Livestock and Grazing



Livestock includes domestic animals, such as sheep, cattle, and horses that are raised for commercial and private use. Grazing refers to feeding livestock on growing grass, pasturage, or rangeland. Public and private lands in Utah are used for livestock grazing.

Related resource topics for county planning include:

 

 


Map of Data

LAYER NAME TRANSLATION (alphabetical)
Allotments SGPresent= Forest Service grazing allotment with Sage Grouse present.
Allotments SGNotPresent= Forest Service grazing allotment with Sage Grouse not present.
Allotments CattlenotPresent= Forest Service grazing allotment with cattle not present.

Download mxd The ESRI mxd file of the services used to create the above map.


Resource Information

A 2008 study on livestock grazing in Utah drew these conclusions: [1]

  • The livestock industry has changed over time from sheep to cattle.
  • Relatively large reductions in the use of US Forest Service (USFS) and US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands for grazing have occurred over time.
  • Livestock producers with permits to graze public lands have larger operations than livestock producers without permits.
  • Livestock operators with grazing permits generally have been owned by the same family for more than one generation, and they intend to keep this a family operation in the future.
  • Livestock producers view legal proceedings as the biggest threat to the use of public lands by livestock.
  • Most livestock producers believe that livestock grazing has a positive impact on the reduction of fires and basically neutral impact on other uses.
  • The value of grazing permits varies widely within the state.
  • Livestock production is a relatively important segment of the economy in some counties and regions of Utah. This is especially true in some of the most rural counties.


Best Management Practices

Best management practices (BMPs) can be used as effective vehicles for working toward achievement of desired future conditions. Good management of livestock grazing seeks to match the following variables to ensure long-term sustainability of the resource:

  • Proper type and number of animals,
  • Proper season for grazing in an area,
  • Proper length of time, and
  • Proper amount of rest following grazing.

Collectively, these variables should be addressed in a grazing plan or system. There are a number of grazing systems that are used. The key is to match the system to the setting and then to properly manage livestock. Examples of common grazing systems are season long, pasture rotation, high-intensity short-duration, deferred pasture rotation, or time-controlled.

These steps will help in the development of a county livestock grazing management plan.

  • Identify how much rangeland is available in the county by ownership, BLM, USFS, or private.
  • Identify which rangeland areas are in excellent, good, and poor condition, or where other limitations and concerns may exist.
  • Identify seasonal timing and carrying capacity of the land to be used for grazing (currently permitted numbers and range data can be used to determine if standards are being met under the current grazing management).
  • Consider the need or expected grazing use, the number of livestock that ranchers will want to graze on the land.
  • Identify areas where rangeland conditions can be improved to increase livestock productivity and resource protection (site potential or limitations).
  • Create a plan that allows flexibility to match livestock use to rangeland capabilities, remembering that public lands must be managed for multiple uses.

The Grazing Allotment data and the Grazing Permit data can be used to locate areas of the county that currently are grazed. The Annual Precipitation data can be used to identify areas that are likely to produce more or less forage.

Desired Future Conditions

An important aspect of resource management plans is to identify desired future conditions. Those conditions may be associated with overcoming an existing shortfall or bottleneck, or with mitigating for anticipated conditions that would affect the sustainability of livestock production. The desired future conditions may apply to short-term (13 years) or long-term (4+ years) timeframes. Desired future conditions typically apply to broader issues, rather than specific plans or implementation strategies. For example, a potential desired future condition regarding livestock production may be to achieve flexibility in grazing permitting that allows for adjustments in response to changing climatic and biological conditions. The implementation strategy in having greater flexibility in permitting may be working with agencies to allow the flexibility in permit terms and conditions (e.g., on/off dates, number of livestock, number of authorized animal unit months [AUM]s).

Because the desired future conditions for livestock production are a reflection of current or anticipated challenges, and because those challenges are likely to vary for the counties in the WFRC, seeking the input of the producers in those counties is crucial in creating a list of relevant desired future conditions. Consider the following examples:

  • Tooele County may develop desired future conditions that deal with the permitting process to graze public lands, but Morgan County, which has relatively less public-lands grazing, may not.
  • Davis County may develop desired future conditions dealing with conserving pastures and rangelands from development, but Tooele County, which experiences relatively less development pressure, may not.

