Twenty-seven participants who manage 1.1 million acres from Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mississippi attended HMI’s Lazy M Ranch Open Gate near Angel Fire, New Mexico. The focus of this Open Gate was looking at how regenerative grazing practices can improve soil health and productivity.
Shawn Howard purchased this 230–acre ranch and has spent the last six years on this regenerative agriculture experiment which has increased forage production and diversity as well as improved ecosystem function.
We started out the day at the Angel Fire Community Center where participants heard how Shawn began his journey into regenerative ranching. As he explained his practices, HMI Education Director Ann Adams directed the conversation to clarify the key tools that Shawn was using as well as highlight key grazing principles like grazing and recovery periods, carrying capacity, forage inventory strategies, and stock density.
Shawn was then joined by northern NM ranchers Robert Martinez and Pat Pacheco who shared their experiences of ranching. Pat is currently running his cattle on the Lazy M Ranch and talked about how much he had learned about regenerative ranching from working with Shawn on this project. They have now been able to run 65 cow/calf pairs on the 150 acres of the ranch they are grazing and they think with continued forage production increases they may be able to run 100 cow/calf pairs next year during the five-month growing season.
After the panel, Tyler Eschelman spoke about the NM Coalition to Enhance Working Lands and the grant-funded opportunities of soil health in New Mexico. Then, Amy Erikson spoke about Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Beef program. Then right before lunch, Micah Roseberry and Robert Martinez spoke about the Ranching to School program in which they have been able to get funding to purchase local beef to sell into the Taos School System’s lunch program.
After a delicious beef enchilada lunch featuring local beef cooked by the Farm House Café, the participants caravanned over to the Lazy M Ranch for a field tour led by Shawn and Pat. Participants were able to see almost completely covered soil on the areas where cattle had been grazing as well as the infrastructure that was being used to control the cattle and regenerate the land.
Participants greatly appreciated the opportunity to see the results of Shawn’s increased stock density as we toured the ranch as well as to see his fencing and water system. They also got to see what great shape Pat’s cattle were and how tightly bunched they were for the day. 100% of participants said they were satisfied with the program and would recommend this type of program to others. 100% of the participants said they had expanded their network and 92% said they would change their management practices. 85% of participants said they had increased knowledge in ability to measure forage quantity, determine animals’ forage needs, carrying capacity, and adequate recovery, as well as increase their ability to assess ecosystem health and adapt grazing practices.
Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation for their support of this event and to Shawn Howard for opening up his ranch to us. Also thanks to our sponsors the Farm House Café, NM Coalition to Enhance Working Lands, Ranching to School Program, and Audubon SW.