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Grazing

Sacramento, Calif. On Jan. 31, members of the Society for Range Management (SRM) gathered in Sacramento to celebrate “Managing Diversity,” the theme of their 2015 annual meeting. 

During the meeting, range scientists, students, agency officials and more gathered to discuss the latest research related to range management and recognize their counterparts for their achievements over the past several years. 

“It was a pretty good meeting overall,” says Brian Mealor, immediate past president of the Wyoming Chapter of SRM. “There were close to 1,200 people there, which was up from last year.”

Of those 1,200, approximately 30 percent of attendees were students presenting their work and competing in various contests. 

Additionally, Mealor notes that the focus on the event, managing for diversity in rangelands, was a topic on the forefront of range management that was exemplified with the California setting. 

“The focus was on managing for diversity in rangelands and understanding the diverse systems, goods and services that rangeland ecosystems provide, which fit well with California,” he says. “They are probably one of the most ecologically diverse states in the country. It was a good meeting.”

Issues discussion

As with most national meetings, attendees had the chance to learn about the up-and-coming issues in the industry, as well as to hear the latest research being conducted around the country. 

“It seems like there was a continued emphasis on the issues that we have focused on over the last few years,” Mealor says. “We looked at sage grouse, wild horses and invasive species.”

Mealor also mentions that a growing emphasis on energy development was seen through the organization. 

“The organization is beginning to recognize the importance of energy development,” he explains. “We have known about it for a while, but as an organization, we are starting to actively engage in that process.”

Professional success

Also at the meeting, SRM presented Terry Booth, a retired rangeland scientist who worked at the Agricultural Research Service in Cheyenne for many years, with their Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award.

Booth was also presented the Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wyoming Section of SRM at their November meeting, as well. 

“The Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award is one of the highest honors the SRM presents,” Mealor comments, “and Terry really deserves the award. He has done a little bit of everything.”

In his nomination letter, Mealor wrote, “Terry embodies the spirit of the Society for Range Management.”

Booth became involved with SRM as a student and continued his service since the early 1970s. 

“I have known Terry since my career in range science began in 2001 and have found his insightful leadership, precise approach to science and thoughtful advising of young range scientists and managers reflective  of his outstanding character as a person,” Mealor continues. “His pioneering work on reclamation of disturbed rangelands, rangeland monitoring methodology and general rangeland ecology have furthered our understanding of how rangelands function and has informed us on how we can better manage the products and service they provide to the world.”

“Dr. Booth’s service at both the section and parent society levels of SRM are well-documented,” he added. “Terry has proven time and again that he is dedicated and committed to his profession and his professional society.”

“The mission of the Society for Range Management is made successful through efforts of people like Terry Booth,” adds nominators John Likins and Charles Fifield. “We both believe Terry’s efforts in advancing the use of this new technology will help advance the art and science of rangeland management.”

Student accomplishments

The University of Wyoming also sent 12 undergraduate students to the event to compete in a handful of contests. Five graduate students also presented their research during the event. 

University of Wyoming students took third place in the Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME) and fourth place with their student chapter display. 

Additionally, Jessica Windh, BJ Bender and Kelsey Welter received third place in the Rangeland Cup event. 

