Farming in the Big Horn Basin is very challenging as the average rainfall is only 8-12" per year. Irrigation is the lifeblood for any crops or pasture we produce. Our water sources are usually in pretty good supply with Paintrock and Medicine Lodge Creeks and the Nowood River as our chief sources of irrigation water. Artesian wells also supply an additional source of irrigation water. We have all types of irrigation systems: pivot sprinklers, wheel lines, k-lines, gated pipe, and flood irrigation. Most of our irrigation assists in growing pasture that is used in our rotational grazing systems.
There are approximately 150 acres in alfalfa and 500 acres in grass hay production. We generally take two to three cuttings of hay, and graze the remainder during the winter months. Our pastures yield four to five tons of hay per acre.
An integral part of our livestock operation, rotational grazing ensures that our cows are consistently eating the most nutritious grasses during the growing season, while increasing grass health and productivity. This practice requires educated decisions and close monitoring of animal impact and pasture regrowth. We practice this through the building of paddocks with portable electric fence and proper water dispersal. Proper management of this kind of system results in healthier animals and land.
Native Range Grazing
A large portion of our summer and winter grazing is done on National Forest Service(NFS), Bureau of Land Management(BLM), and state leases. These tracts of land allow us to maximize our herd's grazing potential in an area that is short of rainfall. This grazing system mimics the natural movement of native ungulates such as bison that no longer exist in this area. Hoof impact has been shown to increase rangeland health and vitality. Careful monitoring of these leases ensures that we do not overgraze, leaving plenty of forage for wildlife.
National Forest Service
Approximately a 40,000 acre allotment, our FS lease is divided into 14 large pastures. Each is grazed once per season in a rotational system that is similar to what we use on irrigated pastures. These pastures are only grazed during the summer given their higher elevation and shorter growing season.
Bureau of Land Management
These pastures are grazed during the summer and winter months. We have four major allotments that range in elevation and landscape, from higher wooded tracts to lower badlands. These are grazed in a similar manner to our forest service lease.