Rancher to Rancher Tour
Mountain Springs Ranch
The Mountain Springs Ranch is owned by Dick and Mary Jaffe and managed by Shane and Mimi Rosenkrance. We gathered early in the morning of June 27th, 2009 at Shane and Mimi’s house about 15 miles north of Mackay, ID on the headquarters of the ranch. The headquarters ranch has about 300 acres of hay and 700 acres of bottomland meadows and trees along the Big Lost River. After coffee and doughnuts, we crowded into pickups and headed up the valley to see the rest of the ranch.
The Chilly Ranch is up the river from headquarters, at the head of the valley. The cattle working corrals are at Chilly in addition to the majority of the hay ground and a good deal of slough ground with native grasses. The corral set-up is very nice (for low stress to livestock as they move through) and Shane’s crew can process a large number of cattle easily. The corral has a long, curved chute made out of planks and a long sorting alley with loading chutes and a hydraulic squeeze chute. Most of the hay ground on the Chilly Ranch is under pivots. All the hay on the ranch is put up in loose loafs that weigh 8,000 to 9,000 pounds. This is a very practical way for MSR to put up hay as the loafing machines are cheap to operate and the loafs are easy to feed. One loaf will feed 330 - 350 head.
Much of the Chilly Ranch is wild slough/swamp ground. This is rested in the summer and stock-piled for winter grazing after the ground freezes. This creates wonderful wildlife habitat in the summer months and the winter grazing removes the dormant growth before the next growing season. Usually the cowherd grazes out in the slough until February. When the grass runs out or the snow gets too deep, the cowherd is divided into calving groups of about 350 head (the number one loaf will feed). Spring comes very slow in the high mountain valley so the cattle are usually fed for 90 – 100 days, well into May. They generally can turn out on BLM on May 20th.
The tours provide us with the opportunity to connect with each other, to learn from our experiences, and to understand the we are all committed to the sustainability to the land.
The Mountain Springs Ranch’s Bureau of Land Management allotment is managed very intensely. Beginning 30 years ago, environmental groups, and more recently Jon Marvel’s Western Watersheds Project, have targeted MSR’s grazing allotment with numerous lawsuits and complaints. Until the 1970’s and 80’s, the allotment was unfenced and minimally managed. The riparian areas in particular and the allotment in general were in very poor condition, a situation aggravated by the presence of a wild horse Herd Management Area in the allotment. Shane and his predecessor, Dave Nelson, have both partnered with the BLM to make improvements in the planning and management of the allotment. This has resulted in the allotment becoming a great example of well cared for land.
The allotment stretches from the Chilly Ranch, up and over the mountain, to near Challis. It is very high country, but the average precipitation is only 12 inches. It is fenced into 12 pastures. The cattle start near Chilly one spring and finish in the fall on the Challis end; the next spring they start on the Challis end and finish on the Chilly side. There are four pastures, two on each end of the allotment, which are managed on a deferred-rotation and used in the spring one year and fall the next. The other eight are managed on a rest-rotation system and grazed during the summer with two or three pastures being rested each year. Shane has two riders in the summer, seven days a week, while the cows are out. The riders stay at camps and ride the riparian areas once or twice each day. Since the allotment is in the Salmon River drainage, a 4-6 inch stubble height must be left in the riparian areas. Shane showed us the improvement that has occurred along the creeks since they began intensively managing the allotment.
The other challenge Shane faces is the wild horse herd in the allotment. The horses make it hard for Shane to maintain the stubble height in the pastures within the HMA. They have found that when the cattle are in those pastures the riders keep the cows out of the creek and at the same time keep the horses away, but on the years when those pastures are rested the horses stay on the riparian areas and the stubble height is lower than when the pasture is grazed (by MSR livestock). There is also some difficulty with recreationalists who camp near the creeks with their riding horses and eat down the riparian area, again creating issues with the required stubble height. Shane feels that often there is such a great emphasis on caring for the riparian areas that management of the uplands is compromised.
After the tour we all gathered at the Challis Hot Spring for a barbeque and to visit about the day. Everyone learned a great deal and really enjoyed the tour Shane gave of the Mountain Springs Ranch. Thanks go out to Mary and Dick, Shane and Mimi, and everyone else that made the tour a success.