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Grazing

Producers who are short on grass or want to rest their pastures may want to consider planting annual forages. According to University of Nebraska Range and Forage Specialist Jerry Volesky, annuals can be a good fit with a grazing program, if proper planning is done ahead of time.

Many annuals can be used for grazing, Volesky said. Some of the more common cool season annuals are oats, spring triticale, spring barley, field peas, Italian or annual ryegrass, turnips, radishes, winter wheat and rye. Warm-season annuals like millet, S-S hybrids, sorghum, sudangrass, crabgrass, teff and corn can also provide grazing for livestock, he added. 

“Grazing is not as efficient as haying these annuals,” Volesky cautioned producers. 

Grazing interrupts plant growth more than haying because haying takes place more toward the end of the plant’s growing cycle, he explained. 

“Grazing interrupts plant growth, and may reduce the potential of future growth,” he added. 

As an example, Volesky said if a cow grazes off the growth point of an oat plant, any future growth of the tiller of that plant will be lost. Losses can also occur from trampling. 

Planning ahead

It is important to plan ahead when additional grazing may be needed, the range specialist continued. The plants will need adequate time to grow to the appropriate stage or height before they are grazed. 

Volesky encouraged producers to consider planting different types of annuals that can be rotationally grazed and to stagger the planting dates of warm season annuals to prevent them from growing too rapidly before they can be grazed. 

“Producers will want to start grazing these annuals at a younger stage of growth or at a shorter height,” he explained. “Animals can be added as needed depending upon the growth of the forage.” 

Producers should have a backup pasture in case plants are consumed quicker than expected, or the stocking rate doesn’t work out as planned, he said. 

“It is important to have something to fall back on,” added Volesky. 

Producers should start grazing annuals at the appropriate stage of growth or height. For small, cool season grains that are spring-planted, they shouldn’t be grazed before they reach six to eight inches tall, which should be around May 15-25. 

Late-planted small grains should be allowed more growth before they are grazed. Volesky recommended Oct.1. 

For warm season annuals, like sudangrass and pearl millet, the plants should be 15 to 20 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches tall for S-S hybrids. 

Grazing rotations

Simple grazing rotations can be beneficial, Volesky said. 

In an example using the warm-season annual, sudangrass, with staggered seeding, Volesky showed the annual in Field A was seeded on June 1 and grazed when it reached 15 to 20 inches tall for seven to 10 days. The cattle were then moved to Field B, which was seeded on June 12 and grazed when it reached 15 to 20 inches tall for seven to 10 days. The cattle then moved to field C, which was seeded on June 26 and also grazed for seven to 10 days when it reached 15 to 20 inches tall. The cattle then moved back to Field A, and the cycle was repeated. 

Combinations

“Growing these annuals in combination can also work out well,” Volesky said. 

He showed an example of planting rye the previous fall and grazing it in April and May. Sorghum sudangrass is then planted the first of June and grazed from July through September. 

Volesky cautioned producers that they will need to have native pasture or some other type of feed for livestock during the month of June, while the sorghum sudangrass is growing. 

Another alternative is planting oats in late March and grazing in late May and June. Sorghum sudangrass is then planted July 1 and grazed in August and September.

Stocking rates

Volesky said there is always a lot of concern from producers regarding what is a proper stocking rate for annuals. Volesky said he likes to use an animal unit concept, based on one animal unit (AU) is equivalent to a 1,000 pound animal, and one AUM (animal unit month) is equivalent to 780 pounds of forage. This is based on 30 days in a month where 26 pounds of forage is consumed per day. 

A cow/calf pair is considered 1.5 AU, and a weaned calf (500 pounds) is considered 0.5 AU. 

Volesky said when working with annuals, it is important to consider grazing efficiency. 

“A rule of thumb is 1.3 AUM per ton of potential forage,” he said, assuming 50 percent grazing efficiency. 

Fall and winter grazing options

Volesky said producers can consider leaving some of the warm-season annuals growth and stockpiling it by either leaving it standing in the field or windrow grazing. 

