Bale Grazing to Build Soil Health

Project Overview

FNC18-1123
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Gaugler Farms and Ranch
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Erin Gaugler
Gaugler Farm and Ranch

Information Products

Bale Grazing to Build Soil Health (Conference/Presentation Material)

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, grazing - rotational, pasture renovation, pasture fertility, range improvement, rangeland/pasture management, winter forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Summary:

    This project was designed to address the resource concerns of land that had been historically farmed with no inputs and depleted to a point of no longer being productive.  To rejuvenate the land and demonstrate how sustainable agriculture can be adapted to fit each operation, project coordinators used bale grazing. This management strategy allowed us to demonstrate a practice that was ecologically sound, profitable and socially responsible.

    To measure benefits and impacts from the project, we focused our efforts on soil health.  Samples were collected before, during and after project completion to monitor soil nutrients, biological activity and physical structure.  Though soil health is the main focus, we also observed other areas of impact because the land works as a system.  During July through October of each growing season, bee counts were collected every 2 weeks.  This enabled us to monitor the percent bloom of plants within the pollinator planting and also track the number of bees that were appearing throughout the growing season.  Body condition of livestock was monitored with each rotation through the bale grazing site.  This assessment helped us to make sure that nutritional requirements were being met and maintained.  During the spring, calving ease was monitored to help us understand if physical activity during the gestation period was effecting the animals.

    The measurement of various parameters helped us gauge our efforts towards developing a more sustainable system.  Though this was an important step, the demonstration component of this project helped create momentum within the agricultural industry.  Documenting the project through social media, developing a driving/walking tour of the study area and participating in local events helped share information.  Because it was presented in various formats, people from all walks of life were able to observe the conservation practice in whichever way suited them most.  The demonstration aspect helped producers consider how management practices can be adopted to help them achieve their own ecological, economical and social goals.  

    Project objectives:

    1. Improve soil health and fertility, eliminate use of commercial fertilizer

    2. Increase nutrient cycling and reduce nutrient runoff

    3. Improve herbage production and forage quality

    4. Improve herd health by extending grazing season

    5. Reduce feed and labor costs

    6. Monitor effects on pollinator habitat

    7. Share findings through self-guided tours, field days, extension publications and testimonials to improve understanding of sustainable agriculture

    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.