David Kraft – Intensive Grazing

(David) I’m David Kraft, State Rangeland Management Specialist with NRCS out of Salina and work out of the Emporia Area Office. And my presentation was on the art and science of grazing, which is kind of the marriage of three different principles I guess with grazing, that being the grazing resource, the animal that we’re using to graze and then also the human factor. The individual that is actually implementing the management and trying to help producers understand how all three interact with one another. That was my primary goal in dealing with that where in the school we’re trying to help producers understand what plants need to be sustainable. Because that is the benchmark for what we do and we need those plants to be sustainable and profitable from the animal standpoint because we need them to perform. And then also trying to help producers understand that when we maximize the potential of both of those two features it’s going to impact us as producers as well. So, how do we manage that and also trying to get producers to understand that not every situation that they might see or hear about is going to fit their operation, that they need to individualize that. One of the things that we are doing in the school is giving producers the opportunity to have a kind of a grazing or allocation challenge, so we are using an operation not too far from where the school is being held. The producer there has provided us with six animals and we split the group up into two groups and they each have three cows and they are trying to determine the size or the quantity of an area that has a certain amount of vegetation, how much will be required for those animals to sustain and to harvest that forage for a 24 hour period. We did that this morning and we will go back out tomorrow then and look and see how those groups did. What was very interesting this morning was that two groups selected a totally different size of grazing area to be grazed in, so there will be a lot of different talking points tomorrow morning. But it’s kind of a grazing challenge we call that and tomorrow we’ll go through the arithmetic to determine just how much volume as far as forage is concerned that those animals would actually need for that 24 hour period. And then for those producers to be able to justify their reasoning for why they selected the size of the area. So, that will be a challenge that we will kind of see the end of that tomorrow. Also, we toured an operation where we did some plant identification. We feel that it’s very important for producers to not only be able to determine the amount of forage and what those animal needs are but also to understand what plants those animals are selecting. So that they know, when they look at a pasture that is about to be grazed what plants those animals are going to select. And then at what level those plants will be grazed and what is going to be beneficial to that plant when we need to move cattle away from those particular areas to protect that resource. And so we spent about an hour doing that this morning as well. And the balance of the school will be talking about all the different functions that go into grazing system design- soils, plant community selection or different species to select to manage for. And also then just putting that all together so that they kind of have a whole package to go back home and be able to analyze and to monitor their own operations. In a drought of the last few years what we have learned a lot about, because very few people have… are managing today that were really managers in the ’50s when we talk about the drought of the ’50s or especially the ’30s. But we’ve learned a lot about protecting the surface and being able to minimize the impacts of not only a lack of precipitation, but extreme temperatures and buffering or protecting that soil. So we armour that soil with having adequate cover over the top. So any kind of rainfall event that we get we’re able to capture and retain that moisture and benefit those plants for as long as we possibly can. And so what we’re really trying to teach producers in that regard is to help them understand that they have to be proactive and they have to really give that plant community every opportunity to be able to persist and even improve during a drought. So when conditions do improve their plant community, that resource, that grazing resource is able to respond quickly and to recover quickly from that.

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