GRAZING BENEFITS

 
   
 

Ranchers maintain water sources and provide salt, mineral supplements and supplemental feed sources when necessary.  These resources benefit the cattle as well as the wildlife in the area.  Click here to see some photos of wildlife at a rancher's drinker. 

When properly managed, cattle convert the energy stored in native grasses and vegetation into a sustainable source of meat, leather and other valuable products for human consumption.  Grazing of livestock on indigenous rangelands is one of the oldest and most sustainable forms of agriculture known.

By grazing, cattle stimulate plant growth and increase annual forage yield.  Through their urine and feces, cattle recycle nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other plant nutrients and return them to the soil. 

The hoof action of cattle is advantageous to many species of prairie plants, and is one of nature's ways of ensuring good soil contact for seeds on desert, prairie and forest grasslands. 

Cattle, through their fecal matter, feed bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes, and other microorganisms found in the soil.  These tiny organisms keep nitrogen and other soil nutrients in a water-soluble form, allowing them to be slowly released into the ecosystem as food. 

The fecal matter of cattle supports insects and organisms (dung beetles and earthworms for example) which aid in carbon sequestration and water infiltration.  This increases the amount of carbon and water stored in the soil, and helps recharge aquifers. 

By trampling plants that have grown too coarse and brittle to eat, cattle increase the amount of cover on the ground, which reduces soil erosion and helps increase the amount of water that enters the ground and aquifers. 

The NMSU Range Improvement Task Force has a website with information on their studies related to grazing and range management.  The program is comprised of three primary areas:  (1. an educational program ranging from a one-on-one basis to a symposium approach, (2. short term research program focused on problem solving and answering pertinent questions, (3. third party unbiased assessment of problem areas.

For additional information ,read the "Gila National Forest Hearing History of Livestock Grazing Testimony" from NMSU professor Dr. John Fowler to the "Public Land Grazing Task Force" dated June 15, 2000. 

Ranch families working viable ranches that sustain ecosystem services and contribute to the social fabric and local economies are critical to a West that works, says Dr. Richard Knight in his article "Ranchers as a Keystone Species in a West that Works".

Despite these benefits, many environmental groups are opposed to grazing and ranching activities.