New Beginnings: Bale Grazing to improve Soil Health

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This article is part of a series profiling farms and ranches that have received support through the New Mexico Dept. of Agriculture’s Healthy Soil Program. More information about the Healthy Soil Program.

By Mira Merritt, M-Scar Farm & Ranch, LLC, Maxwell, NM


Almost 2 years ago, my family moved to northeastern New Mexico and began a small farm and ranching entity with some cows, a big tractor and lots of ambition. We made the decision to work together as a family and left more secure jobs; but are homeschooling our child and loving this new adventure.

Bale grazing residue and cow pies. Photo Mira Merritt.

I want to share our experience as beginning farmers with the Healthy Soil Program as well as some pictures. The progress from the first year was encouraging and we will continue striving to bring this ground back to life.

The use of ground cover and livestock to improve the health of the soil on our 410 acres has been successful. Although the land is not completely healed, we can definitely note the progress and plan to continue to use the soil health principles in the years to come with management practices that include monitoring the soil health.

Our biggest objective was to cover bare ground and prairie dog towns using bale grazing. We bale grazed our 4 bulls and 15 replacement heifers until mid-May. We used 95 bales of hay, which allowed optimal nutrition for the livestock, while still leaving organic matter from the hay waste. It also added fertilizer and the stomp factor from the animals, incorporating the manure into the soil and stimulating plants to germinate and grow. The pictures below show the success of bale grazing quite dramatically! There are still large areas of bare ground and prairie dog towns in certain areas; we plan to continue to use the bale grazing technique to cover more acres of bare ground as our finances allow.

With continued management practices for soil health, we hope to sustain and improve our soil which will in turn sustain and improve our farm and ranch.


Left: Bale grazing residue, right: Post bale grazing green up areas and bare ground areas. Move the divider to see the difference!

A short video about the benefits of bale grazing for soil health:


View more farms and ranches that have received support through the Healthy Soil Program.


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