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treeswarper
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PostTue Feb 04, 2020 7:52 pm 
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I hardly consider our forests to be overgrazed. I've never noticed it here.  From my wanderings around on the east side, I've thought it to be OK.  The only trampling is where they water and where the salt lick is, and ranchers move that salt around and move the cows too.

As for the Steamboat Rock example, half of my growing up was  in Moses Coulee where cows were all over the place at some time in history.  I thought the top of Steamboat to be pretty much in the same condition as the unirrigated, not grazed recently parts of the coulee that I ran around in.  The degradation to my part of the coulee is now more from motor vehicles that grazing, at least that's how it looked the last time I ventured out from the house there.

Cheatgrass comes into DISTURBED areas.  Doesn't have to be grazing.  It can be disturbed by fire, by driving and tearing things up.  It can be disturbed by too many people tramping around.

Cheatgrass is palatable, by cows when green.  We'd pull it up and throw it over the fence and the cows and horses loved to eat  it.  Grazing at the right time could control cheat.

When it turns brown, it is hell.  I've picked many a spear out of my socks.  We had a cow get an abscess from getting a spear stuck in her cheek.  Our beagle used to get it in his ears.  Ranchers don't like cheatgrass eithe

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Jake Neiffer
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 8:00 am 
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True, there are many areas that are undergrazed as well.

If you park cows for a long time in one area, some species will disappear.  Bunchgrass does not tolerate close grazing.  Cheatgrass does.  Fescue does.  In a diverse mix of species with abundant production cows will typically not mow grass down to the ground.  They will select the high energy portion of the plant, usually about the top 1/3 via one bite, and then move along.

Not native in the west, but the vast majority of Eastern gammagrass disappeared due to overgrazing.  Its extremely productive and palatable but does not tolerate grazing lower than about 8 inches.  Many farmers are replanting and its thriving due to rotational grazing techniques.
https://extension2.missouri.edu/g4671

Cows can be used to improve range health in the West, too.
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MtnGoat
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 8:57 am 
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treeswarper wrote:
When it turns brown, it is hell.  I've picked many a spear out of my socks.  We had a cow get an abscess from getting a spear stuck in her cheek.  Our beagle used to get it in his ears.  Ranchers don't like cheatgrass eithe

I bought a set of gaiters to beat up for precisely that reason. I use em pictograph hunting in your area and in Central WA where our flying toy hills have a ton of cheatgrass. Got tired of ruined socks!

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Sculpin
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 9:37 am 
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Jake Neiffer wrote:
there are many areas that are undergrazed as well.

How do you recognize an area as being undergrazed?   huh.gif

My friends have 40 acres in the Okanogan Highlands, on the slopes of Mt. Annie.  This is open range country, and county policy is that if you don't want your neighbors cows on your land, it is your responsibility to fence them out.  So about 20 years ago, that is what we did.  The terrain is too rough for vehicles so we schlepped 80 lb. rolls of wire by hand, about a mile of fencing.  Then we built cattle grates on the road that passes through to the National Forest on the other side.  The local rancher moves his cows through in the spring via fence gates beside the road.

Before this, the land looked OK, although after a wet winter the cows would create mud churns in the wetter areas.  But it was green in the spring.

Soon after the fence was installed, everything began to change.  The cheatgrass began to fade, replaced by native bunch grasses.  Plants like penstemon, aster, mertensia, and claytonia began to increase.  After about five years, there was a massive flowering of Calypso orchid, hundreds and hundreds.  But only inside the fence, we did not find a single one outside. 

We had never seen deer anywhere in the area before the fence, but they began to appear inside the fence.  Down at the bottom of the property, some areas had gone over to "doghair," when you get 100 skinny, weak tree saplings in a 100 square foot area.  The cows just avoided those areas, but the deer started browsing them really hard until they began to thin out.  The survivors began to prosper. 

Pollinators became much more common, and we started to see flycatchers.  One day we noticed that bluebirds were nesting on the property.  Nowadays, if you took an image from the sky, you would see a bright green, highly diverse, 40 acre square inside an extensive degraded area.

