Friday, January 27, 2017

Stockmanship 101 Now Availible on Amazon!

Thanks to those who supported the project, the English version of Stockmanship 101 (rebooting herd instinct)  is now available on Amazon. This video was premiered at last week's school at Rancho Terrenates in Chihuahua, Mexico, where some students actually watched it a second time. It was also well received at a short seminar in Chihuahua City, Mexico where several students from my first school at Rancho De Las Damas were in attendance. Humbling to know that such a high percentage of those you teach are able to carry on the concepts when they get home!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Climate Change; Man Made or Assisted by Man?

Most of the debate around manmade climate change revolves around whether or not the activities of man are responsible for climate change. It would seem the whole discussion needs to be reframed to look at man assisted climate change. We also need to re-examine the presumed man assisted causes, as well as differentiate, symptoms, causes and ways to minimize, and in some cases reverse the symptoms.

For some reason most of those researching climate change (in any form) are concentrating on greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide levels. The "solutions" rest on things like regulating emissions by prohibition, trading "carbon credits" or taxation. Even causes stemming from land use seemingly concentrate on more gasses, with no thought to the condition of the land contributing to either rising oceans. It seems as if little or no thought is given to the conditions of the earth's surface in contributing to warming, changing weather patterns, contributing to flooding,  nor to rising ocean levels.

The possibility of regenerating grasslands has been largely ignored,  even though it reduces heat reflected into the atmosphere, captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, returns rainfall to aquifers, while increasing wildlife habitat and providing animal protein for human consumption.

Desertification of land is looked at as a symptom of warming, when it is actually a symptom of misuse, while at the same time, a cause of both atmospheric warming, and rising oceans. Completely ignored is just how fast desertification has happened in some places.

 To keep historical perspective, lets look at history in the terms of lifetimes. There has always been a few people living over 100 years. This would mean that, by cherry picking the right people, it has only been 20 lifetimes since Jesus Christ walked the earth. On a more personal level, my Great Great Grandmother was alive at the time of the Civil War and died in 1963 when I was 9 years old. Between the beginning of her life, and my life of 60+ years, we have seen the vast grasslands of the southwest United States and northern Mexico become barren deserts.  There are actually ranchers alive today who remember harvesting native grass hay in areas which are now mainly brushy and bare ground. Just how much of a difference can this make in changing our climate?

To demonstrate just how much the lack of grass cover reflects heat back into the atmosphere, I checked the air temperature, then checked the temperature on a patch of grass, and also a path of bare ground.
  Notice that the grass covered area is approximately eleven degrees warmer than the air while the bare ground is twenty five degrees warmer than air temperature.

A couple of hours later, the air temperature was 95 degrees. Rather than checking the temperature of the grassy spot first, we checked that same spot of bare ground, which was hot enough that it broke the thermometer. That would mean that the ground temperature was actually a minimum of 25 degrees warmer than the air temperature.

Adding to the heat absorption/reflection difference between bare ground and grass covered ground is the difference in water absorption. Rather than rain water absorbing into the ground (as it does when grasslands are intact,) precipitation actually starts running off with as little as 0.2 inches of rain. This means that a thunderstorm dropping an inch of water, loses half of aquifer recharge to run off. This run off goes into gullies, into small streams, river and lost into the ocean. This amounts to  13,577 gallons per acre run into the ocean from a one inch rain. In a drought like our most recent, where some areas only received 4 inches of precipitation, they lost 54,308 gallons of water per acre. There is roughly 293,000,000 acres of desertified ground between the southwestern United States and northern Mexico which have been degraded to this point. This results in 15,912,244,000,000 gallons of water returning to the oceans rather than recharging aquifers, in a year of severe drought. In a year of 10 inches (still just below normal of 11 to 12 inches of precipitation) we are looking at 135771.4 per acre (or 39,781,020,200,000 gallons for the region) flowing into the ocean rather than recharging aquifers. Take into consideration, this 39,781,020,200,000 gallons is only part of the water flowing back into the ocean rather than the ground on part of ONE continent. This isn't even taking into consideration of the addition of paved ground. 
 The first mile of asphalt paving was laid out in 1920 on Woodward Avenue, in Detroit Michigan.  Since then, asphalt and concrete paving has covered an estimated 29,000 square miles, or 18,560,000 acres. Taking into consideration that there are some roads in the country which the water ists in the bar ditch without emptying into a creek or river which eventually ends in the world's oceans, lets (for the sake of a conservative estimate) assume that only a third of our paved areas are draining directly into the ocean. That still leaves us with 6,186,666 acres of paved ground sending water into the oceans at a rate of 27154 gallons per inch of rain. This amounts to 16,7992,728,564 gallons running straight into the oceans per each inch of rain falling on our paved areas. In a drought year of only 6 inches of rain average across the country that comes up to an astounding 1,007,956,371,384 from our country alone from the addition of paved surfaces.

