Judging South Dakota Rangelands For Livestock And Wildlife Values Available Back »

This article was written with contributions from James R. Johnson – Former Extension Range Management Specialist, and L. Michael Stirling – USDA-NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist.


Rangeland Judging Manual

South Dakota Rangeland is one of the richest and most important biological resources in the state. The native vegetation of rangeland is the economic backbone of ranching. Rangeland provides essential wildlife habitat as well as being treasured for recreation and scenic beauty. It is the lifeline of streams, ponds, and lakes.

SDSU Extension and iGrow are proud to announce the revision of a popular publication widely used by South Dakota youth to learn about the management and conservation of South Dakota’s largest natural resource. The Judging South Dakota Rangelands for Livestock and Wildlife Values manual has been recently updated and reformatted to be more user-friendly.

Rangeland is a kind of land, not a land use. Rangeland is fragile, yet durable and resilient. Management profoundly impacts the similarity index, a measure of rangeland condition that reflects its value for livestock, wildlife, and humans. The purpose of rangeland judging is to provide an understanding of rangeland resources and a sense of stewardship in natural resource management. This manual describes a contest with components that have a strong biological basis for habitat management of both beef cattle and prairie grouse. Beef cattle have been chosen because they are the most common livestock species grazed on South Dakota rangelands. Once stocking rates are determined for beef cattle, conversions can be made to determine stocking densities of other grazing animals, such as horses, sheep and goats. Prairie grouse represent wildlife because they are affected by management and have the potential to occur throughout the state. There are 3 primary species of prairie grouse that inhabit the state: sharp tailed grouse, prairie chicken, and sage grouse. Management can achieve many desired rangeland uses. Vegetation, livestock, and wildlife respond in a predictable manner to range management practices.

To download a copy of the Judging South Dakota Rangelands for Livestock and Wildlife Values manual, use the button below.

About the Manual

Rangeland judging is built on rangeland changes that are known to be possible for stated management goals.  

The Judging South Dakota Rangelands for Livestock and Wildlife Values manual:

  • Integrates basic plant and soil management and the ecological principles necessary to evaluate habitat suitability.
  • Demonstrates that management by humans can influence the rangeland resource.
  • Provides a basic understanding of how management affects rangeland and its resources.
  • Shows that a management practice which favors one use many not equally favor another.
  • Provides an opportunity to develop a basic understanding of rangeland ecosystems that will last a lifetime.
  • Instills a sense of rangeland stewardship.

This manual contains the technical information required by youth ages 14-18 to compete in a Range judging competition while establishing the educational foundation to build their rangeland management skills. Additionally, it provides detailed information for contest officials to conduct a uniform and consistent contest, keeping within the agreed upon guidelines approved by FFA Advisors, 4-H leaders, and range professionals. Students will compete at 3 stations, two of which will require them to determine the ecological site, conduct a plant inventory, determine stocking rates, evaluate habitat suitability for beef and grouse, and finally recommend management practices to conserve or improve rangelands. The third station will challenge the student to identify 20 common rangeland plants taken from a master list in the judging manual, indicating the plant’s life span, season of growth, origin and desirability for beef forage and grouse food and cover.

Rangeland Judging Opportunities

The South Dakota 4-H Range program has an outstanding record of performance with 17 National Championship teams during the past 25 years. This success is due to the committed efforts of ranchers and range professionals placing a priority on educating South Dakota Youth about the management and conservation of South Dakota’s largest natural resource.

4-H leaders, FFA Advisors, parents and range professionals use this manual to instruct youth on the basic principles of rangeland management while exposing them to the diversity of plant species found on South Dakota prairies. South Dakota youth have a number of opportunities to be exposed to the range management practices found in the judging manual. 

These include:

  • Participation through their 4-H clubs and Ag Ed classroom activities
  • Regional and State level 4-H and FFA range judging competitions
  • Participation in SD Range Camp in Sturgis, SD  - June 4-6, 2013
  • Participation in SD Rangeland Days in Kadoka – June 25 & 26, 2013

For support in hosting range judging workshops or for more information about attending SD Range Camp and SD Rangeland Days, please contact Dave Ollila, SDSU Extension Sheep Field Specialist at (605) 394-1721.

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