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On April 18, the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region released a supplement to their Grazing Permit Administration Handbook addressing permits with term status.

“Most allotment owners have been restricted to hard ‘on-off’ dates regardless of forage availability. Now, allotment owners will be able to seek better utilization of the forage through ‘shoulder’ season extensions,” said Redge Johnson of the Utah Office of the Governor in an e-mail to permittees. “We have been working with the Forest Service for about a year now requesting extensions where they make sense for full utilization of forage on the range.”

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, commented that the document provides more flexibility for livestock owners to extend grazing seasons based on pasture availability. 

“It’s too bad that this kind of document is necessary,” Magagna commented.

“In the past, if a livestock owner needed to extend a grazing season one way or the other, as long as there were animal units available, they could tell the Forest Service and go on five days early to stay 10 days late, for example,” he explained. “Now, however, that isn’t the case.”

With overregulation coming out of Washington, D.C. on every front, Magagna said that grazing dates were no longer as flexible.

He said, “Recently, there’s been a reluctance to grant those extensions.”

Amendment opportunity

Section 16.14 of the Grazing Permit Administration Handbook’s Chapter 10 now provides for modification to grazing permits concerning “numbers, seasons of use, kind and class of livestock allowed on the allotment…providing they meet the land management objectives prescribed for lands within the grazing allotment.”

All requests for modifications to permits must be made in writing, as well.

Overall, the recent grazing amendment provides a framework by which individual Forest Service Range Conservationists can decide whether or not to extend a grazing season if a producer requests such an extension.

Within that framework, guidelines and criteria for making the decision are laid out, which allows a timely response to requests for changes of allotment dates. Fourteen requirements are listed in the document, and all criteria must be met to qualify for a modification.

Restrictions

While the change is positive for ranchers, Magagna cautioned, “The allotment still has to meet all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

He further explained that Forest Service employees must assess the status of the permit prior to granting an extension.

“Forest Service range cons may be reluctant to grant extensions if they feel that there will be challenges with the NEPA analysis,” Magagna said, also noting, however, that the locally led effort sets a positive tone.

The amendment only applies to Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes southwest Wyoming.

The remainder of the state is covered under Region Two of the Forest Service.

Magagna added that he is unsure whether Region Two will take action and implement a similar policy, but he notes that it is possible.

Also, the document noted, “Use of seasonal extensions should be an exception rather than a standard practice.”

Positive action

“Overall, this amendment provides a good statement of position,” Magagna commented. “We’ll have to see how the amendment is implemented to know if it is truly effective.”

While the change seems positive thus far, Magagna added that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ideally would also adjust their policies to mirror Forest Service actions.

“The problem lies in the fact that ranchers wouldn’t be able to stay on BLM longer if they can’t get to their Forest Service allotment,” he said. “Right now, BLM is saying that we can’t extend grazing without having to go through the whole NEPA process.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On April 18, the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region released a supplement to their Grazing Permit Administration Handbook addressing permits with term status.

“Most allotment owners have been restricted to hard ‘on-off’ dates regardless of forage availability. Now, allotment owners will be able to seek better utilization of the forage through ‘shoulder’ season extensions,” said Redge Johnson of the Utah Office of the Governor in an e-mail to permittees. “We have been working with the Forest Service for about a year now requesting extensions where they make sense for full utilization of forage on the range.”

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, commented that the document provides more flexibility for livestock owners to extend grazing seasons based on pasture availability. 

“It’s too bad that this kind of document is necessary,” Magagna commented.

“In the past, if a livestock owner needed to extend a grazing season one way or the other, as long as there were animal units available, they could tell the Forest Service and go on five days early to stay 10 days late, for example,” he explained. “Now, however, that isn’t the case.”

With overregulation coming out of Washington, D.C. on every front, Magagna said that grazing dates were no longer as flexible.

He said, “Recently, there’s been a reluctance to grant those extensions.”

Amendment opportunity

Section 16.14 of the Grazing Permit Administration Handbook’s Chapter 10 now provides for modification to grazing permits concerning “numbers, seasons of use, kind and class of livestock allowed on the allotment…providing they meet the land management objectives prescribed for lands within the grazing allotment.”

All requests for modifications to permits must be made in writing, as well.

Overall, the recent grazing amendment provides a framework by which individual Forest Service Range Conservationists can decide whether or not to extend a grazing season if a producer requests such an extension.

