Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Planned Grazing Field Guide - Rangeland Health


									    Rangeland Health
       & Planned Grazing
                Field Guide
     Kirk Gadzia & Nathan Sayre

 The Quivira
Earth Works
  & The New
                     April 2009
                    Fourth Edition
    Over the past 400 years, graz-        tional Academy of Sciences 1994).
ing has been one of the major land        He has developed and implemented
use activities in the Southwest and       range-monitoring techniques to pro-
continues to remain and important         vide early-warning indicators of
use. Often grazing has been poorly        deteriorating rangeland health. Kirk
managed and has led to large-scale        has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an
soil loss. Currently, many rangelands     M.S. in Range Science. Contact Kirk
show signs of either over-resting or      at:
over-grazing. Both conditions lead            Resource Management Services, LLC
to reduced vegetation cover and               Phone: 505-867-4685
water absorption in the soil. This in         Cell: 505-263-8677
turn, leads to accelerated sheet, rill,       E-mail:
and gully formation while polluting
arroyos and creeks with sedimentary           Nathan Sayre is an assistant pro-
stream-bottom deposits.                   fessor of geography a the University
    Grazing management in the form        of California, Berkeley. His other
of planned grazing for land reha-         books include The New Ranch Hand-
bilitation and future grazing use can     book: A Guide to Restoring Western
contribute to a reduction of erosion      Rangelands; Ranching, Endangered
and sedimentation of watershed            Species, and Urbanization in the
streams.                                  Southwest: Species of Capital; and
                                          Working Wilderness: The Malpai
About the Authors                         Borderlands Group and the Future of
    Kirk Gadzia works with ranchers       the Western Range. Contact Nathan
across the United States and interna-     at
tionally to improve the sustainability
of their operations. In looking at              The Quivira Coalition
each business as a whole, his work              1413 2nd St. Suite #1
involves financial planning, grazing            Santa Fe, NM, 87505
management, wildlife interactions,                 505.820.2544
improving land health and manage-
ment-training courses on a public
and private basis. Kirk has more
than 25 years experience in work-                Earth Works Institute
ing on rangeland-health and graz-               1413 2nd St. Suite #4
ing issues. He was a field staff for                 Santa Fe, NM
Holistic Management International                   505.982.9806
from 1987 to 1994 and is now a    
Certified Educator in Holistic Man-
agement. Kirk served on the Range-
land Classification Committee and is
co-author of Rangeland Health (Na-
                  Introduction to Grazing
    This field guide is an introduction explain and explore these complex
to grazing management designed dynamics. This field guide presents
to help landowners, stock handlers, some updated tools and concepts of
and agency personnel make better rangeland management that reflect
decisions concerning rangeland man- the improved scientific understanding
agement. Improved management of rangeland dynamics.
decisions will increase vegetative               Central to an understanding of
cover, control erosion, help curb the rangeland dynamics is the concept of
spread of invasive species and improve “disturbance.” Droughts and wild-
animal production.                          fires are natural disturbances in arid
    Arid and semiarid rangelands and semi-arid rangeland ecosystems.
(receiving less than 10 or 20 inches of Grazing is also a type of natural dis-
rain per year, on average, respectively) turbance to which many rangeland
defy some of the central assumptions plants are adapted. The effects of
of conventional rangeland manage- grazing depend—like those of other
ment. They are highly variable disturbances—on timing (when they
over time and space, making fixed happen), intensity (how severe they
measurements of carrying capacity are), and frequency (how often they
or “the right” stocking rate question- recur), and grazing can be managed
able. Which plants grow, and how in these terms (see page 8). Vegeta-
much they grow, depends not
only on how much rain falls
but when and how quickly it
falls, and on the weather that
follows it.
    Plants must be able to
withstand drought and take
advantage of rain when it
finally arrives. Different
kinds of plants will grow de-
pending on whether the rain
arrives in summer or winter,
in large quantities or small.
                                   Fence line contrast: The pasture on the left is 100
Over thousands of years of            acres in size and carried 275 head of livestock
evolution, the vegetation of         for one week. The pasture on the right is 1,500
these areas has adapted to acres; it supported the same herd for four weeks.
reflect these circumstances. In Grazing pressure was 3.5 times greater in the left
recent decades, scientists have pasture. The difference is timing: the left pasture
begun to develop models to            has had a growing season to recover, while the
                                                                right pasture has not.