Cool-season annuals, like oats and turnips, can be grazed after freeze-down or also by windrow grazing, he added. Volesky said he has done some work utilizing windrow grazing during the summer. His research was with winter rye and showed the importance of harvesting the crop at the optimum maturity so the animals will utilize it efficiently in the windrows, he said.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

Greybull – On Jan. 2 the Bighorn National Forest (BNF) issued a letter to livestock grazing permittees announcing reduced permitted AUMs for 13 permittees, by 40 to 68 percent. The reductions affect six allotments in the Tongue, Medicine Wheel and Paintrock ranger districts from 2009 through 2011.
    At the BNF Livestock Grazing Permittee Meeting on Jan. 23 in Greybull, the reductions were a hot topic. Nearly 70 people attended the meeting the BNF and Guardians of the Range (Guardians) set up last fall to improve communication efforts between permittees and the BNF.
    The Guardians are a grazing advocacy group of about 100 ranchers who utilize federal lands in the Big Horn Basin for livestock grazing.  
    The BNF Briefing Paper – Tongue Allotment Management Plan (AMP) Decision Implementation issued on Jan. 4, 2008 gives some background on the process that lead to the reductions.  “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.”  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.  
    “Some allotments in the Tongue District are stocked in the one- to two-acre-per-AUM range, which is a pretty high stocking rate. Most of the stocking rates haven’t been changed since the 1960s,” said Bernie Bornong, BNF Resources Staff Officer. A number of collaborators worked through the allotment planning process, including permittees, UW Extension, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service.


