When Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark bought their 14,000 acre ranch in north Texas in 2003 it was a monoculture of little blue stem with 25% bare ground, and areas that were overgrazed and undergrazed. Today, it produces two times the county average of beef per acre and in less time. For that, and the increase in plant and wildlife diversity, Emry and Deborah have been honored with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award, and the Lone Star Land Steward award from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
In this six minute video, Emry and Deborah talk about the holistic management that has brought them this far. They have 140 permanent paddocks that they split into smaller pastures and run one herd of 5,000 stocker cattle all winter and to the middle of summer. Their water system includes 25 miles of pipe run with the assistance of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a portable water trough made from an old propane tank. The move the trough to areas they would like to have animal impact, or place it away from areas that they don’t want to impact. It gives them tremendous flexibility to use the entire ranch. It has also allowed them to fence off riparian areas.
Deborah and Emry have brought the ranch back to life with their grazing management. Now they share their experience and knowledge with others who’d like to do the same on their own operations.
What does it look like when 5,000 cattle move from one pasture to the next? Check out this video. As Tony Dean, NRCS District Conservationist (retired) says, “One herd grazing is not new science, but one herd grazing at this scale has, as far as I know, never been done.”
Pasture without water is not worth much to an operation. That’s why the Natural Resources Conservation Service helps farmers and ranchers with water systems and grazing plans for their operations. To check out what’s available, Click here to find the office nearest you.
Conservation Districts can also provide support and point you to additional resources. Click here to find one near you.