Thoughts in General
The standard answer from NRCS for years has been,
“More pastures adds up to better range health.”
The size of the place didn’t figure into the answer. Lately, we in the Simla office have been thinking the one answer fits all may not be the best answer for small acreage landowners.
Managing Small Acreage
When you begin with 40 acres, then take 2 or 3 acres out to put the house, barn, corrals and sheds, there isn’t much land left to graze. One horse will clean it up in a month, several will have it a weed patch in 2 years. Dividing it up isn’t going to buy much forage.
Other issues with cross fencing are disruption of riding your own property. Seems kind of silly to open 6 gates to ride around your 40 acres. Also we questioned the investment in the fencing and water developments versus the gain in forage. You will be buying hay pretty much year round with or without cross fencing. What is the solution?
Timed Grazing Options
We have come to the conclusion timed grazing is a better option. Letting the livestock (I am using horses but cows, sheep, llamas etc. are other options) out to graze for a short period daily will keep the grazing pressure low. The goal is to let the horse’s stretch their legs, grab a few bites of grass then return them to the corral. By limiting the time on pasture and providing hay, overgrazing shouldn’t be an issue. Instead of fences, use the clock to control grazing.
Adjusting for Our Climate
Another thought is how we think of our climate in eastern Colorado. We have more dry years than wet so maybe what we consider drought is normal and the wet years are a bonus. Historical data says we are likely to have less than 9 inches of rain during the prime summer months 2 out of 10 years. While we can get almost 19 inches over the same months in some years, below average is more common.
When planning for grazing, using the dry years as the norm will allow you to stock accordingly. When the rains come, leasing some pastures out or adding stock will use the extra production but you won’t get caught with too many cows and no grass. People are optimists. We want the best conditions to be all the time and plan for wet years.
Maybe a change in thought can have us happy in the dry and REALLY happy when we get the extra moisture because we are prepared for the dry normal but ready for the best wet.
We Are Here to Help
The NRCS, located in the USDA Service Center in Simla can help you develop a quality conservation plan to protect the resources you are counting on. Beginning with the soils and determining what you have is a good place to begin the conservation plan for your place.
Whether you have 10 or 10,000 acres, knowing where you are and then where you are going makes lots of sense.
For assistance, Contact Us!