Lake County CD hosts Pivotal Pasturing tour
by Heidi Fleury, Lake County Conservation District and Ben Montgomery, NRCS Ronan
On September 8th, 2016 approximately 90 people travelled from across Western Montana to La Cense Ranch in Dillon, Montana to take part ina ‘Pivotal Pasturing Tour’. The tour, a cooperative effort between LaCense Ranch, the Lake County Conservation District and the NRCS offices in Ronan and Dillon was organized to showcase the simple,common sense grazing practices that La Cense Ranch has been implementing for over a decade.
Race King, Ranch Manager at La Cense, provided his guidance and insight during the tour while head cattle hand, Miguel Navarrete,showed us the process of moving portable fence, posts, and stock water tanks with a side-by-side.
For La Cense, the key to making their ranch profitable is flexibility. A number of years ago, after crunching the numbers, they determined that haying wasn’t making them money. So, they sold off their haying equipment and began to invest in more permanent cattle production infrastructure that now includes about 3500-acres of irrigated pasture.
On an annual basis, La Cense Ranch grazes these pastures with up to 8,000 stocker cattle. Their grazing management plan utilizes numerous groups numbering from 500 to 800 individuals, depending on weight.Groups are then rotated under irrigation pivots using high stock density,short duration grazing practices.
The management decisions that La Cense employs have paid off. Zero herbicide applications are necessary on their pastures because weeds are not present. Their grass production is high and their pasture quality is exceptional. Race says the ranch can yield between 700 and 800 pounds of animal gain per acre, per year. Doing the math at $1.50 per pound of gain equals $1,200 per acre from pasture production! Try beating that with hay!
La Cense Ranch prides itself on prudent business decisions that also employ the best management practices possible while producing healthy and nutritious beef. They have taken their grazing and pasture management to the next level by developing low-cost, simple infrastructure to facilitate grazing.
The easy movement of the portable stock water system and the pivot running over the flexible fences were just some of the many impressive things we viewed first hand on the tour. Most impressive was the rotating of several groups of livestock while the crowd watched. After moving one group (setting and removing the temporary fence) Miguel returned to the crowd, the total time elapsed, six minutes. Six minutes to rotate 600 cattle! And he said he was taking his time so we could see what he was doing.
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Source: The Montana Conservationist
Photo: Tour participants travelled in style (Photo Courtesy of Kori L. Anderson-Montana Stockgrowers Association)