Livestock and Grazing

Livestock include domestic animals, such as goats, sheep, cattle or horses, raised for private use or for profit. Grazing is to feed on grass, browse, and other forage.

Related resource topics for county planning include the following:


Map of Data

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Resource Information
A 2008 study on livestock grazing in Utah drew these conclusions [1]:

  • The livestock industry has changed over time from sheep to cattle.
  • Relatively large reductions in the use of US Forest Service (USFS) and US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands for grazing have occurred over time.
  • Livestock producers with permits to graze public lands have larger operations than livestock producers without permits.
  • Livestock operators with grazing permits generally have been owned by the same family for more than one generation, and they intend to keep this a family operation in the future.
  • Livestock producers view legal proceedings as the biggest threat to the use of public lands by livestock.
  • Most livestock producers believe that livestock grazing has a positive impact on the reduction of fires and basically neutral impact on other uses.
  • The value of grazing permits varies widely within the state.
  • Livestock production is a relatively important segment of the economy in some counties and regions of Utah. This is especially true in some of the most rural counties.

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands
The amount of land administered by The US. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) varies by county (see table below). A significant amount of livestock grazing occurs on public land administered by these agencies, and on private lands. The information in this section provides an introduction into some of the standards that the BLM and USFS use to manage livestock grazing. An understanding of these standards is a key component of developing resource management plans that are compatible with agency requirements.

Approximate acres of private land, US Forest Service (USFS), School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), and US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the counties. Source: SITLA Statewide Land Ownership database, GIS Analysis [2].
Land OwnerSummitUtahWasatch
Federal and state grazing allotments fully or partially contained within each county. Some allotments cross county boundaries and are counted twice. Source: SITLA Stateside Grazing Allotment Database, GIS Analysis [3].
Land ManagerSummitUtahWasatch

The USFS provides the largest number of grazing allotments across the three counties. Decision making and management of the USFS allotments varies depending on which National Forest the allotment is within. There are three National Forests in the region, each guided by individual planning documents; the Manti-La Sal (1986 Manti-La Sal National Forest Land Resource Management Plan [4]), Ashley (1986 Ashley National Forest Land Resource Management Plan [5]) and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache (2003 Wasatch-Cache National Forest Land and Resource Plan [6] and 2003 Uinta National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan [7]). Forest plans for both the Ashley and Manti-La Sal are currently under revision with expected completion dates in 2020. These three National Forests are further divided into seven Ranger Districts in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch Counties.

The BLM also administers grazing allotments and public-lands grazing, but only in Utah County. There is no BLM-administered land in Summit and Wasatch Counties. The western portion of Utah County is managed under the 1988 Proposed Pony Express Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement while allotments in eastern Utah county are guided by the 2008 Price Resource Management Plan [8], [9].

SITLA land is often located within the boundaries of either Forest Service or BLM allotments and is grazed in conjecture with those allotments. In addition, a small number of allotments exist which are comprised solely of SITLA land. These allotments are managed under Utah Administrative Code Rule R850-50 Range Management to maximize benefits to SITLA.

Planning Goals and Objectives

USFS planning documents have identified a series of planning goals and objectives in regards to grazing on Forest Lands. The 1990 Manti-La Sal National Forest Plan Amendment for Range Proper-Use Criteria included a management objective to maximize sustained yield of forage resources, while providing for soil and watershed stability and improvement [10]. Other goals for livestock grazing include:

  • Manti La Sal National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (1986)
    • Bring livestock obligation in line with rangeland carrying capacity.
    • Maintain upward or stable trends in vegetation and soil condition.
    • Invest in range improvements where they will provide the greatest benefit.
    • Control noxious weeds and poisonous plants in cooperation with forest users and state and local agencies.
  • Wasatch-Cache National Forest Revised Forest Plan
    • Manage livestock grazing levels and operations on suitable lands for sustainable forage use within properly functioning conditions.
  • Uinta National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan
    • Livestock grazing occurs at a season and/or level of use that allows appropriate ground cover, species composition, and age classes for the grazing unit being administered and monitored.
    • Non-native rangelands are restored to native rangeland ecosystems as opportunities arise.

