The over 50 participants, who came to the Open Gate: JX Ranch Day south of Tucumcari, New Mexico on August 9th, looked around in wonder at all the green growing grass. While the JX Ranch has received 9 inches of rain this year, the amount of grass in this area that has struggled with drought since 2011 was very impressive.
After HMI’s Interim CEO Ann Adams opened up the event with orienting everyone to the agenda for the day, Tom Sidwell explained how they have been able to survive the drought by the practice of Holistic Management, effectively investing in infrastructure development, and improving the marketing of their animals. In particular, since 2004 the JX Ranch has put in 38,400 feet of pipeline, 11.5 miles of fence, new corrals, 12 livestock drinkers, 4 solar pumps and panels, 2 new wells, and 7 storage tanks (80,000 gallons total) , as well as clearing 1800 acres of mesquite and juniper. They have found willing partners in the NRCS (EQIP money) and the National Wild Turkey Federation to reduce the cost of these investments.
The results? Prior to the drought, the Sidwells increased their stocking rate by 40% and after destocking deeply during the drought, they still have a 25% increase in stocking rate as compared to what they were running in 2004. Due to tree clearing, their house well has increased by 500%, even through the drought.
The increased range productivity was evident to all participants as we broke into small groups to practice forage inventorying and discuss grazing practices and how much to have animals graze and why. Group participants shared their experience then we headed back to the ranch house for a great lunch from Jimmy Watson’s Barbeque. At the end of lunch Susann Mikkelson of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union explained to participants the value of cooperatives and the assistance that RMFU can provide to producers.
In the afternoon we continued stepping through the grazing calculations before Scott Lerich of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Tish McDaniel of the Nature Conservancy, Jake Swofford of Quails Forever, and Amy Erickson talked about how good ranch practices can improve wildlife habitat as well as livestock forage. We discussed how wildlife can be an additional enterprise for some ranches. We then went out to the field again to do some on the ground biological monitoring and talking about indicators of soil and wildlife habitat health. The small group discussions were lively again with lots of information shared.
We ended the day with a discussion on profitable marketing. Laurie Bower of the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance talked about how SWGLA assists grassfed producers, then Mimi Sidwell talked about how she grew her grassfed customer base and how they maintained it during the drought. Lastly, Jack and Tuda Crews talked about the New Mexico Beef program they are involved in and how they are able to get the premiums they want from that program.
Participants managed over 240,000 acres and were influenced the following ways by this event.
“Very educational! Great balance of hand on/lecture.”
“Very nicely put together. I really enjoyed the out in the field trips and looking at all the ground cover.”
“I liked how open the environment was.”
“Great networking event. Good to look at some pasture.”
Slide Show(hover over the photo to see the caption)
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|Would you recommend this event to others?||100%|
|Did you expand your learning network of people and resources||100%|
|Do you intend to complete a biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event?||100%|
|Do you intend to develop or modify a grazing plan as a result of today's event?||89%|
|Increased Knowledge Experienced||% Participants|
|On how to determine land health||64%|
|On how to improve ranch profitability||62%|
|Of the value of grazing planning for drought mitigation||59%|
|On determining plant recovery||55%|
|On grazing strategies to survive drought||50%|
|Increased Confidence in Ability to...||% Participants|
|Determine land health||83%|
|Determine appropriate grazing strategies||83%|
|Determine plant recovery||75%|
|Create a grazing plan||71%|
|Monitor ecosystem health||71%|
|Determine appropriate infrastructure development||71%|
|Analyze ecosystem health||67%|
Thanks to Tom and Mimi Sidwell for opening the JX Ranch gate to all our participants. Thanks also to the Thornburg Foundation for their support of this event and to our sponsors, Southwest Quay SWCD, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Canadian River SWCD
Be sure to check out the Open Gate page for a complete listing of learning days scheduled this year.