing. It is a simple number (index) which is not too complicated to understand. There will be a temptation to make the tool more complex, but, if that is done, the tool will lose its value. As data is entered the tool, Mr. Rogers also incorporates his personal on-the-ground knowledge (i.e., rain received at a certain time). The power of the score is in the story as it is shared with others. A person must be able to explain their philosophy, how the tool was modified to fit the ranch’s situation by describing what was tracked and incorporated into the tool, and how the number generated is relevant to tracking the ranch’s trend over time. It is equally important to understand that the number generated will not be comparable to similar numbers developed for other ranches. It is important that the tool stays simple and concise.
Mr. Stauffer likes the idea of being able to monitor pasture health (i.e., tracking cattle movement, time and timing of grazing). GRI is a valuable tool for allowing a person to “set your eye” as mentioned by Mr. Griggs. Mr. Stauffer explained that he has been in northern Nevada for less than a year and recognizes that rangeland in northern Nevada is much different than rangeland in the western edge of the Nebraska sand hills. When working in Nebraska, Mr. Stauffer used a spread sheet from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln that included a “sand hills defoliation index”, which is like the GRI index. The “sand hills defoliation index” ranged from -7 to 8 based on several different components.
Mr. Stauffer asked if there should be indexes for other parameters (i.e., cheatgrass). Mr. Stauffer noted that if other items or parameters are incorporated into the GRI tool, it could make using the tool more complicated. It would be best not to incorporate other factors into the GRI tool. The GRI tool should be kept simple to use and understand, but Mr. Stauffer recognized the need for indices for other things (i.e., cheatgrass). Mr. Stauffer noted that if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) doesn’t recognize cheatgrass as a usable forage, they won’t want to do anything with it. However, from the Humboldt Ranch’s perspective, cheatgrass is a usable forage that can be grazed during the dormant season to reduce fine fuels and its associated seed bank. Developing other indices may have the potential to simplify many aspects of a grazing plan.
Mr. Schultz agreed that GRI is a simple tool for a complex situation. The key will be to determine when and where to apply the tool as well as knowing and adhering to its limitations. Don’t make the tool do more than it can do (or less than it can do). Adhering to the tool’s parameters (the three or four aspects of grazing most critical for maintaining the plant community) is more important than anything else. If there are other issues, find other tools or approaches to address them.
Mr. Voth thought GRI is a great tool but is just one tool in the toolbox. Mr. Voth didn’t view GRI as an immediate planning tool but more of a tool to check your eyes as to what you see on the ground.

2. Do you use GRI on your operation and, if not, would you consider using it in the future? Why or why not?
Mr. Voth noted that as an employee of the Department of Agriculture, he doesn’t have a grazing operation, but felt the value of the GRI tool would be realized when a grazing operation proposes to reuse an area (pasture) at that same time as when it was previously used, which could be several years later.
Mr. Schultz has always used the concepts of timing, frequency, and duration over the course of his rangeland management career. He may not have applied numeric values to those concepts but has integrated the concepts when assessing rangelands.
Mr. Stauffer thinks GRI has value as a drought mitigation planning tool. In arid or semi-arid environments, a person is either preparing for, entering, or coming out of a drought. When pressed to explain his thought further, Mr. Stauffer noted that one component of the “sand hills defoliation index” was precipitation. Timing of precipitation could be considered in addition to GRI to help a person “set their eye” or to consider how related episodic events (timing of precipitation, temperature, soil condition) jointly effects vegetative (grass) growth. Mr. Schultz noted that in addition to the GRI index it might be important to consider other ancillary data/information to maximize the usefulness of the GRI tool. The three aspects considered in the GRI tool (timing, frequency, and duration) work well; however, to utilize the tool to its maximum potential, other ancillary information should be integrated or at least considered.
Ms. Gentert asked if such ancillary information was included or considered in the western Nebraska index and, if so, how was that data gathered and provided to the producer. Mr. Stauffer noted that the ancillary information was primarily received from the nearest weather station, which may (or may not) provide accurate site-specific information. Mr. Stauffer used a small rain gauge at his house to measure precipitation received. The value a person gets out of a tool is directly related to the amount of effort they put into the tool. It may take more time and/or effort to collect ancillary information, but the value and usability of the information will also increase. Having growing condition information helps a person to interpret the observed results as well as determining when the growing season began and ended. Such information over the long-term could be used to refine the duration of the pasture’s average rest period.
Ms. Gentert noted that Winecup-Gamble Ranch is excited about using the GRI index as a communication tool to ensure everyone is on the same page or to, at least, understand what the ranch is accomplishing. When an approach such as GRI is created that allows people to produce similar end products, it is exciting to see people moving in the same direction. When asked, Ms. Gentert noted the ranch has an internal meeting scheduled to discuss the workshop.
Mr. Foster noted that his personal and working experience wasn’t applicable to managing large complex grazing operations; therefore, he didn’t have anything additional to add.
Recognizing the variability of the actual growing season from year to year, Mr. Coombs noted the GRI tool has been used to ensure a piece of country is not grazed by livestock at the same time every year. Mr. Coombs also noted that year-round grazing by wild horses has been an issue.
Mr. McCuin views the primary benefit of GRI is planning and analyzing what occurs on the rangeland. Due to its simplicity, GRI could be helpful when explaining a ranch’s grazing management strategy to others such as the federal land management agencies. Mr. McCuin still is uncertain if GRI can be directly applicable to a specific operation. GRI is useful, but caution should be used in its implementation.
Ms. Schultz addressed a concern expressed by many in the room regarding the applicability of GRI everywhere. Mr. Schultz suggested the basic concepts of GRI are applicable to every grazing situation; however, if used as a short-term tool alone, GRI will never reach its potential and may be misused. GRI must be integrated as a short- and long-term tool to (1) fully understand what is occurring on the rangeland and (2) to make appropriate grazing management decisions.
Mr. McCuin provided an example where, at the Winecup-Gamble Ranch, a pasture’s GRI rating was great, but based on long-term monitoring, the pasture’s condition was declining. The decline in condition was attributed to what the ranch was not able to do to affect a positive condition in that pasture. When supplemented with ancillary information (e.g., chronological livestock use dates), GRI could be a useful tool to demonstrate or communicate that the plant’s and/or animal’s needs were not being met.
As outlined by Mr. Coombs, Mr. Lossing emphasized that the Smith Creek Ranch has and continues to use GRI concepts to formulate their grazing management strategies, but without developing the numerical index. He is curious to see if the numerical ratings will validate what the ranch has been doing on the ground. There is no substitute for being out on the ground with the livestock assessing conditions.
Mr. Schultz noted that there is always a need to evaluate the numerical rating to determine if you believe it truly represents the on-the-ground situation. In responding to Mr. Schultz’s comment, Mr. Lossing noted that his initial hesitancy with GRI was trying to boil down something that was too complex. Mr. Lossing believes the answer to that question is “yes”. One cannot use GRI information alone without having on-the-ground knowledge to fully understand what is occurring on the ground. A person must integrate their personal observations and knowledge of the ground, its use, and GRI information to understand what is occurring and determine future strategies.
Mr. Lossing agreed with Mr. McCuin and Ms. Gentert as to the value of GRI as a communication tool in telling the ranch’s story. Ms. Gentert noted that the Winecup-Gamble Ranch has gone back to integrate their data over the past four years into the GRI tool, which, in most cases, has validated the ranch’s management strategies and areas of concern.
Mr. Griggs provided a real-life example where a pasture had been used last year, which he would have normally rested this year, but was considering using the pasture this year due to the on-the-ground situation when livestock were removed. The GRI tool validated Mr. Grigg’s assessment of the pasture and the proposal for using the pasture again this year.
In working with policy makers in BLM’s Washington Office, Mr. Coombs has recognized the importance of providing agencies with valid numerical ratings when supporting (or expressing concern) with different concepts. When justifying the need for funding, the agency must approach the Interior Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives with a valid proof of concept containing validated numerical figures; rather than a feeling or personal knowledge.
Mr. Griggs noted that long-term trend is important to him as a ranch manager. GRI provides the tool to quantify long-term trend and validate his personal observations. GRI also helps Mr. Griggs to focus on desirable plants. Dr. Swanson noted that after the Smith Creek Ranch workshop, he realized the key species concept needed to be introduced into the GRI process. The key species concept is not currently written into the GRI process but is part of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook. All workshops after the Smith Creek Ranch workshop did address the key species concept. When asked, the meeting’s participants were supportive of focusing on key species as part of the GRI process. Mr. Stauffer noted that he would like to see key species addressed but suggested the focus be on key plant communities, which he defined as the vegetative species around the key species. [In editing these notes, Swanson noted that this may be addressed by the key area concept also discussed in the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook (Swanson et al. 2018)]. Mr. Schultz suggested using the word “acceptable” instead of key. Mr. Schultz noted that there are many parameters that can affect the abundance of key species. Mr. Schultz asked what else might be acceptable and that we’d be willing to live with because it holds the soil in place or provides forage or habitat. Mr. Schultz suggested the need to look at those two things in combination. [This is consistent with the key species concept as described in the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook (Swanson et al, 2018)].
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - At times key species are helpful, but on our place the key species are not the desirable forage. E.g. bluebunch wheatgrass is only used in the winter if the cows are pushed to it. Many other grasses are preferred, e.g. rice grass, streambank wheatgrass and western wheatgrass.
Mr. McCuin suggested focusing on key species is like focusing on sage grouse as one wildlife species that has importance above all else. You can’t manage for one species in absence of everything else. Mr. Lossing noted that the discussion during the Smith Creek Ranch workshop focused on what species were present; not species should or could be there. The discussion did not address key species as defined in an ecological site description.
Mr Molsby commented on 6/12 - Would use it in a heartbeat if I could give him a card to provide hints and had a card to record data. Put it in the Red book, so like the winter pasture opportunity was perfect, but what was the score? Provide helpful hints and make it easy.
Ms. Swanson noted that GRI is not designed to be used on shrub species. An attempt was made at the Smith Creek Ranch workshop to address shrubs (willows) in riparian areas, but that effort was later abandoned. It was felt that the result would be site domination by willows.
If GRI is not the appropriate tool to address shrub species, Dr. Swanson asked “What should we be doing with shrubs?” Mr. McCuin questioned why GRI would not work on shrubs if a plant’s growing phenology is known. When asked, Mr. Schultz noted that he hasn’t put much thought into the use of GRI for shrub species. The topic would require much more thought as there are sprouting and non-sprouting species, shrubs having longer growing seasons (as compared to herbaceous species), and the number of different shrub species. It was felt the use of GRI would have to be considered on a species by species basis due to the differences between species. Mr. Schultz felt the GRI concepts would be applicable; however, how GRI would be applied would be different.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - No idea, only bitterbrush is hit hard.
Mr. Griggs introduced a new topic - using GRI for cheatgrass where a negative GRI score would be a good thing. Dr. Swanson noted that such an approach was made during the Cottonwood Ranch GRI workshop. Mr. Schultz noted that there are few areas that are a cheatgrass monoculture. Most areas have a combination of species including cheatgrass. Hypothetically, an area could be dominated by cheatgrass but still have other perennial species present. In such areas, GRI could be used to demonstrate that grazing is not the causal factor precluding establishment of additional perennial species. If grazing is not the issue, there must be another influence (i.e., cheatgrass) preventing perennial establishment. In this hypothetical situation, adjustment of livestock grazing would not affect establishment of perennial species.
Mr. Griggs noted that based on his experience if livestock are extensively consuming willows most other species have already been grazed (or over grazed). Mr. Schultz noted that willows are a grazing tolerant plant, but, like most other species, is not tolerant to season-long grazing.
Mr. McCuin summarized that GRI as it has been rolled out is principally a measure for perennial herbaceous species. While the concepts or principals behind GRI could apply for other species, it would be necessary to determine the season of use, number of defoliations, frequency of use, etc., for that species or plant community.
Ms. Gentert inquired as to the value of using key species and suggested this discussion was going down a “rabbit hole” involving numerous variables and was moving in a direction of taking a simple tool and making it so complex that it could not be managed or used and may not even be relevant. Mr. Gentert noted the key species discussion that occurred during the Winecup-Gamble GRI workshop was an interesting intellectual exercise, but, at the end of the day, half of the audience was lost. Managing to that level of detail would be near impossible. For GRI to be relevant today, it must be kept simple.
[Swanson post script - Ironically, key species concepts are intended to simplify management thinking by assuming that logically targeted key species will reflect the most important objective or be an indication of overall success of many species in a community. For GRI scoring it may simplify thinking about the growing season or growth curve that is most relevant. It also helps to focus discussions on the perennials versus cheatgrass. However, people rating GRI would have to be able to easily recognize the key species. It this is not the case; a group such as larger perennial bunch grasses could be used].
Dr. Swanson suggested that by simplifying GRI to focus on a key species may have, in fact, made the process more complex because the range riders are accustomed to viewing an area as forage, not by species. Ms. Gentert suggested the range riders look at a broader picture (i.e., where the livestock are located, when they should be moved, animal body condition, how to move livestock through a gate, etc.) Use of GRI needs to be part of the overall picture but cannot be the primary focus. Incorporation of GRI into the overall process must be manageable; otherwise, it will not be successful.
Mr. Coombs agreed with Ms. Gentert. Range riders who live and work with livestock every day notice changes – cows will act differently as other parameters - moisture, forage condition, livestock body condition, etc. – change and are considered when making/changing grazing management decisions. GRI will give ranch managers the information necessary to defend the actions/work of the range riders.
Ms. Gentert suggested that in the end, we’re managing the rest, not the grazing. Livestock use different parts of a pasture differently. Pastures are not utilized uniformly. They will over use one area while not using another area at all. At the end of the day, a pasture is managed to ensure all areas have sufficient time to recover. We’re managing how long the pasture is rested, which is a factor we can control.
Dr. Swanson noted that movement of livestock and other factors not part of GRI were discussed at the various workshops. GRI addresses frequency, intensity, and opportunity.

