Nice day yesterday to ‘mow’ the road banks.
Fundo Panguilemu is just a 20 minute drive from Coyhaique, Chile. Stepping into your booked yurt is settling into surprisingly luxurious accommodation overlooking the renowned Simpson River – famous for waters rich with trout and perfect for fly fishing. and quiet. Peace and quiet with dark skies and stars like diamonds.
Relax and get away from it all, fly fish, go for a hike, sign up for horse trekking, or just enjoy being on a working farm complete with sheep, cattle, chickens, and horses. Owners José and Elizabeth are dedicated to regenerating their beautiful property to an even higher level of productivity and beauty through proper management of resources and they are happy to share their knowledge with anyone interested in such endeavors.
Follow along on Fundo Panguilemu Facebook page. There is good reason to plan your Chilean trip around this outstanding experience.
After a great supper followed by a good night’s sleep and enjoying a delicious breakfast next morning, we loaded in our vehicles and headed for the Argentinian border. Crossing the border here is just part of the experience. There are two windows and agents to visit with at each border with a driving space of about 7 kilometers between the two. Getting out, showing and studying paperwork (for vehicles and people), stamping, questions, get loaded back up. It took our small tour of about ten people, 2 hours to navigate this labyrinth. The return was somewhat quicker – still a few bumps and luggage needed to be opened but only a cursory examination, more paperwork. If you don’t have your paperwork in order, chances are good, you will not cross.
But the effort was worth it once we arrived at Numancia Estacion. First greeted with open warm hospitality and then seated informally for a traditional Argentinian meal. We did have to wait about an hour for the rain to stop before we began our now shortened farm walk. Pablo shared details of his Hereford cattle program and Merino sheep scheme. Then we went out to examine how his 10-year implementation of managed grazing has improved forage quality and yield.
Back to Coyhaique for supper at Hotel El Reloj (awesome) then to Raices Bed and Breakfastjust before they closed the doors for the night! Finally to be in bed by midnight – scheduled departure is at 5:15a to meet a family business to take us to see the condors on a cliff side.
I cannot do justice to the sweet hospitality of this young family. Our Savory Institute journey group is here to learn about the improvements they have experienced using the holistic management techniques. The grass is thick, lush, and tender – rested paddocks are ready for consuming.
The second part of Jim Gerrish‘s excellent article and how to not only make your farm or ranch more profitable, but also improve soil, grazing, water, and wildlife.Jim Gerrish
In Part 1 of this series, I made two fundamental assertions: The first was that time management of grazing period and recovery time is the primary determinant of pasture productivity. The second is that we should be assessing ranch output and profitability on a per-acre basis not on the per-animal basis commonly used in the ranching industry.
I ended that article with the observation that increasing pasture or range production by 40% would be more profitable than trying to increase individual animal productivity by 40%.
MiG is the term I use to describe an approach to grazing management that is more intensive than the set-stocking or slow rotations common in the ranching industry. Our objective is to shorten the period of time any piece of pasture or rangeland is exposed to grazing animals. If we do this, the potential recovery period is always significantly extended. This is the key component of time management I have been referring to.
When we build subdivision fencing across the landscape of the ranch, we are not only subdividing space, we are also subdividing time. Each time we make a smaller pasture increment, we reduce the amount of time the stock will be on that increment. That has a tremendous, and for some ranchers, an almost unbelievable change in the vigor and productivity of the pasture. With shortened grazing periods, we can more tightly control every aspect of the soil-plant-animal relationship. That is the component missing from almost all of the grazing management research of the last 100 years.
What is this management of time worth down on the ranch?
As mentioned above, the average increase in carrying capacity we see among our ranching clients adopting MiG and making investments in stock water development and subdivision fencing is about 40%. We have numerous clients who have doubled their carrying capacity. We have a few who have gotten less than 40%. All of this is the product of more effectively managing the period of time cattle are allowed to be in a particular area. On rangeland we usually work toward having that time period no more than 7-10 days. On productive pasture, we keep the length of the grazing period to no more than 3-4 days.
What does it cost to install all that fence, pipelines and tanks?
Every ranch is different, so of course the answer is that it depends! For example, is there already a good well on the property or do we need to drill a well? Is there already a pipeline network on the property that we can spur off of? Are there existing fences that are in reasonable locations that can be used in the new management scheme? These are the components that can make a difference. Here are examples from a couple of recent projects we have designed and which the ranchers implemented.
