Graze-a-thon at El Sueño Ranch

posted in: Animals, Field Days | 0

By Ann Adams, Holistic Management International Certified Educator

HMI Certified Educator Ann Adams explaining the distinction between different forage assessment readings using the STAC method.
Photo I. Jenniches CC BY 2.0

On July 22, 2023 eleven participants joined in a Grazing Planning Field Day on the El Sueño Ranch near Clines Corners, New Mexico. The event was co-sponsored by the NM State Land OfficeSeeding Regenerative Agriculture (SRA) Project, the NM Healthy Soil Working Group, and Holistic Management International (HMI).

The 10,000-acre El Sueño Ranch is owned by Albert Lowry and managed by Chuck Kuchta and is comprised of deeded land and state land lease. The focus of the day was to provide participants with a real-life example of how grazing planning is done at the El Sueño Ranch on both their deeded and leased lands as well as discussions of infrastructure build out that has assisted the ability to manage cattle to address production needs and conservation goals.

Additionally, HMI Certified Educator Ann Adams led participants in experiential activities using the simple STAC method of forage assessment as well as HMI’s bunchgrass monitoring protocol as a way to track trends like plant spacing, litter cover, and health of perennial grasses as key indicators of rangeland health. Participants were excited about these techniques to better read ecosystem function and available forage for livestock and wildlife.

Chuck Kuchta showing field day participants how he can turn the two-strand high tensile electric fence on and off anywhere on the line for ease of fence repairs.
Photo I. Jenniches CC BY 2.0

Ranch manager Chuck Kuchta led a ranch tour on parts of the property to explain some of the various soil health efforts that had been made like a Keyline design experiment with Gorden Tooley and placement of rolling dips on ranch roads. He also explained how he had originally been against using high tensile electric fence but after using it he couldn’t go back to barbed wire fencing because of the ease of putting up electric fence and the lower cost of materials (as much as a 30% decrease in material costs). He likes how it is super easy to repair if the elk take it down and how friendly it is for game, like antelope to get through.

In the afternoon, participants discussed how to integrate the information about the ranch the participants had learned could be used to develop a simple grazing plan. Chuck showed his Holistic Grazing Plan Chart and explained how he used it for planning and to record actual forage grazed and grazing management of the herd as well as rainfall received and other critical information like where antelope give birth on the ranch or nesting areas so he can manage the cattle to avoid these spots at certain times of the year.

HMI Education Director Ann Adams leading a discussion with participants on how grazing planning can help ranchers manage forage and livestock.
Photo I. Jenniches CC BY 2.0

The group then spent some time using the forage assessment figures from different pastures on the El Sueño Ranch pasture map to help determine the areas of the ranch that would provide the greatest return on investment from increased fencing and water points to improve stock density and grazing utilization as well as increased recovery periods.

Isabelle Jenniches from the NM Healthy Soil Working Group talked about potential grants that the NM Department of Agriculture has for experimenting with soil health practices and Megan Boatright from the NM State Land Office talked about some of the requirements that are part of a State Land lease.

Thanks to the host, all the collaborators, and participants for making this event so successful.


  • Click here to access the STAC Spreadsheet
  • Click here to access the Bunchgrass Monitoring Instructions and Form
  • Click here for a free download of HMI’s Grazing Plan Chart
  • To learn more about El Sueño Ranch and the results they’ve achieved, read this case study

Megan Boatright from the NM State Land Office examining the results from El Sueno’s Keyline design experiment.
Photo I. Jenniches CC BY 2.0

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