|GLCI Tour Stops at Montana Sheep Ranch
(November 1, 2010) Lehfeldt Rambouillets in Lavina, Mont., was a stop on the National Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Steering Committee’s tour during its fall meeting Sept. 10-11. The more than 100-member tour provided GLCI and Natural Resource Conservation Service members a chance to learn how sheep play an important role in conservation initiatives. The tour also visited a cattle operation and wind farm.
Lehfeldt Rambouillets, owned by Bob and Marie Lehfeldt and son, Ben with his wife Jamie, were selected as hosts due to their involvement with the Montana Sheep Institute’s targeted grazing projects. In 2009, they were a part of the approximately 15,000 sheep from 10 producers that participated.
“We see targeted grazing as a real opportunity for the industry and a process that we have successfully implemented in our operation as a natural way to pack pounds on lambs all while eliminating invasive weed species,” explains Ben.
Lehfeldt Rambouillets has three different conservation initiatives: leafy spurge, spotted knapweed and a sage grouse conservation project.
The Lehfeldt’s sheep started grazing leafy spurge in the 1980s. They try to achieve a diet of 70 percent spurge and 30 percent grass, leaving the majority of the grass for landowners’ cattle. In addition, they help cattlemen and landowners apply for grants for noxious weed control, which helps offset some of their fuel and management costs associated with producing sheep.
It was in 2007 when the Lehfeldts started their sheep grazing spotted knapweed to reduce infestation of the weed along the Madison River on both public and private lands. They have found that sheep grazing can provide a biological weed control solution to river corridors that are especially sensitive to chemical treatment of invasive weeds.
With their involvement in the sage grouse conservation project, the Lehfeldts receive assistance in pasture renovation that helps better manage rangeland resources and conserve sage grouse habitat. They are using this assistance to add fencing and a watering system to their deeded land.
“The steering committee is mostly made up of cattle and dairy producers so this event provided us with an opportunity to learn about a first-rate sheep operation,” says Bob Drake, chairman of the GLCI National Steering Committee. “The Lehfeldt family is a great example of a generational ranching family making it work and they were most generous with their time and knowledge of the industry.”