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Strohs See Improvements with Conservation Practices in Kidder County

Brent Stroh, a sheep and cattle producer in the Tappen area, has been able to implement conservation practices he may not have otherwise tried, by utilizing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs.

Luann Dart writes from Elgin, N.D.

Brent and Barb Stroh raise 250 stock cows and lamb about 700 ewes. They also grow wheat, rye and silage corn on 350 acres of cropland and have 400 acres of hayland.

When Brent switched to no-till on his cropland about 10 years ago, it was mostly due to a shortage of labor to cultivate land, as he and his wife, Barb, farm the land themselves.

At the same time, Brent was introduced to cover crop incentives through the NRCS and decided to try cover crops also.

“For us, it’s a good rotation just for the fact that I don’t have a broadleaf in my crop rotation,” he said. The cover crops have also provided additional forage for his livestock.

“It’s extended our grazing season by quite a bit. We’ll have good grazing in the fall yet,” Brent said.

field, crops

In past years, Brent has seeded cover crops after harvesting rye, then utilizes the crops for hay or grazing. He’s also planted cover crops as a full-season crop.

This year, he baled his rye crop, then seeded a mix including oats, peas and millet as a cover crop. He’ll cut the cover crop early for hay, then graze the crop in the fall.

“We’re a lighter soil here and we have to kind of watch it to see if there’s enough moisture there to get it to come up,” he said of the cover crops. “Last year, it worked out really good because we got some late rains and we got all kinds of grazing off of that.”

Through NRCS, Brent has also improved his pastures by implementing rotational grazing about 15 years ago, utilizing the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the Kidder County NRCS for cross-fencing and water pipeline and tanks.

“Brent Stroh is a very proactive farmer who is willing to try and improve his land and production of crops and livestock, while protecting the environment and making the land better for future generations,” said Wade Carter, Acting District Conservationist with the Kidder County NRCS. “Brent is a very understanding person who realizes the benefits of conservation.”

Three years ago, Brent converted marginal cropland into pasture, adding a 480-acre grazing unit with six grazing cells by fencing it and adding water. He seeded the cropland, which had sandy and gravely soils, into legumes and grasses.

“I only seeded 2 to 3 pounds of alfalfa and the alfalfa was just unbelievable and now you can see the intermediate grass starting to come into it,” he shared.

A solar panel on a nearby well powers the pumps to pipe water to a 3,000-gallon tank about half a mile away, which then supplies three pasture tanks.

“It works amazing. Where that quarter of marginal land was, we had all kinds of grazing. We were even contemplating if we should hay some of it this year, so that worked out really good,” he said.

Brent has also brought fresh water to another paddock where a dugout was starting to fail. He added a waterline and tanks to have fresh water available in each paddock.

He credits NRCS’s cost-share program for helping him complete these projects.

“To do that yourself, it would be really hard to justify the cost of it,” he said.

He grazes 65 pair of cattle in the rotational grazing system, then moves them to native pasture. Brent also has pastures where he grazes the cattle and sheep together, pointing out the sheep are also good controllers of leafy spurge in his pastures. This fall, his sheep also grazed a cover crop mix of sudangrass, turnips, radishes, oats and millet. The sheep also stomp the plants into the ground, which helps put organic matter back into the soil, Brent said.

Brent also utilized the NRCS to plant shelterbelts around his farmstead, including a five-row, 600-foot-long windbreak and a six-row, 500-foot-long shelterbelt.

Much of what he’s accomplished was due to the NRCS support, he said.

“A lot of that helps initially getting you started. It’s like anything, where unless you see it, you don’t believe it works,” he said. “They get you started and then you see the advantages of it. There’s a lot of this stuff we probably would have never tried,” he said.