One of our three broad objectives at Circle Ranch is to continuously improve the plant community. By fostering plant development and diversity, and by restoring our desert grassland we have advanced our other two main goals: increased profitability, and increased numbers of free-ranging game animals including mule deer, elk, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn and of game birds such as quail, dove and turkey.
Our primary habitat management tool is cattle. Animal impact and grazing timing are key to our efforts to improve habitat for all species of birds and animals.
Many wildlife practitioners are ‘specialists’ who tend to apply practices for the benefit of one animal. We approach habitat and wildlife restoration with the view that communities of plants, animals, and soil life are interdependent with each other and with water, mineral and sunlight cycles; all of these must be addressed together: this is what is meant by ‘holistic’. Starting with that understanding of how these natural systems work, we try to use our cattle in a way that mimics the way nature previously operated, such as how buffalo concentrated in large numbers yet were in constant movement and absent for very long periods of time.
Planned grazing is about getting animals to the right place at the right time for the right reason with the right behavior.
We also have been focusing on, and achieving great results with, Keyline subsoiling techniques. It rests on a few simple insights developed sixty years ago by Australian farmer and inventor, P.A. Yeomans. Keyline contour plowing with a Yeomans Plow has show some great results in gaining ground in the fight against erosion and in our restoration of native grasslands, in those relatively-few areas where our main tool of animal impact has not worked as well or as quickly as we would like.
Cattle and subsoiling invigorate plants. But after 120 years of human impact, we have major erosion problems from roads and gullies. After we reduce runnoff, we still have these open wounds eating whole valleys. There are several things we do to address erosion.
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