tion is highly sensitive to variations       than just grass, soil, and cattle. As
in available water and nutrients, both       one rancher put it: “My goal is to
of which cycle through the ecosystem         manage for diversity and complexity
in ways that can be indirectly influ-        of life on the ranch: biodiversity. Each
enced by management. Manage-                 plant species has different growing
ment tailored to these processes, and        seasons, different root zones, and
attuned to variability, can conserve         different leaf capacity. Each provides
rangeland resources and help restore         a different pathway for conversion
areas that have been degraded in the         of solar energy to life. By maximiz-
past—while simultaneously produc-            ing the pathways of solar energy
ing greater returns for the ranch.           conversion, I maximize production.
                                             I have learned that biodiversity
Ranching as Sustainable                      extends beyond a mixture of grass.
Agriculture                                  Each animal, fish, and insect species
    To be sustainable, ranching must         expresses something important about
convert natural forage into livestock        the health of the land.”
in such a way that perennial forage
plants retain vitality year after year. Grazing as a Natural Process
This is possible because grasses (and      Grazing is a natural process which
many other plants) are resilient to has been occurring for millions of
grazing—they can recover from it years. From the fossil record it has
provided that the disturbance is not been determined that grasses and
too great. However, grazing is not grazers evolved together some 45
limited to the plants that are eaten. million years ago. Having co-evolved,
There are other factors to consider: grazers and grasses are adapted to
water, soils, nutrients, other plants, each other.
wildlife and a host of organisms that
inter-relate with all of them.           How Grazing Affects
Livestock are only one piece                 Root Growth
of a much larger puzzle that
must fit together if ranching       Percent Leaf         Percent Root
is to remain sustainable.         Volume Removed Growth Stoppage
    At its simplest, “biodi-            10%                    0%
versity” is the richness or             20%                    0%
number of species (kinds of             30%                    0%
organisms) in a community.              40%                    0%
When the community is                   50%                   2-4%
rich, the landscape is more             60%                   50%
resilient to disturbance.               70%                   78%
Therefore, it is necessary to           80%                  100%
maintain resources other                90%                  100%
                                                       Table 1.

    Imagine a perennial bunch-grass             season until temperatures drop again
plant over the course of a year. When-          in the fall. It produces enough food
ever conditions for growth are insuf-           to support growth in the roots and
ficient, the plant is dormant. Grazing          the leaves, as well as to develop tillers
during the dormant season is unlikely           and/or seed stalks. It stores up energy
to cause damage, because the leaves             for the upcoming dormant season. It
are not living tissue at this time (i.e.,       flowers and sets seed. Eventually the
they are not photosynthesizing and              plant returns to dormancy, its leaves
not exchanging minerals, nutrients,             and stems again turning brown. The
and fluids with the plant’s roots).             health or vigor of the plant depends
When moisture and temperature                   on its ability to produce enough food
conditions reach favorable levels, the          during the growing season to survive
plant enters a period of growth. Be-            through the dormant season and
low ground, the plant’s roots begin to          resume growth when conditions are
grow, drawing minerals and nutrients            again favorable.
from the soil. Above ground, leaves                 In commencing to grow in the
begin to “green-up” as new buds grow            spring, the plant utilizes stored energy
from the base of the plant, which is            in the root crown area to produce
known as the crown.                             new above ground growth. It thus
    Throughout the growing season,              takes a risk, so to speak, that the new
the plant responds to changing con-             leaves will be able to produce enough
ditions of moisture and sunlight. If            additional energy to replenish its sup-
conditions permit, the plant continues          plies. At this early stage of growth,
photosynthesis through the growing              then, the plant is more vulnerable to

Figure 1. Effects of grazing on growth cycle of grass plant.

