Riparian Conservation in Grazed Landscapes – Management Effort Matters

In the absence of appropriate management, excessive livestock damage can occur in sensitive habitats such as riparian areas that provide drinking water, forage, and microclimates sought by free-ranging livestock. This is particularly true in complex, rugged, arid range landscapes. Fortunately, conservation-grazing management strategies can reduce the likelihood of livestock damage to riparian areas. Grazing management practices such as herding, strategic placement of livestock nutritional supplements and drinking water stations, and strategic fencing have the potential to reduce negative impacts of livestock to riparian areas. Recent reviews have found that these practices are generally effective across a diversity of grazing lands, that there is substantial site to site variability likely due in large part to variable site-specific factors such as size of management unit, livestock type, season of use, vegetation patterns, and topography (Malan et al. 2018; George et al. 2011).

Managerial effort invested in implementation (i.e. person-days per year spent on implementation) can also influence variability in effectiveness of grazing distribution practices. For example, a manager may ‘implement’ an off-stream station with nutritional supplements to entice livestock away from a riparian area. However, during initial implementation, the manager may not invest enough in site-specific assessments of livestock utilization patterns to allow sufficiently informed decisions on locating the station with the best chance of improving distribution. Subsequently, the manager may then inadequately invest effort (time) in monitoring the station (e.g. ensuring that livestock locate and utilize the nutritional supplements) and maintaining it (e.g. replacing supplements as consumed, moving station to a new area as associated forage is depleted) to achieve desired reductions in livestock damage to the riparian area of concern.

We (Derose et al. 2020) conducted a study of 46 grazed riparian areas (Figure 1), to evaluate relationships of stocking rate and managerial effort to implement livestock distributional practices with riparian health. We found no significant relationship of riparian health (i.e. in-stream invertebrate richness) with stocking rate, nor with the simple implementation (yes/no) of off-stream nutritional supplements, fence maintenance, and livestock herding (P ≥ 0.22 in all cases). However, we did find significant positive relationships between riparian health and managerial effort (person-days spent per year for each individual practice) to implement off-stream nutritional supplements and fence maintenance (Figure 2). Livestock herding effort had an apparent positive association with riparian health. Results highlight that site-specific variation in managerial effort accounts for some of the observed variation in practice effectiveness, and that appropriate managerial investments in grazing distributional practices can improve riparian conditions.

Figure 1. Study sites (total 46) enrolled in this study across extensive, mountainous grazing lands in east-central and northeastern California.
Figure 2.  Significant relationships of taxa richness metrics with effort-days for three livestock distribution management practices at riparian mountain meadows and adjacent stream reaches (n = 46) on US Forest Service grazing allotments and privately owned pastures in east-central and northeastern California. EPT = Ephemeroptera + Plecoptera + Trichoptera. Symbols are observed data, and lines are model predictions.

See just published full results in the Rangelands Journal here:   https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ20024

Literature Cited

Derose, K.L., C.F. Battaglia, D.J. Eastburn, L.M. Roche, T.A. Becchetti, H.A. George, D.F. Lile, D.L. Lancaster, N.K. McDougald, and K.W. Tate. (2020). Riparian health improves with managerial effort to implement livestock distribution practices. The Rangeland Journal. https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ20024

George, M. R., Jackson, R. D., Boyd, C. S., and Tate, K. W. (2011). A scientific assessment of the effectiveness of riparian management practices. In: ‘Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices: Assessment, Recommendations, and Knowledge Gaps.’ Ch. 5. (Ed. D. D. Briske.) (Allen Press: Lawrence, KS, USA.).

Malan, J. C., Flint, N., Jackson, E. L., Irving, A. D., and Swain, D. L. (2018). Offstream watering points for cattle: protecting riparian ecosystems and improving water quality? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 256, 144–152.

Is the water dirty? Well, it depends upon the bacteria standard

Contamination of surface waters with fecal pathogens is a global human health concern. Concentrations of predominantly non-pathogenic fecal indicator bacteria – Escherichia coli (E. coli) and fecal coliforms – are regulatory proxies (standards) used to safeguard public health from pathogens of concern – Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia spp., and E. coli O157:H7.

There is substantial variation in microbial water quality standards recommended between federal, state, and regional water quality agencies. For example, some agencies recommend E. coli and other recommend fecal coliform standards. Some agencies recommend one concentration while others recommend another. This cross agency variation generates substantially different perceptions of microbial water quality conditions depending upon the standard employed at your ZIP code.

