Jim Elizondo on Silvopasture, Tropical Milking Cows and Free Choice Minerals

Tropical Milking Cows, Silvopasture and Free Choice Minerals with Jim Elizondo

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Join me today for an interview with experienced rancher Jim Elizondo. Jim originally raised beef cattle and milked a unique breed of tropical dairy cows on his ranches in Mexico. He now ranches in North Florida.

Here are some pictures that will help illustrate many of the concepts that Jim talks about during the interview.


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  • Greg Schwab

    Chris I was blown away by this guy but I have more questions then ever. Like on these locast beans black or honey either one I know they have to be scaffired and I don’t know what or how this is done . I can collect all the beans from these two trees I can ever use, but get them to sprot is another story. There are native plants (shrubs) that cattle eat and do well on but are hard to get started .I need to know how to get these seeds to germinate.Is this Mamosa tree going to grow here in southern Colorado. So many questions there is no way any body could answer them all. I do know this growing up on a tree farm. That trees planted from seed in the field have a tap root And if you irrigate that tree the tap root will die,container grown trees do not have a tap root and that will not work for this tree or shrub to grow down deep and find the minerals that we need so badly. Greg

    • Greg you bring up some interesting points. I think Jim uses a no-till drill to plant the trees. Getting them to sprout here in Colorado is another story. I would that it would be best to plant the seeds, get a few inches of snow and when it starts melting it will provide the seeds with the environment to start sprouting. This time of the year or maybe in 2-3 weeks would be perfect for that. You grew up on a tree farm thought so I have no idea if this would work. I think mesquite or 4 wing salt bush might be a better choice for us, I don’t know. I’d be surprised to see a black locust or honey locust grow out here, I’ve never seen one in Colorado for my entire life. There has to be an extension agent someone in the state that has experience with this.

      • Greg Schwab

        Chris they grow here they need about 16 inches of rain and that is what I get here on my place so I know they will grow . Mesquite won’t I think it is the elevation Ive tried and they All ways die. I think if look close at black locost there just a northern high alt. version of Mesquite. I’ve Got a big bag of four wing that Ive collected and locost beans but can’t seem to get them to germinate. The right virety of Honey Locost can produce up to 300 bushel of beans per acre and the beans are two times higher in energy and protien then corn . I think you might have to take a permaculture approch and build some swales. I just need to figure out how to scafire the seed to get it to germinate. Greg

        • Rich

          I was sorta wondering the same thing about planting honey locust seeds and actually getting them to come up, and found a few sources online that suggested soaking the seeds in hot water (190 degrees) before planting them.

          A little more detail is at: http://forestry.usu.edu/files/uploads/growatreefromseed.pdf

          • Greg Schwab

            Ive read that to but that sound like an urban legend to me I think that would kill the seed . You try it and let me know if it works lol Greg

          • Greg Schwab

            Rich I’ll try it and let yo know if it works. Greg

          • I have scarified Tagasaste seeds before by pouring boiling water on them and soaking over night. It worked very well

  • Richard Frame

    Another great podcast! Thanks. What a wealth of knowledge Jim Elizondo is/has. From what I gather, most silvopasture practices involve grazing between nut or timber trees rather than utilizing the trees themselves as forage. Mr. Elizondo mentioned “Tree Crops” by Russell Smith who advocated raising tree crops as forage. He also mentioned “Restoration Agriculture” by Mark Shepard. Mark Shepard was also inspired by Russell Smith but, as Mr. Elizondo points out, Mark Shepard’s approach is to raise staple crops for human consumption and graze (or raise crops) in between the trees and shrubs as in “traditional” silvopasture (or alley cropping). It seems to me that one could do both, that is, have some trees for human staple crops and others for livestock forage.
    I really benefited from attending the class by Greg Judy, Ian Mitchell-Innes and Mark Bader (where we met), from taking a course at Polyface farm, and of course, by listening to your podcasts. I will be taking Mark Shepard’s one-week course in June which should be another great experience.
    Thanks again Chris for all the valuable advice and insights.

    • Richard,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m going to look into that book, “tree crops” and see what it has to offer. Sounds like a great book! That is great that you are going to that course with Mark Shepard, you’ll have to come back and let us know how it went. What are you up to now? You’ve taken courses from a wide variety of farmers it would be cool to hear which one you “picked.” Your welcome, I really enjoy doing the podcasts! See you around.


      • Richard Frame

        As you recall, in a few years, we will be moving from Colorado to Illinois to try to restore the health of a corn and bean farm. All we can really do now is to try to prepare as much as we can by reading, by attending classes and seminars and by following websites and blogs like yours.
        Although I know nothing can replace real world hands-on experience, it has nevertheless be a fascinating journey of learning and discovery for us since we began this project. We don’t know exactly what system or systems we will finally adopt on the farm, but at this point, we find a silvopasture system most appealing. That is one reason I am so intrigued by your interview with Jim Elizondo and by Mark Shephard’s Restoration Agriculture. I would very much like to attend Jim Elizondo’s ranching course this summer if I can swing it. I will be attending workshops and field days with the Savory Institute in Boulder in a few months.
        What appeals to me about Silvopasture is that I would be able to apply the grazing ideas and principles from Holistic Management, Salatin, Judy, Ian Mitchell-Innes, you and others and at the same time implement the permaculture ideas and principles of perennial crops and restoration agriculture.
        Anyway, that’s what we are up to right now. Maybe I will see you at the Savory gathering.

        • Rich that sounds like a full plate. My advice to you would be to go slow at first, maybe for a few year until you get the hang of things. A lot of those people have great ideas and ways of management but trying to do all of them at once could be an undertaking! Of course you will have your own style and combination of all of those things. How soon will you be making the move? I’d be very interested to see the progress you make and it would be wonderful if you could share some pictures of the place with us all as well. I hope to see you at the Savory gathering as well!

          Thanks for stopping by.

          • Richard Frame

            Very good advice. Thanks. We thought we would experiment with only about 5 acres while just helping the other 50 acres return to healthy pasture after years of conventional corn and beans. Then, as you said, after we get the hang of things, we could see what we could handle on a larger scale. We will also have 50 acres of oak/hickory forest to manage. I recall meeting a rancher from Texas at Greg Judy’s who owned 20,000 acres! I’m glad I won’t have that much responsibility! It will be at least a few years before we move. I will try to take some “before and after” pictures so I can document the progress. Thanks again.

          • Richard that sounds great. 50 acres of timber can bring in some good money for tree that should be harvested. Many people don’t harvest trees and consequently they fall down or become unusable. Be careful, loggers don’t have a good reputation! I look forward to seeing your before and after pics.

  • Jeremy

    Hey what are all the different type of free choice minerals to feed?

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