Sunday, July 21, 2024
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A Profile In Soil Health – A Rancher Feeds the Above- and Below-Ground Livestock

“All the different bugs of the soil…are disassembling a complex item [manure] that the cow put on the ground, and they’re taking that back into the soil for the benefit of everything else that’s growing to make the whole cycle start again.”

-Andrew Snyder  

Andrew Snyder’s idea of ranch management changed the day he visited the Dakota Lakes Research Farm. Andrew was attending South Dakota State University, and was invited to visit the farm where Dr. Dwayne Beck talked about his research and soil health. Beck said “You’ve got to feed the livestock in the soil.”

“As a rancher I can relate to that!” says Andrew. “This makes sense. You’re feeding the cows above the ground, you’ve got to feed the cows in the soil.”

The Snyder ranch is near Piedmont, South Dakota nestled against the Black Hills between Sturgis and Rapid City. Andrew, his father and his middle brother run a cattle operation that includes cow-calf pairs, bred heifers, stocker cattle that graze rotationally on native range and planted pasture. On the cropping side they grow alfalfa and grass hay, and annual barley, oats, sorghums, and millet, all as forage for the cattle.

The Snyder’s started improving soil health on the ranch with no-till, eliminating soil disturbance caused by discing and primary tillage. Now they’re incorporating cover crops to grow additional forage out of season as forage that they might not have grown. This along with rotational grazing on forest units and native grasslands is driving a soil health system which benefits not only the cattle above ground but the wide variety of organisms that live below it.

This 4 minute video takes you on a tour of the Snyder ranch where Andrew talks a little more about the grazing and cropping practices that are making a difference for them. Enjoy!


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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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