If you are looking for a great video on how holistic planned grazing can improve soil health check out this video from Alderspring Ranch. They have been able to increase their organic matter by 284% (from 1.9% to 7.3%) and Glenn Elzinga makes it sound easy.
This video is a virtual ranch tour and covers their practices and the results they’ve achieved as well as how to easily set up a water infiltration test and how to move electric fence. Glenn shows how Alderspring Ranch soil responds differently depending on how long they’ve been managing it. Soil at Alderspring headquarters that has been managed for over 20 years can infiltrate 3 inches of rain in 63 seconds while newly acquired ground takes almost 16 minutes to infiltrate only 2 inches of water. The difference in production between the two places is well worth viewing especially since headquarters has been grazed 4 times already the year of the video, which was taken in August, and the rental property hasn’t been grazed yet that year. It has been continuously grazing for 100 years.
As an extra bonus, Alderspring Ranch offers a free 5-day course on how to sell your grassfed meat online and set up your shipping.
Glenn shared some monitoring photographs in HMI’s journal, IN PRACTICE, and these are a testimonial to his work as well.
Alderspring Ranch Land Regeneration Results
By Glenn Elzinga
Little Hat Creek is a seven-mile long sinuous canyon bottom stream that drains snowmelt from the high Douglas-fir, aspen and lodgepole pine forests of the Salmon River Mountains. Pre-settlement conditions found it filled with aspen, birch and willow and punctuated by beaver swamps. This photo shows how we found it upon acquiring the Pahsimeroi Valley ranch in 2005. Most woody species were either absent or cropped off; native species such as Nebraska sedge and Baltic rush were only along creek margins, if at all. Many floodplain plant populations were dominated by non-native Kentucky bluegrass, if the floodplain was still low enough along creek margins to support the mesic grass. Nearly 150 years of continuous season-long low-density stock grazing caused extirpation of most riparian soil holding species, and the beavers that maintained them. Severe exposed soil down-cuts, some exceeding six feet typified much of Little Hat Canyon due to the loss of vegetation from flash flood events over the years. Little Hat was in a severe downward trend. As was the case of many nearby low elevation brittle zone creeks, Little Hat was in danger of becoming ephemeral rather than perennial—one of the first blatant signs of a desertifying landscape.
This is the same photopoint location as in the previous photograph. The T-post shown is in the same position. Regeneration of woodies here is clearly apparent (they were hard to walk through at the next permanent photopoint, and impossible to photograph). Graminoids are converting back to native species here, even in floodplain areas. Soil substrate underfoot is moist, and sponge-like. Several sage grouse were spotted roosting and picking currants just downstream (I spotted 23 that day, a record for me in sage grouse observation in that area). Beavers have recolonized upstream regenerating aspen stands. Our grazing in these areas was very simple: we halted all grazing through riparian habitat with complete livestock control via inherding. Cattle were grazed several times over the last five summers within 100 feet of this stream reach, but were carefully herded to keep them out of regenerating wetland areas. We’ll likely graze these areas again in the future, but not before vegetation expression has plateaued, and then with only high density, short duration methods with long rest periods.
On the left side of the above picture is our neighbor’s soil in October 2019 comprised of volcanic clay with rubble (it’s why it is white—the color of volcanic ash). The cover is a three-year-old alfalfa field monoculture initiated by moldboard plowing. The soil is clearly exposed. It is the exact soil series as photo on the right, just 100 feet away on the other side of our common fence. The soil is dry and crumbly to the touch and has a frozen crust on top. There is little sign of root material or any life evident in the soil substrate. The soil received three inches of wet snow three days prior to my sampling.
On the right side of the pictures is an Alderspring Ranch soil test dig taken five minutes later from the neighbor’s dig. It is the same soil type, but the cover is multispecies—around 30-50 species with orchardgrass, sainfoin, clover, dandelion and quackgrass occupying an aggregate of 35%. No soil is exposed. Soil is unfrozen, very wet and clumpy. There is living organic matter present—animals seen, and many roots. Our side used to be identical to the left side just 15 years ago—an alfalfa monoculture with little soil structure and little water holding capability. An August soil organic matter test had this field testing 7.3%