Contemporary research demonstrates that E. coli is superior to fecal coliforms as a proxy for fecal pollution from warm-blooded mammals. This is due to the “fecal” coliform test’s chronic detection of non-fecal, environmental coliform bacteria. “Fecal” coliforms are not well correlated to fecal pollution, and these false-positive outcomes create erroneously high estimates of health risk compared to E. coli (e.g., Edberg et al. 2000; Doyle and Erikson 2006; and Odonkor and Ampofo 2013).

This, and other issues with fecal coliform, has led both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board to recommend E. coli based standards to safeguard human health in fresh water systems. This is a move supported by the scientific community.

To quantify the variation generated by various current microbial water quality standards in California, we conducted a survey of fecal coliform and E. coli concentrations in surface waters across 77 sample sites in the upper reaches of three mixed land use rural watersheds traversing the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade regions of California (Figure 1).

 

Six microbial water quality standards were relevant to the study area at the time of the study. Results in Table 1 and Table 2 demonstrate the potential for substantial discord, and policy-driven confusion, in assessments of microbial conditions using fecal coliform compared to E. coli-based water quality standards as indicators of fecal pollution by warm-blooded mammals.

Our results demonstrate that policies reliant on antiquated fecal coliform-based water quality standards overestimate potential fecal contamination by as much as four orders of magnitude in this landscape.

Such policies:

  • Hinder the identification of the most likely fecal pollution sources and thus the successful targeting of mitigation practices to address them.
  • Misrepresent actual microbial water quality conditions to stakeholders, resources managers, and policy makers, hindering science-based decision making.

We strongly recommend the application of E. coli based standards to 1) guide water quality improvement; and 2) safeguard human health in these vast landscapes.

 

Derose, K.L., L.M. Roche, D.F. Lile, D.J. Eastburn, and K.W. Tate. Microbial Water Quality Conditions Associated with Livestock Grazing, Recreation, and Rural Residences in Mixed Use Landscapes. Sustainability 2020, 12, 5207.

The complete findings from this study can be viewed here.

 

Literature Cited

Edberg, S.C.; Rice, E.W.; Karlin, R.J.; Allen, M.J. Escherichia coli: The best biological drinking water indicator for public health protection. J. Appl. Microbiol. Symp. Suppl. 200088., 106S-116S.

Doyle, M.P.; Erickson, M.C. Closing the door on the fecal coliform assay. Microbe 20061, 162–163.

Odonkor, S.T.; Ampofo, J.K. Escherichia coli as an indicator of bacteriological quality of water: An overview. Microbiol. Res. (Pavia) 20134, e2.

 

SEE TABLES BELOW

Table 1. Exceedances based upon the study period geomean concentration (cfu/100 mL) standard for E. coli and fecal coliform (FC) at each sample site by specific fecal sources (recreation, grazing, and rural residences) across the entire summer study period (July through September of 2016). The geomean is calculated by (1) transforming sample concentrations by log10, (2) calculating the mean of those transformed concentrations, and then (3) raising the transformed mean by the power of 10.

    Percent of Sample Sites
  Sites E. coli > 100 FC > 20 FC > 200
Overall 77 14 61 53
Recreation 40 8 53 45
Grazing 31 10 65 55
Residences 6 83 100 100

 

Table 2. Exceedances based upon the study period statistical threshold value (STV) concentration standard that no more than 10% of individual grab samples exceeding benchmark concentrations (cfu/100 mL) for E. coli and fecal coliform (FC) at each site by specific fecal sources (recreation, grazing, and rural residences) across the entire summer study period (July through September of 2016).

    Percent of Sample Sites
  Sites E. coli > 320 FC > 40 FC > 400
Overall 77 13 83 25
Recreation 40 5 80 15
Grazing 31 16 84 29
Residences 6 50 100 67

Short-Term Impacts of COVID-19 for the Beef Industry

Post by Tina L. Saitone, Cooperative Extension Specialist in Livestock and Rangeland Economics


Highlights

  • How will changes in consumer buying patterns impact wholesale beef prices?

    Spikes in consumer grocery purchases caused wholesale beef prices to rise rapidly; moderating more recently as grocery retailers have restocked and schools and food service operations have shuttered. 

  • Are beef packers using their market power and this black swan event to take advantage of cattle producers?

    There is no evidence this is occurring; packers increased their slaughter volumes and simultaneously paid producers premiums for the fed cattle they procured. 

  • Why are wholesale beef prices increasing while live cattle prices are falling?

    Beef prices and cattle prices are correlated over longer periods of time; prices for calves and yearlings today are more influenced by buyer expectations than current beef prices. 

  • If beef packing plants are temporarily shut down due to employee heath concerns, how will that impact beef and cattle prices?

