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Grazing

Cheyenne – Western Watersheds Project (WWP) has filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service (FS) claiming the agency failed to consider all of the impacts of livestock grazing when they adopted the Bighorn National Forest (BNF) management plan.
    WWP is requesting the Wyoming U.S. District Court conduct a judicial review of the FS implementation of management plans on specific grazing allotments. The litigation involves allotments covering 32,000 acres in the Willow Park, Piney Creek and Little Piney areas.
    “The 1995 Rescission Bill (P.L. 104-19) required that federal livestock grazing allotment management plans be revised through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision-process,” explains Bernie Bornong, BNF Resources Staff Officer. In the mid-1990s, BNF range personnel and livestock grazing permittees began discussing how to meet legal requirements and forest plan objectives for sustainable livestock grazing and how to collect data on which to base those decisions. The BNF completed an Environmental Impact Statement and issued a Record of Decision regarding some of the allotments.
    “Now we’re being challenged with a lawsuit on the first plan we completed under this,” says Bill Bass, BNF Supervisor, during a January meeting with grazing permittees. “The plaintiff is WWP, an anti-grazing organization. Their remedy is to vacate the decision we have on those allotments and vacate those plans.” He adds, “The agency feels like we’re under attack on the national forest.”
    Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the WWP has requested every piece of grazing information the BNF has for the last five years.
    Jonathan Ratner, Director of WWP’s Wyoming office says, “The FS is not addressing livestock grazing in the planning process. It’s a hot-button issue, so the FS prefers to leave it as it is. They know the forest is severely overstocked, but because of politics in the ag industry, it’s very hard to get forest managers to do the right thing. They know the right thing, but when it comes time to take action, they get shredded. Politics are so intense; the right thing rarely takes place.”
    Ratner continues, “In 2007, when WWP bid on state grazing leases in Wyoming, within 10 days of our filing those petitions, Jim Magagna (Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association) and others already had a bill out there to block us. We bid on those state grazing permits so we would use them instead of current lessees.”
    “We have grasslands for a reason,” says Bass. “Grasslands are healthy for a reason; because they get grazed. Grazing can be a wonderful tool to keep the health and vigor of the national forest. Some people don’t want cows in a campground, or have to wait for a cattle drive or have cows around when fishing. So they band together to get livestock removed. The result of removing ranches is we end up with little ranchettes, which are bad for range health.” Bass agreed the FS could do a better job of educating the public about the benefits of livestock grazing.
    “America has this image of a rancher being this great independent person and not needing anyone’s help,” Ratner comments, “but if the government was not subsiding ranching in the arid West, the economics are not there. Socialism in the U.S. is the livestock industry in the arid West – irrigation, fences, AUM fees, dealing with problems that occur with wolves and native trout species - is all trouble caused by livestock grazing.”
    Bornong says the FS received a number of photographs of “sore spots” on the forest, and the group wanted to know what the FS was going to do about it. “Yes, there are some sore spots, but we are working with the permittees on those,” he comments. “Someone suggested the FS should be out there monitoring water. Wyoming Law and the Robel Pole monitoring method used on some of the grazing allotments say we don’t need to do that.” He adds, “We do monitoring to manage sustainability of the range, not because WWP is out there.”
    According to Bornong, the funds to prepare for such lawsuits come from regular allocations. “We don’t have special ‘legal people,’ so we have the same people responding to lawsuit allegations and to FOIA requests that would otherwise be working on range planning, monitoring summarization or working with permittees. We typically get about five to eight requests from WWP annually, and even before this lawsuit, I estimated we spent about six months of one person’s time answering those. For the lawsuit, I would guess we are already up to three weeks of time for two people, and one week for three people, and we haven’t even gotten our response filed yet.” He adds, “There is no doubt that groups that file numerous FOIAs, and file lawsuits, partially achieve their ends by diverting our personnel’s time from their ordinary work of planning, monitoring, working with permittees, etc.”
    Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Torrington – Keeping winter costs down has always been a challenge for livestock producers. While more and more producers are seeking out cornfield residue to winter their animals, researchers are looking for ways to add nutritional value to the residue. 

