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Why Grassland Management?

Why Grassland Management?

By Alexander Smart

Traditional methods for grazing livestock have been in place for generations. As “tried and true” methods continue to work, new technologies and resources have become available that help maximize the health of the resources, while maintaining overall productivity.

Grassland management involves more than simply moving livestock from one pasture to the next. Successful grassland managers are educated in grassland health and strive to improve their personal understanding of key grassland components, such as:

  • Grassland plants
  • Soil quality
  • Water management-quantity and quality
  • Harvesting grassland resources
  • Animal nutrition
  • Modern technologies
  • Fencing
  • Livestock water development
  • Plant growth cycles and critical rest periods
  • Monitoring techniques
  • Drought planning

Knowledge is Power

“At first, we had a production approach to ranching,” says Jim Faulstich, who ranches near Highmore, South Dakota. “Now, we have shifted to a grassland management style that allows flexibility and considers all the resources – soil, water, air, plants, animals and people. Sure, the gross margin isn’t always as high, but in the long run, the overall resources of the ranch and my business are healthier and more profitable.”

Faulstich, a longtime member of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition (SDGC), has put his ranch where his words are. Using tools from many sources, including U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs, Faulstich has become a successful model of a grassland manager.

“I wish someone would have told me 30 years ago what I know now. I am the same person I was before… my stewardship ethics have not changed. What has changed… is my knowledge. With what I have learned and experienced through participating in project demonstrations, workshops, classes, site tours and more, I am confident my ranching decisions are in the best interests of everyone and everything… for the long term.”

Faulstich concludes, “It’s enjoyable not to live in fear of running out of forage, which was the case a few years ago. With proper management of the resources and a drought plan, that fear shouldn’t happen. This management style results in a good relationship with our banker, who gives us unbelievable support.”

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