On October 7th and 8th HMI presented a Low Risk, Low-Cost Grazing Workshop to 33 participants who manage almost 35,000 acres. The event was hosted at the Dixon Water Foundation’s award-winning Leo Ranch, Betty & Clint Josey Pavilion, near Decatur in north Texas. In the risky and uncertain ranching environment where input costs continually rise and income fluctuates widely, approaching ranching with a low-cost focus can yield a surprising profit. The low-risk component of the workshop covered two vital aspects—effective drought planning and learning new techniques to increase stock density in incremental steps that do not jeopardize business profitability.
The attendees comprised a diverse group of seasoned and beginner ranchers, researchers, educators and researchers from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana. The expertise and experience of the group produced in-depth discussions and great learning moments for all involved.
Wayne Knight, South African rancher, HMI’s Certified Educator, and now HMI’s Executive Director, facilitated the interactive, and largely field-based training. A highlight of the event was conducting forage assessments in north Texas Tall Grass Prairie. The rangeland has been grazed by densely spaced herds of sheep and cattle and given extended recovery periods to yield high forage production, diverse prairie flora and abundant biodiversity. This management regimen promotes healthy soils, ample rainfall infiltration and reduced run-off.
Wayne highlighted the lead indicator monitoring for the critical components that contribute most to rancher’s stress, risk and profitability, which are animal performance, forage utilization, and environmental health.
The concept of running inexpensive trials to determine the impact of animal density, plant recovery and depth of graze on ecosystem function was both discussed and demonstrated. A key of the event was linking the theory of managing these interrelated concepts to hands-on tools and observations that attendees can apply when they get home. Turning the learning into meaningful interpretation on how to act practically to achieve the objectives of improving rangeland production, profitable animal performance and managing forage flow to mitigate drought risk were achieved.
Casey Wade, Dixon Water Foundation’s Vice-President of Ranching Operations, gave an excellent presentation on how his team have used forage assessment, drought-safe dates and an integrated planning process to reduce animal numbers early to maintain animal performance, protect enterprise net worth and improve rangeland health during drought conditions. He stressed the value of acting early, being creative and assessing the long-term impact of each reductions on each class of stock on future cashflows.
Melissa Bookhout, Dixon Water Foundation’s Treasurer and North Texas Education Coordinator gave a great presentation on rangeland monitoring. She outlined the data they collect, and how the data is used to inform decision-making on animal performance and ecosystem health over years. The data and results are very impressive.
Thank you to Amber Arseneaux from the Texas Land Conservancy who presented on her organizations efforts to keep Texas working lands in agriculture amid the ever increasing pressure placed on wild spaces and food production in north Texas as demand for housing and small holdings increases. She explained the benefits of creating structures to protect land from future development and the tax benefits from doing so.
HMI would like to thank all involved for the learning, sharing and contributions to a great event. Thanks to Dixon Water Foundation for being wonderful hosts on an exemplary learning site!
|Low Cost Low Risk Grazing Course Results, Leo Ranch|
|How to plan for risk||81%|
|Ability to trial approaches to understand the importance of animal density, plant recovery and depth of graze||81%|
|Overall satisfaction of the event||100%|
|Would you recommend this event to others?||100%|
|Participant feedback included the following comments:|
|Excellent due to Wayne’s willingness to discuss my unique situation.|
I loved the opportunity for discussion, the open forum, and the information!
Really appreciate your focus on balance! It must include all: Animal, people, plant & soil
Very good – great input form very knowledgeable “group”
Excellent – high level “lots of meat” to put into practice
I thought it was very informative.
I liked that there was hands on activity.
Very well presented – Wayne is very personable. Liked that he used his experience in the class.
Really appreciate the focus on context and not forcing top heavy absolutes. Other organizations push absolutes and that’s not helpful.