Assistance for Adding More Grass, Reducing Hay Feeding

When the Wessel family bought their ranch north of Lavina, Montana in 2008 they started by assessing what improvements were needed. “It was obvious from the start that we were going to need more water,” said Scott Wessel, rancher. “We called NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to see what type of help we could get.” NRCS did an inventory of the ranch, developing a grazing management plan with the Wessels that included a system for rotational grazing and stockwater tanks to support cattle in every unit. Wessel said the plan laid the ground work for everything that followed. “NRCS helped me map out everywhere water tanks would go and how the cattle would rotate,” he said. In what Wessel referred to as phase one, he installed 12 water tanks and electric fence to divide pastures. After the first year under his new system, Wessel was pleased with the results. “Our goal is to have more grass and feed less hay.” Mission accomplished. “We produced 30 percent of the hay we normally do because of the drought, but because we had enough grass to graze year round, we did not run short on hay,” Wessel said. He credits the rotational grazing system. “Our grass looks nearly as good when we leave a pasture as when we go into one.” Converting marginal cropland to grazing land is another part of Wessel’s plan. Not only does that provide more grazing acres for his cattle, it also provides a benefit to wildlife in the area, particularly sage grou

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