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Soil Sense

89 EpisodesProduced by NDSU ExtensionWebsite

Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear… read more


Bale Grazing with Erin and Drew Gaugler

**Join us virtually at the DIRT Workshop December 8th - 9th:**

Interest continues to rise in incorporating livestock into production systems. Through funding from a SARE grant, brother and sister duo Erin and Drew Gaugler have been experimenting with bale grazing. We talk about their findings from implementing this approach, including how it has impacted soil health and the performance of their cattle.

Drew returned to the family ranch in southwest North Dakota after working in oil fields around the world. Erin works full time as a Range Research Specialist at NDSU’s Central Grasslands Research Extension Center near Streeter and is still actively involved in the operation. They applied for a grant from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program) to implement and evaluate a new bale grazing technique.

“I guess what we've realized has been a real benefit that bail grazing can be set up in lots of different ways, depending on your interest, your resources and your commitment to time involved with it, or wanting to have less to do with it.” - Erin Gaugler

Sections are isolated with temporary fencing and rotated to concentrate and control the cattle’s effects on the field. The initial goal for the operation was to reduce feeding costs for cattle. Drew has observed soil health benefits, a reduction in labor costs and an improvement in the cattle behavior and stress levels. Initially there was concern that the left over residue would hinder future perennial crop growth if not redistributed. However, Drew shares that the residue left from the hay has not required any additional management and has encouraged perennial crop growth.

“On one soil test spot it had roughly three pounds of available nitrogen per acre and the direct bale grazing response went to 70 pounds of available nitrogen per acre. That’s a drastic spot but that was to show how change can be fueled.” - Drew Gaugler

While not every location experienced that marked of an improvement, overall both Drew and Erin observed impressive results by virtue of added organic material and bale residue. In addition to soil health, another benefit is the flexibility of this system which could allow a producer to focus on bale grazing efforts only a couple days a week giving them the opportunity to pursue other goals concurrently.

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