Managed Grazing Can Improve Stream Corridors

Removal of livestock grazing from stream corridors is commonly recommended but not necessarily a good option for management of the stream corridor. When grazing is terminated, the stream is subjected to changes because of the shift in the composition of the plant community. • At first, the grasses become much more healthy and vigorous because of the lack of grazing, especially where the grazing management was “continuous grazing” prior to abandonment of grazing. • Over time, the plant community will shift to tall, broadleaf herbaceous plants. Early successional woody species (boxelder and willow) will become established. Under a grazing regime these would be eaten by the livestock, or the plants would not have been able to withstand the livestock traffic and compaction. • As the woody species become more numerous, increase in size, and provide a major portion of the canopy that shades the ground, the grasses diminish and eventually disappear. This leaves the woody species and some shade tolerant, broadleaf herbaceous plants on the streambanks and in the riparian corridor. • As grasses are eliminated, the stream channel itself changes. The grasses that occupied sloping streamba

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6 thoughts on “Managed Grazing Can Improve Stream Corridors

  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. 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. 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

    1. Steve,

      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.


      1. 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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