3. What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of GRI?
Mr. Griggs felt many of the strengths of GRI have been addressed. GRI can be used to set a person’s eye and can be agreed upon and used by all. Weaknesses include the number of potential “rabbit trails” that could be followed as expressed earlier by Ms. Gentert.
Mr. Lossing thought a strength of GRI is telling its story telling aspect of what is occurring on the ground. It is important not to associate a negative GRI score with something wrong on the ground. A negative score for cheatgrass is a good thing.
One strength of the GRI approach for Mr. McCuin is that it is simple, which also could be considered a weakness. To correctly understand and interpret its outputs, it is important to understand what goes into the GRI process. To those knowledgeable of range management, the GRI process, its inputs, etc.; the outputs can be obvious; however, to someone without a range management background, the outputs are not so obvious and could be misinterpreted.
Mr. Coombs noted strengths of GRI include serving as a reporting tool, a high-level planning tool, and a tool to defend actions taken on the ground.
Mr. Foster felt strengths of GRI include it makes people think about basic principles of livestock grazing and can be a useful communication tool.
Ms. Gentert agreed that numerical GRI ratings or indices can help people (especially those not using the tool on a regular basis) to gain a basic understanding of what is occurring on the ground. Ms. Gentert feels empowered when using the tool to rank more critically because it is possible to make up for a low ranking in one year by adjusting management in future years.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - We could do the monitoring as I was leaving the pasture on my horse. And, it would tell me which indicator was bad or good.
Mr. Stauffer agreed that a strength of GRI is its simplicity. There isn’t one tool that can account for all actions or factors considered by land managers.
In earlier discussions, reference was made to ranch hands getting lost or overwhelmed when other facets are introduced into the GRI concept. Mr. Stauffer began thinking it might be helpful to have different levels of GRI - one of which could be geared toward ranch hands who work with the livestock daily. Factors they might consider could include livestock body condition and consistency of the animal’s excretion (tells a person something about the forage consumed), which could be relayed to the ranch manager for inclusion into a GRI calculation. This “division of labor” would (1) involve more people in the GRI approach and (2) possibly increase the number of variables that could be considered.
Dr. Swanson noted that after completing the GRI workshops, he has been concerned with using rest from grazing as a tool for maintaining rangeland health (litter, cheatgrass, fire, fuels, etc.), which could be a double-edged sword in terms of animal nutrition. Dr. Swanson asked if there was a “signal” in the animal’s excretion when the animals are turned into a rested pasture. Mr. Stauffer indicated that goals and objectives for livestock would play a part in responding to Dr. Swanson’s question. From an animal nutrition standpoint, Mr. Stauffer may ask if cows are grazed differently as compared to yearlings. From a rangeland health standpoint, vegetative plants may require reaching seed production before livestock are introduced to trample seed into the ground. A balance between livestock objectives and the need for rangeland health must be considered. Mr. Stauffer provided a hypothetical example where an area is grazed which is followed by a period of rest suitable to allow plants to reach seed maturity, after which livestock are reintroduced to trample seed and litter into the ground.
Mr. McCuin interjected that it may be possible to achieve a balance between an animal’s nutritional needs (body condition) utilizing rangeland vegetation but there may be a cost for achieving that balance. If a person can balance the animal’s nutrition needs to the nutritional value provided by rangeland vegetation from season to season, both the range and the animal will benefit. However, if the balance between the animal’s nutritional needs and the seasonal forage value of the rangeland plant cannot be maintained, there will be a cost in terms of animal nutritional supplementation or other adverse impacts to the rangeland’s health.
Mr. Schultz stressed that everything must address the goals and objectives for management, which, for public lands, are developed and agreed to by the livestock producer and the federal land management agency. Typically, goals are broader in scope (30,000 feet) and long-term as compared to objectives that are typically short- to mid-term in scope. GRI is typically an assessment at the 15,000-foot level. Goals and objectives principally address three functional groups – deep-rooted perennial bunchgrasses, shallow-rooted perennial bunchgrasses, and perennial forbs. Individuals on the ground each day (ranch managers and hands) should be allowed to manage daily activities based on established triggers to achieve their goals and objectives. Use of GRI at the 15,000-foot level allows the person on the ground to focus their efforts and attention on the factors that are important. It is necessary to integrate and examine monitoring information (GRI, animal body condition, etc.) collected over a multi-year period to fully understand the impact of livestock grazing in a pasture or unit of land. Expanding GRI to include key species or other components takes the concept beyond what is easily understood by the average laymen. Rather than a “division of labor” as described previously, there is a “division of knowledge and understanding” as to what a person needs to know and accomplish to achieve the established goals and objectives and to be part of the GRI process.
Mr. Voth thought a strength of GRI was its focus on appropriate recovery versus rest. A weakness of GRI involves the scoring when using use areas as opposed to large fields, which seem like totally different things. Mr. Voth wasn’t sure everyone is using use areas that this time. Dr. Swanson asked how Mr. Voth differentiated between appropriate recovery and rest. Mr. Voth described appropriate recovery as the time required for the plant to recover versus an arbitrary time before livestock are reintroduced to the area (rest).
Mr. Coombs noted that the recovery time can vary depending on weather and precipitation conditions. At times it can be no longer than a week; whereas, in other years, it can be half the growing season. Dr. Swanson asked if Mr. Coombs was describing the growing season rather than the recovery period. Mr. Coombs indicated that if we look at when livestock are in a pasture during the growing season, it will affect the GRI scoring. In drier years, there is no recovery period; whereas, in years with adequate moisture, the plants have time to recover. In Nevada, when livestock are introduced into a pasture, it is a gamble if the plants will have sufficient time to recover. In drier years, there may not be any recovery, or a pasture might receive rest but no recovery.
If it does not become a judgmental tool (i.e., a negative score being a negative thing), Mr. Coombs believes there is value (strength) in using GRI as an analysis tool to document what occurred on the ground and to identify actions that could/should be taken in the future.
Mr. Schultz noted that a well-managed bunchgrass plant in an arid environment is adaptive to harsh conditions. It has evolved/adapted to withstand several years of harsh or bad conditions. Mr. Schultz suggested the need to define the difference between recovery and rest. He defined recovery as the time required to get to a healthy plant (i.e., having the time to set the plant bud with enough stored energy to get through the next dormant period with sufficient energy reserves to overcome a grazing mistake that year). Anything beyond what the plant needs to recover is considered rest.
Mr Molsby commented on 6/12 – The strength is that it is easy and teachable - can do when fresh in mind will know which areas livestock have been in and which were hit twice. A weakness might be that maybe it is not scientific if based on observation.
Dr. Swanson noted that recovery is a significant part of the growing season for the plant to grow as described by Mr. Schultz. Rest would be an entire growing season without grazing. Mr. Schultz suggested not identifying a time when defining rest. He suggested a period of nonuse beyond what the plant needs to regrow the following year. Mr. McCuin noted that the rest/recovery process will work if there are a sufficient number of areas where livestock could be placed. However, if a producer doesn’t have sufficient space, it may only be possible to give a plant one season of rest out of two or three years. Another uncontrollable variable is having sufficient moisture during periods of rest and/or recovery.
Mr. Griggs noted that recovery as discussed should include the plant’s reproduction. Dr. Swanson added that reproduction could occur either through seed or production of a new tiller. Mr. McCuin noted that Nevada grasses tend to be larger or healthier by tillering, but don’t increase in number or frequency. It is important to have both forms of reproduction.
Dr. Swanson noted his perception that there is less reproduction through seed production and more occurring by vegetative (tillering) reproduction on long-lived plants such as native bunchgrasses. Mr. Schultz noted that a properly managed bunchgrass can live for 40 to 60 years if not longer. It is not necessary to have new seed added every year to maintain a plant community. Under a typical grazing management approach (take half – leave half), seed stalks will be present every year assuming there is adequate moisture. Mr. Schultz does not see reproduction through seed versus tillering a major issue or concern on most rangelands today. If there is an extended drought, it might become more of a concern. Mr. Stauffer asked if Mr. Schultz was assuming there was optimal root health in the bunchgrass plants when making his statements. Mr. Schultz indicated that he was assuming the plant had an adequate amount of root mass.

4. What, if anything, would you change, add, or delete from GRI?
Mr. Voth liked the “division of labor” approach suggested by Mr. Stauffer earlier. GRI should be used as a management tool, which a person could modified as necessary to fit their specific situation, like what the Winecup-Gamble Ranch has done.
Mr. Schultz agreed GRI could be modified to fit the needs of the user. If more information is needed to properly interpret a management situation, GRI could be modified to reach that outcome. If you don’t need that, don’t make it any more complex than necessary.
Mr. Stauffer believes the tool is great and would echo the statements made by Mr. Voth and Mr. Schultz. Take the core of the process and modify it as necessary to fit your specific operation. Mr. Stauffer suggested developing a summary page that could be used to tell the story (i.e., summary page outlining results for the year and possible changes for the upcoming year, which could be presented to ranch hands and/or agency personnel).
Ms. Gentert indicated that the Winecup-Gamble Ranch is working to determine if GRI is a growing season tool (where the growing season is only 30 to 60 days), and, if so, how should the other 10 months of the year (dormant season grazing) should be incorporated or addressed, which has a different grazing strategy (as compared to grazing during the growing season). Dr. Swanson asked if the Winecup-Gamble Ranch was suggesting leaving GRI as is and developing a separate tool to address dormant season grazing. Ms. Gentert indicated that the Winecup-Gamble is proposing to modify GRI to fit their operation which will include dormant season grazing. It is unclear as to how dormant season grazing will be ranked in this system.
Mr. Coombs indicated that if GRI is to be a useful tool in Nevada. How the dormant grazing season will be addressed is important. It is possible for a pasture to receive a favorable GRI score for the growing season but be grazed severely during the dormant season. Mr. Voth suggested GRI be combined with a residual dry matter reading. Ms. Gentert suggested the dormant season grazing may already be considered because opportunity receives more weight as compared to intensity. Not grazing in the growing season would result in a positive score as compared to grazing more intensely than normal which would receive a negative score.
Mr. Schultz indicated that GRI is a growing season phenomenon. After the growing season, other parameters such residual stubble height, litter, etc., should be used. There should be different tools for different times of the year. Mr. Coombs asked if there might be a way to integrate different tools for addressing different times of the year. Mr. Schultz suggested reviewing the goals and objectives (e.g., 4-inch stubble height in riparian areas for a wildlife value) to identify the monitoring data needed to be collected to achieve that goal or objective for the dormant grazing season. Leave GRI as a growing season phenomenon. Not grazing during the dormant season does nothing for GRI so don’t try to incorporate dormant season grazing into GRI.
Ms. Gentert proposed a hypothetical scenario where a pasture is grazed during the dormant season, which would not receive a positive GRI opportunity ranking unless it went through a growing season for recovery before grazing were reintroduced. Mr. Schultz suggested the dormant season grazing was not relevant to GRI or understanding the grazing effect on the plant. GRI is focused on growing season plant physiology and its interaction with livestock. Ms. Gentert noted that if a pasture is grazed once every three years during the growing season, only three GRI data points would be collected over a 10-year period. From a GRI perspective, the pasture would have received two years of rest during a three-year period. Ms. Gentert asked what GRI score that pasture would receive during the two years of rest. Mr. Schultz indicated the pasture would receive the highest GRI score (+4).
Mr. Schultz suggested that applying GRI outside of the growing season would result in the same mistake made with utilization. Like GRI, utilization is a growing season phenomenon. During the dormant season, the concern is with the amount of residual vegetation. Post-growing (dormant) season is a residual vegetation phenomenon. Dr. Swanson noted an article published by Baily and Brown that indicated rotational grazing should not be a concern in desert pastures which, if stocked for season-long continuous grazing, the amount of use during the growing season is so small on average the plants that they should have time to regrow during the growing season. Dr. Swanson believes this type of thinking is what lead the agencies to have a “stocking rate” focus. In areas where there was insufficient fencing to implement a rotational grazing strategy, the agency’s focus was on “stocking rates”, which lead to the use of the term “over-grazing.” Over-grazing is now in the range management vocabulary, particularly when critics of the range profession see areas that are or appear to be used hard.
Mr. Coombs suggested that GRI works well for things it is designed to address; however, in desert rangeland systems, there is a need to address the dormant season grazing. Mr. Coombs provided an example where a livestock permit did not allow grazing during the growing season, so, under GRI, those areas would always receive a score of +4. Unfortunately, the area was heavily grazed during every dormant season. There needs to be a way to address this type of situation.
Mr. Coombs suggested that if GRI is used as a communication tool, it may also become a tool for policy. It was at this point it was determined that the discussion had taken another “rabbit trail” and was refocused to Question 4.
Mr. McCuin summarized that GRI is adequate as a growing season tool. There is a possibility of losing its effectiveness if GRI is expanded to include other parameters. The tool should be allowed to be modified or adapted to fit specific ranch needs if the basic principles of the tool are maintained.
Mr. Griggs agreed the GRI tool should not be modified and he would have to put additional thought behind today’s discussion associated with rest versus recovery discussion.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - I can’t think of anything. It does encompass everything I know of that’s important.

