Recently I toured the Sand Ranch in Forbes North Dakota. I started the day by checking cows looking them over for any health problems. Then Melanie (the new August intern) and I took off for North Dakota. As we arrived we registered and paid our dues for the dinner that was going to be provided! We all piled on to flatbed trailers and fixed our keasters on some good ole hay benches. One of the first things I noticed was the use of permanent two strand high tensile wire fence. They used to have 16 pastures that encompassed 2300 acres. This high tensile wire plus poly wire have turned 16 into 65 pastures in just four years. This then allows them to experiment and have such a cushion of grass. For instance, if they wanted to try using grazing weed control in a certain pasture that has a lot of wormwood they can graze it heavily. If it does not work out then they have 64 other pastures to go into. Their average pasture size is forty acres. Then they use poly wire to make those into twenty acre paddocks. Another advantage to doing this is to use a high intensity stock grazing. They had three to four herds and combined them all into one herd. By doing this they have seen a large amount of native grasses come back into their pastures along with a vast amount of diversity.
Another thing I found very interesting is a twelve foot tire tank with a curb stop floatation device in it. They also had calf water fabricated to allow calves to water. They found that a problem created by this high intensity style of grazing was the capacity of the water tanks for the calves as well as the cows.
Cody and Deanna talked a lot on improving the quality of life, being able to spend time with their family and not letting the ranch run their lives. One of the things that they have done is to put up little to no hay for the winter. Instead they stock pile grass on pasture. They hit the corn fields in the winter and then in the early spring they have grass stockpiled to use before the growing season. Not having to spend so much time haying has allowed the growth of another business, a custom saddle making business.
On the tour we stopped by crop land that the family has owned for only four years. The ground was very mismanaged when they purchased it. The effects of tillage and no cover crop usage caused the top soil on these hills to sluff away, so they have been bale grazing the hills to try and return the top soil and allow grass to grow there.
It was a wonderful experience to me to see people thinking out side of the box that I feel a lot of people get stuck into. A special thanks to Cody and Deanna Sand for allowing the tour on their place. It gave me a lot of ideas and confidence to go out and try some of these practices out when I manage or own my own ranch.
Till next post “Watch your top knot” Readers.