Range Restoration

Converting Sagebrush Dominated Rangeland into Forage

Matt Palmer, USU Extension, Sanpete County

Why Spend Time and Money to Reduce Sagebrush and Weeds?

  • Increase forage quality and quantity
  • Sagebrush pastures yield 50-200 lb of feed/acre
  • Perennial grasses and forbs can yield 400 to 1000 lb of feed/acre
  • Less expensive than buying land
  • Land costs from $500 to $5000/acre
  • Converting sage into forage costs about $150-$250/acre
  • With GIP and DWR cost share it is under $100/acre

Benefits of Restoration: Increased Forage

  • 40 acres producing 100 lb/acre with 60% utilization will feed 2.2 cows for a month
  • 40 acres producing  900 lb/acre with 60% utilization will feed 20 cows for a month

Keys to Success

  • Weed Management: Control of Cheat Grass, Bulbous Blue Grass, Knapweed, White Top, Thistle
  • Forage Establishment: 1) Seed selection; 2) Seed bed prep; 3) Timing or planting and 4) Good spring and summer moisture
  • Rest Period: No grazing for a year or more after planting;
  • Management: Short grazing periods with adequate rest periods

JDP Ranch Pasture Restoration: A Case Study

Goals:

  1. Convert 229 acres of low producing sagebrush, cheatgrass and bulbous bluegrass pasture into a sustainable rotationally grazing pasture, with perennial grasses and legumes that will produce 500-1000 lb dry matter/acre.
  2. Complete this project with little or no out of pocket expenses.

Steps for Restoration

  • Develop a plan and budget
  • Site evaluation: 1) sagebrush and understory cover; 2) assess weed populations
  • Fencing and water developments
  • Sprayed sagebrush and weeds with 2-4,D and Roundup
  • 2 way chain harrowt o prepare seedbed
  • Drill seed (crested wheat, intermediate wheat, sainfoin, alfalfa, forage kochia)
  • Install waterline and 5 troughs
  • Cross fenced into 40 acre pastures

Overview

  • Project was started July 2010 and completed June 2011
  • Pastures rested until May 2012
  • First year of grazing provided 60 AU for 2.5 months = 150 AUM
  • The equivalent of 590 lbs of feed/acre on a dry year, enough feed for 200 ewes for a month on 40 acres
  • Out of pocket expenses totaled less than $50/acre

Conclusion:

Increased forage production from 100 lbs/acre to over 900 lbs/acre for $50/acre plus tractor hours and labor. And Happy Cows

Project Team
Tom Tippets (UDAF, GIP)
Kendall Bagley (NRCS/DWR)
Soren Nielsen (NRCS)
Jason Vernon (DWR)
Chad Dewey (Eco-life)
JDP Ranch Family