“We had good representation at all levels,” Mealor notes. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lead, S.D. – Producers seeking forage that can provide good quality grazing from late summer through the winter months may want to check into forage kochia, University of Wyoming Extension Educator Brian Sebade told a group of sheep producers on Sept. 28-29.
    The perennial, semi-shrub plant that grows back each year from a woody base is not of the same species as the weedy, annual kochia plant. In fact, forage kochia is native to heavily grazed Central Eurasia and is considered the alfalfa of the desert in their part of the world. The forage is used to fatten sheep, goats and camels in Central Eurasia.
    In the United States, the plant is considered one of the few that can be established and will compete with cheatgrass, halogeton and other annual weeds, Sebade explained during the Northern Plains Sheep Symposium in Lead, S.D.
    “It has been planted extensively in Utah, Nevada and Idaho as a forage species. It was planted originally to combat a problem weed called halogeton, which is a big problem in this area because it can build up salt that can be poisonous to sheep. Forage kochia will compete with it. It will also fight and combat problem weeds like Russian thistle and cheatgrass,” he added.
Benefits of kochia
    Forage kochia carries a lot of protein, so it can be used for grazing during the fall and winter when range plants start to lose their protein. Sebade said studies have shown the plant to have 15 percent crude protein in September and October and 10 percent in January.
    For producers growing the plant, he encourages them to pull a sample and send it in for analysis so they know what they have, but it can help the animal meet its nutritional requirements for protein through the winter months.  
    Sebade has experimented with forage kochia in test plots near Gillette, Hulett and Alzada, Mont.
    “I didn’t want to recommend it to anyone until I had tried it myself to see what it can do,” he explained.
    He has found the plant provides more protein than grass will later in the season and has tripled production on some of the plots.
    “I would encourage anyone who wants to try it to plant it in small amounts first, just to see how it performs and if they like it,” he said.
    The plant seems to be equally palatable between horses, sheep and cattle. However, sheep will prefer it more than cattle. Cattle may not graze it in the spring once green grass is available.
Growing kochia
    The plant grows well in cold desert-like areas in the U.S. and can be established in extremely harsh conditions. It is highly adaptable to saline, alkaline, sandy and clay soils and grows best in marginal, semiarid rangelands receiving five to 15 inches of annual precipitation.
    It is not suitable for more productive areas, so it should only be planted on winter range, where cheatgrass is a problem, or on marginal ground and degraded holding pastures, like weaning, ram or replacement pastures.
    To plant forage kochia, the seedbed needs to be well prepared, Sebade said. Because the seed is so small, producers should broadcast it, preferably over snow at a rate of one to three pounds per acre. The seed shouldn’t be drilled because it would be planted too deep preventing it from sprouting.
    Forage kochia should be planted between November and March, and preferably with some type of native grass, Sebade said.
    “It is important to only purchase new seed, because the seed will lose viability after a year,” Sebade said.
    For more information about forage kochia, Sebade can be reached at 307-283-4520 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 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..

How do ranchers make decisions? This is a question researchers all over the world want answered, so with the help of 17 family ranches in southeastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado, Hailey Wilmer is attempting to address it.

Wilmer, who is a graduate research assistant for rangeland social-ecological systems at Colorado State University (CSU), is working on a research project that evaluates how ranchers make decisions and adapt grazing management.

Evaluating decision-making

“My project is focused on listening to ranchers,” Wilmer said.

During this three-year study, Wilmer is following family ranches and monitoring their ecological outcomes based on how they make decisions. She has evaluated how their grazing and social systems work and how that influences the plant habitat and what’s happening on the ground.

“I’m focusing on adaptation – what the rancher is doing and why it is or isn’t working,” she said.

The goal of the project is to eventually develop decision-support tools and ways to connect with mentors who have already dealt with a problem another rancher may be facing.

“Researchers around the world are starting to recognize the importance of the ecological component of rangeland and how it relates to the social component. We are trying to do a better job of linking the two because usually one gets selected before the other,” she added.

The study basically comes down to animals, plants, soil and their relationships to one another and the ecosystem, Wilmer said.

“We recognize that people who have lived off the land for a long time can teach us a lot about the ecology and central systems because they know a lot more about that land,” she commented.

Wilmer wants to develop a working rangelands concept.

“The idea is to have thriving social communities that care about rangeland and extensive systems. They can produce high-quality protein for human consumption while maintaining ecosystems that are connected and supported by biodiversity and cultural heritage that support a sense of place and spiritual connection but also provide food,” she explained.

Two-pronged approach

The research is two-fold. Wilmer is also looking at what approaches to grazing management ranchers in Colorado and Wyoming are using to adapt. If they are complex systems, what ecological differences might be correlated with these approaches?

