CC Cattle by Fence

A recent paper synthesized ranch sustainability indicators from multiple assessments to develop an overall set of indicators. The indicators include environmental, ecological and socioeconomic aspects of sustainability. The environmental indicators include things like soil carbon and stability, plant productivity, water quality and retention and condition of riparian systems. These indicators are highly influenced by grazing management. Several forms of grazing management exist that can improve these indicators; most involve some form of rotation so that land is not overgrazed leading to bare soil and that plants have rest to recover and develop strong root systems.

The ecological indicators include plant, animal and bird diversity. Again, these indicators are influenced by grazing management, where a diversity of plant species, plant densities and plant heights provide habitat for a diversity of animal and bird species. Also, fire regime is important in controlling the diversity of plant species, again providing habitat for different animal and bird species.

Finally, the socioeconomic indicators include rancher connection with the community, rancher satisfaction, livestock and non-livestock income, forage utilization and capacity to experiment. Many facets of ranch management affect these indicators such as size of the ranching operation, rancher ability to participate in community organizations and geographic location of the ranch. These indicators are the least thought about aspects of ranch sustainability, but are some of the most important because most of all ranching is a livelihood and way of life for people that brings meaning to their lives.

Collectively, these indicators provide a well rounded means of assessing ranch sustainability and communicating all the important aspects of sustainability to the public; not just the environmental aspect.