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Agro-Ecoregions & Livestock

Southern Rockies

70% of agricultural income comes from cattle (and sheep in Rio Arriba) that seasonally graze on pasture, montane grassland in spring (sheep fescues, mountain muhly, various sedges) and summer grasses (mutton bluegrass, pine dropseed, wheatgrass, subalpine needlegrass, tufted hairgrass, Junegrass) as well as on brushland. 1,500 ranches raise about 84,000 cattle on 5.7 million acres of grazing land. There are 11 feedlots (about 20% of New Mexico total); ten are small. There are substantial horse and private and tribal bison operations.

The Southern Rockies has the third largest number of chicken farms (close to 300). Rio Arriba County supports organic lamb, beef, poultry, turkey and egg operations, including organic feed mixes and alfalfa.

Colorado Plateau

Livestock income (26% of ag cash receipts) depends on irrigated hay and Great Basin Shrub (Big sage- brush, fourwing saltbush, shadscale) and Great Basin Grassland (ricegrass, galleta, poverty threeawn, sand dropseed, blue grama, alkali sacaton). Including public lands, there are 4.7 million acres that can be grazed. There are four small feedlots. 5,250 ranches raise 56,000 cattle and large numbers of sheep/lamb (over 55,000 head) and meat goats. The agro-ecoregion’s sheep (many unique Churro sheep) are used both for mutton and wool. Horse numbers are among the highest in New Mexico. The agro-ecoregion supports the second highest number of poultry farms (over 400).

Central Plains

Beef cattle (perhaps 200,000 in Torrance and Lincoln counties) and sheep (XX) are the most important agri- cultural activities with over 1,700 ranches and 10 million acres of brushland grazing, irrigated feed, and plains grassland (side oats grama, fourwing saltbush). There are 13 feedlots; 11 are small. Harding County has the most organic beef acreage.

High Plains

This formerly homesteaded agro-ecoregion once sup- ported extensive plains of side-oats grama, fourwing saltbush, blue grama, buf- falograss and prairies of little bluestem. The prairie grassland now grows winter wheat for export and grain corn for the cattle and dairy business. There are over 1,400 ranches raising 600,000 cows and calves. 85% of the agro-ecoregion’s cash receipts come from livestock. The High Plains supports the highest number of feedlots (almost 40%), dairies (145,000 dairy cows) and cattle (about 600,000) of any agro-ecoregion. Curry, Roosevelt, Union, Lea and Eddy counties are the dairy centers of the State. Curry, Quay, Roosevelt, Union and Lea counties support beef. High Plains has 32 feedlots (two with more than $2M in business/year; 18 small).

Arid Lowlands

Livestock earn about 68% of the agro-ecoregion’s food-related receipts. About 1,950 ranches sup- port about 500,000 cow/ calf cattle and 17,000 dairy cows. The cattle feed on hay and graze the Chihuahuan grassland (burro- grass, black grama, grama grass, dropseed, ricegrass, sacaton and tobosa). 43% of New Mexico’s livestock sales originate in the Arid Lowlands, which sup- ports 19 (about 20% of New Mexico’s) feedlots with three earning more than $2m/year and 11 considered small ($100,000 to $350,000). The Rio Grande and groundwater make for the richest livestock area in New Mexico. Bernalillo, Chaves and Doña Ana counties have the most dairy cows; Chaves, Doña Ana and Eddy have the most beef; Chaves the most sheep; Eddy the most meat goats; with pockets of bison, horses and meat goats in other counties. The Arid Lowlands has the most poultry operations (about 400) with 100 plus in Bernalillo. Roosevelt has the most certified organic pasture, hay and dairy cattle, and Quay an organic cheese business. Bees are a major mini-livestock.

Transition Mountains

Small numbers of both sheep (5,000) and cattle (68,000) seasonally graze on 4 mil- lion acres of mixed conifer and piñon/juniper with some Chihuahuan grassland, woodland and brushland grazing. This is 98% of agricultural cash receipts. There are six small feedlots. There are one or two goat organic dairies and cheese operations as well as an organic goat meat business.