Friday, July 7, 2017

IMG (Instinctive Migratory Grazing) in the Chihuahuan Desert

Instinctive Migratory Grazing in the Chihuahua Desert

At the turn of the last century, Chihuahua Desert was a lush grassland. Today, as a result of poor grazing practices, the area is extremely dry, desolate, with large tracts of land amounting to no more than bare ground and brush.
Low areas are often so choked with mesquite it may be difficult at best to ride through on a horse, and impassible in a vehicle. It is not uncommon for ranchers in this desolate area to supplement cattle for half the year, while weaning calves at only three or four months of age.

   Ten years ago, the Santa Maria Cattle Company changed to holistic grazing in an attempt to regenerate grass. However the fencing it normally takes for this style of grazing was nearly impossible due to the mesquite choked bottoms and rough, rocky higher country. It just wasn't physically or economically feasible to break their 20,000 acres into more than 80 small paddocks. Four years ago, owner Fernando Falomir attended a school where he learned to reboot herd instinct in his cattle. 
Now he is regenerating grass by utilizing IMG, or Instinctive Migratory Grazing. When turned into a fresh pasture, the cattle migrate around the pasture as a herd. Rather than grazing some areas to the ground, while leaving other areas untouched, the pastures are grazed so that nothing is grazed to less than six inches tall, as in this picture.
During the growing season, this allows for a faster recovery. To truly understand how much this method of grazing affects soil health and regenerates grass, one needs to realize two things about the grass in this picture. First is that only four years ago, this spot was bare ground. The second, and even more astounding thing is that this is volunteer coastal Bermuda, which is greening up in April, despite the fact there has been no rain for seven months. Cattle with their herd instinct rebooted, have another tendency which further speeds up the improvement of soil health. They tend to bed down together, heavily concentrating the urine and manure. This in turn feeds the mycorrhizal fungi,which feeds the plants and other microorganisms needed for healthy soil. 
To accomplish the kind of herd impact in this picture would normally require building temporary electric fence and forcing the cattle into it for the night, which causes stress which effects daily gains. However, with IMG, the cattle naturally bed down in these areas and create the impact voluntarily, improving soil health without the expense,labor, or decreasing the daily gains. In the top portion of this picture you can see where grasses and forbes are in the first stages of transgression.

  Within a few years this area will heal and be like this next picture, regenerated prairie, which was bare ground and creosote brush five years ago.
This transformation took place solely through planned, timed grazing, utilizing the instinctive migratory behavior of cattle, once they have had their herd instinct re-booted. No chemicals were added to kill brush and weeds, or as added fertilizer. The grass grew from the natural seed bank already in the ground. As the dirt turns into healthy soil, and the grass is regenerated, the hydrology of the ground changes. When the ground is bare, and soil dead, half or more of all rainfall runs off, eventually ending up in the ocean, rather then in the ground. A short thunderstorm dropping an inch of rain will lose over 12,000 gallons an acre. When soil health and grasses are restored, the same one inch of rain will be taken into the soil. In turn, this not only allows you to grow more grass with less precipitation, it helps recharge groundwater tables, it can also bring back springs which have been dry for decades.

The family bought this ranch in the late 1800's, and as far as anyone alive today is aware, this has never been more than a seasonal wet spot. Now that the soil is healthy, and the grass is regenerating, it has turned into their “Redneck water park,” and is open year round.

Holistic planned grazing using herd instinct and IMG is allowing this ranch to increase it's carrying capacity, without need the expense of extra fencing and labor. The cattle stay in good condition year round without needing any supplements other than loose mineral and seas salt. 

For more information visit my website, or order a copy of the Stockmanship 101 dvd from Amazon!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Important is "Non-selective Grazing?"

Many of the grazing gurus of the planned grazing methods make a big issue over needing cattle to graze in a non-selective manner. I have to admit, I've done my share to add to the confusion, so now it is time to (try) and clear up the muddy waters.

