Saving our Ranch with Grass

Final Report for FNC99-273

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1999: $4,923.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Angle M Cattle Co, owned and operated by Brain and Vicki Maddock and their family, is located in north central North Dakota, about 140 miles NE of Bismarck. Our climate is very harsh, with cold winters and hot summers. Or growing season starts about the last week in April and lasts until about the middle of October. Our annual rainfall is approximately 15-18 inches per year.

This ranch was a diversified livestock, small grain operation until about 1997. We realized that we would need a change in management strategies to ensure the future of the ranch. In order to be efficient and be successful in raising good quality cattle it was important to be a good manger of natural resources. The biggest improvement has been the net return through proper grass management. The scope of this project involved 915 acres in three different units.

Since this project started in the spring of 2000, there has been 16,550 feet of high tensile wire fence, 5340 feet of barb wire fence (both cross fence and border fence), 11, 572 feet of water pipeline, and 12 water tanks installed on land that was converted from crop land. Grazing begins around May 1st on tame pasture of legume grass mix. The first rotations plan is to graze 2-4 days on each paddock or “set stock.” Starting in June a portion of the cattle are sorted off and put on native pastures for the summer. The rest of the cattle are rotated on the legume mix pastures with approximately 30 day rest periods for each paddock, depending on the rain fall and forage growth. The stocking rate is about 3 acres per unit (a unit being one yearling), with a future goal of 1-2 acres per unit. We have found that it takes a few years to build up the organic matter in the soil after converting the land from cropping to grass. The rotation system has really helped thicken our grass stands and has left good ground cover and residue. About 1/3 of this land is sandy, with 1/3 being very steep slopes, and the remainder being good to marginal type soils with more of a level nature. Water, fencing, and the rotations of the cattle are essential tools in this grazing system. Installation of the fences and water lines has made it possible to increase herd numbers and grazing days, distribute use, and still have grass at the end of the season.

Increased grass production, better water infiltration, more litter, increased wild life numbers, better nutrition, healthier cattle, less cash layout, efficient use of land, less operator stress, and less impact during drought years.

It takes a lot of time and study to understand the grass and when to move the cattle. Intense grazing management if this kind requires continuous monitoring, as a few hours can make a big difference in grazing impacts on the pastures. Maintaining fences can also be time consuming.

NRCS sponsors range tours and we would request to be included in the tours to give us a chance to show our program and explain what our plans and goals have been and how they have worked for us. We have a strong FFA tradition in our family and feel that our project could be a learning tool for our local vo ag program. As we are implementing and complementing our project we would welcome any of the local newspapers to visit and to write articles about our plans, projects and successes.


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.