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts has compiled reports for each county, each of which includes a section on the priorities and concerns of natural resources. [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] The priorities and concerns relate to rangeland health, agricultural land preservation, irrigation infrastructure, noxious weeds, water quantity and quality, riparian areas, wildlife, and air quality. These reports can be a starting place in identifying existing and anticipated limitations that affect livestock production sustainability, and in formulating desired future conditions.

In identifying desired future conditions, it is also important to recognize biological, physical, financial, or regulatory limitations. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has compiled a database that describes the different rangeland and forest ecological sites that comprise an area (see Data Download section, below). The descriptions are separated by physical characteristics such as precipitation and soil type. Each description provides an abundance of information, including the vegetation communities that would support livestock grazing and the productivity of that vegetation under different management scenarios. The information is helpful in understanding the potential (or limitations) of an area. With that understanding, planners would be able to identify desired future conditions that are realistic given the area-specific biological or physical limitations.

Other Resources for Best Management Practices

The Utah State University Extension website on Grazing Management is a valuable resource for livestock grazing management. Included is information on the following subjects:

The Utah Grazing Improvement Program (UGIP) is another valuable resource with stated goals to achieve the following:

  • Strengthen Utah’s livestock industry
  • Improve rural economies
  • Enhance the environment

In addition to these overarching best management practices, which can be useful in assessing livestock management, specific practices can be implemented to improve the sustainability of livestock production. The BLM has compiled a list of guidelines that pertain to improving and maintaining the condition of rangelands grazed by livestock. [7] Though not labeled as best management practices, these guidelines could certainly function as such.

A companion document to the 2009 review produced by the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office provided a brief introduction to 11 agencies and organizations dedicated to improving rangeland sustainability (both environmental and economic). These agencies can assist livestock producers with funding and expertise to carry out improvement projects or implement management changes. The companion document also provides case studies from livestock producers who have improved the sustainability of their operation. [8] Five of the ten case studies are from counties in the WFRC. The case studies show that a number of practices have successfully been employed, including:

  • Seeding native grasses and forbs
  • Using lowland pastures for hay production or intensive winter grazing
  • Creating conservation easements
  • Employing rotational or time-controlled grazing systems in place of season long grazing
  • Conducting vegetation treatments to increase herbaceous production and reduce bare ground
  • Reclaiming areas affected by pinyon and juniper tree encroachment
  • Identifying and treating noxious weed infestations
  • Prescriptive use of livestock to manage vegetation
  • Restoring riparian and wetland areas
  • Constructing water developments away from riparian areas
  • Completing big game and aquatic habitat improvements
  • Diversifying operations (wildlife hunting, recreation, timber) to provide additional income
  • Participating in education outreach


Economic Considerations

Livestock grazing is an important economic consideration. Utah cash receipts for livestock and livestock related products totaled $1.84 billion for the year 2014. [9]

The USFS and BLM grazing fee for 2015 was $1.69 per head month (HM) or AUM. [10] However, some feel that the costs associated with grazing on public lands are not covered by receipts. [11], [12]

The NRCS maintains a series of planning helps in spreadsheet format that are useful in completing projects and plans. [13] The spreadsheets include pricing estimates from 2011 (the latest available), which may be somewhat dated, but working through the spreadsheets still provides a sense of the costs of rangeland conservation measures. The spreadsheets cover conservation measures directly related to grazing and rangelands such as:

  • Grazing management plans
  • Brush management
  • Herbaceous weed control
  • Prescribed burning
  • Fences
  • Prescribed grazing
  • Grazing land mechanical treatments
  • Range planting
  • Spring development
  • Restoration and management of declining habitats

In addition, spreadsheets are provided for a number of conservation measures that are indirectly related to grazing and rangelands.

Finally, preventing and addressing livestock theft is an important planning topic that counties should consider in developing a resource management plan. The Livestock Inspection Bureau at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food oversees the State’s brand inspection program and works closely with county sheriff’s offices to address livestock theft. Also see the Law Enforcement county planning page.


Impact Considerations

Livestock grazing can produce positive or negative impacts on landscapes depending upon management of the grazing. A 2009 review produced by the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office provided a summary of grazing history in Utah, including the impacts of improper or poor range management practices on animal and plant biodiversity, invasive plants, fire regimes, soil health, and water quality. [11]

A BLM factsheet states that well-managed grazing can provide numerous environmental benefits, including healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. [14]

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food maintains that “Well planned and managed livestock grazing is an important landscape scale tool for maintaining healthy rangelands, watersheds, and wildlife habitats, and that healthy rangelands contribute to a healthy livestock industry and productive rural economies.” [15]

Livestock Grazing on SITLA, BLM, and Forest Service Land

The amount of land administered by School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), BLM, and USFS, varies by county. A significant amount of livestock grazing occurs on public land administered by these agencies, and on private lands. The information in this section provides an introduction into some of the standards that the BLM and USFS use to manage livestock grazing. An understanding of these standards is a key component of developing resource management plans that are compatible with agency requirements.

Approximate acres of SITLA, Forest Service, BLM, and Private land by county.
 DavisMorganSalt LakeTooeleWeber
SITLA2080295257,095740
Forest Service38,85016,53597,715161,26555,115
BLM2857351,9701,904,30540
Private97,600363,340377,515501,340274,985

There are a total of 78 (77 active) BLM livestock grazing allotments that are solely or partially located in Tooele County. Management of these allotments is guided by the Tooele Planning Area Multiple Use Management Decisions, written in 1984. [16] There are no BLM grazing allotments in Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, or Weber counties. The BLM manages livestock grazing to attain rangeland health standards. [17] There are four standards:

  1. Upland soils exhibit permeability and infiltration rates that sustain or improve site productivity, considering the soil type, climate and landform.
  2. Riparian and wetland areas are in properly functioning condition, stream channel morphology and functions are appropriate to soil type, climate and landform.
  3. Desired species, including native, threatened, endangered, and special status species, are maintained at a level appropriate for the site and species involved.
  4. The BLM will apply and comply with water quality standards established by the State of Utah (R317.2) and the Federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts. Activities on BLM lands will fully support the designated beneficial uses described in the Utah Water Quality Standards (R317.2) for surface and groundwater.

These BLM rangeland health standards are further supported by indicators and guidelines.

There are a total of 36 USFS grazing allotments that are either all or partially located within the WFRC, including 1 that is split between Davis and Morgan Counties, 6 that are solely in Morgan County, 1 in Salt Lake County, 18 in Tooele County, and 10 in Weber County (slivers of some allotments cross county boundaries, likely an artifact of GIS errors). Grazing on these allotments is managed in accordance with the Revised Forest Plan Wasatch-Cache National Forest, written in 2003. [18] The Revised Forest Plan established the following Standards and Guides for livestock grazing:

  • (S24): As a tool to achieve desired conditions of the land, maximum forage utilization standards for vegetation types in satisfactory condition using traditional grazing systems (rest rotation, deferred rotation, season long) are as presented below.
  • (S25): As a tool to achieve desired conditions of riparian areas, maximum forage utilization standards (stubble height) for low to mid elevation greenline species in Class I, II, and III riparian areas in satisfactory conditions are as presented below. (Key species being grazed include water sedge, Nebraska sedge, and/or wooly sedge.)
  • (S26): For all rangelands, including big game winter range and riparian areas, permit no more than 50% of the current year’s growth on woody vegetation to be browsed during one growth cycle (e.g., when use has reached 50%, allow no additional livestock use).
Components of Wasatch-Cache National Forest grazing standard S24.
Vegetation TypeConditionPercent Utilization of Key Grass or Grass Like
Upland and AspenSatisfactory50
Crested WheatgrassSatisfactory60
Riparian* Class ISatisfactory50
Riparian* Class II & IIISatisfactory60
Components of Wasatch-Cache National Forest grazing standard S25.
Riparian ClassConditionGreenline Stubble Height at End of Growing Season
Riparian Class ISatisfactoryNo Less Than 5”
Riparian Class IISatisfactoryNo Less Than 4”
Riparian Class IIISatisfactoryNo Less Than 3”

Attaining the standards of either the BLM or USFS is a general requirement for maintaining a permit to graze on public allotments. The agencies are responsible for monitoring and making the determination as to whether standards are being met, though the permittee may be present when the monitoring takes place. While grazing that takes place on private land is not formally held to these standards, they reflect sound rangeland management standards that are generally used by livestock producers on privately-owned rangeland.

Attaining the standards of either the BLM or USFS is a general requirement for maintaining a permit to graze on public allotments. The agencies are responsible for monitoring and making the determination as to whether standards are being met, though the permittee may be present when the monitoring takes place. While grazing that takes place on private land is not formally held to these standards, they reflect sound rangeland management standards that are generally used by livestock producers on privately-owned rangeland.

