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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)



Fall....and Winter!
Each year we're always surprised by how quickly the seasons change. One day we have 20 people out riding in 80 degree weather in as few clothes as possible, and the next they're asking us to tie coats onto their saddles. 

The mornings over the past week have been chilly and the planters at the lodge have already begun to fade. It might be my imagination, but it seems like a few of the cottonwoods around the lodge are starting to change color! Typically the first snow comes in October, wonder when it will be this year?
Posted by Tess L. on 08/29/2013

Bison Rut
The bison rut (mating season) begins in late July and goes through August. During this time, bulls display their dominance by bellowing, wallowing and fighting other bulls for the choice females. Typically the older bulls (7 or older) are the dominant ones.

The rut is the only time of year when the old bulls come in with the rest of the herd, so it makes for some great rides and bison tours! Here's a link to a male bison showing off.

Posted by Tess L. on 08/29/2013

Saturday, Aug 24, 2013
Just like any business, we must key in on inefficiencies and fix them to spend as little time on each thing as possible. Our water trough system in our pastures is one the inefficiencies currently. We have water troughs located on the border between two or sometimes three pastures. When we move cattle from one pasture to the next, we have to go around and move the welded wire panels from one side of the trough to the other and the way in which we hold the panels in place makes for a time consuming process. The system evolved into this time-eating monster because of our shift a few years ago from cattle to bison. We used to have very mobile cables that were moved from one side of the trough to the other quickly and easily. When we started running bison in our cattle pastures, the cables were no longer effective and a quick fix was to haul out all these welded wire panels and wire them in place against t-posts.  For now, we have gone back to cattle but our system is not easily changed back to the cable setup. There is a possibility of changing back to bison this fall so next week we will be installing quite a few cedar posts which will considerably cut down the time and hassle while still utilizing the very stable welded panels. There are many projects on the list but this one takes priority because we will immediately be rewarded by a whole lot of extra time to spend on other tasks.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/24/2013

Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013
Every year we cut around 300 acres of hay on the Medano meadows and that is what’s going on right now. Our neighbors own all the haying equipment and also do all the cutting, raking, and baling. Joe has been stacking it on a trailer and hauling it in to the bison pens so that it’s in a stack and ready to feed once bison round-up time is here. It takes quite a bit of hay to feed all those bison while they’re in the pens for a few weeks. Feeding hay that is harvested on the ranch eliminates the risk of bringing in noxious weeds that we do not currently have. It also agrees with the bison since it’s the same grass they eat every day.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/21/2013

Rain Rain, Don't Go Away!
 Thanks to frequent afternoon thunderstorms throughout July, the grass is greener, the cows are plumper, and Medano Creek is flowing again!  The creek dried up early this year because of lack of snow melt.  However, the summer monsoons have brought the water back down the mountains!  Here at the ranch we got just over 3 inches in the month of July.  For a valley that gets less than 8 inches of rain annually, that's fantastic!!  Though it may not be the best for riding in, mother nature has been kind to Zapata guests, and (usually...) only brings the rain and thunder once we are all OFF of our horses!
Posted by Kathleen M. on 08/18/2013

Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013
Last week, we put one of our groups of cattle on to the area near the lodge that was formerly a golf course during the 1990’s. The area has suffered from the planting of golf course grasses and landscaping such as sand traps, greens, tee boxes, and sprinkler systems, and now grows a fair amount of weeds among a high percentage of bare ground. For the past 7 years we have been doing “prescriptive” grazing, a type of restoration that uses herds of grazing animals to get the area back to its natural form. Our herd of 132 heifers has recently been put on 5 to 7 acres at a time of this 240 acre area by using temporary electric fence that is put up and taken down easily. They are moved anywhere from 4 to 8 times daily. This type of grazing forces them to be confined which in turn forces them to eat all the different plants including weeds instead of selecting for their favorite stuff. What they don’t eat gets trampled into the soil along with their dung and urine, all of which adds to the fertility of the soil. All those hoof prints also plant seeds that will sprout with the next rains. It’s a labor intensive project but is also very interesting and fun. The dryer the climate, the slower the progress as far as restoration is concerned. Over the years, we have noticed some improvement in some areas and little to none in others. The soil, from use of fertilizers and severe disturbance is void of nutrients and I believe it will take many more years to revitalize it.
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/13/2013

   
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