Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands

Rangeland Management Tips

Gerald Moore

Navajo Tri-State Federally Recognized Tribal Extension
Coordinating Extension Agent

  1. A rancher's knowledge of livestock is incomplete without a knowledge of the types of range plants they graze.
  2. Remember how important the range is to livestock. Don't concentrate on livestock first; concentrate on the land first.
  3. The land is your bank. If you contribute to it, it will provide for you in the future and provide a future for the next generations.
  4. In times when there's less grass, it's important to control where your herd goes. Reduction is always a management option.
  5. The success and productivity of a livestock operation depends largely on the productivity and management of your natural resources.

Renee Benally

Western Navajo Agency, BIA
Natural Resource Specialist

Animals (Nal golshi), plants (Ch’il), and soil (Łeezh) all contribute to grazing. To achieve ecological and economic objectives, grazing ranchers and land managers must first understand how plants grow and reproduce and then how grazing animals affect plants through defoliation, hoof action, and other factors.

Also important are grazing animals' specific behaviors and nutritional needs at critical points of the production cycle.

With this understanding in hand, ranch and land managers can consider:

  1. When should grazing occur? (timing)
  2. How often should defoliation occur? (frequency)
  3. How much forage should be removed, or how much residual plant material should remain after grazing? (intensity)
  4. How many and what type of livestock should be grazed? (stocking rate and type of livestock)

Plants respond differently to grazing depending on its timing, intensity, and frequency as well as the physiological and morphological characteristics of the plants and how these affect plant growth before and after grazing events.

Nick Ashcroft

New Mexico State University
Extension Range Specialist

  1. Watch the plants and not the animals. You're not ranchers first, you're grass farmers first.
  2. Range management means not over-utilizing, allowing the plants some rest.
  3. When identifying plants, ask questions in the following order:
    • What is it?
    • Is it poisonous to my animals?
    • Is it noxious/invasive?
    To prevent noxious/invasive plants from taking over, take care of perennial plants by not over-utilizing them.
  4. Grass plants need to replace 30% of their roots every year. If you have a drought year, or if you over-utilize, that root system isn't replaced and it can't continue.
  5. Remember the basics of what a plant needs: sunlight, air, soil/nutrients, water. If you take off too much leaf area by grazing, the plant quits photosynthesizing and quits growing. It's also important to leave enough plant there to put the water into the soil instead of running off.
  6. Every site is different, with different precipitation and different challenges. On the Navajo Nation one unique challenge is that there are no fences. That means animals are moving where the feed is and you have to keep an even closer eye on the plants to see what is happening to them.

Copyright 2018 New Mexico State University. Individual photographers retain all rights to their images. Partially funded by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (westernsare.org; 435.797.2257), project EW15-023. Programs and projects supported by Western SARE are equally open to all people. NMSU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action educator and employer.