Tom Sidwell knows a thing or two about the land. After all, his ranching roots go back over 200 years. After obtaining a Range Science degree, Tom went to work for the BLM. While still working for the BLM, Tom attended a class taught by HMI founder Alan Savory. By the second day of class, Tom realized that Holistic Management offered a better way to manage land then the conventional ranching techniques his family had employed for generations.
“Get all the training that you can. Learn all you can. Attend training sessions and learn from others. Most importantly, be open-minded.
“Two primary topics sold me on Holistic Management,” says Tom. Those techniques were time control and animal impact. “I could see what was missing.”
Tom went on to manage ranches in both Texas and New Mexico. On one of these ranches, the owners had monetarily subsidized the ranch for years with outside income, but after three to four years of practicing Holistic Management, the ranch began to break even, eventually turning a profit. “I would not have been able to turn that ranch around without the Holistic Management training I received,” says Tom.
In 2004, Tom and his wife Mimi purchased the JX Ranch, located just south of Tucumcari, New Mexico. When Tom and Mimi took over, the land was depleted from years of conventional ranching and overgrazing. Today, JX Ranch boasts more grass, more diverse species, and more productive land than their neighbors who have continued to ranch conventionally.
“One of the things I’ve heard continuously is that ‘it won’t work here,’ but I think we’ve disproved that with the success of our ranch,” says Tom. “We feed less supplements because the forage is in much better condition, and the cattle are doing better.”
During the drought, JX Ranch fared much better than their neighbors. “Our neighbors began to purchase hay to feed their cattle during the drought. We chose to sell some cattle; aligning the decision with our current forage production. Once we received rain, our grass began to regenerate almost immediately, in comparison to the neighboring ranches, where the land remained bare.” Once the drought began to lessen, Tom bought back some of his stock.
Holistic Management is not just about grazing planning. “The Financial Planning is invaluable,” says Tom. Using the financial planning system, Tom feels he has better control over the income and expenses that the ranch generates. “We monitor all of our expenses – we know where our money is going.” That management is what helped the Sidwells become debt free and able to purchase their current ranch with cash.
Using Holistic Management, Tom has been able to reduce cost per cattle, increase carrying capacity, and increase conception rates, so he knows how important training is. His advice to beginning farmers and ranchers conveys this message. “Get all the training that you can. Learn all you can. Attend training sessions and learn from others. Most importantly, be open-minded.”
Tom has also been involved in that training as well, opening up his ranch to HMI for Open Gate events. When asked why he did this, Tom replied “I just feel that we are doing something important, something that can help others. This way they can see what we’ve been able to do using Holistic Management, and that it can work here (in New Mexico).”