Monday, July 21, 2014

Desert Garden(s) of Eden

This video produced by the the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in collaboration with several northern Mexico ranchers shows just how much grass and diversity can be created in a desert environment. All it takes is asking the simple question of "Why is grass disappearing?"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why The Department Of The Interior Is Illegal

The recent standoff between Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM has stirred a lot of controversy over federal lands, but it is not the only case. BLM is planning on seizing 90,000 acres along the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma. Then we have environmental and animal welfare groups filing litigation to stop grazing on federal lands. Despite all of the talking heads on the radio, and numerous interviews with Senators, Congressmen, and attorneys, not one person has touched on the fact that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government very limited reasons by which they may own land within the individual states.
Article 1, Section 8, clause 17 of the constitution describes reasons which the federal government may hold land within the individual states, as well as the conditions by which they may acquire the land. This is extremely simple and straight forward language, which I have broken down and explained below.

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States,

This portion of Section 8, clause 17 is describing the formation of Washington D.C. As a gift from the surrounding states to form a Capitol for the fledgling country.

and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be,

As this line states clearly, for the federal government to control lands for any reason in any state, the land must be purchased with the consent of the legislature of that state. Keep in mind that when any territory east of the Mississippi River became a state, the new state held title to ALL of the lands within the new state, other than existing military installations. For some reason, when the territories west of the Mississippi River became states, the federal government forced the territories to cede vast amounts of lands to the federal government as a condition of statehood.

for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings

Here we come to the core of the issue. The ONLY uses for land within the individual states (as laid out in the Constitution) are for defense. Recreation, mining, petroleum, grazing, and timber uses are not among the uses described under Article I, Section 8, clause 17. As this is the only part of the Constitution describing the conditions and uses for which the federal government my control lands within the individual states, these uses are in violation of the Constitution. This would mean the Department of the Interior, as well as all of its various branches are in violation of the Constitution and have no jurisdiction within the individual states.

Taking this case to the Supreme Court and winning would be fairly simple. First there is the precedence that ceding land to the federal government was not a condition of acquiring statehood for territories east of the Mississippi River. Second, there is actually precedence to the federal government being challenged to their right to control land under this portion of the constitution, and the federal government lost in every incidence.

It is time for the states of the west to come together and take their land and resources back from the federal government!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stockmanship Schools Designed To Meet Federal Grazing Regulations

Environmental groups are filing multiple lawsuits in several western states preventing ranchers from turning out on their leases. In part, these litigations stem from ranchers not meeting stubble height and riparian regulations. Until we can get these grazing requirements changed, the only thing we can do to circumvent more lawsuits is to follow these regulations as closely as possible.

Trying to control cattle on allotments using temporary electric fence has proven to be only partially effective, and barely worth the cost of fencing, let alone extra labor.

In order to precisely control grazing to meet federal regulations for stubble height and riparian usage in an effective way, cattle need to be acting as a herd. When they are doing this, the cattle graze together and water together. With this behavior it is a simple matter of a rider catching cattle on their way to water and deflecting them to a new drinking spot each day, then sending them out to a new place to graze. My stockmanship schools are specifically designed for students to learn how to instill herd instinct so they may easily meet federal allotment grazing requirements.

Limited to eight riders per class, classes are entirely hands on. Early morning and late afternoon sessions students will work on actually instilling herd instinct into cattle in the pasture. In between pasture sessions students will concentrate on working cattle in pens. Unlike other schools, we concentrate on natural reactions cattle have to what we do with our horses, as well as the horsemanship involved in taking full advantage of these reactions. By the end of the five days, the pasture cattle will be acting and handling as a herd, and the students will have the pasture cattle acting as a herd like the 500+ cows in the picture below.

The following short video show the changes of behavior between the first and fifth day of the school.

These schools are priced to be economical for students. For more information on schools, or to schedule a school, email me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scientific Evidence Behind Holistic Managed Grazing

Despite millions of acres of evidence supporting it, our colleges and universities have a tendency to ignore holistic planned grazing, or dismiss it as a hoax.  However Dr. Richard Teague (PHD)  of Texas A &M
not only has researched multi-paddock, planned grazing, he has done a three county, multi-ranch study. This study not only shows the benefits, it also points out the reasons why previous university studies did not work. 