    Past events suggest that the closure of an individual packing plant will cause temporary market-wide disruptions, increasing wholesale beef prices and causing live cattle prices to fall. 


In this installment … 

Among the myriad of concerns surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic is unease about the performance of the U.S. food supply chain. As grocery outlets and their suppliers and distributors struggle to keep food on the shelves, farmers and processors upstream are confronted with the challenge of pivoting away from conventional foodservice and restaurant product offerings, toward product forms that are accessible and desirable for at-home consumption.

The beef industry exemplifies these concerns. The recent pricing patterns and market dynamics observed in the industry have stimulated a lot of discussion about what the future holds. In this blog I discuss the short-term demand impacts and how these changes have influenced beef prices, as well as a variety of factors that are likely to impact the supply side of the beef market. Many researchers and analysts have been considering these topics from a variety of angles. I endeavor here to bring that information together in a comprehensive assessment and separate fact from fiction.

Changes in Consumer Buying Patterns – With the majority of states under “shelter in place” orders, there have been incredible spikes in grocery store sales across the nation. The figure below, from Winsight Grocery Business, shows the percentage change in sales of major meat categories, sold in supermarkets, compared to the same week in 2019.  Beef sales (week ending March 22, 2020) were up 95%, relative to the same week last year.

Week by week sales growth. Image shows a chart with percent sales growth on y axis and time on x axis. Beef, Chicken, Pork, Deli Meat, Turkey, and Lamb increased in sales growth between March 1st and week ending March 22nd.  The increases range from 126% for turkey to 38% growth for beef.

The majority of beef sold at retail (i.e., through grocery stores and super centers) is graded USDA Choice or Select; beef graded USDA Prime is primarily consumed in restaurants. The short-term increase in demand for beef at retail, in the latter half of March following many of the statewide shelter-in-place orders, is consistent with the price surge observed for Choice and Select boxed beef cutout prices (i.e., the gross value of a beef carcass based on FOB prices paid for individual beef items derived from the carcass). Below is a graph (from the USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Marketing News) of the weekly Choice Cutout Value (measured in $/hundredweight) (in red). The initial price spike (an increase of nearly $46/cwt. weekending March 20) has started to moderate as the demand from food service has dwindled and grocery outlets have been able to restock. 

Weekly choice cutout. This figure shows data for 2020, 2009, and the 5 year average. This shows 2009 and 5 year average exhibit similar oscillations over the year. 2020 is markedly different in the exponential between March and April 2020.

These unprecedented increases in food purchases via grocery stores and supercenters were largely precipitated by the forced closures of restaurants and schools; eliminating consumers’ ability to consume food away from home. The question food industry leaders are seeking to answer is: will increases in food spending for at-home consumption compensate for the reductions in food-away-from-home spending. Just a few days ago, Rabobank released a report estimating that a 10% decrease in away-from-home food spending would result in an increase in retail food spending of 3%. Yet this estimated tradeoff needs to considered in light of the fact that the costs associated with consumption away from home are likely higher due to labor and infrastructure costs associated with the provision food consumption in restaurants and food service operations. The question that everyone is waiting to have answered is: do people consume more beef when they eat at home or away from home?

Another related consideration, on the supply side, is how quickly will beef packers be able to pivot their restaurant products (e.g., cuts, packaging, etc.) to products that are attractive to consumers at retail. Many news outlets, including the New York Times, continue to remind us that there is “plenty of food in the country,” but the challenge is allocation of products and distribution.

Cattle Supplies and Beef Processing – While beef prices at the wholesale level have increased in response to short-term demand increases, cash prices for calves and feeder cattle have declined. This inverse relationship has caused some to question if beef packers are using market power to suppress prices they are paying for fed cattle (e.g., Crosby). While it is obviously in each beef packers’ self interest to procure fed cattle at the lowest possible prices, it is not viable in the long run because if cattle feeders are driven out of business, they will leave processors without adequate supply. In furtherance of preserving their relationship with the feeders that supply fed cattle, Tyson and Cargill (two of the four largest processors in the U.S. that process roughly 85% of beef cattle) announced they would pay a one-time premium for cattle slaughtered the week of March 20 to help ensure supplies to their operations. While Cargill’s premium wasn’t available, reports indicate that Tyson paid producers $5/cwt. live weight. 

Beef processors also increased their slaughter volumes week-over-week at the end of March (see graph below from USDA Livestock, Poultry and Grain Market News). This increase in production also runs counter to the argument that processors are exercising their market power to suppress prices. Under this theory of market (i.e., monopsony) power, processors would reduce their production.

