It was a beautiful August 4th for HMI’s Open Gate at the Ranney Ranch. 47 participants, who influenced 280,289 acres, were engaged throughout the day as presenters and participants talked about their experiences of improving land health through better grazing planning and other ranch management practices. These practices are critical to deal with the tough challenges of drought and changing markets. The focus was on improved management of resources and increasing profitability through better marketing and developing effective infrastructure to serve multiple needs including wildlife habitat that provides important ecosystem services as well as serving as viable enterprises.
The day began with Ann Adams, HMI Executive Director, welcoming everyone and introducing Ranney Ranch owner, Nancy Ranney, and ranch manager, Melvin Johnson. They explained how they have been using holistic planned grazing and other practices to improve land health (resulting in a 25% increase in soil organic carbon) as well as help contribute to the gross income of the ranch.
From there, we went out on a ranch tour with the first stop being a new stock conversion project that was funded by NRCS. Dan Taylor, of Bat Conservation International, had helped with the construction and explained how the project was done to not only improve water infrastructure for the cattle but also provide water for wildlife. In particular he shared that bats provide $3.4 billion in pest control in US/year. He also mentioned if you provide a 10’ minimum stretch of water to safely access the water then 45% of bat population can utilize that water. Most bats have a 2-mile radius so they need water every night. When large ranches provide these kinds of stock tanks it can dramatically help the bat population.
John Hartung, from the NM NRCS, also explained the various NRCS programs for supporting producers in developing infrastructure that improved grazing management and wildlife habitat. As he noted, ranchers are in the grass business not the cattle business so the focus on improved land health is critical for sustainable, resilient landscapes.
At the same stop we talked about how to perform a forage assessment for both monitoring purposes but also to help determine forage inventory to plan grazing periods and stocking rates. Dr. Nick Ashcroft, New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension Range Management Specialist, and Leigh Ann Marez, NMSU Extension Educator, led this portion of the program and people had an opportunity to look at some of the easy tools and processes used for this type of monitoring.
After one more quick stop to see an area that had been thinned which resulted in more grass production and greater carbon sequestration, participants headed back to ranch headquarters to eat a great lunch which included Ranney Ranch grassfed hamburgers.
After lunch the focus was on exploring more about how the Ranney Ranch decided what infrastructure development to take on in a given year based on both the grazing plan and the financial plan. The focus of this discussion was how to maximize profit or government programs to invest in good years to help the ranch cash flow in leaner years or to build resilience for drought.
The next portion of the program was how to improve profitability from effective marketing. Joseph Ranney, Manager of Online Beef Sales for Ranney Ranch, shared what the ranch’s beef sale program was like and answered questions from the audience about pricing and promotion.
Laurie Bower, Executive Director of Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, talked about how to use the Holistic Management decision making process to help address the challenges of direct marketing . She talked about how people really needed to look at whether different marketing and production options will work on their specific ranches and in their communities.
Beth Spitler, Farmer and Market Outreach Coordinator of Animal Welfare Approved, shared with participants the importance of good labeling to help consumers get the products they want amidst a confusing array of offers and what terms like grassfed or natural or grass finished mean.
The last portion of the program focused on government programs that are available to producers. Kenny Walker from the NM Association of Conservation Districts and Stewart Liley of the NM Fish and Game talked about the programs their organizations are involved in and the effect this money has had in improving management practices by investing in key infrastructure.
Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation for funding this program. Thanks also to our sponsors: Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Claunch-Pinto SWCD, Carrizozo SWCD, NM Fish & Game, NMSU Extension, NM NRCS, NM Association of Conservation Districts, Animal Welfare Approved, Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, and Bat Conservation International. Special thanks to the Ranney family and the Ranney Ranch staff for making this Open Gate day a success.
Here’s what the participants had to say:
“Programs like this one boost my confidence level and give me important network contacts.”
“I gathered several ideas on infrastructure projects.”
“Needed a longer time frame. So much good resource information needs more time.”
“This event had good balance. As always we like as much discussion out on the land.”
“Very enjoyable – well organized.”
“Very welcoming and upbeat – good emphasis on cooperative management.”
“It was very informal. I really liked it.”
“Great organization & interest from participants.”
“Great people & great learning experience.”
“Great example of innovative livestock and grassland management.”
“Well organized, great networking.”
“HMI did another first class selection of location, speaker, and keeping it moving.”
“Excellent. A day well spent.”
“A great education providing useful tools.”
|Overall Satisfaction of this event (Rated good to excellent):||100%|
|Overall Satisfaction with the facilitator and presenters:||100%|
|Would recommend this event to others?||100%|
|Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available:||96%|
|Have intent to complete or modify your grazing planning as a result of today’s event:||71%|
|Do you intend to explore government programs as a result of today’s event?:||81%|
|How to improve ranch profitability through marketing||81%|
|Have intent to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned at this event:||80%|
Here’s what the evaluations showed: