Although monitoring may seem
intimidating at the outset, at its heart,
it consists of collecting observations
over time that answer specific questions.
“We are looking for indicators of
livestock grazing and differentiating it
from other uses that influence changes
in vegetation and soils,” says Black.
“We are tracking data to see what effects
our grazing management is having on
the resources and whether we are maintaining
or moving toward the desired
outcome for the long term.”
Short-term monitoring methods
focus on answering whether annual
goals are being met. These methods
typically assess livestock use patterns
and may include utilization of estimations
pasture-wide or in key areas.
Utilization cages are a common tool
to protect a small area from grazing,
for comparison at the end of the season.
It helps managers confirm that
they are grazing at levels within the
allowable use standards.
By contrast, long-term monitoring
focuses on ecology and tracking
changes over time. In uplands, agencies
often focus on species presence/
absence through nested frequency
measurements, though alternate
methods may be used to assess cover or
other desired information. In riparian
(streamside) areas, Multiple Indicator
Monitoring (MIM) is a common tool
for gathering information about plant
species and structure. Long-term monitoring
is often conducted with an eye
toward critical wildlife habitat.
SHIFTING GRAZING PARADIGMS
Alderspring Ranch provides an example
of a good agency-producer relationship
allowing ranchers to adopt a novel
approach to improving ecological conditions
and livestock production, with
advances verified through monitoring.
The Elzingas use riders to constantly
move cattle over the landscape, improving
grazing distribution. Despite the
expenses, Caryl says “production benefits
carry the cost” due to improved
cow BCS and elimination of predation.
Her husband Glenn explains that
previously on the Elzingas’ steep allotment,
calves would come off summer
range looking healthy, but cows may
have a BCS as low as three. “They
ended up in the bottom of the canyon
BELOW The steep hillsides of the Salmon
River country may be underutilized if cattle
are left to their own devices. Linnaea Elzinga
(left) and Joshua Madany (right) allow
the Alderspring herd to graze one such
hillside as they work their way across.
Riparian areas are often considered critical monitoring areas because of their importance
to wildlife species and overall landscape health. Permanent markers or GPS points can be
used to mark a specific site where managers want to return year after year.
78 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020