A Better Fight Against Cattle Fever Ticks
Planned grazing has been shown to significantly control fever ticks without medications when the recovery (rest) periods – the time between when a herd leaves a pasture and when it returns – exceeds 150 days. This is because the ticks’ life cycle cannot survive absence of host animals for that long.
Decades of world-wide experience – and logic – should by now have everyone grazing cattle in big herds for short periods followed by long recovery periods. This mimics natural grazing of bison herds. There has been movement towards better grazing as more range scientists accept the principles of planned grazing applied in some form. Meanwhile, the grazing methods recommended by traditional thinkers within land grant universities – including Texas A&M – and ranchers’ own beliefs – learned from these folks – result in their keeping too few animals on pastures for too long. So animals grazed this way continuously reinfect themselves and the wild animals with which they share the range.
Increased parasites are just one symptom of conventional grazing practices. Most range ‘experts’ increasingly treat these symptoms with antibiotics and poisons, ignoring the root causes – bad range practices and the toxic chemicals themselves. Together these lead to more unintended consequences which are much worse than fever ticks.
NOTE: this article below is from Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA.org) and can be found here.
I got this from a good friend, a veteran of one of the federal agencies:
Always some interesting and thought provoking information in your newsletter.
On the fever tick article, I think you have a misleading statement: “…grazing methods recommended by most universities – including Texas A&M – advise ranchers to keep small numbers of cattle everywhere, all the time.”
I don’t think you will find any university range department that advises continuous yearlong grazing. I know where you got the impression that A&M officially recommends this (the Briske articles) but that is not the official stance of A&M and others within the A&M system strongly refute what Briske says. I think if you were to contact their faculty you will find that most of them advocate rotation with adequate rest and recovery. https://essm.tamu.edu/people/faculty/
I’m not an Aggie and have not always agreed with everything that they teach but I think most of them are closer to advocating the merits of planned grazing than what you think. And some of them are among the strongest promoters of planned grazing (Teague, Hanselka, Steffens)
Thanks – XXX
To which I replied:
Thank you as always for fact-checking; I have modified my remarks.
I cannot agree that A&M advocates planned grazing, nor did it ever disagree with Briske et al.. It offers some elements of planned grazing in the context of internal debate regarding how best to graze, whether to graze at all, whether to burn instead.
I did go online to your Texas A&M link to see what I could find out about grazing planning on rangelands. Found this; holy cow (pun intended)….
The conceptual framework we are testing is founded on two theoretical concepts: alternative stable state theory (ASST) and pyric herbivory. Each has been applied in savanna landscapes, but the two have never been co-integrated in an experimental context over long timeframes. Alternative Stable State Theory is a way of explaining, understanding, and predicting ecosystem state transitions in dual-life-form systems; pyric herbivory is a novel paradigm built on the notion that reciprocal, spatially distributed interactions between grazing and fire are a key to maintaining grassland and open savanna landscapes.
And meanwhile besides being firebugs, A&M strongly promotes Big Ag’s fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics, as do the agencies. The tick plan and the new pig poison program demonstrates the mentality; all the above is fundamentally contrary to holistic ranching at multiple levels. In my view, because of the headlock the agro-giants have on range thinking, teaching, practices, regulations and legislation, things will keep getting worse on the ground before they start getting better.
I always appreciate your input and have posted your comments. I hope these exchanges can move us towards the better range and wildlife practices – and outcomes – which we both want to see.
All the best,