Sunday, October 13, 2013

Jim Gerrish Grazing Workshop to focus on how Grazing Management Improves Productivity, Profitability and Personal Satisfaction

Internationally known expert on forage livestock systems, Jim Gerrish of American GrazingLands Services LLC, is returning to Kansas for two 2-day workshops on grazing management as it applies to the livestock business from October 28-31, 2013.

Gerrish has 20 years of systems research and outreach experience as a faculty member at the University of Missouri, as well as many years of commercial cattle and sheep production. University of Missouri’s Forage Systems Research Center rose to national prominence as a result of Gerrish’s research and leadership. His research encompasses many aspects of plant-soil-animal interactions and provides a foundation for many of the basic principles of management intensive grazing.

Each two-day workshop will include information and discussion on the following topics: Grazing Basics 101 for Improved Plant Performance, Cattle Management 101, To Hay or Not to Hay, and Designing Grazing Systems including fencing and water development.

The workshops will be held October 28-29 at Ramada Hotel, Salina, KS from 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and October 30-31 at Pratt Community College, Pratt, KS from 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Cost of the workshop is $80.00 which includes handouts, lunch and morning/afternoon breaks for each day. This 2-day workshop is an extremely “sweet” deal.  Grazing workshops with experts typically cost much more than $80.00.  Attendees are responsible for their own lodging. See hotel list below.

Questions? Contact Mary Howell at or 785-562-8726.

Sponsors for the workshops are Kansas Farmers Union and Kansas Graziers Association. Project partners include NRCS, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition, and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops.

Salina Hotel:
Ramada: 1616 W. Crawford St. Salina, KS 67401 (785) 823-1739

Pratt Hotels:
Budget Inn: 1631 E. 1st Street Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-6468
Comfort Suites: 1401 N. Hwy 61 Pratt, KS 67124(620) 672-9999
Days Inn: 1901 E. 1st Street Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-9465 
Economy Inn: 1401 E. 1st Street Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-5588 
Evergreen Inn: 20001 W. Hwy 54 Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-6431 
Hillcrest: 1336 E. 1st Street Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-6407 
Holiday Inn Express: 1903 Pauline Place Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 508-6350 
Regency Inn: 1401 W. Hwy 54 Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-9433
Super 8: 1906 E 1st ST Pratt, KS  67124 (855) 799-6862

September Amazing Grazing Project Event Snapshots

Short Grass Prairie Grazing Basics and Research Tour and Workshop

Keith Harmoney (on left), KSRE Range Research Scientist, and John Jaeger, KSRE Beef Cattle Scientist, will serve as hosts for the September 17th Short Grass Prairie Grazing workshop at the K-State Western Kansas Agricultural Research Center in Hays.
Kansas ranch managers and livestock producers are invited to the Short Grass Prairie Grazing Basics and Research Tour, September 17, 2013 at the Western Kansas Agricultural Research Center, 1232 240th Ave. Hays, KS 67601.

Keith Harmoney, KSRE Range Research Scientist, and John Jaeger, KSRE Beef Cattle Scientist, will be hosting the tour, which will show producers ways they can cope with two of their greatest challenges: drought and input costs. Although recent rains have provided some relief, most areas of western Kansas are still well below average rainfall for this growing season and run deficits from the prior two growing seasons.
Topics to be covered include:
  • Perennial Cool-Season Grasses for Grazing in Western Kansas
  • Stockpiled Native Rangeland for Winter Grazing
  • Distillers Grains Supplementation for Late Season Stocker Production on Native Rangeland
  • Precipitation Effects on Animal Production and Forage Yield from Native Rangelands
  • Early Weaning of Calves as a Drought Management Strategy
  • Results of the Early Weaned Calf Performance Studies
  • Tour stockpiled forages & cattle at KSU Ag Research Center-Hays
For producers who would like to have some early season grazing, but not annual cereal crops, we will look at some perennial cool-season grasses that can fill this niche.

Grass production and persistence are two key traits to consider when making a decision on what grass to plant. For producers who want to feed less hay in the winter time, stockpiled native grass for winter grazing can help reduce winter feed costs. How to measure the stockpiled grass to estimate how many days of grazing are available from a winter pasture will be demonstrated.

The long drought, widespread in the western and southwestern part of the state, has many producers interested in the effects of early weaning. "This field day will help producers see what they might expect from implementing early weaning in their operation and how young calves respond to early removal from the cow. Early weaning is one of the most practical ways to lighten the pressure on native pastures that need to gain some vigor," said Keith Harmoney.