Weekly Beef Production. This chart demonstrates that 2020 beef production is much different and higher than the 5 year average and 2019

A major fear among analysts and cattle producers is that one or more processing plants will “go down” due to a significant number of employees contracting COVID-19. Many are using the fire that shuddered a Tyson beef packing plant in August 2019 as a harbinger of the impacts that would likely manifest in beef markets. In the weeks following the fire, boxed beef values increased substantially ($23.83/cwt. increase in two weeks) while fed cattle and feeder prices dropped significantly. The increase in packer margins during the early days following the fire incentivized other packers to increase the amount of cattle they slaughtered, often by adding extra shifts and moving cattle across plants. I would anticipate that this response would happen again if significant processing plant closures occur doe to COVID-related closures.

A possible omen from another animal-processing industry is Sanderson Farms’ announcement that they would preemptively close their Moultrie, Georgia broiler processing plant, despite no documented COVID-related illnesses, reducing the number of chickens slaughtered by 1 – 1.3 million over the next month. Plants going offline, even temporarily, will have regional impacts and create more macro uncertainty in cattle markets. Late yesterday (April 6) Tyson announced that they would be suspending operations at two of their pork processing plants in Iowa. Also yesterday, JBS announced that health officials in Colorado and Nebraska were investigating concerns about some employees testing positive for COVID-19.

Something we must all remember is that prices of calves and feeder cattle and beef prices are correlated but over a longer period of time. This is because calves and yearlings being raised right now, won’t hit the slaughter floor for months or maybe a year. So calf and feeder prices today will not be directly influenced by wholesale beef cutout prices today; rather those live cattle prices are more influenced by expectations about future beef demand. These expectations about the future took a big hit when this global health crisis came to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Also, long before COVID-19, projections indicated we were headed for record meat and poultry production, with beef production slowing by only 1% compared to 2019. The anticipation of large supplies of meat and poultry production would, absent the current crisis, have had a moderating affect on live cattle prices.

Following the retail demand surge, the futures prices for many agricultural products declined rapidly. In the figure below, generated by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cumulative percentage change in the commodity futures price is shown since the COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed in China (Jan 14, 2020). The live cattle futures price declined by 25% during this period, which is likely more reflective of the concern and predictions that COVID-19 will push the U.S. economy into a recession. If recession does hit, beef being a higher priced animal-based protein is typically hit hard by demand reductions (i.e., it is more sensitive to changes in income than other, lower priced animal-based proteins).

This chart reflects the decline in meat and dairy commodity future prices from January 2020 to March 2020. The figure also illustrates an in increase in Wheat futures and apparent stabilization of corn and soybean.

In summary, I disagree with those suggesting that the beef market is “broken.” Instead I would characterize the beef supply chain as operating very efficiently and responding quickly to the black swan event that is the COVID-19 pandemic.

UC Rangelands Winter Newsletter

Chico State and UC Cooperative Extension co-host the 2019
Beef Symposium, 'Bridging Genetics and Management'

 

 

The 2019 Beef Symposium focused on rangeland enhancement through genetic selection and adaptive management. Researchers and livestock managers shared emerging information on bridging genetics and rangeland management, as well as other contemporary management issues. The event was a collaboration of Chico State professors, Chico State Young Cattlemen's Association, New Mexico State University professor and UC Cooperative Extension.

The event was sponsored by Western SARE and the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association.

 
 

Featured Speakers and Handouts: 

 
Grazing distribution and management in Northern California: Tracy Schohr, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension

 
Beef Cattle Genetic Technology: Where we’ve been and where we are headed: Kasey DeAtley, Ph.D., professor, California State University, Chico

 
Role of Nature vs Nurture in Grazing Distribution: Larry Howery, Ph.D., Range Extension Specialist, University of Arizona

 
Implementation of Genetic Selection to Improve Cattle Grazing Distribution: Derek Bailey, Ph.D., professor, New Mexico State University
 
Rancher to Rancher Panel - Successful Integration of Grazing Management Strategies

  • Jesse Bratz, Squaw Valley Ranch, LLC, Midas, Nev.

 

 

  • Mark Lacey, Lacey Livestock, Independence, Calif.

 
 

For more information, contact UCCE Butte-Plumas-Sierra Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor Tracy Schohr


Workshop series  'Weather, Grass and Drought: Planning for Uncertainty'  a success! 

