Hello, welcome to the Fat Cows, Fat Wallet Podcast. I’m your host, Jim Elizondo, creator of Real Wealth Ranching. I am a real rancher with over 30 years of experience on regenerating the land and significantly improving profits on my own ranches and with my consulting clients on MANY different environments. My passion is to help ranchers to achieve the same. If you’re an ambitious farmer or rancher who’s looking to maximize your profitability while improving your land the fastest, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
I got a question for you. Have you already implemented the Total Grazing Program? Doesn’t mean if you have taken my courses, I have plenty of people with good results who have used what I have published online. I’m getting straight to the point here. But listen, we are at the end of 2021, so I think I’m at the liberty to say that if you’re a regenerative rancher or an aspiring one, total grazing will change your life. I’ve been in the regenerative space for a long time, long enough to know that there might be a few factors holding you back from diving headfirst into Total Grazing. I get it. But after more than thirty years in the ranching business, I can truly say that Total Grazing is the number one thing that has catapulted me and my ranches to a level of success I could never, ever have imagined. And the same goes for so many of my
With that, I want to take a little bit of your precious time to share the most common myths about Total Grazing that I hear all the time.
If you dream of being a successful rancher or farmer and you want maximum profitability and peace of mind knowing and observing that your grass and land is improving every year, then, today’s episode is going to get you fired up. Let me say it again. You’re going to walk away from today’s episode fired up and ready to start implementing Total Grazing, because guess what. Once you do, you’ll never look back or wish you could just get ahead and make this whole real wealth in your ranch really work. And I genuinely want that for you. So, stick with me. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this as I debunk the most common myth about Total Grazing. And I have a sneaky feeling that you have fallen for it. That’s okay. We are going to dive into it so let’s get started.
Let's kick this off, “Total Grazing doesn’t leave residual behind to protect the soil surface from heat or cold”. I’m going to be up front about it. We do not focus on leaving residual when we finish with a complete or non-selective grazing.
Here’s the thing. If we focus for what we want which is a high utilization and good, strong, fat roots which produce a healthy soil due to its root exudates then, we eliminate so many problems.
Because selective grazing has long been promoted and by selective grazing, I mean grazing the top third, grazing the top half, mob grazing, anywhere where there is not a complete grazing, this is selective grazing. Meaning that the cow selects what they graze and, oh how they are picky! Now, if you haven’t taken the time to notice this do not worry. But back to what I was referring to, because selective grazing has long been promoted, ranchers and farmers have been convinced to leave a lot of residual after grazing and by residual, I mean leaving 2/3 of the grass, leaving litter or however you want to call it. Basically, leaving what the cow didn’t graze. A large portion of what was originally available.
Some think that the residue protects the soil from erosion caused by water or wind, others think that the residue protects the soil from the sun and high temperatures, others think that the residue protects the soil from low temperatures.
Let’s remember what residue or residual is… it is what the cattle DID NOT want to graze… so what is it mainly? Non-desirable plants, brown leaves and stems or like one of my students said the other day, “sticks and stones”.
Because what do the cow prefer to graze? The leaves and the desirable plants. In fact, because you return faster with a top grazing which is selective grazing, guess what the cow is going to select when she comes back? Well, the poor little desirable plant that is barely re-growing and by grazing it too soon it will be killed, and the non-desirable species will continue to thrive. And you get a shift of species in your land to undesirables.
So, this is what I mean, that if we focus for what we actually want which is a high utilization and strong roots, we can avoid this problem and so many others.
Let me ask you a question, what is going to protect the soil better? Sticks and stones or a well-covered soil with strong fat roots? What avoids erosion?
The answer is strong and fat roots and more growing points per square yard!
So how can we achieve that?
As I explained in the previous podcasts and in other videos and blogs, under the Total Grazing Program you do a complete grazing most of the time. You graze it all and we follow with a long rest period because we come back much slower. We actually do selective grazing, but only when it’s muddy and during the calving season which is very short and finally, we stockpile in area, plus we alternate those areas. So Total Grazing is made up of a complete grazing, most of the time, selective grazing just for a few instances and stockpiling in area.
So, let’s say that you are in the “complete grazing” phase, and you finished grazing taking all leaves and stems. How does the ground look like? Well, depending on what is the state that you are starting off, you will see a well-covered ground with no spaces between plants but with not much stems and leaves. By the way, there is NO bare soil. If you are leaving much bare soil, then that is not Total Grazing, sorry.
This means that we leave enough residue to cover the soil from extreme temperatures and the sun, but more importantly, it leaves what actually protects the soil which is the number of plants or growth points per square meter. What do I mean by this? Well, no spaces in between the plants. Imagine you are looking down into the ground after doing a complete grazing of a heavy yielding pasture; you will be able to see the closeness of your forage growing points and plant crowns from where new leaves will be produced. It is this closeness of your best species growing points that ensures you have a mat of strong and fat roots to achieve a full solar panel once regrowth commences, it also means high soil life which keeps your soil where it should be by preventing erosion thanks to many intertwined roots. And plants with thick and strong roots that are achieved by following the Total grazing program.
