Charles and Lynn BlankenshipAltamont, TN
Charles and Lynn Blankenship
Grundy County Soil Conservation District
Charles and Lynn Blankenship moved to Altamont, Tenn., about seven years ago and purchased a 230-acre farm – 100 acres of which are pasture – to raise Red Angus and Sim Angus cattle. Their property is dotted with caves and streams, making it great for hiking and enjoying the beauty of the landscape.
Charles first became interested in grazing ecology by reading books about intensive grazing. The information provided in these books encouraged him to contact his NRCS District Conservationist and NRCS State Grazing Specialist to receive some guidance on how to implement this practice on his farm. Through discussions with these NRCS staffers and Jim Malooley, another Tennessee Soil Health Champion, he quickly began high stocking his cattle in small paddocks over short periods of time.
The Blankenships rotate their herd between 14 permanent paddocks every day during the grazing season and move them to sacrificed pastures during the winter. During periods of average rainfall and rapidly growing grass, they try to move the herd through all their pastures in 30 days. Afterwards, they rotate the cattle in their paddocks, allowing each paddock to rest up to 50-60 days.
Intensive grazing has allowed them to reap many benefits. Water infiltration has improved, and their pastures have become more productive. Their soil organic matter is approximately four percent; well above the average one and a half percent on farms nearby. While their soil organic matter provides significant amounts of nitrogen during the growing season, they still must apply fertilizer to their pastures.
When the Blankenships began their current management system, their goals were to increase available water holding capacity and increase water infiltration in their shallow soils. Since these goals have been achieved, they plan to continue their soil health journey and adopt more practices on their farm. They hope to one day reach a point where they no longer need to fertilize their farm.
Updated June 2019.