We hope you have enjoyed this article series as a brief introduction to the various aspects of sound grassland management. We understand there is a great deal to consider in planning and implementation, and we know from experience that it can be overwhelming to tackle all aspects of grassland management at one time.
Grasslands are a valuable resource for South Dakota, and many of our core industries rely on the perpetuation of healthy grasslands for agriculture, recreation, and tourism. In addition, many other natural resources, such as wildlife and water quality are intrinsically tied to grassland health.
Good grassland management has many benefits for the land, livestock, and grassland managers. Good management is also valuable for native grassland dependent wildlife, including insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.
Our native grasslands generally evolved with the three major influences of climate, grazing, and fire. While the impacts of climate can be somewhat mitigated, your operation is largely at the mercy of the weather.
When controlling grassland weeds, the mindset of row crop weed control may be put into practice too often. In most cases, broadcast control of weeds in grasslands is rarely necessary.
A drought plan will be an essential component to your overall grazing plan as it provides guidance in making decisions during critical times when forage may be lacking. Generally, a drought plan will identify certain 'triggers', including calendar dates (that you determine) when critical management decisions are to be reviewed.
Proper placement of water and salt/mineral blocks can aid in distribution of livestock within a pasture. By controlling placement of these resources, you control animal behavior and patterns, reducing trampling due to congestion.
While producers have long acknowledged that access to water makes the difference between a profitable or unsuccessful operation, they are beginning to understand that water quality may be as important as water quantity.
When planning a grazing strategy, it is important to carefully assess goals and objectives and then match those goals and objectives with the appropriate livestock. It is critical that the manager understand that not all livestock are created equal.
Assessing pasture forage production is a key step in planning harvest strategies and can also inform the manager on the status of wildlife habitat or other grassland values. Online resources, such as the free USDA Web Soil Survey, allow landowners to input the perimeters of a pasture or ranch while the program outputs production estimates based on soils and typical vegetation for the area.