Dozens of cattle producers from Hubbard and surrounding counties crowded into the Guthrie Town Hall Jan. 29 for a grazing workshop.
Kent Solberg of the Sustainable Farming Association started the day with a discussion of how outwintering, grazing, cover crops and soil health all tie together.
“My main point is, it all revolves and starts with the soil,” said Solberg. “And so, by implementing the soil health principles, or the regenerative ag principles, we can address all of those things at once. If we keep that in the forefront in our mind and weigh our management against that, we can do a really good job of helping our farms’ forage production, our animal performance and our bottom line.”
Practices that he recommended to make pastureland more resilient and productive included the following:
Planting diverse forage species.
Giving plants enough time to recover before grazing them again.
Using the “herd effect” (trampling action) through high-density, adaptive grazing to promote healthy soil microbes and good soil structure.
Making an outwintering plan to benefit soil health.
Building soil health by rotating between cover crops and forage.
Other presentations included such topics as farm records, led by Nathan Hulinsky with the University of Minnesota Extension; managing difficult births, led by veterinary Dr. Randall Lindemann; neonatal calf care and momma cow issues during calving season, also led by Lindemann; and a discussion by Cass County producers Greg Booth and Vicki Kettlewell about how their operation works.
Dan Pazdernik with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimated that 70 attendees registered for the workshop, including 40 to 50 producers, besides agency representatives and others.
It was the ninth year from the workshop, whose participants mostly come from within a radius of about 60 miles. Pazdernik described the aim of the workshop as “outreach, trying to promote more pasture management and conservation. We’ve been tying it into soil health pretty strongly, over the years, because that – like Kent said – is the basis for pasture and farm viability. The healthier soil you have, the more resiliency you have.”
He added, “If we can just encourage people to try a few things, then we’ve succeeded in what we’re trying to do here.”
Pazdernik said there have been challenging years for the workshop, mostly due to the weather, “but there’s a strong interest, as you can see today. But I guess we plan to keep doing it as long as we can.”