On April 24-26th, participants of HMI’s Drought Mitigation Series in Texas met at Kerr Wildlife Management to spend 3 days learning about grazing planning to improve productivity of land even in drought. This portion of the series was taught by Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist and long-time Holistic Management practitioner and rancher, Walt Davis. Participants had a lot of time both in the classroom and out on the land to learn about key grazing strategies and implementation as well as work on their own holistic grazing plan.
Walt Davis shared his knowledge about ranching and participants learned that raising animals is not a system or a program. He said, “It’s applied logic” and that plant diversity in our pastures is key. He talked about the stocking rate, which is the number of pounds of animals you stock per unit of grazing land for the grazing season. He also noted that if the stocking rate is wrong, nothing else works and it will significantly compromise an operation that is facing drought.
Walt also noted that the recovery period for pastures is equally important to stocking rates. If you keep cattle in a pasture too long, they may graze the grass too short, damaging the roots so the plant recovery will take longer. We actually grow more, by leaving more. He said if we get in the habit of two-day grazing periods, we will greatly reduce horn flies and the recovery of forage will be quicker. If cattle stay in a pasture and eat grass down to two to four inches, they may have parasite problems because parasites will crawl up high enough on the short grass for the cattle to ingest them. He shared that the longer animals grazed a pasture, the poorer the animal performance. High stock density grazing can increase land resilience with proper recovery.
Walt went on to discuss factors that increase profitability. He mentioned that we need to use Enterprise Analysis and pay close attention to risk to our potential profit. In his opinion if you are not making a 50% profit in an enterprise, don’t do it. Be sure that your enterprise fits your resource base. The best genetics are those that work under your management. These production strategies and management decisions are what make a difference for a ranch to survive challenging times, including drought.
Thanks to the Dixon Water Foundation and the Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation for their support of this program.
Here is what participants had to say:
I learned how to do the grazing plan & the plane of nutrition and how to keep good animal performance with grazing.
I learned how to balance expenditures, and the best cow types for grassfed beef.
I intend to begin measuring soil organic matter to show/monitor improvement of water holding capacity.
I intend to begin measuring soil organic matter, but usually though looking at litter, degree of decay and surface/subsurface life.
I know from past experiences which soil test it is too low – now I know how to improve.
I intend to break my large pasture into paddocks and manage each individually.
I intend to have a more thorough grazing plan ready so we can estimate and predict our pasture usage.
I learned that the quality of the grazing material needs to be utilized in optimum relation to the stock needs – protein, life/stage.
|Outcome||% of participants|
|Are you more confident in your ability to assess forage volume for grazing planning as a result of this course?||64%|
|Are you more confident in your ability to complete a grazing plan as a result of this course?||91%|
|Are you more confident in your ability to monitor ecosystem health on your farm as a result of this course?||100%|
|Do you intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event?||100%|
|Do you intend to create a grazing plan for your livestock as a result of this workshop?||100%|
|Do you intend to begin measuring soil organic matter as a result of this training?||100%|
|Increased knowledge of the difference between a growing season plan and a non-growing season plan||100%|
|Increased knowledge of the relationship of planned grazing to increased water storage in the soil||82%|