Preserve expands grazing program

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By Roger Snodgrass

ALBUQUERQUE – The Valles Caldera National Preserve has selected Gary Morton, a cattle grower from Las Vegas, N.M., for a contract to manage its 2008 grazing programThe announcement made during the regular board meeting Friday followed a discussion of the summer forage capacity that underpinned a decision to quadruple the number of cattle on the preserve this summer.Preserve scientist Bob Parmenter gave a presentation that indicated record levels of capacity in category after category of grass species and microenvironments.Applying a relatively simple, but lengthy, formula, which divides the amount of grass conservatively available by the amount of grass a cow would eat, along with a few other fudge factors, Parmenter calculated a carrying capacity of 2,115 steers for the season that will start in the spring.An interim grazing program was started in 2003, three year’s after the federal government acquired the former Baca Ranch. In 2007, the grazing program involved 530 yearlings.“In the five years, we’ve been here, the preserve has never had more forage or more water available for herbivores than it has this year,” he said.A heavier than usual snowpack still covers much of the 89 million acre preserve, 20 miles west of Los Alamos.Based on six proposals received, preserve manager Dennis Trujillo said.

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