Within that framework, guidelines and criteria for making the decision are laid out, which allows a timely response to requests for changes of allotment dates. Fourteen requirements are listed in the document, and all criteria must be met to qualify for a modification.

Restrictions

While the change is positive for ranchers, Magagna cautioned, “The allotment still has to meet all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”

He further explained that Forest Service employees must assess the status of the permit prior to granting an extension.

“Forest Service range cons may be reluctant to grant extensions if they feel that there will be challenges with the NEPA analysis,” Magagna said, also noting, however, that the locally led effort sets a positive tone.

The amendment only applies to Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes southwest Wyoming.

The remainder of the state is covered under Region Two of the Forest Service.

Magagna added that he is unsure whether Region Two will take action and implement a similar policy, but he notes that it is possible.

Also, the document noted, “Use of seasonal extensions should be an exception rather than a standard practice.”

Positive action

“Overall, this amendment provides a good statement of position,” Magagna commented. “We’ll have to see how the amendment is implemented to know if it is truly effective.”

While the change seems positive thus far, Magagna added that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ideally would also adjust their policies to mirror Forest Service actions.

“The problem lies in the fact that ranchers wouldn’t be able to stay on BLM longer if they can’t get to their Forest Service allotment,” he said. “Right now, BLM is saying that we can’t extend grazing without having to go through the whole NEPA process.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“One of the things that we hear a lot is that there’s not great record keeping tools for intensive grazing or that people are adopting tools that are built for other things,” says PastureMap Co-founder and CEO Christine Su.

Su began developing the app as a custom solution for intensive grazing systems management.

“We want to make it easy for producers at the beginning of the season to plan out their fencing, to subdivide as they go along and also to record where their herds have moved,” she continues.

Drawing

“The first feature that we built was the ability to easily draw up pastures,” explains Su.

The program automatically calculates the acreage and perimeter of each pasture.

From there, users are able to begin planning subdivisions in each pasture for use throughout the grazing season.

“We can either plan our fencing on website side of the system, sync it up to our mobile device and go out and build fence, or we can build fence by being outside and assessing how much we need to subdivide and log it in our mobile device. Then, when we get back home, it will sync back up, and we’ll have that record,” she notes.

Once users are done moving herds through each subdivision, each one can be archived and re-fenced.

Herd

According to Su, PasureMap includes a simple, “bare bones” herd management feature.

Each group can be listed as a herd, with information including the number of animals and weight estimates, which are converted to animal units, and average daily gain (ADG).

“We wanted to give some sort of assumption for weight gain that translates into the dry matter intake (DMI) that they’re eating,” says Su. “It will continue to get bigger as the herd gains weight.”

Users are able to upload ear tag numbers to correspond with each animal in the herd, and weight records can be added individually or for the entire group.

When moving the herd into different pastures, users are able to choose a move-in date and time and determine which herds are moving, and the system will calculate the daily DMI for the herd.

“We’ll give users an estimate of how much dry matter the cattle took off based on the herd’s dry matter intake,” she explains.

Inventory

Another feature available through the app is pasture inventory, says Su.

“If we have been trained to assess available dry matter, we can do that, or we can list the number of animal unit days,” she continues. “We don’t use this for calculations but so we have it in our records.”

Users are able to take photos to record forage use and availability at a given time.

“This is useful for people who have staff, as we can have that eye in the field by asking our staff to take pictures pre- and post-grazing,” Su explains.

As most users don’t have access to cellular service while in the pastures, photos are first stored locally on their phone.

“When we get back to Wi-Fi reception, it’ll sync back up with the system, upload those photos to the account and remove them from the phone’s local memory,” she continues.

Resources

The system also has grazing innovators listed, who are experts in their field and provide support to new users.

Varying levels of membership are available for producers to choose from, ranging from a free, basic version to commercial operations, with subscriptions available on an annual or monthly basis.

“We developed the monthly pricing for users who only graze seasonally. It is more expensive since it’s intended for users who will only input data for one to three months,” concludes the app. “We recommend the annual membership for most ranchers.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Right on schedule on April 11, the environmental assessment (EA) and proposed decision record were completed for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to authorize temporary grazing permits “when there is above-average snowpack” affecting livestock grazing.

