NRCS helps to provide an additional 16,000 acres of rangeland that wasn’t usable prior to theinstallation of pipelines and water troughs.
Through proactive conservation planning and implementation, the ranch has flourished through the drought.
Over the course of three years, a riparian area has grown around the water tanks voluntarily.
Little Horse Ranch
Surviving the Drought
CONGRESS, ARIZ. - September, 2012 - Drought. It is the word that has haunted farmers and ranchers across the country. This year, it has become a devastating reality for many. For Arizona agricultural producers, drought is something they have dealt with for over the past decade. Many learned to adapt and adjust their operations to drought conditions. However, there is a point where there isn’t much more a producer can do and the risk of losing their crops, livestock, and businesses lingers near.
Little Horse Ranch is located near Congress, AZ. This 65,000 acre ranch has been working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for nearly 15 years. Through proactive conservation planning and implementation, the ranch has flourished through the drought. They are a great example of a ranch that conserves the natural resources around them and puts conservation practices on the ground, helping to reduce negative effects of drought.
Pat Browning, ranch manager, has worked on the Little Horse Ranch for ten years. “The ranch was able to grow during the drought! We expanded from a herd of 400 to a herd of 650. We are working to grow to 725 head next year. This wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t put grazing and water management practices into place throughout the ranch,” said Browning.
Working closely with experts from NRCS and with funding from NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Little Horse Ranch extended their water supply one mile north and one mile south. This provided an additional 16,000 acres of rangeland that wasn’t usable prior to the installation of pipelines and water troughs. Large storage tanks are positioned at higher points than the drinkers they fill. Gravity does the majority of the work, which saves the ranch money.
There are now 16 drinkers that provide water for livestock and wildlife. Increasing water availability on the ranch has helped it succeed by increasing the usable acres for pasture rotation. The ability to use the entire ranch for the cattle to graze allows time for the grasses to grow back in-between rotations. It has also increased the overall health of the livestock because more reliable and plentiful sources of water are available to them.
Little Horse Ranch contributes to the wildlife’s wellbeing too. Both of the storage tanks are operated by solar pumps that keep them full all the time. In fact, since the solar pump works as long as there is daylight, these tanks actually overflow. The surplus water travels a short distance before it is soaked into the soil and eventually makes its way back into the aquifer. The water at ground-level provides water to animals, such as javelina, that are not tall enough to reach the drinkers.
The additional water has also created an unexpected surprise; a voluntary riparian habitat. Over the course of three years, vegetation normally found near rivers and other types of water systems began to grow, voluntarily, near the overflowing tanks. This lush area provides habitat for birds and other native wildlife as well as a cool and shady place for the cattle.
There is a saying, “fortune favors the prepared”. Taking proactive steps to prepare for conditions like the drought we are currently experiencing is critical to the longevity of our natural resources. The Little Horse Ranch is reaping the rewards from their commitment to conservation and will be able to continue the lifestyle they love for generations to come.
Conservation planning is a free service provided by NRCS technical staff to help producers identify resource concerns and strategies to improve those concerns. Contact your local NRCS field office or visit www.az.nrcs.usda.gov to begin your conservation plan today.