To learn about grazing in the Central Kansas Short Grass Prairie area, producers are invited meet at the auditorium. Registration starts at 8:30 A.M. with the Field Day running 9:00 a.m. thru mid afternoon. Cost for the day is $20.00 which includes lunch and handouts.

For questions contact Mary Howell at or call 785-562-8726.

We encourage you to visit the Amazing Grazing Event Calendar to learn more about this and the other seven grazing events scheduled for the next few months.

Hope to see you in Hays on September 17th!

The Amazing Grazing Project is a collaborative effort provided by the following sponsors: Kansas Graziers Association, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas SARE, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, with funding from North Central Risk Management Education Center and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Livestock Water and Fencing Workshop Set for September 10

Mark Green, NRCS Specialist, from Missouri will return to Kansas to offer his very popular workshop on electric fencing and livestock watering options September 10, 2013 in Abilene, KS. The workshop will be held at the Abilene Civic Center, 201 NW 2nd Street. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and program lasts until 4:00 p.m. utilizing an indoor classroom and outdoor fencing demonstrations. 

Water availability is the number one limiting factor for grazing possibilities.  The addition of electric fencing will increase grazing options that can in turn benefit range health, the soil, as well as improve production and profitability.

At the September 10 workshop, Mark Green will demonstrate the latest in electric fence products, the pros and cons of various materials used in electric fence construction and installation techniques. Green will also cover livestock watering topics: water distribution for improved grazing distribution, permanent and portable tanks, above and below ground pipeline, and water sources—wells, streams, springs and ponds.

Producers always enjoy his cowboy humor and expertise from years of experience.  Mark states “I believe that folks in my line of work should gather information that works and pass it on to the ranchers I work with. What makes me different is that I am not selling anything; I am sharing the ideas I have seen visiting many ranches. Even little things can make a big difference. I will relay what works; as well as things to avoid in water and fencing.”

Mark Green has been with USDA NRCS since 1981. He currently is instructor and regional coordinator for the SW Missouri Regional Management Intensive Grazing Schools, and has worked with grazing management in SW Missouri for 32 years. He is a member of the American Forage and Grassland Council and is a board member for Missouri Forage and Grassland Council.

Cost for the workshop is $20.00, and includes lunch and two publications on fencing and water development.

Registration Closed

For questions contact Mary Howell at or call 785-562-8726.

Sponsors are the Kansas Graziers, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas SARE, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, with funding from North Central Risk Management Education Center and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Writing a Range Plan and a Ranch Drought Plan Workshops Set for August 26th and 27th

Has the stress and worry of the present drought caused you to question the way in which you make management decisions on the grazing lands you operate?  If your grazing lands or pastures could talk would they answer the question the same as you?

Over the past couple of growing seasons, statements often heard are “I don’t like the way my pastures look” or “I sure have had an increase in weedy type plants” since the drought has been in place.  Both are indications that we are starting to question the impact of our decisions or at least at a minimum are concerned about the plant communities we have responsibility for managing.

With droughts which have staying power like this current one, the stress to both the land and the manager can accumulate.  This leaves one hopefully asking the question, “How can I pre-decide actions to take when these conditions arise or persist?”

The answer to that question is to gain a better understanding of how climate and plant communities interact with one another, and when do I need to act on pre-decided management decisions based upon observations?

The Kansas Grazer’s Association along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be hosting two one-day drought plan writing workshops, in August:
  • Monday, August 26: NRCS office at 3020 W. 18th, Emporia, Kansas;
  • Tuesday, August 27: NRCS Conference Center at 747 Duvall, Salina, Kansas.
Download the Registration Form
Attendees will be encouraged to identify critical decision dates at their ranch location and decisions which they can make before actual drought conditions are present. Attendees will also be encouraged to seek the development of a ranch forage inventory which is the benchmark for fine tuning all decisions on the ranch.

Each workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. and finish mid-afternoon.  Space will be limited, so please RSVP to Mary Howell by August 22, 2013. For information contact Mary at  or call 785-562-8726.

There is no cost for this workshop. Ranchers are encouraged to attend to learn how to write a good plan for the ranch. Lunch will not be provided; a break at noon is scheduled.

