April 25, 2022

Saving Money, and Protecting Soil and Forage Health During Drought and High Hay Prices

Drought and high hay prices have something in common: responding successfully means taking care of soil and forage health. Here I’ve collected tips and principles from ranchers and On Pasture authors to help you think through what you’re managing for and why. Of course a management plan will make all this more doable, so be […]

March 21, 2022

How Much is Fed Hay Worth as Fertilizer?

  Have you ever stopped to think about what the dollar value of the nutrients in the hay are worth as fertilizer once they have been processed by the cow? Here’s some math to provide an answer: Mature cows at maintenance should excrete 100% of the nutrients they consume in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus and […]

February 7, 2022

Mechanics of Soil Compaction in Pastures

Soil compaction can be a big problem on any kind of farmland, whether it’s cropland or pasture. Soil compaction makes it harder for plant roots to penetrate the soil, reduces water infiltration and air exchange, limits the ability of plants to use some nutrients, and increases the chances of water erosion. Traffic of any kind, […]

January 10, 2022

Tips for Adding Soil Fertility While Weathering High Fertilizer Prices

One of the bigger challenges for this season is going to be fertilizer costs. If you have “stockpiled” some soil fertility in your pastures and hay fields, then you certainly look pretty smart right now. Banking some fertility is easier to do on pastures than it is on hay fields. The majority of nutrients on […]

December 6, 2021

Where’s the Poop?

Everyone says that one of the benefits of management intensive grazing is that the cows put the fertilizer right on the ground where it belongs. But how well are they doing their jobs? Are they spreading the love? Or are they concentrating in particular places? Most importantly, who’s going to do the ground surveys to […]

November 22, 2021

Adding and Spreading Pasture Nutrients With All Four Feet on the Ground

Want to improve your pastures? Work with your manure spreaders to get the good stuff on the ground!

November 8, 2021

The Amazing Power of Compost to Increase Forage and Carbon Sequestration

What if you knew that doubling your forage and increasing long-term carbon sequestration was as simple as spreading a thin layer of compost on pastures? Would you do it? In 2008, my friends John Wick and Peggy Rathmann began a study to determine how much carbon is sequestered in soil as a result of managed, […]

June 28, 2021

Using Wood Ash to Improve Pasture Soils and Forages

Graziers in many parts of the country often deal with acidic soils that are low in several nutrients. In many parts of the United States and Canada, farmers could improve their pastures by occasionally applying wood ash. Wood ash is a byproduct of several industries that burn wood for energy to make electricity, steam, or […]

June 7, 2021

I’ve Got This Weed In My Pasture. What Does It Tell Me About My Soil?

Can weeds tell you about soil health issues? Well, yes and no. I’ve got a lot of experience with weeds since I’ve spent the last 17 years teaching cattle, sheep, goats and bison to eat them under all kinds of soil conditions and all kinds of landscapes. My observation is that spotted knapweed does well […]

May 24, 2021

What’s Your Soil’s Texture?

Figuring out your soil’s texture is as easy as mud pie. Here we show you how to do a little hands on testing.

May 17, 2021

Predatory Soil Bacteria Hunt Like Vampires and Wolves, Helping Move Carbon Through the Soil

Scientists studying soils are working hard to help us understand what’s going on underneath our feet. It looks like some of what’s happening is a lot like what happens above ground, only on a microscopic scale, with predators hunting and eating prey. While we’ve known about these interactions, we now know that it is part […]

May 3, 2021

Dancing Roots – The Secret of How Plants Push Through Compacted Soils

In the past we’ve written about research that shows plants are better at reducing soil compaction than subsoilers. But how do can they do that? Well, today’s story gives us the answer courtesy of researchers at Duke University. Thanks to Robin Smith and Veronique Koch for this excellent story! Be sure to watch the roots […]

April 19, 2021

A Focus on Soil Health Helps Farmer/Grazier Through Weather Extremes

Forecasters are predicting that extreme weather events are going to become more and more common in the future. This article from Lynn Betts and the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition provides an example of what we can do to “weather” this new reality. You can meet Craig in this 3:24 video where he talks about […]

April 12, 2021

Researchers Have New Information on How Soil Feeds on the Air We Breathe

The soil in a grassland, a forest, a wetland and a desert is quietly working, transforming trace gases in the atmosphere. New research led by Associate Professor Chris Greening from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has found that more than 70% of soil bacteria feed on the hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane in the air we […]

March 15, 2021

What Do Plant Roots Do for Soil Health?

“Maximizing Living Roots” is the third principle of soil health and it’s focused on feeding the soil. When I first saw this phrase, I confess–it struck me as a bit odd:  since living roots can’t exist without whole living plants, why not just say “maximize living plants?” After a while it dawned on me—if we […]

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