Program Manager Peggy Cole filed this report about our most recent Open Gate near Snyder, Texas.
Strong breezes mitigated the hot west Texas sun as the Mesquite Grove Ranch Day got under way August 22nd. After a brief history of his family’s generations on the ranch by owner Buddy Baldridge, the 30 participants loaded into pickups for some on-the-land learning.
First stop was the edge of a 200-yard-wide mesquite grove. Dr. Kelly Reyna, our wildlife expert, and Dr. Richard Teague, our rangeland expert, guided the group to look at the diversity of vegetation outside the grove versus inside the grove with an eye to wildlife habitat as well as cattle needs. While the shade was useful in keeping the soil cooler and left plenty of navigable space for quail and cover for quail and deer, the biodiversity of plant species was far higher outside the grove. The conclusion is that both in concert contribute to good habitat. The opportunity for more covered soil in terms of litter was greater outside the grove, so decreasing the size of each grove would provide more grazing, while providing good corridors of shade and cover.
Ranch Manager and Holistic Management Certified Educator Guy Glosson taught the group how to estimate ADA’s (Animal Days per Acre)—the size area each cow would need to eat each day in order to stay full and the group worked together to learn the process. For more information about how to do that calculation and Holistic Grazing Planning check out our free downloads.
Guy says always know you are guessing and are likely to be wrong. It is far better to err on the side of a low stocking rate, especially in drought. You are training your eye to estimate forage. Check yourself by seeing how the forage looks in that paddock well before your planned move. Be prepared to change your grazing plan or destock a bit if you under-estimated the ADA’s. The day you take the animals out of that paddock you will know the exact number of ADA’s and compare that to your original estimate.
The second stop was an area where the groves of mesquite had been sculpted back and the grassland was thriving, in spite of only 5 inches of rain in 2014. Dr. Teague introduced us to a simple biological monitoring system designed by Holistic Management Certified Educator Kirk Gadzia.
We divided into small groups and assessed the ecosystem function on these simple forms. Dr. Kelly Reyna has adapted this format into a quail habitat assessment tool. We took these forms out into the field in small groups to assess the quality of quail habitat on this location. All groups came together for a large group discussion on our findings. Kelly pointed out to always plan ahead for saving some of the big bunch grasses every year for quail nesting and cover.
Another stop was an area of thick shinnery. We did ADA’s here and saw that even though it took more space for each cow, the forage was good and the quail habitat excellent. There were plenty of taller shinnery motts for deer cover as well. At the water center of a wagon wheel, we noticed the dung beetles had removed every bit of manure and the cattle looked fat and healthy.
“Excellent-extremely informational and well organized.”
“Like a rare steak-well done”
“A lot of new ideas I was unaware of.”
Thanks to the Dixon Water Foundation for a generous grant supporting this program and to our sponsors, Free Choice Enterprise and Ashmore Insurance and The Natural Resource Conservation Services.Hover over the photos to see the captions.
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Participants are managing over 45,000 acres. The evaluations showed that:
|Would you recommend this event to others?||100%|
|Did you expand your learning network of people and resources||100%|
|Do you intend to change management practices as a result of this training||75%|
|Do you intend to develop or modify biological monitoring of your land as a result of today's event?||75%|
|Increased Knowledge Experienced||% Participants|
|Understanding the principles of holistic management||88%|
|How and why to read (monitor) land||88%|
|The importance of getting the stocking rate right||67%|
|How to estimate forage in Animal Days/Acre||81%|
|Critical monitoring criteria to build biological wealth and mitigate drought||81%|
|The role of biodiversity in managing livestock with wildlife||81%|
|Increased Confidence in Ability to...||% Participants|
|Get your stocking rate right||75%|
|Assess forage needs and availability||69%|
|Analyze (monitor) ecosystem health||63%|
|Improve land health with biodiversity||81%|
|Manage livestock and wildlife together||69%|