This is just one of my formative experiences.   shakehead.gif

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DigitalJanitor
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 12:37 pm 
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Sculpin wrote:
This is just one of my formative experiences.

Yeah, lots of places you can see major grass disparity just looking out the window at the stuff next to the highway vs the stuff inside the fence while driving around out east of the crest.

I'm not 100% opposed to grazing but it's pretty obvious that the effects of wild deer and elk vs range cattle can't be considered directly interchangeable in these ecosystems, so in a rational world I'd think caution would be advisable. Of course this being 2020, we can't have that. rolleyes.gif

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Jake Neiffer
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 12:45 pm 
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Quote:
How do you recognize an area as being undergrazed?

You can see areas where grasses smother themselves- old material doesn't break down fast enough, hampers growth and eventually can kill the plant.  This won't happen in moist environments as material decays fast enough to not impede growth.

Example photo here:

http://www.holisticresults.com.au/green-participant-area/manipulating-the-four-ecosystem-processes/4-1-3-rest
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Jake Neiffer
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 12:47 pm 
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Or if you have Facebook Rodger Savory has some videos on overresting, like this one:

https://www.facebook.com/RSAVORYHM/videos/1990908097596754/
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treeswarper
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 1:59 pm 
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Just a clarification.  On National Forest grazing allotments, cows are allowed June to Oct.   They should not be out during the winter or early spring. 

There were reports of cows gone missing in the Mt. Annie area last year.  I do not know if they were ever found.

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Jake Neiffer
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PostWed Feb 05, 2020 8:29 pm 
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Scuplin wrote:
My friends have 40 acres in the Okanogan Highlands, on the slopes of Mt. Annie.  This is open range country, and county policy is that if you don't want your neighbors cows on your land, it is your responsibility to fence them out.  So about 20 years ago, that is what we did.  The terrain is too rough for vehicles so we schlepped 80 lb. rolls of wire by hand, about a mile of fencing.  Then we built cattle grates on the road that passes through to the National Forest on the other side.  The local rancher moves his cows through in the spring via fence gates beside the road.

Before this, the land looked OK, although after a wet winter the cows would create mud churns in the wetter areas.  But it was green in the spring.

Soon after the fence was installed, everything began to change.  The cheatgrass began to fade, replaced by native bunch grasses.  Plants like penstemon, aster, mertensia, and claytonia began to increase.  After about five years, there was a massive flowering of Calypso orchid, hundreds and hundreds.  But only inside the fence, we did not find a single one outside.

We had never seen deer anywhere in the area before the fence, but they began to appear inside the fence.  Down at the bottom of the property, some areas had gone over to "doghair," when you get 100 skinny, weak tree saplings in a 100 square foot area.  The cows just avoided those areas, but the deer started browsing them really hard until they began to thin out.  The survivors began to prosper.

Pollinators became much more common, and we started to see flycatchers.  One day we noticed that bluebirds were nesting on the property.  Nowadays, if you took an image from the sky, you would see a bright green, highly diverse, 40 acre square inside an extensive degraded area.

This is just one of my formative experiences.

digitaljanitor wrote:
Yeah, lots of places you can see major grass disparity just looking out the window at the stuff next to the highway vs the stuff inside the fence while driving around out east of the crest.

I'm not 100% opposed to grazing but it's pretty obvious that the effects of wild deer and elk vs range cattle can't be considered directly interchangeable in these ecosystems, so in a rational world I'd think caution would be advisable. Of course this being 2020, we can't have that.

I understand what's being said here.  But these accounts, while interesting, are examples of continuous grazing or set stocking. They do not demonstrate that grazing by livestock is inherently ecological harmful.

Deer are browsers and more akin to goats than cows.  The plants are not concerned with what animal eats them.  Elk denuding riparian areas in Yellowstone due to lack of predator pressure  was discussed at length in the wolf thread.

