By Jesse Juen
Ranchers, botanists, urbanites and staff from government agencies, soil & water conservation districts and land trusts gathered at the Rectory B&B in Mosquero, New Mexico on Monday, May 16th for the Western Landowners Alliance event exploring ranching economics, improving soil/rangeland health and drought planning.
Morning presentations included grassland restoration and studies comparing soil health under different grazing management. Tuda and Jack Crews led a tour of Ute Creek Cattle Company to show how planning, work and time invested in the ranch has paid dividends. Their riparian restoration on Ute Creek revitalized stream flow and water quality, and increased wildlife diversity. Grassland restoration includes removing cholla and implementing a planned rotational grazing strategy based on herd movement, amount of available forage, and pasture rest during the growing season. As a result, annual management flexibility has increased, feeding costs have decreased, and they have sustained herd genetics and quality even in drought years.
Brenda Simpson, a state NRCS rangeland management specialist, gave a presentation simulating the range of soil water-holding capacity over various covered and bare soil types. Information included discussion on the structure of healthy soils—pore spaces, microorganism, and how density/diversity of grasses contribute to overall soil health confirming the clear correlation between above-ground management and below-ground soil health.
The extensive ranch stock watering system allows strategic herd management through timed grazing. Conserving underground water is achieved through a 91 percent reduction in evaporation by covering stock tanks with floating plastic balls. They are presently working with the Small Business Development Assistance Program to prevent stock tanks from freezing in winter.
The day wrapped-up at The Rectory B&B where folks shared what was learned and most enjoyed about the day. The group take-away was the importance of improving the economics of ranching through healthy land, and enhancing rural quality of life to draw future generations home to thrive in rural communities.
Thank you Tuda and Jack for being visionaries, sharing your successes, failures, love, and commitment to ranching and the Harding County community.
Jesse Juen works as a consultant for the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA), established by landowners in 2011 to advance policies and practices that sustain working lands, connected landscapes and native species. WLA members steward approximately 14 million acres of deeded and leased public land in the American West. Through policy reform and on-the-ground stewardship, they are working to protect land and wildlife, restore watershed health, maintain wildlife corridors, promote economically vibrant rural communities, and to keep working lands working.