In early January, I gave a ranch tour to a couple from Alberta, Canada. They had been to a Ranching for Profit school in Colorado Springs. When I showed them the cowherd, they said, “This is the first grass we have seen since we left Colorado Springs.” Nearly all of the land between here and Colorado Springs is grassland – but there was very little grass to see. They were shocked at how badly everyone had abused and overgrazed their grass.
Three weeks later, on a return trip from our mountain cabin, I went through Colorado Springs. I remembered what they had said, so I paid special attention to all the grassland between Colorado Springs and PCC Headquarters. For the most part, they were right. I did notice three short stretches they had missed. These were places owned by PCC customers who practice rotational grazing. If I had not been paying close attention, though, I would have missed those places too.
In the fall of 2015, Dave Pratt from Ranch Management Consultants spoke at our Colorado pre-sale meeting. We had a ranch tour with Dave prior to that meeting. That year had been a very good year for us. We had already received twice our average annual precipitation – and it showed. However, when we looked over the fence at a neighbor’s pasture, Dave said, “These people are obviously suffering from a severe drought.” He went on to describe it as a “man-made” drought.
It doesn’t matter how much rain you receive. What matters is how much rain you retain and put to use. Grassland that has been grubbed to the ground will retain very little of the rain that falls on it. Most will run off. Grass plants that have been grubbed to the ground have a compromised root system that is unable to transfer much water and nutrients to the plant. In many parts of the country, those who manage their grass properly can produce at least five times more grass than their neighbors.
Pictured above is a fence-line comparison between Alejandro Carrillo’s Las Damas Ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico, and the neighboring ranch. Alejandro has practiced rotational grazing for over 10 years – and it shows. His neighbor wonders why the rain never falls on his side of the fence. Both ranches are about the same size. Alejandro runs around 600 cows and feeds no hay or supplements. His neighbor only runs 100 cows and feeds hay and supplements for six months of the year.
In January of 2013, PCC representative Weston Walker and I traveled 2000 miles in four different states in what I refer to as Fescue Country. We put on 10 Herd Quitter meetings. As we were driving from place to place, we noticed that nearly all of the cattle were being hayed on grubbed-to-the-ground fescue grass. This didn’t seem right since fescue is an excellent grass for winter grazing. The only cattle we saw grazing were those owned by PCC producers and customers.
Alan Hunnicutt, a PCC customer in northwest Arkansas, was moving his cows to a new paddock when we stopped by. He had 300 cows that he moved every day. Knowing that his area was dealing with one of the worst droughts in history, I said, “You sure have a lot of grass.” Alan quickly replied by saying, “If you don’t have grass, you shouldn’t have cows.” I will never forget that statement. It is the difference between breaking even and being extremely profitable.