Dr. Teague sent me pdf files of his study to post. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Differences Between Conventional Cattle Placment and Placing to Graze As a Herd

 In conventional placing, we hold the cattle in one place until they are grazing in different directions. This means that, while the cattle are in the same area, they spread out which also spreads out the herd impact. In placing cattle for holistic, planned grazing, the object is to have the cattle mimic a herd. To do this the cattle need to be as close together as feed and terrain will allow, while grazing in the same direction to maximize herd impact and reduce selective grazing.

To do this we must first move the cattle with the least amount of stress as possible, then slow down the front of the herd until they start grazing and allow the rest of the cattle to catch up. While we can help the cattle in the back catch up, we need to let it all happen. Much of the time it will only take four or five grazing stops to have the cattle acting as a herd and grazing out together, and going to water together.

While on the Ganaderia Valle Colombia Ranch in Mexico we were working on several sets of cattle the first two days rather than concentrating on just one group. We started working on the cattle in this video on Wednesday, and by Friday they were beginning to come together as a herd. At the end of the video you will notice the cattle coming up and grazing towards the cattle at the lead and grazing as a herd.

In another few moves they will have all of the cattle grazing tightly together and be able to graze where they want, when they want, without building more fence while having their herd impact more concentrated than they do in their smaller pastures in the valley floor.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Innovative Fence Idea for Cell Grazing

Anyone who has ever ran more than two bulls is familiar with how much fence a couple of bulls can tear out. While at the Ganaderia Valle Colombia ranch in Mexico last week, Octavio Bermudez showed me how they keep the bulls from tearing up the fences at the cell centers. It is a slick method that could be used in other areas.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Beyond Stockmanship At Rancho Las Damas

The problem I was asked to solve is one of the reasons many cattlemen do not want to try holistic, planned grazing. During calving season the cows would leave their calves behind on the daily pasture changes, resulting in a loss of 15 to 20% of the calves. As it turned out, this was a simple problem to solve. This short (2:36 ) video shows how dramatically you can change cattle behavior in a short five days.

 One of the benefits of instilling herd instinct in your cattle is that it allows you to create herd impact in areas cattle ignore without going to the time and expense of putting up and tearing down additional fence. The cattle in the picture below were placed there the night before, and spent the night because they wanted to, not because they were fenced in.

While what was accomplished with the cattle is impressive, even more impressive is the amount of forage they have created in only eight years, with nearly half of that being under drought conditions. Before beginning their grazing program, the ranch looked like their neighbor's did in the picture below.
This is what most people assume the desert should look like. Because this is what we have seen land in desert regions look for most, if not all of our lives, we wrongly assume this is what this land is supposed to look like. When talking to old timers, and people whose families have ranched here for generations, we discover that the Chihuahua desert was an immense grasslands up until the last hundred years. Then we started building fences, adding windmills and letting cattle "take care" of themselves.

With a change in grazing patterns, it does not take long for the desert to turn into lush grasslands like the picture below. Alejandro Carrillo was explaining how this grass he is standing in looked exactly like the picture above less than eight years ago. His grazing techniques were the only tools used. No plows or seeds planted other than what the cattle have done.

Looking straight down into the grass, you can't see the ground.
However when you trample the grass down and part it you can see how much seed is getting to the ground.

Occasionally Alejandro feeds cattle, or spreads straw to create litter. The picture below is of a spot where he fed a few bales earlier this year. You read that correctly, this was bare ground only a few months before this picture was taken.

The above results were obtained without the use of any mechanical equipment or seed. The only fertilizer used was that provided by the cattle. While looking at this I was thinking of the number of ranches that will feed calves in a set of pens all winter. Wouldn't it make more sense to put a set of foamed, flat proof tires on your pickup and feed them in a different spot every day? Doing that would allow you to put the gains on your calves while basically getting paid to create more grass!

One other thing which has been happening is the reduction of brush and mesquite without using herbicides. As the grasses get thicker, they are literally choking out the woody plants and killing them as in the picture below. Why would you want to control brush by spending money and time on burning expensive fuel to pull equipment or spraying chemicals which are bad for the environment when you can do it all by simply changing your grazing methods?

The amazing thing about all of this is that the seed is already in the ground. All it needs is enough animal impact and a little rain. Alejandro has been consistently adding grass to Las Damas, even through the drought of the last several years. The diversity of grasses is incredible, including the sprangletop he is pointing out in the picture below.
 If you are ranching in an arid, brittle environment, you could be transforming your ranch into one similar to the Rancho Las Damas.  For more information on how to accomplish this, visit Holistic Management International and the Savory Institute. Contact me if you would like to hold a stockmanship school on your ranch.