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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


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Title: Rangeland decision-making in Wyoming

item Mealor, Rachel
item Kachergis, Emily
item Derner, Justin
item Roche, Leslie
item Tate, Kenneth
item Lubell, Mark
item Magagna, Jim

Submitted to: Wyoming Livestock Roundup
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/12/2013
Publication Date: 1/12/2013
Citation: Mealor, R., Kachergis, E.J., Derner, J.D., Roche, L., Tate, K., Lubell, M., Magagna, J. 2013. Rangeland decision-making in Wyoming. Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Vol 24, #36.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Rangelands make up much of Wyoming’s diverse landscapes. In fact, around 85% of Wyoming is considered rangeland. So, what exactly is rangeland? Rangelands are a type of land dominated by some mix of mostly native grasses, forbs and shrubs. Some woodlands are considered rangelands too, particularly if they have relatively open canopies and support a significant understory of grasses, forbs and shrubs. As many of us are keenly aware, these lands are managed for numerous uses and livestock production is a just one of the benefits rangelands provide. Wildlife habitat, energy, water and open space are others uses made possible by Wyoming’s rangeland ecosystems. However, with such diversity in uses comes also the variety of management strategies that have large impacts to Wyoming’s landscapes. To look at this further, a research team recently attempted to address the question of how management decisions are made by the ranchers who manage these diverse lands. The Rangeland Decision-Making Survey was developed in a collaborative effort among the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the University of Wyoming and the University of California-Davis. Participants (WSGA producer members) were asked about their goals, ranch characteristics and management practices. There were a total of 307 respondents (50%) to the survey. Below are some of the key findings from survey results that can inform future policy, research and outreach efforts. Survey results also help describe the work that ranchers do. For the general public who may not know much about ranching, this information can help answer questions or inform a broader audience. As many can relate, ranching operations in Wyoming are very diverse. The median size of respondents’ operations was 10,440 acres. Most operations included privately owned land (90%) and over half (71%) also included public land (federal or state). Private leased land was also common (60%). Most respondents grazed cow/calf pairs (91%) and nearly half (44%) ran stockers. About one tenth (12%) ran sheep and few operations ran only stockers or only sheep. Other activities affected land management on almost three quarters of operations (74%; Figure 1). Primary management goals are livestock production and forage production. Secondary goals were water quality, riparian/meadow health, soil health and invasive weed management. Wildlife, recreation and carbon sequestration were lower priority management goals expressed by respondents. Management practices emphasized by respondents focused on livestock production and improvement of natural resources. Grazing management generally involved a less than 90-day rotation (87%) of 1-5 herds (84%) through multiple pastures (92%) and incorporated rest (99%). The most important facilities for management practices were water development (97%) and fencing (81%). The most popular herd management practices were planning for herd health and supplemental feed (93%, 90%) and matching calving season and genetics to local conditions (93%, 90%). The most popular vegetation management practices were grazing livestock and using herbicides to change species composition (64%, 68%). The most frequent landscape enhancement was restoring meadows and wetlands (52%). Drought is another issue of concern to producers in Wyoming. Management practices regarding drought varied as well. Over 80% of participants said they prepared for drought by applying certain management practices, but 100% responded to drought. Preparations for drought included stocking conservatively (48%), resting pastures (47%), increasing flexibility by adding stockers (28%), grass banking/stockpiling forage (22%), and using 1-3 month weather predictions to adjust stocking rates (16%). Responses to drought were reducing herd size (80%), purchasing feed (63%), weaning early (47%), renting add

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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