Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Using The Unseen Potential

Even when people believe they could change how they graze to regenerate their pastures, they believe that costs to make the changes in water infrastructure are insurmountable. Often this can be overcome in part by simple modifications.

 Many operations can simply consolidate their current water points to be able to run their cattle as one herd. (Santa Maria Cattle Company, out of Chihuahua City, Mexico has one 4,000 acre pasture they have been regenerating grass with only one water point, and one division fence.) In instances where there are two or more water points across the fence from each other, simply incorporating them into a single water lot will increase the number of cattle that can be run in a single group. 

 Another thing which goes unseen is the amount of feed which cattle ignore. There are many plants which our fathers or grandfathers depended on for winter forage which (thanks to generations of purchased supplements) that (most of) our cattle ignore them and we don't recognize them. Amazingly, in most cases (thanks to desertification of grass) these plants are more prolific now than they were back when our grandfathers depended on them. The following two pictures are looked at as unproductive by this ranch,  yet it is an opportunity waiting to be utilized.

The cattle in this picture were ones missed in the gather because they were buried in the brush in the top picture, rather than out in sparse grass like the rest of the cattle in this pasture were doing.
The piece of brush this cow is eating is one of four different kinds of brush they were eating. Doesn't look like much, but judging by the condition of the cattle, it must be pretty good feed...which is being all but ignored by most of the cattle and rancher alike.

These three things combined, being chronically overstocked, ability to combine water points to run cattle in a single group, and ignored forage plants add up to the potential to not only begin a regenerative grazing program with little expense, but to do it at an accelerated rate.

Rebooting herd instinct in your cattle after combining your water points automatically widens their diet to include the nutritious woody plants and weeds they now ignore in a way which stimulates soil biology and grass. You are now grazing more forage in each pasture, as well a more acreage in each pasture and able to increase your stocking rates.

At this point, rather than buying cattle, you can increase your cow numbers and accelerate the process by leasing pasture to yearlings. With pasture rates for yearlings running at $20 per head, per month and above, you are left with (after deducting for extra labor and water) you are left with an extra $15,000 a month (or more) for water infrastructure, in addition to  sub-soiling or bale feeding to accelerate the soil and grass regeneration process.  

By changing focus, the unseen potential of your ranch can become more obvious, and regeneration of your soil and forage base becomes a bit more simple.