“Ranchers are not outside the ecosystem managing it,” says Grady Grissom. “They’re in the ecosystem trying to survive. And if you make successively bad decisions on a piece of land, you will go away. Your genes will no longer be in the gene pool and you wont’ be part of the generational ranching population.” It’s part of his conservation philosophy that includes people as part of the environment.
Grady Grissom runs what he calls a “small ranch” in southern Colorado. The Rancho Largo Cattle Company is about 14,000 acres of short grass prairie. With only 11 to 12 inches of annual precipitation, some years he needs as much as 120 acres per cow and others only forty acres per cow. That meant building flexibility into his stocking rate, so he moved from a full time cow calf operation to a sparsely stocked cow calf base with the ability to keep calves, buy calves or graze other peoples’ cattle.
An EQIP contract with the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped him turn his 9 pastures into 36 fenced pastures. Typical graze periods are 10 days, though that can vary greatly, with a recovery period of an average of 250 days, and a year and a half to 2 years through drought. That grazing management has helped him meet his primary goals: a healthy ecosystem as measured in plant and wildlife diversity.
You can hear more about Rancho Largo’s management and Grissom’s thoughts about conservation vs. environmentalism in this 4:49 video celebrating the ranch receiving the 2017 Leopold Conservation Award. Enjoy!
What Can You Do With This?
Take Grady’s example and contact your local Natural Resources office to see how they can work with you on conservation planning and the financial assistance programs to get started. Click to find your closest office.