Ranch Advisory Welcomes Domenech


Posted on: Jun 16, 2017

Elizabeth Domenech recently joined the Ranch Advisory team as the Manger of Ecosystem Services.  Originally from a Texas ranching family, Domenech has worked across the west on a variety of ranching and wildlife-related conservation efforts, including fence design, coordinating predator/livestock…

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Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko (Nevada) has position open.


Posted on: Jun 01, 2017

The Stewardship Alliance of Northeast Elko (SANE), a local area working group in NE Nevada, is seeking an Organizational Coordinator who is highly motivated and passionate about enhancing healthy and resilient sagebrush ecosystems through public/private partnerships while preserving livestock operations…

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Gallatin Valley Land Trust Seeks Lands Project Manager


Posted on: May 01, 2017

The Lands Project Manager develops and manages land conservation projects throughout GVLT’s service area and plays an important role in achieving GVLT’s land conservation mission. The Project Manager is responsible for building effective working relationships, and negotiating and completing complex…

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Sieben Live Stock Seeks a Mechanic and Farm Hand


Posted on: May 01, 2017

Sieben Live Stock Co. in west central Montana is offering a full-time position for a mechanic and farm hand.  See the position announcement here. 


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Rangelands Monitoring

Like the financial statements used within the ranch business, rangelands monitoring provides the critical “ecological statements” portraying performance of the ranch resources.  Just as financial managers use data to track performance of their businesses, landowners use land health data to track performance of their resource base.  Armed with such data, resource managers may adjust their operations to optimize land health and maximize the landscape’s long-term revenue potential.  Data may be used to document past performance of the resource and may guide enhanced decision making.  Our rangeland monitoring services examine changes in land health through time, while informing management decisions.  We provide critical “early-warning indicators” suggesting management practices may not be producing the desired result.  We utilize a variety of monitoring methods and also favor the Bullseye monitoring protocol.

  Download the Bullseye here (2.7mb)

 

 

An example of the benefits of rangeland monitoring may be found on a Wyoming ranch that greatly altered its grazing strategy over a decade ago.  Rangeland health monitoring provided both a track record of changes, as well as needed guidance on making management-related decisions.  A multi-year summary of changes may be found below from one pasture.

 

In 2005, 44% of the soil was bare, meaning it was not producing.  Changes in grazing management shortly thereafter resulted in strong declines in bare ground and an increase by 6 percentage points in live plant cover.  This marked strong improvement.  The rangeland health monitoring transect was read in the years of 2005, 2007, and again in 2011.

After the amount of bare ground declined, vegetative productivity increased greatly, as shown in the table below.

 

The "benchmark" figure of 1,500 pounds per acre represents the potential production of this part of the pasture, given the pasture's combination of soils and annual precipitation.  In 2003, the pasture was grealy underperforming its potential at just over 500 pounds per acre of vegetative production.  With a drought in 2006, the level of vegetative productivity declined further.  By 2010, rangeland health had dramatically improved, and plant production increased.  Continued strong management resulted in a level of production in 2013 that surpassed the potential at over 2,000 pounds per acre in an average precipitation year.  Such increases in production were made without seeding, fertilizing, or irrigating this rangeland pasture. 

The altered grazing management strategy also resulted in strong shifts in plant species composition, as the figure below shows.

 

Green needlegrass and Idaho fescue are both highly desired plant species in this part of Wyoming for both livestock and big game.  The amount of both species increased dramatically in certain pastures.  Each of the years shown in the figure represent years in which the rangeland health transects were read.

 

Lastly, these improvements resulted in strong increases in the ranch's stocking rate, which is a measure of the number of animal days harvested relative to the number of acres involved. 

 

 

This figure shows the number of animal unit equivalents of cow/calf pairs, yearling cattle, and sheep grazing the ranch.  The number of animal days harvested tripled between 2002 and 2013.  This ranch's revenue increased dramatically with the same cost structure, making its livestock operations much more profitable.