Testing the practical application of stockmanship in pasture management

Back Ground

Like most ranchers, I have struggled for years to find the balance in harvesting the most forage possible while maintaining or improving pastures. Good cattle distribution in pastures is a key factor in getting the most out of the available forage. There are many tools and strategies available for ranchers to get better distribution including improving water availability, supplement placement, and fencing. I have employed all of these at one time or another with varying degrees of success, but I still find cattle will tend to over graze some areas will leaving other areas alone.

Years ago I stumbled on the book Stockmanship, by Steve Cote. In this book Steve talks about placing cattle where you would like them by using stockmanship techniques taught by Bud Williams. Steve claims that if you follow the techniques and principles he describes you can place cattle and they will stay together and in the area you left them for several days. Even walking over better feed to water and return where they were you left them.

The benefits resulting from the implementation of such a program were apparent to me. Not only in pasture management, but heard productivity, and heard health. These advantages were so clear, I wondered what is the catch? Why isn’t every one doing this?

Unfortunately, before I was able to pursue it a severe drought hit, and continued, to one degree or another, for years. All of my focus went into survival. Eventually, I adjusted, and though the drought persisted I was able to manage for it and could turn my attention to other opportunities. Around this time I met Matthew Shapiro, the Livestock and Range Advisor for UC Cooperative extension. He was also interested in this concept and wanted to know more about it.

After doing some research Matthew suggested experiment to test the practical application of these principals on these landscapes. We were able to obtain a grant and built some GPS collars to track cattle.

GPS collar

The experiment would last three years, and consist of a baseline year, in which I would not change anything and collect data. Matthew and I also attended a Steve Cote school to learn and better understand these techniques.

The second and third year we will began using these techniques to place cattle. We will continue to collect data to measure our success

Walking a transect

July 2019 we wrapped up out base line year. We brought the cattle in collected the data from the GPS devices and kicked of the treatment years with a work shop event I will go into in the next blog. Stay tuned.

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