Here are a couple examples of grazing improving the ecology.  In dry environments it makes a tremendous difference if cows are grazed during the growing season versus the dormant season as demonstrated here:

https://www.beefmagazine.com/pasture/got-cheatgrass-heres-how-kill-it-and-get-your-pastures-back

Significantly more birds counted in rotationally grazed pasture than nearby prairie conservation area

https://practicalfarmers.org/2018/01/research-report-monitoring-birds-in-rotationally-grazed-pasture-2017-update/
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treeswarper
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 6:51 am 
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Jake, I have always been told that the reason cows are taken off the range at the end of September is that deer hunting season soon begins.  Of course, snow used to often start falling in October, too.

Some cows will start heading home on their own too early.  My uncle had problem cows that did that.  They want to be where they don't have to work to eat--where hay is thrown to them.

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Jake Neiffer
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 7:19 am 
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True.  And I'm not attempting here to say how or when public land should be grazed.  I'm simply pushing back on the notion that cows = bad, rest = good in all circumstances.

I will say that ideally there would be a lot more range riders or shepherds or cowboys that in addition to deterring wolves kept the livestock moving along on a frequent basis.  But this additional labor cost is probably not in the cards for a lot of ranchers that graze on public lands.
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 7:51 am 
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treeswarper wrote:
the reason cows are taken off the range at the end of September is that deer hunting season soon begin

Not true at all.  Cattle are removed according to weather, growing cycles, amount of forage on the particular allotment, etc.  In some warmer climes grazing on public lands lasts well into, and past hunting season.   When I worked in southern NM there were grazing allotments that had grazing seasons 10 or even 12 months long.
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 9:37 am 
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Jake Neiffer wrote:
You can see areas where grasses smother themselves- old material doesn't break down fast enough, hampers growth and eventually can kill the plant.

I can't find any evidence of undergrazing other than the one picture of one plant that has not burned in a few years but will undoubtedly be more attractive after it does.  The concept of a plant smothering itself is a new one to me!

None of the places I have visited in eastern Washington that are beyond the reach of cows show any evidence of having too much thatch.

The cattle industry has seen its reputation tarnished in the last couple decades, both by the damage of overgrazing and also by suspicions that beef consumption is not healthy.  They have fought back, so now we see some really dubious study results, and of course we have Alan Savory and his "holistic grazing" splashed all over the net.

There is some nuance here that folks are missing.  When Savory shows areas that have supposedly greened up due to more intense grazing, the plants you see are exotic invaders that have strategies against cattle grazing.  The most lush scene he shows - which has supposedly recovered due to increased grazing - is choked with pernicious saw grass that only a goat could eat.

Cattle will hammer the vegetation along stream channels until it is gone.  Only then will they venture farther afield to find new forage.  In doing so, they will go the minimum distance from water until that band of vegetation is gone too.  These areas will recover under only one condition, removal of cattle for many years.  As the cattle spend more time walking and less time grazing, they will not grow as fast.

There is even some really shameful stuff out there claiming that cattle can do fine on cheatgrass.  Trivia question:  anyone know why it is called cheatgrass?   biggrin.gif

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treeswarper
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 9:55 am 
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jinx'sboy wrote:
treeswarper wrote:
the reason cows are taken off the range at the end of September is that deer hunting season soon begin

Not true at all.  Cattle are removed according to weather, growing cycles, amount of forage on the particular allotment, etc.  In some warmer climes grazing on public lands lasts well into, and past hunting season.   When I worked in southern NM there were grazing allotments that had grazing seasons 10 or even 12 months long.

Uh, you need to quote the next sentence also.  Or read it. 

I'm only familiar with seasons here in the PNW, which seem to be the same dates in Washington for everybody.  The SW is a whole different ballgame.  Totally different weather also.

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treeswarper
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PostThu Feb 06, 2020 10:00 am 
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I know not of the nutritional value of cheatgrass, but I do know cows will eat it when it is green, as will horses.  I base this on being a kid out with my horse and having cows on our place, which had patches of cheatgrass.

Here's a paper, and from a quick read of the summary, cheatgrass is OK for forage if grazed early, and I am assuming, when green.

Idaho Study

The first cutting of our alfalfa was sold at a cheaper price than later cuttings due to having a bit of cheat in it.  We did not use herbicides.  If the cheatgrass was too bad in a bale, we kept it and fed it to our stock.

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