5. All of you have identified that mixing up the timing of grazing among years is a strategy used on your ranch. Would it be useful to have an index for this?
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - Yes, for sure I guess. This has made more of a difference on these places than anything. We have the opportunity to go to a 450 or 500 day recovery.
Mr. Voth asked if incorporating mixing up the timing of grazing among years would result with a higher GRI score.
Mr. Schultz suggested that the GRI scoring mechanism would have to be changed. Dr. Swanson noted if a pasture were grazed following rest-rotation grazing system (rested one year and used the next), the GRI rating during the rest year would be comparatively high as compared to the score received when the pasture was grazed during the growing season. If the pasture were grazed during different parts of the growing season, a different GRI rating would be received each year. Grazing the pasture at the same time every year should result in the same GRI rating.
Mr. Schultz suggested leaving the GRI tool as is and allow the livestock producer to determine the best grazing strategy for their operation.
Mr. Stauffer suggested placing some type of side comment by the score that would help the producer determine where and when the livestock grazed to ensure the same area is not grazed at the same time the following year. The side comment would not be part of the GRI score but something to be used in conjunction with the score.
One potential issue with using the side comment approach as suggested by Mr. Stauffer is how such information would be used when presenting GRI data to other parties such as land management agencies or Congress. If a producer took other actions that resulted in a positive GRI score, how to they receive the appropriate credit?
Mr. Stauffer provided a hypothetical scenario to identify another issue associated with mixing up the timing of grazing. If a riparian area is heavily used in Year 1, it will not receive additional use until the beginning of Year 3 (18 months) during which the plants would recover from the grazing use in Year 1. If a secondary party (e.g. the land management agency) were to view a riparian area shortly after the Year 1 grazing, they would be concerned. Unless the secondary party revisits the site prior to introduction of livestock at the beginning of Year 3, they will not be able to appreciate the recovery made by the plants during the 18-month recovery period.
Mr. Griggs indicated that it has been his experience over the past 10 years in working with groups is the tendency of most people is to focus on one picture or visit to a specific site such as the riparian area identified in Mr. Stauffer’s scenario above. Having a tool such as GRI that provides a broader (5 year) picture would be of value. Dr. Swanson asked if Mr. Griggs would like to have some of the points in the GRI 5-year score be for the rotation of the use period. Mr. Griggs replied with “no” indicating that he would like to maintain the GRI tool as presented. From Mr. Grigg’s standpoint, the critical time is the growing season. What is done during the dormant season is important and can be measured by other means (e.g., animal body condition). Mr. Griggs would like to keep GRI simple and focused on the important part of the year.
In addition to the growing season/dormant season issue, Dr. Swanson indicated there is also an early growing season/late growing season issue where plants respond differently to grazing. There are individuals using the early versus late growing season issue as parameters for livestock use, but it is not part of the GRI was presented. Dr. Swanson suggested GRI could be modified by adding another point where +1 would be awarded if the area were used during a different time of the year, -1 if the area is used at the same time of year as previously used, or 0 if the current grazing use is somewhat different that previous grazing use. Responding to Dr. Swanson’s suggestion, Mr. Schultz asked if an area was used the first two weeks of the growing season every year, would they receive a -1 score for that element despite the plants being able to recover over the remaining part of the growing season when there is no grazing. While some plants might be negatively impacted by grazing during that time of the year (first two weeks), Dr. Swanson noted that the importance of the early part of the grazing season may be over-emphasized and suggested plant growth made late in the growing season may be more important in terms of the plant’s carbohydrate storage.
Dr. Swanson asked a follow-up question if it would useful to have an additional index that could be used if part of the grazing strategy was to mix up the timing of grazing. Mr. McCuin stated Dr. Swanson’s follow-up question in a different manner – Is it useful to have everything indexed or should the approach be to utilize a limited number of useful indices in combination with generally accepted grazing principles. It is not possible to numerate every part of grazing because there is as much art to grazing management as there is science.
Mr. Griggs asked if this issue might be addressed to some extent in the GRI’s “opportunity” score. When asked to clarify his statement, Mr. Griggs indicated the “opportunity” score did not address mixing up of the timing of livestock grazing, but he did not need a score when using an area either during the early or late spring period. The “opportunity” score addresses the plant’s opportunity.
Mr. Coombs noted that the “opportunity” score also addresses a point raised by Ms. Gentert concerning how a pasture is used depends on when livestock are introduced to the pasture. By changing the timing of livestock use, we’re also changing the animal’s behavior. Dr. Swanson agreed that at different times of the year, livestock will use different parts of a pasture, consume different plants, and plants are doing different things at different times of the year. These changes can occur within a relatively short time period.
Mr. McCuin restressed that GRI is a growing season tool and use of pastures at different times of the year is not strictly a growing season phenomenon.
Mr. Schultz noted that any grazing operation will have a series of questions that it would like to have answered. The questions will be different for each operation. When a question is developed, one should ask is this important to know – does it matter.
Mr. Coombs asked if such an approach could be incorporated into the GRI template, which would allow each operator to consider the “opportunity” score based on the specifics and differences of each grazing operation. Mr. Coombs suggested the possibility of having a “wild card” box that would address site specific management concerns with local knowledge. Mr. McCuin asked if such an approach needed to be part of the GRI template or could it be a separate description of how GRI was used and other rationale for actions taken to meet the ranch’s goals and objectives. Mr. McCuin doesn’t believe everything needs to be numerated.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - In a grazing plan this is what we think about, when was it hit last, the size of the area, and the time of the year determine when we will move. We may not get a good score on frequency. The most critical things a grazing strategy must consider/answer/ respond to are change in the time of use, not being in there for long durations and ample rest periods are all important.
Dr. Swanson summarized that through the five workshops and the feedback received today, the primary message is “Don’t change GRI”. GRI is working and should not be made more complicated by adding other parameters. Dr. Swanson agreed with Mr. McCuin in terms of everything doesn’t need to be numerated but asked if there is anything else that might benefit from being indexed.
Mr. McCuin stated that many ranches are stockpiling feed for the next year, which is indirectly captured in the GRI process. Mr. Coombs suggested an interesting idea where part of the GRI score could capture consideration of local knowledge, which would require input from the producer. Mr. Coombs noted that this requirement could also be a double-edged sword.
Dr. Swanson indicated that during the peer review process for the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook a suggestion was made to incorporate a flow chart that points out that many sources of information inform rangeland managers about what they can and should accomplish (laws, policy, budgets, historic data and photos, assessments and inventories, ecological site descriptions, public issues and values, science, and lessons from monitoring). From this there is usually too much to address and so the focus should be on management priorities.
Priorities lead to development of resource objectives that are relevant to the management strategies being implemented. Resource objectives lead to long-term “effectiveness” monitoring; whereas, short-term “implementation” monitoring (e.g. utilization, season of use, etc.) is derived from management strategies.
Management strategies should identify what works (and doesn’t work) in accomplishing resource objectives. In lieu of a standard monitoring protocol, this approach encourages a cooperative permittee monitoring approach developed by the producer and the land management agency (if public lands are involved) that is tailored to accomplishing those strategies and objectives important to the local situation.
Both types of monitoring data (short- and long-term) are analyzed to determine the effectiveness of management and policy strategies as well as projects. Based on the results of analyzing the data, objectives, management strategies, and policies are adapted (modified) as needed.
Ms. Gentert stated that if GRI is only a growing season index, she believes it to be irrelevant. For one or two months of the year, the only way to manage is to vary livestock use of an area every year, which controls the amount of time for plant recovery. An index is not necessary to implement a management strategy that minimizes damage by varying the length of time for recovery. The larger, more important story is the year-long grazing management strategy that demonstrates how livestock are moved through pastures on an annual basis to off-set the impacts of growing season grazing the rest of the year with every pasture receiving a score. Years where an area receives growing season grazing will receive a lower score. Being able to severely over-graze an area during the dormant season while receiving a +4 GRI score completely invalidates the system. A good rangeland manager would not give themselves a +4 GRI score for severely over-grazing a pasture during the dormant season.
Mr. Griggs described a hypothetical scenario in which there are two pastures – one with a utilization level of 75 percent and a GRI score of +4; whereas, the second pasture has a utilization level of 50 percent and a GRI score of -1. Mr. Griggs asked Mr. Schultz why there was a difference. Mr. Schultz indicated that he would first need to understand the rancher’s goals and objectives.
In response to Mr. Griggs’ question, Mr. Schultz provided another hypothetical situation where during a wet year a riparian meadow grows grass that is four feet tall. Under the “take half/leave half” grazing strategy, two feet of grass remain after livestock have been removed from the meadow at the end of the growing season. Where management of sage grouse is the primary objective, leaving two feet of grass is not favorable. If, in the same scenario, the residual vegetation height is four to six inches translating to 80 or 90 percent utilization, the meadow is more useable by sage grouse.
Mr. Griggs noted that a pasture that is over-utilized and has an acceptable GRI score is a much different situation than a pasture that is over-utilized with a poor GRI score. Mr. McCuin indicated that if a pasture is over-grazed repeatedly over time (e.g. 6 years out of 10), there will be an adverse impact. Mr. Griggs indicated that with a positive GRI score, he recognizes that livestock were able to stay off the pasture during the growing season, however, the pasture was grazed harder than normal during the dormant season. He believes he would be able to utilize the pasture during the next growing season or the pasture could be used at some point in the future without an extended period of rest. Mr. Griggs indicated that is how he is using the GRI approach.
Mr. Schultz asked Mr. Griggs how he (Mr. Griggs) defined “over-utilization”. Mr. Griggs agreed that the term “over-utilization” is a subjective term. Mr. Schultz emphasized that it comes down to a person’s goals and objectives, what are the competing uses, etc. Using a native grass hay meadow scenario, Mr. Schultz noted that the meadows grow to seed maturity at which time they are harvested (hayed) to a residual height of four inches. Based on the utilization standard, the meadows are being over-utilized every year, which has been done for the past 80 years, and yet they are still productive. Mr. Griggs indicated that under that scenario, he would have a positive GRI score every year, which was the point he was trying to make. Timing of the utilization is important.
Mr. McCuin noted that in real life things always don’t go as planned. If things go wrong (e.g., over utilization or utilization at the wrong time from a plant’s physiological standpoint) every year, there is a problem with the grazing management strategy that must be addressed. Mr. Griggs agreed with Mr. McCuin. If a pasture is over-utilized and has a negative GRI score every year, the grazing management strategy is not working and should be changed.
Mr. McCuin indicated that he continually hears that the western sagebrush ecosystem is fragile, which he doesn’t believe is true. The western sagebrush ecosystem has been used hard for over 130 years. We believe we’re doing a better job now (as compared to the past) and we may have reached a threshold with fire and invasive species where we need to be paying more attention. Things can go wrong over the course of one or two years and the ecosystem is able to recover. Mr. Schultz referenced journals from the early 1800s that document bison severely over-grazing the plains in eastern Idaho during the winter year after year. Today, those plains remain very productive.
Ms. Gentert asked Mr. Griggs if he was using the GRI tool to ensure he is not repeating the same grazing pattern over and over. But, he is not intentionally using the tool to understand how he is doing based on monitoring data. He is using the tool as a planning tool looking forward, but not as feedback system looking back. Mr. Griggs indicated that he is using the GRI tool for both – looking forward as well as looking back.
Ms. Gentert suggested that stating grazing use during the dormant season doesn’t have an effect is over-simplifying the GRI process (intensity, frequency, and opportunity) because a person is setting up their grazing strategy for the next spring. If a person grazes a pasture in the fall, they probably will not graze the same pasture in the spring because there would not be any residual forage and there will be need for the plant to recover from the grazing. Even with a pasture in the dormant season, Ms. Gentert thinks about how many animals were in the pasture, how long were the animals in the pasture, and how much forage was utilized, etc. Ms. Gentert would like to be able to quantify that use even if it occurs during the dormant season.
Mr. Schultz suggested that livestock grazing during the dormant season is another tool to reach the objectives for that area during that part of the year. Mr. Schultz used his native hay scenario to make his point. If an area has two feet of residual vegetation where three or four inches is sufficient to meet management objectives. From an energy flow (physiology) perspective removing the excess forage is not negative. Mr. Schultz stressed that GRI is a growing season tool; whereas, there are other tools more suited or appropriate for the dormant season. It would be necessary to integrate the two types of tools to consider an entire operation, but it may not be necessary to blend the two tools into one.
Mr. Lossing indicated that in his mind he has been trying to blend the two tools together. The rancher needs to be out on the ground with the livestock, which plays into the fact that rangeland management is as much of an art as it is a science. He (Mr. Lossing) is trying to understand or develop a communication tool to use to educate people who are not out on the ground. Mr. Schultz suggested that there is not one tool but a need for a combination of tools, such as the riparian Multiple Indicator Monitoring protocol. Over the course of the year, it will take different tools each examining different parameters over time.
Mr. Griggs noted that a pasture typically gets one day of monitoring from the land management agency typically at the end of the grazing season, which may or may not tell what occurred during the growing season. What happened during the growing season is important to the producer when determining when a pasture can be used again.
Dr. Swanson brought the discussion back to his original question by summarizing that it is important to monitor the effectiveness of the plan or strategy and asking the question “In addition to GRI, are there any strategies that should be indexed?” Dr. Swanson noted that GRI created a simple score that could be used as a communication tool for things that are important. From this discussion, Dr. Swanson is hearing that there are other things that are equally important when the grass is not growing (dormant season). One of the things raised during the GRI workshops was to not graze in the same place at the same year after year. Is there a need for having a separate index for that? Is it important to have an index for utilization or residual dry matter for the dormant season use? Mr. Schultz did not believe an index for such information was necessary if the information is available from other sources. Mr. McCuin asked if it was necessary to have a number for everything. Mr. McCuin is supportive of GRI and suggested there may be other things that could be indexed but asked if we want or even need to do that.
Ms. Gentert suggested that as a communication tool having a number for some parameters would be useful. It was noted that often a range of numbers would be appropriate; rather than a single number. Mr. Voth indicated that he would prefer the people in the room develop other appropriate indices; rather than have someone else do it.
Dr. Swanson asked a follow-up question relating to rest (or too much rest). GRI as currently used does not associate an issue with complete rest or too many years of complete rest. Is preventing too much rest a strategy that should be included in an index or not? Mr. Schultz suggested that question is an operation-specific question.
Dr. Swanson asked the question in a slight different fashion – Is there too much rest in our country? In responding to the question, Mr. Lossing noted that ranches purchased by organizations such as The Nature Conservancy immediately came to his mind. Once purchased, livestock are typically removed. While livestock producers understand the need for some grazing to improve or maintain a plant’s health, this may not be known or understood by such organizations. Mr. Lossing wasn’t sure if this question should be part of the GRI process.
Mr. Griggs noted that for most Nevada ranches, too much rest works itself out. GRI could serve as a “wake up” call for some. Analyzing GRI scores by pasture allows the producer to see where there may be issues that need to be addressed. Mr. Coombs suggested that GRI might be completed at a higher scale (e.g., ranch) versus a pasture scale to get a true picture of an operation’s performance. Mr. Griggs did not necessarily agree that GRI should be completed at a higher (ranch) scale.
Mr. Schultz stressed the importance of analyzing GRI scores over the short- and long-term. In any one year, a pasture may have a lower score, but, over time, the pasture may be used appropriately for vegetative growth. A pasture with three or four years of +4 GRI score could be also be viewed as missed opportunities. From a climatic perspective, Mr. Schultz suggested the three wet years in the early 1980s may not have necessarily been a good thing. Such years are as much of a disturbance in an arid environment as an extreme drought. Dr. Swanson noted that immediately following periods of above normal moisture (wet years), northern Nevada has experienced years of high wildfire activity (i.e., 1985, 1995, 2012).
Dr. Swanson again asked if there was a mechanism (e.g. numerical rating, index, etc.) to document if too much rest, increased litter accumulation and cheatgrass results in extreme fire danger. Mr. Schultz indicated that Dr. Swanson’s statement may be true in some areas but suggested the primary issue may be too much sagebrush; rather than too much rest. In defense of his statement, Mr. Schultz referenced sagebrush dominated areas that once burned resulted in bunchgrass communities post fire. It may not be a rest issue but a vegetative structure issue.
From a grazing management standpoint across Nevada, the simple message that resonates with Dr. Swanson is that GRI is telling rangeland managers that livestock need to be moved more often. Movement of animals shortens the period of use, which results in better “frequency” and “opportunity” scores that result in better plant health. Another part of the management situation is the federal agency’s perception that the issue is over grazing, which has resulted in a reduction of grazing preference (animal unit months) that led to increased rest, fuels, and fire. Dr. Swanson suggested the answer lies not only in more grazing but in management structured toward goals and objectives that include less rest, less residual fine fuels, more strategic placement of fuel breaks, etc. GRI could serve as the tool to communicate that issue and strategy.
Mr. Schultz suggested the issue of too much rest is the wrong message to send. Instead, the message should address needed versus unneeded rest; rather than too much rest. Mr. Schultz noted that some level of recovery is needed for plants to recover from growing season grazing. Any rest above what is needed for recovery is unnecessary. The focus of the message should be placed on the needs of the plant.
Ms. Gentert noted that the Winecup-Gamble Ranch uses too much rest as an emergency fund. In a dry year when sufficient precipitation is not received for plant growth, pastures that have been rested can be used to meet the animal’s forage needs. The value of the forage may not be very high and require supplements, but the ranch would not need to sell livestock. There is a fine line managing to prevent fire and managing forage for emergency situations.
Mr. Schultz noted that there is rest that is necessary from a (1) plant health perspective and (2) operational perspective as described by Ms. Gentert. Ranching and grazing management comes with risk and management of that risk, which is different for each operation. Dr. Swanson asked if the Winecup-Gamble operation had a strategy for separating locations of stockpiled forage to prevent them from being consumed by fire. Ms. Gentert noted that currently the pastures with stockpiled forage are together for logistical reasons.
Mr. Stauffer noted that they use sheep to develop fire breaks. Each operation has opportunities for such practices if there is flexibility in the grazing operation. Dr. Swanson noted that he received an e-mail from Mr. Greg Simmonds suggesting a major issue on the Humboldt Ranch was the amount of rest resulting in the accumulation of fine fuels. Mr. Stauffer acknowledged the amount of fuels that are available despite the ranch’s effort to reduce such fuels by various means.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - Continued rest in one pasture would be foolish. It Would break everybody. Too much rest is a problem, not a problem here, but a problem on other ranches.
Dr. Swanson indicated that he began this conversation addressing other indices based on feedback from colleagues indicating that GRI wasn’t applicable everywhere and perhaps other indices could capture the power of the communication tool. Based on the conversation today, Dr. Swanson is hearing that there isn’t need for numerical indices for other important parameters.
Mr. Foster noted that the group discussed GRI but had not addressed the continued need for monitoring. Mr. Foster believes monitoring is important if not only to support GRI scores. Continued monitoring would address areas or parameters that are not addressed by GRI.
Mr. Stauffer noted that he appreciated the color maps discussed during the Humboldt Ranch GRI workshop. A single number may not necessarily mean something to someone who doesn’t understand the GRI concept. Whereas, the colored map is a visual display of where livestock were at different times of the year and serves as a powerful communication tool. A sample of the colored map was passed around the room.
Dr. Swanson summarized that the amount of rest was a topic of discussion at both the Humboldt Ranch and Winecup-Gamble Ranch GRI workshops. Growing season recovery is important because it is the only time when plants are actively growing. Not grazing a pasture for an entire year or longer results in extensive rest, which raises the question of too much rest. Recognition was given to the importance of stockpiling forage for drought years without having to either buy extra feed or sell animals. However, there is the issue of excessive fuels, which needs to be balanced with the operational needs of the ranch.
Mr. McCuin noted that there isn’t a broad brush that can be used to paint over all issues. Mr. Griggs suggested grazing to minimize or eliminate fine fuels is difficult because livestock are not selective consumers. When grazing cheatgrass early in the year, more desirable plants are also consumed. Using livestock to create fuel breaks may be a more constructive conversation concerning fire as compared to discussing over rest and under cows.
Mr. McCuin indicated that in other areas of the state, the issue is the amount of brush which is impacting the amount of grass available in the understory. Fire in these areas may result in more cheatgrass, but right now there is a need for less brush and more grass.

