Good grazing management on Wyoming ranch improves pasture performance
Posted on: Jun 21, 2013
Ready for a quiz?
The photos below were both taken from the same spot on a Wyoming ranch, but a few years apart. One of them shows the site in a year in which precipitation was 123% of the area's average, while the other was 53% of the area's average. Which is which?
Answer: The photo on the left was taken in 2007, a wet year in this area, while the photo on the right was taken in 2012, a dry year. If you look closely, you can probably see that the photo on the left shows better plant vigor and vegetative growth on the right. But the point is: you have to look closely.
Something happened between these two years that greatly improved rangeland health in this area. That something was greatly altered grazing management practices, where managers shortened grazing durations, lengthened recovery times between grazing events, and greatly increased stock density. The result was an 86% reduction in percent bare soil, a 100% increase in live plant cover, and a shift in plant species composition toward more desired grasses, forbs, and shrubs. This pasture's overall performance as measured by rangeland health and stocking rate greatly improved, even during the dry year. In fact, this ranch was not forced to destock at all in the dry year of 2012. Had these managers not made the change, the pasture in the dry year of 2012 would not have held up as well as it did, and destocking would have resulted in more severe financial consequences for the ranch business. This example illustrates how good grazing management can be measured on the land and on the income and expense statement.