The cloud cover over Piojo Ranch on July 17th kept temperatures unusually comfortable for a summer Open Gate – HMI’s first in New Mexico this year.
Instead of walking alongside a covered wagon as the pioneers did, participants rode atop hay bales on a flatbed down the Old Santa Fe Trail, remnants of which are still seen today in the swales created long ago by the wagon wheels of Westward expansion. The pronghorn antelope herd also entertained participants, especially when a curious youngster ventured closer to investigate the strange new ‘herd” of visitors on “his” land.
From the rocky hilltop overlooking the Mora River valley, Ranch Manager Clint Hoss and Kirk Gadzia, Holistic Management Certified Educator, gave an overview of Piojo Ranch. The 35 attendees, including many with extensive knowledge and experience in soils, plants, and land conservation, teamed up in small groups to monitor the loamy upland area of the ranch. The discussion was rich with learning and sharing as participants evaluated the area using the Bullseye! monitoring method developed by Kirk, observing animal and plant diversity including the horned toad, jackrabbits and cottontails, caterpillars, and a diverse sward of grasses and forbs including: blue grama, galleta, sand muhly, flax, globemallow, side-oats grama, fringed sage, and curly cup gumweed.
Other highlights of the ranch tour included:
A stop to view the pivot and K-line irrigation systems with Clint discussing the different irrigation methods on the ranch and his monitoring process to determine the most effective strategies
- Seeing irrigated pastures that provide lush certified organic forage for grass-finishing cattle, as well as healthy calving grounds for area elk
- A drive near the Mora River to view the lush riparian area that creates a breeding site for the Blue Heron
- A visit to the mostly Red Angus cattle herd, including a discussion about genetics, birth ease, and grazing plans to keep the cattle on prime nutrition through finishing
After lunch presentations included:
- Brenda Simpson, NRCS Rangeland specialist, presented a rainfall simulation demo, highlighting the value of soil biology in enhancing soil health and improving water infiltration
- Dan Bloedel, NRCS Resource Conservationist performed a slake aggregation demo
- Clint displayed his Holistic Planned Grazing charts that show how he is able to manage finishing beef on the highest quality grass year round. This complex process incorporates shifting numbers of cattle, changing weather, irrigation and overseeding, and supplementing with fodder (sprouts) and hay as necessary during the worst of the winter
- Lynn Locatelli, a renowned expert who travels internationally to teach low-stress livestock handling, presented the start (even pre-calving!) to finish methods used at Piojo Ranch to gently manage the cattle herd for optimal performance and product quality
- La Montanita Co-op Operations Manager Bob Tero and Rick Kingsbury from Panorama Meats shared their programs for natural and organic grassfed beef, and how they work with beef producers to provide for market demand of clean, healthy beef
Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation for making this event possible, and to our sponsor, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union as well as other supporters: La Montanita Co-op, NM NRCS, Panorama Meat, and the folks at Piojo Ranch.
Here’s what participants had to say:
“Time well spent with like-minded and great folks.”
“Different perspective. Learned a lot about cattle that I need to know.”
“It was a good introduction to some broad concepts – follow up seminars to expand on information would be excellent.”
“Great overview of grassfed/grassfinish beef and organic. Great demos and natural resources qualitative analysis.”
“Excellent – ranch was amazing, learned about forbs and recognizing different range plants.”
Here are some of the specific results we collected from our post-program evaluations. The 35 participants manage approximately 10,705 acres.
|Overall Satisfaction of this event (Rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Intend to change management practices or apply ideas learned at this event||82%|
|Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available||100%|
|Intend to learn more about Holistic Planned Grazing as a result of today’s event||100%|
|intend to complete biological monitoring on your land as a result of today’s event||73%|
|Expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you||100%|
|Recommend this event to others||100%|