The West Ranch and Holistic Resource Management
The West Ranch is 150 miles south of Midland on the drainage of the Devil's River. It is a demonstration Ranch of Holistic Management® International. Many of the plants and animals on the ranch are also found further north in limestone areas of the Llano Estacado.
Be sure to read the related essay.
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In 2007 the drainages south of Ozona closed roads in the region at least three times. The highway department decided to leave the sign up for a while, even though the road to the West Ranch was not closed.
The region is a dissected plateau. At a few places, a person can see for miles, but most of the time a visitor is down in a draw or canyon. The foreground of this picture was nothing but prickly pear and rock in 2002, but with thoughtful ecological planning and work, the ranch is improving the wildlife habitat and grazing potential.
The junipers (or cedars as they are called locally) proliferated in the 1960s after the long drought of the 1950s and many years of overgrazing. The wells for the windmills are deep --500 feet. The paddocks of the ranch are divided by electrical fencing powered by solar panels.
Ranch Manager Joe Maddox stands in a beautiful wildflower filled pasture. The tour stopped so he could handpull some cocklebur which can be poisonous to livestock and get into the coats of the hair sheep that graze on the ranch.
Peggy Maddox and Delfina Beck rode the catbird seat on the "4-wheel drive golf cart." The vehicle is so quiet that wildlife does not realize it is coming, and the tour participants could converse as they moved along.
This draw was once the loafing place of livestock coming to a nearby windmill for water. In 2002, there was only bare dirt under the mesquites, cedars, and hackberry. White prickly poppy, yellow mexican hat brighten the seen among the grasses, as does the croton with its silver leaves.
On one of the larger mesquites, new shoots of mistletoe emerged from its trunk, while older clumps adorned the higher branches. Mistletoe does not grow on the Llano Estacado itself, but is common in the breaks region of the eastern and southern edges of the Llano Estacado.
On a cedar speckled slope sideoats grama grew tall. Notice the dead young juniper. Juniper can survive 300 years, but on the West Ranch there are many dead young juniper. Is it caused by a fungus that proliferates during a rainy period? One sotol bloom stalk pokes up higher than surrounding shrubs.
The Maddoxes are very proud of their dung beetles. The ranch is certified organic. Dung beetles quickly process the droppings of the livestock, and thereby fertilize the soil. Non-organic ranches often have few dung beetles because of the chemicals used to doctor the animals.
On one of the highest ridges of the ranch plants from South Texas are common leading experienced botanists to think they are in the "Brasada" or "Brush Country" south of Uvalde. Such anomalous populations of plants puzzle botanists how did the plants get there. One answer might come from the fact that on the same ridge are mounds of rock which indicate the underground ovens of long-gone American Indians. Agave and sotol were cooked in pits for three days and taste much like a sweet potato.
The ranch is 35 miles from Ozona. Even at the highest point on the ranch a person can not see the lights of any other human habitation. Beautiful and remote, the ranch provides wonderful educational opportunities for landowners and naturalists.