The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition is a producer-led, non-profit, membership organization that was created in the spring of 2015. The Coalition is governed by a nine-member board of farmers and ranchers from across the state and includes several staff members. Staff and board members strive to carry out the Coalition’s mission to “Promote Improved Soil Health” through education and outreach. Major projects and membership benefits include: field walks and workshops, annual Soil Health School, mentoring network, bi-monthly newsletter, informational videos, and the distribution of soil health education kits to school groups. Additional information can be found at www.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org.
This South Dakota Grazing Exchange was created to connect livestock producers and those with available cropland or forage to graze by utilizing an interactive map while providing important resources. Integrating livestock onto cropland and proper grassland management are key steps in increasing overall soil health.
Listed below are some important reasons why integrating livestock back onto the land is beneficial as well as a few ways to accomplish this.
Why do we want to return livestock to the landscape?
- 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.
- 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.
- Reduces nutrient export from our cropland and hayland fields, recycling the majority of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and carbon.
- Aids in weed pressure management.
- Grazing cover crops and/or crop residues allows livestock to be taken off perennial grasslands earlier in the fall, extending the grass recovery period, and providing a higher nutrition diet for livestock.
- Grazing reduces livestock waste associated 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.
How do we return livestock to the landscape?
- Fall and Winter grazing of cover crops and annual crop residues.
- Summer grazing of full season cover crop, allowing adequate plant recovery, followed by a second grazing during the fall or winter.
- Winter feeding on hayland fields by rolling out bales or bale grazing.
- Seeding rotational perennials, grazing and managing them as part of the crop rotation.