by Wayne Knight
Balancing animal production, ecosystem function, and available grazing for stable production and lower risk in bunchgrass-based ranching.
Low-risk, low-cost grazing was the focus of HMI’s two-day workshop on August 12-13, 2021. Hosted at the beautiful 3R Ranch of Beulah, Colorado by long-time practitioners of Holistic Management, Reeves & Betsy Brown and Chad Helvey. The event provided an overview of how to plan and monitor animal productivity and ecosystem improvement in a way that reduces business risk to 20 participants who manage 31,609 acres.
Because changing grazing management from traditional to more regenerative practices is perceived as risky and expensive, the workshop put forward techniques and plans to lower the cost and risk of starting out with Holistic Planned Grazing
The setting of the 3R Ranch vividly demonstrates how planning and monitoring with a Holistic Goal to lead decisions can produce a truly inspiring outcome.
The 3R has been awarded the “Excellence in Rangeland Conservation Award” in 2020 by the Colorado Section of the Society for Range Management and the Southern Colorado Conservation Award in 2010 for its accomplishments over the years.
With the obviously well-managed pastures, diverse plant species, high productivity covered soil and stable grass sward, participants could easily appreciate the inspiring results Reeves and Betsy (pictured above) have achieved using Holistic Management since the late 1980s. As the Browns say, HMI has been their “leader and teacher and joy.”
Participants also observed and learned how to use a Safe to Fail Trial on their own lands to safely and effectively learn the impact of enhanced grazing management on their own land, in a low-cost, low-risk way.
Participants eagerly practiced ecosystem health evaluations, forage assessments, and livestock monitoring techniques over the 2 days. On day two, the group was able to see a Safe to Fail Trial in action as approximately animal densities of over 100,000lbs/ acre were tested for a short time span. Pulled from the 3R herd of Black Angus/Simmy cross cows, these animals did what was intended, they ate and trampled the grass and ground in the trial area. As a follow-up to this initial trial, Betsy, Reeves, and Chad will monitor the grass regrowth to determine what recovery periods should be, to observe the trial’s influence on soil cover. Anticipated results include longer recovery times with different grass species and changed “growth habit” of the species that were already there, more diverse plant communities, faster nutrient cycling, and improved water infiltration and recovery.
We had a diverse group of participants, from experienced practitioners to novices, young and old who traveled from as far away as Texas, Ohio, and Arkansas. There was lively discussion and sharing of experiences throughout the workshop.
Other workshop’s activities included:
- Establishing the priorities – a case for low-cost, low-risk ranching
- The importance of ecosystem health and key monitoring to ensure results
- Identifying risks and how to manage, monitor, and correct deviations from the plan
- Steps to accelerate learning with certainty and confidence
- Determining optimal plant recovery times for your land
- Financial considerations and decisions for healthy profits
- Considering risk, stress, and quality of life in production decisions
- Takeaway actions for managers to implement on their ranch or as they help others to better manage lands.
Wayne Knight, experienced HMI Certified Educator and Interim Executive Director of HMI presented the grazing hands-on workshop, which featured his experiences on his family’s ranch in South Africa.
If you wish you could have joined this workshop, you’re in luck! Come join us at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Leo Ranch near Decatur in north Texas on the 7th & 8th of October 2021 for a similar workshop.
Here are some of the comments from participants:
Wonderful! Comprehensive yet concise course. I’m excited to have actionable steps to take and implement today.
Very good. Wayne is an excellent facilitator.
It was an amazing event, a great group of people. Host location was amazing!
Excellent blend of lecture, discussion, and practical exercises. This course provided me with resources to be a better steward of the land and our animals.
Wayne was extremely knowledgeable and very approachable.
Thanks for a very educational and enjoyable workshop. I look forward to participating in more workshops and mentor opportunities.
Exceeded expectations. Gave me methods to take home and use to plan, monitor, evaluate, and correct as needed.
I really enjoyed everything I learned from this course.
I loved the class. Every time I take an HMI class, I learn such valuable, practical information that I can immediately apply.
- 85% of attendees felt the workshop was excellent and 95% would recommend it to others
- 100% indicated a significant increase in their ability to run trials to learn about ecosystem function on their land
- 95% reported learning around animal production targets
- 95% reported learning on how to monitor and correct management decisions
For more information on 3R Ranch and their success with Holistic Management, please read HMI’s IN PRACTICE articles 3R Ranch — A Ranch Transfer Fairy Tale and Healing the Land for 25 Years — The 3R Ranch.
Thank you to our Funders who made this event possible.
Martha Records & Rich Rainaldi
Thank you to our Sponsors and Collaborators.
Thanks to the Greenacres Foundation for their scholarship support of our programs.