Reducing cost to livestock producers: Very large scale aerial (VLSA) imagery compared to traditional range field monitoring methods

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2008: $9,870.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Christopher Schauer
North Dakota State University


  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management, preventive practices
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: indicators
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    One of the biggest challenges to rangeland monitoring is finding a cost and time effective method to monitor millions of acres. Traditionally, field monitoring methods have taken large amounts of time, skill, and labor. North Dakota State University was approached independently by three grazing associations (Grand River, McKenzie and Medora) that are comprised of members from Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota to conduct unbiased, third party range monitoring on the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands. We will work with the grazing associations and their associated Forest Service ranger districts to provide data collected both on-the-ground and by aerial imagery. This rancher-initiated project seeks to reduce the costs and time associated with range monitoring by using very large scale aerial (VLSA) imagery. This true color photography has a ground sample distance (GSD) of ≤1mm. VLSA imagery will be analyzed for species composition, bare ground, and biomass production and compared to data collected on the ground. R² coefficients will be determined to predict the accuracy of VLSA imagery compared to traditional field monitoring methods..

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short Term:
    1) Increase ranchers’ awareness of vegetative communities on their grazing allotments.
    2) Decrease perceived tensions between Forest Service and McKenzie, Medora and Grand River Grazing Associations.

    Intermediate Term:
    1) Change the basis upon which ranchers make management decisions.
    2) Influence the ways in which the Forest Service uses vegetative data to develop policies.

    Anticipated Long Term:
    1) Facilitate improved conditions to grazing pastures leading to healthier ecological communities and more sustainable conditions for ranching families.

    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.