Dan Anderson, Meadow, S.D., has been getting more out of his grasslands since adopting a planned grazing system and multispecies grazing
Stocking rates are up 70% to 100% compared to when he started ranching. Now, he can graze cattle and sheep longer in the year.
Cattle graze all but about 2½ months of the year. Sheep usually graze year-round. They get a small amount of corn as supplement during a few months in the winter.
Because the cattle and sheep stay out on pastures longer, winter feed costs are down. Anderson used to need 2,500 pounds of hay to feed a cow through the winter. Now, he can get by with just 700 pounds.
The productivity gains have come in part from being able to give grasses more rest between grazings, Anderson says. He used to have just six pastures. Now he has more than 60 and moves the cattle and sheep even few days.
With more rest, the grasses develop bigger root systems, which helps increase the soil’s infiltration rate. The soil can absorb water faster, which reduces runoff and results in water being wasted. water is absorbed in soil. That in turn, boosts soil moisture levels and increases forage production.
Multispecies grazing has helped, too. Because cattle and sheep eat different grasses, grazing both species on the same ground more fully utilizes the forage produced. Anderson gives the grass 45 to 60 days rest before grazing it with a different species.
Bottom line: The planned grazing system and multispecies grazing has made the ranch more profitable and sustainable. “By increasing our numbers and productivity, we can afford the next generation the opportunity to produce food for the world,” Anderson says.
Amazing Grasslands series
The Anderson ranch was profiled in the Our Amazing Grassland video series, produced by the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition.
Sponsors of the series include the Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, American Bird Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Audubon Dakota, Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Other ranches in the series and the month and year they were posted are:
• Jorgensen Ranch, January 2018
• Michalski Ranch, February 2018
• Schooley Ranch, March 2018
• Grim Ranch, April 2018
• Schell Ranch, May 2018
• Hamann/Blue Bell Ranch, June 2018