If you go for a hike at the Pismo Preserve over the next few months, you may come across a herd of cattle grazing the rangeland area of the preserve to eat invasive weeds such as black mustard, help restore the diversity of native plant life and reduce the risk of wildfire.
The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County helps manage the Pismo Preserve and is partnering with Cal Poly’s range manager to use more than 50 of his personal cattle to graze the land.
Cal Poly Range Manager Aaron Lazanoff said recent wildfires have increased awareness of the need for mitigation and introducing the cows is a good fire prevention strategy.
“Fire protection is very important to the people that live in that area,” Lazanoff said. “The other benefit of it is the land can become sort of a stagnant environment without some kind of grazing to help the land regenerate each year.”
Dylan Theobald is the stewardship manager for the Land Conservancy. He said grant money from the California Coastal Conservancy paid for the construction of grazing infrastructure on the preserve.
Theobald said the Land Conservancy used the money to build a cattle corral and two cow pastures surrounded by 9,000 feet of wildlife-friendly barbed wire fencing.
“A wildlife-friendly barbed wire fence generally has a smooth bottom wire so wildlife can go under it,” Theobald said. “We also have a smooth top wire on these fences so animals can jump over.”
Theobald said people may encounter the cattle when using the preserve. He said if someone comes across a cow on a trail, the best thing to do is move around it or wait for it to move out of the way.
He said it's very important that people remember to close all gates behind them to ensure the cattle stay in their pastures.
Lazanoff said the cows on the preserve are docile and accustomed to being around humans, so people don’t have to worry about encountering them.
The cows are expected to graze the land until July, but Lazanoff said the timeline depends on the weather and how quickly the grass grows.