Grassland management takes more than ‘just letting it grow’
This is the first in a two-part series on grassland management featuring properties included in the Oliver Soil Conservation District’s Summer Grassland Tour. The series will start with the Geiger Ranch, and continue next week with the Nature Conservancy’s Cross Ranch Preserve.
When Gilbert and Becky Geiger started ranching east of Center in 1973 the land was so extensively grazed that, according to Gilbert, “you could drive a car across it and easily see the rocks.”
The Geigers first started practicing grassland management in 1980, a year after they purchased the property.
“It was a dry year and the crop failed,” Gilbert said. “We had 38 cow/calf pairs in the 450-acre pasture and they didn’t have much to eat.”
The Geigers ended up turning the cow/calf pairs into the crop field that year.
Over the years, their grassland management efforts have helped them to increase their herd. In the first two-to-three years of management, they were able to increase the stocking rate from 38 pair to 45 pair. In 2013, that same pasture was able to support 72 pair.
The Geigers’ added to their management focus after they leased another 800 acres from Rodney Hickle. Hickle convinced Gilbert of the benefits of cell grazing and using a holistic management plan. To put the cell grazing concept in place, Gilbert used the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program to install cross-fencing. Some of the fencing is permanent; in other places he uses two-wire electric fences with solar chargers.