Conservation for the Future - Coulter Ranch, Brusett, Mont.

We're in brusett montana and I ranch with my wife lacey and our son garrett and daughter poppy we were a farm and hay and cattle ranch and we've recently ceased the farming and haying operations and become a hundred percent livestock based our number one goal on our operation is to increase our soil health the first step in that is we have to get an armor on the on the soil here if we stay too long with cattle they'll utilize too much of the plants and we'll end up with bare ground if we stock it too light they won't knock these plants down and trample them to the soil surface so the soil biology won't be able to use these standing standing plants there's a livestock herd underground as well and so we say that we have to take care of our livestock underground before we take care of our livestock above ground we have a little thermometer that we stick in the ground and today it's not

that hot out and it was overcast so where there's either a good litter cover or where there was shade from the plants the temperature was like 80 degrees and then where there was bare ground it was a hundred degrees and when you get above 90 degrees the soil microbes start to die that's bad because the soil microbes have a symbiotic relationship with the plants so the plants photosynthesize they carry on photosynthesis they excrete sugars into the soil and those microbes consume those sugars break them down and excrete a plant available nutrient it was it was slow to start because this was a conventionally ran operation and when I came home I was on my own I had leased the operation so the most important thing to me at that time was keeping my head above water keeping the bills paid and so we just did what we always knew how to do and then I became involved in the csp

program with the nrcs and in this csp program one of the enhancements was planting cover crops on what would be a fallow year and using those cover crops was kind of the gateway on this soil health road for us we found out that we could raise actually more grain on our cash crop years if we had full season cover crops in between those cash crops and the benefit was twofold we got to graze more livestock and the soil benefited greatly in garfield county the two primary programs that we that we use are the eqip program then the other program is a conservation stewardship program and that's where people have to meet a certain conservation level so it's it's taking the people who are already doing a good job of conservation and helping them to do a better job of conservation so this is an old field edge let's see here's 12 inches here's 2 feet and i'd say that field edge comes in

about here so a little more than 18 inches maybe close to 20 inches of topsoil it's either blown away with winds washed off this place to a lower place or pore space that's been removed through tillage and compaction we feel that it was conventional farming was degrading this all of our farmland actually and so that spurred us into no-till to at least stop erosion there are many other benefits from no-till farming as well but we couldn't be good stewards of the land and eroding our farmland at the same time we've done range monitoring projects we've done pipeline and stock water development project we've done fence projects we've done some grass seeding projects it's been a great program the csp program has the payment is nice but the educational portion of it has been amazing that'll pay us dividends for a long time casey and lacey have been awesome to work with you know you you plan to see they ponder

it and they come back with more questions they're so open to new ideas and they do do a lot of research themselves and they they go to soil health workshops grazing workshops and they really take the initiative and and they see the benefit of it the conventional way was grading the land and we feel that we should leave this resource better than how we found it and that's not possible if your hill tops are blowing from wind erosion and the gullies are washing from water erosion we want to regenerate this land and not not mine it

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