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!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Flerding Experiment

The Circle Ranch has asked me to develop a multi species herd (called a flerd) out of some of the animals on the ranch.The plan is to create a flerd by combining horses, longhorn cattle, lamas, alpacas and BLM burros. 

The burros have not been handled, so the hardest part will be getting them into the pens. Last Tuesday I managed to get them from the Middle Pasture into a trap next to headquarters. To accomplish this I opened the gate I wanted them to go through and rode to the back of the pasture. As soon as I spotted the burros I stopped and stood there until they started moving away from me, then dropped out of site.  There was a stud horse and two geldings at the gate when the burros reached it. When the stud made a short charge at the burros, I was far enough out that I loped in the same direction as the burros and managed to stop them. After nearly an hour of applying and releasing pressure a single step at a time, the burros left and the horses followed them through the gate. I continued acclimating them to seeing a person horseback for a couple of hours. When I decided they had enough for the day, I released them to walk down a fence. Unfortunately, when they reached the county road (and a cattle guard) the stud horse made another run at them, chasing them across the cattle guard, and following them into the next trap. I waited until things calmed down and removed the stud horse and his compadres to another pasture where they will be out of the way.

In the meantime, the rest of the flerd is beginning to shape up. There are peculiar challenges with this project, mainly with the alpacas and lamas. The males of these two species fight for dominance on a daily basis, which makes it difficult to combine groups of these species with each other, let alone other species. Interestingly enough, it seems that the neutered alpacas and lamas will still fight for dominance. To get around this I have removed the most aggressive males. They still fight, but the fights are a lot shorter.

In order to keep the stress levels as low as possible, I work these animals around a pen, or through several pens. Then I place the animals on feed in a separate pen. I cannot stress stress enough on how much stress is created by calling animals to feed. When we create the "Pavlov's Dog" response in animals the more aggressive animals are always on feed first leaving those lower in the pecking order to fight over what is left. Cattle which are grazing as a herd and acting as a herd will begin eating then scattering out after being fed because of the stress. However, by placing stock on feed this extra stress is removed. As you will see in the video below, the varied species in this flerd are beginning to eat with each other in only six days. This is largely because they are being placed on feed rather than going through the stress of the horses driving the cattle off feed and the cattle driving off the lamas and alpacas.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Low Stress Roping

When most people think of roping, they think of it as it is done in the arena. Run hard, throw a loop and jerk the animal around so another person can rope the heels and stretch an animal out as fast as they can. Cowboys often feel that this is the only, or at least the fastest way to get cattle doctored in the pasture. Just like low stress stockmanship, the original Vaquero style of roping appears to be slow, but is actually faster and more efficient in the long run.

A good example was one ranch I was on where we were having a scours/ pneumonia wreck.  Between two of us, we were doctoring up to 160 calves a day, or 80 to 90 calves apiece everyday. By using the old style big loop style that people consider to be "fancy," I was able to accomplish it without having to change horses at noon everyday. My cattle stayed calm and easy to handle. At the same time the other guy (who constantly cussed me for "packing a clothesline") not only had to change horses everyday at noon, but the cattle he was doctoring on would take off at a trot as soon as he rode into view.

There are several secrets to why big loop roping are low stress.
  1. Variety of available loops. Rather than being limited to either a conventional run them down head or heel loop, a person will have four or five varieties of head and heel loops to fit different scenarios.
  2. This variety of loops, combined with low stress handling methods allows a person to do the vast majority of their roping at a walk or trot. 
  3. Allows ropers to handle cattle without constantly choking them because of the style of hondos used.

As you can see in the picture to the right, this style of hondo will give an animal a chance to breath when the rope is slackened.  While allowing an animal to have slack on the end of the rope may sound strange, in actuality is allows the animal to remain calm. This helps in two ways. If a person is doctoring cattle too large to wrestle to the ground, it allows you to trot a couple of circles around the animal (having them step over the rope with their front feet), basically heeling them so you can pull them over with minimal effort. If two people are doctoring, this allows the heeler to throw their loop and get the animal down for treatment with minimal stress on the cow and minimal effort on their horse. Combined, this method allows you to doctor more cattle on fewer horses while keeping your cattle from getting wild. 

