Sunday, 28 August 2011

Dances with Buffalo

Farming in nature's image means trying to work in sync with nature rather than fighting it all the time. On the prairies of South Dakota, buffalo seem the obvious choice and, at the Jerde ranch, the sight of hundreds of them grazing the land was a marvellous sight.

Buffalo being moved from one paddock to the next. The siren heard in the background is the horn on Phil's old pickup, letting the buffalo know it was time to move

The Three Amigos (or at least two and a half, I managed inadvertently to self-edit my face out of the picture!)

One of the things that goes hand in hand with holistic management and mob grazing is a real interest in nature and the natural world. The whole Jerde family exhibited just such an interest, with excellent observational powers, a really good knowledge of native and introduced plant species, an understanding of the importance of the water cycle and a desire to record, with photographs and by other means, the improvements they are making to their environment.

This interest means the Jerde Ranch will be in good hands for decades to come.

Phil and daughter Emily examine grasses growing in adjacent paddocks. In the foreground, heavily trampled land shows a typical combination of large amounts of litter and good, even regrowth. The animals only remained on this area of land for a day, thus avoiding damaging the plant root system.

The benefits of properly planned grazing. In the foreground is land on the Jerde Ranch, with lush green grass growing right up to the fenceline. On the far side of the fence is a neighbour's paddock, showing poor grass growth and drought stress due to overgrazing, a typical result of set-stocking the land and not giving plants sufficient rest.

The whole of the neighbouring land looked like this, despite stocking rates being much lower. I saw this pattern repeated time and again on mob-grazed land which adjoin conventionally grazed land throughout my trip.

Phil examining an individual plant which caught his eye

Examining soil on the Jerde Ranch, typical of the interest the family showed in all things related to land and the environment.

Examining a green draw high up on the prairies on the Jerde ranch

Unfortunately the sun on the lens spoils this photograph a little, but this was a big bull buffalo passing within a few feet of me on his way to new grazing. These animals are perfectly adapted to their environment.

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