6. Are there any barriers to implementing your ideal management strategy or GRI on your operation?
Mr. Voth indicated that one barrier is getting buy-in from above and below. From below, it is hard to get people interested in managing at that level.
Mr. Schultz thought one barrier would be water distribution, which is an issue for every operation.
Mr. Stauffer has heard that government agency policies and regulations that limit flexibility could be a barrier to implementation of management strategies. In addition, there are personality challenges (apathy, no desire) that must be overcome.
Ms. Gentert thought having enough production on the ground to justify the cost of infrastructure (fencing, water, personnel, stockmanship, etc.) in an arid landscape might be a barrier. It is hard to justify those inputs in an arid landscape because they are not necessarily protecting or enhancing much. Even with those inputs, there may not be sufficient forage, which is hard to make the inputs pay off economically or emotionally for such little return.
The size of an operation spatially may limit opportunities for management flexibility.
Mr. Coombs indicated that GRI will provide a tool to demonstrate accountability for implementing flexibility and improving rangelands. Barriers are relevant depending on how much energy a person wants to expend in achieving them. One person’s barrier may be another person’s opportunity. Barriers are not always a bad thing.
Mr. Lossing thought that issues in the Carson City BLM District were more attributed to agency regulations and policies than personalities. Examples cited were wild horses and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Dr. Swanson noted that NEPA is not effective in stopping wrong actions as it is a process driven law. Because of the process, things cannot get done timely, which prevents changes from occurring or, at least occurring in a timely manner.
In addition to the barriers raised by others, Mr. McCuin suggested operational logistics (money, attitudes, etc.) will also be a barrier.
Mr Molsby commented on 6/12 - The forest permit has required us to use the old strategy because of lack of paperwork to do the grazing that we know works better. This has crippled the rest of the ranch. We have to be up there during the hot season. When everything was at its best, for the range and the cow herd, half was hot season use and half was use after weaning in October. in November some years, we hardly used it and it was good thing for the range and economically it was OK for the ranch.

