In the fall of 2014, the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory released a video about ranchers in Chihuahua that are improving bird habitat by their grazing management. Two of the ranchers that were highlighted in the film were Alejandro Carrillo and Jesus Almeida – both Holistic Management practitioners. Alejandro lives in El Paso, Texas, but commutes to his ranch – Las Damas, in Chihuahua, Mexico, two weeks a month.
Las Damas ranch was purchased by Raul Carrillo, Alejandro’s father, 25 years ago. Ten years ago, Raul asked Alejandro to take over management of the ranch. Though living in Miami, and working as a software engineer, Alejandro moved to El Paso. While in El Paso, Alejandro decided he needed to invest some time in professional development so he could better manage the ranch.
In 2005, Holistic Management educator, Elco Blanco Madrid, taught a Holistic Management class in Chihuahua City with Holistic Management practitioner Jesus Almeida. The training took place in four different cities in the area. Alejandro attended many of the classes, and realized that Holistic Management was something he wanted to do. “They were talking about wholes, how we needed to consider each and every part of the ranch,” says Alejandro, realizing that they needed to look at the ranch, soil, family, neighbors, and employees – not just the cattle. “We need to mimic what nature does, not fight nature,” says Alejandro.
“We need to mimic what nature does, not fit nature.”
But continuous drought is what ultimately brought Alejandro to Holistic Management. With the never ending drought, he could run very few animals, so there was too much work for very little return. Forced to supplement his animals from March through July, using cornmeal, cotton meal and salt, Alejandro was running 250 cows on the ranch, and 150 more cows on additional leased land.
Since implementing Holistic Management on his ranch, Alejandro now runs 580 cows with no supplements and no vaccines. As he improved his land management, he was able to pull the 150 cows off the leased land and bring them over to his land – improving profits even more. “After we put the cows together, I noticed right away how much better their condition was,” says Alejandro. Today, cattle graze from November through July, have good body condition and require no supplementation.
Altogether, Alejandro currently runs about a thousand head of animals on his ranch. This is about three times the stocking rate that his neighbors run on the same amount of land. Moreover, his neighbors are needing to supplement their animals to run that number.
These improved grazing practices have also improved bird habitat on the ranch. When Alejandro first began working with the various bird conservancies that were interested in bird habitat in Chihuahua, he had to convince them that he actually had grass plants that were necessary for good bird habitat. Working with organizations such as The American Bird Conservatory, The Audubon Society, the Rocky Mountain Bird Conservatory, and Mexico’s Pronatura, the organizations noticed how many birds and bird species were on the land, and consequently offered help with infrastructure development such as electric fencing that will improve grazing management even more.
Besides increased bird counts, Alejandro has also experienced increased mule deer and pecari populations on the ranch. “I’d like to see the return of biodiversity here. I’ve always been a conservationist as well as a rancher.”
“I’ve always been a conservationist as well as a rancher.”
As Alejandro continues to experience increased diversity and production, he will work to build out his water and fencing infrastructure to continue to increase stock density and improve his grazing management even more.