AoR 2: Karen Launchbaugh, Grazing Management Fundamentals

Guest Karen Launchbaugh and host Tip Hudson discuss grazing management principles that apply everywhere, coordinating grazing management across multiple ownerships, stocking rate planning for long-term rangeland health, and the pros and cons of common grazing rules of thumb. 


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>> Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on range lands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washing State University extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at

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My guest today on the podcast is Dr. Karen Launchbaugh. Karen is a professor of range land science at the University of Idaho. Hello, Karen.

>> Hi, Tip, it's good to see you today.

>> We're going to talk a little bit about grazing management guidelines and landscape level planning and grazing rules of thumb. There's been a lot of discussion about whether stocking rate planning has any value. And we discussed in the first episode that an acre of rangeland is not going to support 1000 cattle no matter how you're your management is. But that, 10,000 acres will certainly support more than one. And somewhere in the middle, depending on the year, represents some kind of a sustainable stocking rate. There's been a lot of efforts over the last 20 or 30 years to undo the checkerboard ownership that has been characteristic of much of the West. Where you have state trust lands interspersed with private land and federal land. And some of that has resulted in good efforts at landscape level planning. And Karen, what's been your experience with managing for landscapes instead of ownerships?

>> Well, it's interesting to think about ownerships. Not only is it checkerboard from a map. But on the ground, you can't tell. Oftentimes there's not fences when you're going from state, or to BLM, or vice versa. So, people who aren't familiar with the West or familiar with rangelands in the west, they don't realize that we, on the ground, don't even really know what we're managing for. A really good example of the OX Ranch which is down near Council, Idaho. John Dyre was the manager there one time and one of the students in my class made the new tip early one asked John how many acres of deeded ground they had and he said, the ranch is 60,000 acres of federal, Forest Service, BLM, and own private deeded with some state land. And the student said, no, no, no, you don't understand. I want to know how much of it is deeded. How much do you own? And he said, the ranch is 60,000 acres of Forest Service, BLM and state and deeded land. And the student pushed, and pushed, and finally he said. I don't even know. He said, when I'm out there on a horse, I can't tell when I'm going from Forest Service to private. Furthermore, I don't manage this land based on land ownership. I manage this land based on the ranch. So, he was the first time in my career where I realized here was someone that just thought about this ranch, about this landscape, not about the different ownerships of it. And too often we focus on those land ownerships. And I think it's tragic. Because think about what we manage out there. We manage things that don't care about landownerships. Weeds don't care. They don't stop at the gate. Fires certainly don't care. Cattle usually do if we're doing a good job, we could confine them. But wildlife don't. Diseases, wind, drought. Many of the things that we manage, don't pay attention to these borders that we put on a map. So, in my mind, there would be a lot of ecological and economic advantages to blurring the lines between ownership and kind of stitching those whole landscapes together. So that you could take advantages of opportunities and avoid hazards. Some hazards such as poisonous plants. Some pastures in some years just become non-available. They might be written down, you were supposed to graze there at a certain time of year, but maybe you can't because of a poisonous plant, or some other threat in that ecosystem. Or, it could be that you need to put animals in some place, like to control a weed. So, using animals more to manage the landscape and worry less about land ownerships. Boy, it makes a lot of sense. Is it easy to do? No. It's not. It does take a whole new mindset to start thinking about landscapes. I just want to point out that we, at the University of Idaho in the Rangeland Center have just had a new opportunity to think about landscape scale management. And we have a range now, that we're working with the Nature Conservancy and the Wood River Land Trust. So, it's right in the central of Idaho. The Wood River Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy own the land right now, but we're working on having it transferred to the U of I and to the range, and animal science professors and ecologists in our program to see if we can start to really manage across ownerships. And in the case of the Rock Creek Ranch, the Rinker Rock Creek Ranch has deeded land. And it also has BLM and state permits. So, I'm excited that we might get a chance to see if we could really try to manager cross those land ownerships and take advantage of the different kind of landscapes that we have. So, I think it's the future, we've got to keep our eye on trying to find ways to manage at scales that matter, not scales that we can do, but scales that matter ecologically and economically. So, that's the idea of landscape management. And too often when we in science get just tied up on stocking rate calculations and things like that, we lose track of what's really important. Your experience also?

