While many newcomers to the Arkansas River Valley admire the scenic beauty of rolling farmland and the bucolic peace of cattle grazing pastures, the fact is that farming is a business with real economic impact. Surviving as a farmer or rancher requires real knowledge and some risk. The recent Pasture Planning and Soil Health Workshop at Poncha Springs Town Hall featured keynote speaker Greg Judy and was packed with enthusiastic and note-taking members of the local farming community.
Judy, who with his wife Jan runs a grazing operation on 1,660 acres of leased and owned land in Missouri, is known the world over in farming circles. Author of three books on successful farming practices, Judy teaches the benefits of planned grazing, multi-species grazing, custom grazing, agroforestry and wildlife management.
Judy spoke several times during the conference, dispelling misconceptions about grazing, and in particular how mixed grazing of cattle, sheep and goats actually rejuvenates soils and pastures; the combination of hooves and different grazing modes complement each other. The information came in so quickly that many participants said they couldn’t take notes fast enough.
“The workshop was the result of several other projects we have underway as a collaboration between Central Colorado Conservancy and the Upper Arkansas Conservation District. Both organizations are involved in leading the watershed planning project of Upper Arkansas (UAWP),” said Natalie Allio, agricultural projects manager for the Central Colorado Conservancy.
Allio explains that there is an agricultural component to the watershed planning which has included a needs assessment. “As part of this assessment, we asked the farming community what topics they would like to know more about. The workshop program was the result of their preliminary comments.
The workshop was made possible by grants from Common Ground and sponsorships from NCAT-Soil for Water, Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, Chaffee County Cattlemen’s, NRCS, CSU-Extension, and Piñon Vacation Rentals.
“It was a big effort to organize this to focus on grazing and soil health planning,” Allio said. “We had excellent feedback from the participants.”
When asked if the type of planned grazing that works in Missouri could work in Colorado, she added, “It depends on where you do it. Look to the east side of Holman where Brady Everett is grazing. Jeff Williams does strip grazing with a small number of cattle. [Everett] also does so in the fall on his large lot off US 291 when he lowers cattle, using a single electric rope.
“We can’t do it as intensely here as in Missouri, but it works here,” she added. “You can improve forage in the field, but there’s a difference between soil that gets 13 inches of moisture and 40 inches.”
There is a difference between intensively grazing a field and intensively managing it. Letting the fields rest is essential so they can recover is essential. “You have to let him recover,” she added. “Here, we turn too early… this is where we risk the ground. The techniques must be adapted to our dry environment and our dry courses.
It all comes down to education, says Allio. “There are so many things we can learn. We’ve had feedback that it’s great, telling us they want to hear from someone who knows how to do it here. »
Not everything was classroom instruction; Workshop attendees also accompanied Judy on a field walk to Lewis’ ranch.
Josh Tashiro, Range Management Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was also presenter. Tashiro covers the western part of the Arkansas River Valley and South Park. He works with local farmers and ranchers on rangeland ecology and special projects in the western United States.
Rounding out the presenters, Todd Hagenbuch, CSU Agriculture Officer in Routt County, spoke about the importance of succession planning for farms and ranches so that the operation can stay in the family.