The combination of these two sources of water returning to the oceans rather than into the soil and replenishing aquifers comes to  a "mere" 5,658,029,305,640 gallons of water returning to the oceans from the United States and Mexico alone. Some will be quick to point out that a more accurate figure would be achieved by subtracting the acres of paved acres from the total of desertified areas, but this total would still be low when one figures out what has been left out of these figures.
The grasslands in the rest of the western half of the United States, while not considered to be desertified, have less than half their grass cover compared to the late 1800's, which is adding an a untold amount of water to the oceans. This is still not taking into account flood control systems, like the levee system on the Mississippi River which are adding more water rather than allowing it to spread out and fertilize the delta lands.  The total would certainly be result in an increase to  the 5,658,029,305,640 gallons in these figures. The worldwide total of water running back into the oceans rather than aquifers would dwarf what runs off from North America... Yet this is seemingly not taken into consideration by scientists studying climate change and rising oceans. A very few scientists are actually looking at the either the warming affects of these two things, nor the ramifications of reversing desertification through regenerative grazing.

In order for science to really get a grip on solving the problems of climate change, they need to ask a few more questions.

  1. How much are precipitation flows being affected by the millions of acres of desertified land and the heat rising from them? 
  2. How would the precipitation patterns change if grasslands were regenerated worldwide?
  3. How much is atmospheric temperature being affected by the combination of paved surfaces and desertified land?
  4. How much atmospheric carbon in the atmosphere would be sequestered by regenerating grasslands worldwide? 
  5. How much water would flow into aquifers rather than the oceans if grasslands were to be restored?
  6.  How much more animal protein could be added to the food supply by the increase in animals needed to restore and maintain grasslands through the proper grazing methods needed to restore them?
Until the scientific community starts acknowledging these things, and using them in computer models, how accurate can they really be? How can these scientists convince climate change deniers unless they acknowledge and differentiate between those events occurring naturally which change change climate, and the manmade things which assist the acceleration of changing climate? Until such time as these questions are addressed, and so long as the majority of the "solutions" are based on taxation, fines, and other financially inert things such as  trading carbon credits, a true solution will not be found.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Leaving Commodity Markets Behind

 A few weeks ago I wrote about the hypocrisy of current cattle markets and world hunger. Actually it is the hypocrisy of the commodities market and world hunger. Governments and organizations dealing with poverty, along with the media,  are constantly spreading the fear of not being able to produce enough food to feed the world. If all of these governments and organizations (which collectively collect and disperse hundreds of billions of dollars annually to fight the problem) are so dedicated then why were American dairy producers forced to dump forty three millions gallons of milk in the fist ten months of 2016 from "over production?"  Why is it that American produce farmers are forced to take "excess" produce to landfills while supermarkets have the identical produce on their shelves, from other countries? Last (but not least) why are American ranchers receiving less money for their calf crop than they did in 1979 (reportedly from "over production") while we are importing beef from other countries?

These are all fallacies caused by prices being set at the CME without any basis given to the cost of production, and the myth "we'" are in a global economy. If commodity prices would have kept track with inflation, $1.25 calves in 1979 should be $4.16 according to the CPI inflation calculator.  So is there a way to get out from under the CME so ranchers can start receiving a price which reflects the inflation over the last thirty seven years? Yes, in fact some ranchers already are.

