Targeted Grazing for Fuel Load Reduction

Progress report for OW22-373

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2022: $74,811.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G103-23-W9211
Grant Recipient: University of California Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Stephanie Larson
University of California Cooperative Extension
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Project Information


Wildfires in California and throughout the West are growing increasingly severe. Fire season is lasting longer, wildfires are larger, and wildfire effects are negatively impacting ecosystems and communities. The lack of fuels management, especially in and adjacent to the wildland-urban interface (WUI) is exacerbating these impacts and threatening both natural resources and human communities. Municipalities, homeowner associations, utilities, and other landowners and managers are searching for cost-effective and ecologically sensitive tools for addressing annual and long-term fuel-loading. In the California North Bay counties of Sonoma and Marin, as well is in the Sierra Foothill counties of Placer and Nevada, grazing can be one of the most effective tools available.

Concurrently, rangeland livestock producers are increasingly interested in diversifying their operations to include targeted grazing services. Unlike conventional grazing management, targeted grazing refocuses the outputs of grazing from livestock production to vegetation management and landscape enhancement (Launchbaugh and Walker 2006). While there is increasing demand for these services, ranchers have concerns over animal well-being, especially in the context of forage nutrition.

This project will assess both landowner/manager motivations for and satisfaction with targeted grazing as a fuels management tool, as well as producer knowledge of forage species (including nutrition) and strategic use of grazing to address critical wildfire mitigation needs in coastal and foothill landscapes. We will use these research products to design outreach tools to help connect landowners/managers with grazing contractors, and to help conventional producers decide if a targeted grazing enterprise will enhance the economic viability of their operations.

Project Objectives:
  1. We will increase landowner/manager knowledge of grazing and access to grazing services by improving and expanding Match.Graze (, an online database created by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Livestock Advisor Stephanie Larson (the principle investigator on this project).
  2. We will develop field survey and analysis tools for targeted grazing practitioners to assess the forage value (palatability and nutrition) and appropriate season and age class to optimize both fuels reduction and livestock production goals via targeted grazing.
  3. We will collaborate with fire planning professionals to provide a better understanding to landowners/managers and targeted grazing practitioners as to where grazing can be most effective strategically across north coast and foothill landscapes.
  4. We will provide business planning and economic analysis tools to targeted grazing practitioners and conventional livestock producers to help enhance the economic viability of their operations.

Table 1 Targeted Grazing for Fire-Load Reduction





Jul – Sept/22


Oct – Dec/22


Jan – Mar/23


Apr- Jun/ 23

Convene a five-producer working group in two different geographic areas; hire consultant to work with Larson & Macon.






Conduct a survey of landowners currently enrolled on Match.Graze






Conduct outreach to 5-10 large scale landowners in each respective county.






Collaborate with fire planning professionals.






Collect vegetation samples for nutritional analysis






Create Field Checklist; Translate checklist & other materials into Spanish, Common Field Guide Booklet






Develop educational materials on business planning & economic analysis.






Conduct educational workshops for current and potential targeted grazers; in local and statewide locations.






Conduct evaluations with grazers and herders on use of checklist and other educational materials.






Assess usage of Match.Graze, using google analytics, from beginning of project to end. Updates to Match.Graze website.  










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Materials and methods:

Our research plan progress addresses specific elements in each of our three project objectives:

  1. Increase landowner/manager knowledge of grazing and access to grazing services through a survey of current landowner users of Match.Graze ( In 2019, PI Stephanie Larson created Match.Graze, an online platform that connects landowners who don’t have grazing animals to livestock owners with animals that can provide vegetation management services. As part of the reach aspect of this grant, a survey was initiated, received approval by Institutional Review Board (IRB), UC Davis, (#1792938-1), and then launched as one part of the research component of the grant. The IRB was approved and issued a Not Research determination for the project, category of program evaluation. This does preclude this project from sharing results via presentations and / or publications. The survey addressed the usage of Match.Graze by grazers and landowners from around California.  The survey was sent to all users that had signed up for Match.Graze, determining if the site met their needs, either grazing or vegetation management. If not, what were the barriers to usage and what improvements were needed. The results from the survey will provide guidance on the additional educational materials and/or information to create through this grant. Results from the survey have given the project team direction on what educational materials should be developed. These include:
  1. Understanding of Natural Resource / Land Goals
  2. Infrastructure – fencing, water, etc.
  3. Understanding the Cost / Benefit Ratio of Grazing
  4. Understanding Grazing Species Usage
  5. Timing of Grazing
  6. Leases / Request for Proposal Assistance
  7. Completing a Lease, Bidding a Grazing Job, etc.

The results from the survey will be assimilated into the educational outreach plan.

WSARE MatchGraze Report


  1. Collect forage sample to determine the palatability and nutrition of the species. The project is focusing on stocking rate and timing of grazing as grazing strategies that will increase the nutritional forage value for grazers to enhance consumption of targeted woody plants (brush). Through producer meetings, producers have indicated they are very interested in having a guide the documents nutritional seasonality of brush species. Producers want to know and be able to educate their herders about forage quality and quantity needed to meet their animal’s nutrient. Brush species samples have been collected at two different seasons to determine if there is a change in nutrient value. The PIs are using two publications, to create a more robust analysis of brush. These are UC ANR Publication, Profiles of California Brush Targeted Grazing to Reduce Fire Fuel Loads in California Chaparral Series, Part 1, and UC ANR Managing Small Ruminant Nutrition in Chaparral, Both Dan Macon and Roger Ingram were involved in the development of these publications and will bring their experiences / expertise in the development of educational materials. Producers have been educated on how to collect and identify the species in the field they’re grazing. Samples have been analyzed for crude protein (CP), condensed tannins (TCT) and acid-detergent fiber (ADF). Using the UC ANR Publications, and the combined results from a comparative analysis will build the field handbook/checklist. This field knowledge will help grazers and herders better strategize the timing of their grazing to achieve resources goals while maintaining animal’s nutritional needs based on the nutrient value of the species present.