The Price BLM Field Office Resource Management Plan has a list of livestock management decisions specific to the field office. The plan outlines the decision to manage according to the Utah Standards for Rangeland Health and Guidelines for Grazing Management [11]. There are four standards:

  • Upland soils exhibit permeability and infiltration rates that sustain or improve site productivity, considering the soil type, climate, and landform.
  • Riparian and wetland areas are in properly functioning condition. Stream channel morphology and functions are appropriate to soil type, climate, and landform.
  • Desired species, including native, threatened, endangered, and special status species, are maintained at a level appropriate for the site and species involved.
  • The BLM will apply and comply with water quality standards established by the State of Utah (R317.2) and the Federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts. Activities on BLM lands will fully support the designated beneficial uses described in the Utah Water Quality Standards (R317.2) for surface and groundwater.

Reviewing the full list of livestock grazing decisions in the resource management plans would be very helpful for coordinating with the BLM and devising county resource management plans. The decisions outline, among other things, areas excluded from grazing, where livestock type conversions are preferred, and how grazing will be conducted in sensitive areas.

Attaining the standards of either the BLM or USFS is a general requirement for maintaining a permit to graze on public allotments. The agencies are responsible for monitoring and making the determination as to whether standards are being met, though the permittee may be present when the monitoring takes place. While grazing that takes place on private land is not formally held to these standards, agency standards are based on sound rangeland management principles that are generally used by livestock producers on privately owned rangeland.

Livestock grazing on BLM and USFS allotments is also under direction of regional agency resource management plans. For example, the Utah Greater Sage-Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment directs livestock grazing and livestock related activities in greater sage-grouse habitat on BLM allotments, and the Greater Sage-grouse Record of Decision directs those activities on Forest Service allotments [12], [13]. The BLM also recently released the Management of Domestic Sheep and Goats to Sustain Wild Sheep (Public) document, which provides direction for protecting wild sheep from respiratory diseases by spatially or temporally segregating them from domestic sheep and goats [14]. Understanding the direction of such regional plans, and any resulting limitations, would enhance the effectiveness of county resource management plans.

Desired Future Conditions

An important aspect of resource management plans is to identify desired future conditions. Those conditions may be associated with overcoming an existing shortfall or bottleneck, or with mitigating for anticipated conditions that would affect the sustainability of livestock production. The desired future conditions may apply to short-term (13 years) or long-term (4+ years) timeframes. Desired future conditions typically apply to broader issues, rather than specific plans or implementation strategies. An understanding of the desired future condition helps determine which methods or tools could be used to successfully create those conditions. For example, a potential desired future condition regarding livestock production may be to achieve flexibility in grazing permitting that allows for adjustments in response to changing climatic and biological conditions. The implementation strategy in having greater flexibility in permitting may be working with agencies to allow the flexibility in permit terms and conditions (e.g., on/off dates, number of livestock, number of authorized animal unit months [AUM]s).

The Utah Association of Conservation Districts has compiled resource reports for every county in Utah; MAG counties are in Conservation District Zone 3: Summit,  Utah, and Wasatch [15], [16], [17]. Each resource report includes a section on the priorities and concerns for natural resources. The priorities and concerns relate to rangeland health, noxious weeds, water quantity & conservation, water quantity, agricultural land preservation, and range & forestland health. These reports identify existing and anticipated limitations that affect livestock production, and in formulating desired future conditions.

Information in county resource assessments, together with other information from the sources introduced in this document can be used to compile an area-specific coordinated resource management plan. In 2012, such a plan was compiled for the Wallsburg watershed in Wasatch County [18]. As the name implies, the plans are the product of coordination between a number of federal, state, and local agencies, stakeholders, and consultants.

Because the desired future conditions for livestock production are a reflection of current or anticipated challenges, and because those challenges are likely to vary from county to county, seeking the input of the producers in those counties is crucial in creating a list of relevant desired future conditions. Summit, Utah, and Wasatch Counties all identify encroachment of noxious weeds or undesirable vegetation and loss of agricultural lands to development as concerns [15], [16], [17]. The desired future condition regarding these and other concerns is likely to change within and between counties depending on the distribution of weed encroachment or land development.

In identifying desired future conditions, it is also important to recognize biological, physical, financial, or regulatory limitations. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has compiled a database that describes the different rangeland and forest ecological sites that comprise an area (see Data Download section, below). The descriptions are separated by physical characteristics such as precipitation and soil type. Each description provides abundant information, including the vegetation communities that would support livestock grazing and the productivity of that vegetation under different management scenarios. The information is helpful in understanding the potential (or limitations) of an area. With that understanding, planners would be able to identify desired future conditions that are realistic given the area-specific biological or physical limitations.

