Conservation for The Next Generation in Golden Valley County
Troy Tescher ranches northeast of Beach, N.D., along Beaver and Elk creeks on the edge of the Badlands.
Luann Dart writes from Elgin, N.D.
When he and his wife, Joanne, moved to the property in 1983, there were no water developments, pastures were as large as seven and a half sections, the fences were poor, and grazing was unevenly distributed.
But all that has changed. The Teschers have steadily improved the ranch, in part by making use of many different programs available through their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to develop nearly year-round grazing.
“It was small steps at first and now it’s more steady, depending on funding, whether it’s an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) project or doing it on our own,” Troy says.
They cross fenced, dividing eight pastures into 25. They use a twice-over rotational grazing system, although not all pastures are grazed each year.
“I’m trying to get into the habit of being able to not graze several pastures every year if I can,” Troy says. “I’m an advocate of saving grass for next year, never knowing what next year will bring.”
They installed 25 miles of pipeline to supply fresh water even in dry years to pastures from four wells and Southwest Water Authority water taps
Besides putting in summer water tanks, they installed eight winter water tanks. Some of the winter tanks are insulated soil on the back half. Water comes in from the bottom of the tank rather than from an above-ground hydrant. With cattle continually drinking from the tank, the water flow is constant and does not freeze.
“I graze as much as I can as long as I can,” Troy says. “The longer you graze your cattle, that’s money you save every day by not feeding a hay bale.”
Trisha Feiring, NRCS District Conservationist in Golden Valley County, says the cross fencing and water development are important pieces of a drought management plan.
“We live in a part of the world where we are only a few days away from our next drought,” she says.
The Teschers also converted about 250 acres of farmland to pasture.
“I didn’t see a point in trying to sustain and farm marginal land. It was going to be better to seed it back,” Troy says.
The Teschers have established three shelterbelts. NRCS helped plant trees and installed weed barrier fabric and drip irrigation.
“Troy has a vision for their ranch,” Feiring says. “By utilizing both EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), he has been able to test new management strategies, such as delaying his calving dates, manure sampling his native rangeland, grazing land monitoring and soil testing. He is an excellent grass manager,” Feiring says.
Tescher also keeps noxious weeds under control in his pastures. Leafy spurge and common hound’s-tongue are problem weeds.
“That’s a problem weed in this county,” he says about hound’s-tongue, which can potentially cause liver damage and death in livestock. He uses the Golden Valley County weed board for assistance and applies chemicals himself. He also uses flea beetles to control leafy spurge in hard-to-reach places or along creeks.
“Weeds are always a problem and the window to spray them at the right time is small,” he says.
Troy appreciates NRCS’ assistance.
“If we would have not had cost share, we would not be where we are today. In tight budget years, you do what you can to survive and if you don’t have cost share, you wouldn’t be doing them. It helped immensely to get us where we are,” he says.
With three children, Troy wants to continue making improvements to the ranch for future generations.
“Troy treats the operation like a true business, but most of all, he is a true conservationist and cares about the land and how he will leave it for future generations,” Feiring says.