Simulating hydrologic responses to alternate grazing management practices at the ranch and watershed scales Academic Article uri icon


  • Copyright 2017 Soil and Water Conservation Society. All rights reserved. Grazing management practices affect watershed hydrology by altering vegetation cover and soil properties. Long-term success of grazing management depends on how well increased forage harvest efficiency is balanced with the need to maintain soil aggregate stability. The overall objective of this study was to assess the impacts of alternate grazing management practices including the light continuous (LC), heavy continuous (HC), adaptive multipaddock (MP) grazing, and no grazing (EX; exclosure) on hydrological processes at the ranch and watershed scales in a rangeland-dominated (71% rangeland) Clear Creek watershed (CCW) in north central Texas using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Measured data on vegetation, soil physical and hydrological properties, and grazing management at four study ranches within the watershed (two under MP and one each under LC and HC grazing management) were used to parameterize the SWAT model. The SWAT model was calibrated and validated using the measured standing crop biomass and soil moisture data at the study ranches, and streamflow data at the watershed outlet over a 34-year period from 1980 to 2013. At the ranch scale, when the management was changed from the baseline MP grazing to HC grazing, the simulated average (1980 to 2013) annual surface runoff increased within a range of 106% to 117% and water yield increased within a range of 39% to 53%. While surface runoff was found to be a major contributor (52% to 67%) to streamflow under the HC grazing, baseflow was the dominant (55% to 66%) component of streamflow under the MP and EX practices. At the watershed scale, shifting grazing management from the baseline HC grazing to the improved MP grazing decreased surface runoff by about 47%, increased infiltration by 5%, and decreased streamflow by 29.5%. In addition, improvements to grazing decreased the simulated highest annual streamflow over the 1980 to 2013 period from 8.3 m3 s-1 ([293.1 ft3 sec-1] baseline scenario) to 6.2 m3 s-1 ([219 ft3 sec-1] MP grazing). This reduction in the maximum flow has a potential to reduce the risk of flooding downstream. However, these hydrologic responses vary according to the extent of grazing lands in a watershed. Overall, the MP grazing was found to be the best grazing management practice in terms of water conservation, vegetation regrowth, and the potential to reduce flood risk.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Park, J. Y., Ale, S., Teague, W. R., & Dowhower, S. L.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Park, JY||Ale, S||Teague, WR||Dowhower, SL

publication date

  • March 2017