I was first introduced to the term “self-selection” in a barefoot trimming clinic in Australia about a year ago. The couple that were hosting the clinic, a trimmer and a vet, were starting a holistic rehab center in New South Wales in which one of the main focus points would be a Paddock-Paradise-style track system with a wide variety of planted herbs to provide the natural process of self-selection to their rehab horses. The thought behind this being that in the wild, horses (and other grazing animals) will seek out and choose to eat specific plants with medicinal properties to benefit their unique health, a process that most domestic horses don’t have access to, and which most horse owners compensate for by feeding an excess of supplements that blanket a wide variety of needs as a “cover all the bases” strategy.
The dining room at the Zapata Lodge is a place to learn about how to eat intentionally, responsibly, and ethically.
Nick Baefsky started an apprenticeship on Chico Basin Ranch six years ago, in the fall of 2012. Today he and his wife Amy, another Ranchlands apprenticeship graduate, manage a ranch in New Mexico with the help of three young interns and apprentices. They fix old generators, prop up fences, uncover and splice lines of ancient poly pipe. They gather big brushy pastures by waiting until late in the day when the cows come into water. They keep lists of the vehicles, generators and equipment that needs to be repaired, the pastures that need to be prepared for cattle, the pipeline leaks that need to be fixed. They keep precipitation records and grazing charts that they use to estimate how they’ll move the cattle herds across the ranch through the year.
Duke Phillips could have been a “normal” rancher. Raised in northern Mexico in a second-generation ranching family, he came of age in a world where cowboys shot coyotes to protect their calves, ranches were grazed in their entirety year-round, and cattlemen were just that–men who raised cattle. The rancher-conservationist had yet to emerge. While the tide has been changing in recent years, with more and more farmers and ranchers embracing their role as land stewards, perhaps Phillips’ most radical act has been not just to join this growing group of agricultural conservationists, but, since the very beginning, to throw the doors open and invite others to observe and participate in the project for sustainable ranching.