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on California Annual- Type Ranges 

ranges is needed to supply the growing demand for 
meat and hides. 

MODERATE GRAZING sustains high level produc- 
tion and maintains good condition on annual-type 

Washington, D.C. Issued June 1944 

Slightly revised November 1960 

on California Annual-Type Ranges' 

By August L. Hormay, research forester, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range 

Experiment Station. Forest Service 

Steady supplies of animal prod- 
ucts are needed to fill present and 

future demands. These demands 
can best be met on annual-type 
ranges by grazing moderately — for 
moderate grazing makes best use of 
the range vegetation and produces 
high livestock returns without im- 
pairing future production. 

Experiments have shown that the 
weight gains and condition of cattle 
on California annual-type ranges 
depend a great deal on how closely 
i lie range is grazed. On moderately 
and lightly grazed ranges both cows 
and calves gamed more weight and 
were in better condition during the 
period from January to August, 
which includes the main green-for- 
age season, than comparable cattle 
on heavily grazed ranges. Heavy 
grazing proved detrimental both to 
the cattle and to the range. These 
results are important in California 
where annual-type ranges cover 
more than 25 million acres in the 
Centra] Valley and coastal areas 
and support most of the livestock 
for a large part of the year. 

Moderate grazing should not be 
confused with light grazing. Range 
in good condition should not be 
grazed too lightly. Light grazing 
on good range fails to use all avail- 
able forage for the production of 

meat and also encourages the 
growth of le>s desirable plant-. 
Light grazing, however, is desirable 
on range in poor or fair condition 
so as to encourage rapid improve- 

Soil Fertility Improved 

Under moderate use enough plant 
growth is left on the ground each 
season to maintain and improve soil 
fertility. Organic matter is added 
to the soil. Also this cover of dry 
vegetation protects the soil from the 
direct action of rain. wind, sunshine, 
and other forces that cause erosion 
or lower fertility. Under heavy use, 
too much vegetation is removed. 
This exposes the soil surface to ero- 
sion and permits the loss of topsoil, 
thus reducing the capacity of the 
range to produce nutritious herbage. 

Better Mixture of Range Plants 

The amount of dry plant residue 
left on the ground partly determines 
the proportion of the different kinds 
of forage plants that grow in fol- 
lowing years. Under moderate 
grazing, grasses and forbs tend to 
grow in about equal amounts. Both 
of these classes of plants are needed 
in the cover. The grasses — such as 
wild oats, soft chess, and annual fes- 

1 This leaflet is based Largely on experiments carried out at the San Joaquin 
Experimental Range by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 
cooperation with the University of California and other agencies. Detailed rec- 
ords of these experiments are given in University of California Bulletin t;<;:!. The 
San Joaquin Experimental Range, which can be obtained from the University or 
from the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment station at Berkeley, 
and in U.S. Department of Agriculture Circular s 7«». Efficient Use of Annual Plants 
On Cattle Ranges in the California Foothills. 

cue — with their fibrous root systems, 
hold the soil in place better than do 
most forbs and, when dry, provide 
more forage because they do not 
weather so readily. Forbs — alfil- 
eria or filaree, bur-clover, and 
others — are needed to improve the 
palatability and provide desirable 
variety in the green season. Light 
grazing usually results in too much 
grass in proportion to forbs, and 
heavy grazing in too many forbs in 
proportion to grass. Moderate 
grazing brings about the most de- 
sirable mixture. 

Earlier Grazing Possible 

Moderately grazed ranges pro- 
duce new plant growth 2 or 3 weeks 
earlier than those grazed closely. 
The greater amount of old vegeta- 
tion left on the ground under moder- 
ate grazing protects the young 
plants from drying winds and 
frosts, making possible earlier and 

taller growth. Furthermore, much 
of the old vegetation is eaten with 
the young green forage, providing 
roughage during the winter; This 
roughage reduces scouring that may 
be caused by a straight new-grass 

How To Judge Moderate Grazing 

The best time to judge final utili- 
zation of the range is in the fall, 
before the new growth starts. 
Checking utilization during the 
summer, before the end of the graz- 
ing season, however, shows what ad- 
justments in stocking may be needed 
to obtain moderate use in the current 
season. In such early examinations, 
allowance has to be made for a de- 
crease in vegetation that will be 
caused by weathering and further 
grazing before new growth starts. 

Important in deciding to what 
level a range has been grazed is ob- 
servino- the amount of vegetation 

Figure 1. — Moderately grazed annual-type range in good condition should look like 
this in the fall when new growth starts. The blanket of old vegetation should 
average about 2 inches thick. It should have a patchy appearance but be thick 
enough in most places to hide small rocks, livestock trails, squirrel mounds, and 
other small areas of bare soil, when viewed from a distance of 20 feet or more. 