Much of our feeling that selective grazing is bad is due to the ultra-selectivity used by cattle in a set stock situation. They get so selective that they go back and re-graze individual plants they grazed a couple of weeks earlier, so that those plants never get a chance to fully recover, while they completely ignore plants of the same variety only inches away. As a result, fewer plants are able to reach some semblance of a full recovery.

The cycle starts again the following growing season with those plants which "fully recovered" greening up first, followed by the surviving overgrazed plants, with those which were not grazed greening up last.  These  plants which were not grazed the previous year will very likely go un-grazed again and begin to oxidize and slowly die, a blade or two at a time.  The cycle repeats with plants being either over grazed or under grazed until weeds start appearing as the grass dies off.

While this overly selective grazing is a bad thing, a certain amount of selective grazing is actually necessary. Different grasses and browse plants mature and are ready to be grazed at different times. In our efforts to mimic the wild herds we have forgotten this aspect, as well as the fact that the large wild herds have always come together and fallen apart depending on the time of year, and abundance of feed and water. While high animal density and non-selective grazing is beneficial while grazing irrigated pasture, under range conditions we need to know when to use it, and have the flexibility to to adjust for those times when, nutritionally, the cattle to be highly concentrated or slightly spread out to take advantage of the higher quality forage which may not be highly concentrated, especially on desertified, degenerated rangeland.

A good example would be a pasture which has a large stand of tabosa or alkali sacaton in part of it while other parts of the pasture is made up of a variety of sparse grasses and browse. I order to get optimal nutritional benefit of the tabosa and alkali sacaton, the cattle will need to be highly concentrated. In conditions where there is a large mono culture (or a wide diversity of plants ready to be grazed) we are looking for, and need them to practice non-selective grazing.

In these conditions, if their herd instinct has been rebooted, they will close together in strips. Unlike when they are being forced into non-selective grazing with fences, the cattle will not graze to the ground, but leave half to two thirds of the plant. Leaving half to two thirds of the plants allows for faster recovery of the plants, and overall, more animal grazing days per acre, and a higher average daily gain on cattle.

Conversely,  when the cattle are grazing a minimal pasture it is highly unlikely that one will be able to accurately judge the amount of feed the cattle will receive.  There is a 90%+ probability that cattle being forced into non-selective grazing under these conditions will lose weight instead of gain, even if protein supplements are added.  Rebooting herd instinct and placing cattle to migrate these marginal areas will allow them to select enough of the plants they need to maintain condition while making enough impact to begin regenerating the soil and grass. Even if feed density requires that the cattle migrate through fifty or even a hundred feet apart, it is still more than enough impact to stimulate the microorganisms in the soil and new forage growth.

In nature, the "large herds of herbivores" we are trying to mimic only occur for a short amount of time each year; when there is enough grass and water for the herds to habitat in an ultra high density. The rest of they year they are scattered to fit feed and water availability, while selectively grazing plants with the highest nutritional value. In nature, availability of water will play at least a big of factor in herd size as feed. By providing an adequate water supply year round, we are allowing them to stay closer together, actually creating more positive animal impact to the soil biology than in nature.

By allowing cattle to graze selectively while migrating through pastures during the dormant season, we are actually creating the conditions to regenerate cool season browse and grasses. At the same time, rather than forcing them to graze non-selectively, your cattle come closer to meeting their nutritional requirements, lowering, or even eliminating the need for supplemental feeding.


Determining when you need the cattle to practice non-selective grazing, or spread out and graze selectively is simple once their instinct to act as a herd is rebooted. They will tell you what is needed as they are grazing. All you have to do is place them on their grazing path and they will instinctively do the rest on their own as you migrate them through your grazing plan.









