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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Low Impact Ranching

Low Impact Ranching

Low Impact Ranching

by Jamie Henneman of Tonasket, WA

Washington man makes most of his land with “leave no trace” stewardship methods

Change really can be a good thing, according to one Eastern Washington rancher, especially when change allows a ranching operation to expand and be more profitable. By making a few basic alterations to his cattle management, Colville area rancher Ron Rose is getting better use of his pasture ground, making more of his water resources, and now has the option of doubling his herd size.

By employing some low-impact management tools, Rose has been able to make a 160-acre spread jump from supporting 35 cow-calf pairs to 100 pairs through the use of an off-site watering system and special feeding methods. Lush green pasture grasses are also prevalent on the ranch due to mindful management of how to evenly spread cattle traffic and their manure byproduct.

All this has been done at the Rose “Big Sircle-Little Ranch” through his unique leave-no-trace style of ranching that is yielding both benefits to his operation and the environment.

Low Impact Ranching

Riverside Pasture and Off-Site Watering

One of Rose’s most recent projects has been an innovative off-site watering system that allows his cattle better access to water and encourages broader cattle traffic over his land. The 160-acre pasture that borders the Colville River in Stevens County would seem an ideal location for cattle, due to its close proximity to a water source. But instead of going the traditional route and having his cattle water at the river, Rose has installed several 150 gallon watering troughs throughout the grazing ground. A 430-foot well pumps the water to the tanks at 100-gallons-a-minute and water levels are maintained through use of an in-trough float. These troughs are positioned on a six-foot long cement slab that helps prevent one of the common problems associated with off-site watering – boggy ground. “Putting in these tanks has not only increased the availability of water for the cattle, but it has also allowed me to get better grazing dispersal over my fields,” Rose explained. “Instead of the cattle hanging around the water tank, they come and get a drink and then move on.”

The water trough area that is inhospitable for lounging encourages the cattle to find other places to rest.

“My cows are now choosing a variety of spots to lay down when it is hot out and I’m not seeing as much traffic at the river,” Rose related.

Rose said he has not fenced off from the river at this point, as the cattle are benefiting the water body in a number of ways, namely by keeping riverbank grasses trimmed down and healthy to help prevent the encroachment of weeds.

“Now that the cows don’t have to come to the river just to water, they are making a little bit better use of the grass by grazing it off,” he said. “Grazing is one of the best uses for this piece of land.”

Another management tool that has allowed Rose to make better use of his grazing ground is the installation of cross fences that has created a six-pasture rotation system. The pasture rotation helps to ensure that cattle are evenly covering the grazing acreage, instead of just hanging out near their favorite spots.

But a state-of-the-art watering system and fencing alternations are not the only methods Rose uses to make the most of what he has.

Low Impact Ranching

No-Loss Salt and Hay Feeding

Instead of providing mineral salt to the cattle by way of tubs or other on-the-ground methods, Rose has bored out a 50-gallon drum that he suspends from a tree to allow the cattle to be salted off the ground. This ensures that Rose doesn’t lose any other loose minerals he has invested in through moisture or spillage and there isn’t a patch of grass that is brown and dead from being covered by a tub or barrel. Off-the-ground salting is similar to a feeding method that Rose uses in the winter to make sure he doesn’t lose any hay when feeding.

When the snow has buried the grasses in Eastern Washington, Rose feeds his cattle every other day in round bale feeders that he moves throughout his pasture every time he feeds. The 800 pound round bales can sustain 14 cows for two days, according to Rose, a figure that increased by two head since he started feeding this way.

“Before I was losing a lot of hay by feeding on the ground because it would get trampled,” Rose explained. “Now I don’t lose any hay and I can feed two more animals.”

Moving the feeders also allows hoof traffic and manure to be evenly spread throughout the pasture he counts on for summer grazing grasses.

An unexpected benefit from the mobile feeders has been that the cattle manure, high in acidity, has helped to discourage the prevalence of a common weed called Jim Hill Mustard.

“This spring there was a noticeable difference in the prevalence of the weed from where we had moved the feeders and where we didn’t” Rose related. “It’s just amazing the difference something that small can make.”

Taking advantage of the “free fertilizer” his cattle produce is not only good in the field, but also in the paddock. One of the main corrals by the ranch house that had been used to winter cattle was planted with triticale (a wheat-rye cross) this spring, turning what could be a dry, dusty corral into a mini pasture, ready for harvesting.

“I planted the triticale as a kind of experiment, both for the aesthetics and to get some good use out of that piece of ground,” Rose explained.

This kind of low-impact management has yielded visible results for Rose who can display flourishing pasture grasses, healthy cattle, and firm banks in his riverside pasture. “I am just a detail oriented person and one of those farm boys who always likes to have a project,” Rose said. “I am trying to get the most out of my land and efforts and I really enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of a finished project.”

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters Driving Junipers Training

Driving: Juniper’s Training

A final sneak peak at the Second Edition of Lynn R. Miller’s “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “Driving: Juniper’s Training,” is from Chapter 11, “Starting and Training Older Horses.”

Timing the Bounce

Timing the Bounce: Resilient Agriculture Meets Climate Change

by:
from issue:

In her new book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate, Laura Lengnick assumes a dispassionate, businesslike tone and sets about exploring the farming strategies of twenty-seven award-winning farmers in six regions of the continental United States. Her approach gets well past denial and business-as-usual, to see what can be done, which strategies are being tried, and how well they are working.

Build Your Own Earth Oven

An Introduction To Cob

Mixed with sand, water, and straw, a clayey-subsoil will dry into a very hard and durable material; indeed, it was the first, natural “concrete”. In the Americas, we call it “adobe”, which is originally from the Arabic “al-toba”, meaning “the brick.” Invading Moors brought the word to Spain from North Africa, where an ancient mud building tradition continues today.

Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing

Setting Up A Walking Plow

Here is a peek into the pages of Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing, written by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller.

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

An Introduction To Grasslands Farming

From Dusty Shelves: A World War II era article on grassland farming.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

by:
from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT