Monday, May 20, 2024
HomeNotes From KathyMaking History in Grazing Management

Making History in Grazing Management

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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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  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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