Thursday, May 4, 2017

Instinctive Migratory Grazing (IMG) on the Chihuahua Desert

     Last week I had the privilege to be part of a group visiting the Santa Maria Cattle Company in Chihuahua, Mexico. Owner Fernando Falomir was a student at my first low stress stockmanship school in Mexico, and has been practicing the methods for several years. His description of how they were practicing regenerative ranching on 10,000 acres with only 17 pastures was that the cattle "instinctively migrate around the pasture." His description finally gave me the name for what we accomplish when we reboot herd instinct in cattle. "Instinctive Migratory Grazing," or "IMG" for short. The training video to teach you the basics in achieving this kind of grazing results is available on Amazon.

The following video will show you just how amazing their results are.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Is it really "Just what cows do?"

  "Thats just what cows do."

I first heard those words uttered when I was ten years old, after asking why cattle scatter out to graze, rather than grazing as a group like the sheep and goats did. Fifty three years later I am still hearing those same words repeated ad infinitum.  This phrase is used to describe everything from grazing patterns, to the way cattle handle (or don't handle,) or why cattle don't pair up, to why cattle crawl through fences and why they are so wild.

   This phrase is ignores the fact that these behaviors only apply to the situation the cattle are in, rather than cattle in general. Cattle behavior is directly linked to their environment. Our behavior in handling them is one of the biggest environmental factors to cattle behavior, yet it is also the last one we look at. Also, much of our beliefs on cattle behavior is dependent upon how, when, and the number of groups of cattle we observe.

How...All to often we limit our of observation of cattle to the cursory once over without really thinking about how the cattle are behaving...after all, they are behaving "normally," so why look any deeper? As long as cattle are not walking the pasture, or distributing behavior we deem to be irregular, we don't give it a second thought. If we are not observing and asking ourselves what the motivation is behind what they are doing, we aren't learning why they are doing it.


When...The time of day is going to have something to do with how the cattle are behaving. One observation we seldom make, is how do cattle behave when they are going to water, or back out to graze. Most of us are used to our cows calling to their calves when we start a move, and look at that as a thing that "good cows just do." If we would take the time to observe cattle as they are leaving water on their own, we would see that these same cows seldom call for their calves.

Now, if we change how we are observing the cattle, and combine our two observations, we might ask ourselves why their behavior is different. Hopefully, we will also recognize that the difference in behavior is stress related, and ask ourselves if there is anything we can do differently to alleviate this behavior.

Numbers of groups...I am talking people as well as cattle. If we work with the same cattle constantly, and the same people, or people who work in the same way, it clouds our knowledge. We think of the behavior of cattle as simply "thats what cattle do" and forget that cattle are only reacting directly to what we are doing. When we change our behavior, they will change theirs.

Be sure and visit my website for more information on regenerative grazing, cattle behavior, and stockmanship schools.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cowboys Are "Unskilled Labor?" Think Again!

A lot of people don't think that being a cowboy is a skilled job. Think again...It isn't simply riding around on a horse (in nice weather) playing your guitar and singing cowboy songs. In reality, to be a really good cowboy you have to be at least semi proficient in several areas at once, including (but not limited to)   the following areas:
1) Veterinarian ($60k per year)
2) Horse trainer ($ 700 per month per horse)
3) Farrier ($70 to over $200 per horse shod)
4) Ecologist/range manager (50K and up)
5) Being able to move several hundred cows with no help (when the average person can't handle their 5 year old kid at WalMart)
6) Plumber ($40 an hour)
7) Electrician ($40 an hour)
For books to convince your kid why they shouldn't be a cowboy (or date one) or video on how to be a better cowboy vist the 2lazy4U Livestock & Literary Company!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Contacts For Fire Relief In Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas

Spring and fire season is getting off to a horrendous start. Lives, livestock and houses have been lost. Fire season hasn't really started yet and it has been reported that over 300,000 acres have gone up smoke between the Texas Panhandle, Western Oklahoma and Kansas. These communities are really needing help, so here is a list of places to drop off supplies, hay, food and to make donations.

