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Managed Grazing Can Improve Stream Corridors

By   /  September 1, 2014  /  6 Comments

Exclusion of livestock from streams doesn’t always result in better conditions for fisheries and wildlife or prevent negative impacts to the environment. Here’s how livestock and animal impact can be used as needed to maintain healthy streams and riparian corridors.

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About the author

Howard Moechnig graduated from North Dakota State University in 1974 with a degree in Agriculture, majoring in Soil Science. He worked for the Natural Resources Conservation Service from 1972 through 2006. For the last 10 years of his career he was a Grazing Specialist with NRCS, and was the State Grazing Specialist from 2001 through 2006. After his retirement on January 3, 2007, Howard organized a consulting business, Midwest Grasslands. His business specializes in consulting with those who desire to manage their pastureland, rangelands, and grasslands in a manner that will sustain the soil, water, and plant resources. His work includes pasture and rangeland evaluation, and planning managed rotational grazing systems on pastures, rangelands, and land for wildlife habitat. For more information you can contact him at Midwest Grasslands, 37484 90th Avenue, Cannon Falls, MN 55009 or (507)263-3149.


  1. As for fences crossing rivers I was a bit confused. In Europe most streams, even small rivulets, would be considered “public land” and you would not run a fence across that, even if (which is also less likely than obviously in the US) the opposite pasture were yours as well. Other than that: I learned a lot in a very short time in concise form. I once was involved in a “renaturation” project where a “crazy professor” planted trees (mainly willows) alongside river banks (with research grant). But being a guy trained in water management like putting down man-sized concrete tubes under cities, he didn’t quite trust nature, so he put a used tire around each seedling, so it wouldn’t get eroded. Of course this qualified as illegal trash dump under EU rules and the whole mile-long thing had to be dug up again. But reading the above I now realize just how “no clue” that guy really had about anything “riparian”.

  2. Shar says:

    Information about the effects of different species would be good. Sheep, goats, and pigs are not the same as cattle.

    I have also noticed dairy cattle walk on concrete crossings, probably more used to concrete, but beef cattle will walk in the creek in deeper water along side the concrete crossing. Sheep jump over the water when possible as they do not want to get wet feet. Probably goats also, but I don’t have goat experience.

    The travel lane could actually be a buffer zone if it is only used once a month, but I agree that if it is used frequently/daily streamside locations should be avoided. Each ranch is so different.

  3. ROY MITCHELL says:

    Lets not forget management includes monitoring.

  4. Steve Nelle says:

    Howard presents some very good information in the article including the riparian benefits of carefully planned rotational grazing. More people need to understand and practice these techniques.

    However, there is some misleading information in the article that implies that a high density of woody plants is not good in riparian areas. Each region is different and each ranch is different. In many places, good riparian vegetation means lots of trees and shrubs. Riparian trees and shrubs normally provide excellent bank stabilization and are often necessary for good riparian function and health. Riparian grasses, sedges, and rushes are also good where that is the natural vegetation of the creek. It can be dangerous to generalize and over-simplify riparian and grazing recommendations. One size does not fit all. Get local assistance if you desire to learn more about how to properly graze riparian areas. Steve Nelle – Texas

    • Morgan Byars says:


      I had the same impression that the article implied that dense woody riparian zones would be less healthy and subject to more erosion and than those that are grass lined.


      • Kathy Voth says:

        The confusion is my fault. When I excerpted this portion of the booklet I didn’t include the author’s statement that not necessarily everything apples to all areas across the country. Sorry for the confusion!

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