Keeping Track Of Pasture Recovery Back »

Written by Roger Gates (former SDSU Extension Rangeland Management Specialist).


Spring moisture improved attitudes and potential pasture production in many areas. While the relief is welcome, soil moisture reserves remain limited and cool April and May temperatures suggest that total growing season production will remain below average. The current Drought Monitor identifies continuing drought in most of western South Dakota.

If favorable moisture continues, recovery from the drought of 2012 may proceed in some areas. Grazing management decisions made as this growing season continues will have long term influence on recovery. Short hay supplies have forced many producers to turn out on pastures that were already short and growing slowly. Keeping track of the recovery process could provide valuable guidance about ongoing grazing management decisions. 

Livestock producers generally appreciate the value of production records. Knowing which cows are most fertile, productive and therefore profitable, can inform decisions about culling and perhaps replacements for the breeding herd. “Production records” for pastures can provide valuable guidance in planning and implementing grazing decisions. The challenge in evaluating pasture production status is that landscape change is generally very slow, it can be nearly imperceptible to even the most careful observer. Knowing that grasslands are recovering or moving to a more productive condition requires a commitment to careful and repeated observation.  Fortunately, most of those observations are easily made. The challenge is to make them, and then record them in a way that changes that may be difficult to detect over the short term can be clearly identified over a longer period of time.

Producers and land managers will have an excellent opportunity to learn about keeping “pasture production records” and using them to guide management decisions at the end of July near New Underwood, SD. SDSU Extension and Land EKG, with support from the SD Grasslands Coalition, are collaborating to present the EKG Blink Monitoring Workshop, July 30 and 31 at the Gary Howie Ranch.

Participants will leave this field course with well-practiced abilities in choosing monitoring sites, transect layout mechanics, and EKG photo station procedures. This outdoor class is designed for any rancher or conservation manger seeking a rapid, self-applied & repeatable monitoring program, right away. Participants will practice through land monitoring basics, soil surveys, grazing indexing, forage production methods,  surface cover percent, and objective photo methods, but  will spend the majority of time learning monitoring mechanics for EKG transect lines. Additional time will be spent on “situational monitoring” and site recording techniques including an introduction to EKG DataStore.

The workshop will run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day.

Topics on July 30 will include:

  • Redefining agriculture, tracking precipitation,
  • Frazing records, cages, and recovery pens, soil surveys,
  • EKG grazing index, calculating forage production,
  • And beginning transect and photo point set-up.
  • A discussion on findings of SDSU’s Bad River Watershed study will conclude the day. 

Training for July 31 will include:

  • Transects,
  • Record keeping,
  • Repeat photography,
  • Management direction,
  • And use of EKG DataStore.

Registration for the workshop requires payment of $300 before July 15, after which the rate will be $400. Participation will be limited to the first 35 registrants. All Participants will receive: EKG Field Guide & Field Forms; EZ-EKG pocket field cards for quick land assessment; a 6 month trial subscription to EKG DataStore($120 value) and a Monitoring kit with materials to set up monitoring sites on individual ranches valued at $400. Accommodations are available for “SDSU-Land EKG” in Rapid City at the Days Inn ($120) or America’s Best Value Inn ($89). There is also a campground in New Underwood.

Registration and further information is available from Sandy Smart 605.688.4017. Learn more about rangeland monitoring and Land EKG at their website.

Rangeland recovery requires rain, but good management is also necessary to optimize that recovery. Commit to continuing or beginning rangeland monitoring for your operation and find opportunities to acquire the tools to do it effectively. Your livestock and your ranch business will benefit from improved and well informed decision making.

For more information on the event please join in listening to the podcast on this topic:

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