leaf loss than it is later in the grow-        growing season gets bitten severely
ing season.                                    again while using energy it has taken
    Grazing disturbs the plant by re-          from its crown, stem bases, or roots to
moving leaf tissue. This can be good,          reestablish leaf—something perennial
bad, or indifferent for the plant as a         grasses routinely do (Figure 1, page
whole. If very little leaf is removed,         3). Ovegrazing can happen:
the effects of grazing may be negli-           • when the plant is exposed to the
gible. A more severe, single grazing                animals for too many days and
may slow or even halt root growth                   they are around to re-graze it as
(Table 1, page 2), and/or accelerate                it tries to re-grow;
the growth of leaves, but recovery is          • when animals move away but
likely if grazing does not recur until              return too soon; or
roots and leaves regrow sufficiently.          • when grazing is allowed too soon
Repeated defoliations in the same                   after dormancy when the plant
growing season, however, can set the                is growing new leaf from stored
plant back for many years to come                   energy.
(Figure 1, page 3).
    Grasses have several traits that en-       The Distribution of Water and
able them to tolerate grazing, and in          Nutrients
some circumstances to benefit from                 How plants respond to grazing
it. Most importantly, they produce             also depends on larger conditions
more leaf area than is necessary for           in the area: the other plants present,
optimal photosynthesis, meaning                topography and soils, or whether it’s
that some leaf area can be removed             a dry year or a wet one.
without damage. Younger leaves                     Two ecological processes strongly
photosynthesize more efficiently               determine the vigor and composi-
than older ones, and defoliation of            tion of vegetation, especially in arid
older leaves can expose new growth to          and semiarid rangelands: the flow or
greater sunlight. Overgrazing occurs           cycling of water and nutrients. Put
when a plant bitten severely in the            simply, the plants on a rangeland—
                                               what they are and how well they are
                                               growing—are a reflection of these
                                               underlying ecological processes. The
                                               goal is to develop means of manag-
                                               ing grazing for improved water and
                                               nutrient availability.
                                                   Plants require water and nutri-
                                               ents for growth. These are not static
                                               quantities: they increase and decrease,
                                               sometimes rapidly, and they move
                                               around. The issue is not simply how
           Overgrazed plant.

  Figure 2. Where vegetation is dense, water flows are tortuous. Erosive energy is
   dissipated, and more water absorbs into the ground as it moves across the land.

much moisture or nutrients there               tion of water in space and time. In the
are, but whether they are available to         absence of vegetation, water hits the
plants when they need them. In arid            ground surface at a high rate of speed.
and semiarid regions, small changes            The impact dislodges fine soil particles,
in the availability of water and nu-           which then clog the pores of the soil.
trients can have dramatic effects on           This greatly reduces infiltration and
vegetation. Therefore, we have to              accelerates erosion. Soil particles are
manage rangelands in a way that                also transported downhill in runoff.
effectively uses available water and           This reduces the quality of the soil
diligently recycles the nutrients in the       that remains. Where bare ground ex-
soil and plant matter.                         ists, a thin sealed surface (“crusting”)
    Effective Use of Water. Moisture           develops which encourages runoff and
is scarce in arid and semiarid areas           prevents plant establishment, resulting
and precipitation is highly variable.          in more bare ground.
The key issue is how                                                 If a raindrop hits
much of the total                                                plants or litter, on the
precipitation is re-                                             other hand, the impact
tained in the system                                             on the soil is greatly di-
and for how long,                                                minished. Even a thin
because this deter-                                              cover of litter will pro-
mines how effectively                                            tect soil from crusting
the plants use the                                               and reduce erosion.
available moisture.                                              Live plants intercept
A second, related is-                                            water both from the
sue is erosion: where                                            sky and running off
erosion is high, water                                           from higher ground.
retention tends to                                               By slowing its prog-
be low.                                                          ress, the plants dimin-
    Vegetation strong-                                           ish the water’s erosive
ly affects the distribu-                                         power (Figure 2.)
                              Soil Surface Crusting

