Grazing Strategy Indices for Range Quality Assurance

Project Overview

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


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management, grazing - rotational, rangeland/pasture management, watering systems
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, wetlands, wildlife
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, public participation, public policy, sustainability measures


    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.

    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.