Cattle graze on managed rangeland near Tucson, AZ. Photo: Tim McCabe, NRCS.
A team of rangeland scientists from the University of Arizona and New Mexico State University studied the outcomes of low stress herding of livestock to reduce rangeland fire fuels.
Dealing with the risk of wildfire has become a major challenge to livestock producers in the western United States and management practices that can help to reduce the chance of fire and lessen the effects of fire are highly sought.
"Targeted grazing" is defined as the application of a specific kind of livestock at a determined season, duration and intensity to achieve objectives for wildlife habitat or ecosystem services.
The two-year study was aimed at getting cattle to specific parts of the rangeland where grasses and shrubs were providing potentially high levels of fire fuel with the idea that reducing the fuel would lower the risk of wildfire and lessen the impact of fire when it occurred.
The results of this study supported findings from other studies on the value of grazing as a tool to reduce rangeland fire characteristics, such as rate of fire spread and flame length. Results from the fire model showed targeted grazing reduced the rate of fire spread by 50 percent and significantly reduced flame lengths, which improves the ability to control the fires.
Applying targeted grazing is thought to be both an art and a science. Managers need to plan well to achieve the specific objectives they have in mind. They should adapt the particular practices that address the conditions existing on the target property at that particular time. It is an adaptive management approach in planned grazing. For more on the study and its outcomes, click here.