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A Walk Through the Pasture: News from CGREC - Summer 2018

Kevin Sedivec, Interim Director

The spring of 2018 brought heartache and a blessing to the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center. We lost our good friend and co-worker Rodney Schmidt to an ATV accident that happened on his farm.

Rodney SchmidtRodney was the most good-hearted, hard-working man who loved his family and the Lord. Rodney was the face of our livestock unit. He loved farming and livestock, but had an indescribable pride for his three sons and wife, Karen.

He will be remembered for many things: his generosity to the center and his neighbors, and his willingness to help others. Whenever we had a new hire – whether permanent or summer seasonal – Rodney would take the person under his wing and make sure the person was comfortable, happy and welcomed to the center.

His love for his family was evident in all that he did. He was a blessing to everyone's life that he touched, even if it was a moment or many years. Having a man such as Rodney in our (my) life was a privilege. Rodney truly will be missed!

Rodney Schmidt, cow and her calf

The center has been blessed with ample rain this spring. As of June 13, we have received 6.96 inches of rain, or 183 percent of normal. Our pastures and hay lands are flowing in tall grass, spring flowers are blooming and first-crop alfalfa is down.

Cow-calf pairs have been grazing the research trials since May 23. The yearling heifers are going out to pasture June 20 after being artificially inseminated. The heifers will be going on a new precision agriculture trial June 20. Eighteen of our bulls are in Fargo on a research trial and will return in early July to begin breeding in mid-July.

The center initiated some studies this spring. Last year, we created a large-scale disturbance trial designed to increase plant diversity and reduce Kentucky bluegrass, and determine impacts on livestock performance and production, and pollinator and bird habitat. That trial compared patch-burn grazing using two types of burn programs (spring only, spring and summer) with full-season grazing of cow-calf pairs.

This year, we started a grazing strategy study (modified twice-over, rest rotation grazing system) designed to have heavy, moderate, light and no disturbance in the same grazing unit. This system has four pastures with one grazed at 75 percent, one at 50 percent and one at 25 percent degree of disappearance. The fourth pasture is rested for one year.

All treatments are compared to seasonlong grazing (control). All treatments and control are replicated four times. All these trials are conducted with the center and Main Station scientists (Ryan Limb, Torre Hovick and Devan McGranahan). Caley Gasch, an assistant professor of soil health, also has a graduate student studying grazing and fire effects on the soil profile.

Scott Alm, our forage specialist, started two other studies. One looks at the potential forage production and quality of different cover crop mixtures. His second study, which we call a relay study, compares production and quality of alfalfa alone, meadow bromegrass alone, big bluestem alone, alfalfa with meadow bromegrass or big bluestem, and alfalfa with meadow bromegrass and big bluestem. We believe the mixture of a cool-season grass (meadow bromegrass) and warm-season grass (big bluestem) will produce more alfalfa/grass tonnage under a two-cut system that is typical of our area.

A precision agriculture project also will start this month. This project will look at impacts of mineral supplementation on grazing heifers. The precision agriculture component includes placement of RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags to the ears of heifers, with only selected heifers allowed access to the mineral feeders. The tags relay mineral intake data by animal to a computer program that allows real-time data.

The center became crowded once the summer seasonal and graduate students arrived. During the week of May 29, the summer seasonal workers (10 employees) on the statewide pollinator study trained at the center with 27 people working on station property. Seeing new people and having the opportunity to work with students from all over the country always is fun.

Lastly, the 2018 Central Grasslands Research Extension Center’s annual field day will be held July 9 starting at 4 p.m. at the center. Come enjoy an afternoon with us. We will discuss the issues that lead to the initiation of the studies occurring on the station, show you the research projects and provide results. We will see range studies, forage projects and livestock research, as well as view our new study on pollinators that uses radio telemetry and bumble bees.

In closing, the center has been fortunate to receive May and June rain, indicating a good forage year on the pastures and a normal to above-normal year for hay production. The landscape is green and lush, birds are found on every wetland and throughout the pasture, and butterflies are fluttering about.

Until our next walk through the pasture, let the rainfall be plentiful and enjoy your loved ones. Take time to walk our beautiful North Dakota prairies.


Photos by Rick Bohn and Kevin Sedivec, NDSU

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