Grazing Management for Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Healthy rangelands help the long-term sustainability of the landowner and the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Practices that bolster the bird’s habitat are also good for ranching, and can lead to improved rangeland health. NRCS provides technical and cost-assistance for grazing management programs under the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative.

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Deferred Grazing on Grissom Ranch

Rancher Grady Grissom discusses the lessons he’s learned from deploying a deferred-rotation system of managed grazing on his 14,000-acre ranch. But he doesn’t like the term “grazing system.” He says you don’t choose a “system.” You graze toward a goal. His goal in recent years has been to encourage the growth of cool-season grasses. That’s meant longer periods of rest for pastures.

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Grazing Management Benefits Livestock and Wildlife

Good grazing management is good for the livestock producer and for wildlife. When grazing-land is healthy, cattle put on the weight, and birds benefit from healthy grassland. The key is designing a grazing system that fits a producer’s climatic conditions, soils, topography and vegetation types. In many cases, the most productive and ecologically sustainable operations are those that reproduce the spatial heterogeneous conditions found over thousands of years on the Great Plains.

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Managed Intensive Grazing on Birdwell and Clark Ranch

Deborah Clark and her husband Emory apply the principles of holistic ranch management, and they use managed intensive grazing on their stocker cattle operation on 14,000 acres in north-central Texas. Holistic management demands that the practitioner think through tasks, processes and the deployment of assets not to “put pounds on cattle,” but to remain laser-focused on a goal of profitability gained from efficiently-grazed cattle on an ever-improving healthy grass landscape.

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Conserving Playas Provides Lush Grazing and Bird Habitat

Shaw Family Farms had several playas that often made farming the field a challenging proposition. The Shaws fenced-off 80 acres, developed those resident playas by restoring natural hydrology and planting grass buffers. They further enhanced the parcel by planting a variety of grasses and forbs to attract bugs and birds, then put the land in a permanent conservation easement. Their cows and calves now graze the wetland parcel, and bugs and birds are attracted to the forbs and seeds.

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Grazing Rotation and Patch Burning

Prescribed burning

Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is researching effects of limited prescribed burning or “patch burning” to create a mosaic of patches across the landscape. Early research findings indicate better forage grasses and increased biodiversity.

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Initiative Helps New Mexico Rancher Manage Rangeland

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Kyle Dillard, a Milnesand rancher is taking advantage of an NRCS program. He’s a cow/calf man in eastern New Mexico, right in the middle of a large Lesser Prairie-Chicken population. Dillard discusses how the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative helps him manage his rangeland and provide better habitat for the bird.

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Oklahoma Ranchers Benefit from Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

We visit a couple ranchers in the Oklahoma panhandle who are participating in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative. Jordan Shearer, a Slapout rancher, talks about how participation in the Initiative has given him technical expertise on range management and helped improve his grassland, even following exceptional drought in 2010-2012. Loren Sizelove ranches near Shearer, and he’s the Beaver County Extension Agent. The drought took its toll on Sizelove’s herd, and he had to disperse 60 percent of his herd. His participation in the Initiative has resulted in payments for deferring grazing, and deferring calving.

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Managed Grazing During Times of Drought

Much of the High Plains region is under extreme or exceptional drought. Learn how enrolling grassland in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative helps landowners take advantage of technical advice for deploying managed-grazing regimes to protect rangeland, both for cattle-grazing and Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. Good rangeland management during drought will enable the landscape to recover faster once “Mother Nature turns the spigot on again.”

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Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative at Work

Land manager Tom Turner manages grazing land in west-central Kansas in the sandhills south of Kinsley. Owing to sandy soil composition the grassland is fragile. Turner got the land enrolled in the NRCS Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and used cost-share money to improve cross-fencing and a livestock watering system. That eased the process of rotational grazing, one of the components of a managed grazing plan to protect the fragile landscape while improving Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat.

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