    Studies indicate that small in-                      Cycling Nutrients. The nutri-
creases in the basal cover of plants                 ent cycle consists of the movement
(i.e., the number of stems per square                of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other
foot) can dramatically increase the                  minerals from the soil, through
infiltration of water into the soil.                 plants, and eventually back into the
The leaves of grass plants catch water               soil. The more effectively the nutrient
and deliver it to the base of the plant,             cycle functions, the more nutrients
where it is unlikely to disrupt the soil             are available to support plant growth
upon impact. Roots open pores in                     (figure 3).
the ground and support communities                       Decomposers—especially insects—
of insects, fungi, and bacteria that                 are a key link in both the water and
create cavities and tunnels for water                nutrient cycles. For example, ter-
to pass through. The difference is                   mites can dramatically increase water
especially pronounced when rainfall                  infiltration rates by opening pores
is torrential, as in Southwestern U.S.               in the soil. Without plants to feed
summer monsoons.                                     on, termites disappear and the soil
    The more water that is retained in the           becomes more compact and imper-
soil, the more resilient the system will be          meable. Termites actually consume
to extremes of rainfall or drought. The              the majority of dead plant matter
goal can be expressed simply: capture as             in Southwestern deserts. Without
much of the rain that falls as possible, re-         their activity, much of the nutrients
tain that water in the soil, so that it can be       in dead plants would remain trapped
safely released to plants and downstream             in standing matter, unavailable to
areas over time. Given that drought is               other plants.
almost “normal” in the Southwest, this                   Disturbances like grazing and fire
is an important goal.                                also play a role in the nutrient cycle

Figure 3.

by reducing the standing crop of old            is also poor habitat for microorgan-
plant material and bringing it into             isms and insects that enhance nutri-
contact with the ground, either as              ent cycling.
manure, ash, or by trampling.                       The processes that determine
    The nutrient cycle is strongly af-          water and nutrient availability come
fected by the water cycle, for better           together at the surface of the ground.
and for worse. Plants are the mecha-            If the soil is well-covered with plants
nism that enables the two cycles to             and stable under the surface be-
reinforce each other. An area with              cause of roots, litter, and biological
good plant cover will retain more wa-           activity, the watershed is function-
ter and cycle more nutrients, allowing          ing properly and the potential for
the plants to survive droughts better           long-term sustainable production
and to produce still more vegetation            of forage is good. Chances are that
in good years. If the soil is hard and          the rangeland will be able to recover
bare, on the other hand, less moisture          from disturbances like drought and
penetrates into the ground, which               grazing. However, if there is poor
dries out more quickly and makes                vegetation cover, limited root mass,
plant growth more difficult, which              and minimal biological activity in
in turn diminishes the amount of                the soil, and if the watershed drains
nutrients being cycled in the area.             precipitation too quickly via rills and
Plants and litter also have a strong            gullies, soil loss by wind and water
effect on ground surface temperatures           will be higher and will weaken the
and evaporation rates. Bare ground              resilience of the system, making it
is hotter, drier, more subject to tem-          more vulnerable to disturbances.
perature extremes, and less likely to           Productivity will gradually diminish,
permit germination of new plants. It            usually for a long time.

    The water and nutrient cycles, and          trients, because litter is organic mate-
their effects on plants, are difficult to       rial (with captured nutrients) that is
observe or measure directly. Most of            returned to the soil for decomposition
a perennial grass plant is below the            (release of nutrients).
ground, in the root system. Nutrients               Monitoring must be: 1) consis-
like nitrogen and phosphorus are                tent; 2) practicable—that is, not too
invisible to the eye. Monitoring is a           time-consuming or difficult; and 3)
way of measuring ecological processes           related to management goals and
indirectly. The processes themselves            activities. The point of monitoring
cannot be observed, but indicators              is simple: it provides feedback that
of the processes can be observed and            is timely and objective. Monitoring
measured. Litter cover, for example,            data can reveal the effects of manage-
is an indicator of the cycling of nu-           ment decisions well before they are

apparent to the naked eye, greatly in-        Lessons learned from monitoring also
creasing one’s ability to avoid lasting       help rangeland managers to adapt and
damage and to encourage rangeland             update their management plans.
improvement. Every manager learns             (See pages 13-15 for a description of
from experience, but good monitor-            rangeland health indicators that can
ing allows that learning to happen            be used for monitoring.)
more quickly and systematically.

