Pasture and grasslands odds and ends

Farm Forum

Winter Grazing: Well, the new year has come in with a cold snap. I’ve had the chance to speak with a few producers who still have cattle out on crop residue or cover crops, and it appears the winter grazing season has gone quiet well for most. High cattle prices no doubt keep everyone it a jolly mood. Just remember that it is possible to damage range plants during winter if you push the system too hard. The ability for a pasture to catch snow to provide that insulation blanked is still important, so avoiding taking the pasture down too low is advisable. Rotation on frozen soils can still be achieved with the use of electric wire or poly wire—all you need is a cordless drill and a good bit. Pre-drill the ground for the post and tap in with a hammer if necessary. Water distribution can still be an issue, but livestock’s legs still work in cold weather and walking for water (sometimes up to a mile) is not a major concern for those who have experimented with such distances. Ensuring reliable water is available is a bigger concern than is the distance to the water. Don’t forget to visit the Livestock sections of for recent or archived articles on managing livestock, feeds, and grazing systems in winter, as well as for upcoming trainings and events.

Prescribed Fire for CRP or Grassland Management Training Sessions – Stay Tuned: We will once again be offering landowner prescribed fire planning training during the spring of 2015. All the details are not yet finalized, but the courses will likely be offered in February and producers should have several opportunities to attend the sessions in eastern SD. Remember, if you plan to burn your CRP as part of establishment or mid-contract management, you must work with your local NRCS office to complete a fire plan. This system has been working well over the past few years. If you want to ensure that you’ll be notified, email me at and I’ll add you to my information distribution list (see below). Also, you can visit the Range and Pasture page at the SD NRCS website at for plan templates and other resources.

Grazing Forage Crops and Cover Crops – Plan Now: It’s never too early to plan. There continues to be a great interest by producers in learning more about the interactions of soil health, plant diversity, and the value of forage/grazing opportunity with cover crops and forage crops. If you’ve got an interest in learning more about how soils health and plant diversity can positively impact your grazing operation, stay tuned for training and education programs that will be offered by SDSU and other organizations in 2015. In the meantime, seek out professional opinion and start the conversations with your neighbors. This is an emerging science and trial and error are still valuable learning tools for everyone. I recently learned of a producer who worked out a deal with a neighbor to utilize a field for fall/winter grazing that had prevent plant cover crops. In this case the cattleman secured the field for $50/acre and had to install the temporary fence. In turn, the landowner realized some unplanned cash income while reaping the ecological benefits of the grazing through manure distribution. The cattleman commented that the cows coming off the cover crops were very healthy and in better condition than those he’d been feeding hay to. Look for similar opportunities in your neighborhood for 2015 and be willing to negotiate a fair deal.

SDGRASSINFO: Sign up now. SDGRASSINFO is an email service I manage to inform producers and others about upcoming grass-related events, trainings, workshops, tours, field days, etc. It has proven very valuable for the 600 or so folks that receive these brief email updates. If you’d like to be included on this list, please email me at and I’ll add you.