Grazing to Improve Grassland
Nominated by Texas Conservation Alliance, the Birdwell and Clark Ranch is a textbook example of the beneficial results of time-managed grazing.
Time-managed grazing. Multi-paddock rotational grazing. Regenerative agriculture. Holistic Management. These terms refer to similar techniques all centered around mimicking natural grassland ecosystems where the movements and behavior of large grazing animals such as bison keep grasslands healthy and productive.
Rotational grazing involves dividing a ranch into “paddocks” (fenced areas) and moving the cattle herd from paddock to paddock as it is grazed. The trampling of the cattle breaks up the soil, the animals naturally fertilize the area, then the vegetation is allowed to rest for weeks, months, even a year before being grazed again.
An ever-growing body of scientific results has shown that well-managed grazing of this type improves water quality and soil health, increases the diversity of native prairie species, recovers bare ground, and supports more wildlife than other types of cattle operations.
“Native prairies are among the most critically endangered ecosystems in the country,” says retired Natural Resources Conservation Service District Director Tony Dean,now ranching in Clay County.
The Dixon Water Foundation is one of the pioneers in multi-paddock grazing, managing the Foundation’s four ranches and four other properties and supporting extensive research into the results. The Foundation has also endowed a chair at Sul Ross University to teach future generations of ranchers the techniques.
“Native prairies are among the most critically endangered ecosystems in the country,” says retired Natural Resources Conservation Service District Director Tony Dean,now ranching in Clay County. “Well-planned rotational grazing can sustain a prairie while also supporting a productive livestock operation.”