Many people are reluctant to try the big loop style of roping because they are afraid of getting tangled up in the "extra" rope. The best way to learn is to practice on a roping dummy, then rope cattle using a breakaway hondo. If you do something wrong, instead of being tied to a cow, the hondo will release the rope. Once you get to the point of being able to stop your cattle with the breakaway hondo like in the video below, you are ready to start roping for real. Between the variety of loops and distance they can be thrown, you will be able to doctor more cattle in a day, with less effort than you ever thought possible.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cowman Dressage

While "Cowboy Dressage" has turned into an arena event with no cattle, there is a reason behind doing dressage movements when working cattle. Holistic educator and low stress cattle handling clinician Guy Glosson has a saying, "You never get a second chance at a first approach."

While it is easy to make a mistake when approaching a cow to sort it off from the others, the real problem is not in the mistake, but in how we recover from it. In order to make a quick recovery, in a way that keeps the cattle calm. Having a horse that knows a little "Cowman Dressage" can go a long way in adjusting those first approach mistakes.

Handling cattle and riding a horse are two things which consist of a large amount of "intuitive feel." In order to be really good at either one, the more feel you have the better you will be. This feel is something most of us have to work at. We don't realize just how sensitive the the feel between us and the horses we ride can be. For those of us who are working cattle horseback, we often feel we don't have the time to work on it, but the fact is we pass up opportunities to work on our feel and focus nearly every time we get on a horse.

Day one of my clinics focus on developing feel and how to take advantage of our natural surroundings to build dressage movements in our horses. While we are doing this, we are also discussing cattle behavior and when to use different movements. Day two is applying these movements on cattle. These clinics are held in the pasture and limited to eight riders.
For more information on clinic dates, or to host a clinic, visit my main website.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Baxter Black Plays Cowboys And Agritainers

As a veterinarian, rancher and sorry team roper, Baxter Black is a cowboy. As the most popular cowboy poet, he is an agritainer. On Saturday May 30th Baxter will be playing agritainer in Benson Arizona for the first SWRRA winter finals and Crossroads Cowboy Gathering. This event is the only one of its kind, featuring vaquero style, big loop roping in the arena with cowboy singers, poets and storytellers performing on stage at the same time.

This event kicks off with an open jam session on March 28th at the Benson Country Club. Everyone is welcome to attend whether you want to play or just listen. There will be cowboy music and poetry all day on the 29th, followed by another great open jam at the Country club. On the 30th, there will be big loop roping in the arena with agritainers doing their thing onstage, with vendors offering specials on everything from art, to horse tack to massage. Be sure not to miss the Crossroads Title Challenge where cowboy singers and poets will recite their original version of this year's title Under The Rimrock!

The agritainer portion culminates the night of the 30th with the Finals Show and Dance. The top five poets, and top five performers will give a final set, followed by Baxter Black, then an old fashioned cowboy dance under the stars. All proceeds from this activity are being donated to the Benson FFA (Future Farmers of America) club.

Activities kick off again on the 31st with Cowboy Church, followed by another day of big loop roping. For more information on activities and schedule visit www.txcg.org, then come on down to Benson and play cowboys and agritainers...After all, ranch roping and cowboy music and poetry go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Supporting Kids In Agriculture!

   As the agriculture gets older, we are having fewer and fewer young people wanting to make a career out of farming and ranching. This means it is up to the old codgers to do what we can to help those few kids interested in an agricultural career to do what we can to help them out.