    In 2005, the BNF issued the Record of Decision for the Tongue AMP. The decision included a three-year monitoring period in order to determine the number of permitted AUMs available for grazing on an annual basis in order to consistently meet the allowable use guidelines. The three-year monitoring period ran from 2005-2007 for the six allotments affected by the Jan. 2 decision. Actual use information (numbers and class of livestock, number of days in each pasture and the forage use monitoring data) from the 2005 to 2007 monitoring period was used to calculate the percentage of the permitted AUMs. According to the Briefing Paper, “this calculated percentage was then increased by at least 10 percent to factor in variables such as annual forage production, livestock distribution and forage availability.”
    At the root of the controversy is the Robel Pole method the BNF used to monitor forage on the Tongue allotments. “The Robel Pole method was used on the Tongue because what we were using wasn’t working,” said Bornong.  
    Guardians Executive Director Kathleen Jachowski added, “The University of Wyoming suggested Robel Pole because it would be cost effective, consistent and could be done quickly.”
    Sheridan area rancher Chas Kane calls the Robel Pole method “a flawed system,” saying it only measures the height of the grass. “We measure before and after we go in (to the allotment). The range looks good, but still does not meet Robel Pole requirements.”
    Kane’s daughter-in-law, Carol Kane, added, “Permittees are going to have huge cuts by 2011, and some of them could be completely put out of business because of Robel Pole. But we’re not overgrazing, and we’re not damaging the range.”  
    “Everyone involved understands that, and the decision wasn’t made lightly,” responded Bornong. “Everyone wants to keep grazing on the forest.”
    BNF Supervisor Bill Bass pointed out, “Grazing can be a wonderful tool to keep the health and vigor of a national forest. Grasslands are healthy because they get grazed.”  
    Lovell area rancher and Utah State range graduate Michael Bischoff said, “Robel Pole is not so good with mixed grass species. The Pole method would work well in a hay pasture, but not on fescue or mountain brome, or when the grass is rank. It’s a complicated system. It comes down to good management for the range. Is this a tool to help the range, or is this a tool to get us off the range?”
    Jachowski pointed out, “It’s a good methodology, but one of the big concerns with Robel Pole, and one contention the Guardians hold, is that it should be set to determine the capability on each particular allotment or pasture.  If we don’t get it right on allotments, we shouldn’t extrapolate it across the forest.  We’ll keep getting it wrong.  We need to get the bandwidth set for each pasture or allotment.”
    “The die was cast a while ago,” said Bornong. “There was a long planning process, and now the Tongue instance is boxed in. There’s further work to be done, and there’s potential mediation, but it is what it is. We were happy with the Pole, even though it’s not very satisfactory to some.”     
     Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna remarked after the meeting, “We are encouraging the permittees to file an appeal, and so is the Department of Ag, to help protect permittee rights, and to keep the doors open to discussion. An appeal is not necessarily a bad thing if something has been overlooked or missed, and it affords you opportunity for mediation.”
    Permittees who face reductions have until Feb. 19 to file an appeal. “If they don’t file an appeal, they face progressive cuts through 2011. It’s a done deal. The appeal allows time to explore options, and perhaps come to a resolution,” said Don Christianson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “There is a lot of controversy whether the cuts are actually warranted.”
    The other seven cattle and horse allotments will likely complete their three years of monitoring in the 2008 grazing season. “Permitted AUMs on those allotments will be changed up or down as the data indicates, around a year from now,” noted Bornong.
    For more information, contact Bernie Bornong at 307-674-2685 or Kathleen Jachowski at 587-3723. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Comments on this article can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Mexico — An Oct. 1 ruling by United States District Court Judge James O. Browning dismissing a challenge to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) grazing permit renewal from the WildEarth Guardians is welcome news for New Mexico ranchers and will help ranchers across the west.
    “Livestock producers across the West are breathing a sigh of relief today,” said Alisa Ogden, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NMCGA) President. “The claims made by the WildEarth Guardians in this case regarding grazing, the livestock industry and the Forest Service were totally without merit, and Judge Browning reinforced that fact with his ruling. This is a huge victory.”
    In 2007, the WildEarth Guardians, then known as the Forest Guardians, challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) use of categorical exclusions (CE) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for grazing permit renewal in Federal District Court. The case focused on 26 grazing allotments in the Gila National Forest. The NMCGA, the New Mexico Federal Lands Council and the Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of Counties intervened in the case on behalf of the 26 named allotment owners.
    “This case was just one more attempt by a radical activist group to eliminate livestock grazing,” Ogden said. “Had it been successful, it would have devastated the livelihoods of the named allotment owners, and the economy of rural Southwestern New Mexico. We are so pleased that the Court saw through the claims made by the WildEarth Guardians and ruled on the side of common sense and the will of Congress. NEPA analysis is typically required for major federal actions, but due to policy decisions by the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is now required for the renewal of 10-year USFS grazing permits, Ogden explained. Now, the agency has a tremendous backlog of analysis and paperwork, because they simply are not equipped to conduct such detailed review on every grazing permit that comes up for renewal. Additionally, the WildEarth Guardians and other such groups tie up the agencies with appeals and lawsuits.”
    “This has created a lot of uncertainty for ranchers who depend on grazing allotments as part of their operations, and for the institutions, like banks, that they work with on a daily basis,” Ogden noted. “Fortunately, we have had strong Congressional support on this issue.”
    Starting in 1995, and most recently in March of 2009, language was included in several appropriations bills by former Senator Pete Domenici directing the USFS to use categorical exclusions to keep the current terms and conditions of grazing permits in effect until the agency is able to complete the environmental analysis required for renewal. “Through no fault of their own, these ranchers were placed in jeopardy, and we appreciate the Court’s ruling. The ironic thing is, every lawsuit filed against the agency by groups like the WildEarth Guardians takes more and more time and resources away from environmental analysis and on-the-ground resource management – making the situation even worse,” said Ogden.
    Although this ruling pertained to these 26 allotments in New Mexico, it will also have a direct influence on the court challenge that Western Watershed Project has mounted to the remaining 138 Forest Service grazing permit renewal decisions on 386 allotments across the remainder of the Western states. That case is now pending in the Northern District Court of California and includes some Wyoming allotments.
    “We are extremely pleased that the USFS chose to defend itself and the ranchers on these allotments in the face of this frivolous litigation. We are also extremely proud of the representation that Karen Budd-Falen and the Budd-Falen Law Office, L.L.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming, protected the industry through participation in the case on behalf of the livestock industry,” she concluded.

