In spite of some severe thunderstorms moving across Central Texas and Spring Creek Ranch in the early morning hours of May 10th, 54 participants showed up at HMI’s Open Gate Ranch Day to learn about effective grazing management practices that mitigate drought.
HMI Certified Educator, Peggy Sechrist facilitated this ranch day, hosted by Steve Lewis of Spring Creek Ranch, which involved many opportunities for small group exercises and peer-to-peer learning focusing on riparian and upland monitoring as well as discussions on the challenges of grazing different species. Many participants were new to Holistic Management so it was helpful for them to hear the experiences of producers who have seen the benefits of holistic planned grazing to help improve land health Points most discussed during the day included a) managing for recovery times, b) biological monitoring and soil organic matter, c) the impact of bare ground, d) matching animals to available forage, e) soil biology (more on creating a soil sponge), and f) plant species as indicators.
Presentations by Dr. Richard Teague of Texas A&M and rangeland consultant Steve Nelle were well-received by participants who then contributed to a robust Q&A. Dr. Teague’s research on how holistic grazing planning mitigates drought reinforced other producers’ stories including Peggy Sechrist’s stories of grazing and animal impact as tools to build soil organic matter.
Steve Nelle’s presentation on riparian management in the context of grazing management, helped everyone learn something new. For example, participants learned that upland forage species growing in the riparian zone do not provide the degree of soil stability necessary for long-term riparian health. Discussion around this fact was particularly stimulating.
Thanks to our host for the day, Steve Lewis, owner of Spring Creek Ranch. Thanks also to our funders and sponsors, the Dixon Water Foundation and Sustainable Growth, Texas for their help making this event possible. Collaborators for this event were Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Cibolo Nature Center, Natural Resource Conservation Services, Texas A&M, Riparian Network, and Texas Riparian Association. Finally, thanks to our volunteers, Ben Eldredge of Cibolo Nature Center and Tracy Litle for their help during the event.
Evaluations of the program show that 100% of the participants were satisfied with the program. 95% of participants experienced some knowledge change with an average of a 46% increase in knowledge change. Participants manage over 53,000 acres which will now be managed differently as a result of this program.
|Knowledge, Attitude, and Intended Behavior Changes Due to Program||% of Participants|
|Would recommend this program to others||97%|
|Intend to change management practices||70%|
|Increased confidence in ability to create drought plan||65%|
|Increased confidence in ability to monitor and/or analyze ecosystem health||61%|
|Increased confidence in ability to improve riparian health||60%|
Participant Response to Program
|“This program was excellent! I want more! Loved the conversation.”|
|“I was extremely impressed by the quality of this event.”|
|“This is a useful program for getting people to think about different strategies.”|
|“Great topics and speakers!”|
|“Great program. Extremely informative and well-coordinated. Great job and thank you!”|