>> Yeah, there is some history with that. One of the original objectives of the coordinated research management concept was to manage in a coherent fashion across a checkerboard ownership. Where those checkerboard ownerships still exist. We have some experience with the locally in Washington state with the wild horse area that I've been involved with for a bout the last 10 to 15 years. There, it's a mixture of Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a little bit of Department of Fish and Wildlife, and some private ownership that's owned by Puget Sound Energy, an electric utility. And it is very much a checkerboard ownership. And the objective with the grazing plan developed back in 2006, was to manage all of those ownerships under a single grazing plan so that each of the agencies is dealing with a single plan. And more importantly, the ranchers not attempting to deal with multiple grazing plans and leases.

>> Yeah, the coordinated resource management concept. It's been around a while. And in Washington, they have some really good examples of that still working. And I think it's time to revive that and bring it back up to present. Another advantage of CRM systems is because you're in a group there is continuity across years. And some of the CRM's I've been involved in, that's been an advantage because the district manager might changer, or the field office manager might change, or the range management specialist that you're working with at the state. It might vary. But if you have a group that's managing the landscape, then at least there's some constant continuity of people too. So, that was a side of resource management that I hadn't seen before. It's not just ecology. It's not just managing the livestock and the enterprises on that landscape. But also the people involved.

>> And one of the benefits of CRM is that most of the time each of those agencies have individual mandates. And sometimes different guidelines for what they're supposed to be aiming for in terms of grazing management. And a CRM group can help to iron that out, so that each of the different agencies still has the same goal.

>> Right, and again, accentuating what one organization can do that the other cannot. Then, on the landscape you can make really good progress. You know the best example in Idaho that we have in a lot of our landscapes, and I'm sure it's across the west is it's much easier to do improvements on state lands, like drilling wells or putting corrals, than it is on federally permitted lands. Because most often that would take an ecological assessment, or an ecological impact statement, depending on the issue. So, rancher, they've already dialed into this. They know that having an in holding of state lands within a larger permit can create many management advantages. And the other might be true. There might be things that can be more of an effect, or more well done on federal lands than on state or private. So, unfortunately, what I see is because and you mentioned it earlier in a previous podcast that oftentimes the brunt goes back to the private land. Because that's where we have the most flexibility. We can graze it or not graze it because the private lands have the most flexibility. So, I'd like to see systems where we're thinking more holistically, more across a landscape, so that you know the ball doesn't just always drop on private lands. Like, oh well you guys can do it there, so this is the season that you're not going to graze, or this is the season you are. It really worries me as we start to think about limiting permits on federal lands. What's going to happen? Well, it's just going to put a lot more pressure on private lands because they can. Because there is more flexibility in private lands. So, when we start thinking about all-lands approaches, that's one of the elements of it, is just trying to spread that value across the landscape and not always just because the private land has flexibility. If that makes sense. I see it on the ground.

>> It does make sense. And in landscape level planning, one of the challenges that I think is probably also an opportunity is those processes often start back at square one. In other words, they don't necessarily import the previous grazing plan. They start from scratch. And do inventory and planning processes to come up with a brand-new grazing plan. Sometimes because the objective is to do something better than what had resulted in damage in a previous incarnation of the grazing plan. And sometimes it's just because you have a new operator, and new boundaries and requires a recalculation. My experience has been that a light to moderate stocking rate combined with livestock distribution efforts, usually results in stable or improving range land condition. What are your thoughts on this?

>> Yeah, so whether you're talking about landscapes or even just you know on pasture. You know, there's a lot of, that number 20 to 35%. You call it harvest efficiencies, some people will call it utilization. But the bottom line is there's about 25 to 35% of the forage out there that could be used. And that that could be sustainably used over years. To me, there's a couple of, not simple, but there's a couple of things that it doesn't focus on. One is distribution. The old saying that I recall from my days of learning range measures that a pasture could be overgrazed and under stocked. Meaning that some part of that pasture could sustain really heavy and constant levels of use, other parts of the pasture may not be used at all. Of course, in the west here, that's usually those riparian and low-level lands that get that heavier utilization. So, to just put it and kind of hide it behind the curtain of 25 to 30% as if that's going to be all the way across the whole pasture, that's a fallacy. We really need to come to terms to the fact that we can't put a use level, or a harvest efficiency across a whole pasture. that in most cases in the West it's distribution f that's the challenge. So, sets document rate however you like, in the end distribution is probably going to be a larger challenge and opportunity. We're getting some new tools that are really changing the way that we're looking at distribution. Some of the early ones, historically was herding, which was very effective. And then we put fences to try to change distributions. And now, we're doing things like trying to attract places to the pasture that's underused. Lower moisture supplements for example, are one that are used to try to attract. We see animals attract to areas that are burned, and sometimes prescribed burning has still been used to reduce some of the dead biomass and attract animals to certain areas. Of course, with the intense fire risk that we have in the West, we're not as able to use prescribed fire. But we can use supplements. We can use water. Water is often used to change distribution. The kinds of animals. We know now for sure that the breed, or the background of the animal can change which part of the pasture they use. Okay, so there's some really interesting research that's happening in Arizona and New Mexico about expected progeny differences, or EPDs. So, that you could actually buy animals that have genetic potential to use uplands. Wow, that's kind of a gamechanger now that you might actually be able to use the old tools of selecting animals to use your landscape differently. Virtual fences is another tool that's starting to become a reality. That we don't actually have to put fences in places. That we might be able to direct animals use based on devices that are on the animal. There's a couple companies that say they're very near making that technology available. So, right now, in range management, I think we can certainly continue to look at use across pastures. But now, we might be able to do more about changing the use across those pastures. So, I think it's exciting. This is where some of the old ideas about where animals use landscapes and the new technologies might really benefit us.

>> I wanted to go back to something you said about a harvest coefficient. A lot of times agencies, like it or not, have guidelines that are set in statute or in law, regarding how much utilization they're allowed to apply on their land. And we use the term harvest coefficient for the percent of measured plant biomass that we expect to remove by grazing, out of the annual total production. That's something different than grazing utilization, which attempts to measure how much of the current, or the instantaneous standing biomass has been removed in a given grazing event. So, for example if a landscape is supposed to grow 1000 per acre of dry matter forage, and we're grazing it on May 1, that sight, that range sight has not produced all that thousand pounds yet. And so, when we graze on May 1, we may end up with say 50% utilization long before we're at a 50% harvest coefficient. And so, planning efforts usually are recommended to start somewhere around a 25% harvest coefficient, with the understanding that because animals won't use the landscape evenly, even with livestock distribution efforts, we may still end up with you know a 50% utilization grazing event. Even if we have set a stocking rate based on a 25% harvest coefficient.

>> Yeah, so this is all, it's all kind of swirling around and it's in terms of complicated, or it sounds like math. But, I think what we need to keep our eye on is that we know that plants can't sustain really heavy use all the time, every year. But we know that they can be used heavily in some years, or not in others. And what I think setting harvest efficiency or utilization, what often that sweeps under the rug is the season. And you described how you could have very heavy use, or relatively heavy use early in the season. And if that plant grows back, then you know your harvest efficiency, harvest coefficient could almost be zero. Because the plant is completely, I'm sorry the utilization could be zero at the end of the year, because the plant has grown back. So, trying to get our heads around this concept of how much biomass is removed. And trying to be consistent with that is important. But I would argue that equally important is paying attention to when that's happened, under what situations is that happening? So, in the spring, for example, I'm not terribly worried about grazing plants really heavily before they start to boot and flour. At least bunch grasses, because they have everything they need to recover. That's a very different response than a plant might have when it is going through that boot and seed phase, where it might be more sensitive. It has a lot of demand. It's getting drier, it's getting hotter. Not much time to recover. So , the percent used at those two different times of year could have very different effects on the plant. So, any time that we put a number on something, we just have to make sure about what is it that we're not capturing in that. And when we're talking about utilization, harvest coefficient, however you want to describe that. Pay attention to the season. And we talked earlier about the grazing response index for example, which is one that does pay attention to when that grazing is occurring.

