Developing a monitoring system for grazing
and its effects on the land
1) Monitoring Devices
With the assistance and advice of the NRCS and AZ State Land Department Staff, we have so far installed three transects -- belts of vegetation selected for charting plants -- for determining condition and trend of rangelands. Saguaro Juniper has installed rain gauges in proximity to these transects so that precipitation data can be considered in combination with data collected from the transects. The transects are read periodically by Saguaro Juniper associates under the supervision of NRCS and State Land Department staff, who have great expertise in plant identification.
Above: we establish a transect in the Cascabel Pasture, marking it with a rock cairn. The far end of the transect lies in the Palo Verde grove in the middle distance.
Above: We record all plants contained in the iron frame ("quadrat") at paced intervals along the transect using the plant frequency sampling method.
Above: two teams work in straight lines along the whole transect.
Measuring stream flow in Hot Springs Canyon:
2) Training the Herd
Saguaro Juniper Corporation advocates the Humane Sustainable Agriculture (HSA) standards promoted by the Humane Society. We gentle some of our calves at a very young age. We castrate steers as young as possible, usually within the first two weeks, using a local anesthetic. Since Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) grazing lease holders are required to have branded cattle, Saguaro Juniper Corporation brands with liquid nitrogen freeze brands rather than hot brands: the calves often do not even break from feeding while being branded.
These are labor-intensive efforts, but reflect S-J's tendency to substitute time and labor for money -- a necessity for many small agriculturists, but also an advantage within a group support system. These gentling methods have yielded significant returns:
1) They allow S-J to get by with the most basic facilities: infrastructure like expensive corrals, squeeze chutes and more substantial trailers and vehicles can be kept to a minimal level.
2) They allow interventions that would be difficult or impractical with wilder cattle, but that help the animals live longer: calves can be pulled in difficult births, a cow can be milked if a calf is lost, and nearly all veterinary work can be performed with a simple head catch.
3) They make range work much easier and allow us to make use of volunteer and often unskilled help with ranch activities such as herding.
3) Developing a Locally-adapted Grazing Plan
A) Resting of range lands during the summer rainy season; at these times, cattle are kept on irrigated pasture. This allows native grasses to grow and set seed with minimal grazing pressure.
B) Rotation of grazing during the fall, winter, and spring, so that each area is rested at least 1 year in 3.