  1. Collaborate with fire planning professionals through the Cal Fire Hazard Maps to analyze where grazing can be most strategically effective across north coast and foothill landscapes. Today, California forests have undergone great change with denser trees and more brush in conifer forests and oak woodlands. Federal forests now have higher fire probabilities than other public or privately-owned forests (Starrs et al. 2018)1. And according to Marshall Turbeville, CAL FIRE Battalion Chief, Sonoma County, “Areas that have been grazed, have reduce the spread of dangerous and costly fires. I’ve noticed on several fires, including extreme fires, the fence lines, between grazed and ungrazed lands, the fire just stopped. And the one variable, the one difference, was grazing.”  PIS have been in conversation with CAL FIRE and local fire professionals to discuss the different methods to manage vegetation with a particular focus on grazing. Grazing will be introduced as a method to reduce fine fuels and brush encroachment. A meeting held, Cyndi Foreman, Division Chief fire Marshal, Sonoma County Fire District, spoke to landowners on the importance of vegetation management. She discussed how she had used goat grazing to reduce fire fuels in her neighborhood. Our continuing discussions with regional fire professionals on our field assessment will assist in project-specific grazing strategies.    

1Carlin Frances Starrs et al 2018 Environ. Res. Lett. 13 034025



Research results and discussion:

Additional plant samples are planned for summer (July - August) and fall (September - October). After samples are analyzed, the PIs will work with UC Davis nutritionist to develop guidelines for increasing nutrition for targeted grazing animals.  The sampling results will assist in our nutritional analyst for targeted grazers to use when moving their animals move from place to place. These developed field guides will help in forage value assessment (palatability and nutrition). This will help in determining the appropriate season and age class to optimize both fuels reduction and livestock production goals via targeted grazing (October - December).

We will continue our work with fire professionals, which  will continue through the next fire season (September - November). We have included these professionals in community meetings with large landowners;  increasing the understanding of grazing as a management tool for fuel reductions. The meetings for landowners/managers and targeted grazing practitioners has already increased knowledge of where grazing can be strategically implemented across north coast and foothill landscapes.

Participation Summary
6 Producers participating in research

Research Outcomes

Recommendations for sustainable agricultural production and future research:

Research is ongoing; we are still collecting plant samples. Producers were given a protocol to follow when collecting the samples. An excel spread sheet has been created to document the analysis from each plant.  

The PIs have met with CAL FIRE and local fire professionals to discuss the different methods to manage vegetation with a particular focus on grazing. Grazing has been introduced as a method to reduce fine fuels and brush encroachment in several meetings. Stephanie Larson was on two educational  panels with fire professionals where the project was discussed. 

1 New working collaborations

Education and Outreach

10 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

20 Farmers participated
2 Ag professionals participated
Education and outreach methods and analyses:

BVConservancy meeting 1.26.2023

May.13 Grazing Meeting

Educational meetings have been held or will before held for communities that have expressed an interest in grazing. These meetings have been very productive and interest is high. We will continue to hold more meetings where we discuss grazing and how to work with our producers.  

Education and outreach results:

Two newsletters have been sent out to livestock grazers and landowners owners about the project. This has brought great attention to the project, increasing interest in grazing as a tool to reduce fire fuels.



Targeted Grazing for Fuel Reduction

2 Farmers intend/plan to change their practice(s)

Education and Outreach Outcomes

Recommendations for education and outreach:

A survey was conducted to access usage of Match.Graze by landowners, requesting suggestions on making the website more robust. These changes have been made. The results from the survey provided guidance on what additional educational materials and/or information is needed by landowners to better understand and embrace grazing as a management tool.

Two producer meetings have been held. All producers shared experiences, needs and barriers to increasing their businesses.

Producers have been interested collecting a variety of plants that their animals graze or leave in the field. Many plant samples have been collected and analyzed. More samples will be collected. From the analyses, a nutritional guide will be developed for each producer.  Photos of the plants are also being collected. All collected materials will be used to create a producer checklist in both English and Spanish. Producers and herders will be trained on how to use the checklist during the different seasons of grazing. Evaluations from checklist will generate grazing recommendations.  Also, a Field Guide to Common California Shrub and Brush will be developed. The field guide will include photos of common species, their nutrient values and their seasonal differences.

A grazing school was held in April 2022, where interested students attend to learn how to start a targeted grazing business. Project's targeted grazers spoke about their own targeted grazing business.

Producers have worked with PIs, to create a cost study for interested individuals wanting to explore a targeted grazing business. 


10 Producers reported gaining knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness as a result of the project
Non-producer stakeholders reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of project outreach
50 General public
15 Students
1 Ag Service Providers
Key changes:
  • Producers are gaining a greater knowledge of the nutritional value of different plants they graze. They are also learning when plants can and can't be grazed due to plant toxicity. They're finding this information very helpful in deciding which and when to include supplement in their grazing program.

  • In producer's meeting, the exchange of ideas, issues and barriers has been well received. The producers are learning how others are approaching their grazing programs, and are sharing ideas on how to be more successful. This has been extremely helpful to the producers that are just starting their targeted grazing business.

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.