"Instead of trying to force nature to a certain outcome, try observing how nature naturally works and then accommodating that in their management."
By Mike Cox
Tanse Herrmann recently became the South Dakota USDA-NRCS’s Grazinglands Soil Health Specialist, and far as anyone could confirm in late 2022, this is the only such position in the USDA-NRCS the country.
Growing up in Chamberlain, South Dakota, right along the Missouri River, and graduating from the local high school, Tanse was closely linked to the agricultural lifestyle. Both his parents worked in careers associated with agricultural industries. "My best friends were the children of ranchers and farmers and I was active in the FFA, ultimately became the state president for South Dakota FFA for one year. That's where I fit. I've always been into horses and rodeo and things of that nature."
Tanse decided early on that a farm-based life would require too much financial investment, so after heading to South Dakota State University, he focused on agricultural education. In 2003, Tanse landed with the State Association of Conservation Districts on a watershed project working out of a USDA-National Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) field office in Belle Fourche. He immediately realized this was the right spot.
That position introduced Tanse to the USDA-NRCS and he was soon absorbing the world according to the likes of Gabe Brown, Jay Fuhrer, and Dwayne Beck. He applied for and won the job of District Conservationist for the Sturgis Field Office. After ten years, Tanse left his DC position to become the South Dakota Grazinglands Soil Health Specialist.
When asked why there seems to be a disparity between croplands and range lands where soil health is concerned, Tanse suggested the reason may be economical. "Farmers are constantly faced with decisions on inputs that directly correlate to yield, whether it's their planting mechanisms or fertilizer, pesticide applications. It's a 12-month type of mindset. Truly you know that cycle completely starts and stops every 12 months."
Tanse thinks the difference between farming and ranching mindset may be a simple matter of being taken for granted, because ranchers aren't spending money on inputs to make range land productive. It doesn't change all that rapidly unless someone makes significant management changes.
Range land decisions are about the product, best cattle, most nutritious grass. There are no direct monetary issues tied to this. Most soil nutrition decisions come by word of mouth and are about cost savings rather than increased revenues.
When asked how he approaches someone to talk about soil health, he says he starts with questions of his own. “I'm probably going to ask some questions to make sure that I start on the right foot. Don't go down a path that turns them off or is unnecessary.”
Tanse will ask how many paddocks or pastures are in their grazing rotation. What does that look like to start with? How many animals are involved and roughly how much do they weigh? Just to get basic knowledge of how many animal unit months they're dealing with. This is particularly true if the meeting is not on the ranch.
He might also inquire whether the producer owns the land that provides the winter feed, which is a significant piece of the equation, and will bring up terms like holistic or adaptive grazing management. Their response to those questions will guide the conversation. Not only looking at the landscape, looking at finances, labor availability, wildlife habitat.
Tanse emphasizes that word of mouth is important. Most ranchers make changes based on the words of a respected peer, or the obvious success of a minor change. If a long-time rancher sees the results from a respected peer's move toward Adaptive Grazing and realizes that by making basic changes and doing some planning, he can also have healthier and heavier cattle and a healthier soil, he is more likely to positively consider changing.
Tanse can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on this subject watch this podcast:
For more contact information, visit NRCS Service Center in Rapid City, SD: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/sd/contact/local/
Remember Tanse’s words – “WE WANT TO MEET PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE” so “DON’T BE TOO PROUD TO ASK”, calling up your NRCS Service Center and Speaking to a Grazinglands Specialist costs nothing. What do you have to lose?
Watch for an announcement from SD Grassland Coalition for upcoming Grazing Schools https://sdgrass.org/sdgc-events/#grazing-school
Watch for Soil Health Workshops and Conferences at: https://www.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org/
Watch also for Ranching for Profit Schools: https://ranchmanagement.com/ranching-for-profit-school-2/
Also please visit the SD NRCS Range and Pasture website for more information at: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/sd/technical/landuse/pasture/
Visit these “Growing Resilience Through Our Soils” information pages:
1. Podcast page for drought planning fact sheets, Q&As, news, podcasts and more.
2. Video page to watch videos of other ranchers’ journeys toward improved rangeland/pasture.
3.Follow Growing Resilience on social media:
4. Our homepage: www.growingresiliencesd.com