>> A lot of the agencies have utilization triggers that they historically have used either to enforce permit terms or have used to remove animals early if they reach that utilization target earlier. What are your thoughts on utilization triggers?

>> Well, first of all have you ever tried to do one? They're hard, because it's not constant across the landscape. So, at least with the agencies, they usually talk about those utilization triggers of individual plants that are desirable to livestock. So, forage plants. So, that helps. They usually have just one or two key species that they're looking at. Not the whole landscape. So, again that might help us get some sort of a trigger. But going back to my comment about on season. I've never seen one where it said, well in the spring you can use 40%, and then [inaudible], you can only use 205 and then after that you can use 70%. I've never seen a trigger that varies by season of phrenology of the plant, which makes a lot of ecological sense. A little harder to write in a grazing document. Furthermore, harder to defend in court, and then the judge will come back with some guidelines that have to be followed that are related to utilization triggers. So, in end, I'm not a very big fan of them, because they're hard to measure. You're measuring something that was used. And we know that it varies from season to season, and plant to plant. And those usually don't account for either of those two things.

>> I think it also misunderstand the nature of livestock grazing in a large landscape. My experience has been that as the grazing period progresses, it's more that you have an increasing percentage of individual plants that have been grazed rather than that all of the plants have been grazed to a higher degree of utilization. In other words, you know when a cow comes through and grazes a 20-inche bunch grass plant, it may be the first bite is at 4 inches. That doesn't mean that we reached the trigger. We might only have 5% of the plants that have been grazes at that 4 inches. The issue is more once all the plants have been grazed to 4 inches, then they begin to look for other things to eat and start to move into potential.

>> Yeah, so paying attention to which plants are being used when. And some of the intense, you know there's systems where you have high stock densities, oftentimes, one of those goals is to get all plants to be used, instead of just the desirable individual. And yet, utilization rates are usually just based on that desirable plant. Although we know that its recovery can depend on what around it. If the plants around it were grazed or not. And then, of course, we even talked about year; whether it's a dry year or a moist year. All of those are what a good range manger pays attention to when they are figuring out whether the cows need to be moved or not.

>> So, where the rubber meets the road, whether on individual ranch, or in a coordinated research management group trying to come up with a landscape level grazing plan, they will have to come up with actual stock numbers, and actual grazing period durations, and specific rules of thumb that they're going to use to try to manage a landscape a in sustainable matter. There's been multiple collections of rules of thumb that have been advanced by various grazing gurus. Do you like any of them?

>> First of all, I do like rules of thumb. I like it when you can try to simplify something and get your head around it. Because it gives you something to remember and to kind of guide you. However, because they usually simplify the situation, I think they can be easily abused. I want to start out with one that's really well-known and I think easily abused and that's take half, leave half. When I do workshops in classes across the west, when I ask you know students or participants, how much of the biomass should be removed, take half leave half. And there's good ideas, for there's good thoughts about always leaving some behind. But man, in the West, that would not lead to sustainable grazing if you took half and left half. Especially if you do every year when the plant was bolting. That would probably lead to degradation. You used that term 25 to 35. That's probably much more reasonable number. And still having to pay attention to season. So, I think take half, leave half sounds good. But it really paints over a whole lot of intricacies of what can be done. In some situations, you could take more than. Others less than that. Depending on your goals and depending on the ecosystem. So, big old rule of thumb, take half, leave half. A lot of devils are in the detail there.

>> Yeah, you could hammer half the range, and not use at all half the range. On average, it's just right.

>> Yeah, that's right. But there's other ones, what about some that you know?

