Drought has ravaged much on Texas this year so that was a primary focus of our Open Gate at Pure Pastures located near Canyon Lake, Texas. HMI’s Executive Director, Wayne Knight, and Linda Pechin-Long, HMI’s newest Certified Educator, presented our valuable planning tools at this field day to help ranchers manage drought by going through the steps that enable the matching of available forage to animal numbers. Jeremiah Eubank, ranch host and manager, also brought these messages home with his presentation about the practices they use and the challenges they face on Pure Pastures. The 35 participants for the day manage 12,987 acres and they all increased their learning about these topics during the day and said they would recommend this type of programming to others.
The key topics that Linda started out the day with was the steps to enable early reduction of animal numbers to allow for the optimal use of forage grown. By going through these steps, a stock manager is able to carry the most stock through an extended dry season at low cost and with confidence. By reducing stock early, the manager is able to determine the economics of hay feeding, to choose to sell animals while they at in good productive condition and therefore able to fetch a decent prise. Additional advantages are that land health can be maintained and tough decisions can be made before crisis and panic set in when markets are glutted and animal condition are poor and stress levels are high.
Also, during the program Wayne Knight and host Jeremiah Eubank helped participants estimate forage yield with the STAC method. Next, they discussed how to calculate total animal number on a Standard Animal Unit (SAU) basis and how to determine a conservative estimate of the time until it rains, and growth begins.
Linda also explained how to monitor a grazing plan to ensure that the forage estimates match the actual utilization rate. If the utilization rate matches the plan, then there is comfort that the forage estimations were correct. If the utilization rate is faster than planned then it will show up as shorter than planned graze periods. If this happens, modifying animal numbers to match the faster then planned utilization level as soon as possible will enable the manager to keep the most animals possible through until it rains again and growth has begun.
Linda also helped attendees recognize how to monitor animal condition to ensure that productivity levels are maintained—even in dry conditions.
Jeremiah did a great job of presenting Pure Pastures’ story, including the value of using Holistic Management to handle the complexities involved with running a pasture-finished line of pork, lamb, and beef products. He described how he and his wife Maggie had started out and grown the online sales, deliveries and on-ranch shop. He also explained how he uses PastureMap to plan and monitor their grazing moves.
The Eubanks’ shop was the venue for the morning’s presentations. Daniel Oppenheimer from the Hill Country Alliance introduced his organization’s work in the Texas Hill Country and how collaborations are the backbone of ensuring that working lands remain healthy and vibrant. Frank Davis from The Hill Country Conservancy explained how his organization is helping to preserve lands with the help of conservation easements.
Thanks to Jeremiah and Maggie Eubank, hosts at Pure Pasture, for their hospitality. Thanks to all the collaborators who brought the day together to make it a wonderful learning experience. Finally, thanks to the Dixon Water Foundation for their funding of this event.