Birdwell and Clark Ranch

Birdwell and Clark Ranch, a stocker operation, is a 14,200-acre ranch of tall grass prairie, river bottoms and brushy draws located in north central Texas in Clay County. Emry Birdwell studied under Allan Savory in the 1980’s learning the benefits of holistic management. Deborah Clark is a HMI Certified Educator. The knowledge of grazing and passion for the land held between Emry and Deborah makes the Birdwell and Clark ranch a unique regenerative agriculture operation.

The Birdwell and Clark ranch is divided into approximately 140 paddocks ranging in size from 45 to 145 acres. Their stocker heard ranges from 4,000-5,000+ head at a time. In the fast growing season, the herd is moved 4 -6 times a day depending on the rate of growth of the forage and the quantity and quality of available forage. Movement of the herd can be done with only one or two people. Managing one big herd is not labor intensive. It does require focused, planned, observant stockmen who are experienced in low stress handling of livestock.

The average rest or recovery period of any given paddock is a minimum of 50 days and a maximum of 150 days. The importance of the recovery period and animal impact to the overall improvement in range conditions experienced at the ranch in the past 15 years cannot be emphasized enough. The recovery period allows adequate time for individual plants to grow and controls overgrazing by keeping cattle from returning to the same or preferred plants. Root systems flourish and establish healthier, stable grasses and forbs.

The benefit of animal impact is the result of a concentration of dung and urine adding nutrients back to the soil. Animal impact also provides for the trampling of old grasses and forbs that help keep the soil covered as well as exposes new plant growth to sunlight and disturbs existing seed beds for new growth.

There are two Soil for Water transects set up on the ranch in two distinct areas. Both transects are designed to monitor the changes in plant succession over a period of time as it is impacted by the cattle herd. Both transects, 82 corner #3 and Lone Star #3, are in areas where plant succession has already begun to shift to a higher quality of forage but has not yet moved into the area of the transect. Our goal is to assess long-term changes in soil health, available water holding capacity, and the time it takes for higher succession grasses to move into the transect areas. We will assess the rate in which the successional shift occurs in relationship to the weather conditions and impact of the heard over time.

Transect 82 Corner #3 – higher succession grasses such as Little Bluestem, Plains Love Grass, Indian Grass, Switch Grass, and Side Oats Gramma are in the area of the transect but are not yet inside of the transect.

Transect lone Star #3 – is in an area with a sloping hill and a large population of various sedges that start at the top of the hill and descend down about half way into the transect. The transect runs parallel with the hill slope. The sedges create increased moisture in the areas they are present.

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