Targeted Grazing

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Geo-Fencing Summit

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Meeting ID: 161 0453 0612
Passcode: USFS1905!
Summit hosts: Matt Reeves – Rocky Mountain Research Station and  Dwayne Rice – Region 2 Rangeland Program Manager

Background: Geo-fencing provides some unique advantages over conventional fencing approaches. This is especially true when we consider the devastation to fencing, and other rangeland infrastructure, caused by wildfires. Geo-fencing is increasingly used with public land grazing leases, but the cost-effectiveness of geo-fencing and common challenges are not well understood. Issues such as cost-effectiveness, environmental concerns, animal welfare, and system efficacy remain unclear.

In this Summit, we provide a forum for producers, managers, and USDA Forest Service agency leadership to share their insights, successes, and failures while answering questions in the process. Geo-fencing may have a significant role to play in the future of public land management. In this Summit, we provide a backdrop against which we can come to some common understanding of what the technology affords including the considerations needed prior to implementation.

Summit Scope & Components: The objective is to enable Summit participants to learn from the real-world experience provided by managers, agency leaders, and producers. In this Summit, we discuss geo-fencing through a series of coupled 20-minute presentations followed by a 30-minute live question-and-answer session. In this manner, we aim to engage participants from a wide range of experiences and disciplines.

Deliverables & Benefits:

  • The meeting itself. It provides an important means of information exchange where we can all learn from each other.
  • Recorded 20-minute presentations that can be revisited remotely anytime.
  • Identification of new partnerships between producers, managers, and researchers to foster more effective land management strategies to be developed across more regions.
SRM 2023 Conf logo

Society for Range Management 2023 Meeting

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This year’s annual conference will be in Boise, ID.

Webinar, video, audio icon

Three years of targeted grazing to reduce wildfire risk

Webinar recording.

This presentation discusses a pilot project in partnership with the BC Cattlemen’s Association and the Province of British Columbia that uses cattle grazing to reduce wildfire risk in wildland-urban interface areas. Amanda Miller, of Palouse Rangeland Consulting is engaged as the liaison, coordinator, and researcher for the development, pilot, and testing of livestock use models for fine fuel management.

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Using virtual fencing to create fuel breaks in the sagebrush steppe

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Cows were fitted with VF collars (calves not collared) that use Global Positioning System positioning to contain cattle inside fuel break boundaries and record animal locations at 5-min intervals. End-of-trial forage utilization was 48.5% ± 3.7% and 5.5% ± 0.7% for areas inside and outside of the fuel break, respectively. Daily percentage of cattle locations inside the fuel break was initially > 94% but declined to approximately 75% by the end of the trial. Percentage daily locations of dry cows and cow/calf pairs inside the fuel break was 98.5% ± 0.5% and 80.6% ± 1.1%, respectively (P < 0.001). Our data suggest virtual fencing can be a highly effective method of concentrating grazing to reduce herbaceous fuel biomass within linear fuel breaks. Efficacy of this method could be substantially impacted by use of dry versus cow/calf pairs.

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Virtual fencing to create fuel breaks in the sagebrush steppe

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Cows were fitted with VF collars (calves not collared) that use Global Positioning System positioning to contain cattle inside fuel break boundaries and record animal locations at 5-min intervals. End-of-trial forage utilization was 48.5% ± 3.7% and 5.5% ± 0.7% for areas inside and outside of the fuel break, respectively. Daily percentage of cattle locations inside the fuel break was initially > 94% but declined to approximately 75% by the end of the trial. Percentage daily locations of dry cows and cow/calf pairs inside the fuel break was 98.5% ± 0.5% and 80.6% ± 1.1%, respectively (P < 0.001). Our data suggest virtual fencing can be a highly effective method of concentrating grazing to reduce herbaceous fuel biomass within linear fuel breaks. Efficacy of this method could be substantially impacted by use of dry versus cow/calf pairs.