UC Cooperative Extension in partnership with the National Drought Mitigation Center, the USDA California Climate Hub, and the National Integrated Drought Information System hosted 4 regional workshops on climate and drought resources to support rangeland drought planning. Speakers included:

Dr. Deborah Bathke and Dr. Curtis Riganti, National Drought Mitigation Center
Behind the scenes look at US Drought Monitor

Dr. Tina Saitone, UCCE, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Livestock drought disaster/Insurance programs

Jerald Meadows, National Weather Service
Weather patterns and forecasting tools

David Lile, UCCE Lassen County and Dan Macon, UCCE Placer-Nevada-Sutter-Yuba Counties
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS)

Dr. Royce Larsen, UCCE San Luis Obispo-Monterey-Santa Barbara Counties
Changing forage conditions and drought


Climate resilience and a new generation of ranchers

Leslie Roche1 and Kate Munden-Dixon2
1UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in Rangeland Science and Management, University of California-Davis
2Ph.D. Student, Geography Graduate Group, University of California-Davis


An aging demographic and declining numbers of ranchers pose serious challenges to the future of ranching and rangeland management in the American West. The average age of ranchers is 62, and fewer children are taking over the family ranch. Retaining the next generation and recruiting new generations is difficult due to a complex mix of start-up costs, knowledge and skill requirements, and regulatory barriers. Surprisingly, there has been limited research and outreach programs focused on first-generation ranchers; at best, they are generalized as beginning farmers. To help bridge this gap, we have been working with ranchers and rangeland managers in California with support from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) program.

California’s estimated 38 million acres of grazed rangelands are biologically rich working lands supporting livestock production (~$3 billion annually including cattle and calves and sheep and goats) and the supply of other ecosystems services such as water resource protection, biodiversity conservation, and wildlife habitat. California’s rangeland communities are already challenged by the characteristically hot, dry summers of the largely Mediterranean climate; escalating drought frequency and severity further compound this challenge, posing substantial and recurrent economic and ecological stresses to the system.

Ariel Greenwood checks fences with a horse named Frog. (Sam Ryerson) 

Based on results from the California Rangeland Decision-Making Survey, we’ve found many first-generation ranchers aren’t plugged into information networks such as Cooperative Extension and ranching organizations. Additionally, compared to their multigenerational counterparts, first-generation ranchers have access to fewer resources, fewer general management practices, and fewer drought adaptation strategies—making them more susceptible to drought and climate variability. This vulnerability is particularly concerning given many first-generation ranchers have limited experience with drought.Building on this work, UC Davis graduate student Kate Munden-Dixon is interviewing 40 new, “early-career” ranchers from across California to better understand the perspectives of a broad diversity of ranchers. This new generation of early career ranchers are typically young, women, less likely to own land, and more likely to graze small ruminants (sheep and goats). Munden-Dixon’s dissertation research will shed light on how demographics (gender, ethnicity, age) influence decision-making and adaptation to climate change and how outreach organizations can better support climate resiliency across a diversity of ranchers and operation types.

Organizations looking to enhance climate resilience of rangeland systems can more effectively target outreach and policy initiatives by taking into account the broad diversity of land managers and ranching operations and subsequent differences in information needs, experience, and individual challenges.

A horse and rider at the Lazy E-L Ranch in Roscoe, Montana. (Ariel Greenwood/Instagram @grasslandgreenwood)

For more information on this work, see our recent publication in The Rangeland Journal. This blog was partially adapted from a story originally published in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Outlook, a magazine from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.


Local stakeholders gather for the 2018 Rustici Tour on the Plumas National Forest

By Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Butte counties


In late July, UCCE Plumas-Sierra and UC Rangelands hosted the 2nd Rustici Rangeland Tour on the Beckwourth Ranger District for more than 60 attendees on the Plumas National Forest. The event created a venue for local forest staff, agency leadership, grazing permittees, and other regional stakeholders to discuss contemporary research, management, and monitoring for sustainable public lands grazing. The Rustici Rangeland Tour was established as part of the Rustici Rangeland Science Symposium series to bring hands-on extension education opportunities to local resource managers and stakeholders in a field-based setting.

"The Rustici Tour provided an overview of UC research occurring on the local forest and insight into policies changes with the potential to impact grazing allotment management in the future" stated Plumas Forest Permittee Rick Roberti, Beckwourth, Calif. "Most importantly, it provided a venue to open up the doors for new collaboration between permittee and local forest service staff with the help of UC Cooperative Extension."

The 2018 Rustici Rangeland Tour was supported by an extension grant from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Science’s Russell L. Rustici Rangeland and Cattle Endowment; and support from UC Rangelands and County of Plumas and Sierra.

For more information and tour handouts, click here.

