925.784-8303 ksweet@cattlemen.net

The Coalition is built on the foundation of real experience, scientific research, and commitment to our common goals of rangeland conservation and ranching viability. The stories below are about the ranchers, the agency representatives, and others who have made a commitment to the mission of the Coalition into action.  See also Grazing for Change I and II.   More videos are hosted by California Cattlemen’s Association.

The Path Forward: Technology Transforms Cattle Production Efficiency

 “Originally published in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Directions magazine.

In the last 50 years, the volume of beef produced in the U.S. has grown by 25% while the number of cattle has decreased by 6%. With increased efficiency in mind, technology is what makes the U.S. the global leader in high-quality, sustainable beef.

Out West, the Austel family also adopts technologies to solve problems and set them up for a successful future. John Austel, owner of 4J Horse and Livestock Co. and a first-generation rancher, has grazed cattle in Southern California with his family for 10 years, working hand in hand with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to return fallow acres to grazing land for cattle production. They run a Natural Angus operation on an Old Spanish Land Grant which used to be agricultural land but sat unused for more than 20 years. It is now a CDFW Ecological Reserve and Wildlife Area.

 Along with raising cattle, the ranch focuses on preserving land, water and ecosystems unique to their region. To manage these different factors and stay in business, the Austels had to look for technologies and practices that would also reduce labor and cost while contributing to conservation. “Striving for win-win solutions has always been our mindset and has served us well so far. We are currently working with entities onsite to help increase our knowledge of range monitoring, wildlife habitat improvement and maintenance, soil health, wildfire fuel management and more,” Austel explained.

One of the first things they decided to tackle was water. After two major wildfires burned the land in 2003 and 2007, water infrastructure was one of the first things needing replacement. John and his eldest son, Jake, saw an opportunity to do something different. With support from the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) they converted previously drilled wells from electric to solar. NRCS conducted site inspections and engineered designs, and the Austels installed the solar-powered technology using EQIP funding.

The solar-powered wells transform sunlight to energy to pump water into holding tanks. As cattle drink from nearby troughs or the water evaporates, the float in the trough signals to the holding tank it needs to be refilled. The holding tank’s elevation is above that of the trough, so gravity is optimized to refill the trough. Each well location is required by NRCS to have two 5,000 gallon holding tanks to store water for up to three days in case of an emergency. In addition, each tank has a quick connection for the fire department to be able to get a one-time shot of 10,000 gallons of water if needed. 4J Horse and Livestock has seven solar water pumps on the ranch, with plans to establish an eighth. “The largest benefit is there’s no power bill. That’s the first benefit — a financial benefit. The second benefit is they are very low maintenance. Those two things make me feel they are very reliable, and they are beneficial to invest in,” John said.

Saving money is always important to a business, and not repairing wells often saves labor and allows John and Jake to focus their attention on other things, like herd genetics and other infrastructure maintenance. Looking ahead, John is excited to see solar water technology advance. “These pumps we are putting in, we will be able to add more solar panels to a low-flow well to increase the gallons per minute. With these pumps, they can increase from 10 to 12 gallons a minute up to 25 gallons a minute if you add more panels,” John explained. “You increase your flow just by increasing the number of panels and without replacing the pump.”

There are other emerging technologies John is keeping an eye on to improve his water management and adaptive grazing plans. He is excited to watch tools progress and determine if they will fit into 4J Horse and Livestock’s plans.

2024 Summit Agenda

It Takes a Community – Ranchers, Land and Neighbors, too!

This theme captures many elements of the CRCC Rangeland ResolutionAs RangelandsGateway.org also states, Communities, where ranchers live and work depend on rangeland and they, too affect how rangelands are managed.  We all have a stake in how our rangelands are managed and the goods and services they produce.”

Ranchers and their rangeland neighbors gathered to focus on rangeland communities, learn about stewardship economy and stimulate new strategies for thriving rural communities with healthy landscapes.  