Planning & Managing Livestock Grazing
    Two primary tools for the man-            components: one for animals, one for
agement of grazing are available: dis-        time, and one for area.
turbance and rest. Some disturbances               Animal-days per acre, or ADAs,
can be manipulated, like grazing and          contains all three components neces-
(to some degree) fire. Others, like           sary to measure and manage intensity.
drought and flood, are largely beyond         Adjustment must be made for the
the manager’s control. In this field          class of livestock being grazed (cattle,
guide, we introduce the central prin-         sheep, goats, horses, etc.). Once this
ciples of New Ranch management:               adjustment is made, animal-days per
to use the tools skillfully and to plan       acre is exactly what it says: animal
for the disturbances that cannot be           units, multiplied by days in the pas-
controlled.                                   ture, divided by the size of the pasture
    For purposes of brevity, this field       in acres (pages 11-12).
guide will only discuss the skillful               Timing. During the growing
use of the tools of grazing and rest.         season, the challenge is to control
The main tool, controlled grazing (or         the impact of grazing in such a way
planned grazing), is a disturbance that       that the grasses have time to recover.
can be managed through three differ-          It’s impossible to know when it will
ent parameters: intensity, timing,            rain, how much, or how long the
and density.                                  growing season will last. So there’s
    Intensity. Intensity refers to how        no telling exactly how long it will
much biomass is removed from a                take for grasses to recover from graz-
plant by livestock. It measures the           ing. But the principles of growing
percentage of net primary production
that is channeled into herbivores rath-
er than consumed by fire, oxidation,
or decomposers. Intensity is a func-
tion of three variables: the number of
animal units in a pasture, the length
of time they are there, and the size
of the pasture. To manage intensity,
therefore, requires a tool with three
                                                   Herding in the West Elks, CO.

season grazing management are fairly          dogs move and control the herd. New
simple: 1) the more leaf area that’s          techniques such as GPS based “virtual
grazed off, the longer recovery will          fencing” are also being developed.
take, and 2) a plant that is grazed               Density. Perhaps the most con-
again before recovering will store less       troversial issue in livestock distri-
energy in its tissues and will weaken         bution concerns density. Should
over time. Finally, grazing should not        livestock graze together in a herd, or
happen at the same time of year every         should they be spread out across the
year in any given pasture. If it does,        rangeland? For decades, ranchers
the palatable species that are young          and rangeland conservationists have
and green at that time will bear a            worked to spread cattle out in order to
disproportionate share of the impact          utilize forage more evenly across large
and will eventually decline relative to       pastures. New Ranchers have chosen
other species.                                instead to amalgamate their herds
    Control over grazing boils down           and work them as a single unit or, in
to control over the distribution of           certain circumstances, as two herds.
livestock across the rangeland and            The benefits they attribute to this are
over time. The most common way to             several. A single herd is more easily
do this is with fencing, but there are        monitored. This decreases labor and
other ways to control the distribution        other costs associated with routine
of livestock, as well. Mineral blocks         care. Cattle in a herd are also better
have been used this way for decades.          able to fend off predators than if they
Where water can be turned on and              were spread out, just as wild ungulates
off, can also be used to control the          are. In addition, manure trampling
location of grazing pressure. Herding         and grazing are more evenly distrib-
is an ancient technique that is being         uted within each pasture.
reborn in a few areas. Riders and

                 Developing a Grazing Plan
    Planning is critical to sustainable           The central task of planning is to
grazing and to avoid overgrazing. Not         allocate grazing pressure and recovery
only does good planning improve               periods. This includes when the grazing
management, it also provides a greater        will occur, at what intensity, and for how
sense of control over one’s livelihood,       long. But planning is not complete until
which can be an important boost to            provision is made to monitor the effects
morale in a business characterized by         of management actions and thereby
uncertainty and risk. Grazing plans           learn from them. Without monitoring,
should be adaptable to annually chang-        mistakes may go unnoticed until it is
ing circumstances and always be ready         too late to minimize the consequences,
for the worst.                                while successes may be misinterpreted.