Relevant Agency Contact Information

The following agencies can provide support in developing resource management plans or assist livestock producers:

Utah State University Extension, County Extension Agents

  • Davis County 801-451-3412
  • Morgan County 801-829-3472
  • Salt Lake County 385-468-4820
  • Tooele County 435-277-2400
  • Weber County 801-836-1312

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food provides information and services related to:

  • Licensing Regulation and Product Registration
  • Food Safety and Consumer Protection
  • Markets and Finance
  • Pesticides
  • Plants and Pests
  • Animals
  • Weights and Measures
  • Conservation and Environmental

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts has created county resource assessments, with agriculture included, that can be used for resource planning.

The BLM manages livestock grazing on grazing allotments under their administration. The WFRC is within the Salt Lake Field Office.

  • Salt Lake Field Office 801-977-4300

The USFS manages livestock grazing on allotments under their administration. The Ogden Ranger District administers grazing in Weber County and in Morgan County north of US Interstate 84. The Salt Lake Ranger District administers grazing in Morgan County south of US Interstate 84, and in Davis, Salt Lake, and Tooele Counties.

  • Ogden Ranger District 801-625-5112
  • Salt Lake Ranger District 801-733-2676


Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
PRISM Climate Group
Database for precipitation and temperature. Useful in determining which precipitation zone an area is located in.Variable4-km grid resolutionPrism Climate Group
Oregon State University
Land Ownership
,
Surface Land Ownership; use Admin field to identify administrative agencyUpdated Weekly1:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
BLM Rangeland Administration System (RAS)
Database with allotment information (number and types of livestock, season of use, on/off dates, number of AUMs permitted, number of permittees, permit expiration dates, operator information)VariableNot SpatialBureau of Land Management
USFS Grazing Allotments
Use to located Forest Service grazing allotmentsUpdated by Forest Service as needed1:24,000United States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
NRCS Ecological Site Description System
Database of ecological site descriptions in range and forest settings. Ecological sites are best delineated by physical characteristics such as precipitation zone and soil type. The database offers information on vegetation composition and productivity, and a description of site potential under different management scenarios. The descriptions can also be used to determine rangeland condition by comparing on-the-ground information with those provided in the description.VariableNot SpatialUSDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
BLM Grazing Allotments
,
Use to locate BLM grazing allotmentsData download published 09/11/2013

Maps service update schedule is not specified
1:24,000Bureau of Land Management in Utah
LANDFIRE Existing Vegetation Type (us_130evt)
, ,
Use to distinguish between developed and vegetated land
Metadata
2012Delivered as 30 meter pixels but should not be used as individual pixel or as small groups of pixelsWildland Fire Science, Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
LANDFIRE website

References

  1. Godfrey, E. B. 2008.  Livestock Grazing in Utah: History and status. A report for the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. November.
  2. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2012. Davis County Resource Assessment.
  3. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Morgan County Resource Assessment.
  4. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Salt Lake County Resource Assessment.
  5. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Tooele County Resource Assessment.
  6. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Weber County Resource Assessment.
  7. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 2011. Utah Guidelines for Grazing Management. Accessed: 2/23/16.
  8. McGinty, E. L., B. Baldwin, R. Banner. 2009. Case Studies: Ranches in Utah Exemplifying Sustainable Livestock Production and Range Management. A report to the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. February.
  9. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2015. Utah Agriculture Statistics and Annual Report. January 6.
  10. USDA Forest Service. 2015. Forest Service and BLM announce 2015 Grazing Fee. Accessed: 1/7/16.
  11. McGinty, EL, B. Baldwin, R. Banner. 2009. A Review of Livestock Grazing and Range Management in Utah. A report to the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. February.
  12. Glaser, C., C. Romaniello, and K. Moskowitz. 2015. Costs And Consequences: The Real Price of Grazing on America’s Public Lands. Center for Biological Diversity, January.
  13. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2011. NRCS Utah Conservation Practice Cost Data.
  14. U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 2016. Fact Sheet on the BLM’s Management of Livestock Grazing. Accessed: 7 Jan. 2016.
  15. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2014. Conservation and Environmental [Website]. Accessed: 6 Jan. 2016.
  16. U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 1984. Tooele Planning Area Multiple Use Management Decisions. Salt Lake Field Office.
  17. U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 2011. Utah Rangeland Health Standards and Guidelines for Grazing Management.
  18. U.S. Forest Service. 2003. Revised Forest Plan for the Wasatch -Cache National Forest, February.