Worland – “As we sit here, there are a lot of interesting things going on,” said Mike Phillips, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager for resources in the Worland BLM office. “There are a lot of things going on in the Bighorn Basin and a lot of press related to allotments here.”

In particular, during a Feb. 14 meeting of the Guardians of the Range, Phillips discussed the progress and status of 18 allotments in Hot Springs County previously held by Frank Robbins of HD Ranch and High Island Ranch and Cattle Co. and progress BLM is making in processing grazing applications.

“Hay Creek Land and Cattle has applied for the old Frank Robbins’ grazing permits,” Phillips explained.   “Frank Robbins lost his grazing permits in 2005-06 due to trespass violations and violation of permit term and conditions. 

The loss of allotments was preceded by a lengthy litigation. 

New permittee

In 2009, Hay Creek Land and Cattle approached BLM to indicate interest in the permits, and in 2010, those permits were offered up for applications. 

“The Worland Field Office received conflicting applications from five other applicants,” Phillips continued. “Hay Creek applied for 18 allotments. It was a long application process and took us roughly two years to get through.”

In the initial decision, Hay Creek was awarded all or part of 16 of the 18 allotments they applied for. The remaining allotments were approved to other qualified applicants. 

Hay Creek appealed the final decision, and a settlement agreement was reached between BLM, Hay Creek Land and Livestock and the other two permittees – Anthony Martinez and Pennoyer and Sons. 

“We are getting through the settlement process right now,” Phillips explained, noting that the process is anticipated to take between five and seven years to complete.

Awarding allotment

Phillips explained that BLM has guidelines to govern how the allotments should be awarded in the event that conflicting permit applications are received and a specific process they must follow. 

“The primary issue is ingress and regress,” he said, explaining that ownership of those private lands within the boundaries of an allotment are strongly considered in awarding permits. “That is important when we have intermixed public and private land.”

The other criteria include historic use and proper use of rangelands for orderly administration of public lands.

Processing permits

At the same time, processing BLM permits is a three-step process, which begins with a rangeland health evaluation.  

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is the next step following the evaluation. The EAincludes a public scoping and comment process. The final step of the process is the potential issuingof the permit.

BLM has broken the 16 allotments into smaller units to facilitate working through the three-step approach to process the applications.  In the current fiscal year, BLM is on phase two for the middle section. Phase three in the upper country will be started in 2016.

“The BLM and Hay Creek agreed to work in Phase One, the low country, first, with the reasoning that all could agree on the initial management intent of the area, and Hay Creek expressed a need for grazing permits in those areas, as they have large amounts of public land,” he noted.

Each area has its own resources, Philips said, including sage grouse, grizzly bears, wolves, Canada lynx habitat, big game habitat, migration routes, recreational use, access and cultural issues. 

“This ranch has everything except wild horses,” he continued. 

Bighorn sheep conflicts

One large concern on the permits, particularly in the upper country, is the potential presence of Bighorn sheep on the allotments, which have historically been used for sheep grazing. 

“Phase three is where we hear about most of the issues taking place,” Phillips said. “This is where the Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep interaction piece came up.”

“BLM is also concerned about Bighorn sheep, but there is a lot of private land intermixed in the allotments,” he continued.

BLM has been working closely with Hay Creek to both help them avoid direct conflicts with Bighorn sheep and also to minimize potential trespass on public lands, said Phillips.  

Hay Creek has provided their herders GPS units with land status chips to avoid BLM-managed lands and uses sheep dogs like most other sheep operations to keep the sheep on their private lands and state lands.  

Addressing concerns

“In 2014, Hay Creek purposely did not utilize private lands in the upper stretches of Willow Creek or Rock Creek near Bighorn sheep in attempt to address the Bighorn sheep concerns,” Phillips said. 