Some use organizations like the Grass Fed Network or Homegrown Cow, while others do their own marketing locally, selling directly to the consumer. Others manage to sell their cattle locally at above market prices, with delivery to a local slaughterhouse. Some, such as White Oak Pastures, have gone the extra mile and actually built their own processing plant. However many cattle producers are too far removed from from dense enough populations to market directly to the consumer.

In order to enable all producers to circumvent the CME price fix, the NCBA needs to be abolished, or at the very least, restructured. For those thinking the NCBA is helping cattle producers, and that the beef checkoff program really adds $11 a head to the value of your cattle, why are you receiving less money now than in 1979? In fact, when you allow for inflation, the prices of two weeks ago producers were paid $2.95 a pound less than pre-checkoff prices.

The new organization would require both cattle and feed producers to file their cost of production. Farmers providing feed would be paid on the average cost of production plus a percentage of profits. The formula for cattle producers would need to be a bit more complex. There would be a base price of the average price of production, plus percentage for profit, with the option to retain part, or all of their calves all the way to wholesale, if not retail, and be paid on hide and offal as well.

The new association would need to lobby congress to assure that the packers cannot import beef unless there is an actual shortage of US produced beef.  Furthermore,  the tariff on imported beef would put the packers price on imported beef at a level to be even with beef produced in the USA.

This is just a bare bones proposal which beef producers need to discuss before we go the way of sheep producers...just think of when the last time you saw lamb in a store which wasn't a product of New Zealand.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video Teaser For Stockmanship 101...From Wild To Mild!

We just finished filming for my DV "Stockmanship 101 (rebooting herd instinct in cattle) yesterday. A last minute change in location meant starting out with cattle which were nearly feral. As promised, there was a major change in the behavior of the cattle. This teaser will give you an idea of just how much, as well as possibly give you a chuckle! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hypocrisy Of The Current Cattle Markets And World Hunger

With the latest trend in cattle prices, there is little doubt that our government is in collusion with the mega corporations controlling “world trade.” NCBA, led by packers, convinced our government of the “need” to import fresh beef from Brazil. At the same time the record high prices of the last couple of years have seen an astronomical free fall, to the point many producers are wondering how to survive.

The irony is a mere 21 years ago the NCBA was actually the NCA wasn't inclusive of the packers which make up the “beef” end of the industry. Adding to irony is that JBS, the largest cattle feeding and beef packing company was at the forefront of the drive to allow fresh beef imports from Brazil...Where coincidentally, JBS is also the biggest exporter of beef in the country. Yet another amazingly ironic coincidence, is the Brazilian Real is worth just over $0.31. With Brazilian prices at 1.61 Real, US prices would need to drop to roughly $0.70 to “compete.”

Yet the problem with the cattle and beef industry is not isolated. Governments and the media tell us we are need to increase production of food for a growing population. Government programs and nonprofit organizations spend untold billions of dollars supposedly addressing the problem of malnutrition around the world. The problem is not production, but distribution. American dairy producers have been forced to dump over 43,000,000 gallons of milk this year because of “over production.” Produce farmers in California are forced to dump millions of tons of “excess” produce every year, while Mexico exports millions of tons of the same produce to supermarkets here in the USA (while there population is forced to illegally cross the border into our country in order to survive.)

Part of the problem is that food is considered a “commodity” rather than a necessity. As such, production as well as price depends on arbitrary prices and orders determined by a “market” which in reality has become increasingly irrelevant. It is physically impossible for hunger and excess food to simultaneous exist on a planet where food may be distributed to any part of the world within two days. Yet somehow both are existing side by side as corporations dealing in food commodities profit in the billions while conducting business practices which force the destruction of food, and a reduction in people growing food.

The hypocrisy of economists, governments and organizations around the world,claiming to be fighting hunger in the world, is that their market systems and agriculture policies result in the destruction of food rather than the distribution to those in need. Their policies cater to a few mega corporations rather than the survival of the individual farmers growing the food. In my next post I will address how the cattle industry (at least in the USA) we may be able to at least partially circumvent the markets.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Holistic/Regenerative Grazing to Become a Requirement on Federal Grazing Leases?