By having more desirable plants per square meter we can take better advantage of sunlight, with a much larger solar panel, in order not only to feed our livestock but also to feed the life of the soil with the exudates that the plant releases around its roots to feed the microorganisms that in turn make nutrients available to the plant. This is how the relationship of the plant with the life of the soil works.
So, to sum it up, after a complete grazing, we rotate much, much slower across the ranch or farm where the cows are taking off the leaves AND stems and we are allowing the plant to store enough energy in their root reserves BEFORE we come back. So, this means, that you have a good solar panel, you have more growing points, the desirable plants are not killed off, in fact, they grow much stronger, and you start seeing more and more of them.
I am so passionate about this because I have seen the results with so many of my students that I am hoping that if you are at a stage that you are ready to understand this, you can grasp it.
We must also emphasize that, just as the cow needs the grass, the grass needs the plant. This is so because the growth points or buds and the new seedlings of the best species in our fields need sunlight so as not to die. When top grazing or selective grazing is done and a lot of stem or residue is left behind, these new seedlings and growing points do not receive enough sunlight and die or stunt their growth.
Imagine a paddock with too many stems left, too much residual left. This doesn’t allow sunlight to reach the growing points or seedlings. You get old or over matured forage and a lot, a lot of stems. This also means the energy in your forage diminishes.
So, there is a point where excess residue can be harmful to your grass, and there is a point where a lack of residue can leave bald soil.
Under the Total Grazing program, you achieve high harvest efficiency AND you do not leave the soil bare.
In reality, the residual must be a by-product of a complete grazing. Since it depends on the amount of forage present, BEFORE grazing, which is determined by maturity, growing conditions, strong and fat roots and the HUMUS content of the soil. Humus, by the way, is the stable fraction of organic matter. If you have followed me for a while now you know I talk about humus all the time and I am so passionate about it. If this is the first time you hear about this checkout my youtube channel or blog under the name Real Wealth Ranching.
Now coming back. Under Total grazing we have a high harvest efficiency and many times, this scares ranchers or farmers. And I get it. If it scares you because you were taught to only take 30%, then for sure this is going to be a big change but let me walk you through it.
Under Total Grazing with the complete grazing so I am not talking about the stockpiling in area which is alternated nor the selective grazing when muddy and in calving season. I think I need to stress that out because no, we do not do a complete grazing all the time in all the farm or ranch the whole year. I think that is what most ranchers and farmers have been mistakenly taught. With the complete grazing that we do MOST of the time, not all. We normally achieve… ready to hear this? 80-90% harvest efficiency with our cattle. And I can almost read your mind, “oh wow, isn’t that just leaving the soil bare”? As I have mentioned, no, the ground is not bare. It is well well covered and please go to my Instagram or Youtube channel so that you can see it for yourself.
So, if we harvest 80-90% this means that we leave 10-20% of the forage that was there BEFORE grazing, as residual.
It is important to remember that the greater the amount of forage before grazing, the greater the amount of residue so as it is a % of what was there which means the more forage we produce the more is left as residual to cover the soil, please, please, do not try to leave more residue by doing top third grazing, top half, mob grazing I mean at the end all of these do selective grazing. Because it WILL lead to several unwanted consequences.
I love examples because it really paints the picture of what I am trying to communicate.
So, imagine this. You have your cattle graze in a field that has 4,000 kilos of grass per hectare. They graze and they would leave only 800 kilos of residual or mulch on the ground which is the 20% residual that you would get with the Total Grazing. But when the amount of forage is increased thanks to the longer rest time that a complete grazing allows, let’s say at 10,000 kilos of grass per hectare then the residual would be 2,000 kilos, which is much more and without having to manage specifically to leave more residual when doing top grazing, which at the end is selective grazing.
When the rancher tries to leave more residue or mulch after grazing a field, they incur in top or selective grazing by trying to have the cattle trample more and consume less. Would you do that when harvesting corn or soybeans?
I mean, this is not only wasteful, but it goes against profitability and not only that, but it also goes against how nature works where many and diverse species of herbivores under the predatory effect resulted in a complete grazing.
So, you can have more forage produced in your ranch and you can come back much slower, giving a longer rest period to build fat roots, and by having a complete grazing you can have a good residual at the same time, as a by-product.
Remember, Total grazing does not incur in bare soil or unprotected soil. It is actually the opposite. It is how you are going to protect your soil and regenerate it with strong fat roots and good rest.
As I say, as the cow needs the grass, the grass needs the cow.
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Thanks for joining me here today. I’ll see you next week at the same time. Have a wonderful day!