Best Management Practices

Best management practices (BMPs) can be used as effective vehicles for working toward achievement of desired future conditions. In most cases, the intent of BMPs is to protect against damages to water quality, soil productivity, watershed health, and plant communities. Good management of livestock grazing is one of the most critical BMPs and relies on matching the following variables to ensure long-term sustainability of the resource:

  • proper type and number of animals,
  • proper season for grazing in an area,
  • proper length of time, and
  • proper amount of rest following grazing.

Collectively, these variables should be addressed in a grazing plan or system. A number of grazing systems are used. The key is to match the system to the setting and then to properly manage livestock. Examples of common grazing systems are season long (often referred to as “continuous”), pasture rotation, rest rotation, high-intensity short-duration, deferred pasture rotation, or time-controlled grazing.

The following steps will help in the development of a county livestock grazing management plan.

  • Identify how much rangeland is available in the county by ownership, BLM, USFS, State, or private.
  • Identify which rangeland areas are in excellent, good, fair, and poor condition, or where other limitations and concerns may exist.
  • Identify seasonal timing and carrying capacity of the land to be used for grazing (currently permitted numbers and range data can be used to determine if standards are being met under the current grazing management).
  • Consider the need or expected grazing use, including the number of livestock that ranchers will want to graze on the land.
  • Identify areas where rangeland conditions can be improved to increase livestock productivity and resource protection (site potential or limitations).
  • Create a plan that allows flexibility to match livestock use to rangeland capabilities, remembering that public lands must be managed for multiple uses.

The Grazing Allotment data and the Grazing Permit data (see Data Download section) can be used to locate areas of the county that currently are grazed. The Annual Precipitation data can be used to identify areas that are likely to produce more or less forage.

Resources for Best Management Practices

The Utah State University Extension website on grazing management is a valuable resource for livestock grazing management information and BMPs. Included is information on the following subjects:

The Utah Grazing Improvement Program (UGIP) is another valuable resource with stated goals to achieve the following:

  •     Strengthen Utah’s livestock industry
  •     Improve rural economies
  •     Enhance the environment

In addition BMPs, which can be useful in addressing broad-scale issues, specific practices can be implemented to improve the sustainability of livestock production. The BLM has compiled a list of guidelines that pertain to improving and maintaining the condition of rangelands grazed by livestock [19]. Though not labeled as BMPs, these guidelines could certainly function as such.

A companion document to the 2009 review produced by the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office provided a brief introduction to 11 agencies and organizations dedicated to improving rangeland sustainability (both environmental and economic). These agencies can assist livestock producers with funding and expertise to carry out improvement projects or implement management changes. The companion document also provides case studies from livestock producers who have improved the sustainability of their operation [20]. The case studies show that a number of practices have successfully been employed, including:

  • Seeding native grasses and forbs
  • Using lowland pastures for hay production or intensive winter grazing
  • Creating conservation easements
  • Employing rotational or time-controlled grazing systems in place of season long grazing
  • Conducting vegetation treatments to increase herbaceous production and reduce bare ground
  • Reclaiming areas affected by pinyon and juniper tree encroachment
  • Identifying and treating noxious weed infestations
  • Prescriptive use of livestock to manage vegetation
  • Restoring riparian and wetland areas
  • Constructing water developments away from riparian areas
  • Completing big game and aquatic habitat improvements
  • Diversifying operations (wildlife hunting, recreation, timber) to provide additional income
  • Participating in education outreach

Relevant Agency Contact Information

The following agencies can provide support in developing resource management plans, assist livestock producers, or have information that should be considered when developing plans that address livestock grazing:

Utah State University Extension, county extension agents:

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food provides information and services related to [21]:

  • Licensing regulation and product registration
  • Food safety and consumer protection
  • Markets and finance
  • Pesticides
  • Plants and pests
  • Animals
  • Weights and Measures
  • Conservation and environmental issues

The BLM manages livestock grazing on grazing allotments under their administration. BLM land in the west portion of Utah County is administered by the Salt Lake Field Office, and that in the east portion of the County is administered by the Price Field Office. The BLM does not administer any land in Summit or Wasatch County.