The EA was required as a foundation for BLM Pinedale Field Office Manager (PFO) Caleb Hiner to issue “temporary nonrenewable” permits (TNR) – and in an unusual partnership, the deed was achieved within a very short time frame so they could be applied for this spring.

Hiner issued his draft decision letter April 11 with a “finding of no significant impact” for the TNRs.

The PFO includes Sublette and part of Lincoln counties.

Analysis

“Based on the analysis of potential environmental impacts contained in the attached EA and considering the significance criteria in regulations, BLM has determined that neither the proposed action nor the no action alternative would have significant effect on the human environment,” it states. “Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required.”

Hiner explained the context, saying, “It is important to understand that the analysis is not to authorize new grazing. Rather, it is to analyze a shift in grazing dates in locations where grazing is already authorized. The impacts of the project would be beneficial to vegetation and livestock, and no long-term negative impacts resulting from the implementation of any action would occur. BLM anticipates impacts to be local and not regional or national.”

This gives PFO authority to shift the season of use up to 30 days on the end of a permit.

BLM is not authorizing any changes in number, kind or class of livestock or roads.

The announcement is followed by a 15-day comment period through April 26.

Feedback

“The feedback has been fairly positive,” Hiner said.

Hiner said Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds Project is on the list as an interested party. Any protest must justify the party’s “relative harm” for a stay. Public interest will be weighed but not heavily, according to Hiner.

“In the absence of a protest, this proposed decision shall constitute my final decision without further notice unless otherwise provided for in the proposed decision,” he added.

Permittees must apply for the permits, to be considered case-by-case. They also must show the actual delay and report use at the end of the TNR.

BLM permittees start on the high desert “usually in the first part of May,” with staggered dates for going on and off allotments, and the dates were as good as set in stone.

In early March, BLM’s Kyle Hansen told a Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association (GRVCA) audience that those with BLM permits might not be able to turn out their livestock in the first part of May, due to heavy and deep snowfall last winter that is still melting and flooding in some places. The hard winter will likely lead to late “green-up,” and he wanted ranchers to be aware there might be a delay.

Even harder on those with permits would be a delay in turning out on Forest Service allotments, usually June 15, which many move to when their BLM grazing permits end. Hansen warned ranchers that if the Forest Service spring forage wasn’t high enough to accommodate livestock, they would not be able to leave their cattle or sheep on the BLM past their permitted dates.

“With the weather the way it is, it’s looking like the Bridger-Teton National Forest allotments are not going to be ready for grazing at the normal time,” said County Commissioner and Rancher Joel Bousman. “It’s really unlikely permittees will be able to go on. “The problem is, there’s no flexibility in BLM to allow grazing to go beyond the date on the permit. So, for example, if a permit ends July 1 or July 5, if those cattle aren’t off the BLM, they’re subject to ‘trespass.’”

With different herds mingling on large common grazing allotments away from home pastures, bringing them home or finding temporary pasture would be a costly and time-consuming enterprise. If the livestock are left longer than permits allow, the ranchers could also be fined for trespass on the BLM.

The EA states, “The majority of the allotments in the planning area are considered lower-elevation allotments, and livestock turnout in these allotments typically occurs from May 1 to June 1. After four to six weeks, the livestock on these allotments are moved to higher-elevation pastures. The higher-elevation pastures could be entirely private land, U.S. Forest Service administered allotments or other BLM-administered allotments.” Typically, the season of use for these allotments is two to three months.

Spring turnout

Conversations began that day with officials and ranchers mulling next month’s potential roadblock not far down the road.

“The conversations at the GRVCA meetings spurred us into trying to think outside of the box,” said Mike Henn, Sublette County Conservation District (SCCD) manager.

After speaking with Hiner and county commissioners, Henn asked his staff what they thought of developing the EA in a very short time to provide a foundation, with Eco Research Group filling in the socioeconomic portion.

“It was a big group effort,” Henn acknowledged.

Hiner said his PFO staff is extremely busy, but he wanted to accomplish the change as soon as possible, commenting, “I really appreciate the SCCD being able to assist us.”

Support

With a county letter of support in hand, Henn approached the Governor’s Office with a request for Federal Natural Resource Policy Account (FNRPA) state funds to compensate Eco Research Group and SCCD.

“The Governor also supports this effort,” Henn said, adding that funds for this EA fall within the state’s legislative intent for that account to effect smaller changes in federal policies.

