Monday, June 25, 2018

Rotational grazing catching on with NM ranchers

By Ellen Marks

Jim Berlier squats into a crouch, reaching down to part a clump of silky grass so he can show off some bright green shoots. It’s just a small spot on his 10,000-acre San Pablo Ranch south of Encino, but you can see it happening all over the slightly rolling terrain, and it’s a point of pride for the cattleman who has earned national recognition as a “soil health champion.” It’s also so much more than meets the eye. Those sprouts are indicative of a type of ranching spreading across New Mexico, in which cattlemen are figuring out ways to preserve their grasslands and keep their soils healthy so they can continue to make a living. The movement has taken on greater importance with the drought that has kept New Mexico largely parched over the last decade, forcing ranchers to sell their herds unless they can find a way to capture the little rainwater that falls. So for Berlier, wearing the mantle of “land steward” is a matter of economics. But, while he’ll show you his grasses and his healthy cattle herds, he also wants you to see the antelope herds and the ground-nesting birds that have returned to his landscape. He likes taking pictures, and the animals are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. “I love the wildlife,” he says. “As they say, what’s good for the bird is good for the herd. When you see the benefits of a healthy ecosystem, there’s no going back.” Tom Sidwell, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, is a true believer. “I see more and more people who are doing intensive grazing, holistic management,” said Sidwell, who ranches on 7,000 acres south of Tucumcari. “What’s driving it is a desire to improve conditions on the land. When you take care of the grass, and you take care of the land, you can have a more stable number of livestock. It translates into economic benefits.” Sidwell is considered a master of rotational grazing, practicing it in an intensive way that involves moving his 200 head of cattle among 25 distinct pastures on an average of every five days. That means each pasture is resting at least 90 percent of the year, he said...MORE


Unknown said...

Bert Madera from Jal has been doing this for years....smaller cells and cattle rotation sooner and the native grass is knee high as compared to some of his neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Is it always drought or low prices which causes the rancher to embrace "new" techniques in grazing management? I think it is. What a shame. Many more ranchers than Bert have been using the Holistic practice of ranch management which goes far beyond just rotational grazing. But bless those who realize that overgrazing is how long an animal gets to bite the same plant without giving the plant time to recover. This definition belies all of the money spent by academia on definitions of overgrazing and all the scientific efforts to quantify it. Most people really mean "overuse" rather than "overgrazing", and the former is a political term and has rarely anything to do with plant health, etc.
All people who use the natural environment need to manage it well and for more than their own immediate needs.