           Table 2. Planned Grazing Example:
                    Will I Overgraze?

                                                                           GP =
                                                                           (days) and

                                                                           RP =

   This is an example only. This example assumes:
   1) Slow growth requires 90 days of recovery; Fast Growth requires 30 days.
   2) Pastures are equal in size and quality of forage [seldom true in the real world].
   3) There are many other factors not considered in this example diagram.
   Note the “Yeses” in the diagram. They indicate overgrazing:
   Yes #1. During slow growth, the recovery period is too short. A 90 day recovery
   period is needed, but only 30 are given.
   Yes #2. During fast growth, the grazing period is too long. Animals stay in the
   pasture too long and re-graze plants that have already been bitten and have
   re-grown from energy derived from the roots.
    YES!!!! During slow growth, the recovery period is too short. A 90 day recovery
   period is needed, but only 30 are given. This is the worse scenario: Animals
   will overgraze a higher percentage of plants because 31 land divisions would
   have a smaller pasture size than with 8 land divisions, thus a higher propor-
   tion of plants will be re-bitten too soon.
       With low pasture numbers, the only way to avoid overgrazing, when vegeta-
   tion growth rate is fast, is to move the animals quickly. The only way to avoid
   overgrazing when vegetation growth rate is slow is to move the animals slowly.
       With high pasture numbers (> 30), the animals can be moved slowly, without
   overgrazing, but there can be negative effects on animal nutrition.

Therefore, a Grazing Plan should:               water, riparian management etc.
1. Take into account the ecology of           2. Ensure that areas that are impacted
the area, including:                          by grazing receive an adequate recov-
• the disturbance and utilization             ery period (rest).
  needs of each pasture,                      3. Serve as a guideline that helps
• the grazing season: dormant or              the land manager make specific
  growing,                                    adjustments that will lead to a more
• other elements such as wildlife,            successful plan.

4. Be treated with flexibility, since     6. Have a monitoring and follow-up
few plans will predict actual periods     component which are keys to suc-
of fast or slow growth.                   cessful implementation of a grazing
5. Change with changing weather           plan.
conditions, knowledge, and experi-
             Figuring Animal Days per Acre
    Think of Animal-Days simply as            As illustrated in Figures 4a and
a unit of forage volume. The higher       4b (page 12), to estimate ADAs, one
the animal numbers or the longer the      begins with the amount of forage
days, the greater the volume of forage    one animal consumes in one day. In
removed. Animal Days per Acre can         weight, this is generally about 2-3%
be understood as the volume of forage     of the animal’s weight in dry matter.
that will be removed from each acre.          There are approximately 4840
The following is a partial list of some   square yards per acre. Pace or mea-
of the uses for ADAs:                     sure off a square required to feed one
• Assessing pasture qualities rela-       animal for one day that you feel will
     tive to one another.                 leave the amount of leaf area you
• Determining if a paddock can            want for recovery and for wildlife.
     supply the necessary forage for a    Divide the number of square yards
     future grazing.                      per acre, 4840, by the resulting square
• Dormant season planning.                yards to feed one animal. This will
• Reassessing pasture quality fol-        give you the number of Animal Days
     lowing grazing.                      Per Acre.
• Emergency re-planning in case               Do several of these calculations
     of drought, fire, etc.               per pasture and then find an average
• Determining the area required to        for the pasture. You know the number
     supply the daily forage require-     of acres in a pasture and the number
     ment for one animal unit.            of animals in your herd, which allows
• Weighing different possible poli-       you to calculate the probable days of
     cies for future management.          grass available. ADA calculations
• Accounting for wildlife needs in        are best used for dormant season or
     dormant season planning.             drought conditions.
• Setting stocking rates.