Jenna Meeks, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming, spoke to producers about a study she conducted looking at inter-seeding annual forage crops into crop residue during the 2014 Southeast Wyoming Beef Production Convention on Nov. 18. 

“Winter feed costs are very expensive for the cattle producer, so corn stalk grazing has become a common practice,” she said. “The problem is that during the last trimester of pregnancy, the cows need eight percent crude protein in their diet.” 

“Cornstalk residue only provides about five to seven percent crude protein, and that is at the beginning of the season when they can graze the leaves and ears. The cob and stalk grazing at the end of the season is only about five percent crude protein. That makes cornstalk grazing a quantity versus quality issue,” Meeks explained. 

Inter-seeding crops

As part of her graduate research, Meeks has attempted to inter-seed forage crops into growing corn during the summer and fall. Her hope is that the forage will germinate and produce an adequate stand that livestock can graze along with the corn residue. 

By grazing both forages and corn residue, cattle should be able to meet the amount of crude protein they need in their diet. 

As part of her study, Meeks said an irrigated center pivot in Lingle was inter-seeded with five species, including annual ryegrass, crimson clover, rapeseed, turnips and radishes. The species were seeded at a rate of 12 pounds per acre by aerial application. 

In 2013, these varieties were planted every two weeks starting Sept. 2, with the final plantings taking place Oct. 30.

Meeks thought this may be a good starting point because the leaves on the corn were starting to dry up, and the canopy was not covering up the ground. However, these dates proved too late, she noted. 

“We just didn’t feel like the yield was good enough, so in 2014, we tried planting starting July 14,” Meeks said. 

The plots were planted in a randomized complete block design in four replicates. 

To determine how the plot performed, she collected two frames in each plot to determine how much above-ground biomass was being produced. The plants collected were separated by family and species. They were sorted by grasses, legumes and brassicas. 

Results

Although Meeks doesn’t have data completely analyzed from the 2014 study, she has found out that delayed planting dates have decreased forage cover, and the cover produced by each plant species changes as winter progresses. 

“We found some production differences between species,” she said. “Also, the later the planting date, the less biomass these plants produced. I think our next step is to determine what planting date is best. We also want to do more work determining how much seed is lost.”

Meeks said her research so far has shown that some grasses will sustain themselves longer throughout the winter, whereas the brassicas, like turnips and radishes, disappear. 

“We found the total cover decreased during the winter due to corn residue coverage, snow and cold temperatures,” she noted. “We also found differences in species composition due to seed size. Radishes have much larger seeds than ryegrass.”

In fact, Meeks said while ryegrass made up 42 percent of the mixture, her samples showed it only produced six percent of the total biomass. Crimson clover was 25 percent of the mix and produced only 0.3 percent of the total biomass. 

Rapeseed performed better, with 17 percent of the mixture and 16 percent of the biomass, while turnips were only eight percent of the mixture but produced 72 percent of the biomass. Radishes rounded out the mixture at eight percent of the mix and five percent of the biomass.

Planning ahead

Future research will focus on determining the correct planting date and seeding rate range to acquire optimal forage establishment and production, she continued. 

They are also studying seven different herbicides to determine if potential herbicide damage is likely to occur in these forage crops following application of pre-plant herbicides.

This study also helped Meeks determine which forage crops are best suited to broadcast seeding. 

“We found crimson clover hasn’t produced that well in our study,” she explained. “It isn’t as hardy and seems susceptible to frost.”

Meeks also wonders if producers could plant these varieties in early July, when the corn isn’t very tall, they may be able to get some type of tillage implement through the field to get better germination. 

However, obtaining the optimal planting date and seeding rate is most important. 

“Planting more increases seed costs, but planting earlier may reduce corn yields,” Meeks said. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..