Management Intensive Grazing Paying Dividends for LaCence Ranch

Last Thursday evening, Race King of the LaCense Ranch near Dillon hosted a tour of his management intensive grazing (MIG) system at the request of the Beaverhead Conservation District. If you’ve never seen one of these systems in action, you should seek out an opportunity to do so. It entails breaking pastures up into smaller paddocks using portable electric fence, stocking one paddock heavily, and cycling cattle through paddocks frequently. At LaCense they graze between four thousand and seven thousand head on irrigated land and move them on a daily basis. And get this: there is one ranch hand in charge of moving the cattle and he usually completes this task by noon each day. This is possible because the cattle literally move themselves to the next paddock when the electric wire is removed because they know that lush knee to hip high grass awaits them. The cattle become less selective in this system and will eat some weed species that are present. And King reports that his yearlings can put on as much as 3 pounds a day. That’s compared with 1.25 to 1.5 pounds per day using more traditional grazing systems. LaCense doesn’t own a swather, and only feeds hay in a pinch. This year, with the wet May and July in Beaverhead County, King had grass to spare and let a neighbor cut some hay that he didn’t need to graze. From a drought resilience perspective, this MIG system is superior to traditional grazing systems. LaCense has cut out many input costs related to machinery, fuel, and chemicals and he is improving his bottom line by having healthy and productive cattle. This makes LaCense economically resilient to drought. Their pastures have no bare patches, healthier soil with better water holding capacity, resilient grass stands, and they require less irrigation. This makes LaCense environmentally resilient to drought. Every Beaverhead County rancher that attended this LaCense tour walked away very intrigued. One even said flat out that he planned to incorporate MIG concepts into his operation having now seen the remarkable benefits in person.