Friday, August 12, 2011

3R Ranch Visit

By Maggie Haseman, SRM Outreach Intern
3R Ranch is located 22 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado. It is 11,000 acres of land partially in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, partially flat plains. The ranch is managed by Reeves and Betsy Brown. Part of my internship program this summer was to visit this ranch, and spend two days learning about the way it is run. After my time at Chico Basin Ranch late last month I thought I was somewhat prepared for another ranch visit. However, these two ranches differ vastly; I was just as inexperienced as I had been two weeks prior when I arrived at Chico Basin Ranch. Reeves would later tell me that I could visit every ranch in the state, and not find two that run things in the same way.
Eating Hay
During my stay, Reeves Brown gave me a detailed description of the management program used on 3R Ranch. They manage using a Holistic Management plan. This grazing plan was developed by Allan Savory who came to America from Zimbabwe to get the idea more recognition. His book about holistic management is called “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making." Reeves told me that holistic management is all about the connection between the water, energy and nutrient cycles. Plants require water from precipitation, energy from sunlight and nutrients from the soil to grow. When they are synchronized the plants are most productive and in turn animals are too. When animals graze the land they cycle the nutrients back into the soil more quickly than if the land were left alone. The animals eat the above ground plant material before grasses go to seed; the grass then produces more above ground material. If the plant were allowed to go to seed it would then go into a dormant period, adding the grazing cycle into the ecosystem allows the plant to produce more.
Very Dry
He also talked about keeping a balance in finances, happiness, sustainability and productivity in order to meet a set goal. Each decision should be evaluated based on whether it will help them meet their goal. They ask if they have the fiscal ability to do the action, if it will make them and their workers happy so they have the mental and physical ability to do the action, will the action improve productivity, will the action improve the resource. They graze a pasture for a maximum of five to seven days, and then give the land a long rest period. The plan is much more in depth than this, and this is simply my understanding based on what Reeves talked to me about. I think this management plan really makes sense, especially the way Reeves explained it. I haven’t had much experience with herbivory in my classes at Colorado State University yet so I haven’t heard much about grazing plans, I think this specific one is very interesting.

The Ranch
My adventure began on August 1st at 5:00pm, when I pulled up to the building that would be my quarters based on my emails from Betsy Brown and got out to stretch my legs. I walked across an irrigation ditch on a small foot bridge, as instructed in my email, to Betsy and Reeves’ adobe home. When I rang the doorbell I was greeted by the barks and scratching at the door of a small fluffy dog I later learned was named Angel. Then Betsy came to the door and invited me in. We sat on the porch, enjoyed the breeze, chatted and drank lemonade.
These cows thought we brought them food, very disappointing for
them to find out otherwise
That evening, Betsy asked if I would accompany her to check on some cattle. We (including Angel) hopped in the Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) with Angel and head off on a dirt road. The countryside was beautiful; the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains. It started to rain but we were comfortable in the UTV. Betsy talked to me about the way they run the ranch and we chatted about other things as well. Betsy recommended a movie called Temple Grandin after hearing about my sister, Erica’s interests. She said between the two of us the movie would be a perfect balance. My sister graduated from CSU with a degree in music therapy and wants to work with autistic children, and I, as you may know by now am currently majoring in rangeland ecology. This movie is about the woman it is named after: she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, she is also autistic. The movie shows the obstacles she overcame to be successful. I haven’t seen it yet but it came highly recommended.
Injured Bull
On the way back to headquarters we collected eggs from the chicken coop. When we got back to the Brown’s house for dinner, Reeves was home. We had tasty taco salads on the side porch followed by homemade peppermint ice cream. Being an ice cream fanatic, as is Reeves, we chatted over a bowl each. I was amazed at how good it tasted, I don't think I've ever had ice cream that tasted so good. They asked what my favorite flavor of ice cream was and I responded cinnamon gelato from Gelazzi, a gelato cafe in Fort Collins, CO.
The next morning, I woke up in time for 6:30am breakfast at the Brown’s: hot cakes, yummy. On the first day Betsy and I went to give a bull with a bad knee some water and food because he was unable to walk. Reeves, Betsy, two ranch hands Ken and Kenneth and I (Angel too) also put salt, mineral, and hay out in a pasture for the cattle. Another bull was also hurt, probably from jumping over a fence. Marvin, the Brown’s veterinarian, arrived to check on the bull. I watched Betsy and Marvin help the bull into a holding contraption where Marvin conducted the checkup. According to him, the bull was no longer a bull, which was bad news for Betsy and Reeves who were counting on him for breeding. It was also sad for the bull who was now only worth the price of a hamburger patty.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, watching the rain fall and talking while Betsy fixed dinner. I found a recipe for gelato for her to use in her ice cream machine. For dinner we had meatloaf and squash from the garden. Of course there was home-made ice cream for dessert: this time banana nut. Note to self: get an ice cream maker.
After breakfast (hot cakes) the next day, Reeves took me up in the mountain to the place where Reeves and Betsy’s son Kelly is building a hunting facility for them. Reeves showed me around the area and then got to work on the hole he was digging for a water tank. Later, Reeves and I drove around the mountain to check on the herd of cattle they had grazing up there. When we got back, I helped him level the hole using my limited surveying experience from a previous course at CSU.
Beautiful Architecture for Hunting Facility
Built by Kelly Brown
When we’d finished eating lunch from their favorite local pizzeria, Kelly, Reeves and I drove down to Colorado City. They had to meet the truck driver who was delivering the water and septic tanks and show him the way to the hunting facility. Lining up the tanks in the holes took the rest of the afternoon.
Spanish Peaks
I had a wonderful couple of days with Reeves and Betsy Brown. They are very sweet people and I appreciate everything they did for me during my stay. I hope to keep in touch with them and see them again soon. I learned a lot about these two kindly people, holistic management, ice cream, cattle, bull injuries, and myself during my two day adventure in southern Colorado.

1 comment:

Greenman said...


Nice job on all of your Blog posts. Even at my age I can still learn a few things and information you have given is fabulous. I'm sure that you can't wait to get back to classes at CSU and use all of what you've learned in a class.