7. If you were to use the GRI or some other similar index for rating the management in a given year, what is the best size land unit to apply it to on your ranch?
Mr. Griggs indicated that within the model used for the Maggie Creek Ranch the size of the unit was a pasture. There was movement of cattle within the pasture, but the overall score of the pasture helped him make the decision to use the pasture again the following year.
Mr. Schultz didn’t think there was a right answer to the question.
Mr. Coombs thought the size of the unit should be based on a management unit, which he defined as a pasture. To gain as much information as possible, Mr. Coombs thought GRI should be completed over an entire operation to compare the outputs (numbers) from year to year, which would demonstrate the variability of livestock movement and use without having a negative score in a pasture every year. Mr. Coombs clarified his approach as having an individual GRI score for each pasture, which are analyzed from an operational standpoint, like is done with the color coding maps at the Humboldt Ranch.
Dr. Swanson described the process used at the Smith Creek Ranch where Google Earth was used to draw polygons around parts of one fenced pasture.
Mr. Lossing indicated that it depends on the ranch. Some might use natural boundaries, which may create natural use areas within a pasture. In this example, if a single GRI score would have been prepared for the larger pasture, it would have been lower as compared to preparing a single GRI score for each separate use area.
Dr. Swanson went on to describe the situation where some pastures are too small to have separate use areas; whereas, like the Smith Creek Ranch, there are pastures containing several natural use areas. Dr. Swanson asked how large of tract of land on average should be considered. Mr. McCuin suggested the “average” size is whatever is meaningful to the operator and his operation, which will vary from ranch to ranch.
Dr. Swanson indicated that getting to a standard answer to his question would be a mistake, but he was curious what they thought when the question was asked. Mr. Lossing thought the answer would vary on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Griggs indicated that if you were using this as a tool to speak to your agency Rangeland Management Specialist, the answer would be the allotment. The agency does not differentiate below the allotment level.
Ms. Gentert noted that on the Winecup-Gamble Ranch a pasture can be subdivided (by natural barriers) into different use areas, but they cannot guarantee the livestock are only in one area at each time. There is too much movement between different use areas. She believes it would be a stretch to score the different use area individually as they do not have that much control of the livestock. Dr. Swanson noted that during the Winecup-Gamble Ranch GRI workshop, he regretted not having completed a GRI score for two other use areas of that pasture. While it is unknown if a different GRI score would have been developed, he suspects the scores would have been different for several reasons – (1) differences in utilization, (2) differences in plant communities, (3) differences in growing seasons, and (4) differences when the animals grazed the use area.
Dr. Swanson noted that as the size of the unit decreases, the GRI score typically increases. Dr. Swanson asked if there was anything about scale that comes to mind.
Mr. Stauffer believes it comes down to being on the range observing what the cows are doing and asking yourself “why are the cows doing what they’re doing?” and asking if there is anything else you might consider doing (additional water, fencing, etc.) to make the land size more functional for your operation to meet your goals and objectives.
Mr Molsby commented on 6/12 - Ours is the individual pastures 12-14 on BLM, on 15,000 acres.

8. Part of the motivation for this WSARE GRI conversation is an observation that at least for riparian areas, or pastures with riparian areas, the movement of livestock is very common in examples of success. What tools that facilitate movement of animals (and cleaned pastures or use areas) would be most useful to teach or facilitate by rangeland educators or management agencies? (water development, supplementation strategies, stockmanship, fencing technologies)?
Dr. Swanson asked if the next round of range management schools should be focused on how to help ranchers with “livestock movement” tools.
Mr. Voth suggested stockmanship should be addressed in the next round of range management schools. Stockmanship allows the producer to create and get to new use areas.
Mr. Schultz suggested that the Extension Service can teach the basic concepts of plant growth, but the permittees know the specifics of accomplishing livestock movement that better than anyone. Personally, Mr. Schultz would not feel comfortable teaching movement of animals.
Mr. McCuin doesn’t believe we should tell the producer how to do it. It is possible to suggest different tools, but it will be up to each individual operator to determine what works for them.
Mr. Schultz suggested that there are many different factors that go into a decision that he personally does not have knowledge to address. It is possible to suggest the general needs of the plants, stockmanship, use of supplements, etc.; however, beyond the basic concepts, the producer will need to determine what would fit their operation from a cost perspective, personnel, animal management goals, etc. Mr. Schultz believes he would lose whatever reputation and integrity he has today by trying to go down that road. Mr. Schutz would be willing to make the producers aware of various tools, but that is as far as he would be willing to go.
Mr. Stauffer agreed with Mr. Schultz’s approach. Mr. Stauffer noted a comment that he has heard across the country that the producer’s biggest strength is also their largest weakness, which is the independent nature of individual ranchers. Everyone will have their own thoughts about how to get something done. Mr. Stauffer agreed that tools should be identified but it will be up to the rancher to choose which tools work for their operation. Mr. Stauffer indicated that he likes the stockmanship tool but there is a labor and money issue associated with stockmanship.
Mr. Lossing thought the Cooperative Extension avenue is the proper avenue for identifying and teaching options or tools. It is important that producers as well as agency people understand the various options available. Mr. Lossing indicated that stockmanship allows him to be out with his livestock, understand their body condition score, etc.
Mr Molsby commented on 6/12 - Working to improving rangelands comes back to the producer. It ought to be self-inducing. The range and the animals are hand in hand. I wish everyone understood We all have the same goal. We don’t often get this win-win in life in general, but we get it here.
Dr. Swanson asked if there are some tools currently available that they would like to learn more about. Mr. Griggs indicated that it would be more useful to say, “we’re out here on your land; this is the potential of your land; and then come to an understanding of what the producer is trying to achieve”. In other words, are we working toward the full potential of the land or is there a working aspect of that potential that meets our needs? From that understanding, the next step would be to determine if you’re at that full potential or working aspect of the potential. If we’re not where we would like to be, that would be the time to introduce different tools or things that need to be changed to move toward the point where you want to be. Mr. Griggs used the Susie Creek model where there is a desire to change the hot season grazing. From that goal, you can begin discussing different tools available. It is important to proceed through those steps before you can begin discussing various tools. Mr. Griggs did not see value in discussing stockmanship if you don’t understand why you’re trying to do something on the creek.
Mr. Coombs agreed with Mr. Griggs as that is where he (Mr. Coombs) sees many ranching operations to be. Many operations continue to do the same thing that their fathers and/or grandfathers did. If all they’ve seen is the current condition of a riparian area, they might not understand that it could be something different. People typically want to do the right thing, but they first need to understand the potential of the land.
Mr. Molsby commented on 6/12 - Supplement is important, but most people know it. You can pull cows a long way. Water developments too. Cows will hit the creeks and having a water source somewhere else cows will go there to get good feed. After that it will come to a frequency problem on the creek.
Dr. Swanson paraphrased Mr. Griggs approach by stating “in the past, Extension has been teaching about how plants grow, which is fine; however, if something were to be included, it might be a discussion on learning what their land is capable of producing”. Mr. Griggs provided a real-life example where a neighbor told him that someone asked him (the neighbor) “why don’t you do what Jon did on Susie Creek?” The neighbor’s response was that his creek is just a small stream and doesn’t compare to Susie Creek. Mr. Griggs thought to himself (but didn’t tell his friend) that when he (Mr. Griggs) first saw Susie Creek for the first time, it was a small stream that dried up at certain times of the year. It obviously didn’t work for someone to tell his friend to do what Jon had done. Instead of telling someone to do what someone else did, it might have been more effective to follow the steps outlined earlier by Mr. Griggs. If his friend could have understood the potential of his stream, he might have been more interested or inclined to make the necessary changes.
From today’s conversation, Dr. Swanson believed there has been agreement about how plants grow and that the GRI is a tool addressing how to manage in relation to how plants grow. To do that across large landscapes will require more movement of livestock that will shorten the use period and lengthen the recovery period.
Dr. Swanson again asked what are the tools that would help producers recognize that this is not an impossible task, but a task for which there is a toolbox with tools that they know enough about to evaluate tradeoffs and chose the tools that work for their operation.
Mr. Griggs indicated that in this meeting, Dr. Swanson is “preaching to the choir”. If the people in the room are not implementing the tools, they at least know about the tools. Mr. Griggs believes the people who are not aware of the various tools are the same people who don’t know the potential of the land they own or manage.
Mr. Schultz asked if we might be confusing (1) movement among units and (2) distribution within units. Mr. Schultz believes it isn’t a problem with movement among units but a problem of distribution within a unit. Dr. Swanson agreed that distribution is an issue, which has been addressed in an article Dr. Swanson published with a couple colleagues. GRI suggests that within larger pastures, it may be more of an issue of using different parts of the pasture at different times, which addresses distribution but also shortens the use period, improves frequency, and improves opportunity for plant recovery.
Mr. McCuin indicated that he understands Dr. Swanson’s position in terms of moving livestock and agrees up to a point. Mr. McCuin indicated that when there are a limited number of people (two) on a ranch to perform the necessary work, there just isn’t enough manpower to provide the stockmanship required to frequently move livestock. Mr. McCuin agreed with Mr. Griggs statement that the best we can do is help a producer understand what things could look like (potential), but to achieve that potential one must have the flexibility as well as the financial and human resources, which isn’t always the case.
Dr. Swanson believes there is value in having knowledge of the tools that could help a producer reach their goals and objectives and the role of Cooperative Extension is about providing the next piece of information that our colleagues need to reach their objectives.
Mr. McCuin suggested that Dr. Swanson’s approach assumed that ranchers are not knowledgeable of various tools, which might not be the case. Certainly, there are some tools or knowledge with which they could use some help, but, we need to be careful not to assume they are not knowledgeable. There might be situations where the producer is knowledgeable, but he may need help in educating the agency Rangeland Management Specialist or a ranch owner about the various tools available.
Mr. Schultz suggested an alternative way of looking at the situation was to understand that every place has its optimum as well as a minimum. The question to be asked is “what is the best reality that we can achieve between the optimum and minimum and what would it take to achieve that?” Very few ranches as well as the federal government can reach the optimum and most operations want to do something better than the minimum. Somewhere between those two extremes is what will work best for everyone involved. There almost never is just one way to reach a result.
Dr. Swanson suggested that where there is opportunity to get to “better”, the next best investment will be the one that pays the most money for that next marginal dollar spent. You spend a dollar and you receive the best return on that dollar. The benefit received from a dollar spent will vary by operation. From each person’s collective wisdom, knowing their own ranch as well as the tours and other ranches that they’ve been on, what are the things that best connect with the expenditure of the next dollar across the community of people we’re trying to reach, which includes the federal agencies? Dr. Swanson likes the idea of everyone being in the same class together, ranchers and agency people teaching a class as well as being in the audience.
Mr. Coombs indicated that today’s discussion made him think about the pathway followed at the Smith Creek Ranch to the point where Mr. Lossing is today. In 1997, when Mr. Coombs began with Smith Creek Ranch, the ranch was in poor condition and close to losing approximately half of their federal grazing preference. With the loss of the federal preference, the ranch would not have been financially solvent. Looking back, Mr. Coombs recognized there were a suite of tools that were used to keep livestock off riparian areas and in the uplands. Despite that success, Mr. Coombs does not believe the right approach is to have ranchers telling other ranchers how to do things. There might be 10 ways of doing something, 8 of which will work just fine. Mr. Coombs suggested informing producers that GRI is a tool that will help them understand and/or communicate why you are where you are. And, with GRI, if you want to make some livestock grazing or policy changes, here are some options where Cooperative Extension can be of assistance.
Mr. McCuin stressed the importance of developing a working relationship with the federal land management agency personnel (Rangeland Management Specialist) to demonstrate that you’re interested in doing what’s best for the land as well as outlining the tools you believe would be successful.
Dr. Swanson suggested spending time on horseback is a good investment of time and money. Mr. Coombs summarized that since the end of World War II, the United States has changed from an agrarian society to a mechanized society. The basic business model of most ranches today is based around limited manpower and when it’s time to buy hay, everyone is devoted to that job. Mr. Coombs suggested that if we are ranchers, our priority is cows. If we’re hay farmers, our priority is hay. Mr. Coombs appeared to be stressing that it is not our place to tell producers what or how to do their business.
Mr. Schultz noted that regardless of the industry, there is a basic question – What do I need to do today to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday? Tomorrow needs to be economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially acceptable.
As you answer those questions, a person will gain the best learning and most knowledge to address the issue at hand.
Mr. Griggs suggested that to accomplish Mr. Schultz’s statement, everyone involved must be on the same page in terms what is best and/or what is environmentally sound.

