Prescribed Grazing to Sustain Livestock Production, Soil Quality, and Diversity in Rangeland Ecosystems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $197,268.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: Wyoming
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kenneth Tate
University of California Davis

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: grazing - continuous, free-range, grazing management, manure management, mineral supplements, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate, watering systems, winter forage, feed/forage

    Proposal abstract:

    Rangelands encompass over 43 million acres in California and Wyoming and provide critical livestock forage and wildlife habitat. These ecosystems are at risk due to persistent weed invasion and soil degradation. Practical grazing options are needed to sustain ecosystem services such as forage production, rural economic stability, and biodiversity. We propose to develop a prescribed grazing support tool that blends scientific and management expertise. It will help managers make site specific decisions. We will conduct assessments of rangeland health, and survey managers on 100 ranges to: 1) determine how grazing management affects the soil quality-plant diversity-forage production continuum; and 2) identify factors determining grazing decisions at the ranch-scale. Products will be an internet-based grazing management decision support tool, supporting fact sheets, workshops-webinars to promote and demonstrate use of the grazing tool, and research publications.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project objectives address WSARE Goal 1 (Objective 1) and Goal 5 (Objectives 1, 2, and 3). We propose to collaborate with the range management communities in Wyoming and California in general and specifically with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and California Cattlemen's Association to attain the following objectives:

    1. Conduct a scientific survey of 500 rangeland grazing managers in each of two states to determine what prescribed grazing practices they currently use, why they use them, and how effective they view them to be; to understand how managers receive, assess, and use grazing management information; and to determine their general perspectives on managing grazing (e.g., intensity, grazing season, and rest from grazing) to enhance ecosystem services (e.g., forage production, carbon sequestration, suppression of weeds).

    Performance Targets: 1) Develop a survey with broad input from leadership of Wyoming Stock Growers and the California Cattlemen's Association, NRCS, and other stakeholders; 2) Achieve 30% initial return success of respondents to the survey in each state; 3) If return success rate is <30%, conduct follow-up contact of rangeland grazing managers by mail or email; 4) Summarize findings from survey; 5) Disseminate information on findings from survey annual Wyoming Stock Growers and California Cattlemen's Association meetings and at Society for Range Management meetings (February), and the National Conference on Grazing Lands (December); and 6) Disseminate information on findings from survey in rangeland ecosystem through popular press publications in Cow Country (publication of Wyoming Stock Growers), Rangelands (publication of the Society for Range Management), and University of Wyoming and California Extension outlets, and through a scientific publication in Rangeland Ecology and Management.

    2. Conduct ranch-scale cross-sectional, observational research survey to determine how field indicators of rangeland health on 50 ranches in each state (100 total for the project) correlate to grazing management decisions (e.g., stocking rate, season of grazing/rest, rotational strategies) at the plant community, ecological site, and ranch scales.

    Performance Targets: 1) Conduct 50% of the on-ranch research in each state; 2) Complete on-ranch research; 3) Conduct multi-variate statistical analysis to identify and summarize correlations between grazing and rangeland health; and 4) Disseminate findings of the on-ranch research as described for Objective 1 above.

    3. Develop an internet based prescribed grazing management decision support tool that allows users to: access information about prescribed grazing; explore ranch-scale specific grazing management and effectiveness of monitoring options; and participate in prescribed grazing information exchange.

    Performance Targets: 1) Work with a core advisory group (e.g., ranchers, Cooperative Extension educators, NRCS) to determine information needs, delivery/format options, and develop a "story board" or draft outline and design for the supporting web-site; 2) Distribute the draft layout of the support site to the 100 on-ranch research collaborators (from Objective 2), receive feedback, and revise site layout; 3) develop supporting programming and website design; 4) populate site with survey response information (Objective 1), existing research information, and results from on-ranch survey (Objective 2); 5) Beta-test with the 100 initial collaborators surveyed ranchers from Objective 2 and integrate feedback; and 6) Release final version of decision support tool.

    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.