SCHMIDT: Grazing readiness project
The Pierce County NDSU Extension office along with 20 other ND counties will be helping to collect data for a Grazing Readiness project beginning later this month and continuing through approximately June 15th. The goal of this project is to document the grazing readiness of key forage species across the state, which will in turn help producers improve the condition of their grazing resources.
County agents will be monitoring and reporting the growth stage of four key range and pasture grass species (crested wheatgrass, smooth bromegrass, western wheatgrass and green needlegrass) until they reach grazing readiness (the 3-leaf stage for crested and brome; the 3 leaf stage for western wheat and green needle).
Grasses to be monitored in pasture sites will be brome and crested wheatgrass with western wheatgrass and green needlegrass being monitored in native rangeland sites.
Each county agent will identify pasture and rangeland sites to monitor in their counties. The number of sites is dependent on the grazing resources within each county; however, each agent will monitor a minimum of two sites, one pasture and one rangeland. Sites will be visited weekly until grazing readiness is reached.
Grazing Management Tools
Setting a stocking rate is one of the most important decisions that ranchers or land managers make. Using the appropriate stocking rate in conjunction with delayed grazing will be especially important for pastures stressed during the fall of 2017, should receive special care this spring to help them recover from the drought.
The stocking rate is the number of specific kinds and classes of animals grazing or using a unit of land for a specific time period.
Regardless of which grazing management system is employed, vegetation type grazed or kind and class of livestock involved, stocking rate has the largest impact on the health of the grassland resource and animal performance of all management tools available.
When setting the stocking rate, knowing the carrying capacity of the pasture is critical.
Carrying capacity is a measure of how much forage a grazing unit has and is able to produce in an average year. The carrying capacity is the maximum stocking rate possible that is consistent with maintaining or improving forage production and vegetation composition, and other related resources.
It’s also defined as the amount of forage available for grazing animals. It is expressed as the number of available animal unit months, or number of animal units grazed for one month.
To ensure the health of your grazing resources, it is important that the stocking rate does not exceed the carrying capacity.
To aid ranchers and land managers in determining carrying capacity and setting stocking rates, NDSU Extension Rangeland Specialists, Miranda Meehan and Kevin Sedivec have developed a set of grazing management tools:
* “Determining Carrying Capacity and Stocking Rates for Range and Pasture in North Dakota,” a publication (tinyurl.com/CarryingCapacityStockingRates)
* NDSU Range and Pasture Calculator), a web-based calculator that allows you to export files for your records (www.ag.ndsu.edu/sheets/range-and-pasture-calculator/) NDSU Grazing Calculator App, which is available for Android and Apple devices in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, respectively.
For more information on either of this week’s topics, please call the Pierce County NDSU Extension office at 776-6234 ext. 5.