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Las Pilas Ranch: A Tale of Restoration

Las Pilas Ranch: Restored

The Las Pilas Ranch in Coahuila, Mexico, is a model of ecological restoration using Holistic Planned Grazing. Over a twenty five year period from 1978 to 2003, the barren landscape was completely revived. The images below show the transformation. Although the first picture is from 1963, the restoration with Holistic Management didn't actually start until 1978. During the restoration period, the livestock population was doubled and grazing was done according to a plan that paid close attention to grass health.

1963. Photo by Guillermo Osuna

Las Pilas Restored, 2003

2003. Photo by Guillermo Osuna

Which picture has more water?

Both images above are taken from the same location. Guillermo Osuna, the proprietor of the land, explains that when he began to manage the land, it was common to have dirt dams to capture the runoff - as there was no grass cover. A one-inch rain could fill the trough (pictured above, from 1963). After the land was restored, they could have a six-inch rain, and still no standing water (it's all absorbed). There is no need for the dirt dams and artificial troughs now. Those have grown over with vegetation and the springs are running year-round. Livestock is now watered via gravity fed pools from streams that run throughout the dry season.  Mr. Osuna says there is twice as much surface water now as there once was, and he has also doubled the herd density.

Specifics

  • Las Pilas Ranch, Coahuila, Mexico
  • 22 inches of rain per year
  • Doubled the surface water
  • Double the stocking rate
  • No more need for dirt dams for runoff
  • Springs run year round
  • Where a 1-inch rain used to filled the runoff trough, now, even after a six-inch rain, there is no standing water (it is all absorbed by plants)
  • Began Holistic Planned Grazing in 1978

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

  • Originally just focused on herd density. Tried to increase herd size too fast (many make this mistake).
  • Then, stuck to planning, focused on grass health.
  • Environmental benefits came in time.
  • Now, both herd density and ecological carrying capacity are enhanced.

Google Earth Map of Location

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