The USFS manages livestock grazing on allotments under their administration. The National Forest System land within Summit, Utah, and Wasatch is administered by the Heber-Kamas, Evanston-Mountain View, and Flaming Gorge-Vernal Ranger Districts (Summit County), Sanpete, Spanish Fork, Pleasant Grove, Duchesne-Roosevelt, and Price Ranger Districts (Utah County), and the Pleasant Grove, Heber-Kamas, Spanish Fork, and Duchesne-Roosevelt Ranger Districts (Wasatch County). Note that some Ranger Districts have multiple offices.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) manages wildlife populations statewide. They also collaborate with public land managers and private landowners to improve wildlife habitat. The agency has compiled the Utah Wildlife Action Plan, a draft plan that addresses potential interactions between wildlife and livestock. The intent of the plan is to manage native wildlife species and prevent species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Economic Considerations

Livestock grazing is an important economic consideration. In 2014, Utah cash receipts for all agricultural commodities totaled $2.38 billion, with livestock and livestock-related products totaling $1.84 billion [22]. In 2011, total cash receipts (direct output) from sales of livestock products was $1.09 billion, representing about 68% of Utah’s total agricultural production revenues. Agriculture contributes to a little over 14% of the Utah Economy [23]. Statewide, cattle and calf cash receipts totaled $80 million. In 2013, cash receipts for livestock and livestock-related products for Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties totaled $33.22 million, $151.81 million, and $8.99 million, respectively [23].

The statewide estimated number of beef cows in the 2015 inventory totaled 324,000, while the number of beef cows in Summit, Utah, and Wasatch counties were 8,900, 15,800, and 5,600, respectively. The statewide estimated number of sheep (all sheep and lambs) in the 2015 inventory totaled 290,000, of which 28,500 were in Summit County, 15,000 were in Utah County, and 17,300 were in Wasatch County [23]. The ability to graze livestock on the forage available is important to operators in each county.

The USFS and BLM grazing fee for 2015 was $1.69 per head month (HM) or AUM [24]. However, some feel that the costs associated with grazing on public lands are not covered by receipts [25], [26]. Others have also demonstrated that the cost of grazing on public lands is similar to the cost of grazing on private lands due to additional non-fee costs and return on investment [20]. Likewise, some have stated that the costs are different because the federal government does not recognize that grazing permits have value [27], [28].

The NRCS maintains a series of payment schedules and cost scenarios for each fiscal year that are useful for evaluating BMP projects [29], [30]. This information can be used to estimate design and implementation costs for individual conservation measures, prior to construction. The spreadsheets cover conservation measures directly related to grazing and rangelands such as:

  • Grazing management plans
  • Brush management
  • Herbaceous weed control
  • Prescribed burning
  • Fences
  • Prescribed grazing
  • Grazing land mechanical treatments
  • Range planting
  • Spring development
  • Restoration and management of declining habitats

In addition, spreadsheets are provided for a number of conservation measures that are indirectly related to grazing and rangelands.

Finally, preventing and addressing livestock theft is an important planning topic that should be considered in developing county resource management plans. The Livestock Inspection Bureau at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food oversees the state’s brand inspection program and works closely with the various county sheriff offices to address livestock theft. For more information, also see the Law Enforcement county planning topic.

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
BLM Grazing Allotments
Use to locate BLM grazing allotmentsData download published 09/11/2013

Maps service update schedule is not specified
1:24,000Bureau of Land Management in Utah
BLM Rangeland Administration System (RAS)
Database with allotment information (number and types of livestock, season of use, on/off dates, number of AUMs permitted, number of permittees, permit expiration dates, operator information)VariableNot SpatialBureau of Land Management
Land Ownership
Surface Land Ownership; use Admin field to identify administrative agencyUpdated Weekly1:24,000State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
GIS Group
LANDFIRE Existing Vegetation Type (us_130evt)
, ,
Use to distinguish between developed and vegetated land
2012Delivered as 30 meter pixels but should not be used as individual pixel or as small groups of pixelsWildland Fire Science, Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
LANDFIRE website
NRCS Ecological Site Description System
Database of ecological site descriptions in range and forest settings. Ecological sites are best delineated by physical characteristics such as precipitation zone and soil type. The database offers information on vegetation composition and productivity, and a description of site potential under different management scenarios. The descriptions can also be used to determine rangeland condition by comparing on-the-ground information with those provided in the description.VariableNot SpatialUSDA Natural Resource Conservation Service
PRISM Climate Group
Database for precipitation and temperature. Useful in determining which precipitation zone an area is located in.Variable4-km grid resolutionPrism Climate Group
Oregon State University
Range trend studies, Interactive Map , Website
Utah’s big game range trend studies.LiveUnknownUtah Division of Wildlife Resources Range Trend Project
Great Basin Research Center
494 W. 100 S.
Ephraim, UT 84627
Phone: 435-283-4441
Fax: 435-283-2034
USFS Grazing Allotments
Use to located Forest Service grazing allotmentsUpdated by Forest Service as needed1:24,000United States Forest Service,
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,
Ruth Ann Trudell
GIS Database Manager
Utah Grazing Allotments from AGRC

