Grazing Management Practices to Enhance Soil Health in the Northern Great Plains

Project Overview

LNC19-426
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $198,168.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Miranda Meehan
North Dakota State University

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, manure management, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling, livestock integration
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: Soil health, infiltration
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Cover crops have gained popularity as a practice implemented by producers in North Dakota to improve soil health, increase soil nutrients and soil microbial populations, reduce variability in crop yields, increase crop yields, reduce soil erosion, and increase forage options for livestock. Despite the ecological benefits of incorporating cover crops into a system, the economic benefits may not be realized if livestock are not incorporated into the system. In recent years, producers have expressed an increased interest in integrated crop livestock systems (ICLS) due to their ecological and economical returns. Livestock management decisions, such as stocking rate, utilization and stock density have the potential to impact the environmental and economic sustainability of ICLSs. There is a limited amount of information to support producers in the Northern Great Plains and other semi-arid regions in making these important management decisions. Extension professionals receive numerous inquiries from producers regarding grazing management of cover crops: the most common being related to stocking rate, stock density, and residue management. This producer lead demonstration project will provide insight to aid in the development of best management practices for managing grazing livestock in ICLSs to enhance soil health (physical, chemical and biological properties), livestock production, crop production and economic sustainability. The objective of this project is to identify the impacts of livestock grazing management on the environmental and economic sustainability of an ICLS. Specifically, the influence of stock density and forage utilization of grazing livestock on 1) soil physical,  chemical and biological properties, 2 ) crop production, 3) livestock production and 4) economics. To evaluate the effects of stock density, an annual forage crop will be subjected to the following grazing density treatments:  1) moderate and 2) high.  Additionally, two forage utilization rates will be evaluated 1) 50% and 2) 75%. A non-grazed area will serve as the control.  Project results will be disseminated through cafe talks, workshops, tours, bulletins, news articles, videos, and social media. This producer lead demonstration project will provide insight to aid in the development of best management practices for managing grazing livestock in ICLSs to enhance soil health (physical, chemical and biological properties), livestock production, crop production and economic sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this project is to identify the impacts of livestock grazing management on the environmental and economic sustainability of an ICLS. Specifically, the influence of stock density and forage utilization of grazing livestock on 1) soil physical and chemical properties, 2 ) crop production, 3) livestock production and 4) economics. This project will provide valuable information on the effects of different grazing management strategies in ICLSs, assisting producers in making management decisions. Project results will be disseminated through cafe talks, workshops, tours, bulletins, news articles, videos, and social media.

    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.