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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: Farming Systems & Approaches

Personal Food Production

Personal Food Production

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We can argue about when, but someday within several decades, oil and the plentiful super-market food we take for granted will be in short supply and/or very expensive. We must all start immediately to grow as much of our own food as possible. This is the fun part and is the subject of a vast popular movement highlighted by innumerable books, magazines, and web sites. Square-foot gardening, raised beds, and permaculture are the new rage. We don’t need thirty-million acres of lawns. Flowers aren’t very filling either.

English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

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Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.

Organic To Be or Not To Be

Organic: To Be or Not To Be

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How do our customers know that we’re accurately representing our products? That’s the key, the reason that a third party verification system was created, right? I think this is the beauty of a smaller-scale, community-based direct market food system. During parts of the year, my customers drive past my sheep on their way to the farmers’ market. At all times of the year, we welcome visitors to our farm. In other words, our production practices are entirely open for our customers to see.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

Cultivating Questions A Diversity of Cropping Systems

Cultivating Questions: A Diversity of Cropping Systems

As a matter of convenience, we plant all of our field vegetables in widely spaced single rows so we can cultivate the crops with one setup on the riding cultivator. Row cropping makes sense for us because we are more limited by labor than land and we don’t use irrigation for the field vegetables. As for the economics of planting produce in work horse friendly single rows, revenue is comparable to many multiple row tractor systems.

Back to the Land

Back to the Land

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Tired of living in a crowded urban environment with its deafening noise and bumper-to-bumper traffic and eager to escape what they saw as an economy bent on destroying the planet, Matt and Tasha left their home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in March 2014. In doing so, they became modern-day pioneers, part of a wave of Americans who have chosen to go back to the land over the past decade, seeking to reclaim and rebuild their lives and to forge a deeper connection to the earth, the animals that inhabit it, and to each other.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

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