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A Walk Through the Pasture: News from CGREC

Kevin Sedivec, Interim Director, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center

The winter of 2017-2018 has been remarkably different than last year’s winter.Breeding cow in winter

The center has received almost 16 inches of snow this year, compared with 60 inches of snow that came with three blizzards and one snow storm in 2016-2017. This winter also has been much colder so far, but the cows seem to be doing well, and the deer are much less congregated.

The center and Main Station scientists are writing about the findings from the research and Extension projects conducted in 2017 for the center’s annual report, which is expected to be completed by early March.

Prescribed burnAn interesting finding was cattle performance on the patch-burn trials, compared with the season-long grazing treatment. Calves on the season-long pastures had an average daily gain of 2.52 pounds per day, compared with 2.74 pounds per day on the spring and summer patch-burn pastures.

We saw an even greater contrast on the cow performance, with cows losing an average of 0.51 pound per day on the season-long pastures, compared with gaining an average of 0.88 pound per day on the spring and summer patch-burn pastures. Although this is only one year of data, it is intriguing, to say the least.

The field season of 2018 will bring some new research trials related to grazing management and forage production systems. We will start a planned grazing management strategy (used to be called “grazing system”) to incorporate a modified rest-rotation grazing system to compare with the patch-burn studies and season-long grazing treatments.

The strategy will be a four-pasture, twice-over rotation grazing system with one pasture grazed at 70 to 75 percent disappearance, one at 40 to 60 percent disappearance, one at 20 to 25 percent disappearance and one rested for 12 months. The study question is: Can we create a severe enough disturbance to reduce Kentucky bluegrass thatch while enhancing plant diversity and build in sufficient recovery (within a year and across years) to enhance the native plant community?

The second question will address livestock performance and production per acre, and a third question will address the effects on the pollinator and wildlife plant community.

Scott AlmScott Alm, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center forage specialist, will start a forage production relay haying study designed to compare single-species perennial hay crops with dual- and triple-species hay crops. We will compare a two-cutting system using: 1) monocultures of alfalfa, meadow brome and big bluestem, 2) dual species of alfalfa and meadow brome, and alfalfa and big bluestem and 3) triple species of alfalfa, meadow brome and big bluestem.

The study is designed to take advantage of the different growth phenologies of these plant species. The research question is: Can we increase hay production using dual and triple species, compared with single species?

2018 should be another busy and fun research and Extension season. Progress reports on all current projects will be in the 2017 annual report, which will be available soon.

Passing of Legends

The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center relies heavily on the guidance and advice from our advisory board. On July 19, 2017, William “Bill” Well passed away at the age of 85. John “Jack” Dahl passed away on Jan. 28, 2018, at the age of 88. These men were instrumental in the early years of this center, serving on the advisory board that helped former Director Paul Nyren develop the early research projects and future direction of the research program.

Well started his career working with youth, teaching vocational agriculture at Medina High School from 1956-1967, and ended his career sharing his passion for education as a substitute teacher at Medina High School as recently as 2016. In the middle of his working career, Well was an agricultural loan officer for the Bank of Steele from 1974 to1995, retiring as senior vice president and director of the bank.

Dahl owned and operated Dahl Land and Cattle Co. with his wife, Dottie, and their three sons near Gackle, N.D. Dahl was a world-renowned cattleman, known for raising outstanding cattle. He also was influential among North Dakota cattle producers, serving as president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, National Livestock and Meat Board, and National Cattlemen’s Association.

I was pleased to meet and work with both of these gentlemen during my early years in Extension. I always learned more from Well and Dahl than they gained from me. Well and Dahl served in the U.S. Army, and both were graduates of North Dakota State University.

In Closing

Spring is approaching slowly. Here’s to warmer weather, spring rains and green grass.

If you ever have any advice or just want to visit about the research and Extension programs conducted at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, drop me an email (kevin.sedivec@ndsu.edu) or give me a call (701-799-4689).

Until our next walk through the pasture, enjoy the splendors that spring brings to the Dakotas. Take time to listen and watch the spring migration of the birds. Here’s to a successful and productive calving (lambing, foaling) season. Take time to enjoy your family and take a walk (or ride a horse) through North Dakota’s beautiful prairies.


Calving time

Photos by Megan Dornbusch and Kevin Sedivec

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