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Big Profits in Big Sky Country - Managing Progressive Grazing

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“They are tremendous stewards of their land. They search for maximum production, but at the same time, they’re very conscientious in not using more water or fertilizer than they need, and taking good care of their property so it has proper cover and vegetation. They take great pride in how they treat their herd, chis is a large herd.”

That’s how Zimmatic dealer Jim Richardson, of Intermountain Irrigation, described those who own and work La Cense Montana, a thriving 88,000-acre (35,612 ha) working cattle ranch near Dillon, Montana.

With a commitment to respect the environment while producing certified natural beef, landowner William Kriegel and ranch manager Race King adopted Managed-intensive Grazing to help achieve a balance between healthy wildlife, sustainable ranching and resource conservation.

With the Managed-intensive Grazing method, the hay crop is not grown, cut, baled and used for feeding in the winter months. Instead, the herd is on the ranch during the summer months – eating the forage as it grows. Zimmatic by Lindsay center pivots are used to grow the maximum amount of grass forage possible.

By creating small “paddocks” inside a larger pasture with portable fencing, the animals move to fresh pasture on a daily basis, which gives them access to nutrient-rich feed. The animals learn to follow ranch hands from paddock to paddock, offering a significant side benefit of a low-stress environment for the animals.

“I think a lot of people when they first look at these intensive grazing situations – especially on irrigated ground – they think they labor has just got to be too high,” said King. “What we find is that it’s really a labor savings for us. We feel like we’re more efficient with our people. We think it’s easier on us, because the livestock really do the majority of the work.”

King added that there are other benefits, as well.

“The big thing is we’ve been able to lower our operating costs by letting the cows harvest the feed rather than relying on hay baling equipment. The cow does a great job of harvesting, and she’s happy to do it. We have not had to feed our mother cows any hay since about 2006,” said King. “The economics have been great for us.”