>> One rules of thumb that sticks in my head, are the ones that have been taught by Floyd Reid. Who was with the Forest Service for many, many years. And then taught with the National Preserve Service Team. Floyd obviously was a good teacher, because I don't have to review his notes in order to come up with these three rules of thumb. He said, the first rule is to defoliate the primary forage species moderately, to avoid the severe grazing that results in f those plans losing their competitive advantage against the other pleasant in the landscape that either grazing resistant, or grazing tolerant. If we defoliate them moderately, then they've got plenty of photosynthetically leaf area to recover from that grazing event and maintain their dominance, which is what we want. His second rule of thumb was to not be in the same place at the same time. And we've mentioned that before. To try to avoid grazing during the same stage of growth or same time of year in the exact same spot from year to year. And his third rule of thumb was to allow growing season recovery on those plants. Whether that's grazing earlier in the spring and then leaving time for regrowth and then re-grazing in late summer or fall. Or avoiding grazing, delaying grazing until the plants are fully mature in the first place. As long as the plants have some growing season time to grow, they're probably going to be okay.

>> Yeah, see those rules of thumb, they help you remember the important points. So, you say, I don't have to review your notes. And that's why I think rules of thumb are valuable. The one that I recall from my training was in animal behavior. I came up through nutrition and then I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Fred Pravenza and learned a lot about animal behavior. And the thing that he always stressed was try to match the animal to the landscape instead of matching the landscape to the animal. So, early in my training, we tried to always change the plants on the landscape, and change the way that the distribution routes for animals were so that we could change the landscape to meet the animal of our desire. And Dr. Pravenza really put that on its head and think about how much flexibility do we have in this animal to get it to meet the landscape. And certainly, the discussion we had earlier about distribution and selecting animals that are genetically inclined to use parts of the landscape that are normally not used. That's one tool, but I grew up on a sheep and cattle range, and I think there's a lot of sheep country out there that's being brazed by cattle now because sheep would be more well-suited to the ground. So, you can kill me later, but I think there's a lot of country that sheep should be using. Because they're the animal for the land. So, that idea of changing the animal to meet the landscape instead of the landscape to meet the animal is a good rule of thumb that we should keep working on, I think.

>> I think one of the things we often forget in attempting to defoliate the primary forage species, moderately is that there's more than one species that's doing the defoliation. We tend to think that the animals that we're planting for, domestic herbivores ore the ones doing almost all of the consumption. But that may or may not be the case.

>> Oh, no. What's the dominant herbivore out there? Insects, right. You were telling me earlier about Mormon crickets, seeing whether they come in herds. I mean a whole bunch of them. They come in just a mass at times, removing herbivores. I recall growing up in North Dakota where grasshoppers, you could just see the grazing front of grasshoppers at certain times of the year. And so, almost all studies that have been done that looked at really what's removing the natural primary from productivity on ranchlands. It's insects not livestock. And then, beyond insects, there's rodents. There's birds. There is large ungulates. So, we focus so much on cow, sheep, goats, whatever else. And we forget that the bigger war out there is probably not that critter.

>> Yeah, there could be lots of animals. Bud Williams is famous for saying that he's never seen a ranch that had too much grass. But he's seen quite a few that had too many cattle. We might modify that to say too many herbivores.

>> That's right and if you don't believe us, just Google overgrazing on the internet. You'll see lots of pictures of it. It's definitely easy to point out. You don't have to get a PhD in range to see when there's been too many animals on a piece of ground. Another interesting thing is to think about, we talked about grazing systems, and grazing methods. And on a good friend of mine, a colleague of mine and am Dr. Ken Sanders, he helped me think about the fact that every grazing system can work and every grazing system can fail, depending on the manager. So although we are just managing a little part of the herbivore component out there, we're managing the one part that we can. And so, therefore, good managers can make anything work, practically, and others can make everything fair. It just really is in the hand of that manager.

