News Flash

Red Deer County News

Posted on: June 12, 2018

Why Wait? Some Ideas For Grazing In Riparian Areas


By Ken Lewis, Conservation Coordinator

Riparian areas are those areas beside wetlands, sloughs, creeks, rivers and lakes, that are “wetter than dry, but drier than wet”. In other words, they are the land between the water and the uplands. They normally have wetter soils and plants that are adapted to those wet soils.

As a result, riparian areas ideally are managed separately from the neighbouring upland areas. Here’s a few ideas to consider when planning grazing management of riparian areas.

  • Graze riparian areas when the soil is as dry as possible (or frozen). Riparian soils are wet, and therefore highly susceptible to compaction, “pugging and hummocking” and even erosion, if grazed too early.
  • Graze riparian areas for short periods, and allow a long rest and recovery time before the next grazing period. Just like in the uplands, the ideal is to have a plant bit only once in a grazing period, with enough rest and recovery time for the plant to totally regrow what was bitten off, before it gets bit again.
  • Graze riparian areas at different times each year. Options here can be less, but changing the time that a riparian area is grazed, allows different plants to be impacted by grazing in different ways each year, and helps with rest and recovery of plants. An example might be grazing a riparian area one year in the end of July, and then waiting the next year until September before grazing that same area.
  • Use other tools to attract livestock away from the riparian area. Riparian areas are extremely attractive to a cow…they offer everything they need, especially on a hot summer day: plenty of food, water, shade, trees to rub on. It’s not surprising that a cow will park herself down there as much as she can. So, anything you can do to encourage that cow to “go elsewhere” helps. This could be easy things like locating the salt / mineral tub away from the riparian area. And it could be more infrastructure type things, like providing water or shelter away from the riparian area. In some cases, riparian management fencing could be a useful tool.

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