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NDSU Center Offers Range Management Assistance

NDSU’s Central Grasslands Research Extension Center will help producers learn how to better monitor their rangeland.

The North Dakota State University Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter has established a program to assist producers implement and maintain range monitoring procedures.

“There is a basic rule of thumb for proper range management called the ‘take half, leave half’ principle,” says center rangeland specialist Charles Lura. “To keep rangeland healthy, take one-half for the grazing animals and leave one-half for the plants to help ensure they remain healthy and productive.”

But without accurate monitoring, rangeland managers have difficulty knowing if their grazing management strategy actually is working. Is the stocking rate too high? Conversely, the stocking rate could be too low, which also can degrade rangelands and result in a loss of potential income.

Using more than one-half of the forage produced can lead to a decline in forage production and quality, as well as a reduction in desirable plants, according to Lura. That can lead to decline in rangeland health and the loss of potential income through reduced livestock gains, conception rates and other aspects of livestock production.

“A sound monitoring program can help producers more accurately evaluate the health and status of their rangeland,” Lura says. “The information gained from monitoring can then be used to improve management.”

Monitoring does not just lead to an improvement in rangeland health, however. Healthy rangelands also filter and use water more efficiently, keep the rangeland diverse and productive, and provide important habitat for wildlife. Monitoring also should result in improved livestock health and weight gains because the ultimate goal is to improve rangeland health and the profit potential for producers, Lura says.

In addition, range monitoring can provide a record of environmental and resource conditions, events and management practices that influence rangeland condition or health. They also can help the manager better understand how the rangeland responds to management, such as rotations.

A wide array of techniques has been developed for rangeland monitoring. These procedures can be simple or complex.

“What is important is that managers collect information on rangeland health and use that information to improve management,” Lura says.

The Central Grasslands Research Extension Center developed its program to assist producers with monitoring through funding from Ducks Unlimited, the North Dakota Natural Resources Trust and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant program.

To learn more about this program or rangeland monitoring, contact Lura at (701) 424-3606 or charles.lura@msub.nodak.edu.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Charles Lura, (701) 424-3606, charles.lura@msub.nodak.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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