Red Deer County News

Posted on: May 13, 2017

Can I Graze My Cows On Land I Have Enrolled In ALUS?

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by Ken Lewis, Conservation Coordinator

This is the most common question we get about the ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) Program in Red Deer County. In short, yes you can - but there are a few key criteria that landowners should be aware of.

So far, most ALUS projects involving grazing, involve a change from continuous grazing to some kind of controlled, management intensive rotational grazing. For the most part, the grazed acres being enrolled in ALUS are the riparian areas around wetlands and along creeks and rivers. Fencing is sometimes involved, but not always.

We have developed a suite of “Sustainable Grazing Management Guidelines”. In most situations, if a grazier changes his / her grazing management to adopt this kind of grazing management, there will be an increase in ecosystem services being produced from the land and ALUS can pay you for that new management.

Below are the guidelines. Please note that these guidelines are just that - guidelines. They are NOT hard, set-in-stone rules. Every site, every situation, every year, is different. These guidelines give us all a place to start our conversations.

• Grazing when the soils are at their driest, or frozen (typically but not always, July 15 to April 15). This timeframe is also typically after most wildlife and waterfowl have reared their young
• Providing a long rest and recovery time between grazes (typically but not always, 60-90 growing season days)
• Balancing stocking rate with forage production. Balanced stocking rates are typically but not always, around 0.6 AUM/acre for riparian areas, 0.2 AUM/acre for aspen forest, 0.1 AUM/acre for coniferous forest, 0.3 to 0.6 AUM/acre for native grass, and up to 1.0 AUM/acre for tame grass (note: AUM means “Animal Unit Months”). Typically but not always, achieving this stocking rate using shorter grazing times (around 3 to 5 days) is preferable
• Providing upland drinking water (further is generally better…typically at least 100’ and preferably 200’ from the water body)
• Providing upland salt and minerals (further is generally better…typically at least 100’ and preferably 200’ from the water body)
• Controlling weeds
• Leaving sufficient grazing residual: a general guideline is 6” standing of this year’s growth, or managing such that the amount of accumulated litter (from past years) is at least 800 pounds per acre
• (If applicable) Removing livestock if they are browsing preferred trees and shrubs

If you have areas in your pastures around wetlands or along streams and rivers, and you think these Sustainable Grazing Management Guidelines can fit into your operation, let’s talk (please call me at 403.505.9038 or email With ALUS, you can get up to 75% of the costs of infrastructure like fencing and alternative watering systems. Plus, you can get up to $30 per acre per year for the grazing lands that you are enrolling.

Additional Info...
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