    One way we can do this is by holding and sponsoring events which support youth in agriculture. On Saturday, March 30th just such an event will be taking place. The SWRRA winter series finals, and Crossroads Cowboy Gathering will have the Crossroads Finals Show and Dance with all proceeds going straight to the Benson, Arizona FFA. Setting an example for the rest of us involved in agriculture, Baxter Black will be donating his time to perform during this event. The community of Benson has shown great support for this event as well. Even the agritainers coming to this event are supporting Benson's kids in agriculture by donating their time to provide music for the dance.

For more information on this event, visit our web page. If you can't make it, and would like to support the agritainers donating their time, you can buy their cd's on the Crossroads Agritainer's Sales Page. We need to remember that the children are not our future, but what we do now, contributes to theirs!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Correction On "Do Bigger Calves Make More Money"

Even though it does not change the fact that 500 pound calves can make you more money overall than 700 pound calves, I have to admit to making a mistake. Rather than 500 pound calves being worth more than the 700 pound calves, the 700 pound calves were actually worth $80 more. (Which should teach me to use a calculator after midnight).

So how do you make more money with the 500 pound calves? A 1250 pound cow consumes 16.5 pounds more feed per day than a 700 pound cow. This comes to 495 pounds a month more hay or 2,475 pounds over the course of a five month winter feeding season. Even if you put up your own hay and can do so for only $100 a ton, the $80 market advantage just dropped by over $100, resulting in the 500 pound calves earning you $20 more per head, or $2,000 more per 100 calves (plus the additional 78 cows you could be running.)

The difference in consumption between the 1,250 pound cow and the 700 pound cow will also allow you to run 178 of the lighter cows for every 100 of those bigger cows on the same amount of forage and hay.

There have been people who commented that a 700 pound cow can't raise a 500 pound calf. In the 1970's and early 80's there were people doing just that by running smaller framed crossbred cows and taking advantage of hybrid vigor. Around the mid 80's feeders and packers were wanting bigger framed cows, and moderate framed cows fell by the wayside. By the early 90's previously moderately framed cattle such as Red Angus cows were weighing in at 1,800 pounds. Everyone jumped on the “bigger calves” bandwagon without thinking of the extra money it costs to raise those bigger calves.

Basically it boils down to an income of $101,500 on 100 of those 700 pound calves or $166,430 on 178 of those 500 pound calves with the same feed base. During times of drought, the extra money made by being able to run more of the lighter cattle could be the difference between selling out, or keeping the ranch.  

For information on my services, visit NaturalCattle Handling.com   If you would enjoy a laugh or two, take a look at my cowboy humor and cookbooks at the 2lazy4U Livestock & Literary Co.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Bigger is More Profitable Myth

There is a commonly held opinion within the cattle industry that ranchers need to raise bigger calves to be profitable. Is this opinion fact, or is it a myth?

When I checked the market prices at Amarillo, Texas tonight, 700 pound steers were bringing $145 cwt while 500 pound steers were bringing $187 cwt. This meant (that at least on this day) a 500 pound steer was actually worth $65 more than a 700 pound steer. In reality, that 700 pound steer is costing you more than the $65 difference in market price per head.
The average amount of feed to maintain a cow (depending on whether or not she is lactating, and what trimester of pregnancy she is in) will ranch from 2.5% to 3.5% of her body weight. For the purpose of keeping the numbers round, I am going to use an even 3%.

A 1,250 pound cow will have a daily feed requirement (1250 X 0.03) of 37.5 pounds of feed. This comes out to 13350 pounds of feed per year to raise that 700 pound calf.

A 700 pound cow will have a daily feed requirement (700 X 0.03) of 21 pounds a day, which comes out to 7665 pounds of feed per year.

By dividing the difference in the amount of feed needed to maintain the 1,250 cow by the amount needed to maintain the 700 pound cow, we find that you can actually run 1.78 of the 700 pound cows on the same amount of forage as it takes to run one 1,250 pound cow. This equates to running 178 cows raising 500 pound calves on the same amount of forage as it takes to run 100 of those soggy 700 pound calves. So just how much more money can your ranch bring in with the more moderately framed cows?

