Nuffield Stop: Jaime Elizondo

My Nuffield personal study resumed in Florida February 3, 2020 with Jaime Elizondo.  Jaime manages the cattle and grazing part of the operation of Living Web Farm near Crescent City, Florida.  I wanted to visit with Jaime because he is an advocate of non selective grazing and strategic supplementation to achieve maximum sustainable profits per acre.  Jaime was mentored by Johanne Zietsman honing his knowledge and grazing techniques. North Florida is a subtropic environment with an annual average rainfall of around 1300mm or 51” of rain.  The pastures are predominantly bahia grass and the soil type is sandy with very low organic matter. The grazing program includes being set stocked for 42 day calving period and then cattle are grouped back together into one mob moving 4 times per day grazing non selectively.  The area where the cattle were set stocked for calving will be given a long recovery period and each year a different part of the farm will be used for calving. It works out that about half the farm has a full stockpile for winter. Jaime believes that by grazing non selectively coupled with a long recovery period it  allows for more rapid humus formation by allowing the plant to reach full potential pumping energy into the soil that would otherwise not be possible with shorter recovery times and the reduced diversity that selective grazing leads to.

We estimated the area that the cows were getting each day and currently the stockpile was yielding in excess of 400 animal units per acre.  This is incredible considering it was grazed in the summer time also. 

Fence line showing before and after nonselective grazing.

The cattle management is also very unique in that the herd is purebred Mashona cattle.  Mashona is a bos taurus breed that originated in Africa and is known for their heat adaptation and resistance to pests and this herd is one a very few in North America.  Jaime believes that at about a 25% cross with angus cattle would be beneficial to give some heat tolerance in our hot summers. An interesting quote that Jaime had from a Mexican geneticist was “genes have no breed.” Good advice for the commercial cattleman as we develop cattle that are adapted to our own system. The cattle are managed to keep them in good body condition and Jaime’s mantra is “Fat cows, fat cows, fat cows!”  To achieve this they wean early at 5-6 months and supplement 2kg of quality alfalfa hay per head each day to maintain body condition while grazing non selectively on 4-6% protein dormant grass.

Mashona cattle in good body condition and with slick hair coat.

All paddocks that were grazed off in the late summer fall period were overseeded with 10 pounds per acre of sweet clover and grazed at the end of February/ March as the cattle are moved off the Bahia grass stockpile.  

Calves were fed separately and given the same alfalfa free choice with free choice bahia grass hay for roughage.   

Mashona heifer calves weaned at 5-6 months of age.

One experimental plot that caught my attention was a bahia grass pasture that had been set back with a spraying of fish hydrolysate at a high rate and annual ryegrass seeded into the sod for winter feed.  This thought was had by Gerry Gillespie at Axten’s field day last summer too so it was interesting to see someone had actually tried it. Jaime is also considering strip tillage to allow establishment of a winter crop in the summer annual pastures in order to not totally disturb the mycorrhizae and other soil biology.  

Ryegrass growing in the bahia grass pasture.

Another interesting facet of Jaime’s management was the use of cafeteria style mineral feeders to allow the cattle to balance their only mineral needs. 

Cafeteria style mineral feeder.

Many ideas came to mind after spending a day with Jaime including set stocking for calving, breeding a small percentage mashona into the herd, biochar as a cattle supplement, rumen probiotics, shade trees, caragana trees for windbreak and cattle feed.

Jaime’s system as a whole was very low cost and yet the cattle were all in fine shape and had a good healthy shine on.  Living Web Farms sells Mashona bulls private treaty and if anyone is wanting to learn more about Jaime’s methods he is offering a Regenerative Ranching School in Crescent City, Florida March 14-15.  Jaime also has a consulting business in which he provides consulting via WhatsApp and has a book on amazon called Regenerative Grazing.