  Welcome, Bre Owens, CRCC Chair and Stephanie Larson, UCANR, Summit Moderator

What Rangeland Conversion means for Local Communities The Solano Together story by Al Medvitz and Ian Anderson

Conservation Economics – Learning from Keep it Colorado’s, Return on Investment Study. A collaborative effort involving the CO Cattlemen’s Ag Land Trust – Amy Beatie, Executive Director, Keep it Colorado

 What is a Stewardship Economy? And how do we build them? – Interview by Lynn Huntsinger with Laurel Harkness, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition and Staci Heaton, Rural Community Representatives of California

Ranching and Community – A dialogue with ranchers from across California  

You just can’t see them from the road California Rangeland Trust Documentary trailer

Lunch   Thank you, San Joaquin Stanislaus Cattlewomen, Audubon California,and Orvis Ranch Beef

Introducing CalGLCBre Owens and Alex Karol, Coordinator

Challenges and Opportunities of Conservation Easements – a panel discussion lead by Michael Delbar, CA Rangeland Trust; Dean Kwasny, Easement Program Manager, CA NRCS State office; John Walsh, Deputy Executive Director, Land Acquisition, Wildlife Conservation Board;  and Jack Hanson, Willow Creek Ranch  

Photo Contest Results – Bonnie Eyestone and Laura Robison, Point Blue Conservation Science

Pathways to Stewardship Economies – Empowering people, place and profits – Jared Talley, Boise State University, and Kris Hulvey, Working Lands Conservation.    

“Land conservation keeps our rural heritage alive, fosters healthy communities, generates good jobs, supports sustainable agriculture, preserves diverse wildlife habitats, and maintains the wild landscapes of the West.” Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust

National Ag Day 2023

Ideas to showcase and promote rangeland diversity, values and rancher stewardship

Let’s all celebrate National Ag Day on the CA Rangeland on March 21

and showcase the values of California ranchers and working rangelands, especially your own ranchers and other rangeland colleagues and constituents. Resources online.

  • See CRCC’s website for quick facts, Benefits of Rangeland and Photo Gallery.
  • See CRT’s ecosystem services study.
  • Follow CRCC Facebook page for posts to easily share. Use your Instagram and Twitter accounts to post something the week of March 19-25.
  • Submit a Letter to the Editor, ranch recipe or an op-ed in your paper. Invite a news person to the ranch.
  • Make and Share a video from a ranch. Here’s a sample, Settrini Ranch.
  • Local Cattlewomen groups seek outreach projects and may partner on a project.

Share one of these videos of nationally-recognized ranch land stewards from your neighborhood. Update it with an interview & photo and share it in paper and social media. Let these be an inspiration to your own stories. National Environmental Stewardship Award Program – CA Awardees, Sparrowk Livestock, Conlan Ranches / True Grass FarmsWork RanchCanyon Creek Ranch, Leavitt Lake Ranches, Yolo Land & Cattle, Smith Valley Cattle Feeders / Centennial LivestockBlanchard Ranch

Grazing to Reduce Wildfires

Understanding vegetation types to reduce fire severity. Theresa Becchetti1, Shane Feirer2, Denise Woods3, Stephanie Larson4

Rangeland Science Posters

These posters were shared at the 2023 Summit. CRCC appreciates the authors for their work and for sharing in this way.

In Search of the Value of Grazing. Genoa Starrs1, Sheila Barry2, Lynn Huntsinger1, Van Butsic1
1University of California, Berkeley; 2UC Cooperative Extension Livestock/Natural Resources

Effects of Compost Amendments to Rangelands with Steep Slopes on Soil Carbon, Greenhouse Gas Fluxes, and Nutrient Runoff. Rebecca Ryals1*, Ian Howell2, Hillary Sardiñas2, Alexia Cooper1, Kelly Schoonmaker3, Miao Ling He4. 1University of California, Merced, 2Alameda County Resource Conservation District, 3StopWaste, 4USDA Natural Resources Conservation District

Grazing to Reduce Wildfires. Understanding Vegetation Types to Reduce Fire Severity. Theresa Becchetti, Shane Feirer, Denise Woods, Stephanie Larson, UCCE

Rancher Activity in Wildfire Fighting. Lessons from SCU Fire Complex. Theresa Becchetti and Sheila Barry, UCANR