The project proposal listed these objectives:
1. Establish a 12.5-acre demonstration area using clover and cool-season grasses (smooth brome and orchardgrass) in place of alfalfa
2. Reduce water loss and over-irrigation water use through improved irrigation methods
3. Develop a sustainable system that takes advantage of natural moisture, reduces competition for water resources, extends the growing the season and reduces equipment use by allowing livestock to harvest some of the feed
Milford Denetclaw, as a part-time farmer, derives a substantial portion of his income from his farming and ranching operation raising registered Beefmaster cattle. His goal is to live entirely off his ag operation, which prompted him and the SARE-funded project team to explore current technology that would allow him and other producers to improve their pastures.
A water-delivery system was begun in the spring of 1999 that entailed building a headgate at the main canal with the necessary pipelines and gated pipe needed to deliver the water to the demonstration field. The field was planted to grass in August so irrigation water could be applied before winter.
While the project has been completed, Denetclaw is still assessing its benefits. He says his pasture project has provided a dependable source of feed for his livestock without his having to buy supplemental feed until late summer. Denetclaw says his pastures are environmentally sound and, while there is room for improvement, have no weeds, eliminating chemical controls and allowing him to use his cattle to harvest some of the feed he would normally have to bale or purchase
In 2000, the first year after the irrigation system was completed and the grass planted, Denetclaw kept his cattle out of the pasture, which allowed for two cuttings of grass hay, 80 bales each time. In 2001, he placed the cattle on the pasture and found that the grass handled their grazing throughout the summer.
He says that adding electric fencing to control grazing pressures on two different pastures will further help pasture production as will adding more gated pipe and over-seeding with alfalfa.
The project has improved water conservation and delivery. Installation of more gated pipe may result in even more conservation.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
Several farmers and ranchers on the Navajo Nation have visited the project and are considering installing piping to deliver water to their farms.
“This certainly will be beneficial to water conservation,” says Denetclaw, “especially with the ensuing drought.”
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
The final report in this project encourages those proposing SARE grants to look at all aspects of a project. For example, in this project the pasture was infested with weeds, but weed control was not included in the proposal, so the producer ended up paying for chemical control from his own pocket.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Several producers visited the project site. A slide show that documents the process and the results of the project was to have been presented during the annual conference of the Navajo Nation Soils and Water Conservation District and the Navajo Nation Shiprock Agency Grazing Committee meetings in 2002. The project will also be included on future farm tours, including the Shiprock Agricultural Field Day in the spring of 2003 as well as others as they occur.
A brochure on the project will be developed to help Navajo producers become familiar with the opportunities available from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.