The Amazing Grazing project is a collaboration between the Kansas Graziers Association and the Kansas Farmers Union.
Project collaborators include Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, National Resources Conservation Service, Kansas State Research and Extension, and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops.
Funding for this project is provided by the North Central Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Drought Management Ranch Tour a Success

By Mary Howell

On May 11, 63 people journeyed west of Medicine Lodge in Barber County to the Alexander Ranch. The weather was a warm spring day accompanied with a steady wind.  The red soil peeking out of the bright green grass provided the beautiful landscape that felt like scenery from a western movie. 

Ted Alexander explains a creek restoration project.
Due to the long very cool winter and spring, the cool and warm season grasses are late growing this year.  Tour participants were treated to indoor presentations and two trips out to pasture and cattle. Discussion focused on range management, fencing, water development, tree clearing, stocking rates, livestock management and wildlife.   Speakers for the day were ranchers Ted Alexander and son Brian, NRCS Specialists David Kraft, Dwayne Rice and Dusty Tacha.

Ted's grandfather H.W Skinner settled the ranch about 100 years ago.  The ranch always took in cattle, never owning their own.  The ranch was put in a trust in 1968 and Ted took over the ranch in 1984. Ted describes his ranch back then as an overgrazed, under-utilized, cedar forest ranch.   He bought a tree saw and spent several years cutting a lot of trees. He then built some ponds and installed cross fencing.

His goal was to implement managed rotational grazing, moving away from the "Columbus Style" grazing system where one turns the cattle out in the spring in one big pasture and at the end of the grazing season goes back and discovers them.

In 1988 Ted participated in the David Pratt Ranching for Profit seminars.   As a result of the class Ted developed the Drought Plan that he makes ranch decisions by as well as a Transition Plan for Brian returning to the ranch. In 1997 Dwayne Rice visited Ted's ranch and encouraged him to add more paddocks, graze faster and rest the grass for longer periods of time. 

Brian Alexander discusses rotational grazing.
For 12 years Ted managed the ranch with only the help of his dog. In 2006 his son Brian returned to the ranch to transition to be the next generation of the family operation.   They still take in cattle during the summer.

At the same time Brian returned to join the operation lightning struck and a major wildfire took a huge strip of the central portion of the ranch rotation out of production. Two years of recovery followed the fire. The ranch is now dealing with the third year of drought. They strive for their grazing to simulate the Native American/Bison Grazing System.  Big herds of bison moved thru the country then moved on allowing the grass to rest and re-grow for long periods of time.

The animals moved through the country at different times of the year so, therefore, their plan makes sure that the rotation in the various grazing cells is also during different seasons. This keeps the system in a state of change allowing all of the native plant species to go through full life cycles and encourage them to thrive.  Now utilizing the drought plan the grass gets grazed fast with a bigger group of animals taking off 40 percent of the forage.  The animals are then moved and the grass in that cell will be rested and not be grazed again for at least a year. Ted takes in cattle on the dollars per head per day basis, not rate of gain. His contract allows for the cattle to be modified according to drought and grazing conditions.  

David Kraft and Dwayne Rice presented focusing on management for the ongoing drought that we are experiencing. Ranchers need to set benchmarks to know where to begin to manage for the long term. They encouraged ranchers to go places where they can learn ways to enhance their ranch management. Ranchers should not feel that because they have been in the business for years they should know what they need to know. Networking with other ranchers and learning from each other provides very valuable information.

With this drought people are realizing that they have to reduce stock numbers. There are ways to improve even in a drought to move past the survival mode. How the plant is treated now effects future production.  Normal and average tend to drive how decisions are made.   Plants do not have a connection to the calendar. They grow in response to the environmental conditions at the time. Ranchers need to monitor the current conditions and make decisions based on the state of the plant's health.

Alexander has installed an extensive livestock-water system that uses solar energy since electric power lines do not cross the ranch. The solar-powered pumps carry water from a pond to a storage tank. The water then flows to tanks as needed. These two tanks serve four grazing cells.
As ranch managers we have to understand the cycles and we have to be in tune with what is happening on the ground to manage for long term survival and success. A rancher can't make decisions on what he doesn't know. We have to evaluate what we have and where the ranch is, to effectively plan for now and the future. We can't graze what we can't grow!

Early on in his ranching career Ted was inspired by a quote from Leopold that said, "We will never be conservationists as long as we approach agriculture as production oriented." We must address proper conservation focusing on water quality, water quantity, and air quality.

Ted's closing remarks at the tour were, "As managers, we need to look at our environment and determine what we can do to keep this range as healthy as we can to sustain wildlife and graze animals on it.   This model is not production agriculture."

