Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 8, 2006
Publication Date: February 12, 2007
Citation: Young, J.A., Clements, C.D. 2007. Nevada Livestock Grazing and Range Management [abstract]. Society for Range Management National Meeting, February 9-16, 2007, Reno, Nevada. Technical Abstract: The range livestock industry had a very slow start in Nevada because it was commonly accepted that the environment would not support livestock production. Freighters discovered that oxen could winter on the dry herbage of desert bunchgrasses and come off the range in excellent condition in the spring. Emigrants brought the common milk cow of the eastern United States and therefore cheese and butter and local market meat production farms were established in the limited areas of flood plains where wet meadows existed or could be enhanced through irrigation. Very early in the history of the western Great Basin livestock industry a transhumance production system developed where livestock (cattle, sheep, and horses) wintered on the desert, passing through foothill ranges in the spring and fall, and spending the summer in the high mountains. The introduction of Longhorn cattle, driven from Texas during the 1870s resulted in complete stocking or over stocking of Nevada ranges within a decade. Extensive stock water development was necessary to support this level of stocking. Many ranges in Nevada lacked significant populations of native large herbivores because of the near total lack of surface water. Stock losses occurred on winter ranges due to the lack of water where abundant forage existed. These cattle were on the range year long with no supplemental feeding. The winter of 1890-1899 killed an estimated 90% of the Longhorns. From this disaster the production model evolved where 1 ton of hay is required for wintering each brood cow. Ranch management consisted of spending half the year growing and harvesting hay and the other half feeding the hay to hungry cows. The 20th century brought the closing of the open range with the advent of Federal land management agencies. Changes in range management of Nevada grazing lands are occurring today. Interpretation of the significance of these changes in management can be enhanced by understanding the history of cattle in the cold deserts.