Grassland Management Featured At Conference
Planned multi-paddock grazing restored soil and vegetation, increased productivity and profitability, while improving the quality of life for ranchers, reported Dr. Richard Teague, Rangeland Research Scientist at Texas A & M University. Teague was the keynote speaker at the grazing conference, Roots of Resilience, held in May at the Washington Family Ranch near Antelope, Oregon.
The grazing conference was sponsored by Country Natural Beef, Washington Family Ranch and the Pacific Northwest Center for Holistic Management (PNCHM).
Teague’s research involves whole ranch units in which the managers are monitoring and adjusting their activities in order to achieve their goals relating to the nutrition and health of soils, plants, animals and the people involved.
He told about a grassland restoration that was accomplished over a ten-year period on the Noble Foundation’s Coffey Ranch. Animal unit days per acre, which is a measure of grassland’s livestock carrying capacity, increased to more than three times its original amount. Teague said the success was achieved by managing for desired outcomes. This type of management is accomplished by having an adequate number of pasture divisions or paddocks so that plant exposure to grazing is for a short time and plants have adequate time for regrowth before being grazed again.
Most of the conference attendees stayed a second day and took in one of two workshops that were offered. Planned grazing was taught by father-daughter team, Maurice and Beth Robinette, of the Lazy R Ranch near Cheney, WA. A workshop on grassland monitoring was taught by a team led by Tip Hudson, WSU Extension Rangeland Specialist, and Sandra Matheson, manager of a beef cattle operation near Bellingham, Washington.
Evaluations from the individual participants showed that a majority of attendees want to learn more about planned grazing, biological monitoring and land planning. Financial planning was another topic of interest. PNCHM plans to follow-up with conference participants and schedule additional workshops.
Teague emphasizes the importance of creating an annual grazing plan for the individual ranch, utilizing what was learned from previous years. He has found that ranch management decisions should be based on a goal; land restoration and wildlife needs are to be incorporated into the plan each year; managers should regularly assess the forage available and adjust either stock numbers or the area grazed; and grazing periods should be based on the recovery rate of the plants, which change by season during the growing year.
Planned grazing includes annual planning, monitoring, adjusting as needed and focusing on the triple bottom line, caring for the environment, making a profit and being socially responsible.