           4840 yds2
                                           = Animal Days per Acre
      Square yards paced off

Figure 4a. Animal Days per Acre (ADAs) Example 1

Figure 4b. Animal Days per Acre (ADAs) Example 2

               Is the Land Healthy?
          Definitions of Rangeland Health

    In 1994, a committee of the Na-
tional Academy of Sciences published
Rangeland Health: New Methods

to Classify, Inventory, and Monitor
Rangelands. They concluded that
rangeland health can and should be
defined and measured in terms of
three desired conditions:                    Gullies: A gully is a channel that
    1. Degree of soil stability and       has been cut into the soil by moving
watershed function. Rangelands            water. Gullies generally follow the
should not be eroding, and they           natural drainages and are caused by
should capture and retain water rather    accelerated water flow and the result-
than shed it as run-off.                  ing down-cutting of soil.
    2. Integrity of nutrient cycles          Litter Movement: The degree
and energy flows. Rangelands              and amount of litter movement is an
should support plants that capture
energy from the sun and cycle nutri-

                                                                               Litter movement.
ents from the soil.
    3. Presence of functioning re-
covery mechanisms. Rangelands
should be resistant to disturbances
and resilient to change—that is, they
should be capable of recovering from
ordinary disturbances, such as fire,      indicator of the degree of wind and/or
drought, or grazing.                      water erosion.
    Below are some definitions of            Pedestals and/or Terracettes:
certain indicators of rangeland health    Pedestals are rocks or plants that ap-
for each condition:

1. Soil Stability:

   Bare Ground: Bare ground is
exposed mineral or organic soil that is
susceptible to raindrop splash erosion,
the initial form of most water-related

                                                          (i.e., accumulates) as it moves across
                                                          the soil surface during overland flow.
                                                          Overland flow will occur during rain-

                                                          storms or snowmelt when a surface

                                                                                               Water flow pattern.
              pear elevated as a result of soil loss
              by wind or water erosion. Terracettes
              are benches of soil deposition behind
              obstacles caused by water movement
              (not wind).
                                                          crust impedes water infiltration, or
                  Plant Community Composi-
                                                          the infiltration capacity is exceeded.
              tion and Distribution Relative to
                                                             Wind-Scoured, Blowouts, and/
              Infiltration and Runoff: Changes
                                                          or Deposition Areas: Accelerated
              in plant community composition
                                                          wind erosion on an otherwise stable
              and the distribution of species can
              influence (positively or negatively)
              the ability of a site to capture and
              store precipitation.

                                                                                               Wind scouring.
                  Rills: Rills are small erosional
              rivulets that are generally linear and
              do not necessarily follow the micro-
              topography as flow patterns do.
                  Soil Surface Loss or Degrada-
              tion: The loss or degradation of            soil increases as the surface crust is
              part or all of the soil surface layer or    worn by disturbance or abrasion.
              horizon is an indicator of a loss in
              site potential. As erosion increases,
              the potential for loss of soil surface      2. Nutrient Cycle:
              organic matter increases, resulting in         Annual Production: Above
              further degradation of soil structure.      ground biomass is an indicator of
                  Soil Surface Resistance to Ero-         the energy captured by plants and its
              sion: Resistance depends on soil            availability for consumption given
              stability, microtopography, and on          current weather conditions.
              the spatial variability in soil stability      Compaction Layer: A compac-
              relative to vegetation and microtopo-       tion layer is a near surface layer of
              graphic features.                           dense soil caused by the repeated
                  Water Flow Patterns: Flow pat-          impact on or disturbance of the soil
              terns are the path that water takes         surface. Compaction becomes a

                                                                                                  Dead plant.
                                                              (Definitions derived from Inter-
               problem when it begins to limit plant       preting Indicators of Rangeland
               growth, water infiltration, or nutrient     Health, Version 3, Technical Refer-
               cycling processes.                          ence 1734-6, USGS, USDA, and the
                    Litter Amount: Litter is any           NRCS.)
               dead plant material that is in contact
               with the soil surface.                          Cool Season
                                                           Gr a s s e s : T h e s e
                                                           grasses grow best
               3. Recovery Mecha-                          during the coolness
               nisms:                                      of spring and fall.
                  Invasive Plants: This indicator          When the tempera-
               deals with plants that are invasive to      tures get warm, they
               the area of interest. These plants may      grow slowly or be-
               or may not be noxious and may or            come dormant. As Kentucky Blue Grass
               may not be exotic.                          temperatures cool in the fall, they will
                                                           grow again if there is sufficient mois-
                                                           ture. Common cool season grasses
                                                           include: brome grass, orchard grass,
Invasive plants.

