‘It is my hope that all agriculturists are categorized as conservationists, and that the public looks favorably on our contributions to protect all our natural resources. I look forward to sharing my story further and hosting a ranch tour this coming summer. Until then, I have some fence to stretch, some cleaning up to do and some praying for a nice green backdrop when everyone gets here.’ 1
– Ryan Fieldgrove
“Ryan and Teresa Fieldgrove’s ranch, located near Buffalo, is a cow/calf range operation consisting of over 10,000 acres of deeded and leased land. Ryan Fieldgrove’s family has ranched in the area for over 125 years with his children representing the fifth generation to be involved. The Fieldgroves place a high value on passing a land ethic on to their children. ‘To me, the most important part of conservation is the mechanism it provides to teach my three children a mindset,’ Ryan Fieldgrove said. ‘Conservation is about solving problems, utilizing existing resources, sacrifice, and hard work. These are all things that are important for my children to see in action.’
The Fieldgroves’ primary stewardship practice was the incorporation of goats into their operation in an effort to battle the family’s long-time nemesis … the Leafy Spurge. The goats are part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system that includes Flea Beetles, which feed on the Leafy Spurge, and light herbicide. The system has been so successful that the weed has virtually been eliminated on most of the ranch.” 2
“‘The weed had been a problem all of my life, and it didn’t seem like we were making any headway. We had always sprayed and did the traditional chemical applications to reduce or eradicate it, but it never worked. We’d gain one year, then shortly thereafter it would be back,’ he says. Fieldgrove says he’d heard of using goats or sheep to control weeds, and he decided to give them a try. ‘The first year we went to Texas and purchased some crossbred Boer goats, and we built a test plot of about five acres in heavily infested leafy spurge. We thought it would take a couple months for the goats to do their work on the weeds, but it only took 10 days.
They stripped every bit of plant matter and didn’t touch any grass. It was apparent that goats control weeds,’ he comments. ‘It definitely did damage the spurge, and almost controlled it.’ The following year the Fieldgroves developed a project that included their ranch, neighboring ranches and 500 goats for the summer. Test plots were again set up, and again the results were positive. Through the next five years the Johnson County Weed and Pest helped offset the cost of test plot fencing and a herder to look after the goats. Aerial spraying and biological control using flea beetles were also used in some areas.
‘A drastic reduction in leafy spurge occurred, and native forages began to come back,’ says Fieldgrove. ‘We consider the goats a constant and successful tool in controlling the weed and rejuvenating native grass species.’” 3
Other beneficial practices used on the ranch include managing stocking rates during drought years and rotational grazing. “In addition, the family has reduced their goatherd. “Goats can be harsh on terrain and lead to erosion in certain areas, but the Fieldgroves’ ranch shows no sign of erosion from the goats.A third major conservation practice on Fieldgrove Ranch is the family’s participation in a sage-grouse habitat improvement program… They also stay out of the sage-grouse leks during breeding times. The program includes pasture aeration, which allows for native forage to overcome areas of cheat grass infestation, and the development of suitable plant life for the sage-grouse’s diet.” 4
1 Wyoming Livestock Roundup Website. “2011 Leopold Conservation Award, Fieldgroves base viable operation on conservation strategies”, 11 February 2011. (Accessed 18 June 2013)
2 Sand County Foundation Website. “Leopold Conservation Award presented to Ryan & Teresa Fieldgrove”, 5 June 2011. (Accessed 17 June 2013)
3 Wyoming Livestock Roundup Website. “2011 Leopold Conservation Award, Fieldgroves base viable operation on conservation strategies”, 11 February 2011. (Accessed 18 June 2013)
4 Sand County Foundation Website. “Leopold Conservation Award presented to Ryan & Teresa Fieldgrove”, 5 June 2011. (Accessed 17 June 2013)