Posts Tagged: Sheila Barry
While Americans traditionally beat a path to the malls the day after Thanksgiving, many opt out of shopping on Black Friday to enjoy the outdoors. In regional parks and other open spaces, hikers may encounter crowds of a different sort – cattle grazing with their calves. A 1,200-pound cow blocking the path can be daunting.
With a little patience and understanding, people who hike, bike and horseback ride can coexist peacefully with the cattle, according to Sheila Barry, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor in Santa Clara County.
For happier trails, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has produced a series of videos that show hikers how they can amicably share open space with their beefy neighbors. In a two-minute video, a black cow puppet with a furry white face describes how to politely coax cows to moo-ove aside without spurring a Black Friday stampede.
“We wanted to produce videos that are entertaining as well as informative,” Barry said.
The cow pun-filled video also describes the ecosystem services cattle provide by consuming nearly their body weight in plants. By grazing, cows manage the vegetation, reducing wildfire fuel, increasing water capture and promoting the diversity of native grasses and wildflowers.
In “Sharing open spaces with livestock,” the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources livestock experts give four simple tips for safely sharing open space with cows on the trail:
- Keep moo-ving and speak in a normal tone. Sudden movements and loud noises may surprise cows.
- Approach cows from the side or front. They find it udderly unnerving to have someone sneak up from behind, the bovine blind spot.
- Steer clear of getting between a protective mother and her calf.
- If you need to move a cow, step slowly into its flight zone. Invading the animal's “personal space” will motivate it to mosey aside.
A second video, “Sharing open spaces with livestock when you have a dog,” gives advice for dog owners to keep their best friends safe around cows.
In a third video, “A year in the life of a cow,” the UC Cooperative Extension spokespuppet describes a typical year for a beef cow.
“The videos are a fun way to educate the public about grazing on rangelands,” said Stephanie Larson, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and rangeland advisor in Sonoma County.
The videos are based on the UC ANR publication “Understanding Working Rangelands,” authored by Barry and Larson, at http://ucanr.edu/shareopenspace.
Watch all three videos on UC ANR's YouTube channel:
Sharing open spaces with livestock https://youtu.be/Qd8LEGLDhaM
Sharing open spaces with livestock when you have a dog https://youtu.be/zzdGnfFwmcA
A year in the life of a cow https://youtu.be/znJbWknVXVg
Poor management of grazed rangelands can "exacerbate the effect of drought," the report said.
The Forest Service identified the need to reduce cattle numbers on public land during a severe drought - in come cases to 50 or 70 percent of total carrying capacity, which is the number of animals the land can support before causing environmental degradation. Plants that have been overgrazed "are less able to recover after a drought," the report said.
For expert commentary, Danovich turned to a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) source. Sheila Barry, the livestock and natural resources advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension, said ranchers do have to reduce herd size in times of extreme drought.
Cattle that graze on the open range are usually finished at a feed lot. In the first year of drought, ranchers have the option of weaning cattle early to reduce demands on the land without reducing the herd size. In the second year of drought, ranchers have to consider cutting into their herds. "As soon as they do that," Barry said, "it can take up to eight years to build it back."
The author, Sheila Barry, the natural resources and livestock advisor for UC ANR Cooperative Extension in the Bay Area, wrote that overgrazing and impacts to riparian woodlands are legitimate concerns, but have been effectively addressed with modern range management practices. Ranchers can minimize harmful impacts by maintaining proper stocking rates, creating riparian pastures, limiting grazing in sensitive areas and adding off-stream water sources.
Barry delineated a series of beneficial impacts of cattle grazing on Bay Area parklands. She said grazing minimizes wildfire hazards, manages non-native annuals, prevents thatch build up, promotes flowering plants, and improves carbon sequestration.
Barry added that no documented plant or animal species extinction has been linked to cattle grazing in California. On the contrary, numerous threatened and endangered species rely on grazing and rancher stewardship, including Santa Cruz tar plant, Contra Costa goldfields, Sonoma spineflower, San Joaquin kit fox, California tiger salamander, California red-legged frog, Ohlone tiger beetle, and Bay checkerspot and Callippee silverspot butterflies.
The magazine also included a "con" argument, written by Karen Klitz, a member of the Western Watersheds Project board of directors, and Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity and director of the Alameda Creek Alliance. The authors say grazing is incompatible with conservation because damage wrought by livestock is not a thing of the past. Klitz and Miller cite research showing that removing cattle can restore trout populations, native songbirds, wildflowers and amphibians. Grazing cessation at Mount Diablo State Park decreased weedy species and increased native grassland species and supports 16 rare or endangered wildlife species, the article said.
Such incidents, though rare, prompted UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts to write guidelines for people who hike, cycle or ride horses in natural areas where grazing cattle are used to manage the land. The four-page publication, Sharing Open Space: What to Expect from Grazing Livestock, is available for free download from the UC ANR online catalog.
“Areas that were traditionally rangelands, especially in urban counties, are more and more often becoming parklands,” said Stephanie Larson, UC ANR Cooperative Extension livestock advisor in Sonoma County and lead author of the publication. “State parks generally remove grazing, but we didn't want to see that at regional and county parks.”
