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Agricultural Water Enhancement Program Success story

                                                                         News Feature                                                           10/5/2011

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical assistance and financial assistance through the Red River Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) leads to improvements in pasture management, water quality, and reduced soil erosion

The Back 9 Ranch owned and operated by Steve Misegades and his father, Gary, consists of over 600 beef cow/calf pairs plus over 1,800 acres of cropland. The ranch, near Henning, MN is located at the headwaters of the Brandenburg Creek, which is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources designated trout stream that flows into East Battle Lake. From there, the water flows through a series of lakes and streams until it reaches the Otter Tail River, which eventually empties into the Red River south of Moorhead, MN. The landscape is characterized by rolling hills, wetlands, streams, and lakes. Much of the land encompassed by the ranch is highly erodible, with soil erosion and water quality as primary environmental concerns.

Livestock watering facility with Heavy Use Area ProtectionSteve saw the need to improve pasture management for their beef herd to combat the rising costs of feed and pasture rent as well as to reduce erosion on cropland by utilizing no-till seeding. In 2010, Steve started researching the merits of managed rotational grazing systems and decided to contact his local NRCS office in Perham, MN for technical assistance. With NRCS assistance from the area grazing specialist, Jeff Duchene, and the local field office technician, Troy Baumgart, managed grazing system plans were developed that would allow the animals to spend more time grazing, less time in the feedlot, and increase the overall productivity and health of the pastures.

In the past, animals spent significant time being fed stored feedstuffs in the feedlot during the summer months because of a lack of pasture. Due to the rising costs of inputs for feeding livestock, Steve wanted to improve his grazing operation by utilizing rotational grazing techniques and converting marginal cropland into pasture, which allows the animals to harvest their own forage for a longer time period. Grazing plans were developed for two pasture systems encompassing approximately 815 acres, 266 acres of which were highly erodible cropland converted into pasture, with an estimated stocking rate of 250 cow/calf pairs. The pastures will now be managed under a rotational grazing system designed to improve animal performance, pasture productivity and health, water quality and quantity, and reduce soil erosion.

Due to the high cost of implementing these systems, Steve decided to pursue an application for the AWEP in 2011. His application was accepted and Steve has successfully installed several facilitating practices towards implementing rotational grazing systems and reducing cropland erosion, which include approximately 33,200 feet of fence, 39 acres of pasture seeding, 14,000 feet of pipeline, 12 water tanks with heavy use area protection, and 400 acres of no-till seeding on cropland. These practices will allow Steve to improve animal and pasture productivity, reduce soil erosion and runoff, while improving water quality and quantity in the watershed. Steve’s hard work in installing the grazing and cropland practices in 2011 to improve his operation, with the help of technical assistance from NRCS staff and financial assistance through the AWEP, will result in benefits to the trout in Brandenburg Creek as well as the people downstream who rely on the clean water that flows off the Back 9 Ranch.

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