Figure 2. — Heavily grazed range looks smooth, slicked off, or closely mowed. Dry 
vegetation left on the ground averages less than 2 inches high. Small rocks, sticks. 
squirrel and gopher mounds, stock trails, and small areas of hare soil are plainly 
visible from more than 20 feet. 

left. Under moderate grazing this 
material should appear about 2 
inches tall when the new growth 
starts in the fall. Actually the old 
vegetation will be patchy and 
mottled in appearance and vary 
from place to place, so that in some 
spots it will be shorter and in others 
taller than 2 inches (fig. 1). 

If grazing ends in summer or 
early fall, the remaining vegetation 
should average somewhat taller, be- 
tween 2 and 3 inches, to allow for 
some breakdown and weathering up 
I o the time 1 he new vegetation starts 
to grow. Practically all the soil 
should be protected by this old 
growth. It should be dense enough 
to hide most soil mounds and rocks 
2 or 3 inches in size when viewed 
from a distance of 20 feet. Bare 
soil and livestock trails should be 

invisible beyond this distance. 
Plants under shrubs or around the 
edi>-es of rocks should not be grazed 

In contrast, heavily grazed ranges 
usually have a smooth, slicked-otl' 
appearance, with many bare soil 
spots showing through the remain- 
ing dry vegetation (fig. 2). 

Lightly grazed ranges have a less 
patchy appearance than moderately 
grazed areas, and the unused plant 
growth averages 3 or more inches in 
height (fig. 3). Almost all small 
objects and ground features, such as 
squirrel mounds, livestock trails, 
and small bare soil areas, are 
masked by unused plant growth. 

Uniform Grazing Desirable 

Grazing should be uniform over 
the entire range. Adequate fencing 

and water are especially helpful in 
getting uniform use. At best, how- 
ever, there will be variations in the 
degree of grazing on large range 
areas. The swales and ravine bot- 
toms will invariably be grazed more 
closely than the adjoining hillsides 
because the lower areas usually re- 
main green longer and support bet- 
ter forage plants than the open 
hillsides. Parts of the range near 
water, fence corners, and corrals are 
almost certain to be more heavily 
grazed than the rest of the range. 
The size of these closely grazed 
areas can be kept small by properly 
distributing the livestock. 

Certain indicators, such as closely 
grazed hillsides, reveal when range 
grazing has been much too heavy. 

As vegetation in the openings be- 
comes scarce, cattle are forced to 
graze under shrubs and around and 
between limbs of dead and down 
trees and bushes. Appreciable use 
in these places indicates very heavy 
grazing of the range as a whole. 

Range Condition the Result of 
Range Utilization 

Range utilization refers primarily 
to the grazing of the current plant 
growth and is judged by the amount 
left on the ground. Condition re- 
flects the present capacity of the 
range to produce forage and live- 
stock and is indicated by the 
amount, vigor, and kind of range 
plants in the stand and by the ab- 
sence or presence of erosion. Poor 

Figure 3. — Light grazing is not good economy. More of the vegetation should be con- 
verted into livestock products. Such light use favors the growth of coarse grasses 
at the expense of better plants like filaree and bur-clover, which give a desirable 
variety to the vegetation. 

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Figure 4. — Annual-type range in poor condition produces sparse plant cover. The 
subsoil may show in places, and gullies mark the drainage channels. 

range condition Usually results from 
many years of too heavy grazing, 
which removes the protective cover 
of vegetation from the soil. Under 

moderate and light grazing enough 
vegetation is left on the ground to 
prevent losses in soil fertility. 
Weather and soil influence range 
production, but in good and bad 
years alike production depends 
largely on the condition of the 
range. Range not in good condition 
offers opportunities for improve- 

Production Determined hy Range 

Ranges in good condition produce 
a relatively thick, even, vigorous 
cover of forage plants. < See photo- 
graph on cover.) On the soil sur- 
face is a thin layer of litter and 
decaying vegetation. Xo signs of 
active erosion are evident. Produc- 
tion from these ranges may be sev- 
eral times as great as from similar 
ranges in poor condition. 

Annual-type ranges in poor con- 
dition usually provide very little 
grazing (fig. -i). Sheet erosion is 
usually evident, and active gullies 
are cut in drainage channels. The 
roots of shrubs and trees may be ex- 
posed on hillsides, and small rocks 
on the surface indicate that soil has 
been washed away. Small deposits 
of soil and debris are lodged on the 
upper side of grass clumps, rocks, 
stems of shrubs and trees. Light 
colored subsoil may be exposed. 

Improvement of Ranges 

Annual-type range not now in 
good condition can be improved by 
leaving more old vegetation on the 
ground each season than the amount 
recommended here for moderate 
grazing. This will build soil fertil- 
ity and give progressively better 
range vegetation and greater live- 
stock gains. 

Moderate grazing and good over- 
all range management will sustain 
high level production on annual- 
type ranges in good condition. 

D.S. Government Printing otiic 


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