A Continuing Graze-Rest Program is Essential to Maximizing Rangeland Health

Many, if not most, in the grazing management or range management field seem to think the answer to poor grazing conditions is the result of high livestock numbers. While this certainly has a bearing on grassland health it is not the total answer to the question. When properly applied, reducing numbers is only part of the solution, rest from grazing is essential and most likely the primary issue. (Reducing numbers can actually cause rangeland health issues over the long haul as plants can get old and moribund due to lack of animal impact.)

When observing livestock grazing ‘Ice-cream grasses’ (Some call them decreasers) one finds that they are so palatable that when cattle find them present on the rangeland they will graze it to the ground and when that grass tries to recover from continuous grazing that plant is almost immediately grazed to the ground again and again, thus it slowly dies as it cannot recover from the continuous grazing. (Starved to death as roots can’t replace lost energy reserves.) This is the reason that Mr. Bentley in 1898 had a hard time finding Indian Grass, Eastern Gamma Grass and Big Bluestem on the rangelands in Abilene Texas area. In fact, in his report to the Department of Agriculture, he stated that some grasses were approaching ‘extinction’ at the time of writing. (1898) Thankfully this extinction has not occurred, and we can still find seed sources of these amazing plants, when a properly applied graze-rest program is utilized. (Awesome)

Click on the below Texas GLC web site to read the short article. Mr. Bentley understood what was happening on the rangeland 122 years ago. It is time we take the time to understand.

Yes in 1898 the problem was recognized and published, yet even today in 2020 most are not willing to accept the fact that rest from grazing is critical when asking the rangeland for maximum, sustainable and profitable production.

Photo below shows Indian and Big Blue after brush management. This would not occur if continuous grazing were being practiced and certainly would not be sustained five years post brush management.

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Rangelands and Ranching: A Study of Proper Use of Rangelands & the Environment by Frank S Price

My son and I ranch a cow-calf, wooled sheep and hair sheep operation in West Central Texas. We operate 7 different grazing units and utilize a single herd, traditional pasture grazing program within all these units. My son represents is the 5th generation of this enterprise that was started in 1876 by my great grandfather. He and his brother began by driving a herd of cattle from Ennis Texas to Santa Anna Texas, ultimately driving the herd of cattle they had built to Kansas markets and returned to Sterling County, to begin a permanent ranching operation. Rainfall within our scattered operations runs from 17” to 20”. The winters, while going into the single digits on occasion are relatively mild compared to ranches further north, resulting in mostly mild winters producing usable cool season growth along with the dominant warm season plants.

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