                                                           blue grass, mutton grass, needle and
                                                           thread, wheat grass, and fescues.
                                                               Warm Season Grasses: These
                                                           grasses start growing in the summer
                                                           when temperatures
                                                           warm up. Growth
                   Plant Mortality/Decadence:              slows down in late
               The proportion of dead or decadent          summer and fall.
               to young or mature plants in the            Common warm sea-
               community relative to that expected         son grasses include:
               for the site, under normal disturbance      blue and black grama,
               regimes, is an indicator of the popula-     galleta, big and little
               tion dynamics of the stand.                 blue stem, switchgrass,
                                                           and buffalo grass.         Black Grama.

 Suggested Readings and Plant Identification Guides

 Allred, Kelly W., A Field Guide       Savory, Allan with Jody Butter-
  to the Grasses of New Mexico,          field, Holistic Management: A
  3rd Edition; Agricultural Experi-      New Framework for Decision
  ment Station, New Mexico State         Making, 2nd Edition, Island Press,
  University, Las Cruces; 2005.          Washington D.C., 1999. The three
                                         books above can be obtained at:
 DeWitt Ivey, Robert, Flowering
  Plants of New Mexico, 4th Edi-
  tion; 2003.                           Sayre, Nathan F., The New Ranch
                                         Handbook: A Guide to Restor-
 Dietz, Harland E., Special re-
                                         ing Western Rangelandlands,
  port: Grass: The Stockman’s
                                         The Quivira Coalition; 2001,
  Crop—How to Harvest More
  of It, Sunshine Unlimited, Inc.;
  1989 (P.O. Box 471, Lindsborg,        The National Research Council,
  Kansas 67456).                         Rangeland Health, New Meth-
                                         ods to Classify, Inventory, and
 Gadzia, Kirk and Todd Gra-
                                         Monitor Rangelands, National
  ham. Bullseye: Targeting
                                         Academy Press, Washington,
  Your Rangeland Health Ob-
                                         D.C., 1994.
  jectives, The Quivira Coali-
  tion; 2009 2nd edition,               USGS, USDA, and the NRCS,              Interpreting Indicators of
                                         Rangeland Health Version 3,
 Hitchcock, A.S., Manual of the
                                         Technical Reference 1734-6.
  Grasses of the United States
                                         Entire document available on-
  (Vol. 1 & 2), 2nd Edition (revised
                                         line at:
  by Agnes Chase); Dover Publica-
  tions, Inc., New York; 1971.
                                        Whitson, Tom D. (Editor),
 Savory, Allan, Aide Memoire for
                                         Weeds of the West, 9th Edition
  Holistic Management Grazing
                                         (ISBN 0-941570-13-14); The
                                         Western Society of Weed Science
 Butterfield, Jody, Bigham, Sam         in cooperation with the Western
  and Allan Savory. Holistic Man-        United States Land Grant Uni-
  agement Handbook: Healthy              versities Cooperative Extension
  Lands. Healthy Profits, Holis-         Services; 2002.
  tic Management International,

Grazing Plan Example


    This guide is a joint publication
3   •   The Quivira Coalition,
    •   Earth Works Institute,
    •   Kirk Gadzia, and
    •   Nathan Sayre.
    Photos Courtesy of:
    •   Kirk Gadzia
    •   Tamara Gadzia
5   •   Courtney White
    •   Duke Phillips
    •   Nathan Sayre
    •   Dave Bradford
    Printing by:
    Paper Tiger, Santa Fe, NM



To top