The University of Arizona

Viewpoint: grazing management and research now and in the next millennium.

J.W. Walker

Abstract


Livestock have been a key factor in the development of civilization, but what will their role be in the future and how should the science of rangeland management change to meet the challenges of the future? In this paper I look at current grazing management in the context of paradigm shifts and scientific revolution. The impact of livestock on rangelands occurs primarily because livestock selectively defoliate the available herbage rather than indiscriminately consuming herbage according to its availability. Grazing management via the use of traditional grazing systems does not appreciably affect selective foraging behavior. Trends of the future that will affect societal demands and available technologies include: 1) no lack of resources or food; 2) increased concern for environmental quality; 3) greater demand for open space values of rangelands; and 4) geometric increase in the availability of technologies from molecular biology to solve management problems. The 4 principles of grazing management i.e., 1) timing, 2) distribution, 3) kind/class of livestock, and 4) stocking rate, will not change. Stocking rate is the most important variable in grazing management. If stocking rate is not near the proper level then regardless of other grazing management practices employed objectives will not be met. The ability to determine the proper stocking rate will be hindered by the inability to determine carrying capacity as it varies over time. To change the grazing habits of the animals we must work directly on the genetics of the animal. However, the way we manipulate and manage grazing animals will improve, and our ability to monitor the impact of grazing must also improve. In addition to commodity production, livestock grazed on natural plant communities will also have to simultaneously impact these communities to provide the types of habitat demanded by society. The most important emerging technology for the management of grazing livestock will be genetic manipulation using both classical selection procedures and genetic engineering. New technologies for monitoring impact of livestock on the rangeland resource and for setting and adjusting stocking rates will also be critical. Interdisciplinary research must be encouraged to meet the future demands.

Keywords


interdisciplinary research;adverse effects;environmental impact;stocking rate;selective grazing;rotational grazing;range management;defoliation;literature reviews;livestock;grazing

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