UC Rangelands Spring Newsletter

UC Cooperative Extension, Chico State, and Foster Ranch co-host Irrigated Pasture and Rangeland Management Workshop

 
In California, there are more than 34 million acres of grazed rangeland. Through active stewardship and conservation, grazing land managers can provide for agricultural production as well as a diversity of other ecosystem benefits across these working landscapes.

This workshop and field tour equipped ranchers, land managers, and students with tools and strategies to support sustainable livestock grazing enterprises on California’s irrigated pasturelands and rangelands. Field topics included vegetation and soil moisture monitoring methods, invasive plant management, and regulatory issues and as well as tours at the Foster Ranch and the Chico State Farm.

 
 
 

For information on future workshops, contact UCCE Butte-Plumas-Sierra Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor Tracy Schohr 


 
 

Just published! Livestock Protection Tools for California Ranchers 

 
Conflicts between livestock and predators are perhaps inevitable on extensively managed rangelands. Public perception and legal restriction of lethal predator control makes knowledge and use of nonlethal livestock protection methods critical for California ranchers. Additionally, mitigating conflicts between livestock and predators can be critical for sustaining productive rangeland ecosystems and ranching enterprises. This publication helps producers evaluate livestock protection tools that may fit their site-specific needs.

To read the full publication, click HERE


Knocking Out Noxious Weeds workshop series a success

 
The direct annual cost to monitor and control invasive plants in California is $82 million, and indirect economic impacts are even larger. Despite efforts, noxious weeds are continuing to invade rangelands and other working landscapes, highlighting the need for approaches that maximize cost effectiveness of reduced-risk practices while promoting biodiversity.

We hosted a series of seven workshops across California to share information on recent developments in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) rangeland research and field application with more than 300 land managers, ranchers, and restoration practitioners. At these workshop we also deployed participant surveys to learn about local experiences and perceptions of rangeland weed management practices, and are currently working on several publications summarizing our findings.

 
 
 

All workshop presentations and resources are now available on the Knocking Out Noxious Weeds Hub



WVM Analysis Overview: Which Value-Added Management Programs Really Add Value to Your Cattle?

By Tina Saitone
Cooperative Extension Specialist, Livestock and Rangeland Economics


The ever-expanding suite of value-added management and marketing programs available to cattle ranchers today creates substantial ranch-level complexity. Cattlemen are faced with the challenge of determining which programs will differentiate their cattle on sale day while maximizing the profitability of their operations. Although all of these programs are likely to add costs, the additional income generated from each of these programs is uncertain. Given that lots of cattle sold typically participate in many programs and management decisions must be made months or years in advance of a sale, it is nearly impossible for a rancher to accurately forecast the premium associated with implementing any particular program. However, with the help of good data from Western Video Market (WVM) Auction and modern statistical methods we can gain considerable insights into the value associated with particular programs and management practices.

In this series of blogs, I discuss estimates of the average premiums paid by buyers for individual value-added management, marketing, and vaccination programs using data from WVM's satellite video auctions in 2017.  These results can give ranchers information about the average value that each of these programs brings on sale day. This blog series builds on an article in California Cattleman Magazine (May 2018).

WVM serves as a marketing outlet for cattle ranchers in the western United States. In 2017, more than 286,000 head were sold during 13 video-based auctions. Prices for calves and yearlings were analyzed separately. The graph below shows the distribution of lot-level average weight for steers and heifers sold in 2017. Calves were classified based on the average weight of the lot being between 450 and 650 lbs. in order to focus on price effects at time of weaning. Yearling lots had average weights in the 750- to 950- lb. range. In total, 998 lots of calves and 715 lots of yearlings were analyzed. Lots consisting of cows, pairs, and bred heifers were not included in the analysis.
 
 

Lot-level characteristics (e.g., breed, sex, weight, frame score, etc.) are included in the model to control for how these factors influence price, while catalog descriptions were used to determine the value-added by specific management and marketing programs associated with each lot of cattle in the auction. Using statistical techniques and this lot-level sales information, the price paid for lots of cattle in 2017 can be decomposed by each characteristic/attribute.

In order to consider management choices and market conditions in a more comprehensive fashion, every other week I will add a new blog post to this series. Please check back regularly.

If you would like to be notified via email when additional blog posts become available, please email Tina Saitone.

Grazing Management to Improve Soil Health

By Ken Tate


Grazing lands occupy nearly half the Earth’s land area, provide livelihoods for millions, and mitigate climate change via massive stores of carbon. Maintaining and restoring soil health is essential to ensuring these benefits in our ever changing environment.

