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Working Ranch - March 2018

Deep Creek, which fl ows into the Missouri River, provides irrigation and stock water on the Hahn Ranch. Caring for it is a priority of this award-winning ranching family. FWP estimates 900 hunter days are recorded on the Hahn Ranch to pursue elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer, black bear, mountain lion and upland bird. “This wide diversity of wildlife indicates how well the land and vegetative communities occurring on the Hahn Ranch are being managed as a whole,” FWP Conservation Technician Fred Jakubowski says. It’s a part of their Montana heritage they want to see through to future generations, too, Dusty says: “I grew up hunting and fi shing, and we like the opportunity, for kids especially, to do that and have a good experience at it.” The family has further diversifi ed by raising pheasants and offering a shooting preserve. “It’s nice to be able to share a little of this open space with people who aren’t so lucky to have that every day. By allowing hunters to come out and see our operation, we hope it helps educate people as to what we’re doing and how things work,” Chuck says. “Hopefully, that interaction between us and them gives them a much brighter picture of the agriculture operations around the state.” They’ve adapted their farming practices to take care of the biodiversity underground, too. They grow both cash crops and forage crops to extend their grazing season, allow for longer rest periods on the rangeland and enhance the health of their farmed soil. After hay barley is baled, a combination of radishes and turnips are planted to burrow into the ground and break up soil compaction. In other rotations or fi elds, legumes like peas are planted to naturally add nitrogen back into the soil. In both scenarios, incorporating cattle grazing into the cropping system is essential to its success. “By using cover crops and no-till to enhance the soil health, we’re able to keep the soil organisms alive as long as we can during the year,” Chuck says. “The livestock are there to help incorporate that plant mass back into the soil. It’s just really interesting to go out and dig up a shovel full of that dirt, look at it and see all the differences in the soil structure from when we were turning the soil every year.” They conduct soil tests on farm land each year to monitor organic matter and determine the precise amount of fertilizer needed to not only reduce inputs, but to prevent over-saturation that could cause runoff. In the years they’ve been monitoring organic matter in their farmed soil, it’s moved from an average of three percent to closer to fi ve percent. According to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, native grassland range in the state is typically comprised of about four percent organic matter. This too, goes beyond the borders of the ranch. Jim Beck, the association supervisor at the Broadwater Conservation District, works with Chuck on the management of public lands, where he’s eager to share ideas about improving soil health and wildlife habitat there, too. “He’s helped us with soil health and transforming non-productive land into productive land, and then into agriculturally productive land as well,” Beck said. “He’s often able to extend the scope of those improvements to include other producers and community interests, too.” That just takes time, no matter how quickly the world turns. “Longevity is what makes an impact,” Thompson says. “It’s folks who are willing to hunker in for the long haul and build relationships with agencies or partners or different land owners who get things done; short term work doesn’t get big picture things done.” That big picture can easily be missed fl ying by at 65 mph, but not when Mother Nature dictates the speed of reaping what you sow. In her world, patience takes the lead. “It’s what I’ve relied on my whole life, to be patient, to be steady. You’re always trying to swing for that home run, but you rarely hit it,” Chuck smiles. “So instead, you hit singles and keep loading the bases, keep things coming in and getting a little better one step at a time. Patience is just knowing what we look around and see here took millions of years, and we’re just a snap of a fi nger in it all.” $GPGſVU$GQPFVJG4CPEJ 80 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2018


Working Ranch - March 2018
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