Twice the ranch
On an 8,000-acre ranch in the Nebraska Sand Hills, we started a ranch that had 15-20 existing pastures with low-output windmills that allowed them to only carry 20-60 cows in each pasture. With a 7.5-mile pipeline project, 20 new stock tanks, and more than 20 miles of two-wire electrified high-tensile fencing, the ranch was split into about 60 permanent pastures with a stock-water supply system that allows 600-800 cows to be run in a single herd. The project cost was about $400,000 when we include the rancher’s labor contribution to the construction project. That is a big chunk of money, but on a per-acre basis it is only $50 per acre. In three years’ time, this ranch doubled its carrying capacity and the infrastructure investment was paid off in the third year.
That means they essentially bought another ranch for $50 per acre, while the cost to go out and actually purchase another ranch would have been $1,000 per acre, plus closing costs and added taxes.
Another recent project on a 30,000-acre ranch racked up an infrastructure development cost of about $1.1 million. That is a per-acre cost of about $36. Projecting a 40% increase in carrying capacity has the project paid off in year four. With a 40% increase in carrying capacity, the equivalent per acre purchase price is $90 per acre. I am confident this ranch will also experience a doubling of carrying capacity in 3-5 years, so the payoff rate should be accelerated. Why do I expect this ranch to double carrying capacity? Because the ranch is presently very under-supplied with stock water and much of the ranch is rarely even being grazed.
Remember the title on the article: “What is the cheapest ranch you will ever buy?”
It is the one you acquire by more effectively managing grazing and recovery time on the ranch you already own.
We all have people in our past who have helped us through the tough times and often we don’t recognise the impact they had until we are much older and those wiser ones are long past from our lives – perhaps even have died. I didn’t know it at the time, but reflecting on the years i had with my grandpa – i realize now – he was my hero.
Sure, he wasn’t talkative or a hugger, but showed by example, a work ethic of getting up early (and making me get up early by pulling my toes to wake up), he would already have some chores done before i dragged my laziness out and ready to go do the chores that were away from the house. The importance of finishing a job which included putting things away and cleaning up. But, i LOVED going with him. He’d let me drive the truck while he threw out small round bales to the cows to feed in the winter, taught me how to drive the old Farmall 460 and clip pastures with a 9 foot sickle bar mower AND how to change out a broken section. And even when i drove (i think i was about 10) the pickup into a deep wash out along a ditch (he was on foot looking for a calf), he was more concerned whether or not i was hurt rather than upset about any damage to the pickup or that we had to walk a mile to get the aforesaid 460 to pull it out. Additionally, he taught me how to ride and have a love for horses. That was my passion for years.
Back from chores, every morning we stopped in at Tolly’s Garage on the western edge of Purdin, MO which had a population of 236 at the time – less now. He would reach in for a Coca-Cola and I’d select my favorite – Chocolate Soldier. Then i could just sit and act like i was one of the guys in the office area. I was part of a small and important community even at age 8.
Today, my grandpa would have been 100, but he died August 9, 2008 and i continue to miss him though he corrected me a lot about how to raise cattle. I’m still learning and still need correcting, but thankfully, i don’t make the mistakes he chided me about.
How many people get to farm or ranch the very land and legacy that his or her grandparent’s built? Not many, but i do own and directly manage at least a portion of their legacy and i could not be more honored to carry on a tradition of land and livestock management. I call this farm Tannachton Farm to reflect our Scottish roots and the commitment to regenerative and sustainable stewardship.
Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Family – cling to what is good
There are very few reasons for mobs of livestock to have access to ponds beyond and emergency drinking water access. My reason here is that these heifers needed to be separated from the main cow herd for the 45 day breeding season and the only paddock I have does not have shade or even a high point to catch a breeze such as the pond dam where the heifers in the second photo are standing.
Ideally, allotting short term adequate shaded space is the optimal. Video below shows comfortable cows and calves.
In many cases, cattle not selected for heat tolerance will immerse themselves in a pond for relief. The flip side is that oftentimes these cattle will tolerate severe cold better than the others. We can spend decades selecting for the genetics which thrive in each of our unique environments and management. Hopefully also providing a quality eating experience for the consumer.