Raising Livestock on Public Land

Last time I checked in I hadn’t really started my routine duties, but I am now monitoring range land full time. I am learning a lot and enjoying the experience. The general area that I am responsible for, commonly referred to as Green Mountain Allotment, is over half a million acres. To cover this vast area, I spend a significant amount of time driving. Driving for hours everyday might seem dull, but I love it. Whether it’s trudging along rocky two-track roads, trying to avoid getting stuck in mud, or gliding down the highway, it’s never boring. The landscape and wildlife within are a constant source of entertainment, no radio necessary. Pronghorn antelope seem to be everywhere. Often dashing across the open land, seemingly running from nothing. They’re very elegant, captivating animals. And as North America’s fastest land animal, they can supposedly reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any decent photos of pronghorn yet. They’re kind of skittish. On the other hand, cows aren’t really afraid of our trucks. So…here are some cows!

I wouldn’t call cows majestic, but they are kind of charming in their own way. The ungainly way that they amble about, and stare at you endlessly is pretty amusing. And, cows are the focal point of all the work that I’m doing this season. Cows can cause the degradation of the land in several ways, especially in riparian areas. For this reason, the primary objective of my work is to make sure that there aren’t too many cows in one area for too long.

The land that I work on is public land, and ranchers are issued grazing allotments. That means that ranchers are issued permits to graze their cattle in pastures owned by the federal government. But cattle are only allowed in certain pastures for certain parts of the year. Rotating cattle prevents areas from being overused and over-grazed. One of my primary duties is to ensure the proper placement of cows. I need to be aware of which allotment I’m in, and whether cattle should be there at a given time. If I find cows in a place that they shouldn’t be, I need to count them (a rough estimate if there are a lot), and try to find brands on the cows. Each rancher has there own brand, so if I can see a brand, I should know who’s cattle are out of place. Then, either I, or my supervisor will contact the rancher and ask them to move their cattle. There is more to my job than counting cows, but I can expand more on that next time.

It seems like there are endless wild places to explore around Lander. I recently hiked Johnny Behind the Rocks, a short local trail system. Here are a few photos:

The wildflower is one of twenty some species in the genus Castilleja, with the Wind River Mountains in the background.
Northern Sagebrush Lizard
Prairie Rattlesnake along with an infamous, invasive plant commonly known as cheatgrass. Don’t worry, I zoomed in to get this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.