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Working Ranck - June/July 2017

for ways to produce more beef on the same number of acres. “Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) introduced us to twice-over grazing,” Vigen recalls. “We started with small changes, like installing a dam to hold back rainwater and runoff, and cross fencing to divide up our pasture. Over time we also dug and developed springs to put water in each pasture.” Since the Bar Z sits on the edge of North Dakota’s Badlands, pasture sizes in Vigen’s twice-over grazing plan varied according to the terrain. Crossfencing divided each grazing area into three or four pastures, which the Vigens used in rotating 125 head of cattle so each pasture was grazed no more than twice each growing season. It took time for the Vigens to see improvements in their rangeland, but the fi rst year of using twice- over grazing they saw gentler cattle because they were moving them so frequently. They also added about 20 pounds per calf at weaning the end of that fi rst grazing season. “The second year we used twice-over grazing we started seeing more grass and cows were grazing each pasture more thoroughly,” Wendell Vigen says. “We also saw great improvement in water infi ltration rate. Before implementing twice-over grazing, we did an infi ltration test in a selected pasture area and it took the water forever to soak into the soil. After two years of twice-over grazing, with a second infi ltration test, very little of the water in that same area ran off instead of soaking into the ground.” The Vigens used written records to document how many cattle were in each pasture for a season and how long they grazed each pasture. By the end of the third season using twiceover grazing, the Vigens found they had more winter grazing available, too. Since their annual hay crop was typically small, access to winter grazing was key to their profi tability. By the third grazing season, the Vigens increased the herd size from 125 to 170. Because their grazing plan was stimulating more grass growth, they not only had more forage to feed more cattle, they also had better winter grazing and room to set aside an area just for spring calving. “As we’ve gotten older, and aren’t as able to move cattle every 10 days, we’ve increased the size of our pastures from 300 or 400 acres to as much as 450 acres,” Wendell explains. “When we fi rst started the grazing system we moved cattle like clockwork, every 10 days. Now we observe the cattle to see if they’re waiting to be moved or still content grazing the pasture where they are. Sometimes we open the gate between two pastures and allow the cows to drift back and forth.” Over the years, the Vigens have been able to suppress growth of some undesirable plants, like club moss, and promote growth of diverse grasses such as bluestem, buffalo grass and Grama. By 1996, the fi rst year for Dunn County’s North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Environmental Stewardship Award, pasture management “We’ve also seen that having an abundant water source keeps cows from hanging around a tank that only has a shallow water supply,” Chester Brandt says. “The leafy spurge we had in one of our pastures is pretty well suppressed now because the yearlings we bring in graze that well.” BRANDT FAMILY ARCHIVE BRANDT FAMILY ARCHIVE BRANDT FAMILY ARCHIVE 38 I WORKING RANCH I JUNE / JULY 2017


Working Ranck - June/July 2017
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