On July 23, eighteen participants gathered for the Advanced Grazing Workshop in Eastern Colorado to learn about tools and practices to increase their profit potential, improve soil health, and discover how to have a better quality of life on their ranch!
The small group, socially distanced in the Karval Community Building in Karval, Colorado, quickly became close as conversations picked up around how everyone is adapting to the new normal with COVID-19.
Some folks had come from as far as Steamboat to attend the workshop. Others included folks from Brett Gray Ranch, the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Colorado Field Ornithologists. We even had a Karval local, Katie Merewether who was five days into her new job as a Private Lands Wildlife Biologist for the Bird Conservancy. During lunch on day two she presented on the annual Karval Mountain Plover Festival and we were lucky to spot a number of mountain plovers while we toured Brett Gray.
The workshop began with a review of Holistic Planning Grazing techniques and a discussion around what has and has not worked for the practitioners in the room. Kirk Gadzia, a long time Holistic Management Certified Educator, presented on grazing planning complexities and the group practiced with the grazing priorities worksheet. Kirk presented on the physiology of plants, their life cycle, timing and recovery which led the conversation to grazing planning calculations and forage assessment.
A delicious lunch was provided by the Friendship Circle of Karval. Since Dusty Downey, the Conservation Ranching Program Lead for Audubon Rockies, was unable to join us in person, he sent in a short video he had recorded introducing the group to their programming. He presented on how they have been working with ranchers to use livestock to increase bird habitat and the marketing benefits of Audubon’s Bird Friendly Beef. Kelsea Holloway, of the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, also presented on their work with the stewardship team and their private land wildlife biologist assistance program.
After lunch the group caravanned over to Brett Gray Ranch where Louis Martin, owner and ranch manager, led the group on a tour. Participants visited a few water stations and viewed paddocks in various stages of recovery. Louis led the group through the history of the land and openly shared their current objectives, challenges and grazing plan. Kirk and a few volunteers participated in a hands on forage assessment demonstration pacing out the size of the square of land needed to feed one animal for one day.
Day two began with a review and discussion about participants’ experiences the day before. Kirk presented on increasing ranch profitability and Louis Martin provided his own insights and experiences with ensuring his ranch’s profitability over the years. Kirk presented on the physiology of plants, their life cycle, timing and recovery which led the conversation to the principles of grazing and a deeper dive into drought planning and infrastructure for grazing management.
Another wonderful lunch was provided by the Friendship Circle of Karval during Katie’s presentation on mountain plovers. After lunch the group returned to Brett Gray and visited some truly exceptional sites on the ranch. In August of 2019 Louis introduced two beavers back into one of the spring habitats which has quickly become an oasis with a large pond and high diversity in forage and bird habitat. The group used a surface temperature gauge to compare the upper bare ground temp which came in at 130 degrees F to the ground temp near the spring at 82 degrees F! Louis and Kirk presented on water and fence options, roads, corrals and other infrastructure for flexible grazing. Louis took the group to some areas that had been recently more heavily grazed to compare to the next stop on the tour which was absolutely lush with waist high varieties of wheat, big bluestem, prairie sand reed, side oats grama, nebraska sedge and mint.
In closing, participants shared their action plans based on what they learned at the workshop. Louis is interested in being part of an Eastern Colorado RAMP group (HMI’s Regen Ag Mentoring Program) and some of the other ranchers expressed interest in joining him.
The group lingered around after the workshop ended and continued their conversations into the early evening.
|Knowledge/Behavior and Confidence Increase||% increase|
|Overall satisfaction with the workshop||100%|
|Would recommend to others||100%|
|Do you intend to complete or modify a written grazing plan as a result of this course?||100%|
|Do you intend to change management practices or apply ideas you learned during this course?||92%|
|Understanding the complexity of grazing management||92%|
|How to make it through drought||92%|
|How to assess quality of forage in a pasture||85%|