“The goal is to link these two systems,” she said. “There are all sorts of drivers of change in ranching that we have to wake up and deal with each day. The question is, what can we do to improve our ecology and maintain our social system?”

Wilmer conducts interviews with each of these ranches on an annual basis and gathers information on the decisions they made, how those decisions changed and what happened as a result of these decisions.

Changing tides

“We have seen some changes,” Wilmer said. “We started in Wyoming in 2012 when they went through the drought. We saw some interesting reorganization of these places. Drought is devastating to people psychologically and socially, but it can also be an opportunity for people to reorganize.”

“I have seen several cases where who’s running the ranch and how the ranch operates is completely different when going through drought,” she said.

During this research, Wilmer has also realized that women play an important role in maintaining cultural and technical knowledge of ranching, as well as helping people decide if they want to stay in ranching.

“I think women play an important role in mentoring and training the next generation of ranchers,” she said.

Using the results

As a result of this research, Wilmer has found that these communities have really strong ways of planning and training the next generation.

“We just need to make it financially possible for them,” she stated.

“People are starting to recognize the role of ranchers in conservation and beef production,” Wilmer continued. “Don’t be surprised if there is more interest from the public in the future about how something is done and why it is done this way.”

Wilmer transcribed the interviews and, using that information, tried to write them into management approaches.

“I didn’t ask them what their stocking rate is or how often they move the cattle. What I wanted was to get a general feel for the differences in management approaches on a broad scale,” she said.

Grouping results

The ranches were basically sorted into three groups.

The first group uses an open-range approach where their management system is based on topography and the weather.

“Where the cattle are what time of year is dependent on the weather and topography,” she explained. “These ranchers are not what we call rotational grazers.”

The second group of ranchers has a less-intense rotational grazing system. The cattle are moved about every 30 days. These ranchers focus on a timeline for their grazing that helps them be more resilient in drought and also get better distribution.

“These are people that may have five sections, and each pasture is a section,” she said.

The final group is the holistic grazers that rotate their cattle frequently and are intent on infrastructure.

System ecology

In evaluating these different management techniques, Wilmer looked at the ecology of each system.

“I was interested in what’s covering the ground,” she said. “It helps us to know what is happening to the trajectory of the plant community by actually measuring the base of the plant.”

On each ranch, Wilmer measured three plots. She evaluated the most productive and least productive pastures and then a random pasture on the ranch.

“I wanted to evaluate if there are differences in basal cover between these groups of ranchers across their regions,” she said.

“I was looking for patterns between those productivity categories in each plot and also those management approaches,” she continued.

She also looked at the environmental variables.

“I calculated the difference between plots in terms of species composition, and then I laid vectors over the top to see if environmental or management variables have anything to do with what’s different,” she said.

As a result of this research, Wilmer found groups one and two to be similar, but the third group was different mainly because of rainfall.

“Rainfall is more important than management,” she said.

Other differences she noticed were litter on the soil, the presence of blue grama  and whether the management was first generation or multi-generational.

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..

According to confidential reports from insiders involved in the case, the U.S. Forest Service capitulated when it entered into settlement negotiations last week with anti-grazing activists.

Instead of correcting the deficiencies identified by a federal magistrate that would have allowed the agency to uphold its use of categorical exclusions to reauthorize certain livestock grazing, the agency abandoned that notion entirely, agreeing to complete a comprehensive environmental analysis or environmental impact statement for each of the permit decisions involved in this multi-state case, including more than 43 grazing allotments in four national forests in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. 

At a minimum, the deal means the federal agency must complete about a dozen new unscheduled environmental assessments or environmental impact statements – a process that has been known to take years from initiation of public scoping to a final decision. 

The deal impacts domestic sheep grazing permits on numerous Bridger-Teton National Forest allotments. Although the Forest Service had issued a categorical exclusion authorizing grazing on all the allotments, apparently the agency has now agreed that the southernmost allotments will be considered separately and on a different time schedule than the northern allotments.