9. Given the economic, environmental, and social context of today, how much should stockmanship (introduction, more knowledge about it, any knowledge about it, etc.) be a part of the curriculum for the range management school?
Mr. Foster indicated that the first step needs to be selling the idea to the ranchers. Based on his experience, for ranchers or farmers to adopt a new practice that practice must either make or save them money and/or time or make the job easier. As suggested by others, Mr. Foster supports development of modules for the range management school. A general module could be GRI addressing movement of livestock within use areas and suggesting different tools to accomplish that goal. Mr. Foster wouldn’t recommend taking the discussion any further than suggesting different tools. There might be opportunity to develop a module about different tools, which could be present if the opportunity presented itself.
Mr. Coombs suggested stockmanship could be an optional module that could be addressed if there is a demand for it. He would take it off the table in terms of the curriculum. Mr. Lossing suggested introducing all tools and wait for feedback to determine where there is interest.
Mr. McCuin suggested that the quickest way to get run off a ranch is to tell someone that they need to do better stockmanship. Another “non-starter” in terms of approaching ranchers is to present a template ranch and suggest their ranch should be run like the template. Putting the producer in an uncomfortable position, which takes them out of the picture is not a good approach. Dr. Swanson used the Gund Ranch experience as the example. Even though it was stated that the approach taken at the Gund Ranch won’t work everywhere, the agencies began to say everyone should do it that way.
Mr. Schultz suggested that the mission of the Cooperative Extension (To teach community-based, research-focused education) should be kept in mind. While we understand and recognize stockmanship as a good thing, we are not in the position to teach it. Stockmanship is a learned practice; rather than research-based. It is an artform. Stockmanship would be more readily accepted if presented by ranchers or the Farm Bureau; rather than Cooperative Extension in the range management school. It would be appropriate for Cooperative Extension to identify stockmanship as a possible tool available to the producer but teaching it would be outside of Cooperative Extension’s mission. Mr. Griggs suggested stockmanship should be viewed as continuing education.

10. Dr. Swanson noted that before a ranch management plan can be developed, a water management plan should be developed. Should water development or water development management/maintenance be part of the curriculum?

Given the politics surrounding water rights, Mr. McCuin believes the policy issues need to be resolved.
Mr. Schultz asked what would be the research-based education that could be taught concerning water or water management. Everyone knows water is important and affects livestock distribution. Dr. Swanson indicated that there is research on the amount of water needed by calves to be optimally productive. In addition, there is research as to the distance livestock will travel to water, which has not been accepted by some in the profession.
There is a concept embedded within GRI addressing how plants grow. To affect that concept on the ground, more animals use smaller areas for a shorter period before moving to another area. Before such a system is implement, water must be available. Mr. Schultz agreed that water is necessary to control animals. Dr. Swanson noted that there are different types of water sources and issues surrounding hydrology (ground water hydrology, surface water hydrology, riparian ecology and management, issues with water development affecting fish habitat, etc). There is science surrounding the questions between water and animals and impacts of water development methods. In addition, there are new products available.
Mr. Coombs believes addressing water as part of the range management curriculum is like stockmanship. While there is science behind the benefits and technology of developing water, there is another side of the coin involving project planning, obtaining agency/state approvals, and implementation of water projects.
There was a “rabbit trail” discussion addressing the effect of canopy cover on the amount of available water (rainfall reaching the ground, snowfall accumulation, etc.)
As most recognize, rangeland management is as much an art form as it is science. Dr. Swanson noted that rangeland management will always be an art based on partial science. There is far more science than any one person can understand or comprehend but there is not enough science to address all decisions that must be made by rangeland managers. Integrating science and art is scholarship, which is also part of the rangeland management equation. It cannot just be science-based knowledge.
Mr. Coombs indicated that the producer is uniquely qualified to be the scholar for their specific area (e.g., Jon Griggs for Maggie Creek Ranch, Sam Lossing for Smith Creek Ranch, etc.) because they know and understand their ranch better than anyone else.

11. How much should supplementation as a tool for influencing animal distribution and movement be a part of the curriculum for the range management school?
Mr. Coombs suggested the exact same conversation that occurred for water development could apply to the use of supplementation. Some ranches need to supplement while others do not. The producer on the ground is uniquely qualified to make those decisions. It was noted that placement of supplementation should be both strategic in location as well as timing of placement.
It was suggested use and placement of supplementation could be a short (15-minute) module.

12. How much should fencing technology be part of the curriculum for the range management school?
Mr. Griggs noted that fencing has worked for the Maggie Creek Ranch and is one of their most used tools. With that having been said, Mr. Griggs felt that fencing has been used too much as a crutch. Typically, fences located right on the green line of a riparian zone fail. Fencing is just another tool, not a panacea. The best fence keeps a cow from going where she didn’t want to go to begin with.
What are the top messages people need to hear about fence use and misuse? Mr. Coombs suggested taking the word “exclosure” out of our vocabulary and begin thinking in terms of riparian pastures, which are large enough to work.

13. If range/ranch people knew it, what would help them tune up their management to get better plant growth?
Mr. Griggs indicated that knowing the range’s potential would be the answer. The example provided by Mr. Griggs was a person who spent their whole life as well as the life of their parents in a cheatgrass dominated rangeland would not know or understand the potential of that land.
Mr. McCuin asked if the Ecological Site Description (ESD) workshops are meeting the need to understand the potential of a site. Mr. Griggs did not think the ESD workshops were meeting that need. One reason provided was the inability to understand the ESD concept in a short period of time and, to a limited extent, how it is presented. Just having an ESD is a start to understanding a site’s potential, but if a threshold has been crossed, the ESD might be irrelevant.
Mr. Griggs provided a hypothetical scenario of a conversation that might be helpful in addressing site potential.
“A producer is sitting at a table with their agency Rangeland Management Specialist and have reached an impasse in their discussion. In walks a Cooperative Extension person who is trusted by both the producer and agency person who indicates the potential of the site is X. We know that if you could do Y with your cows, we would get closer to X.”
Mr. Griggs indicated that the producer has the “hammer” (agency Rangeland Management Specialist) sitting across from him and there is a trusted individual in the room offering suggested changes (tools) that might help reach a positive outcome. Mr. Lossing added that the trusted individual would have to be careful not to say, “you need to do what this rancher did”, but if the producer could see and understand how a tool has worked in other situations, that would be helpful.
Dr. Swanson noted that if examples of where tools have made a difference and been feasible (economically, socially, and environmentally) were available, they could be used as a “opener” or “ice breaker” to understanding and/or exploring opportunities. Mr. Griggs indicated that using “before” and “after” photographs have been a powerful communication tool to demonstrate successful implementation of a tool, especially when the “before” picture is the same (or similar) to what the producer observes every day. Dr. Swanson added that use of “before” and “after” pictures is very effective when addressing riparian environments, but has been less effective for upland environments, which either don’t respond or respond very slowly.

14. In a follow-up question, Dr. Swanson asked if it would be useful in the range management school setting to use the following scenario:
“This piece of country has crossed an ecological threshold and we couldn’t make a cost-effective investment. However, we did invest in this other piece of country that was “at-risk” and had cost—effective opportunities that would make a difference.”
Mr. Griggs thought such an approach might work.
Mr. Stauffer thought that showing the economic value (higher weaning weights, run more livestock, etc.) resulting from better plant growth would be an incentive for a producer. Mr. Stauffer noted that there appears to be two target audiences – producers and government agencies. Creating a communication channel between those two parties is important. With the range management schools focusing principally on the producer, the producer will be in a better position to open a dialogue with the federal agency personnel.
Mr. Lossing noted that the average agency Rangeland Management Specialist doesn’t seem to understand that the producer must make a living from running livestock. With agency personnel attending the range management schools, it is important to emphasize that the producer must make a living while using the public lands. If the economics don’t work for the producer, they can’t make a living. The range management schools can incentivize the producer but must also make the agency people aware that the producer must make a living.
Mr. Schultz believes there is a more basic upfront question that must be addressed – for the most part, producers are doing most things correctly most of the time. Getting better plant growth may not involve the producer doing something different or better. In an 8 to 10-inch prescription zone with 22 percent sagebrush cover, it doesn’t matter what the producer does, you won’t get better plant growth. Something must be done to reduce the sagebrush cover.
In response to Mr. Schultz’s 22 percent sagebrush cover scenario, Dr. Swanson asked a follow-up question if there are other problems/issues that could be addressed to help the producer and/or agency personnel. Mr. McCuin indicated that it depends on the site potential as stressed by Mr. Griggs. In some areas with 22 percent sagebrush cover, ideally there should only be 10 percent cover which would allow for more perennial herbaceous and forbs. Just changing the grazing pattern won’t change the amount of brush. Something different would have to be done.
Based on Mr. McCuin’s comments, Mr. Coombs thought the State and Transition (S&T) models would be valuable in understanding a site’s potential. Using a combination of approaches (ESDs, “before” and “after” photographs, S&T models, etc.) to understand how potential applies in different areas. One of the major benefits derived from S&T models is the understanding that some tools or grazing management changes may not impact or affect a site. It’s not all about grazing management.
Dr. Swanson summarized his thoughts from this discussion. On one side of the coin there is a need for active vegetation management while on the other side of the coin is there is a thought that rest rotation (or deferred rotation) grazing management shortens periods of grazing to match the growing season. How much rangeland is still managed where grazing is an issue; not because of intentional mismanagement, but because we’ve been wrong? Perhaps future range management schools should address both issues – active vegetation management and grazing management. Active vegetation management hasn’t been addressed in past range management schools. There may be opportunity to discuss the suite of tools necessary to move between different phases in the S&T model.
Mr. Lossing described a recent conversation he had with an agency Wildlife Biologist about a mature decadent stand of sagebrush. Mr. Lossing asked if livestock had been removed from that area for 100 years, would the desirable herbaceous community (for sage grouse management) become established. The response was “no”. It was at that point, discussion of other tools that could make a difference in minimizing the mature sagebrush environment that would have been appropriate.
Mr. McCuin indicated that the question comes back to what ecological condition we want the country to be in. To date, we’ve focused on proper utilization when addressing movement of livestock; rather than focusing on the ecological condition and how can it be economically achieved. Livestock grazing is only one tool, but there are other tools outside of the producers control that may be necessary to affect change. The academic community has been set on late seral stage for so long that it is believed that the late seral stage is the end goal. The key question is what ecological condition is appropriate or best for multiple use management.

15. Dr. Swanson asked if grazing management should be put in the context of being one of many tools that should be used to achieve the objectives for the rangeland. Managing livestock properly needs to be part of the solution, but it will never solve all ecological issues.
Dr. Swanson described an experiment on the Cottonwood Ranch to teach cows how to eat sagebrush, which Dr. Swanson thought would be an exciting opportunity if successful. Cows could be used as a tool to reduce areas of heavily infested sagebrush while providing livestock with high protein forage during the winter. There is awareness that a tool is available, but we haven’t developed the tool well enough to apply it.
Mr. Stauffer noted that Derek Baily will be visiting the Humboldt Ranch to begin research on cattle that will graze steeper slopes for which the hypothesis is related to DNA.
16. How much should animal genetics, kind and class of livestock, animal selection and culling in terms of animal movement be a part of the curriculum for the range management school?
Mr. Shultz indicated that such an approach addresses finer management practices that may not be successful over time in today’s fluid environment. Mr. Griggs thought that if the question was approached from a genetics standpoint, it might be valuable; however, from a culling standpoint, he doesn’t have the luxury of culling for anything other than livestock who don’t produce.
Mr. Stauffer noted that the percentage of producers or operations where such an approach would be practical might be relatively small. Approaching the question from a genetic standpoint, an operation would be producing for a trait; rather than culling.
Mr. Coombs didn’t think such an approach would be feasible due to the vertical structure of the beef supply chain. If a producer takes a chance based on genetics, there is potential of losing when selling the calves. Rather than include it as a component of the range management school, it is something that must be decided on by the individual producer.
Mr. McCuin indicated that matching the livestock production cycle to the production cycle of the plant and the nutrition of the rangeland might be a more feasible approach. Being able to match the livestock production cycle with the plant’s nutritional cycle would be a major achievement, but very difficult to sell to the producer.
17. Dr. Swanson asked if there was value in continuing to push the need to match the livestock production cycle to the plant’s nutritional cycle?
To which Mr. Lossing suggested making a connection to the economic benefit would be a more productive approach.

18. If the range community knew it, what would help them to produce a better animal? What animal production subjects are important to teach?
Mr. McCuin suggested “acre versus production per acre”. Other ideas raised included lowering input while increasing production and running smaller cows allows a producer to run more cows, which, in turn, relates to selling more calves.

19. If ranchers knew it, what would help them be better business people?
Mr. Foster indicated that there are schools that teach how to be a profitable rancher. Mr. Foster didn’t believe some of the avenues being taught in those schools were sustainable over the long term. There may be a need to develop a balance between the economics and environmental needs. From a production and economic standpoint, it would be important to address the reality that agriculture operations especially ranching operations are a long-term proposition. The financial returns are not great but relate more to consistent returns over time.
Mr. Voth noted that when working with native rangelands, maintaining an ecologically sustainable rangeland is a long-term economic effort.
Mr. Coombs believes there is value in reminding people that society is reaching a point where there may be payment for ecological services (good stewardship which has a benefit to society.) Ranchers understand the values they provide to society; however, society may not recognize those benefits.