Cattle grazing can provide important services to these working landscapes, like managing the vegetation, reducing fire hazards, increasing water capture, and promoting the diversity of plant. With education, Larson believes, people who hike, bike and horseback ride can coexist peacefully with the cattle.
Cattle may seem intimidating because of their size, but they are vulnerable to attack by coyotes and other predators. As prey animals, cows naturally experience and express fear and protective behavior, especially when unfamiliar people and animals are near and to protect their young.
Cattle can feel threatened by dogs, which they will perceive as predators. The guidelines recommend keeping dogs close and under complete control at all times. Just like people, dogs should never get between a cow and her calf.
The guidelines detail typical cattle posture when relaxed and when agitated, their response to intrusions into their personal space (or “flight zone”), and reactions to loud noises.
“Unless you need to move cattle out of your way, such as move them off a narrow trail, it's best to give them plenty of space and avoid their flight zone altogether,” the guidelines advise.
Injured cattle should be reported and left alone. The guidelines suggest people never approach a cow from behind, make quick movements or flap their arms, or try to “rescue” calves that seem to be separated from their mothers.
“The mother may be off drinking or eating, and will return to the baby,” the authors write. “She may even be watching you.”
Co-authors of the guidelines with Larson are Sheila Barry, UC ANR livestock and natural resources advisor in the Bay Area, and rangeland management consultant Lisa Bush.
An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
To get a more complete picture of public perceptions of cattle grazing, Sheila Barry, University of California Cooperative Extension advisor in the San Francisco Bay Area, analyzed photos and comments in the photo-sharing website Flickr.
Her study, published in the February 2014 issue of Environmental Management, showed that Flickr can provide insight both through photos and comments into public perspectives on grazing in parks and open space lands.
“These are just a first step toward broadening this understanding,” Barry wrote. “Further analysis of social media may provide managers with broader insights into public opinion compared to those afforded by traditional methods on a wide range of issues important to park and open space management.” Livestock grazing reduces the volume of plants that can fuel fire and improves wildlife habitat. But some public land managers, concerned about potential conflicts with park users, limit or ban grazing. In 2009, the city of Walnut Creek decided to end grazing in two city parks. A year later, neighbors who were concerned about weeds contributing to wildfire petitioned the city to resume cattle grazing.
Assessments of public perceptions are often based on public hearings, which tend to attract special interests and favor negative input, or on surveys, which focus on a topic.
“Despite numerous studies that have shown benefits of grazing for endangered species in California, some environmental groups and park users have filed lawsuits to curtail grazing on public rangelands,” Barry said. “I think there's an opportunity to educate people that if grazing is well managed, it won't interfere with their recreational use and there are benefits to society.”
The San Francisco Bay Area has over 133,000 acres of public land that is grazed by cattle and used by people to hike, ride bikes, walk dogs, ride horses and hang glide.
Barry set out to explore how people voluntarily described their feelings about cattle grazing in the San Francisco Bay Area on social media. She examined photos and comments on Flickr. Using the search terms “cow,” “cows” and “grazing,” she found 1,087 photos of grazed regional parks in Alameda, Contra Costa or Santa Clara counties by 328 people with 956 comments.
Of the 733 photos that were accompanied by comments, 71 percent showed a cow and 71 percent of the comments were descriptive without expressing opinion about cows or grazing. Comments included “Lots of wildflowers and cows. Hello tiny cows on the hillside.” “Taken at Lake Del Valle.” “I don't know why, but I thought cows in California were kept indoors.” About 23 percent were positive toward cows and grazing, such as “Wonderful to see cows being just cows and happy ones” and “As much as I struggled over the steep hills on this hike, all the grazing cattle and howling coyotes made it worth the sweat.”
Fear of cows was expressed by 5 percent of commenters and included comments such as “I try to conquer my fear of cows by photographing them,” “The cows scared us to death. I told them that I'm a vegetarian and they let me go” and “We turned around when we were faced with the option of having to walk right through a herd of cows.”
Less than 1 percent described cows behaving aggressively, such as “At least these cows didn't chase us like last week's did.”
Although more research is needed to learn how to collect, analyze and interpret data from social media, Barry believes it could be a valuable source for informing decisions about public policy.
Insight into public perceptions of cattle grazing will enable park managers to craft more effective education and interpretation messages about park use and management.
“We are currently using insight from this project to develop education and interpretative information and panels for parks in the East Bay,” Barry said.
Barry is publishing fact sheets for park managers and interpreters to share with park visitors. The fact sheets will address concerns she saw raised in the Flickr study such as how to safely and comfortably recreate in a park near grazing cattle and the benefits of cattle grazing in parks. She will also address public interest and questions revealed in the Flickr study with facts sheets titled “A Year in the Life” and “Bovines, Ovines, Caprines and Equines: What's the difference?” The fact sheets will also be available online and similar information will be posted in parks on interpretative panels.
The article “Using Social Media to Discover Public Values, Interests, and Perceptions about Cattle Grazing on Park Lands” can be downloaded at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00267-013-0216-4.