Representatives of the U.S. Forest Service met during the first week of June in settlement negotiations with representatives of Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and Utah Environmental Congress. Several of these groups are vocal in their bid to rid public lands of domestic livestock grazing. 

The deal between the anti-grazers and the Forest Service must now make its way up through the bureaucracy of the federal departments of agriculture and justice and then on to the court for its review. At some point, the interveners will get to have a look at it. 

Meanwhile, the federal agency will enter into another confidential negotiation involving how much money the federal government will pay the anti-grazers for their attorneys’ fees.

When questioned about the case, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s office issued the following statement.

“Governor Mead believes the grazing permittees should be involved in grazing permit renewals to the greatest possible extent,” Mead’s office commented. “The Attorney General’s office is waiting to review the draft settlement agreement, and the Governor will then decide how to proceed.”

This article was written by Urbigkit and was reprinted from Pinedale Online!

 
Southeast Wyoming – Grass dying in patches in southeastern Wyoming has resource managers baffled says University of Wyoming Extension Educator Dallas Mount.
    The first call came from Doug DesEnfants, who ranches 12 miles east of Jay Em in northern Goshen County. Mount says he’s since heard from additional Goshen County ranchers and some Platte County landowners. Visiting the DesEnfants’ ranch in early May, Mount says the affected area never greened up. “Three weeks ago it looked like somebody sprayed it with Roundup herbicide,” says Mount.
    Describing the area as 640 acres, DesEnfants says the pasture was about 30 percent dead as of early June. “If I knew what was going on I’d fix it,” he says. “It must be drought related, but I don’t know what the problem is for sure. We didn’t do anything to hurt it. There was no livestock in there last year.” It also hasn’t been grazed this year. He says the area is completely void of vegetation.
    “It’s not one large block, but scattered patches across an area rancher Roger Huckfeldt describes as stretching from about six to 20 miles north of Torrington. “The weeds are starting to show up now,” says Huckfeldt, “but to start with pretty much everything was gone out of those areas.”
    Mount says he believes the grasses were dead before spring ever arrived. Even the roots are dead, he says. “It doesn’t seem to be tied to ownership, how hard the area has been grazed or management,” says Mount. Sedge, buffalo grass, needle and thread grass, western wheatgrass and buffalo sedge are among the species he says are affected. “The entomologists tell me if it was bugs it would be just one species,” says Mount. Some range professionals, he says, think it might be drought related.
    If it was drought related, Huckfeldt says he thinks the die-off would be more prevalent on the ridges than in the draw bottoms. “Some of these pastures haven’t seen cattle for a year,” he says. Some of the die off, he says, is happening on smaller areas while others are “good sized.” While much of the state has seen a better year thus far, Huckfeldt says the drought persists in his area.
    “Where I’ve noticed the most is on the southern facing slopes toward the bottoms,” says Huckfeldt of the dead areas.
    Range professional Dr. Mike Smith of the University of Wyoming says cutworms may be the culprit. “There have been incidences such as this in northeastern Colorado that were thought to be due to cutworms,” he says. Because the damage was discovered after the worms were gone, Smith says there were no experiments to confirm the die off’s cause.
    “Apparently there are no other potential causes with any credibility,” says Smith. “If it were drought there should have been a more extensive occurrence. In this case there are patches with pretty distinct edges that do not coincide with any soil feature that would support the drought idea.”
    A tour of the area, including the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is set for July 16. Huckfeldt and DesEnfants are among those who hope solutions can be found. “We want to make sure the area doesn’t get bigger in years to come,” says Huckfeldt.
    Erosion is also a concern. “I don’t think a person can act like a farmer and run equipment across it. You’d do more damage than good, but it does need to be reseeded,” says Huckfeldt. Management of the areas moving forward will be among the topics discussed during the July 16 outing.
    Landowners with similar die-offs on their property can call Dallas Mount at 307-322-3667 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..