Comparison of Biological Solution, Sea Minerals, or Combination of Both on Pasture Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 01/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Straight Arrow Bison Ranch
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Karen Bredthauer
Straight Arrow Bison Ranch

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, grazing - continuous, grazing - rotational, pasture renovation, pasture fertility, range improvement, rangeland/pasture management
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, quality of life, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:


    Profit margins for this operation are not sufficient to compensate for our labor. We think this could be improved by increasing grass-production and, in turn, increasing pounds of meat taken from it each year. A soil test in 2014 showed organic matter in the soil to be 2.2-2.7%. There are areas of bare ground on the hill-sides where the clay soil will not absorb enough rain water to allow grass to grow. It is also difficult to get trees started without irrigation.

    According to an article in ACRES USA magazine in March 2015 (Jones, p. 60) farmers using biological approaches to soil management “are building soil, improving the infiltration of water, increasing water holding capacity and getting fantastic yields. They have fewer insects and less disease. The carbon and water cycles are fairly humming on their farms.” We would like to find the most financially feasible way to do this, using a fish emulsion/raw milk application, using sea minerals (ACRES USA magazine, Dec. 2015, pp 74-76) or a combination product (GroPal Balance).


    1. In April 2016 do a soil test (Haney test) of a composite of all areas of the pasture. This measures total organic carbon and total organic nitrogen to determine a C:N ratio and also includes the Solvita CO2 Burst Test to look at microbial activity and potentially mineralizable nitrogen.

    2. Beginning in May 2016, divide the 16 pasture paddocks into 4 groups (4 paddocks in each group):

    1) Control group: no additives

    2) Apply biological solution (Liquid Fish Soil Rescue, raw milk, and molasses) at a rate of 2 gallons each of Fish Soil Rescue and raw milk/acre with a small amount of molasses.

    3) Apply Sea 90 sea minerals at a rate of 25 lb. /acre

    4) Apply combination product (GroPal Balance) at a rate of 20 oz. / acre

    3. In mid-July, evaluate soil in each of the test areas using the Solvita test for CO2 respiration, compare soil aggregation in each area, and test Brix (sugar) content of grasses in each area.

    4. At time of slaughter, (October) calculate average carcass weights of animals harvested. Record number of calves raised by percent of mother cows.

    5. Beginning in May 2017, apply each of the above solutions to 2 of the same paddocks where they had been applied the previous year.

    6. In mid-July 2017 do a Solvita test of each of the 6 tested areas. Do a composite Haney test from treated areas.

    7. In October 2017 calculate average carcass weights and raised calf percentage and compare to previous years. Compare cost of additional feed purchased in 2017 to 2015. Write report on knowledge gained from project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Test biological approaches to soil management including application of fish emulsion, raw milk, and molasses.
    2. Improve environmental health of farm by building soil and improving water use.
    3. Empower farmers to maximize profitability by identifying a way to increase yields through soil management.
    4. Share results with others through extension services, local growers' groups, magazines, social media, and a field day.


    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.