20. If there is the ideal mixed audience (ranchers and agency personnel), what is it that if we taught it, that would help agencies not be stupid and get in our way?
Mr. Stauffer suggested teaching federal agency employees about ranching. Mr. McCuin suggested modules for ranchers and well as modules for agency personnel about ranching (what livestock eat, the notion that cows need to be somewhere throughout the year, and that ranchers need to make a living) and that grazing is a tool.
Dr. Swanson noted that it is his perception that ranchers and agency personnel like to learn from ranchers. Ranchers are people that have made it work and have stories to tell about real on-the-ground long-term stories.
21. What is it that you would be willing to share as a story or message with the ideal mixed audience?
Mr. Foster suggested a rancher panel towards the end of the range management school to share ideas, explain things, share stories, etc.
Mr. Coombs suggested modifying the curriculum to allow producers to teach a module or something like GRI would be beneficial. There is value in peer-to-peer instruction. The range management school could serve as a forum for exchanging ideas and/or experiences (like the Producer’s Forum at Nevada Cattlemen’s Association meetings).
Mr. McCuin suggested picking a BLM district office annually to conduct a one-day Ranching 101 workshop where the predominance of teaching is completed by producers. The challenge will be determining the curriculum for the workshop. Mr. Lossing noted that he would not be passionate about teaching GRI but addressing an issue that they faced on the ranch explaining how it was successfully addressed, etc., would be possible.
Another possible approach for the Ranching 101 workshop would be to have a producer and an agency person address how they came together to successfully resolve an issue. The producer could address how it was implemented on the ground while the agency person could address how the paperwork and support was completed in the office.
Mr. McCuin indicated that most agency people don’t understand what is involved in the yearly cycle of a ranch. If agency personnel understood what needed to be done on a ranch throughout the year, they might better understand why something can (or can’t) be done exactly when the agency wants it done. Conversely, Mr. McCuin suggested the producers should understand what agency personnel face to get something approved or what they experience over the course of a year. Mr. Stauffer who has limited experience working with federal agencies believes understanding what occurs behind the scene in the federal agency would be valuable. Some issues may be related to personalities; however, policy and priorities may also play a role.
Mr. Griggs suggested that range science is relatively easy as compared to social science. The fastest way to get a rancher in a cardiac situation is to send them a register letter on Friday and make them wait until Monday before it can be picked up. Mr. Griggs indicated that everyone wants to be a range person, which doesn’t necessarily make someone a good “people” person. Although Mr. Griggs thinks ranchers should try, at times, it is hard to change. Perhaps agency personnel could benefit from understanding from how most ranchers are and how to work with ranchers.
Dr. Swanson noted that the origins of the range management school were founded in Colorado where Cooperative Extension, BLM, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U. S. Forest Service played an equal role. Dr. Swanson asked if agency personnel should be tapped to teach part of the curriculum. Mr. Schultz noted that historically it has been necessary to replace an agency instructor every couple of years due to movement within the agency.

22. Are there publications that the Cooperative Extension range community could produce that would be helpful to the producers?
Mr. Coombs suggested the Sage Grouse Initiative model with their Science & Solution effort might be something to explore as a basic format.
Mr. Griggs indicated that he appreciates the Suggested Reading sent out by the Nevada Chapter of the Society for Range Management.
Mr. Schultz asked if anyone was familiar with the Yellow Book which is part of the Cattlemen’s Handbook. Mr. McCuin indicated that the Yellow Book contains valuable information; however, it has been around for a while. It was used heavily when it came out, but not so much now. Mr. Coombs suggested making the Yellow Book into a app accessible via the Internet or on cell phone.
Jason Molsby would like a short card for GRI.
Mr. Schultz noted that he has written several articles that have been published in the Progressive Rancher. He typically receives three times the number of calls from out-of-state producers as compared to in-state producers. Mr. Griggs noted that since Nevada is a heavily-dominated public land state, producers must be knowledgeable on issues such as sage grouse, range science, etc., which has “upped” their game.
Dr. Swanson noted that he once heard two criteria for a good research project were (1) tell me something that I don’t already know and (2) tell me something that if I knew it, it would change what I do as a manager, which led into Dr. Swanson’s next question.
23. What is it if you knew it that you don’t already know that would change what you do as a manager? What should we be learning about? Doing research about with our colleagues to create knowledge about?
Mr. Lossing relayed that attending his first Society for Range Management meeting was phenomenal because both agency people as well as producers were there to learn and were meeting in a different environment - not addressing specific on-the-ground issues. The range management schools can serve the same function but at a lower, more local level. Just getting people in the same room without having a specific issue to discuss or argue about is beneficial. Coming together to learn something new and/or developing new working relationships. Having stories such as “here is a year in the life of a rancher or a BLM employee” would be beneficial.
Dr. Swanson relayed that the most powerful learning experiences he has observed in the role as an Extension Specialist have been when people are working together to solve a problem. Not someone teaching something, but people in a circle trying to figure out a way forward that everyone can live with.

24. Should Extension be teaching by taking on a management challenge and assembling the people to address that challenge through a facilitated process?
Mr. Lossing suggested that it would be necessary to start with a “teaching” component addressing basic information and/or tools on an issue before entering a problem-solving approach.
Mr. Coombs thought the approach suggested by Mr. Lossing would be fascinating. Mr. Coombs relayed a discussion he had with Agee Smith (Cottonwood Ranch) where a limited time would be spent discussing some basic concepts, building sideboards, etc., after which the group would create a management plan for the ranch. After the session, the product would be taken to the appropriate government agency for consideration as a management option to be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment. Dr. Swanson indicated that a similar approach is used in riparian grazing management courses.
Dr. Swanson noted that an oversight was made when releasing the second edition of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook by not going out to the public to teach the second edition as was done with the first edition in 1984. The authors have discussed going back out to teach the third edition of the handbook and Dr. Swanson has had conversations with BLM’s Nevada State Office (Kathryn Dyer) on this topic. A model for teaching the handbook would involve a half-day session providing an overview of the different concepts, which would be followed by a real-life allotment scenario addressing objectives, what are we trying to accomplish (goals), current management, monitoring, and a field trip to examine key areas, their condition, and identify monitoring methods that could be implemented.
Mr. McCuin suggested that when the second edition of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook was released, there was an effort to teach the contents, but the agencies wouldn’t implement the handbook. Dr. Swanson indicated that Mr. McCuin was specifically referencing the cooperative permittee monitoring component of the handbook. Dr. Swanson noted that there have been significant efforts made to gain agency buy-in on cooperative monitoring and hopes that that issue has been addressed.
Mr. Coombs suggested having agency employees as part of the teaching cadre so that they are engaged and committed to its implementation on the ground is one way of gaining agency commitment and support.
Mr. Stauffer was supportive of having agency personnel as part of the teaching cadre, which, again, puts some accountability for its implementation on the agency.
There was a brief discussion about how federal agencies determined the grazing preference. Mr. Stauffer asked how we can manage an allotment because the preference is an arbitrary number based on historical information or pulled from thin air. Mr. Coombs summarized his efforts to research how the grazing preference for the Smith Creek Ranch was determined.
In bringing the meeting to a close, Dr. Swanson expressed his appreciation for everyone taking the time to participate in the meeting and sharing their voice, wisdom, insights, humor, and stories. Dr. Swanson believes the information he received was exactly what he was expecting and hoping to receive.
After receiving the minutes for the meeting, Dr. Swanson will be working to extract the gems and information provided which will be consolidated into a coherent message that honors the wisdom everyone provided over the course of the day.
The meeting concluded at 3:05 pm after convening at 8:38 am.
The following acronyms were used during the meeting and listed in alphabetical order.
Acronym Meaning
BLM Bureau of Land Management
ESD Ecological Site Description
GRI Grazing Response Index
NEPA National Environmental Policy Act
S&T State & Transition
UNCE University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
WSARE Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education

Available Questions Not Specifically Asked
The following is a list of the questions that were available for discussion but were not addressed due to time limitations. Some questions may have been addressed during the discussion or asked in a slight different manner. Some of the questions below have answers provided by Mr. Molsby on 6/12.
1. What criteria should be focus for grazing for the health and productivity of valuable wood plants?
2. Are there other indices or strategies you currently use, would like to use, or world like to have developed for grazing management?
3. What are the most critical things a grazing strategy must consider/answer/respond to?
4. What data recording tool would be most useful for noting the critical information at the right time? (paper map, map in app, red book, and spreadsheet in computer with named or numbered use areas, form for copying and storing in a notebook) -- App on the phone or notes on phone. Red book a good idea too.
5. What is the return on investment of the time your ranch invests in tracking grazing management? What guides your decisions about time investments? -- What guides your decisions about time investments? We want the best for the cows and the grass is the core of the ranch so we do the absolute best we can to manage the grass. Keep cows on good feed and cut the heads off those that can’t do the program.
6. GRI does not specify the plant communities or rangeland management situations for which it is appropriate and not appropriate. For which do you feel it has greatest applicability? Least?
7. Cheatgrass or the Great Basin Annual Rangelands is a challenge in many areas of Nevada and it is variable in the degree of persistence of perennials (resilience and resistance), production from year to year, and fire risk? If we were to index our management success for applying strategies for cheatgrass, what strategies would we index? -- I would use frequency, get it when coming up and keep doing it.
8. Utilization (related to GRI-intensity) is increasingly a guideline turning into a standard by public land management agencies. Does this get in the way of managing for plant or rangeland health? -- I think so. I think utilization would be second hand to the rest . If you hit it too hard, change something, but it is not all utilization. Would utilization be useful as a separate index or planning tool so that the desired level could be targeted for different situations? Or, is utilization needed within GRI or a revised GRI because it is related to the degree of plant stress?
9. Would utilization be useful as a separate index or planning tool so that the desired level could be targeted for different situations? Or, is utilization needed within GRI or a revised GRI because it is related to the degree of plant stress?
10. Does the growing season needed for recovery time before grazing again depend on the degree of stress during grazing? If so, how should this be evaluated? -- We try to provide more recovery after hard use. A full season. E.g. negative GRI score.
11. GRI implies that grazing by livestock occurs just once each year (from season long to a short period). Some have suggested that we should be grazing pastures more than once to enable forage selectivity and light short-duration grazing during growing seasons (hot seasons in riparian areas), and AUM consumption during periods of the year when plants are dormant. This might score well in GRI; is this idea practical? If so, where? -- I’ve thought about this a lot. For guys to graze right guys need to be able to move through the country and be able to come back. But this will be a hard sell. A lot of work. So if grazing fast in early spring and can come back guys may do this. But this is the fear. That the agencies will say you’ve been here this year.
12. There seems to be a continuum between: A. The thought that GRI or some index of strategies broader than just utilization would be a great asset to enable more flexible management among years with a level of accountability needed on public lands; and B. The thought that GRI should not be included in permit authorizations or other official paperwork because it will add a layer of bureaucracy and open the door to increased litigation. Thoughts? -- The reason I like is cause the RMS can’t make it out to us and having this is better than nothing at all.
13. GRI does not include a focus on animal production, ye there is some connection to range nutrition. Would it be useful to also note whether livestock were likely gaining, holding, or losing weight by using a given use area at the time and in the manner being evaluated? -- No. if managing the ground right the cattle will be fine. If not, something else is wrong.
14. Is it reasonable to attempt movement of wild horses as a strategy for rangeland health in herd management areas (territories)? If so, how?
15. Under what Nevada circumstances is lack of movement of livestock not a problem?

 

Outcomes and impacts:

This conversation embraced the grazing Response Index as a useful tool for grazing management.  Although these ranchers all applied the principle of grazing in a different location in different years, the group did not embrace the need for modifying the grazing Response Index.  Rather they believed that many strategies may be implemented and monitored without the need for being indexed.  This conversation led to recognition of the need for the Information Publications listed below and those have now been published.

Monitoring Handbook Worksho ps,
Objective:

Teach how to use rangeland implementation and effectiveness monitoring to adapt rangeland management. In this approach the Framework for monitoring emphasizes strategies that are broader than just utilization and the Grazing Response Index is used as a leading example.

