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Making History in Grazing Management

By   /  November 16, 2020  /  1 Comment

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Some years ago, I spent a week at one of the most important sites in range management: the Great Basin Experimental Station. From 1912 to 1922, it was home to Arthur “Sammy” Sampson and a group of scientists doing research that would help us understand forage growth and sustainable grazing capacity on the rangelands of the arid West.

Great Basin Experimental Station about 1938. Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service.

It’s a beautiful place at 8,900 feet in the Wasatch range of Utah. I was there as one of the instructors for the Utah Range Science School for high school students. We slept in the refurbished cabins where pictures of past researchers lined the walls. We walked the A and B watershed study areas, a first of it’s kind experiment demonstrating that healthy vegetation can prevent storm runoff and erosion, a fact graziers were unwilling to accept before this. We also talked about Sampson’s later research, appreciating that much of his work is still relevant to us today.

What I’ve learned from my work in range and On Pasture is that the principles of good grazing management are simple and we’ve known them for decades. Sure, the addition of electric fence has changed some things, but the stories we tell about grazing management are the same. We even use similar plant and fenceline contrast photos to illustrate concepts, as you’ll see when you read this week’s story by  J.L. Lantow.

I’ve also learned that, while the plants and the climate may vary from region to region, the principles for grazing can be applied universally. Even if we don’t know our plants, if we just remember what J.L. Lantow tells us, we’ll be doing the right thing:

Don’t graze too early;
Don’t graze too frequently; and
Don’t graze too short.

I’ve found great documents from our grazing past to share with you. I think they’ll help you see our grazier ancestors in a new, good light. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!


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  • Published: 4 months ago on November 16, 2020
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  • Last Modified: November 18, 2020 @ 11:33 am
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. So true that we are still using the same kinds of photos (“the classics”) to illustrate the principles of grazing management.

    Great research and writing on grazing and soil conservation seems to have been done many decades ago and then ignored or forgotten.

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