Based on the above market prices, you will make $6,500 more per 100 calves on those 500 pound calves. However when you add the additional 78 calves you would raise, this adds another $72,930 which brings the total to $79,430. When you take into account the extra vaccines and wormers you will need, the total will drop a little, but you would still be putting more than $70,000 a year into your bank account on the same amount of feed and forage.

For information on my services, visit NaturalCattle Handling.com If you would enjoy a laugh or two, take a look at my cowboy humor and cookbooks at the 2lazy4U Livestock & Literary Co.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Observe, Ask and Analyze

Much of what we assume we know is a result of how much we think (or don't think) about what we experience. All of what we do with livestock is based on what our past experiences have been. Until we change how we observe and think about why animals react to us the way we do, we cannot make any meaningful changes in how we do things.

Some reactions to my last post, http://cowherdmanagement.blogspot.com/2013/01/if-bison-chased-horses-cattle-chased.html are perfect examples. Several of them were up in arms. They threw out examples of individual bison leaving a herd to chase horses and even one which apparently broke into a pen to gore some horses. It would not be reasonable to assume the entire human race violent based on Charles Manson, Hitler and Stalin, so why do we do it with the animals we handle?

It doesn't matter if we are working with bison, elk, horse or (insert breed) of cattle, other than a few individuals, their overall temperament and behavior relies heavily upon how frequently and what methods are used in handling them. The problem lies in the fact that when an animal does something we don't like (such as charging a horse) people tend to look at the behavior as an independent action rather than as a reaction to what we have done. In our eyes we may have not done anything to warrant that (re) action. However we need to take into account how the animal(s) have been handled in the past that has instilled these behaviors into them. I've run across people who own ranches (as opposed to ranchers) who refuse to work cattle with horses because “horses make cattle wild” or that horses are “too unpredictable and hard to handle.” The simple fact is, as stockmen and horsemen, we need to not simply acknowledge that an animal or group of animals is unruly or mean. We need to observe when they are reacting in negative ways and be introspective as to our actions immediately prior to the negative behavior. In order to modify the behavior of our livestock, we must first observe and recognize their behavior to the point we recognize the negative behavior before it actually happens.

This philosophy of observing and analyzing goes far beyond just improving the behavior of our livestock. All too often the deterioration of our pastures is not noticed until it is a borderline disaster. We need to continually observe, and think about our observations.

The pasture I am in now appears to have healthy grass from a distance. However there are large areas that upon close observation have large amounts grass at the base which are gray and matted. This makes me ask myself which would be more beneficial; taking only a third of the grass as planned, or taking more grass while breaking up more of the dead plants?

Another observation I have made concerns water availability and predators. There is a theory that having more water points makes it harder on predators than having just a few “ambush” points. What I have observed is that there are more coyotes in the pastures which have a higher number of water points. Now that the observation has been made, we need to ask a question and analyze it. The question is “does fewer water points help predators by reducing ambush points, or does having more water points simply support more packs of coyotes?”

For our ranching operations to be as successful as possible, we need to observe, ask and analyze instead of simply reacting without analyzing.

For more on my services visit Migratorygrazing.com. If you like humor, be sure to check out my humor and cookbooks at 2lazy4U Livestock & Literary Co.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

If Bison Chased Horses & Cattle Chased Rabbits

Why are equines the only grazing animal which seemingly enjoys chasing and dominating other grazing animals? This is a question which has baffled me for years (actually decades) yet it is an important aspect of animal behavior that people seem to miss. I bring this up because of a recent discussion on bison.
I know there are a lot of people out there who are going to counter with “My bison charge anyone on horseback,” but the simple fact is, they aren't. If they were, cutting horse trainers would not risk using bison to tune up show horses worth tens, if not hundreds of thousand of dollars. So why does a herd of bison “charge” people who are horseback? Curiosity.

