Ken Miller remembers a time when his ranch land was abused.
Parts of it were being overgrazed as cows kept coming back to their favorite grasses throughout the summer. During droughts, all the pasture suffered.
But now the Ft. Rice, N.D., rancher has turned things around with a high density/short-duration grazing system. He's divided approximately 1,000 acres of native and cool season pastures into 38 different pastures - some as small as a few acres - and he moves cattle to new grass every couple days. Some pastures only get grazed once during the growing season with his "clip and move" approach.
"I don't want the cows to clip off the tops of the grass, not take whole leaves so that the plant has to use new root reserves to put out another blade," he says. "I trying to keep that solar panel out there working for the plant."
Miller also is double-cropping forages and grazing crop aftermath. This summer, after cattle grazed off a lush stand of winter triticale Miller seeded a cocktail mix of millet, sunflowers, turnips, clover, cow-peas and several other cover species. He seeded it in August, when it was bone dry and about 100 degrees. But putting the seed in the ground is better than leaving it in the bin, Miller says.
"You know it will rain sometime."
Sure enough, the field caught a shower or two and cover crop cocktail took off. In late September, he turned the cows and calves out into the belly-high forage for a high-protein treat.
Miller's latest project: an irrigated cool-season grass and legume pasture. He divided the half pivot in small paddocks and moved the cows through them every couple days.
"It really works," says Miller, of the high density/short duration grazing approach "I've doubled stocking rates and I'm leaving more grass than I use to produce."
Learn more by calling the Burleigh County Soil and Water Conservation District at 701-250-4518.