Does Cattle Grazing Reduce Fire Fuels and Fire Danger?

The last few fire seasons have clearly demonstrated that fires are coming more frequently and at sizes that challenge our ability to fight and/or control them. While grazing has been considered and even sometimes used as a fire prevention tool, the actual success and impact have not been clearly documented. This research is another step in learning how to successfully use grazing to reduce fire danger. We'll be sharing more on this topic in future issues. Thank you to Devii Rao Felix Ratcliff, Sheila Barry, Luke Macaulay, Royce Larsen, Matthew Shapero, Shane Dewees, Max Moritz, Rowan Peterson, and Larry Forero for their work on this article and on the research itself. The widespread and severe wildfires in California during the past several years highlight the importance of understanding how land management practices such as cattle grazing affect wildfire risk. The California Cattle Council recently funded a UC Cooperative Extension project to evaluate how much fine fuel (grasses and other plants) are eaten by cattle on rangelands, and how this may affect wildfire behavior. These results have not yet been published, but preliminary results are presented here. Cattle Numbers The study found that about 1.8 million beef cattle grazed California's rangelands, which include grasslands, oak woodlands, and shrublands, in 2017. Beef cows were by far the most abundant beef cattle class, with 677,000 on range in the state. This was followed by steers, heifers, and bulls. Fuel

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2 thoughts on “Does Cattle Grazing Reduce Fire Fuels and Fire Danger?

  1. Yep, 100% agree. We saw it in the Big Horn fires near Tucson this last summer. Fire came within 6 miles of my town, then stopped. They stopped where the ‘wilderness’ was and ranch country began.

    Cattle browse here, and break down dead brush, trample it into the earth where termites can get to it easily. Wood is broken down and taken deep underground, not left on the surface to feed a fire. If the manure is coarse enough, they take that, as well, or dung beetles will, if a rancher is very careful about insecticides and wormers.

  2. I do silvopasture grazing of my dairy herd in a pine plantation in Alabama.

    In my experience, intensive grazing is a great tool especially when used in conjunction with prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads and wildfire risk.

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