Monitoring Rangeland Health as a Means to Sustain the Rural Family Enterprise

Final Report for FNC06-597

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,600.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


The Anderson ranch is a second generation ranch that consists of 6500 acres of mostly range with some hay ground and a cow/calf and sheep operation. They have been practicing rotational grazing systems since the early 1990’s.

Prevailing drought conditions in northwestern South Dakota have led to overgrazed pastures and economic hardship. Producers need a standard and uniform procedure for assessment of rangeland in order to evaluate their management decisions and adjust those decisions based on progressive range science (monitoring) rather than “traditional” methods that are outdated.

Based on the goal stated above it was determined this area of the Dakotas needed a fresh look at how rangelands were viewed and managed. Dan Anderson, rancher and Ryan Beer, NRCS Rangeland Specialist contacted Tatanka RC&D for assistance in grant writing and project administration to apply for this particular grant source (SARE). The RC&D program is an excellent conduit for education and outreach projects because they are set up to assist a variety of different projects (non profit status, technical and planning assistance, grant writing ability).

Terry Hall – RC&D Coordinator – project/grant administration
Ryan Beer – NRCS Rangeland Specialist – logistics, coordination of events, follow-up with producers (set up monitoring stations, question, etc.)
Bob Drown – SD Cooperative Extension – field support post workshop 1, 2
Susan Anderson – Perkins County Conservation District – Book Keeping
Jane Peterson – Grand River Grazing Association – Financial and Book Keeping
New Speaker – Charley Orchard, Land EKG Inc.

We had 14 ranchers and 4 agency people participating in the first workshop and 12 ranchers and 11 agency people in the second workshop. Four people returned for the second workshop. Previously none of the ranchers had an established range monitoring system. Due to the information provided by the workshop, 9 participants set up a least one monitoring station on their operation. They plan on setting up more.

We learned the value of proper grazing management. This has allowed us to be more financially and economically sufficient in times of economic hardship. With the range monitoring workshops learned about because of this grant, we were made aware of what to look for and have better knowledge of proper range management techniques. The advantages of this project are that the monitoring techniques taught in this project are open to the public. The producers can attend this project rangeland environment. We then can tell other producers the value of having a healthy rangeland environment. By monitoring our rangeland, we keep from abusing our grass resources. If we continually overgraze our rangeland, the recovery time is quite long and we create conditions conducive for invasive species to take over our grasslands.

Forty one people participated in the two workshops held. The first workshop was three days the second was a one day refresher. Newspaper articles describing the event were printed in the Dickinson Press, Bison Courier, and the Lemmon Leader. Several photographs were taken during the two events and will be used to create a poster board display that will hang in the USDA Service Center for public view.

Charlie Orchard (Land EKG) returned July 22, 2008 for the one day follow up session at Dan Anderson’s ranch that was used as a demonstration for the education of new participants. The original eighteen participants from the first workshop were invited back, and we advertised the event in local newspapers, and had conservation partners (County Conservation District offices, NRCS Service Centers, SD Cooperative Extension) post flyers at businesses throughout six counties making announcements at their monthly meetings. Also making a presentation was Dwight Tober, Plant Materials Specialist. He talked about alternative plant varieties seeded in legume test plots. It helped producers understand different alternatives for forage seedings.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.