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Working Ranck - June/July 2017

Gary and Sue Price developed wetlands into ponds or lakes with technical and fi nancial help from Ducks Unlimited. Retain the Rain benefi ts provided by the 77 Ranch include fi eld trips for school children, hunting and fi shing opportunities for Dallas and Fort Worth business people, and Gary’s conservation presentations to numerous group gatherings. WATER IS A CROP When Price is asked to describe his ranching operation, he immediately responds, “We ranch for water. Whether we realize it or not, water is a crop and needs to be managed for maximum production and quality. Good water grows good grass, which produces good beef. We need to manage our grass in a manner to retain as much rainfall as possible on our land. The water that does leave our property needs to be clear with minimum amounts of soil particles and other solids.” “Water fl ows from our ranch into Mill and Chambers creeks and eventually into Richland-Chambers reservoir,” Price continues. “Fort Worth and several smaller communities receive part of their water supply from this reservoir. Everybody’s drinking water comes across someone’s land, so it is important for landowners to exercise good watershed management.” Tina Hendon, Tarrant Regional Water District, shares, “We appreciate ranchers like Gary and Sue Price who manage the quality of water that fl ows into waterways and eventually into our reservoirs. If every landowner within a watershed were to maintain a year-round vegetative cover on their property, less silt would enter reservoirs where drinking water is stored.” “Vegetation,” Hendon continues, “particularly grass, fi lters soil particles and other foreign matter from water as it moves down slope. In addition, vegetative cover prevents erosion, which greatly reduces movement of soil particles off site. Dredging reservoirs, because of silt overloads, is very expensive and can result in disruptions of water supply to municipalities and industry.” “We use a two-herd rotational grazing system involving 40 different pastures with some of them on leased land,” explains Price. “We would like to use one herd, but FM 55 divides our property. To avoid moving cattle across the busy highway, we run two herds. Cattle are moved to a new pasture about every four days depending on forage condition. We strive to give each pasture ample rest to allow recovery after grazing.” Native prairie grasses in the pastures include eastern gamagrass, big bluestem, Indiangrass, sideoats grama and little bluestem. Eastern gamagrass thrives on riparian areas and is important for stabilizing stream banks. Annual plants such as clovers, wintergrass, and ryegrass invaded pastures weakened by the 2011 drought. These plants are high in protein, so Price is not unhappy to see them. “Our stocking rates are conservative and fl exible,” says Price. “Conservative stocking allows us to enter a drought last and be the fi rst to return after it is over. In the 2011 drought, we had 50 tanks go dry. I opened all interior gates so cattle could fi nd water.” “Grazing intensity is calculated to leave one-third of the grass for plant re-establishment, a third for trampling into the soil for organic matter maintenance, and a third to be eaten by cattle,” Price continues. “Our pasture rotation system is managed in a manner to reserve standing bluestem for winter grazing. We haven’t fed baled hay to the cow herds in the past six years. Most of the hay, we harvest with equipment, is sold as an additional income source. We periodically take manure samples for nutrient analysis so we can assure ourselves that cattle nutritional needs are met.” The 77 Ranch is in the Blackland Prairies ecoregion, which is described by the Native Prairies Association of Texas as gently rolling to nearly level. The region is well dissected with waterways, which results in rapid surface drainage. Elevation varies from 300 to 800 feet above sea level. Average annual rainfall ranges from 30 to 40 inches increasing from west to east. Temperature of the Blackland prairie varies from the mid 40’s to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and in the summer from low to upper 90’s. Uniform, dark-colored alkaline clays, often referred to as “black gumbo,” are interspersed with acid sandy 54 I WORKING RANCH I JUNE / JULY 2017


Working Ranck - June/July 2017
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