There are more than a few things that I love about working with our cows on The Preserve. The land is beautiful, the sun is bright, the cows are good company, and everything is hands on. But one of my favorite parts of this job is hearing members ask, “When can the cows be here?” and I love hearing the excitement when I deliver the news that the cows are on their way.
I have learned a great deal about the behaviors and nuances of Preserve grasslands in my time with the Conservancy by actively monitoring the response to the grazing impact of our herd, and passively observing as I spend time on the land, watching it change with the seasons. The mosaic of habitat and terrain within the grasslands is incredibly varied and stretches from those areas of Wildlands tucked away and out of sight amongst the hills, to Openlands that kiss heavy thoroughfares and members’ Homelands.
This strategic design presents our grazing team with a unique set of technical challenges: navigating roads, trails, homes, and so on, with a herd that is constantly on the move. Having all of the moving parts sorted and running smoothly allows the grazing team to work with members to face our ecological challenges and bring the cattle in to help achieve shared ecological goals across many Preserve lots.
Cows aren’t just fun to have around. Our grazing program honors the ranchero heritage of the property, but with an entirely new ecological motivation behind the program, and the knowledge we gain has larger implications for other land managers, as well as our food production systems. Knowing that we have a lot of ground to cover, both Wildlands and Openlands, it is exciting being in the midst of the growth and expansion of our herd and the Conservation Grazing Program. We look forward to being able to graze more of the Preserve’s grasslands each year and shorten our return interval to each area in order to increase the benefit of our herd’s grazing impact.
Since I began working for the Conservancy as part of the grazing team, the enthusiasm, intrigue, and support that has been expressed from members regarding our cows and grazing program has been incredibly rewarding. I look forward to the ongoing collaboration between members and the grazing team as we continue to implement our management strategies, and work towards a healthy ecosystem and thriving community. My hope is that the presence of the cows helps members feel more connected to their land and to the greater ecosystem that comprises the entire Preserve. I feel that these kinds of interactions that the Conservancy’s Grazing Program offers are really the essence of the unique conservation model that is the foundation of The Preserve.
By Kyle Meyer