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Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

A Walk Through the Pasture

Kevin Sedivec, Interim Director, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

As I write this story I can finally say spring has arrived in North Dakota.  The grass is green and growing, with temperatures above 60° F – even forecasted for 80s on May 19 and 20.  We have been wet this spring (2.42 inches since April 1, or 118% of normal) and with the cool temperatures, field drying conditions have been poor.

However, our shallow loamy soils have saved us because they dry faster than the “good” soils.  We harvested the last of our 2019 corn crop in April, had our cereal forage and oat variety trials seeded by May 9 and small grains seeded by May 13.

Calving season went well with great weather in March and April.  Our livestock crew only had to deal with one storm.  The cows and calves will be turned out to pasture May 19-21.  We have started the fourth year of the patch-burn grazing study (finishing the first rotation, where a quarter of each pasture is burned each year) and the third year of the modified twice-over rest rotation study.  Including the season-long control replicates, this study uses 400 cow/calf pairs, 20 bulls, and 2,395 acres of rangeland.  This is the first study in the world to compare patch-burn grazing with rotational and season-long grazing that analyzes the impacts on soils, vegetation, livestock, birds, pollinators, and mammals.

 

So, What’s New this Spring at the Center?

This spring we started a few new projects.  These projects include:

1) Grazing select winter cereals for livestock performance,  cost efficiency, and soil health. We tested spring forage production of winter rye, winter wheat, and winter triticale.  We then turned out yearling heifers on May 15 to look at performance and cost to feed per day by cereal type.  A note: Free-choice prairie hay for the heifers was provided because the lush growth from the winter cereals is 75-80 percent water.  Cost of seed per acre was $21.25, $27.20, and $33.15 for winter rye, wheat, and triticale; respectively.

2) Assess if removal of Kentucky bluegrass litter and thatch found in the soil will enhance the expression of native grasses and forbs, and enhance the microbial populations.  We will remove the litter and thatch in May on plots with a rotatory steel brush attached to a skid steer.

3) Impacts of patch-burn grazing with cow/calf pairs on buckbrush communities.  We tested patch-burn grazing, patch-burn only, grazing only and no burn-no grazing treatments. Also, we also tested precision agriculture using a drone to collect imagery to assess the value of drone imagery with traditional vegetative data collection.

4) Assess mineral (macro and trace) composition of vegetation and soils found in the Missouri Coteau region throughout the grazing season.  The intent is to see if our grazing lands lack critical minerals needed for lactating cows.

5) Assess plant composition of rangeland forage consumed by lactating cows throughout the grazing season by identifying DNA markers of plant species from manure samples.  The goal is to see if cows eat a different diet when managed using patch-burn grazing, rotational grazing, and season-long grazing.

6) Test different cow grazing monitoring techniques that can map grazing patterns by treatment.  We will compare GPS collars developed by Dr. McGranahan (we have used these for three years) with precision agriculture solar-driven GPS ear tags.

7) Follow the impacts of minerals (mineral versus no mineral) fed in the diet of growing, to-be first calf heifers on reproductive performance and reproductive performance of their daughters (fetal programming study).  We started a similar trial in 2019 testing energy diets.

8) Assess impacts of different grazing treatments on rangeland and seeded cover crops on microbial diversity and richness, carbon sequestration, and methane-consuming bacteria.

9) Comparison of forage production and quality of selected varieties of forage barley, forage oats, grain oats, spring triticale, and forage wheat (new).  This study will be located at the center and Wishek (thanks to the Carrington REC agronomy team).

Finally, the CGREC has a new NDAWN station that was completed in May.  This station will have the most current technology that allows for us to measure snow, soil depths to 80 inches, and imagery, with plans for it to go live by September.  Thanks to Daryl Richardson and his staff for completing the new station.

 

Although we will be dealing with the consequences of Covid-19 this summer, it should be an exciting year for research and Extension programming.  The center can’t do all these projects without collaboration with the Main Station scientists, partner RECs and industry. We partner with the School of Natural Resource Sciences (Range, Soils, Entomology), Animal Sciences, Plant Sciences, Microbiology, and Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering; Carrington, Hettinger and North Central RECs; and the USDA-ARS near Mandan. Graduate students are critical in conducting research that addresses numerous questions and cutting-edge science.

Let me end by providing an invitation to the 2020 CGREC field day July 28.  We will hold two tours, a forage and livestock tour from 10:00 am to noon, and a tour showing the pollinator/bird and grazing management projects from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. This year’s tour may be conducted with some modifications due to Covid-19. 

Whenever you get the chance, enjoy the outdoors and the pleasures it provides.  From the beauty of our grasslands, to the songs and sightings of the many birds and wildlife species, and the joys of watching a cow with her calf enjoying the bounty our grasslands provide; know that our natural resources provide you with food, water, shelter, energy, clean air, and recreation.  Have a great summer and enjoy a walk through the pasture.

Photos by Kevin Sedivec, NDSU

 

 

 

 

 

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