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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Forage Improvement Results From Holistic Herding

Back in October of 2012 I began a project of  using low stress stockmanship to herd 460 cows through a 32000 acre grazing plan. During the course of this grazing season, I did a few experiments to see how much ( if any) increase in forage I could get in areas where cattle normally don't graze. One area was four miles from the water source for the 280 head I placed for one day. I placed approximately 180 head to graze up a draw to the top of a long ridge, and let them keep going back on their own. There was another area which was sub-soiled with the Yeoman Plow just before it was grazed.

All of these areas (and more) improved, some with dramatic results. You can see it for yourself in this video!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Releasing The Flerd

I have been asked why this particular combination  of animals, and why combine them at all. The reason behind these species is that they just happen to be on this ranch. There are also getting to be more ranches which deal in exotic species rather than cattle or other livestock normally raised on ranches. While the numbers are not high enough to get a lot of animal impact (especially when the pastures are 1,000 acres or larger.) The intent of this experiment is to show that flerds consisting of exotic animals (or a mix of exotic and "normal" livestock) can be herded through a holistic grazing plan. The animal impact will be a bit different as they will spread out more with each species in their own group, but will still have control on which pastures they will graze and when they will graze them.

This week the burros were trapped in a pen and added to the flerd. I put the burros in a pen by themselves and just sat there for a bit, Then I positioned myself so the burros would go past me. The first few times they went pretty fast. By the fourth or fifth time they figured out they weren't being chased and slowed down to a walk. I worked them around me a few times and when they got to the point I could stop them easily, I turned them out with the rest of the flerd.

By Friday everything in the pens was getting along fairly well. On Friday I turned the flerd out into a small trap of several hundred acres. I held the burros back and let them out of the pen last, rode past them to the longhorns in the lead, and turned them back to have everything grazing across the west side of the trap. Once I got them headed the way I wanted I went back and bumped the burros a little farther from the gate, stopped them and rode off. I had a bad video week (capped off by closing the lens cover  as I was letting them out) so I don't have any video this week. On Sunday I will be moving them around the trap, and turning them into an adjacent pasture on Monday. It will be interesting to see how far apart the various species stay from each other, and how putting them together and moving them as a group will work (or if I'll have to move each species as a separate group.) Hopefully I'll have some decent video next week, but in the meantime, enjoy these pictures.

 The above picture shows just how much the burros have settled down. When they were first turned in they refused to allow a lama or alpaca to get close to them.
This is definitely a mismatch, but this alpaca doesn't seem to notice the size difference.

     Here is the flerd after I turned them out. The burros had stopped just outside the gate and I moved them about fifty yards then stopped them. It will be interesting to see how well everything moves together when I turn them out in the pasture this week. Hopefully I'll get some usable video!