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Factors and Practices that Influence Livestock Distribution

The Issue

Reducing livestock impacts on water quality, aquatic and riparian habitat, and biodiversity are continuing goals for livestock producers, natural resource managers, and conservation groups. These livestock impacts are frequently due to problems with livestock distribution.

While fences are usually an effective tool for controlling livestock distribution and reducing impacts on riparian zones or other critical areas, manipulation of grazing patterns can also effectively reduce adverse impacts from livestock. These practices can also facilitate the use of grazing to manipulate vegetation to meet management goals.

It is crucial that livestock producers, land managers, community watershed groups, environmental interest groups and policy makers understand the factors that influence where animals graze, rest, and drink, and how livestock can be predictably and effectively redistributed so that they do not produce undesirable effects in grazed watersheds.

What Has ANR Done?

Researchers from Oregon, Montana, and California recently described pasture and animal management knowledge and practices that can be used to alter livestock distribution and to attract livestock away from environmentally critical areas or into areas targeted for grazing.

While basic livestock distribution practices have changed little in the last 50 years, new research suggests ways to fine tune and combine these practices that will improve their efficacy. The practices are based on basic and applied research in animal behavior and landscape ecology and involve changes in pasture management or changes in livestock management.

The Payoff

UC ANR Publication No. 8217

To insure that taxpayers are getting value from publicly funded conservation measures, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture assess the efficacy of conservation cost-share practices. Most of the public funds for agricultural conservation come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, informally known as the "Farm Bill." In response to the OMB request, USDA inititated the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).

UC ANR Publication No. 8217, entitled "Factors and Practices that Influence Livestock Distribution," documents the effectiveness of most of the livestock distribution practices used in the western United States and is making a significant contribution to the 2007–2009 assessment of the efficacy of grazing land and riparian management practices. This publication is available at: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/InOrder/Shop/ItemDetails.asp?ItemNo=8217.


Supporting Unit:

Rangeland Watershed Program, California Rangeland Research and Information Center
Mel George
Extension Rangeland Management Specialist
Department of Plant Sciences
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
(530) 752-1720