Economic sustainability of beef cattle ranching with alternative grazing systems in riparian zones, eastern Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6m311r513

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  • Traditional season-long livestock grazing strategy on western riparian areas has been identified as one of the factors affecting rangeland productivity as well as wildlife habitat in riparian zones. As alternatives to summer season-long grazing, summer short-duration grazing (without haying), and fall short-duration grazing (following haying), were considered in this study to determine their effects on ranch production and profitability. Five grazing plans for the case ranch were evaluated. A planning period of six years (1993-98) was used for each plan. The present values (PVs) of net returns, using a 7 percent discount rate, were positive for all the plans. Shifting from summer season-long grazing to plans with summer short-duration grazing reduced the PVs of net returns by 13 percent, on average. Reasons for reductions in net returns included i) higher labor as well as fencing costs, ii) downward adjustment of herd size, and iii) increased overhead costs per animal. Shifting from summer season-long to fall short-duration grazing, in contrast, increased the PVs of net returns by 7-9 percent. But this system of grazing involved 1) a large haying costs, and ii) a higher management requirement. Although research results showed a difference in profitability between the three grazing strategies, the differences can be viewed as evidence for "tendency" only. This is so because those differences were so small and so sensitive to changes in some parameters (i.e., changes of magnitudes which are smaller than the measurement error) that they cannot be viewed as significantly different. Recognizing non-pecuniary goals of the ranchers, economic sustainability was determined by the criterion that the rate of return on ranch investment, on a long-term basis, is at least 3 percent (one-half of the opportunity cost of capital as measured by the annual yield rate on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes). The rate of return on ranch investment, on average, was 3 percent. Thus, the ranch operation was found economically sustainable under all grazing systems examined. However, if public land grazing permit was reduced by 30 percent, then returns to investment, on average, fell to 2.5 percent, signalling that ranchers no longer were economically sustainable (based on the aforementioned criterion). The study results indicated that grazing strategies correlate with the structure of the riparian habitat. Fall short-duration grazing may be most compatible with a riparian habitat structure that is generally viewed as being ecologically more desirable than other forms of habitat structure. However, some plants, bird, and mammal species preferred the habitat structure correlated with other grazing strategies. Thus, from that perspective, a mixture of grazing strategies (provided they are determinants of vegetation structure) is, at the landscape level, more desirable than a single uniform grazing strategy for encouraging species diversity.
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