Livestock grazing practices on public and private rangelands throughout the western United States are subject to increasing scrutiny. Much criticism arises from the tendency for livestock to concentrate in riparian areas and to disproportionately use the vegetation to the degree that riparian function and vegetation are compromised. The purpose of this synthesis article is to evaluate grazing-management strategies that encourage beef cattle to use forage resources away from riparian areas and areas where topographical features limit grazing use. Specifically, this paper evaluates individual management strategies and attempts to quantify the changes in distribution patterns and vegetation use. An effective strategy uses water development to encourage uniform distribution. Likewise, timing and duration of grazing have dramatic influences on cattle distribution in riparian and upland range areas. In general, early in the grazing season, when upland forage is green and growing, cattle tend to distribute more uniformly than later in the season, when upland vegetation is dormant and cattle disproportionately use riparian areas. In addition, early in the season, cattle grazing forested rangelands seem to prefer south-facing aspects with more open canopies when compared with late-season distribution patterns when concentration switches to northerly aspects, denser canopies, and more diverse diets. Other factors that appear to influence distribution include cow breed, age, and stage of production. In addition, recent research suggests that as cows age, distribution patterns change: Older cows have been reported to travel further from water than their younger contemporaries as long as adequate forage is available in the uplands. Additional research is needed on beef cattle selection, technological applications, efficient herding practices, supplementation strategies, and whole-range management systems that encourage the sustainable use of rangeland resources.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2