Skip to comments.Ranchers try to boost alternative grazing method
Posted on 09/08/2004 10:58:49 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
TURTLE LAKE, North Dakota In the early 1980s, Gene Goven noticed his cattle spent all of their time in one place, grazing on the tender regrowth of their favorite plant species and ignoring the rest. The favored plants eventually dwindled and nonnative species thrived, resulting in less plant diversity and unhealthy soil.
After studying the land and the cattle, Goven came up with a new grazing system. He divided his two pastures into 18 smaller plots and gave the cattle only 10 to 15 days in each pasture. As a result, he was able to boost the grazing season by nearly 100 days.
Goven is one of a few ranchers in the state who employs a technique called intensive rotational grazing, which scientists say is better for the land, cattle, and wildlife. Rotational grazing puts more livestock in smaller areas for shorter periods of time than the traditional season-long method. It emulates the grazing pattern of bison herds, which was a proven winner on the plains, Goven said.
"It's a system of high intensity for short periods of time," said Jim Richardson, soil scientist at North Dakota State University. "You go like crazy, then let (the pasture) sit and allow the plants to regenerate. Ranchers can actually do very well with this kind of system."
Richardson traveled from Fargo to Turtle Lake in 1990 to see the results firsthand. It was during a drought, he said, and Goven's neighbors had dry wetlands and brown pastures. However, the Goven ranch retained its green and soaked up water more efficiently when rain did come.
A study of Goven's land showed root depth improved from 3 to 4 inches to between 12 and 40 inches. The native plants thrived, going from one species of grass to 11.
Gary Sandness, an environmental scientist with the state health department, said rotational grazing also has beneficial hydrological effects.
On undergrazed or overgrazed pasture runs off the surface unimpeded, he said, water. But with well-managed grazing, more water infiltrates the land. That helps plant growth and lessens flooding on creeks and rivers, thereby decreasing erosion. When the water does make it through the soil to the waterways, it is filtered and cleaner.
Though the rotational system is catching on, it's doing so slowly. Of the 13.5 million acres of rangeland in North Dakota, only about 10 percent to 20 percent are actively involved in rotational grazing, said Jeff Printz, a state range conservationist.
But ranchers such as Goven and Gabe Brown, who has cattle east of Bismarck, are helping to spread the word. They're involved in the Grazing Management Mentoring Network, part of the state Private Grazing Lands Coalition. Mentors provide advice based on what they've seen work on their own land.
It is not often pointed out that genetic modification has not yet been employed to increase crop yields. Primarly because it has not been necessary - yet.
Should also be better for reducing parasite load in the cattle...
This is not a "new" system by any stretch. Cattlemen did this type of thing long, long before these newcomers in No. Dak. came on the scene.
In most cases it means that the cattleman has to dig up the capital for miles and miles of expensive fencing to make it work. Hence, some do and some don't, depending on a lot of things.
This is new? We did this 35 years ago on our family farm. It's just common sense.
"It's just common sense."
My friend, this may the produt that is in shortest supply and in greatest demand at FR, in the US and the entire world . . . .
I do something similar to this on my couch so I don't put a big divot on any one cushion.
Management intensive rotational grazing is as old as the hills. It mimics nature when nature still had preditors. Herds of ruminants bunched together, ate and trampled grass, and moved on to let the grass recover. Actually ruminants and grass co-evolved to suit each other's needs.
Allan Savory's book "Wholistic Management" is a good source. Also Andre Voisin's books such as "Grass Productivity". Not new books!
Fantastic. More Freepers should post book references!!!!
I am nominating farmfriend for the most intelligent ping list. If there isn't such a category, there should be.
By the way, any farmer out there who wants to visit Europe to see how they preserve the traditional family farm has an open invitation. It is a ridiculous amount of money well spent, unlike US farm subsidies.
The BLM has truly made a mess of things.
Allan Savory's book "Holistic Management" is a good source.
And I misspelled predator too. Savory worked for the South African equivalent of the BLM and was one of the only people there that noticed that they made things worse and then tried to correct by applying even more of the wrong practices.
The issue of water is of fundamental importance. Thanks for mentioning it, I did not even think about it.
Fences are a matter of capital, water is a resource issue. One can be bought and put in place with minimal consequence, the other not.
Enlightening. Thank you.
To raise livestock you just need to be a grass farmer. If you raise and manage quality grasses, the animals do the rest all by themselves. I pasture about 100 acres and hay another 100.
To fence a perimeter costs about $3.50 per foot if you do it according to my farmowners insurance policy, a permanant fence (not just high tensile electric) with woven wire and a hot wire 6" below the bottom of the woven wire and three hot wires above the woven wire and one hot extended three inches from the fence to prevent animals from leaning on it. Interior pasture sections which need to consist of at least sections small enough to force 20 animals per acre. Those paddocks cost about $1.25 per foot to build. Next you need gates and a couple well trained livestock dogs to move the stock constantly and you need to check on the residue for overseeding and noxious weed control.
I could easily spend $50,000 for fencing which will last 20 years tops. About $2,000 every year for maintenance.
In the end, it's cheaper to hay as much unpastured land as possible and feed lot your stock. When hay prices spike, turn your stock into fields which have become stockpiled on growth. If hay stays cheap, cut it and bale what you have stockpiled.
The key to successfully raising livestock is to have many feeding scenarios which enable you to select the most economical feed choice of any given month. Filled silos, three cuts of hay, and plenty of emergency pasture is the best way to go if you ask me. Experts in the Ag consulting business are as plentiful as grasshoppers and their advice is usually just as valuable.
This is not New techology. USDA Livestock Specialists have been recommending this technique for ranchers with marginal pasture ground for at least 10 years,, maybe longer.
IOW good ranching is work. It takes a people on horseback and maybe a good cattle dog or two to keep them moving properly.
You've made excellent points. Cattle tanks, on skids can be pulled from one pasture to another here in the midwest where ranches are smaller.
Portable fences are quite common here. They are used for both sheep and cattle.
The Premier tool, so to speak. ;-)
Right! Lets see, that would cost me about $250,000 to fence and another $150,000 to bring water to each section.
And then the gates....... never happen here...
Hmmm, I see a Grange resolution in the making.
I knew I was bent and wierd because the rotational grazing was the only way I ever ran cattle.
Using 4 pastures it was quite easy, just open the gates to the adjoining pastures one evening and they would move over by themselves by morning.
This was the first in a series. The other two can be found from the link.
i've known ranchers who used their water source as the cross point for the fences. Of course that is the one point of the land that did see the heaviest use.
I used four connecting manmade ponds.
Just about every rancher that wasn't on BLM gound uses either five or seven grass pastures. Some grow fastest in the spring, others like the heat, others prefer the cool fall.
I always added in some clover just because they liked it.
Depending on just how cold it got in E. Texas determined how much hay I'd have to feed.
I think these articles would be better if written by someone who understood ranching from the ground up, which is where it does start.
Well I think Carry has proven that taking the cattle off the BLM controlled land is not the way to improve habitat. Just goes to show that the enviros are more interested in cutting profits not helping the environment.
Check out the link.
If BLM would go to 50 year leases or something along that line I think we would all be better off.
How about getting rid of the BLM all together?