Thus, there is substantial global interest in managing livestock grazing to improve soil health. Grazing is promoted by some as a panacea for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change. In other cases, grazing is depicted as an ultimate driver of soil degradation.

So, what do we know about the relationships between grazing strategy (e.g., continuous vs. rotational grazing system), grazing intensity (e.g., moderate vs. heavy stocking rate), and soil health?

 

Improper livestock grazing – which compacts soils and reduces plant vigor – results in a cascade of interconnected negative outcomes including:

  • Decreased infiltration and soil water, thus increased runoff and pollutant transport.
  • Decreased plant rooting and productivity, thus decreased soil carbon and stability.
  • Decreased soil fertility, thus decreased above- and below- ground biomass and biodiversity.

 

The level of soil impairment is strongly dependent upon site specific factors such as grazing intensity and timing, soil resilience to compaction, and precipitation.

 

Proper livestock grazing – which maintains and improves soil health – results in a series of interconnected positive outcomes including:

  • Soil densities and structure that allow root and water penetration of the entire soil profile.
  • Vigorous forage plants with capacity to develop and maintain extensive rooting systems.
  • A community of palatable forage plants with high rooting mass and depth.
  • Stable, resilient increases in primary productivity both above- and below- ground.

 

Global analysis of grazing and soil health – we conducted a comprehensive analysis of published research to examine the effects of grazing strategy (no grazing, continuous grazing, and rotational grazing) and grazing intensity (heavy, moderate, and light grazing) on soil health. Core findings include:

  • Any grazing intensity or strategy increases soil compaction relative to no grazing.
  • Rotational grazing reduces compaction and increases soil carbon relative to continuous grazing.
  • Reduced grazing intensity reduces compaction and increases carbon stores.
  • Site conditions such as soil texture and total annual precipitation moderate grazing impacts.
  • Rotational grazing could create climate change mitigation opportunities over continuous grazing.

Our findings (Byrnes et al. 2018) suggest that rotational grazing can improve soil health over continuous grazing strategies. Decisions about grazing strategy and intensity significantly influence soil health outcomes, and site-specific conditions play important roles in shaping these out­comes.

 

Byrnes, R.C., D.J. Eastburn, K.W. Tate, and L.M. Roche*. 2018. A global meta-analysis of grazing impacts on soil health indicators. J. Environmental Quality. doi:10.2134/jeq2017.08.0313.

*Corresponding author, lmroche@ucdavis.edu

The complete findings from this study can be viewed here.

UC Rangelands Winter 2018 Newsletter

Knocking Out Noxious Weeds on Rangelands Workshop: February 20, Santa Maria, CA

Join the fight to reduce noxious weeds on rangelands and get the latest management tools at the final Knocking Out Noxious Weeds Workshop set for February 20th at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria! The workshops is designed for ranchers and land managers, featuring a dynamic list of speakers covering a range of land management topics associated with invasive species.

 

 

The workshop will:

  • Showcase effective strategies to manage invasive species
  • Highlight cost-effective approaches that maximize success
  • Feature reduced-risk practices while promoting biodiversity
  • Discuss the economic losses caused by invasive species on rangelands

For complete agenda and to register please visit the workshop website.The course has been approved for 4.0 CEU for DPR; CEU for SRM is pending.

For questions, please contact Matthew Shapero, UC Cooperative Extension Livestock & Range Advisor serving Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, mwkshapero@ucanr.edu, 805-645-1475


NEW! UC Rangelands Livestock- Predator Hub

Predators and grazing livestock rely upon rangeland habitats throughout California, and so livestock-predator conflicts are perhaps inevitable. UC Rangelands has recently launched a new “Livestock- Predator Hub” that brings together research-based information and resources for rangeland livestock producers and wildlife managers on mitigating and managing potential conflicts.

Visit the Livestock-Predator Hub HERE.


Just published! Cooperative Extension is Key to Unlocking Public Engagement with Science

The need for scientists — and ecologists, in particular — to engage with the public is well known. UC Rangelands’ Leslie Roche co-authored an article addressing how the U.S. land-grant mission and the Cooperative Extension system have initiated, developed, and implemented models of public engagement for the past 100 years. Cooperative Extension engages through trusted and established relationships, and collaboration and co-development of projects with the public.

Click HERE for the full article.  


Nitrogen Management App 

ATTENTION RANCHERS who are regulated under the Central Valley Irrigated Lands Waiver Program. UC Rangelands has created a tool to assist you with completion of your Nitrogen Management Plan (NMP).

Nitrogen dynamics within irrigated pasture are unique compared to other harvested crops regulated under the program. The pasture N app is based on research conducted within California, in collaboration with scientists at University of California, Davis, Water Board staff and irrigated pasture managers to ensure accuracy and functionality for the expected purpose. 