>> Yeah, I think Ken has had some pretty practical thoughts on this. He, and Dr. Wayne Burkart published a comprehensive review of the literature on growing season grazing of blue bunch wheat grass in particular, I want to say in 2012. And it's been one of the most influential papers that I've read in the last little while. I think that was their intent. But one of the conclusions was that among all the different grazing methods and rules of thumb that have been put forward on avoiding damaging bunch grasses, most of them boil down to the fact that most of the native bunch grass species reproduce primarily by seed production. They do reproduction by seed production. And if they're not allowed to set seed periodically, they will eventually decline. And of course we have oceans of sagebrush and chi grass as proof of the failure of the kind of grazing management that we imported from the eastern US and probably earlier from most of Europe. Where we had sod forming grass plant communities that responded well to frequent defoliation. The frequent defoliation would stimulate the plant to put out more tillers and fill in their space and be you know maintain vegetative production rather than reproductive growth. Which brings up another rule of thumb that has been spectacularly unsuccessful in the west. Many people have heard the old adage that a grass plant's goal in life is to produce a seed head. And the cow man's goal is to stop it from doing that, prevent it from doing so. Again, that works pretty well in the sod forming plant community. And we still have those in the West on a lot of irrigated pastures. And even on some forestry range. But that approach has been erratically unsuccessful on bunch grasses. Where stopping the plant from producing seed by grazing it in May and June every single year, I'm hearing Floyd Reid saying, change the timing of use periodically. Preventing those plants from going to seed resulted in the most preferred dominant species, you know falling out of the species mix and eventually disappearing almost entirely. Thankfully, in much of the sagebrush range, sagebrush plants which tend to increase in response to the overgrazing, tend to protect, and provide refuge for blue bunch wheat grass plants that can then reseed if we given them an opportunity to do that. But that was one adage that didn't work well. And simply following Ken and Wayne's guidelines that bunch grasses have to be allowed to set seed periodically. Whether it's every other year, or every third year, will largely preserve bunch grass range.

>> You know and Dr. Burkart, it's great to listen to him. He has a lot of additives and a lot of ideas how things happen. And he also wrote another good document that had to do with the history of grazing and he's the one that made me first understand that range lands all are grazed. Range lands always have been grazed. That grazing is an inherited part of rangeland ecosystems. And so, it's not our job to stop grazing, it's always going to be there. It's our job to manage grazing. And Wayne did a great article that talked about prehistoric grazers on these ecosystems that we manage now. So, it's nothing new. It's not just since Columbus got to the continent that we've had livestock grazing. We've always had grazing. So, that's kind of something. Speaking of grazing, you mentioned overgrazing. And it's interesting that many people would say pay attention to overgrazing. But there's also something called under grazing. And some damage to ecosystems could happen if there's not something, some vegetation removed. Because plant, these ecosystems evolve with grazing. So, although in the West when it's really dry, a lot of just the plants can breakdown fairly easy and we don't have a lot of thatch like they do in the hirer precipitation zones. But I think under grazing can be seen in riparian area, for example. Sometimes where there can be a real thatch. And I've seen weeds come in in those places that I normally wouldn't expect it, if you had had some removal of that old thatch. And then there's also even upland sights where I've seen some real degradation to places that were not sufficiently grazed. I'm not saying that we need to graze every inch of the earth, or graze it a lot, but I think that there's two sides to that coin. There's, you've got pay attention to overgrazing and under grazing. That's another kind of rule of thumb. What about? You mentioned previously too another good rule of thumb, you talked about that first bite. And I've heard many people say, it's not the first bite, it's the second, and the third. So, there's this idea that plants can handle that first bite. But maybe you got to pay attention to whether animals came back and you gave them enough time to get that second, third, fourth. And that's where season-long grazing really was a problem or can be in many places. Because animals have the opportunity to come back, eat a plant and then before it has recovered from that bite, another bite, and another bite. So, that's why we really pay attention to how long animals are out there. But that's another good rule of thumb. It's not the first bite, it's the second, and the third.

