Fenceline Weaning

Fenceline Weaning


Several articles have recently been published about the efficiency of fenceline weaning. Sims and I have been practicing this management tool for several years and I can assure any cow-calf producer that it works and works well. Simple to accomplish if the cow herd has been trained in low stress handling practices. Simply gather herd, strip off calves and return calves to original pasture placing cows in adjoining pasture. After seven to ten days we consistently experience one pound per day gain on the weaned calves. No hay, only rangeland grass and a little training cake so that the calves will know how to eat and respond to a man operating a feeder. No dusty pens to deal with and virtually no health issues.


I know of one operator in the area that does not precondition his calves, only fenceline weans and after 10 days ships them to the new owner. The calves have gained around 10 pounds, no longer bawl or walk the fence. On shipping day, he does not have to strip calves, only walks them into the pen sexes them if necessary, weighs and puts them on the truck. Any producer can benefit from this program regardless of size operation. (20 pair or 500 it works.) May be a bit scary the first time, but that becomes a none issue with planning and good livestock management.IMG_0070(2)

Planning for Next Years Calf Crop

While weaning is an exciting-satisfying time for the cow calf producer, it needs to be considered the most important time to evaluate next year’s calf crop. (Don’t relax now as next year’s calf crop is in the balance.) How the ranchman determines availability of pasture, synchronizing the cow herd numbers with the land resource grazing plan for the next 12 months, can be the difference between a ‘wreck’ and a productive-profitable-happy year. Sitting down and thinking through pasture quality and how to bring the cattle through winter with body condition scores that lead to a strong healthy calf crop and breed up. Doing this without having a feed bill that will cause financial stress to the ranching program can be a very daunting task. Simply saying we’ll do it just like we have always done, is probably not the best answer. Yes, that answer is the most common approach for many producers, but the time spent in the office planning where the program is headed is the most valuable time a ranchman can utilize for the consistent profitability and rangeland resource improvement of his operation.


Detailed planning isn’t the most ‘romantic’ part of a ranching enterprise, but it certainly leads to those romantic results that make a rancher proud.


Granted this picture is of only one calf, but he stands out as what our program is striving to produce. Healthy-productive-happy calves and grasslands that, in spite of a dry summer are capable of seeing the program through the winter season.IMG_2261[6087]

Healthy Riparian Areas

Healthy riparian areas have great value including soil stabilization of creek banks, water quality, habitat for fish-wildlife-insects and the microbiome that flourishes above and beneath the soil.  When cared for properly not only are those sites beautiful, the positive environmental repercussions are tremendous.


Much time and study has been given as to how to enhance those precious resource areas of the rangeland. It seems that most of time the suggested treatment is to fence the area out from livestock grazing. While I have not had the opportunity to observe many of those fenced out areas, I do have the privilege of observing riparian areas that have not been fenced out and are simply part of a planned grazing program. (Properly applied animal impact should never be ruled out of any rangeland management program, as it is one of the key components creating a successful rangeland management program.) While the riparian areas within the ecosystem of West Central Texas tend to eb and flow rather dramatically as to the amount of water present, properly grazed areas seem to continually improve- regardless of the amount of rainfall God blesses us with.


Results of a riparian area within one of those ‘properly grazed’ areas. After being grazed for 25 days, cattle were removed from this pasture some 40 days ago and will be rested for 225 days. Make note of the large Switchgrass plant at start of video and the Redberry Cedar at the end. The Cedar shows the current water level is above normal, many other plants seen indicate a consistent water source. (Cat Tails-Button Bush-Sedges-and many more)




Indiangrass Production VS. Old World Bluestem

Old World Bluestem continues to show excellent ‘vertical’ growth after removal of cattle 32 days ago. If you zoom in- it is beginning to put on seed heads, another week should reveal considerable seed production. Now as to the Indiangrass in center of photo, it has achieved 2, 3 maybe 4 times the growth of the OWB. From recent posts of same plants, the Indian and OWB were grazed to approximately the same height. While this photo does not adequately reveal the increasing density of the Indian, close observation provides knowledge that many young plants are making headway.


An analogy can be made that OWB can be a very productive forage producer when a properly applied grazing program is utilized. However, don’t get too attached to it, as the Indiangrass just might overtake its dominance. (And some say I am not an optimist!) As for me I’ll take the diversity and with the rangeland grass managers caring hand and natures awesome influence, the improving rangeland resource appears to be secure.
Take note of the dense Texas Wintergrass at top of picture. As it has matured, the strong winds of West Texas have thrashed the spears, and is currently dispersing the tall seed stalks, what remains underneath those mature ‘Spear Grass’ plants reveal what summer grazing season has in store for us. More on this next time.IMG_0009.jpg

Considering the Environmental Facts

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ONLY FACTS were used to address the degraded condition of our natural resources and the environment that is largely influenced by those resources? So many times, emotions and ill formed perceptions are considered the key to recovery of our environment and the facts are lost in the process. Granted, facts are extremely elusive these days, as one can find just about any “FACT” on the internet and social media that the reader wants to believe.

As we advance our understanding and implementation of effective grazing programs, the recovery of our rangeland resource is nothing short of phenomenal. The effective rangeland manager has the privilege to observe how soil erosion is becoming a thing of the past, how soil health is improving much quicker than most dreamed possible. With that improvement in soil health it is quite evident that carbon is being sequestered within that healthy soil, microbe activity seems to instantly come to life. (You can smell the healthy soils.) Water is being stored by those healthy soils and little is lost to runoff or evaporation, lessoning the damaging effects of drought. Animal health is good with seldom need for use of antibiotics and the need for pesticide use is minimal, and in some cases, no longer needed. (Granted those rangeland managers are a long way from having every aspect of rangeland recovery at the level he would like, and most likely will never get to that premiere level of land management.) All these things are exactly what the environmental movement says they want. The problem is, very few if any of the effective rangeland managers are considered qualified scientist and have no ‘certifiable’ knowledge base to document the exciting results of a properly applied grazing management and animal welfare production program. Thus, the ‘FACTS” that he has to offer are without credence, unless one considers the opportunity to show -on the ground- what is happening.


This is what I was referring to in my past post ‘Fake Meat and The Green New Deal’. Given the opportunity, we must let our story be known to others. Yes, as some of the comments received point out, one must be careful how this is done. When showing or commenting on environmental issues, at the upper levels, proper media training is essential, and the support of well-prepared professionals is essential, but it can and should be done. (While the ‘good old boy’ approach works well for us country folks, the producer must recognize that the within the political realm everybody is a professional and have been trained to be so.)


Preventing the implementation of uniformed environmental policy just could save our environment from the scenario the proponents of the “Green New Deal” are predicting. Potentially, if the ‘Green New Deal’ proposals were to be implemented, the environment would be the one that suffered most. Of course, one must wonder if the environment is primary reason for the authors writing this proposal or is it just a front to justify their ultimate goals. Whatever those goals may be. (I am trying to stay away from politics and deal with the facts. So, you can determine what the ultimate goals might be.)



For your viewing pleasure:

This creek has been flowing crystal clear water for over 9 months now. Two 50 to 100-year flood events ‘redesigned’ a considerable portion of this creek, reestablishing the riparian-pristine conditions will take time. What a blessing the Lord has provided. And the grassland manager needs to do his part in caring for His gifts: Providing a bit of properly applied-well planned grazing management only assists the Lord in his plan.

The better it gets. The faster it gets better!