The High-Five and Range Management

Today, after working through the initial morning routine, I got to thinking about mental high fives.  Probably because I gave myself one for making it through the first hour of the work day, when really I wanted to be outside doing something less mundane than checking and responding to emails.   No one really knows who started the tradition of high-fives (you can read more about it here), but they have become a popular part of our culture.  When I was a kid I loved the high-five and still do.  I am pretty sure I learned to high-five before I learned to hug, shake hands, or fist bump.  One of my fondest memories is giving our pastor a low-five after every church service instead of a handshake.  My brothers and sister and I use the high-five instead of hugging.  My dog even loves to high-five.

Dogs even enjoy high-fives (Photo: Ashley Garrelts; UW Extension).

Dogs even enjoy high-fives (Photo: Ashley Garrelts; UW Extension).

 

Okay now you are asking, what does the high-five have to do with management of grazing lands?  Sadly, logically speaking, it doesn’t.  I mean high-fives are not really something we typically think about when delving into range management activities.  However they can come into play when building teams, accomplishing tasks, and celebrating successes, which are all things we should be doing to improve and manage rangelands across the west.

Let me ask you this, who is part of your team?  If you raise livestock that graze on rangelands you likely have some type of team.  Initially this might be you and your spouse or family.  However, think of others that may be on your team.  You may hire an accountant to give financial advice.  You may work with a University Extension Educator or other consultant that advises you on grazing strategies and proper monitoring techniques.  When doing monitoring you may work with a government agency, especially if you have a grazing permit on public lands.  You may hire laborers or ranch hands.   Maybe the neighbors come over to help with branding, shearing, and other large tasks that require more hands than you initially have.  These people are all part of your range management team!

Who is part of your team? Who helps you make decisions? (Photo: Mae Smith; UW Extension)

Who is part of your team? Who helps you make decisions? (Photo: Mae Smith; UW Extension)

 

Now I will ask you another question?  When you accomplish a task with your team, do you celebrate?  Do you let your team know that they have done a good job and that you appreciate them?  This brings me back to the original idea of this post—the high-five.  The high-five is an excellent way to show people that they have done a great job. That they are appreciated.  Taking time to celebrate, even the smallest of accomplishments, can go a long way in keeping your team running smoothly and efficiently.  Should you high-five your accountant or agency representative?  Well it depends.   Does your accountant/representative have a good sense of humor?  Did he or she just make you some money or help you figure something out that you were questioning?  If you can answer yes, I say go for it.  Should you high-five an extension educator/consultant?  I don’t see why not.   Should you high-five your spouse, family, neighbors, and hired hands?  Of course you should!

Celebrating success with a high-five is a great way to motivate your team! (photo: creative commons)

Celebrating success with a high-five is a great way to motivate your team! (photo: creative commons)

 

The beauty of taking a minute to honor a job well done whether you did it by yourself or with a team can serve as motivation for the next task at hand.  So take a minute to give yourself a mental high-five, or a team member a real high-five.  It just may make the next task just a little bit easier to accomplish. I will leave you with a story about celebrating the successes.  A day or so ago, my 4 year old niece went to the doctor for her kindergarten immunizations.  This is the story she told that day about the event, “Today I got my kindergarten shots.  I didn’t even cry.  I had one tear in my eye but it didn’t come out.  Leila [her 12 year-old- sister], she is terrible.  She screams. And she is older than me… High-five!?”

A little girl high-fives her dad (Photo: creative commons).

A little girl high-fives her dad (Photo: creative commons).

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Bale Grazing

Bale grazing, while a relatively old practice in the deep snow country of Canada and the Northern United States, has just started to gain recognition in other parts of the US in the last couple of years.  Case studies have shown many economic and environmental benefits to this livestock feeding system, including decreased labor and machinery costs and increased soil fertility and forage yields.

Cattle graze on supplemental winter feed.

Cattle graze on supplemental winter feed (Photo: Public Domain).

 

Traditional bale grazing involves moving bales in the fall from the fields in which they were made to pastures where winter grazing will occur.  Bales are placed in a grid pattern.  Through the use of electric fence, livestock are allowed access to bales over the grazing period.  The farmer/rancher does not have to use a tractor or feed wagon, resulting in less wear on machinery and less fuel costs.  Machinery is only used in the fall to move and set bales.  Some producers are even decreasing fuel and machinery costs further by grazing bales directly where they fall after baling.  This practice may not work for every operation.

Bale grazing is one way to reduce winter fuel and machinery costs.

Bale grazing is one way to reduce winter fuel and machinery costs (Photo: Public Domain).

 

Bale grazing is also a good way to get nutrients into the soil.  Not only is the bale providing litter/organic matter (carbon), the livestock are providing urine and manure (nitrogen).  Bale grazing has been shown to add 3 times more nitrogen to the soil than when manure is hauled and spread on a pasture mechanically.  This is because when hauling manure most of the nitrogen is lost through volatilization.  In case studies done in Canada and Nebraska it has been shown that forage yields in pastures were higher in years following bale grazing than those where no bale grazing occurred.  The added nutrients to the soil were the cause.

The placement of manure and urine is a great source fertilizer for degraded pastures. (Photo: Natural Resource Conservation Service).

The placement of manure and urine is a great source fertilizer for degraded pastures. (Photo: Natural Resource Conservation Service).

 

When choosing a site to bale graze, if you are going to move bales, look for pastures is poorer condition–ones that need extra fertility.  This can be a good way increase pasture quality.  The pasture needs a water source and a power source for the portable electric fencing.  Bale grazing should only occur in the same area once every 4 to 5 years to minimize damage to the area.   Place the bales in the grid pattern approximately 20 feet or more apart.  Use the electric fence to allocate the correct number of bales for the number of days and number and weight of livestock.  Most producers will use a 2-4 day rotation.  Remember to remove the twine or net wrap if deemed necessary (some twines are biodegradable).  Start with the bales closest to the water source.  The livestock will be required to walk back through the fed bales which will help break up waste and incorporate it into the soil.

Example:  A rancher has 20 head of 1200 lb. cows.  Each cow will eat 2.5% of her body weight per day.  Figure a 15% waste.  So the herd will need 690 lbs. of feed per day.  If this rancher has 1500 lb. round bales the cows will need approximately 2 bales per day.

  • 1 cow x 1200 lbs. x 0.025 = 30 lbs.
  • 30 lbs./cow x 20 cows = 600 lbs.
  • 0.15 x 600 lbs. = 90 lb. loss
  • 600 + 90 = 690 lbs./day
  • 1500 / 690 = 2.2 bales
Traditional winter feeding of beef cattle (Photo by Natural Resource Conservation Service).

Traditional winter feeding of beef cattle (Photo by Natural Resource Conservation Service).

 

Bale grazing can is a tool that can be used to decrease machinery and fuel costs, while increasing soil fertility and forage yields.  Each operation is different and bale grazing may or may not work for you; however it may be worth investigating, especially if increasing rangeland health is something you desire.  More information can be found online and by contacting your local University Extension Office.

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