Working in Sync with Nature

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What tools are left once your management is optimal? Management is just one of the 5 legs Regenerative Agriculture stands on; with Microbes, Minerals, OM and Mindset holding the rest of the table steady.

Identifying which of these legs is not working so well creates whole new opportunities for any enterprise.

Working alongside the Indreland family in Big Timber, Montana has been a good example of how identifying and taking action around limiting factors can dramatically lift quality, with taking relative feed values (RFV) in alfalfa from 155 to 222 in one season.

Living at 4500 feet in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains, ranching isn’t always easy. The Indreland family team have a long focus on how to work in sync with nature; with a bred-for-purpose registered black Angus stud and a direct marketed quality grass-fed beef.

Historically the ranch would put up a lot of hay and calved early in winter. In the fierce wind-swept landscape with winds which can reach over 70 mph, calving was tough on everyone.  At some point “a light came on” for Roger and Betsy and they began to shift calving to align with Spring pasture growth. Through the Ranching for Profit (RFP) School with Dave Pratt the Indrelands implemented Managed Intensive Grazing, accelerating grazing, animal impacts and increasing rest periods. Indreland bull clients certainly appreciate their approach to energy efficient, trouble-free, quality performance animals. They currently sell 60-80 18mth-old bulls primarily to producers who are looking “to decrease input costs and take diligent care of their land.”

We first met in 2013 when I spoke at a RFP conference in Laramie. From this initial introduction Roger reflects “the world really started to open up so far as options and things we can do.” Roger had read a lot of books and articles, however he attributes working with us as “instrumental in helping us gain the confidence and knowledge to start in a different venture, as far as really accelerating our grazing and our rest periods as well as a whole heap of other ideas.”

One big shift on the ranch has been monitoring; “We have gotten into the habit of tracking things and observing results from a different perspective. Every practice Nicole has recommended has had a positive result; whether it is an increase in brix readings, increase in dung beetles or earthworms. I have no doubt in my mind the next soil tests are going to verify that we are gaining organic matter. We are improving our water holding capabilities. All those little things add up to the reasons for doing this soil program.”

Table: comparative results with top quality supreme values, Indrelands Alfalfa and Alfalfa treated with P and K. Indrelands blocks received fish, humic acid, boron, manganese, and Beauvaria Bassiana (to control clover weevil)

With the hardhitting fire season in Montana this year, the Indrelands have taken the opportunity to cut and sell their premium hay. The hay cut this year was up to 2 T an acre compared to historic highs of 1.5T. Whomever will be taking these bales with also be taking some of the highest quality hay money can buy.

How did they achieve the quality and yield results? As with everything in Regnerative Ag, it’s a systems approach, with observations, improved grazing recoveries, trace elements and biological stimulants.

Where to from here?

Early this season Roger began to experiment with using ½-1 gallon/acre of vermicast. The initial results in terms of Brix were dramatic, lifting from 13 to 20. He’s been experimenting with putting vermicast sacks into irrigation ditches and continuing with the spraying on the hay grounds.

Low organic matter soils in the degraded farmland areas which historically have only grown primitive weeds like fanweed (non-mycorrhizal) and low palatable grasses, have now come under scrutiny. This Fall they hard grazed before direct drilling a cover crop of winter rye and vetch with seaweed and vermicast. This will give them multiple outcomes; taking pressure off other valuable areas for Spring feed, building soil, fixing nitrogen and helping to shock and reset idle lands.

Working in sync with nature just works.