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Berlier Ranch – Success Based on a Passion for Soil and Range Health

I’ve had a passion for soil health and range conditions all my life. If we don’t maintain our grasslands in a healthy manner and leave them better than we found them, there just won’t be anything for our grandchildren and for future generations.

Jim Berlier, Berlier Ranch, Encino, New Mexico

Jim Berlier says that sustainability is the key to what he’s doing. To him that means harvesting forage without doing any harm to the ecosystem and managing in a way that prevents erosion, improves soil health and water quality and enhances wildlife habitat. But it wasn’t always that way on the Berlier Ranch.

“I guess you’d say in the older generation, [uncle] Theo’s generation, people didn’t think much about sustainability. They were just here to harvest every blade of grass that grew and thought that was the best way to maximize their profits. But as time went on, they over-grazed this land and ate up all the cool season grasses.”

When Jim took over the ranch, he decided to put his range science degree to work. He cross fenced pastures as part of a rotational grazing system and ran 15 miles of livestock water lines to improve water and cattle distribution. The changes have improved plant and wildlife diversity, making the ranch more sustainable and profitable. “Everyone else around me is feeding hay, and I haven’t had to feed any hay except to my horses,” says Jim. “With proper management, we’re able to manage a short-term drought better than the neighbors that graze more heavily.”

Jim’s focus on soil health has also proved beneficial. “In our 12 to 14 inch rainfall area we have to maximize the effectiveness of every drop of rain we get and I have more than doubled my forage production over the last 20 years through the implementation of these practices.”

As Jim and his friend Cyle Sharp describe in this 8:10 minute video, not only has Jim healed the land, it was healing for Jim too after he lost his son in a car accident. That healing is spreading to his local community too. “What Jimmy is doing here on this ranch is impacting what the neighbors are doing on their ranch,” says Cyle. “What Jimmy’s doing in lending his time and knowledge to go to these different meetings, the soil and water conservation district meetings, our cattle grower meetings, and being willing to share that knowledge, it’s impacting some, it’s making a difference here in New Mexico and in this ranching community.”

Jim says, “I never did even consider spreading the word about it. I was just doing it for myself and I didn’t even know the avenues to spread the word. But I became more and more involved and dedicated my service to the memory of my son.”

Dedicated to the memory of John Michael Berlier.

“I definitely think open space is healthy and healing. It’s just a beautiful way of life to be able to come out here and enjoy mother nature and what it provides for us.”

We hope you’ll enjoy learning about what Jim is doing on his ranch and how it is improving the land and his community.

The Berlier Ranch would like to recognize the Natural Resources Conservation Service, East Torrance Soil and Water Conservation District, the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, and Brandon Beavers for their partnership and support.

What Can You Do With This?

Jim’s soil and range health improvement tools were cross fences, better water distribution and stocking rates that matched his resource. He was able to make these improvements by working with partners. You can use his example to look at your place, with an eye toward how you might increase rest for forages with a little more fencing, or imagine how livestock management could be made easier if they just had water in places they don’t right now. For many of us, the investment in new infrastructure is difficult or even out of reach. But if you work with partners, like Jim did, you might find assistance that will put you on a new, more profitable and sustainable path.

Would You Like to Learn More?

This video is part of a series called “Stewardship With a Vision” from the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA). You can see more videos here, and learn more here about how WLA is working for a future in which private and leased public lands in the West are resilient to stressors, healthy and biologically diverse, and provide for prosperous rural business and critical ecological services.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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