South Dakota grazing schools to focus on profitability, management, ecology of pastures

Peter Bauman, Natural Resources Field Specialist
South Dakota State University Extension
South Dakota Grassland Coalition plans to hold their Eastern South Dakota Grazing School in both July and September.

If you're looking for a refresher on managing your pastures, the Eastern South Dakota Grazing School is coming July 26-28th to the Abbey of the Hills near Marvin, South Dakota.

For over 20 years, the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and partner organizations have hosted the South Dakota Grazing School, with over 800 persons having completed the 2 ½ day course which focuses on helping producers build a profitable grazing program while understanding the ‘nuts and bolts’ about how grassland plant communities interact with soil, climate, and grazing.

The curriculum of the schools is developed to serve grazers of all ages and at all scales of operations, from young couples first starting out to those who are involved in multi-generation or large scale grazing operations.

The curriculum includes both business management and grazing management topics such as inventorying resources, adaptive management, fencing and water systems design, drought and precipitation planning, nutrition, understanding plant communities, real time allocation of pasture resources with on-site livestock and much more.

The school is open to anyone, but is generally tailored to the climate and grasslands of the mixed and tallgrass prairie regions of the eastern Dakotas, western Minnesota and the surrounding area.

The class begins the morning of July 26 and concludes at about 2 pm on the 28th. Details about the school and on-line registration can be found by visiting the SD Grassland Coalition website at and then clicking on the Events tab. Participants can also register by contacting Judge Jessop at or Pete Bauman at

Paper registration forms are also available at the Watertown Regional Extension Center and can be mailed to interested parties by contacting Jan Rounds at the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Watertown at 605-882-5140.

Registration for the school at $300/person for the three day event, which includes all meals. Additional persons from the same operation are $150/person. Lodging is also available to the participants at the Abbey of the Hills by calling 605-398-9200.

The expansion of the grazing school format is in response to the needs of South Dakota’s livestock producers. While the base curriculum remains the same at all schools, the option to attend a school that fits more closely to the plant community of the home ranch is a great opportunity for some.

So while the Chamberlain school has been, and will remain, a great option for all, it didn’t always fit with producers schedules. For instance, eastern South Dakota producers sometimes found it difficult to get away during the traditional September timeframe due to soybean or silage harvest times. Young producers often have conflicts with college course schedules. Finally, producers from the far eastern or far western portions of the state often have plant communities that can be significantly different than those found in the Chamberlain area.

By offering multiple locations and times, the coalition hopes to provide more opportunity to make the grazing school more accessible to all. It is important to note that any school is open to anyone on a first come, first served basis, regardless of the location of their operation. Schools are generally capped at about 35 students and they often fill up fast.

Graduates of the grazing schools also become eligible for the follow up Ranch Consultants Program, where they can receive up to 40 hours of additional on-ranch consultation from grazing experts for a very minimal fee. This process builds on the curriculum of the grazing school and assists the grazing manager by assessing resources, developing user-friendly maps, identifying future needs and developing a grazing plan that fits the operation. The details of the follow-up program opportunity are discussed during the school.