school held in Bozeman, Montana.
Scott says HRM addresses much
more than grazing resources. It’s
about optimizing production in harmony
with ecological and economic
goals. Scott admits, however, that the
grazing management component is
what initially attracts many people.
And the Sims family did embrace the
concept of intensive grazing for periods
of short duration – planned systems
involving multiple pastures used
in fairly rapid rotation – followed by
long periods of rest.
Fencing was added to create more
and smaller pastures, along with water
pipeline development and new stock
watering sites. They committed to
planning and implementing time-controlled
grazing, then monitoring the
results and adapting their plans to
better achieve the desired outcomes of
leaving more litter, retaining moisture
and building organic matter in the soil.
“Probably the best thing we did
was range monitoring,” offers Scott,
explaining how it allowed them to
measure change over time and remain
focused. They could evaluate progress,
or the lack thereof, and adapt their
management accordingly. And, over
time, they regained diversity of grasses
and forbs, increased total forage production
and improved drought resistance
of grazing resources.
While the described management
was applied to their range, and was
working, the Sims crew still struggled
with lessening their dependence
on harvested feed. A big hay crop
remained important, with sales providing
a source of revenue. And if
drought threatened, they could sell
less hay and keep more for their own
use. But costs of fertilizer, machinery
and fuel for harvesting and feeding
hay were increasing.
Scott says the fi rst step to reducing
costs was the adoption of windrow
grazing. They had observed how
cows turned into meadows containing
rained-on hay that became unfi t
to stack and was left in windrows. It
was decided that, going forward, a
portion of the hay ground would be
windrowed and grazed during the
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a growing Sims cow herd. Artifi cial
insemination (AI) was introduced,
breeding Angus cows to Gelbvieh
sires, with the goal of increasing calf
pay weights. It worked.
“Our calf weights inched upward, to
an average of 599 pounds for steers.
And our profi ts increased too,” tells
Scott. “We made money, but by the
latter part of the 80’s, we noticed
changes on the range.”
What the Sims family observed
were troubling trends toward less
diversity of forage plant species, less
total forage production and more
bare ground peeking through.
“That’s what fi rst made us question
whether our system and the
way we managed it were sustainable.
We were profi table, but profi tability
seemed to come at a cost to the land,”
It was about that same time that the
Sims family heard about Allan Savory
and his systems-thinking approach to
resource management called Holistic
Resource Management (HRM). In 1989,
the Sims family attended an HRM
SIMS CATTLE CO. ARCHIVE
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2019 I WORKING RANCH I 69