Indian Range Livestock Production in the West and Southwest: Entering, Enduring and Emerging from Drought Conditions

2002 Annual Report for SW98-036

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $103,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $107,806.00
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Robert Kattnig
University of Arizona

Indian Range Livestock Production in the West and Southwest: Entering, Enduring and Emerging from Drought Conditions


Key management decisions entering, enduring and emerging from drought are categorized into three resource areas: livestock, rangelands and financial/marketing. Successful adaption of management principles is closely tied to cultural values. Mother Earth is the most central of values; animals, plants and people are products or gifts from Mother Earth. By restoring vigor to Mother earth, all things can prosper. The central theme is ‘Mother is tired”. The focus is on reducing rangeland pressure by culling animals, maintaining quality beef production, supplementing water and nutrients when economically feasible and marketing animals to conserve financial capital.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The overall aim of the project is to develop a drought management curricula for producers which will include multi-media educational resources, a series of educational workshops, industry tours, and demonstration projects with specific producers.

Objective 1

Development of a systems approach will enhance the sustainability of subsistence livestock production on arid rangelands .This approach will be producer oriented:
1) based on the historical legacy of Indian tribes to maintain sustainable and economically viable production systems in balance with both nature and family values,
2) draw from producer perspectives, experiences and ideas, and
3) geared educationally and programmatically to subsistence producer needs.
The project will sponsor regional programs to provide opportunities for southwestern and western tribes to exchange information and ideas to address the question of how, in contemporary and drought-prone times, to integrate sustainable production goals, natural resource management goals, and cultural goals.

Study group sessions will be structured to facilitate information exchange about these goals among tribal producers, tribal resource professionals NRCS staff and extension professionals. Focus interviews will be used to document individual experiences in maintaining sustainable goals during pre-drought, drought and post-drought conditions, as well as related issues that may emerge during discussions and interviews. The results from the study group sessions and focus interviews will be used to begin creating an integrated systems approach to sustainable subsistence livestock production. Participants will complete evaluations of each camp.

Objective 2:

Promote the sustainability of natural resources including range, water, wildlife and recreational opportunities. Similar to Objective #1, this objective will be producer oriented. Regional tribal conferences will be held to map out long term objectives for resource management on tribal lands. The results from the camp focus interviews and study groups will be shared with the conference participants. The conference will use a public forum format to encourage interactive information and idea exchanges. Breakout sessions will provide participants a chance to map or illustrate past, current, and future resource management goals to show the history of sustainability, its current status and its future on tribal lands. Participants will have an opportunity to evaluate conference activities and a summary of the conference proceedings will be published.

Objective 3:

Foster a systems approach to decision making that integrates traditional livestock production values representing wealth, a means of maintaining traditional grazing land with resource conservation and improvement goals. The project cooperators, along with identified tribal producers and professionals will develop a final curricula that will serve as a template for common tribal educational and research needs regarding sustainable goals outlined in Objective #1. Tribal advisory groups comprised of producers will be asked to preview and evaluate the materials prior to release. These materials will be presented in a multi-media format, including conferences, field days, tours, videos, notebooks and workbooks.


Resource activities during the 1995-97 drought centered around crisis management. The current drought started in 1999 and continues through 2002 throughout the rangelands of the southwest. The situation in 2002 is considered the worst drought in over 100 years.

Drought stressed animals were marketed with limited success and range and supplemental feed resources have been limited. However as a direct result of the SARE initiative some of the producers have adopted new management plans. An example of this is the Black Mesa Chapter of the Navajo Nation. They have formed a beef producers association and collectively have worked toward common production goals. As a result of working with the Navajo Department of Agriculture and the University of Arizona, a drought management plan was implimented in April 2002. All cows were pregnancy checked and non pregnant cows were culled. A comprehensive health program has been implimented and complete herd records are being recorded. In addition, the cows were removed from the drought stressed range and moved to new pastures that had been rested for a number of years. A battery of leased bulls were utilized to breed the entire herd. Many of the areas on the southwestern rangelands have poor or very poor range conditions. In some areas death loss due to drought stress was substantial. However specific areas showed comprehensive management. An area near Dilcon, AZ is an example, the cow herds and sheep flocks have been reduced and the range is in fair to good condition. In addition, the cows were body condition score 4 compared to scores of 2 and 3 in other areas. An overall theme of “Mother is Tired” has been adopted to justify the herd reductions and changes in traditional grazing practices

This year we have continued to narrow the project to attainable goals. Beef Quality Assurance has emerged as one of the key focal points. A program has been developed between the Departments of Agriculture of some of the Indian Tribes, the Arizona Department of Agriculture, the Arizona Beef Board and the University of Arizona. Numerous workshops have been held with very positive results. This vehicle enables us to not only address the marketability of the animals, but proper health programs, improved genetics and reproduction. Key parts of this are a 4 hour workshop that results in the certification of individual ranches, the provide the opportunity for the producers to participate in three different levels of preconditioning. The producers are then able to buy ear tags to identify the cattle as part of the Arizona Beef Quality Assurance Program and enables the buyers to know these animals have received the same standards of production as non tribal cattle. This helps to reduce discrimination and lets the cattle to blend into the industry.

We are developing a series of lesson plans to integrate the various phases of livestock production into the BQA program. This is enabling us to improve marketability of livestock and to increase income from fewer animals, reducing the pressure on the range.

Drought survival was the central theme of 24 workshops held on the Hualapai, Navajo, Hopi, San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Gila River and Tohono O’odham reservations during the late spring and summer. Central fucus was on culling livestock, supplementing water and protein, and conserving the rangelands.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The Indian Nations in the Southwest are still enduring the worst drought in over 100 years. Implementation of management changes has not occurred on a wide scale. However over 35 workshops were held during the last project year. Attendance at the workshops ranged from a low of 8 to a high of over 200. Many of these workshops were presented at the local chapter house and were often followed with a “pot luck” meal served by the local chapter members.

Two major changes I have observed during this time are the increased attendance by tribal elders and the genuine interest in the topics presented.

We are currently developing a series of slide presentations and workshops to address various production issues. These presentations will address three major topics; livestock, rangeland and financial/marketing resources. Each topic is viewed in three different drought phases: entering, enduring and emerging from drought. Some topics are specific to a particular phase and other topics may be applicable across all phases. These presentations will be available in four audio tracts; English, Spanish, Navajo and Tohono O’odham. In addition, a lesson plan or producer exercise is included in each slide presentation. The entire program will be available on CD.


Kristen Egen

Dist. Conservationist
Sells Field Office
P O Box 577
Sells, AZ 85634
Office Phone: 5203832851
Loretta Singletary

Extension Educator
University of Nevada, Reno
Nevada Cooperative Extension
P.O. Box 811
Yerington, NV 89447
Office Phone: 7754636541