46 people came from Texas, Colorado and New Mexico to join HMI at Monte Prieto Ranch in Claunch, New Mexico, on July 21st. The day began with an introduction to the ranch from ranch owner Molly Baldrige, who has had the property in her family since the early 1960s. Having always been interested in sustainable practices and techniques that improve the health of the ecosystem of the ranch, Molly partnered with Duke Phillips and Ranchlands who specialize in managing large-scale ranches in an economically self-sufficient manner; emphasizing a holistic approach to landscape-scale conservation and ecology.
Next, Duke Phillips IV talked about the history of Ranchlands, along with various projects managing ranches for absentee land owners. He also talked about their mission to train the next generation of sustainable ranchers; providing participants with a brief overview of the projects going on at Monte Prieto which include fence repair and designing watering systems that can handle a more intensive grazing operation.
As dark rain clouds threatened, HMI Certified Educator Kirk Gadzia took over the conversation and brought Monte Prieto ranch managers Amy and Nick up to give a brief introduction to holistic planned grazing–what it is, how it benefits the land—and biological monitoring. Amy and Nick shared their grazing plan for the year and talked about their trials and tribulations managing the Monte Prieto.
Next up was Nancy Ranney of Ranney Ranch and the president of the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance (SWGLA) with SWGLA vice president, Sam Ryerson. Nancy and Sam provided participants with an overview of SWGLA and the benefits of Grassfed beef production, and stressed the important of holistic management practices in their operations.
At 11:45 it began to rain so the schedule was rearranged slightly. Delicious sandwiches, chips and homemade desserts were provided from Alpine Alley Café in Mountainair, NM for lunch, with lively discussions about various topics including a shared gratefulness for the rain following.
After lunch, in a light drizzle, FSA representatives Josh Sanchez and Clover Chacon talked about the various micro loans and financial assistance programs currently being offered by the FSA. They also presented on FSA’s rangeland and drought programs and answered questions. Dee Tarr of the Claunch-Pinto SWCD also spoke on the programming they offer to local ranchers and land owners.
The rest of the afternoon was spent out on the land. Participants loaded into various pickup trucks and headed fifteen minutes down the main ranch road to a biological monitoring landmark where Kirk Gadzia lead the group in a lesson on Bullseye Monitoring and how to calculate forage and Animal Days per Acre. Kirk explained how to work ‘backwards’ to determine how much forage had been taken by knowing the number of cows, size of the paddock, and how long they had grazed. Several volunteers then stepped out the size of the area that had fed one cow for one day. Kirk answered questions and identified different plants before turning it over to Ken Lujan of the NRCS who presented briefly on the various programs they offer.
The group stopped by one more spot to see what an area recently cleared of juniper looks like before heading back to the ranch house. The day ended with a discussion and Q & A session with Duke, Ann, Molly and Kirk.
HMI would like to thank FSA for providing funding for this event. We’d also like to thank Ranchlands, SWGLA, Claunch-Pinto Soil and Water Conservation District, and New Mexico NRCS for being part of this program.
Here are some of the results from the Monte Prieto Open Gate Event:
Expanded network – 100%
Would recommend event to others – 100%
Overall satisfaction – 100%
Intend to learn more about Holistic Planned Grazing – 92%
Intend to change management practices – 87%
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