Texas

Livestock Supply Points

The following livestock supply points are currently receiving and distributing donated feed resources to producers impacted by wildfires. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is not involved in the donation or distribution process. FSA is, however, raising awareness of the supply point locations where resources are available to producers located in counties affected by wildfires.
301 Bull Barn Dr
Pampa, TX 
806-669-8033
202 West Main St
Lipscomb, TX
806-862-4601
 

Texas Department of Agriculture Hay Hotline

TDA's hay hotline helps agricultural producers locate forage and hay supplies for sale. If you need hay or would like to donate hay, visit www.gotexan.org/hayhotlinehome.aspx or call 877-429-1998.

Carcass Disposal

For questions about carcass disposal call the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) at 800-832-8224 or visit their website at www.tceq.texas.gov.

Oklahoma
If you would like to donate to this relief effort, you can do so by mail or online. Make checks payable to Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation and put "Fire Relief" in the memo line and send to P.O. Box 82395, Oklahoma City, OK 73148. To donate online, visit www.okcattlemen.org.
If you would like to donate hay or trucking services for hay, you can do so by contacting either the Harper County Extension Office at 580-735-2252 or Buffalo Feeders at 580-727-5530 to make arrangements or provide trucking services.


Kansas
The command center for coordination of people to receive or give help is Ashland Veterinary Center. Dr. Randall Spare is heading this up. The number for people to call is 620-635-2641. Anybody in the Ashland area that needs help should please call the veterinary clinic. Also, anybody heading to Ashland to help, please call the clinic so we get people to the places of need.
The second center is coordinating hay delivery for cattle. The Neal and Jeff Kay at Ashland Feed and Seed is coordinating this effort and all hay deliveries should go to them at 1975 County Road U, Ashland, Kansas (on the south end of Main Street on the south end of town). The number to call before heading out is 785-273-5115.

Colorado
Donations should be taken to CHS Grainland in Haxtun. A loader and scale are both available, if needed. Contact Rick Unrein 970-520-3565 for more information about dropping off donations. Donations can also be dropped off at Justin Price's farm (11222 CR 7 Sedgwick, CO). For more information, please contact: Kent Kokes 970-580-8108, John Michal 970-522-2330, or Justin Price 970-580-6315.
For more information on how to donate and aid these producers please visit http://coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund/
Checks payable to Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, cash and credit card payments are being accepted at this time. Please note Disaster Fund-CO Wildfire in the memo line on the check. Cash and checks can be sent to:
Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation
Attn: Disaster Fund
9177 E. Mineral Circle
Centennial, CO 80112

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Booking Dates for 2017 Low Stress Stockmanship Schools

     Unlike most other low stress stockmanship schools, these are designed to let the students see, and take part in changing cattle behavior from grazing in small groups, to grazing together as a herd. This means the schools are five days long, At the end of the school, everyone has enough of a grasp on the different ways to start, turn and stop cattle with the least amount of stress possible.  
     
The days begin by saddling up and being in the cattle shortly after sunup and not leaving them until after they have been placed on their afternoon grazing placement. Between discussion, demonstration, doing, observing the attitude, behavioral changes and discussing that, students generally achieve enough understanding to actually start applying it when they go home.

  Because of the intensity of the classes, and the fact we are holding them in the pasture, rather than a smaller more controlled area, class size is limited to ten riders. Experience (in both attending and holding schools) has taught me it isn't a good idea for managers and owners to send employees without attending themselves. Too often cowboys feel they are being forced to learn something which they feel they already know. By management also attending, they are leading by example, which helps their crew want to learn, and allows management to know if the crew is correctly performing the stockmanship changes. 

If you are interested in hosting a school in Mexico, contact Pedro Dominguez on Facebook. For schools in the USA and other countries email me. By inviting other ranches to attend, the overall cost will often be lower than attending a two day school with no hands on experience. For more information on what the methods are, visit my website or order my stockmanship video on Amazon. In the meantime, enjoy the teaser and trailer to the video below to get an idea of what you will learn in the school.

 

                                       

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!