- Animals: bovine
- Animal Production: grazing management, range improvement, rangeland/pasture management
Native American and Hispano ranchers rely on New Mexico's national forests for livestock grazing. However, changing climate and rangeland conditions create unprecedented challenges to making a living. Current management guidelines are based on unilateral observations of the impacts of livestock grazing on rangeland conditions. On the other hand, the impacts of changing climate conditions on livestock operations are not accounted for, raising questions about the future of livestock production. Ranchers bear the brunt of poor conditions. Delayed entry dates, and early curtailment of the season amount to $1.3million loss in market value annually. Furthermore, deficiencies in data collection, violations of planning policy, exclusion of producers in planning processes, and a lack of coordination with local governments threaten to displace minority ranchers and contribute to the sociocultural, economic, and environmental deterioration of northern New Mexico rural communities. As such, more comprehensive rangeland assessments and management decision-making practices are needed to develop new grazing guidelines, improve conditions, and sustain livestock production.
We propose to conduct interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach with minority ranchers regarding the impacts of changing climate and rangeland conditions on livestock operations in order to produce culturally-situated rangeland assessments and to develop comprehensive management and decision-making practices. The Project Team and additional producers will: (Obj. 1) Collect quantitative data regarding forage, water, and wildlife conditions on four grazing allotments; (Obj. 2) Collect qualitative data regarding rangeland conditions and impacts on livestock operations; (Obj. 3) Produce rancher assessments of rangeland conditions and impacts on livestock operations; (Obj. 4) Train producers to collect data, employ management practices, and use decision-making tools; and (Obj. 5) Present findings to other minority ranchers, management agencies, and the public.
Our project uses an interdisciplinary experimental design that is descriptive, interpretive, and explanatory. Quantitative data collection will improve data collected by management agencies with direct measurements of actual rangeland conditions and impacts on livestock operations at more frequent intervals and in areas not regularly accessed by agency personnel. Qualitative data will expand quantitative measurements and build culturally-situated understandings of rangeland conditions, impacts, and how to address them. Our findings will produce more comprehensive rangeland assessments, promote sustainable adjustments in stocking rates, and identify areas that may require changes in timing, intensity, and distribution of livestock. Our project will allow ranchers to respond to changing conditions in real time with better informed decision-making and practices. Peer-to-peer education will strengthen ranchers’ monitoring skills and increase adoption of sound management practices and decision-making tools. Our project will catalyze institutional change through proactive engagement with management agencies. The initial research sample will benefit 50 producers over four allotments. Other potential impacts include maintenance and improvement of 138,000 acres of rangeland and increases in performance for 1,800 animal units. Our project can identify what knowledge is most useful for developing new grazing guidelines, improving rangeland conditions, and sustaining livestock production as well as provide a comparable data set to assist other ranchers across managed and non-managed ecosystems.
Project objectives from proposal:
RESEARCH & EDUCATION OBJECTIVES
Obj. 1 Collect quantitative data regarding forage, water, and wildlife conditions on four grazing allotments.
Obj. 2 Collect qualitative data regarding rangeland conditions and impacts on livestock operations.
Obj. 3 Produce rancher assessments of rangeland conditions and impacts on livestock operations.
Obj. 4 Train producers to collect data, employ management practices, and use decision-making tools.
Obj. 5 Present findings to other minority ranchers, management agencies, and the public.