Statewide grazing allotment boundaries for use in planning and land management. This dataset also contains the allotment name, number and manager.2009UnspecifiedAGRC


  1. Godfrey, E. B. 2008.  Livestock Grazing in Utah: History and status. A report for the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.
  2. SITLA. 2016. Land Ownership. GIS data obtained July 28, 2016. 
  3. SITLA. 2009. Grazing Improvement and Allotment Areas. GIS data obtained July 28, 2016.
  4. USDA Forest Service. 1986. Manti-La Sal National Forest Land Resource Management Plan.
  5. USDA Forest Service. 1986. Ashley National Forest Land Resource Management Plan.
  6. USDA Forest Service. 2003. Wasatch-Cache National Forest Land and Resource Plan.
  7. USDA Forest Service. 2003. Uinta National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan
  8. USDI Bureau of Land Management. 1986. Pony Express Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement.
  9. USDI Bureau of Land Management. 2008. Price Field Office Resource Management Plan.
  10. USDA Forest Service. 1990. Forest Plan Amendment Standard and Guideline for Proper Use Criteria.
  11. USDI Bureau of Land Management. 2011. Utah Standards for Rangeland Health.
  12. USDI Bureau of Land Management. 2015. Utah Greater Sage-Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment.
  13. USDA Forest Service. 2015. Greater Sage-grouse Record of Decision – Idaho and Southwest Montana, Nevada, Utah.
  14. USDI Bureau of Land Management. 2016. Management of Domestic Sheep and Goats to Sustain Wild Sheep (Public).
  15. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Summit County Resource Assessment.
  16. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Utah County Resource Assessment.
  17. Utah Association of Conservation Districts. 2013. Wasatch County Resource Assessment.
  18. Wasatch Conservation District. 2012. Wallsburg Coordinated Resource Management Plan.
  19. US Bureau of Land Management. 2016. Fact Sheet on the BLM’s Management of Livestock Grazing.
  20. McGinty, EL, B. Baldwin, R. Banner. 2009. A Review of Livestock Grazing and Range Management in Utah. A report to the Utah Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. February.
  21. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2014. Conservation and Environmental.
  22. Ruby A. Ward, Paul M. Jakus, Lassina Coulibaly. 2013. The Economic Contribution of Agriculture to the Economy of Utah in 2011. Logan, Utah: Dept. of Applied Economics Utah State University.
  23. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. 2015. Utah Agriculture Statistics and Annual Report. January 6.Adams, LuAnn. 2015. 2015 Utah Agriculture Statistics and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Annual Report. Salt Lake City: Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
  24. USDA Forest Service. 2015. Forest Service and BLM announce 2015 Grazing Fee. Accessed: 1/7/16.
  25. Workman, J.P. 1988. Federal grazing fees: A controversy that won’t go away. Rangelands 10:128-130.
  26. Quigley, T.M. and J.A. Tanaka. 1988. The federal grazing fee: A viewpoint. Rangelands 10:130-131.
  27. Glaser, C., C. Romaniello, and K. Moskowitz. 2015. Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Grazing on America’s Public Lands. Center for Biological Diversity.
  28. Torell, L.A., L.W. Van Tassell, N.R. Rimbey, E.T. Bartlett, T. Bagwell, P. Burgener, and J. Coen. 1993. The value of public land forage and the implications for grazing fee policy. Agricultural Experiment Station. Bulletin 767. New Mexico State University, College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
  29. USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2016. NRCS Conservation Practice Component Cost Lists.
  30. USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2015. NRCS Cost Scenario Estimates – All Practices.
  31. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 2011. Utah Guidelines for Grazing Management.
  32. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 2015. Utah Wildlife Action Plan 2015-2025. Draft Version 2.0. DWR publication 15-14.