When confronted with something new, grazing animals are generally either afraid or curious. If they are afraid, they will watch cautiously or flee. If they are curious they will go see what it is. If one or two of a group of grazing animals get curious about something and start running towards it, the whole herd will follow.

In the case of a horseman being “charged” by a bison herd, it is a case of a few of the animals being curious enough about something to run over to check it. The rest of the herd follows. The first thing that pops into the rider's mind is panic, which transfers immediately to the horse. Horse and rider vacate the premises with the bison following trying to see what the heck that strange thing is.

Cattle will do the same thing. A person walking across a field full of yearling heifers who are not used to seeing a person afoot, will come stampeding right up to the person and if the person runs, they will keep following. If the person stops, so do the heifers, but they may come close enough to them to sniff them.
Once I had a steer in a little group of five hundred that was insanely curious about rabbits. One morning all five hundred were running around the pivot, as a herd. I could see noting they were chasing so I rode to that pivot to check it out. When I got there they were all stopped in a big circle. When I got to the middle, the one steer was standing on a jack rabbit's leg while he was licking it. Other than standing on a leg to pin it down the steer was not doing anything aggressive towards the rabbit. On the contrary, he was grooming it!
This was not a one time affair with this steer. In the several months I had this group of cattle, I had to move them back and forth across some desert ground to some remote pivots. This steer was naturally in the lead, and whenever a rabbit jumped up in front of him, he'd take off chasing the rabbit.

There is a similarity between the rabbits being chased by that steer, and riders being chased by bison. Instead of thinking about what was really going on, they both ran like heck to get out of the way. All the bison are wanting to do is check you out, and all that steer was wanting to do was give the rabbit a bath.
The point to all of this is that bison can be worked horseback. You have to put some thought into it and acclimate them first. After all, if bison choused horses, Indians would have ridden bison and lived in horse hide teepee. 

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Value of Holistic Herding

Many people look at what I am doing with holistic herding don't see the value. The first misconception that most people have is that, on their ranch, it would be impossible to do. The owners of the cattle I am currently herding once thought that as well. I first presented the idea of combining their cattle into one herd five and keep them moving years ago. Their reaction was "It is impossible to do" in this area. Now that they have been forced by drought (less than 10 inches total over three years) to lease pasture and have their cattle herded on the Circle Ranch  they are totally sold on the idea.

The benefits of holistic herding are:
  1. You know where your cattle are 
  2. You know what the condition of your cattle are
  3. You can gather your cattle in one day, without hiring day help
  4. Cattle actually do better in a herd situations than in small groups
  5. Take advantage of grazing areas cattle don't normally graze
  6. Concentrating the cattle and moving them concentrates manure and herd effect, which in turn helps build soil and increases both the amount and diversity of forage while improving hydrology of the land
  7. By increasing forage and areas you can graze increases your ability to either run more cattle or lease grass for yearlings.
  8. Reduces the amount of infrastructure to maintain in order to keep the cattle watered
  9. Reduces overall fuel, maintenance and labor costs.
  10. Reduces the amount of water needed

 Numbers eight and nine are hard for people to wrap their minds their minds around. Using the Circle ranch as an example, this is easy to explain. There are an average of five water points per pasture. In a herding situation, it is possible (and preferable) to water the herd at a single water point. By placing a single water point with covered storage in each pasture the Circle ranch would reduce the amount of driving to check water by as much as 80% (The costs implementing this could be offset by selling your now defunct drinkers)

How can it reduce the amount of water you need? A five foot diameter drinker has an annual evaporation rate of 750 gallons per drinker meaning that each of the pastures would require 3,000 less water per year or 51,000 gallons less water for the whole year (not counting the 1,000,000 lost in evaporation in the existing uncovered storage tanks ). How much would this reduce your ranch's electric and fuel bills in a year?

Once a person get past the excuse of not being able to herd holistically, there is no reason not to do it.

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