Phillips also noted that BLM is working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) to verify Bighorn sheep use areas, so BLM in turn can continue to help Hay Creek avoid potential conflicts with the wild sheep.

“The observational data received indicates the time that Bighorn sheep are observed in these areas is not the same time that domestic sheep utilize the private grazing land,” he added. “That is the best available data that we have.”

Completing the process

As BLM works forward, Phillips noted that BLM will continue to work to address the issues. 

“We don’t have authority on their private land,” he said. “The best thing we can do is help educate individuals and work with them on the potential risks and issues.”

As the process continues, Phillips also noted that BLM has joined with WGFD to attempt to collect data on Bighorn sheep movements. 

“We are trying to be very transparent in what we are doing and will continue to follow our guidance as the BLM processes these grazing permit applications,” Phillips said. 

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.. 

Buffalo’s Lohse earns national recognition
Buffalo — Nikki Lohse, District Manager for the Lake DeSmet Conservation District, has been awarded the “Two Chiefs Partnership Award” for 2008 from the chiefs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
    “Nikki is a genuine grassroots representative of the landowners and the general public in the Lake DeSmet Conservation District area,” say Conservation District Chairman Dave Fraley and Supervisor John Pearson in their nomination of Lohse. The duo commend Lohse for her ability to bring leadership and volunteerism to area conservation programs.
    It seems fitting that Lohse would receive an award including the word “partnership” given her noteworthy ability to develop team-based approaches in her local community. Asked about her favorite aspect of working for the Lake DeSmet Conservation District Lohse says, “Working with producers and seeing conservation on the ground.”
    She’s been an instrumental part of a sage grouse habitat enhancement and restoration project including 24 landowners, 340,000 acres and a budget surpassing $3 million. “We’ve been spending 90 percent of our time on that,” says Lohse of an effort that has brought regional and national attention to Johnson County.
    “We’ve implemented best management practices,” says Lohse noting that the effort includes a grazing plan on each of the participant’s land. “It’s given them the tools necessary to make management decisions and we’ve been able to implement stockwater pipelines, water development and fencing so they can manage their livestock to benefit sage grouse.” Lohse says the project is proving beneficial for sage grouse, wildlife in general and the ranchers who are involved.
    “Nikki took the leadership to complete the Eva Knepper Park Habitat Nature Trail for the town of Buffalo,” say Fraley and Pearson. Following Clear Creek through the Buffalo community, the project has drawn numerous visitors.
    “This project serves as a ‘show and tell’ for how stream restoration as well as woody vegetation and fuels management can work,” say Mark Booth of the U.S. Forest Service and NRCS District Conservationist Phil Gonzales in a letter supporting Lohse’s nomination. The project includes fish habitat structures, bridges, fences, weed management, stream restoration and clean up, spanning nearly a mile.
    Nikki has been active in additional watershed efforts and is working with multiple partners to address fish passage. “When it comes to the rubber hitting the road and seeing a diverse conservation ethic we feel you can see the results of conservation being applied with Nickki Lohse’s leadership and commitment,” say Fraley and Pearson. Last year they say the district brought in three semi-loads of trees and hosted a very-well received Hazardous Waste Day.
    “It’s very humbling to be nominated,” says Lohse. “We couldn’t have achieved what we have without Phil Gonzales’ technical assistance. We have a board that is very progressive and has a vision for conservation in our area. Without the board’s support of the projects we bring them we couldn’t have reached this point.”
    Lohse says, “I think the conservation districts across the state do a good job working for our natural resources. The landowners who are proactive in our area have done wonderful conservation work. The partners that I work with in my area are super and step up to the plate to offer financial and technical assistance to get the job done.”
    Nebraska State Conservationist Steve Chick, Nebraska State Forester Scott Josiah and Greg Sundstrom of the Colorado State Forest Service were also recipients of the 2008 award.
    An Open House to celebrate Lohse’s award will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Lake DeSmet Conservation District at 621 West Fetterman in Buffalo. 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..