Developing a Handbook for Utilizing Livestock a...

Developing a Handbook for Utilizing Livestock as a Tool in Noxious Weed Control in Nine Western States

Developing a Handbook for Utilizing Livestock as a Tool in Noxious Weed Control in Nine Western States

Davison handbook

The Challenge

The Bureau of Land Management defines a noxious weed as:  “A plant that interferes with management objectives for a given area of land at a given point in time.” Three hundred noxious species can be found on U.S. rangelands. Examples in the West include, but are not limited to, cheat grass, spotted knapweed, leafy spurge, and yellow star thistle.  The high costs of noxious weed invasion, both environmental and economic, have been well documented. Noxious weed invasion has led to increased soil erosion and reduced carrying capacity for livestock and wildlife, among other impacts. Effective control of noxious weeds regularly ranks as one of the highest agricultural concerns in the West. Control methods commonly used, such as herbicides and controlled burning, have become more restricted; leaving ranchers and land managers to seek alternatives.

Researchers, ranchers, and land managers have recognized that livestock grazing can be a valuable and selective noxious weed management tool. In 2004, Jay Davison, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, found that known techniques had not been summarized into a useful format. This weakness had led to slow adoption of livestock grazing as a management tool. Davison and colleagues designed a Western SARE Professional Development Program project Developing a Handbook for Utilizing Livestock as a Tool in Noxious Weed Control in Nine Western States (EW04-004) to summarize information concerning the use of livestock grazing to control important noxious weeds in nine western states, package the information in a readily useable format, and to disseminate the information to targeted audiences.

Searching for a Solution

Davison and his team set goals to:

  • Develop a list of noxious weed species for California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Utah.
  • Collect, review, and summarize current knowledge about livestock grazing as a control method for each noxious weed species.
  • Present this information in a handbook and distribute to Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and others.
  • Evaluate program impact.

To meet the objectives, Davison and his team conducted an in-depth literature review, interviews with researchers, and a survey of grazing management practitioners. The knowledge gained from these efforts was to be used to develop a handbook, website and journal article, and as part of presentations in all nine states.  The project was to ensure that Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and other personnel were more knowledgeable; livestock grazing as a noxious weed control tool would become more effective and widespread; and there would be a focal point for communication, information, and collaboration.

What was Accomplished

Based on the information gathered, Davison and his team published and distributed Livestock Grazing Guidelines for Controlling Noxious Weeds in the Western United States as a handbook and a CD, as well as posting online. The creation and distribution of the handbook led to increased levels of awareness and knowledge of livestock grazing as a weed management tool. Evaluations show that recipients of the handbook are using it on a regular basis with 95 percent of users reporting it as somewhat to very useful, and 92 percent of the users reporting increased knowledge and awareness of the subject. The information in the handbook was shared with others by 61 percent of the users, while 20 percent cited it, 12 percent used it to design a grazing system for noxious weeds, and eight percent used it to teach a workshop.


  • The handbook was distributed beyond the targeted audience, with approximately 36 percent of the recipients of the handbook working outside of Cooperative Extension or NRCS.
  • The handbook was highlighted before approximately 240 Bureau of Land Management employees during the Integrated Pest Management classes taught six times by the authors. This partnership between BLM and the authors had not occurred before, according to Davison.
  • About 30 percent of handbook users reported implementing grazing prescriptions described in the publication.
  • Nearly 80 percent indicated that their willingness to prescribe livestock grazing for noxious weed control had increased as a result of using the handbook.

Post-Project Activities and Impacts

The handbook is still posted on the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s website (listed below), Google Books, and other websites listing grazing management resources.  Davison says that he receives requests for a printed copy of the handbook yearly, even 10 years after publication. He also states that more ranchers and land managers are implementing the practices highlighted in the handbook than when he first began the project.

Order Handbook

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) EW04-004, Developing a Handbook for Utilizing Livestock as a Tool in Noxious Weed Control in Nine Western States .

Product specs
Location: California | Colorado | Idaho | Montana | Nevada | Oregon | Utah | Washington | West | Wyoming

2016 Annual Report

For the first time, we are sharing a yearly snapshot of our work. The stories provided here typify the creative, participatory and integrated research Western SARE annually funds – led by land grant institution researchers and graduate students, Extension and other ag professionals, and nonprofit leaders in full partnership with producers.