Complete your NMP today with assistance from the app by clicking here. 

Please check with your local Coalition regarding the need to have your plan certified, or need to submit data regarding nitrogen use on your farm to be in compliance with the program.


3 Steps to Take When Finding a Suspected Livestock Predator Kill

Tracy Schohr, UCCE Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, Plumas, Sierra, and Butte Counties 

This blog post was adapted from the UCCE Plumas, Sierra, and Butte Counties Newsletter – December 2017  

In California, livestock depredation is a growing concern across rural counties with mountain lions, bears, coyotes, and now wolves in the landscape. When you encounter a suspected livestock kill at your home ranch, leased pasture, or public allotment, it is important to take critical steps to preserve the site so a formal investigation can take place.

  1. If you suspect predation, because you’ve seen signs of a recent predator, call:
    • Kent Laudon, CDFW at 530-215-0751
    • Wildlife Services State Office (916) 979-2675
    • Local Wildlife Services (District Supervisors)
      • North District – Jim Shuler (530) 336-5623
      • Sacramento District – Ryan McCreary (619) 666-6418
      • Central District – Brian Popper (209) 579-2891
      • San Luis District – Eric Covington (661) 765-2511
      • South District – John Turman (619) 561-3752
    • If you can’t get a hold of the above contacts, then try:
      • Local Game Warden – Game Warden Dispatch 916-358-1312
      • CDFW Regional Offices
        • Northern Region (530) 225-2300 / Field Office (707) 445-6493
        • N. Central Region (916)-358-2900
        • Bay Delta Region (707) 944-5500
        • Central Region (559) 243-4005 ext. 151
        • South Coast Region (858) 467-4201
        • Inland Deserts Region (909) 484-0167 
  2. Photo credit: USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

    If you don’t immediately suspect predation, when initially inspecting the site, follow the below steps:

    • Minimize your own impacts. Watch where you step and do not step on any signs (e.g. tracks). The fewer steps you make the better.
    • If you happen to discover tracks while initially inspecting the carcass, cover them with a can, pot, etc. to protect them.
    • Take a picture of carcass and surrounding areas.
    • Mark location with camera picture, flagging, or GPS – this can be helpful for investigators to find the site.
    • Protect the scene by restricting people, dogs, and
    • livestock from disturbing evidence.
    • The carcass should be protected by covering with a tarp to avoid further feeding on the carcass.
  3. Officially report incident to the Department of Fish and Wildlife via the Wildlife Incident Reporting System.
    • This will provide a formal record of the incident.  Such reports may result in the issuance of a depredation permit (permit to take animals creating property damage) for designated species requiring a depredation permit by California Codes and Regulations (this does NOT include wolves).

It is imperative to contact CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and USDA Wildlife Services to investigate potential livestock depredations. Depending on schedules, representatives from one or both agencies may conduct the investigation. During their visit, investigators will search the carcass site and surrounding area for predator sign, including tracks, hair, and scat. Therefore, it is important to preserve the site with the steps listed above. The investigators will closely examine the carcass for injuries, bite marks, and tissue damage patterns. Upon completion of the investigation, a “Livestock Loss Determination” report.

Following an investigation that has confirmed a livestock loss from a mountain lion, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shall issue (depredation) permits when requested by ranchers. For more information on mountain lion depredation, click here.

If a bear has been found to cause livestock depredation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife can issue a depredation permit outside of the bear hunting season. Furthermore, Section 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code states; “that any bear that is encountered while in the act of inflicting injury to, molesting, or killing, livestock may be taken immediately by the owner of the livestock or the owner’s employee if the taking is reported no later than the next working day to the department and the carcass is made available to the department.” For more information on Black Bear depredation, click here.

Photo credit: Gary Kramer, USFWS

If wolves are present, ranchers can non-injuriously haze wolves near livestock. “Non-injurious harassment is allowed when wolves are within 0.25 mile of livestock, or within 100 yards of a dwelling, agricultural structure, campsite, or commercial facility.1”Additionally, there are non-lethal deterrents that may work in certain circumstance to prevent further depredations of livestock by wolves. At this time, there is no compensation for ranchers who experience livestock loss from a wolf in California. Reporting losses from wolves will help document impacts. For additional information, including tools to discourage wolf presence and legal protections, click here

References:

Tools for California Livestock Producers to Discourage Wolf Presence, Guidance for Suspected Wolf Depredation, and Wolf Legal Status. California Department of Fish and Wildlife – June 2017.