Education partners for the tour were NRCS, KGLC, Kansas SARE, KSCAAC, Kansas Farmers Union, Comanche Prairie Pool and Kansas Graziers Association.

Barber County vista

Friday, May 10, 2013

May 11: Ted Alexander Ranch Tour

Kansas Ranchers are invited to the Ted Alexander Ranch for a tour sponsored by Kansas Graziers Association focusing on the current drought and how to best manage ranch resources to survive the upcoming grazing season.  

Registration for the tour will start at 9:30 a.m. nineteen miles west of Medicine Lodge on the north side of Highway 160.  The tour starts at 10 a.m.    

Morning presentations will focus on Managing Drought on the Ranch by Ted Alexander, David Kraft and Dwayne Rice; lunch catered by Buster's followed by Afternoon Ranch Tour. A Wrap-Up Social at Buster's will follow the tour. 

Registration is $10 to cover lunch and handouts.
RSVPs are requested for lunch count.
Registration form -
Questions contact Mary Howell - or call 785-562-8726.
For drought information - 

Sponsors for this event are Kansas Graziers Association, Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops and Kansas Rural Center.

Ted is an award winning rancher.   He was the 2007 National Cattlemen's Beef Association Region VII Environmental Stewardship Award Winner.
Watch the video:


About Ted Alexander
Ancora Imparo -(I am still learning) is the philosophy by which rancher Ted Alexander lives and works. He reminds his fellow ranchers and others that he doesn't have it all figured out, but he has the passion to push onward to improve.

Ted's ranch covers 7,000 acres in the heart of the Red Hills in Barber County; located in the Comanche Pool area just a few miles north of the Oklahoma - Kansas line.

His ranch has flourished as a custom-grazing operation for nearly 30 years. However, this was not so when he began managing and operating the ranch in 1984. Alexander, who affectionately refers to his occupation as 'a used sunlight salesman,' will tell you that the ranch was an "over-grazed, under-utilized, under-watered, cedar forest ranch."

Often stocking between 500-700 cow/calf pairs or 2,500 yearlings, the operation runs on a rotational grazing method. Stocker cattle are custom grazed during the spring and early summer. When beneficial to the management of the stockpiled forage, Alexander custom grazes cattle during the winter.

Ted cleared all the hilltops of cedar trees resulting in water returning to the creeks. "The forage resource is in excellent shape on those hilltops, and now I'm concentrating on the riparian areas to improve the habitat for multiple species," Ted said. Alexander installed practices recommended by NRCS, such as cross fencing, ponds, and other water developments. Environmental enhancements to the land include removal of invasive Eastern Red Cedar trees, development of livestock water sources, improvement of forage productivity, and increasing the native plant and wildlife diversity. All of these enhancements and more were completed while accomplishing one overarching goal--maintaining a profitable and viable ranch business.

The ranch is divided into three grazing cells, each consisting of smaller paddocks of acreage. The paddock system utilized by the Alexander Ranch has allowed them to continually improve the pastures and to operate with the environment in mind.  Cattle thrive because of the range improvements and stewardship practices. In addition, the ranch has enhanced and developed several innovative water systems.

In recent years out of necessity and for energy efficiency, Alexander has installed an extensive livestock-water system that uses solar energy since electric power lines do not cross the ranch. The solar-powered pumps carry water from a pond to a storage tank. The water then flows to tanks as needed. Solar energy also powers energizers for electric fences that set the grazing cell boundaries needed for his Management Intensive Grazing System.

The culmination of the Alexander Ranch's grazing lands management practices has contributed to an increase in stocking rates of over 100 percent from the 1984 level, maintained individual animal performance, and increased the pounds of beef produced per acre while upholding the management goals to improve water quality, water quantity, soil health and native rangelands.

"Drought-proof your ranch as thoroughly as possible before it quits raining," are the first words in Alexander's drought plan that he follows faithfully." Ted also suggests to, "Hope for the best, and plan for the worst!"

Although Alexander is recognized for his stewardship and environmental practices on the Ranch, he is certainly appreciated for his eagerness to share his knowledge and experience with others. With an art educator's background and a love for the ranching business, Ted Alexander never misses an opportunity to lead, teach, and mentor; especially young rancher.             

Note: Info for this article was found on NRCS's website, "Success Stories - Ranching with a Passion" written by Mary Shaffer.