Conservationists help plan rotation, density of livestock
By TIM HEARDEN
OAK RUN, Calif. -- Henry and Pam Giacomini know the benefits that cattle can have on rangelands if they're managed properly.
The Giacominis, owners of the Hat Creek Grown hay and livestock operation in northeastern California, sustain their operation largely through access to public and leased private grazing lands.
Working with Lassen National Forest officials and the University of California Cooperative Extension, the couple set up monitoring stations and embarked with other stakeholders on an ambitious watershed planning process. That effort included improving water quality, riparian vegetation and streambank stability and restoring the native trout fishery, all while maintaining grazing.
Their efforts recently earned them an award from the Society of Range Management, a professional organization that supports the sustainable use of rangelands.
"It's an honor," Henry Giacomini said while preparing to brand calves on leased ranch land near Oak Run, Calif. "It's nice to be recognized for the stuff you do, because it's just the way you do it."
Started in 1906 by Pam's great-grandfather, a Civil War veteran, the Giacominis' ranch is in Hat Creek, Calif., in an upper-elevation valley about 50 miles east of Redding. In addition to their standard hay and cattle operation, the couple markets some of their naturally grown beef through Hat Creek Grown, which is sold to individual customers and to a natural food store in Redding.
The couple began to expand their acquisitions of public grazing allotments in the 1990s and worked with range conservationists to develop management plans.
Among their practices has been a rest-rotation system on both federal and private grazing land, in which cattle are rotated among multiple pastures to give vegetation a chance to recover.
The couple have also worked with UC researchers on stream temperature monitoring and grazing surveys and taken courses on range water quality, the Society for Range Management's California-Pacific Section noted in announcing the award.
The private lands the Giacominis lease include the 6,700-acre ranch near Oak Run, which provides winter pasture for some of their cows.
"On this land, we don't have as much control" over management, Henry Giacomini said. "But what we can manage is the stocking rate and movement of cattle in and out.
"If you moderately stock it and leave a reasonable amount of residual grass cover," the project is sustainable, he said.
The Giacominis aren't afraid to make changes when data indicate they may be having a negative impact on the resources they manage, the society noted.
"Not everything we've tried has worked," Henry Giacomini said, "but we're just happy to see that where we had control enough of management to do things, to see that it makes a difference."
Hat Creek Grown: www.hatcreekgrown.com
Society for Range Management: www.rangelands.org