South Dakota Grassland Coalition

by Sarah Scroggins

July 2019

The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) has officially released a new online portal and accompanying educational resources, created to connect livestock producers and those with available cropland or forage to graze. Integrating livestock onto cropland and proper grassland management are both key steps in increasing overall soil health. The website is a completely free, publicly accessible map, developed through a grant agreement with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Ser-vice. The site offers a platform for producers to connect throughout the state of South Dakota and the surrounding region.

Do you own land or have pasture, native grass, crop residue or cover crops available to be grazed? Are you a part of an organization whose membership or clientele would be interested in knowing about this type of tool? Or do you need extra grazing land or forage for your livestock this year? Take a look at the South Dakota Grazing Exchange! Getting started is easy, simply access the website address listed above, click the “Create Account” button in the upper right-hand corner of your screen and connect with other producers to work out the details and improve your soil health. The map overlay shows sites where fields are available for grazing as well as producers who are willing to move livestock to grazing sites.

Additional educational resources included on the site include fact sheets on a variety of topics related to livestock integration, crop residue, and cover crops, contracting resources, as well as the contact information or links for organizations that can provide additional technical assistance. Integrating livestock onto cropland and proper grassland management together form one of the five basic principles of soil health.

Why should you consider returning livestock to the landscape?

1. Fall or winter grazing converts high carbon annual crop residue to low carbon organic material; balancing the carbon/nitrogen ratio and managing crop rotation residue for no-till seeding.

2. Reduces nutrient export from our cropland and hayfields, recycling the majority of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and carbon.

3. Aids in weed pressure management.

4. Grazing cover crops and/or crop residues allow livestock to be taken off perennial grasslands earlier in the fall, extending the grass recovery period, and providing higher nutrition diet for livestock.

5. Grazing reduces livestock waste associate with confinement; helping manage our water quality and nutrient management concerns. Allowing cattle and sheep to be herbivores by securing their energy needs from plants.

6. Spring or summer grazing, annual and/or perennial plants, with short exposure periods followed by long recovery periods; allows the plants to regrow and harvest additional sunlight and CO2.

Source: SDGC Newsletter

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