Land Resources

Indicator Definition

The stewardship of terrestrial and aquatic habitats in relation to water, soil, and biodiversity. Impacts of land use and land use conversion, both caused by and prevented by ranching and farming activities and other supply chain land use decisions.

Why is this indicator important to the cow-calf sector?

Cattle producers’ management decisions and activities can directly impact the health of pastures on which the cattle graze. The maintenance, improvement and protection of land resources in a cow-calf operation is fundamental to all aspects of beef sustainability, from the economic bottom line of optimizing forages, to animal and natural resources health.

Metric

Is a grazing management plan (or equivalent) being implemented to protect and/or improve the land resources, including succession/transition planning?

Why did we choose this metric?

Optimizing land resources requires the consideration of many factors, including soil type, climate, vegetative cover, wildlife and their habitat, soil ecological function, cattle health requirements, invasive species (including plants), and many others. The most useful tool for cattle producers to manage all of these factors to maintain and improve land resources is a grazing management plan (GMP). The GMPs are also powerful tools for helping producers adapt management plans and actions to or mitigate risks like drought, wildfire, market fluctuations, and accidents where the outcomes are positive for the land and allow the operation to maintain economic viability. Well-conceived and implemented GMPs can provide the benefits outlined above for land resources while also delivering co-benefits for the water resources, air and GHG emissions indicators, and the overall performance of the grazing operation.

Desired Outcomes

A range of improvements in land resources sustainability outcomes can be attained through GMPs including:

  • Creation of optimum conditions for plant regrowth that proper grazing management supports
  • Maintained healthy root systems and an associated healthy microbiology of the soil
  • Healthy ecosystems and ecological processes, which
    • Increase resilience to climate, invasive species, wildfire, and other stresses and
    • Promote biological diversity and productive wildlife habitat
  • Increased carrying capacity of the grassland for livestock and wildlife over time

Why do these outcomes matter for continuous improvement?

Many of the same practices that improve forage production have been shown to protect the supply and quality of the water and the integrity of riparian areas. Maintaining healthy pastures and grasslands has important benefits for water quality and quantity. Grazing refines and maintains this ecological service, both ecologically and economically.

Success Criteria

Increasing the number of U.S. cow-calf producers who implement a GMP (or equivalent) that maintains or improves land resources.

How does this metric continuously improve beef sustainability?

Optimizing land resources requires the consideration of many factors, including soil type, climate, vegetative cover, wildlife and their habitat, soil ecological function, cattle health requirements, invasive species (including plants), and many others. The most useful tool for cattle producers to manage all these factors to maintain and improve land resources is a GMP.

State-specific resources are available to assist in the development of  grazing management plans.

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