By Tom Parker
A typical Kansas pasture on a typical Kansas farm or ranch is a highly complex, species-rich ecosystem that can either be beneficial or detrimental to the producer. Differentiating between the two can be tricky, often involving experimentation as much as experience. Knowing what to look for in a pasture, healthy or otherwise, and being able to better manage that pasture is the focus of five upcoming pasture walks scattered strategically around the state.
Look and Learn Pasture Walks, sponsored in part by Amazing Grazing III, a collaboration between the Kansas Farmers Union and the Kansas Graziers Association, will host the walks in June and July under the facilitation of Dr. Dale Kirkham, retired range management specialist, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and local NRCS range specialists.
“Pasture walks can be very informative for producers to attend,” said Keith Harmoney, range scientist for the K-State Agricultural Research Center in Hays. “They’ll get to see something different than their own pastures, but also very similar. And because of the informal nature of the discussions taking place among experts as well as other producers, they can get different viewpoints on everything from soil health to managing livestock, and learn different management practices that might help them overcome problems particular to their own area.”
The nature of a pasture walk is meant to be comparative rather than competitive, an assessment rather than an exhibition. Pastures are chosen for their environmental and ecological components that can have direct bearing on management practices and financial success, or failure, Harmoney said.
“We select pastures by looking for a range of different ecological sites—different soils and species of plants that will grow on those soils—so producers can see what they are and how they might change as the season progresses,” he said. “We offer plant identification to show which are the most desirable and which are the least desirable, and go through various management scenarios or grazing strategies that over time would improve the condition of the pasture.”
Any and all topics are open for discussion, Harmoney added, including wildlife habitat management. “Some producers offer guided hunting services and might be interested in learning about plant diversity and wildlife habitat,” he said. “It’s basically a classroom in a pasture.”
In addition to Harmoney, range specialists include Doug Spencer, NRCS rangeland management specialist, Marion; David Kraft, Diamond K Cattle Co., Gridley; Dale Kirkham, Eureka; Dwayne Rice, NRCS rangeland management specialist, Lincoln; and Dusty Schwandt, NRCS soil conservationist, Marysville.
The walks provide excellent opportunities for producers to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t and learn new techniques in problem-solving from peers and specialists alike, Kraft said.
“The average producer would benefit by hearing and talking about visual plant and management observations,” he said. “It is typically a very informal discussion with opportunities to ask a variety of questions. Plant identification, stocking rates, grazing systems, grazing season length, brush management, burning, etc., are all possibilities for discussion.”
There is no charge for these walks, but registration is encouraged. Registration can be made online at AmazingGrazingKansas.com, by e-mail to Mary Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling Howell at 785.562.8726. Please include your name and the number of people planning to attend so adequate tour arrangements and refreshments can be made. Walk-ins are welcome.
Tours and dates are as follows:
- Tuesday, June 23, 2 p.m. Southeast KS Pasture Walk, Garnett area at Tim Benton’s. Tour will begin on 1000 Rd. approximately two miles east of U.S. 169 at Welda, or 1/2 mile west of U.S. 59 on 1000 Rd.
- Wednesday, June 24, 2 p.m. Northeast KS Pasture Walk, at the KSU Stocker Unit, 4330 Marlatt Ave, Manhattan. Driving northwest of Manhattan on Seth Childs Road, turn west onto Marlatt Avenue, travel slightly more than one mile and drive through the big KSU Stocker Unit gates. Follow the road.
- Thursday, June 25, 2 p.m. West Central Pasture Walk at HB Ranch, located four miles south of Cedar Bluff Reservoir (Trego County) on Highway 147.
- Tuesday, July 7, 9 a.m. South Central KS Pasture Walk, Marion, at David Rziha’s. Participants will meet on the south side of the Tampa Baseball Field, Tampa.
- Wednesday, July 8, 9 a.m. North Central KS Pasture Walk, Beloit at Calvin Adams’. From Barnard, drive 1.8 miles east on Highway 284, turn left onto N. 270th (road name will change at county line to 360th), drive 1.7 miles north to Calvin’s place at 283 360th Rd., Beloit. Note: Highway 18 west of I-35 is closed because of a bridge out.
For more information on upcoming pasture walks and other workshops sponsored by Amazing Grazing, call Mary Howell at 785-562-8726 or visit Amazing Grazing at AmazingGrazingKansas.com.
Amazing Grazing is a collaboration of the Kansas Farmers Union and the Kansas Graziers Association. Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under Award Number 2012-49200-20032. Project partners include the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands & Streams, Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, K-State Research and Extension, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, and NRCS-Kansas.
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Photo: From left: Dale Kirkham, Eureka; Roger Koehn, Galva Rancher; David Kraft, NRCS State Range Conservationist, Emporia; and Doug Spencer south central range specialist, Marion. KRC file photo. Available here.
Graphic: Amazing Grazing III: Soil Health for Ranch $uccess logo available here.
Kansas Farmers Union is the state’s oldest active general farm organization working to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life for family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. We believe family ownership of farm land is the basis for the world’s most viable system of food and fiber production, and that maintaining this family farm system will preserve our natural and human resources.