Henn estimated the EA’s total cost at just over $25,000, with the county’s match at 20 percent to FNPRA’s 80 percent.

PFO allotments stretch from the Hoback Rim to LaBarge Creek and south to the middle of the Jonah Field and Luman Road, Henn said.

This EA and decision applies only to the PFO and does not affect Forest Service grazing permits.

Statewide

While this TNR permit process applies only to PFO, Henn suggested other field offices might do the same if needed.

Tackling this EA was a new direction for the SCCD – or for any conservation district, as far as Henn knows, probably setting a statewide precedent.

“Conservation districts don’t generally get involved in EAs,” he said. “It’s the first time the SCCD has ever done something like this, and to my knowledge statewide, to be the lead on this EA. It’s precedent setting – especially with this accelerated time frame.”

Joy Ufford is a reporter for the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner, as well as a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With tougher decisions looming whether to market weaned calves, producers may want to look at backgrounding as an alternative.

Mary Drewnowski, beef specialist with the University of Nebraska, shares some economical ways producers can background calves through the winter months without utilizing winter range.

Wintering systems

When producers look at wintering systems, they are typically looking at corn residue, winter range and harvested silage or hay, Drewnowski explains.

“A lot of producers use their yearlings as a flexibility in their programs. If they don’t have enough grass, they can sell the calves earlier, or if they do, they can make use of it,” she says.

However, Drewnowski sees pasture rent becoming too expensive, when combined with the low market producers are currently experiencing.

With pasture rent averaging $64 a month per pair in many areas of Nebraska, Drewnowski says even figuring that a producer can run two yearlings for one cow, it is still a dollar a day.

“That is really pretty expensive when we consider winter range quality and that we will need to add in a supplement,” she says. “I would encourage producers to put a pencil to the numbers. Corn residue could be purchased a lot cheaper.”

Some cattlemen shy away from corn residue because of fencing, location and the ability to watch the cattle, but these are issues Drewnowski says producers should be able to overcome, if they are willing to think outside the box.

“It could be a good opportunity for a young individual looking to get into the business,” she says. “Why not rent some corn residue fields and take in cattle to watch through the winter?”

Analyzing gain

For producers considering wintering their calves, the beef specialist says they need to look at how much they want the calves to gain.

“Rate of gain during the winter affects summer gains,” she says. “If we are going to do a long year lease system, the rate of gain we select will influence gains on summer grasses.”

An easy way to determine stocking rate is two 500 to 600 pound calves for every 100 bushels per acre for 40 days.

“They will primarily utilize the leaf and husk. A good rule of thumb is 50 percent utilization,” she notes.

Supplementation

Drewnowski also believes supplementing the calves with distiller’s grain is necessary with either corn residue or winter range, so producers can get reasonable gains.

She shares a study where calves were supplemented with corn, corn and urea, distiller’s grain and no supplement. The calves failed to gain if they didn’t receive some type of supplement, she emphasizes. The calves gained the most on the distiller’s grain supplementation.

“I would urge producers to put a pencil to it, but even if they are located some distance from the distiller’s grain, I think with shipping, producers can still get distiller’s grain cheaper than a corn urea supplement,” she tells producers. “Distiller’s grain is cost-effective for calves because they are usually deficient in rumenally un-degradable protein, and it is a great source of that.”

“Distiller’s grain is a true protein that can bypass the rumen, be absorbed by the animal and used to grow,” she states.

“I’ve seen great performance with distiller’s grain,” she continues. “Most vegetative and high-quality grasses limit performance because of the lack of un-degradable protein. Distiller’s grain is a great source of that, which is why we recommend it.”

Comparing supplement

Drewsnowski discusses a second study where performance was measured between distiller’s grain and a corn urea supplement.

Distiller’s grain came out on top because of its ability to bypass the rumen, she says.

While urea is a rumenally degradable protein source, cattle depend fully on bacteria in the rumen to process and utilize it.

“In feedlot cattle, wet distiller’s grain is recommended, but in calves, we don’t see much difference in performance between modified, wet or dry distiller’s grain in forage-based systems,” she says. “I would recommend pricing it on cost and cost of transport.”

“Wet gets expensive if it has to be transported very far, but the other two options can be pretty economical,” she adds.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..