Boreens host field day emphasizing sustainabilityWritten by Allie Leitza
It is difficult for producers to come up with innovative ways to increase production of food and fiber, when the amount of available land will decrease, but Phil and Kate Boreen of Otto have implemented farm management practices into their operation that make feeding the world look possible.
To share what they have learned, the Boreens invited FFA members from the Big Horn Basin to their ranch on May 8 to learn about their practices. The students were given a tour of the ranch and were taught about each of the ranch’s management practices.
The Boreens hosted the field day, titled “Sustainable is Attainable,” in collaboration with the Wyoming Business Council.
“The goal today is to think outside of the agricultural box,” said Wyoming Business Council Value-Added Program Manager Donn Randall of the tour.
Starting from scratch
When the Boreens bought their ranch in 2002, the condition of the property was not what they had hoped.
“There were cows in every building, and the condition of the soil had gotten to the point where a worm wouldn’t even live in it. Our other problem was that we were in the middle of a drought and our territorial water was not very good. We realized there was a lot of storage for water in the reservoirs, but unfortunately there was no water in the reservoirs. Our biggest struggle for the first three or four years was trying to make a living with very little water,” said Phil. Upon acquiring the land, Phil did not have a previous background in agriculture, but together he and Kate worked to put the land back into use in most sustainable way they knew of. They started by building the soil back to a healthy growing medium and they also worked hard to make sure they were being efficient with their water.
“We have tried a lot of things. We’re not institutionally tied to commercial fertilizers, and a lot of what is used right now, because we did not come from it. It is maybe a little easier for us to step out of our box and try different things, because we were never set to a specific way. We have tried a lot of things. Not all of them have been successful, but we have had successes,” said Phil.
Improving soil conditions
“You have got to keep learning throughout your life. When we bought this place, I didn’t know much about soils, so I educated myself about it. One thing I found out is that our calcium and our magnesium levels were out of whack,” said Phil.
As the Boreen family worked with the soil, it was evident that, when the balances are not what they should be, it is hard to grow a healthy plant. Something that the couple has found helpful in returning the levels closer to where they should be is to add lime to the soil to lower the pH and to get rid of excess sodium. On the other side of that scale, the levels of calcium increase and sulfates are also added.
Since the implementation of these techniques, the calcium levels in the Boreens’ soils have gone up to 60 percent, and magnesium levels are down to nearly 20 percent. Sodium percentages have also fallen.
Molasses is also added to the soil to introduce carbon, and another way the soil is fertilized is with hydrolyzed fish, which has nutrients immediately available to the plants.
“You cannot change the environment, you have to adapt to the environment,” said Phil of their situation and strategy.
The Boreen Ranch also produces biodiesel. Where some operations are making biodiesel from oilseeds, the Boreens use waste vegetable oil that is collected from restaurants around the Big Horn Basin. On average, 200 gallons of biodiesel can be produced from 300 gallons of waste vegetable oil, and the Boreens says producing their own fuel costs around 60 cents per gallon.
Looking out into the pastureland of the Boreen Ranch, one will notice irrigation different from most systems, as their fields are watered by sprinklers surrounded by a durable polyethylene pod made by K-Line Irrigation.
The Boreens wanted to bring more water to their land, and they knew they needed an efficient way to hydrate the soil. After research, it was apparent to the couple that the K-Line system was the best fit for their operation
The pod and the hose lie in the field, and moving the water is as simple as firing up the ranch’s four-wheeler. Little to no run-off is produced by the system and the apparatus is durable, does not kink and is not ruined easily by grazing livestock.
“We haven’t broken anything on the system since we have been using it,” said Kate. “I even found a couple bulls throwing it around with their heads one day. It didn’t even break then.”