The allotments allow 17,218 AUMS, and the plan is to rest about 20 percent of range annually.
Why not start with 34,436 AUMS and “rest” every square foot of the ranch for 95% of the year? — jtl, 419
TWIN FALLS, Idaho — More than a decade ago ranchers in northern Utah saw the writing on the wall — the way they had operated on public land for years wasn’t going to be acceptable to some people, and their grazing permits would be appealed by anti-agriculture groups.
That’s just what happened in 2001.
They turned to the state for help.
Thus began the idea to consolidate the permittees’ public land allotments and livestock herds, Taylor Payne, grazing and rangeland coordinator in the Utah Grazing Improvement Program, said during the University of Idaho Range Livestock Symposium last week.
The director of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Services saw no reason livestock on public land couldn’t be managed to the benefit of wildlife and the environment. After all, it was being done on a large neighboring private ranch that had incorporated rest rotational grazing.
The initial response of permittees was that it couldn’t be done. The private ranch ran solely on private ground and had the money to make improvements and manage intensively. The public land ranchers were apprehensive about the cost, private property rights and additional work, Payne said.
But the conversation continued, and planning for the Three Creeks projects and consolidated management started in 2009.
There were a lot of issues to tackle, including water quality, range health, riparian conditions and habitat for sensitive species, he said.
The area included 10 allotments, several landowners and 29 permittees grazing cattle, sheep and horses. The allotments had poor grazing distribution with no way to incorporate rest, and permittees had minimal funds for improvements.
“We know rest rotation works in the Intermountain West. We wanted to initiate a process that would change management of federal lands,” he said.
Status-quo management decreases AUMs, and the permittees had all experienced suspended use. Yet decreasing livestock on rangeland hasn’t solved environmental issues, he said.
The project aimed to demonstrate good stewardship, switching to rest rotational grazing across 136,000 acres, consolidating 3,200 cows into two herds of 1,600 and facilitating three summer bands and four winter bands of sheep.
The allotments allow 17,218 AUMS, and the plan is to rest about 20 percent of range annually. An AUM is the amount of forage needed to sustain one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats for a month.
The management principles incorporate duration of grazing, season of use and grazing intensity, focused on animal and plant health. Most of the fencing to facilitate a large-scale pasture system already existed, but improvements to the water system were needed.
“The rest rotational system sounds great on paper, but you have to be able to water (livestock) all at the same time,” Payne said.
Hired labor was also necessary to set up and maintain the system and take the headaches out of management on common allotments. Outside funding was also necessary, and the project has received grants and sponsorships, he said.
‘Skin in the game’
The cooperators also realized permittees had to “have skin in the game,” and the project is set up so permittees pay for 12.5 percent of the total cost for a projected $1.77 increase per AUM over 12 years, he said.
The plan is to form a limited liability corporation and consolidate the grazing permits. Each permittee will own part of the LLC and lease his base properties to the LLC.
Permittees are already operating together, and there’s been a lot of consolidation. A sub-section of the LLC already exists, and it’s been paying for hired labor for four years, providing a unified voice and a shared cost structure. The smaller LLC will be dissolved when the full LLC comes is formed, he said.
A lot of progress has been made, and the ranchers hope to graze two consolidated herds of cattle with the affiliated bands of sheep in the summer of 2019.
Incorporating rest in the Three Creeks management is a key ingredient in improving the area’s rangeland systems, and consolidation was the vehicle.
“We don’t know of anything else like this in the country. We hope after we get systems in place we can demonstrate what happens when you think outside the box,” he said.
A Handbook for Ranch Managers. In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.
You might also be interested in the supplement to this Handbook: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.