A bill introduced into Congress last spring.   shows  that holistic or other regenerative grazing methods may be required before long as a condition to graze federal permits. As everyone "knows" this is going to mean a lot of what I call "recreational fencing." The reason I call it that is because the fencing isn't really necessary to control where and when cattle graze. Actually leaving  one or more herders in the cattle isn't necessary either. 

While call cattle herd animals we also think it is natural cattle instinct for them to graze apart. One of the unorthodox beliefs of those who claim the vast herd of bison, as well as the vast herds of grazing wildlife in Africa, is that these herds are controlled by predators.  There are the same amount of predators at anytime of the year, so if predators were actually the control mechanism for herds to come together into the mega herds, they would be together year round. Instead they come together in times of plentiful feed and water ("mysteriously" coinciding with breeding season) and break apart in times of less feed and water.  Basically these animals come together in times when competitive stress for feed and water is nonexistent, and break into smaller groups when they are forced to competing for feed and water.

Basically cattle are no different. Once you remove handling stress, and they do not have to compete for water, they will come together just as the wild herds do.  By instilling this behavior in cattle it is possible to follow complex grazing plans in nearly any sort of terrain by simply taking them off of water each day (when they are ready to go back out to graze) and setting them on the path you wish them to follow. This not only eliminates the need for multiple small pastures, it also eliminates the one thing which causes poor animal performance in these systems, which is estimating the feed for a day, and using temporary fencing to hold them there.  There will be times when you may need to change their grazing paths daily, and other times you may be able to let them go for several days. In riparian areas, you need to pick them up as they come to water and change where they will water, then when they are ready to go graze, send them on a new grazing path. Their proximity to each other will be as close together, or as far apart as forage dictates. The better the forage, the closer together they will be.

 This short video will give you an idea of how much cattle behavior can change in as little as five days. While watching this, notice the mountains in the background. By using the effects of herd behavior, this rancher managed to graze these  mountains at a high density the following winter, which resulted in the regeneration of two cool season grasses which were thought to be extinct in the area. Over the past ten years he has also reduced his grazing requirements from 90 acres per cow (with supplemental feeding for 5 months and weaning calves at 4 months) to only 25 acres per cow, eliminating all supplement but sea salt, and keeping his calves until they are 10 months old.
Between now and the 10th of October I will be producing a professionally filmed and edited, drone based video to show how the process of rebooting herd instinct is accomplished. I will describe the various techniques to turn cattle with indirect pressure to reduce stress on the cattle,  then demonstrate each one several times, with the drone following at an angle where you may see the exact angles being used, as well as the animal's behavioral response. The drone will then follow me through the process of rebooting herd instinct into 300 head of yearlings so you can track the behavioral changes in the herd throughout the process.

In order to raise the funds for production, I have set up a gofund account to take pre release orders on this video. At the current time, all contributions to this fund of $30 and over will receive a copy of the dvd as soon as editing and captioning are finished. To get your copy now, follow the link below.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Over Halfway to Goal for Drone Based Stockmanship Video!

We are just over half way to the $7,000 goal to produce the professionally filmed and edited, drone based stockmanship video! This will be the first stockmansip video of its kind. Techniques will be described, then demonstrated several times, filmed by the drone at an angle viewers will be able to actually see exactly what the stockman is doing, as well as how the cattle react, with no distractions. Once the techniques have been covered, the drone will follow me through the process of rebooting herd instinct into 300 yearlings so that viewers may observe both the techniques as well as the stages of behavioral changes the cattle go through. Once herd instinct has been rebooted, they can be taken through grazing plans without breaking pastures into small paddocks.

The picture below was taken the second night of a recent school in Mexico. To make your pre release order, click here. There are several sponsor openings available. Sponsors will have their logos and web url in the credits, as well as on the dvd jacket, and will be eligible to receive the dvd's for their own promotions and events at cost plus shipping. If you are interested,  leave me a comment or contact me on facebook.