This week’s “Resilience Rodeo” comes from Rich Grim, a rancher and proponent of using prescribed fire to combat Eastern Red Cedar from taking over South Dakota’s grasslands.
When Rich Grim learned that the Eastern Red Cedar had taken over roughly 30% of the rangeland near his ranch on the West banks of the Missouri River, he knew that something needed to be done. Now a strong supporter and user of prescribed fire, along with rotational grazing practices, the only thing Rich would like to change would be to have started doing them both earlier.
1) What one thing have you done that has been most important to the success of your operation?
Well, the biggest thing is that we haven't overgrazed. We've left stuff there to catch the moisture and we've focused on warm and cool season grasses, which helps quite a little bit. If you're in a position to do that, you can do a lot with it. But yeah, we try not to stay too long in one pasture. We graze it and then get out and maybe come back to it later.
2) Can you recall a moment or time when the lightbulb went on for you, to change the way you were grazing?
Well, yeah. You try different things and you do it and then all at once, it just kind of hits you. Hey, we're doing something pretty good here! So, you kind of remember what you've done and go back and reclaim what you've done and fine tune it a little bit.
3) What surprised you the most when you changed the way you were grazing?
I guess what surprised me the most is with a little planning and a little management, how much you can do with what you have for resources, natural resources.
4) What would you say the biggest misconception is with people who are not managing their grass properly?
Well, I think the biggest misconception is some people, not all people, but most people, they got this [land] and they're going to utilize it because at a big extent, because they've got bills to pay. A lot of times, it's not what's right for the land or the ground, but [it’s] how we can make ends meet and it's tough. It's a hard deal to be in the ranching community anymore.
5) If you could give any of those people some advice on where to start, to maybe change their mindset toward a better grazing system, what would that be?
Well, every producer’s unique in their own way. You got to take care of the land because if you don't take care of your livelihood, you don't have anything. So, biggest thing is to take care of what you got.
6) Looking at your current system, is there anything you'd like to do that you haven't done yet to improve your soil or your grazing system?
If I could go back, I would have liked to done this earlier. I would have liked to started doing a rotational thing, the Cedar control thing, years ago, but we don't get that back. So, we go with what we got.
7) When you walk across your grasslands, what do you look for as an indicator of healthy grasslands and healthy soil?
When I go out into our land, I look for a number of different things, the different kinds of grasses, what's good for this and what's not so good and what I can do to change it and not hurt anything and still keep things on a level of playing field.
8) Can you talk about any changes you've made that maybe at first you didn't think would work?
Well, I never thought the rotational deal would work as well as it has and I haven't thought that the Cedar deal would take off like it has, but it's been a good deal for everybody concerned.
9) We have a number of words that begin with R, but three that we've settled on, Rotate, Rest, Recovery, that are really key to healthy and resilient range land. Which one would be your favorite and why?
I kind of liked the rotate because you're leaving something there to hold the moisture. And in a drought, if you don't graze it all off, you're leaving something there to recover. As long as you keep something so it's not bare, you don't have to worry about it washing, erosion or anything like that. So yeah, every year is different, but you got to take it as it comes and kind of plan accordingly.
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