Ranchers Employ Better Grazing Methods to Protect Public Streams
|Above: Idaho and Oregon researchers explored new ways to graze cattle in sensitive riparian areas and found that careful timing of grazing better protects stream banks. Grazing animals earlier on the upland and better managing the pasture can cut feed costs. Photo courtesy of University of Idaho/Oregon State University.|
Providing alternative water sources and salt licks and improving pasture management on rangeland can both improve rancher profits and protect sensitive riparian areas, SARE research in Idaho and Oregon has found. In a project at the University of Idaho, researchers sought ways to keep ranchers raising cattle on public lands while improving their stewardship, particularly their impact upon streams and rivers. With researchers at Oregon State University, they documented how cattle grazing intensity alongside a stream known to support salmon affects water quality and the range. They found that cattle grazing alongside riparian areas late in the summer dropped more manure near the stream, trampled banks and consumed more riparian vegetation than cattle grazing during the mid-summer. To counteract that tendency, project leaders recommend creating off-stream water sources and installing salt licks on the upland. To improve range conditions, a rancher might move a herd onto the pasture sooner and stock it at higher rates for a shorter period. With some Westerners calling for permanent removal of cattle from public lands with sensitive habitats, this research provides ranchers a way to graze cattle on productive range while maintaining or improving riparian areasand possibly saving in feed costs or getting higher returns at market. In Idaho, an extension educator took the project findings and helped a local farmer create an eight-paddock managed grazing system that will serve as a demonstration for other ranchers. In an extended, four-month grazing system, Jim Church found the rancher improved his forage, increased his stocking rate and kept the cattle from the riparian area. "Ranchers are constantly dealing with public land issues," says project leader Patrick Momont. "They need to be proactive with their attitudes and management practices to be good stewards."
[For more information, go to www.sare.org/projects/ and search for SW97-010]