Central Grasslands Research
- To increase the range-carrying capacity of native range, yet conserve and preserve it
for generations to follow. This program would include fertilization, weed control, and
management of native and tame grasses in concert to allow full season use and maximum
utilization of the land resource for the production of calves.
- To stabilize grass production from year to year or to discover how best to compensate
for the vagaries of the weather and precipitation as it influences forage production in a
- To identify the impact of different management systems upon the incidence of calf scours
and other disease problems.
- To explore increased use of crop residues and by-products for the maintenance of the cow
- To demonstrate management techniques and advise operators of results obtained.
Coteau Region is
"Red River Valley" of livestock production
The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center (CGREC) was established in 1977 by the
passage of HB 1528. The legislated mandate in HB1528 was "....to fulfill those
research needs which cannot be accomplished at any presently existing experimental
facility, because of peculiar types of grasses, soils, precipitation, and climate, there
is hereby established a centrally located North Dakota Grasslands Research Station within
an area bounded by the Missouri River on the west and the James River on the east".
This area, known as the Coteau area of North Dakota, extends from Divide and Burke
counties in north western North Dakota in a southeasterly direction through Dickey county.
This area contains 5 million acres (40%) of the state's rangeland where 42% of the state's
livestock is raised on 38% of the state's farms.
Research tailored to meet the
Scientists from the CGREC, other departments at NDSU and other state and federal
agencies are studying or have recently completed studies in the following areas.
- The CGREC has conducted side-by side grazing systems research that have been
instrumental in helping producers understand rotational grazing and the need for multiple
pastures. These studies have shown that more than 4 pastures are unnecessary for optimum
- Long-term wildlife studies on the nesting habits of waterfowl and upland game birds have
shown that properly managed rangelands produce as many successful nests as idled lands.
This information was used to formulate policy such as the North American Waterfowl
Management Plan and other government agency polices.
- A fall calving herd has been established to evaluate the best management practices for
maximizing the returns to this type of livestock management. Studies include an economic
evaluation of the market potential, running the spring weaned animals on grass for the
summer season, and supplementation of the fall cows at various times of the year.
- Data from the grazing intensity study is answering questions about the impact of no
grazing on Coteau area grasslands. Data indicates that no grazing significantly decreases
the production of native range as does overgrazing.
- Remote sensing studies are evaluating various ways to increase the efficiency of
- Soil water studies are looking at various grazing intensities and their effect on soil
water storage and use by the range plants. A new soil water hydrology study will help to
increase our understanding of water movement and how we can design management systems to
harvest the water more efficiently by both plants and animals.
- A $30,000 grant from the Stutsman Co. Soil Conservation District supported a study of
grazing and haying Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. This study included an
economic evaluation which proved that properly managed CRP acreages can sustain long term
grazing and return a net profit greater than cropping marginal land.
- A cooperative project with the NDSU Animal and Range Sciences Department and the
Hettinger Research Extension Center is evaluating the effect of multi-species grazing on
leafy spurge. The CGREC is providing aerial infrared photographs for evaluating the amount
and distribution of the leafy spurge
infestation (Figure 3).
- The unique physiography of the Coteau area makes an ideal outdoor laboratory for NDSU
students doing graduate work in range, livestock and soils. Undergraduate students from
throughout the U.S. and beyond come to the CGREC to gain a better understanding of range
ecosystems and the livestock that graze them.
- A cooperative study with the NRCS and Texas A&M University is evaluating the
feasibility of using fecal samples to determine forage quality. A computer model called Nutritional
Balancer Analyzer is being used in conjunction with near infrared (NIR) analysis of
the fecal samples to predict animal performance on rangeland. A graduate student working
with Dr. Kevin Sedivec and Dr. Greg Lardy will be using rumen fistulated animals to gather
forage samples to conduct wetlab comparisons of the NIR fecal samples. These wetlab
samples will be used to fine tune the computer model to increasing its accuracy for
Northern Great Plains producers.
- Several variety trials in cooperation with USDA ARS scientists have given producers an
idea of the potential of new alfalfa and grass varieties in the Coteau area.
- Continuing cooperative studies with the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Bismarck are
evaluating new grass varieties under grazing.
Significance of Grassland
Research to North Dakota
- Livestock is the second largest Ag Industry in the state and 42% of the state's
livestock are raised in the Coteau area. Long-term research at the CGREC has shown that
seeding marginal-highly erodible land to grass and grazing it with beef cattle can return
an average profit of $30.74 per acre versus $6.23 per acre for the same type of land
producing a small grain crop.
- More than 3 million acres of marginal-highly erodible land in North Dakota have been
reseeded to perennial grass in the past 12 years through the Conservation Reserve Program
(CRP). If 50% of these acres remain in grass for grazing, the increase to the North Dakota
economy would total $36 million. Long term research at CGREC evaluating grazing systems
shows that 1.5 acres of good to excellent condition rangeland are needed to adequately
maintain a cow and her calf for one month - one animal unit month (AUM).
- A six-year economic comparison of grazing CRP showed an average cost per AUM of $80.97.
There are approximately 5.2 million acres of rangeland in the Coteau area of North Dakota.
An estimated average of 1.75 acres per AUM are needed to maintain animal health and
grassland productivity throughout the Coteau. This calculates to 2.9 million AUMs. At a
cost of $80.97 per AUM, this translates to more than $235 million that is spent annually
in communities and businesses throughout the Coteau area.
Future Goals and
- The future for work with rangeland ecology is exciting. The reduction of government
payments for farming marginal land in the Northern Great Plains will encourage a shift of
the most marginal cropland back to perennial plant cover. These perennial plants will be
harvested by providing forage for livestock and wildlife. The CGREC is poised to provide
leadership for those seeking information on production techniques and best management
practices for the conversion period and beyond.
- The CGREC, in cooperation with main station scientists, is developing a new research
study to implement a controlled drought study where the effect of periodic and prolonged
drought will be evaluated. Conventional research studies conducted under field conditions
must accept the natural precipitation amounts. This study will attempt to impose
controlled precipitation events on field trials by constructing a series of small
"rain out" shelters which will cover the plots in the event of rain to control
the amount of natural rainfall.
- Rangeland soils affect all the plant production that is used by wild and domestic
animals, yet this valuable natural resource lacks detailed study. New research will
evaluate the effect of slope and soil type on range plant communities and soil water
movement and help us design management systems that improve production of livestock
without harming the natural resource.
- Wildlife have long been a product of our state's farms and ranches. This valuable
resource has recently been discovered by many in the state as a means of generating
additional farm income. Guide services and accommodations for hunters have become more
common throughout North Dakota. Studies to evaluate wildlife habitat management compatible
and complementary to livestock production need to be evaluated.
Paul Nyren, Director
Central Grasslands Research Extension Center
Route 1, Box 19
Streeter, ND 58483
fax: (701) 424-3616