>> If you watch a cow eating bunch grass, especially, they'll feel out with their tongue, kind of the breaking point on the plant and you have you know thicker cell walls and higher proportions of structural carbohydrates below. And more tender material above. And kind of like when you're going to put asparagus in the pot, or sauting it, which is my preference, you feel for that spot where there's more tender above and stiffer material below. And it snaps off at that point. That's sort of the point where the cow breaks off the grass plant. If you look at blue bunch wheat grass plants that have 36-inch high seed comb. The cow is not going to graze that off at 3 inches. She's going to pick it off at 12 inches. Whereas if it's a bunch grass plant that is much shorter, that breaking point is further down. And so, they're prone on that first bite to remove the more tender top growth and leave the stiffer material down below. Which is also storing some carbohydrates that are used to initiate [inaudible] stem the following spring. But if the animal stay for long enough and they removed all of the top tender material, then they will come back and begin chewing into the stubble, and taking that second bite and getting it much closer to the ground.

>> Yeah, and it's important to have stubble, which leads me to my good friend Chris Black, his little rule of thumb, which just really impresses me, which is you can't kill a dead man. He said, when you're grazing, when the vegetation is totally dormant, you can't kill it, because it's essentially dead. It's not there. But what's kind of hidden in that is you do need some stubble to be left behind to keep those mare stems and sort of protected at the very base of the plant, which will come back next spring. But as far as removing that biomass a few inches above, I don't know exactly how many inches that would be. It would probably depend on the type. But that aboveground biomass it's dead. You can't kill a dead man, so this is another good rule of thumb. But you know something that you brought up earlier, we talked about Sherm Swanson. And this relates a little bit to Floyd Reid's analogies, but Sherm says that you should do more good than bad. Have you ever heard that one?

>> I have. Sherm Swanson is a riparian specialist at the University of Nevada. And he spent a lot of years on teaching how to graze riparian zones in a way that maintains riparian type vegetation, in order to maintain the riparian function. And he's done a really good job at advocating the idea that vegetation is a leading indicator of riparian function. And it's the thing we have to focus on in management. And that in some riparian ecosystems, especially those that have a high amount of herbaceous riparian plants, grazing may be one of the dominant influences on the health of that steam in that riparian ecosystem. And he's put forth the idea that there are certain grazing practices like season-long grazing, or hot season grazing that tend to have a negative influence on riparian plant communities. And some that have a positive influence on riparian plant communities, in that proper grazing management riparian in zone is not so much having a specific system but applying more of the good practices that the bad practices. And so, his take home message is always you've got to apply more good than bad. The same thing probably applies in rangeland ecosystems. And we will come back in a later episode and discuss in detail riparian management, possibly with Dr. Swanson. But applying more positive practices than bad practices is probably applicable everywhere.

>> It's a good rule. I'm going to end with just one. I mean I'm sure I could go on for hours. But I'm going to end with my own father-in-law's axiom. So, I always call it the launchbaugh axiom. So, many people know that I have PhD in range and I'm a professor of rangeland ecology, and I work in grazing. Many people didn't know that my father-in-law was John Launchbaugh. And he set the foundation of much of what we know. He was in Kansas, so he and I argued a lot about grazing in Kansas versus Idaho. But one thing he always said is you can't over graze and make money. And in his research he always looked at the economic outcomes of his grazing research. And he found out that when you started pushing the ground too hard where you might be worried about it ecologically, it had already gone over the economic threshold. He always believed that the best you could do for range management, was to give every rancher a scale to weigh his cattle, to see where he was at, whether he was making money, whether his cattle were gaining weight. So, I still believe that's true. John Workman, a range ecologist out of Utah State also showed that that you know just based on the fixed costs that we have and the variable costs that we have for grazing. You can't over graze and make money. Many people would say that's not true. But I'm going to hold to that one. It bears out and I think the people that are doing a good job, they're making money and they're not overgrazing.

>> I'll attempt to one-up you on that. Many people are familiar with the old joke that one of the quickest ways to make a small fortune is to start with a large fortune and buy a herd of cattle [laughter]. So, if you follow these rules of thumb will help you avoid living out the truth of that old joke.

>> Let's hope so.

>> Karen, thanks for joining me today on this second episode of the Art of Range.

>> It was good fun. Thank you.

>> Thank you for listening the Art of Range Podcast. You subscribe to and review the show through iTunes, or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by Connor's Communications int eh College of Agricultural, Human the Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona, and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture [music]

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