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Brush Clearing & Vegetation Management 


Brush clearing and vegetation management using sheep, goats, or cattle is being used increasingly to manage vegetation in a variety of settings. This is designed to help landowners, homeowners, nonprofit staff, and government agencies to understand the basics of targeted grazing.


What is Brush Clearing and Vegetation Management?

Also known as ‘targeted grazing” it is the application of a specific kind of livestock at a determined season, duration and intensity to accomplish defined vegetation or landscape goals. Targeted grazing contractors typically provide the livestock, fencing, staff, livestock watering equipment, predator protection, and other infrastructure necessary to safely and effectively manage livestock. By managing the type and number of animals, the duration of grazing, the season and frequency of grazing, and the spatial distribution of livestock, targeted grazing can help landowners and managers achieve a variety of land management goals. Targeted grazing can impact specific invasive plants (like burdock, phragmites and buckthorn). By controlling competing vegetation at specific times, targeted grazing can enhance habitat restoration efforts. Typically, targeted grazing is a cost-effective vegetation management alternative where other options are ineffective. Specifically, targeted grazing can be more cost effective on landscapes that are too steep, rocky, or remote for conventional vegetation management (like mowing or chemical treatment), or in the urban-wildland interface where burning is not an option.

Managing Animal Impacts

Grazing livestock have three basic impacts on the landscape. They consume vegetation through grazing, they trample vegetation (which can facilitate the breakdown of plant carbon in the soil), and they transfer nutrients through defecation and urination. Targeted grazing uses all three impacts to accomplish specific vegetation management goals. Targeted grazing contractors also have a solid understanding of the growth characteristics and vulnerabilities of specific target vegetation.

Landowner Goals And Expectations

Realistic landowner goals are important for successful targeted grazing applications. Targeted grazing is often a long-term approach that addresses prior problems. For example, invasive weeds may be symptomatic of a longterm lack of management. A single targeted grazing project is unlikely to address these long-term symptoms; a multi-year approach will likely be necessary to improve ecological function and reduce the weed seedbank. Many targeted grazing contractors will reduce their annual per acre charges in exchange for multi-year contracts. Expectations are also important. Landowners who expect a uniform appearance to land treated with grazing (as if the land had been mowed) will likely be disappointed; grazing often leaves a patchy appearance on the landscape. Furthermore, grazing does not often provide the immediate visual effects of chemical treatment. Vegetation treated with herbicide, for example, shows immediate impact; grazing is a long-term management technique.


Grazing Contractor Risks

Targeted grazing contractors assume a variety of risks. Variability in forage production can make scheduling difficult. Toxic plants, whether naturalized, landscaped, or fed unintentionally by neighbors, pose risks to livestock health. Vandalism or theft of grazing equipment – and even livestock, in some cases – create financial and legal risks for contractors.

What to Look for in a Targeted Grazing Contractor

Targeted grazing companies are essentially service providers. Consequently, experience, responsiveness and attention to detail are critical. Consumers should look for companies with experience in grazing projects in similar environments and situations. Ask for before and after pictures.

How Much Does Targeted Grazing Cost?

Targeted grazing may not be the least costly vegetation management option (especially compared to mowing or herbicide treatment). As outlined above, targeted grazing is often the best alternative where other treatments aren’t possible or are less desirable. Most targeted grazing contractors will provide an estimate for a daily fee (small projects less than an acre) or a per acre basis, allowing consumers to compare targeted grazing to other vegetation management options. In addition, contractors will provide an estimate of the project start date and duration. These estimates can be somewhat uncertain depending on year-to-year changes in vegetation quantity. There are a variety of factors that impact the cost of a particular targeted grazing project, including: Relative ease (or difficulty) of setting up infrastructure, including loading and unloading facilities. Projects in steep or difficult-to-access terrain require more labor (and, therefore, are typically more costly). Access to livestock water. Easily accessible water can make the project less costly; projects without access to water may require the contractor to haul water to the livestock. Other risks, like vandalism, toxic plants, or proximity to high-value landscaping may increase the cost. Multi-year contracts are typically cheaper on a per acre basis. Livestock and targeted grazing staff become more accustomed to a particular property (and therefore more efficient) if the contract is for multiple years. Headache factors – like free-roaming pet dogs – can increase the cost of a project.

Managing Animal Impacts

Scheduling Landowners and managers should contact targeted grazing contractors well in advance of the desired project start date. Targeted grazing contractors are busiest during the spring and early summer months; scheduling these jobs typically occurs in the late fall and winter.

Contact for an estimate!

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