Public Lands Council Grant
A Macro Analysis of Cattle Numbers and Feed Sources in the Basin and Range Region
The Public Lands Council has agreed to a study of cattle numbers and feed sources in the Basin and Range Region. The grant is for approximately $105K for conducting the analysis, providing the data to the Public Lands Council and writing a final report. The start date is October 1, 2017 with a conclusion of the project one year later. The analysis will start with budgets from the land grant institutions in the Region and then involve leveraging these budgets and to the larger Basin and Range Region selected for the study. In the process of our analysis we will investigate the economic impacts for the local communities, implications for fuel load reduction of and wildfires, adjusting the cattle numbers for grazing conditions reflecting cheatgrass or annual grasses in addition to perennials, and scoring for investments in cattle and ranchers benefits compared to fire loss.
The Basin and range Region has experienced substantial reductions in cow-calf numbers over the past 25 years. For example, the cow-calf numbers for Nevada in 1985 was 630 thousand head and in 2017 the numbers were 475 thousand head. Dairy cattle numbers in the Nevada were about 19 thousand in 1985 and about 30 thousand in 2017. These dairy cattle numbers of course, must be subtracted from the cow calf or cattle numbers. If we subtract the dairy cattle numbers, the cow calf numbers have declined of about 200,000 over the reference period, and only for Nevada. Other states in the Basin and Range Region have experienced similar reductions in cattle or cow calf numbers during this period.
In the proposal we will first specify the research team. Then we briefly outline the research approach. We will present budgets for the region, cattle numbers from NASS/USDA, analysis of community economics based on larger cattle numbers, a fire model related to cheatgrass dominance in the Basin and Range Region and finally an investigation of scoring approaches to the tradeoffs between investments to add additional cattle and the benefits for the ranchers and environment. Finally, we will leave the data and other information with the Public Lands Council for additional analysis of cow -calf or beef cow herd size in the Basin and Range Region..
The research team will include six professionals, all from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) or universities within the Basin and Range Region. Specifically, the team will include:
- Tom Harris, Professor of Economics and Director of the University Center for Economic Development, UNR
- Stanley Johnson, Professor of Economics and Assistant to the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR), UNR
- Mike Helmar, Research Associate, CABNR, UNR.
- Malieka Landis, Research Associate, College of Business, UNR,
- Neil Rimbey, Professor of Agricultural Economics (retired) University of Idaho..
- Ryan Larsen, Professor of Agricultural Economics, College of Agriculture, Utah State University
- Bob Alverts, Consultant to CABNR at the UNR.
- Barry Paterson Professor at CABNR, UNR and
- Michael Taylor. Professor at Economics, College of Business, UNR
The team will be led by Stanley Johnson.
The analysis plan is divided into five sections to make the intent of the total investigation more transparent.
Budgets and Technology
- We will construct the analysis in the Basin and Range Region starting with ranch level budgets,
- This analysis must involve “hard truth” based on ranch level budgets and costs and returns for cow – calf operations,
- These estimates will be based on two management systems; one that features the inclusion of annual grasses in addition to perennials, and one that includes only perennials.
- The inclusion of annual grasses will be a departure from the approach that BLM Districts now use to calculate the animal units or cow – calf numbers allocated for the ranches.
- This is an important distinction, because the Basin and Range Region becoming dominated by annual grasses (1/4 to nearly 50 percent of counties by some estimates)
- In this of the study we will conduct an analysis for using numbers from NASS/USDA for counties, states and then aggregate to the Basin and Range Region
- Specifically, while conducting this aggregation analysis we will generate cow calf numbers for the counties under alternative assumptions, with and without annual grasses.
- Questions related to the analysis of aggregates are the following;
- How has the carrying capacity in the counties and states changed over time,
- Are there reasons to challenge the BLM District regulations on animal units?
- How does the feed stock change with climatic?
- Are their ways to adjust for climatic changes on a-yearly basis?
- What are the regional differences among the counties and states?
- Would BLM Districts estimation for cow calf numbers vary with assumptions about annual grass in addition to perennial feed stocks?
Community Economic Implications
- The cattle or cow –calf numbers will then be used to investigate implications for selected community economies using input-output analysis.
- This analysis will point up the economic implications of increased cattle or cow – -calf numbers for rural economies for grazing cheatgrass and related community impacts for Nevada and the Basin and Range Region
Wildfire Reduction and Control
- A major result of this analysis will be the estimates of differences in wildfire incidence for increases in cow – calf numbers, cheatgrass grazing, wildfires and fuel reduction.
- The major question for the Great Basin is whether or not there are sufficient cattle or cow – calf numbers and sizes of heads in the Basin and Range Region to actually graze the cheatgrass and other annuals and limit the threat of wildfires,
Scoring for benefits and costs
- A review of the “scoring” literature will be conducted and applications to this set of issues by investigates.
Estimate of Timing
The rough schedule for the one year analysis is as follows:
- Budgets and coefficients for t cow calf grazing at ranch and regional levels will be available at the end of the second quarter,
- Aggregation to county and state level for the NASS cattle estimates for the Basin and Range Region will be available by the end of the second quarter
- Community economic implications will be estimated be available at the end of the third quarter,
- Wildfire and fuel load analysis including a model of wildfire incidence, will be at the end of the fourth quarter and
- Scoring review and application will be available in the fourth quarter.
- A preinitiation of results will be made at the PLC meeting during the early fall of 2018