Description:

Patterned after the others, the Cottonwood Ranch Workshop was the latest example and had a similar agenda to this Reno Workshop

Training for Application

October 1, 2019 – Rancho San Rafael Regional Park Ranch House

1595 N. Sierra, Reno, NV

Trainers will be many of the authors:  

  1. Swanson, B. Schultz, P. Novak-Echenique, K. Dyer, G. McCuin, J. Linebaugh, B. Perryman, P. Tueller, R. Jenkins, B. Scherrer, T. Vogel, D. Voth, R. Shane, M. Freese, and K.McGowan

8:30 – Overview of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook and Adaptive Management                                                     

  • Tools for Objectives
  • Adaptive Management
  • Short-term or Implementation Monitoring
  • Long-Term or Effectiveness Monitoring
  • Cooperative Permittee Monitoring
  • Appendices

10:15 -- Application using Cooperative Permittee Monitoring Template case study

  • Permittee Goals, needs, and Priorities
  • Agency goals, needs and priorities
  • Monitoring information available from the agency and Ranch
  • The most important elements from documents that must be considered
  • Elements that need to be updated?
  • SMART objectives for the allotment or pasture
  • Locations for key areas or landscape transects
  • Key species and expected changes
  • Long-term, effectiveness, monitoring needed
  • Management strategies needing short-term, implementation monitoring
  • Use of the information for adaptive management

Noon Break for Lunch

1:30 -- Assemble N. Red Rock Rd. Exit 78 off 395 for travel to rangeland focused discussion of selection of monitoring locations and methods based on objectives and strategies

4:30 Close out (We plan to be done in the field by 5:00)

The Handbook is at http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/sp_2018_03.aspx                               or contact Sherman Swanson at sswanson@cabnr.unr.edu for a PDF

Training for Riparian and Upland Application

Rafter 7 and Flying M Ranch

October 2, 2019 - Flying M Ranch Conference Center, 70 Pine Grove Rd.

17 miles south of Mason Valley on Pine Grove Rd. ½ mile east on Hilton Lane

10:30 -- Application using Cooperative Permittee Monitoring Template case study

  • Permittee Goals, needs, and Priorities
  • Agency goals, needs and priorities
  • Monitoring information available from the agency and Ranch
  • The most important elements from documents that must be considered
  • Elements that need to be updated?
  • SMART objectives for the allotment or pasture
  • Locations for key areas or landscape transects
  • Key species and expected changes
  • Long-term, effectiveness, monitoring needed
  • Management strategies needing short-term, implementation monitoring
  • Use of the information for adaptive management

1:00 Field Riparian and rangeland focused discussion of selection of monitoring locations and methods based on objectives and strategies

3:30 Close out (We plan to be done in the field by 4:00)

The Workshops to date include:

Swanson, S., and P.Meiman 2019. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Training for Application. November  19-20, Cottonwood Ranch, NV

Swanson, S., D. Voth, P. Novak-Echenique, R. Jenkins, T. Vogel, and P. Tueller. 2019. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Training for Application. October 1, Reno, NV

Swanson, S., D. Voth, P. Novak-Echenique, T. Vogel and S. McCue. 2019. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Training for Application. May 15, Winnemucca NV

Swanson, S., D. Voth, P. Novak-Echenique, R. Jenkins, T. Vogel, B. Schultz, and D. G. McCuin, D. Cassinelli. 2018. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Training for Application. October 4, Paradise valley, NV

Swanson, S., G. McCuin, K. Dyer, C. Maser, and G. Uhalde. 2018. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Training for Application. September 21, Ely, NV

Outcomes and impacts:

With these workshops, there is increasing recognition of the utility of the Handbook, Adaptive management, the need for flexibhility based on monitoring, and on the opportunity for empowering ranchers to engage in cooperative permittee monitoring using the template on pages 55 and 56 of the handbook. Which although not published under WSARE, does teach the Grazing Response Index as did these workshops.Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook 3rd Edition-18-9 600 dpi

Swanson, S., B. Schultz, P. Novak-Echenique, K. Dyer, G. McCuin, J. Linebaugh, B. Perryman, P. Tueller, R. Jenkins, B. Scherrer, T. Vogel, D. Voth, M. Freese, R. Shane, and K. McGowan. 2018. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook, Third Edition. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Special Publication SP-18-03. 122 pp.  

Results Oriented Grazing for Ecosystem Resilience (ROGER)
Objective:

Engage private, federal, Nevada, and NGO leaders in conversations that matter about grazing for results and having the insight and flexibility to do so.

Description:
Outcomes and impacts:

Three of the ranches engaged in ROGER are also part of the national Outcomne Based Grazing demonstration project of the BLM. One of them, the Winecup Gamble is centering their project on the Grazing Response Index as featured and taught through this WSARE project.

Information Publications
Objective:

Provide useful information for Ranchers and agency rangeland managers to use the grazing response Index and other strategies for grazing that promotes plant growth.

Description:

These publications are:

Swanson, Sherman and Dave Voth. 2019. Strategies for Grazing Management. College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources Extension Information Publication 19-02 5 pp.       This publication begins with the Grazing response Index and includes other strategies for accomplishing various rangeland management objectives. The need for this publication is because the 2018 Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook focuses implementation monitoring on Strategies.Strategies for grazing Management UNCE IP 19-02

Swanson, Sherman, Dave Voth, and Juan-Carlos Cervantes. 2019.  Planning for Plant Growth using the Grazing Response Index. College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources Extension Information Publication 19-03 6 pp.     This publication is to explain the GRI and in a publication that is readily available to Ranchers and others.Planning for Plant Growth using the GRI IP 19-03

Swanson, Sherman and Dave Voth. 2019. Grazing Response Index Tables for Use Areas. College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources Extension Information Publication 19-04 13 pp.    This publication is to emphasize that manageing grazing and scoring it with GRI will provide better results in smaller use areas within large pastures than in those larger pastures on average.Planning for Plant Growth using the GRI IP 19-03 GRI Tables for Use Areas UNCE IP 19-04

Swanson, Sherman and Dave Voth. 2019. Grazing Twice. College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources Extension Information Publication 19-05 10 pp.     This publication is about the growing season need for rapid movement of grazing animals and the opportunity to return in the dormant season to harvest AUMs and to graze fine fuels strategically for reducing fire risk.Grazing Twice IP 19-05-01

Outcomes and impacts:

These publications have been requested for use in development of the development of the Winecup Gamble Outcome Based Grazing Management Proposal for the BLM.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Journal articles
4 On-farm demonstrations
2 Online trainings
1 Tours
8 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: Collaborations with the Winecup Gamble Ranch Outcome based Grazing proposal sevelopment process. The Winecup Gamble Ranch is making the grazing Response Index a pivotal component of their outcome based grazing so that they can have flexibility to meet the need of the plants and livestock while having the opportunity to graze in different areas at different times.

Participation Summary:

7 Extension
2 NRCS
7 Researchers
7 Nonprofit
7 Agency
7 Farmers/ranchers
1 Others

Learning Outcomes

350 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
85 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

4 Grants received that built upon this project
7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The ongoing work related to grazing management indices and the focus on simple but effective tools for recognizing and addressing powerful strategies for effecting plant health and rangeland objectives has had a powerful influence within the Results Oriented Grazing for Ecosystem Resilience (ROGER) collaborative that generally meets in Elko County and engages various State and federal land management agency leaders and learers in progressive ranch management in Nevada. It has also positively influenced the concluding development of the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook 3rd. Edition (Swanson, S., B. Schultz, P. Novak-Echenique, K. Dyer, G. McCuin, J. Linebaugh, B. Perryman, P. Tueller, R. Jenkins, B. Scherrer, T. Vogel, D. Voth, M. Freese, R. Shane, and K. McGowan. 2018. Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook, Third Edition. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Special Publication SP-18-03. 122 pp. http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/ sp_2018_03.aspx ). The central message of the two formal workshops conducted for teaching the concepts of this edition has been that our management strategies need to be the focus of short-term or implementation monitoring. We can now say that all the ranches involved in this WSARE-funded project believe in the utility of the grazing response index (GRI). They all want to use this tool to manage their grazing to improve plant and rangeland health. This and the broader focus of grazing management (broader than utilization and with deep focus on growing season grazing season, duration, and on recovery periods) is providing a basis for outcome based grazing. Five demonstration projects have been developed for outcome based grazing in Nevada out of the eleven developed across the BLM. The push going forward is to formulate the concepts learned by this project and other relevant information into the development of the outcomes (objectives), strategies, and monitoring approaches to adapt management for the outcomes. 

7 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
45 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

This work is also ongoing with other ROGER ranches, at least two other ranches not involved in ROGER, and other ranches where the Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Workshops have reinvigorated the ongoing process of adaptive management.

Success stories:

At the April 10-11 Meeting of Results Oriented Grazing for Ecosystem Resilience (ROGER), The following presentation description is in the notes of the meeting. As PI of this WSARE workshop it occurred to me that this meeting and this presentation was very much in the spirit of the Range Management Schools planned in the proposal.

                                   Winecup Outcome Based Grazing Proposal Overview & Rancher Monitoring Needs
Mr. James Rogers began his presentation by expressing his appreciation for the work being done by Ms. Stringham and Mr. Coates but stressed the importance of keeping things simple. At the ranch-level scale, he must keep things simple. There are many tools available to make informed decisions from a ranch operational standpoint as well as an ecological standpoint – so many tools in fact that it can be overwhelming. Tools must work together complimenting each other; not competing against one another. Mr. Rogers also stressed the importance of permittees seeing themselves as professionals similar to others like Ms. Stringham and Mr. Coates. Mr. Rogers is hopeful that one product from the outcome-based grazing demonstration projects is that other livestock permittees will feel empowered to view themselves as professionals and become part of the solution. To see things differently, Mr. Rogers believes it is necessary to (1) keep things simple, (2) have tools complement each other, and (3) view yourself as a professional.
Mr. Rogers noted that when he was a young boy his identify was focused on cows – he loved looking at cows. Later in life, as cow bosses came to the ranch, he noticed that their primarily focus was on the cattle – how well livestock looks, weaning weights, breeding percentages, etc. To make change happen, it is necessary to change a person’s focus. In today’s world, if ranchers focus strictly on livestock, they will not be successful. When looking at the land, it’s not about taking something from the land by grazing livestock, but it’s using livestock as a tool to give something back to the land, which is why Mr. Rogers is so passionate about outcome-based grazing.
Two important terms associated with outcome-based grazing are flexibility and accountability. To some, flexibility means BLM opening the door and allowing livestock permittees to run rampant doing whatever they want. People who are part of outcome-based grazing believe flexibility means being more adaptive across the landscape as well as at the ranch level. When developing the application for the National OBG Authorization Demonstration project, Mr. Rogers was humbled by the length of time a grazing permit can last. Decisions made today will affect management and the rangelands for decades, which brings tremendous responsibility and opportunity. Mr. Rogers believes having flexibility will play an important role in management particularly when science continues to evolve. It will be important that we don’t “paint ourselves into a corner” by believing we have everything figured out. It is important to have flexibility to adjust to changes in science as well as providing ranchers the opportunity to demonstrate how outcome-based grazing can be implemented on their ranch.
Accountability is about ownership. Ensuring people who make decisions own those decisions. While it is important to understand that mistakes will be made, it is equally important to learn from those mistakes.
There are a tremendous number of powerful tools (Figure 8) available to address issues. One of the most powerful tools is GIS (Geographic Information Systems), which allows an infinite number of variables to be overlaid and examined. Another tool in which Mr. Rogers strongly believes will be critical to success is GRI, which produces a numeric value that is meaningful to people. Tools should not compete against each other but complementing one another. When a question is asked or there is an issue to be solved, the appropriate tool (or tools) should be brought to bear in developing an answer or a solution.
In a simplified concept, result-driven grazing involves (1) defining objectives, (2) identify the problem, (3) manage for the objective, and (4) assessing the effects of management actions using the tools available. Identifying the problem involves prioritizing objectives because it is impossible to accomplish everything. Once the objectives are identified, move into step 3 – managing for the highest priority objectives.
To emphasize how the Winecup – Gamble Ranch utilizes the four-step process in making management decisions, Mr. Rogers presented a three-pasture story of how the Ranch prioritizes areas using various tools (GRI, photo-point transects, AIM, DRGs, GIS, Resistance/Resilience, livestock grazing) in the tool box. Due to the site-specific nature of the story, the details are not summarized in these minutes.

Recommendations:

The lessons learned so far can also be incorporated into a variety of future trainings including an ongoing stream of Nevada Range Management Schools with individual modules about related topics, future Nevada Rangeland Monitoring Handbook Trainings or Workshops, Integrated Riparian Management classes, and publications that could assist grazing land managers in the application of GRI as a tool for recording monitoring of management strategies and planning tool.  Publications that are envisioned include: 1. UNCE Fact sheet re GRI and how to score it in NV; 2. UNCE Fact sheet on unfenced pasture use areas; 3. UNCE Fact sheet with fillable forms and map for GRI scoring; and 4. A UNCE Bulletin or special publication synthesizing this WSARE project, the lessons learned, and the products developed from it.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.