Lyle Perman is no stranger to ranching; his family has been in the ranching business in South Dakota since the 1880’s. In 1979, Lyle took over Rock Hills Ranch from his father, LeRoy Perman, who originally purchased the land. Rock Hills Ranch is located in the Swan Creek Valley region of north central South Dakota, near Lowry.
For the last five years, Lyle and his wife Garnet, have been in the process of transitioning the ranch. And though Lyle is still actively involved in running Rock Hills Ranch, he has leased the land, equipment, and cows to his son and daughter-in-law, Luke and Naomi.
When Lyle originally took over the 7,500 acre ranch, he was focusing on cattle and crops, not grasslands. That all changed in the mid-80’s, when Lyle was introduced to Holistic Management. “When you’re going broke, you start to look at different ways of doing things,” says Lyle. “Business as usual wasn’t working, mainly due to economic hardship and unpredictable weather conditions.” So Lyle began doing some reading, attending meetings and gradually introduced Holistic Management on his ranch, which he admits was an evolution over time.
“I just knew that I wanted to do what was best for the ranch for the long term, in a way that was economically viable.”
“I just knew that I wanted to do what was best for the ranch for the long term, in a way that was economically viable,” says Lyle. Over the years, the Permans have made changes on the ranch, including the implementation of a planned grazing system in which the cattle are moved every few days. Other changes include more water developments, additional cross fences, seeding cover crops to increase the amount of water that is absorbed into the soil and moving cropland back to native grassland.
“It’s easy to go for short term financial gain. Holistic Management has caused us to look at the long-term impact of what we’re doing.”
The Perman family goal is to not just sustain the land as it is, but to regenerate it back to what it used to be – highly productive native grassland. “Everything we do now, we look at the long-term consequences,” says Lyle. “If Holistic Management didn’t do anything else, it has caused us to analyze every decision we make. It’s easy to go for short term financial gain. Holistic Management has caused us to look at the long-term impact of what we’re doing.
Others have noticed that impact, as well. In 2014, the Permans, and Rock Hills Ranch were the recipients of the 2014 Leopold Conservation Award, which honors South Dakota landowner achievements in both stewardship and management of natural resources. Rock Hills Ranch was also a 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award Program winner, which is presented annually by the National Cattlemen Beef Association to ranches that work to protect America’s natural resources.
“Today, we have peace of mind knowing that we have a plan – whether market prices are high or low, whether we had bad weather, we have a process in place that allows us to move forward.”
“Today, we have peace of mind knowing that we have a plan – whether market prices are high or low, whether we had bad weather, we have a process in place that allows us to move forward.” For those considering implementing Holistic Management on their land, Lyle has this advice. “You have to be ready to make changes. Holistic Management means looking at the whole. But you’ll have peace of mind and know it was the right thing to do.”
Lyle’s son Luke agrees. “Realizing we can’t change things without affecting everything else is important.” Lyle adds, “No doubt in my mind that Holistic Management is a good thing to be engaged in.”