2014 S.D. Range Camp: Students learn rangeland management skills

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — The 38th Annual South Dakota Range Camp this summer at the Lamphere Ranch near Sturgis, provided an understanding of rangeland resources and a sense of stewardship in natural resource management to the South Dakota youth who attended.

“Students received instruction based on components that have a strong biological basis for habitat management of both beef cattle and prairie grouse,” said Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist.

Throughout the three-day camp, youth participated in activities which included hours of hands-on field instruction and range judging/plant identification practice as well as group meetings.

Range plant identification includes learning several specific plant characteristics that impact range ecosystems. “These characteristics reflect the range plant’s life span, season of growth, origin, desirability for grouse food and cover as well as beef cattle grazing desirability,” Ollila said.

Youth learned to determine ecological sites, arrive at a similarity index by conducting an inventory of the plants present in the ecological site. Utilizing this information campers were able to determine the Carrying Capacity of the rangeland as well as completing habitat appraisal forms to determine suitability of rangeland to support Beef Cattle and Grouse. Participants then selected management practices that would improve the Beef Cattle and Grouse Habitat to desired levels.

The camp wrapped up with a competition where students could put their recently acquired skills and knowledge to the test. This competition tested students’ abilities to do the following:

1. Integrate basic plant and soil management and the ecological principles necessary to evaluate habitat suitability.

2. Demonstrate that management by humans can influence the range resource.

3. Demonstrate a basic understanding of how management affects rangeland and its resources.

4. Explain how a management practice that favors one use may not equally favor another.

5. Apply a basic understanding of rangeland ecosystems that will last for a lifetime.

6. Explain the importance of rangeland stewardship.

Techniques to determine livestock carrying capacity were also demonstrated and students had to determine the size of the area needed to carry two ewes and their lambs for one day. At the end of the one-day grazing period campers used the hoop and clip monitoring method to determine if their initial grazing allocation was accurate.

Competition results were as follows: Top Returning Camper, Shyanne Seidel, Shadehill; Beginning Camper Division: first place, Emily Knutson, Kadoka; second place, Austin Messmer, Wessington Springs; third place, Trinity Brunson, Wessington Springs; fourth place, Shaina Solon, Kadoka; and fifth place, Lindsey VanderMay, Kadoka.

This camp was sponsored by South Section of the Society for Range Management, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, Belle Fourche Watershed Project, Goldcorp-Wharf Sustainable Prosperity Fund, SD Cattleman’s Association, SD Grassland Coalition, SD Parks and Wildlife Foundation- Tony and Dar Dean Outdoor Education Small Grants Education Program, SD Conservation Districts, SD Association of Conservation Districts, SD Association of Agriculture Educators, USDI-Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Black Hills Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Meade County School District and finally SDSU Extension.

To learn how you can become involved in range judging, contact Dave Ollila at Dave Ollila can also be reached at the SDSU Extension Regional Center in Rapid City at (605) 394-1722.