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Grazing Lands

Pasture lands are diverse types of land where the primary vegetation produced is herbaceous plants and shrubs. These lands provide forage for beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses and other types of domestic livestock. Also many species of wildlife, ranging from big game such as elk to nesting song birds such as meadowlarks, depend on these lands for food and cover.

Primary economic outputs include livestock production, but wildlife values are also a major economic consideration for these lands, especially range lands. Environmental values of these lands are extensive and provide many essential ecosystem services, such as clean water, wildlife and fish habitat, and recreation opportunities. Scenic, cultural, and historic values of these lands provide not only economic benefits, but also quality of life values cherished by many.

Other Grazing Lands

Most grazing lands are considered either range or pasture, but grazing lands also include grazed forest lands, grazed croplands, haylands, and native/naturalized pasture. These other land use types make up an additional 106 million acres of privately owned grazing lands, or about 17% of the total U. S. grazing lands. These other types of grazing lands provide a significant forage resource for U. S. livestock production.

Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative

Healthy pasturelands provide livestock products, flood protection, wildlife habitat, purification of air and carbon sequestration. These lands also provide aesthetic value, open space and vital links in the enhancement of rural social stability and economic vigor.

Arkansas has 34,434 farms with more than 3.6 million acres of pastureland, excluding woodland pasture, according to the 2002 Census of Agriculture.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers several programs to help landowners address natural resource concerns related to pasture management.

NRCS grassland specialists and conservation planners work with farmers on resource assessments of pastures to help design effective grazing systems.

Assistance available includes:

  • Maintaining and improving private grazing land and its management;
  • Implementing grazing land management technologies;
  • Protecting and improving the quality and quantity of water;
  • Maintaining and improving wildlife habitat;
  • Enhancing recreational opportunities;
  • Maintaining and improving the aesthetic character of private grazing land;
  • Identifying opportunities and encouraging diversification; and
  • Encouraging the use of sustainable grazing systems.

All owners and managers of private grazing land are eligible to receive technical assistance from NRCS.

Grazing lands technical assistance addresses one of Arkansas' important resources. NRCS has four full-time grazing land specialists on staff and another 56 employees who spend more than half of their time providing assistance to grazing operations.

The following practices are a few of the key tools used by NRCS to improve pastureland in Arkansas.