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Grazing management to reduce wildfire risk in invasive annual grass prone sagebrush communities

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Moderate grazing decreases wildfire probability by decreasing fuel amount, continuity, and height and increasing fuel moisture content. Grazing, through its modification of fuels, can improve fire suppression efforts by decreasing flame lengths, rate of fire spread, and fire severity. Logistical, social, and administrative challenges exist to using grazing to decrease fire probability. Some of these challenges can be overcome by using off-season (i.e., fall-winter) grazing, but other challenges will require persistent efforts as well as science to support management changes.

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Virtual fencing effectively excludes cattle from burned sagebrush steppe

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We evaluated the use of a “virtual fence” (VF) for excluding cattle from burned areas within small pastures in the sagebrush steppe of southeast Oregon. VF technology (Vence Corporation, San Francisco, CA) uses satellite-controlled collars that direct animal movement within user-defined polygons using auditory and electrical cues. We fall-burned a 0.6-ha area in each of six adjacent 2.1-ha pastures in a Wyoming big sagebrush plant community in 2019. In June 2020, each pasture was stocked with 3 mature dry cows for 14 d. All cows were fitted with VF collars; collars were programed to create a virtual fence around the burned area within three of the pastures (VF treatment), and remaining pastures had electrical and auditory cues turned off (control treatment). Collars recorded animal location every 5 min. Cows in the control treatment initially spent up to 40% of their time within the burned area, and forage utilization of the burned area was nearly 70%. Cows in the VF treatment spent approximately 4% of their time in the burned area on day 1 and were recorded in the burn only incidentally thereafter; forage utilization in the burn was < 3%.

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Moderate grazing in fall-winter reduces exotic annual grasses in sagebrush-bunchgrass steppe

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We compared moderate grazing during the off season with not grazing in five Wyoming big sagebrush−bunchgrass communities in the northern Great Basin. Treatments were applied annually for 10 yr (2009−2010 through 2018−2019). Plant community characteristics were measured after treatments had been applied from 6 to 10 yr. Off-season grazing reduced exotic annual grass density and cover. After a decade, annual grass cover was twofold greater in ungrazed areas. Sandberg bluegrass density increased with off-season grazing, but large bunchgrass density was similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed areas. Perennial and annual forb density and cover were similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed treatments. Biological soil crust cover was also similar between off-season grazed and ungrazed areas.

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What’s driving the proliferation of exotic annual grasses in sagebrush? Comparing fire with off-season grazing

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We compared 1) burned and ungrazed (burned), 2) off-season, moderately grazed and unburned (grazed), and 3) ungrazed and unburned (control) treatments at five Wyoming big sagebrush sites in southeastern Oregon for half a decade. Fire, but not off-season grazing, substantially increased exotic annual grass cover and abundance. Vegetation cover and density were generally similar between grazed and control areas. In contrast, at the end of the study exotic annual grass cover and density were over fourfold greater in burned areas. Exotic annual grass became the dominant plant group in burned areas, but not in grazed and control areas. Cover and density of annual forbs, predominately non-native species, were generally greater in the burned compared with grazed and control treatments. Fire also decreased soil biological crust cover and sagebrush cover and density compared with grazed and control treatments. This study provides strong evidence that fire is a threat to the sustainability of Wyoming big sagebrush communities at risk of exotic annual grass dominance, but that off-season, moderate grazing poses little risk. However, considering the spatial extent of our study was limited, further evaluations are needed across a larger geographic area.

Webinar, video, audio icon

Exploring innovation in a public land grazing system (7:17)

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In small communities like Plush, Oregon, where “The Need for Flexibility: Exploring Innovation in a Public Land Grazing System” was filmed, agriculture is a major economic contributor. Benefits extend far beyond the actual animal unit months provided to the producer. The creation of local jobs, community investments, and the stability provided by a balanced and documented approach to resource management all help foster resiliency in communities across the West. The Bureau of Land Management’s Outcome-based Grazing program offers a more collaborative approach between the BLM and its partners within the livestock grazing community when issuing grazing authorizations permits. The program allows for necessary, timely grazing adjustments that benefit the health of the rangeland for wildlife as well as its availability of forage for livestock.

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