June 7, 2011

by

Jeff managed the Zapata Ranch cattle operations until 2014.

In the 1990’s, a golf course was built in the meadows among the cottonwood trees near the lodge here at the ranch.  Around 2000, The Nature Conservancy bought the ranch and therefore the end had come to the golf course.  The native grasses and plants that were replaced by golf course grasses are now trying to reclaim there old place.  For the past three summers, we have intensively grazed this area with cattle to help expedite the process of the revegitation of native plants.  By putting cattle in high densities for short amounts of time on the disturbed area, we are able to speed up the mineral cycle and the water cycle and restore this area much faster than would naturally happen with plants alone.  The hooves help to knock down old plant material which becomes mulch, which in turn creates a perfect environment for new seeds to germinate and the mulch feeds the soil with nutrients.  We have 88 cows (each with their calf) to use for this restoration project.  The type of densities we will achieve will usually be 88 cows on two acres for two to six hours, so the land will essentially see grazing for only six hours for the entire growing season!  That leaves a lot of time for new seeds to germinate and grow and the “mulch” to break down and feed the soil.  Every year, we see an increase in native plants and a decrease in bare soil and weeds which is what dominated this area after the course was abandoned.  This year’s grazing of the old golf course starts tomorrow!