Cattle once grazed the entire Whiterock Valley and continue to be an important part of the working landscape at Whiterock Conservancy. Most acres that could be converted to improved pasture were seeded to smooth brome grass by the 1970s and grazed by the Garst Company cattle operations until 2003. The valley was rotationally grazed for most of this period to maximize forage while providing pastures the needed resting period. Many of these pastures sustain Whiterock Conservancy today while allowing staff to explore new pasture management programs.
Whiterock Conservancy adapted a Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) system in July 2014 to increase forage for cattle as well as manage for species composition. This involved breaking down the rotational grazing system paddocks into smaller paddocks to stock up to 100,000 pounds of cattle per acre per day. This system has most frequently been called “mob” grazing – however, our goal is to “flash” graze a paddock to let the grass quickly regrow. By taking advantage of cattle to preferentially graze nutrient-rich, young grass and the rapid regrowth of mid-stage grass we can keep pastures at a nutrient-rich stage that is capable of rapid regrowth. By increasing the resting period between grazing activity the pasture resilience increases, which means that the pasture system is more stable over the long term and can better weather droughts.
Smaller paddocks do mean more attention is needed to regularly move the cattle herd. To maximize the function WRC staff have had to be innovative and develop methods to quickly move fencing, water tanks, and minerals. Darwin Pierce put his creativity to the test and developed a rack for a 4-wheeler to quickly move fence while a bit of time with a welder and running gear created a moveable water tank. If you have questions or suggestions about what has worked well for you please contact Darwin Pierce.