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What are your grasses doing? What’s the result of your management?

Today we’re taking a field trip to visit the Gilbert family on their ranch in Buffalo, South Dakota. The Gilbert family has been ranching here on the shortgrass prairie since 1894, starting with sheep and then converting to Angus cattle.

They graze rotationally, constantly tweaking and adjusting their management and monitoring to make sure the changes they make are working. Today, they have a twice-over rotation with 350 to over 400 head in each of three systems. Animals are rotated through a six to eight pastures in each system, spending ten days to two weeks in each pasture the first time through, and then roughly twice as long the second time through. The system works because of the infrastructure they’ve added: a well and six to seven miles of pipeline to get water to their stock, and twenty miles of electric fence to manage their pastures.

Linda Gilbert says they’ve been blessed to be able to see the fruits of their labor. The grasses are healthier, and wildlife more plentiful. You can see what she’s talking about in this 5:20 video.

In addition to the beauty of their ranch, there are three things I take from this visit with the Gilberts:

• Pasture size and grazing management should fit your landscape and must work financially.
In big country, your pastures might be big, and daily moves impractical.

• Monitoring is critical to a good decision making process.
Do you have a good monitoring plan in place? What do you watch for? Would you like On Pasture to provide you with ideas for monitoring and making decisions based on what you see? Let me know!

• There are a lot of organizations and people who support good grazing.
The list at the end of this video includes the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, Audubon Dakota, Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota State University, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Perhaps these organizations would be good partners for your operation too!

That’s what I learned on our field trip. What did you take away?

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