Conservation grazing an option for cattle producers in need of extra forage
July 8, 2020
One of the consequences of meat plant closures during the COVID-19 pandemic is that cattle farmers must slow down the rate of growth for their feeder cattle to avoid a backlog at slaughter time. This means their animals stay on pasture for longer or need more forage in their diets.
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) has worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and other advocacy groups to make sure we avoid a shortage of feed. The agencies announced today that they have updated and improved information about haying and grazing on DNR lands and encourage producers to contact their area wildlife managers to discuss conservation grazing if they need it. Haying and grazing cattle on grasslands and wildlife management areas (WMAs) has been shown to be a useful management practice for supporting local wildlife and pollinator habitat, according to the DNR.
“We applaud DNR and MDA for working with farmers on conservation grazing,” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “Our farmers appreciate having this option to keep their cattle healthy while providing habitat management for wildlife on our public lands. It’s especially important right now as large meat processors have had to close at times during the pandemic and farmers are doing their part to slow the backlog of livestock.”
Some things to know:
- Contact your local DNR Area Wildlife manager as soon as you know you are interested in haying or grazing WMAs, ideally three weeks ahead of time.
- To find public lands in your area or contact information for your local land managers, refer to the Conservation Grazing Website and Map: mda.state.mn.us/conservation-grazing-map
- Haying or grazing on WMAs must meet wildlife habitat management objectives on that site. This often means haying only a part of any area and grazing at lower stocking rates.
- Most WMAs do not have adequate fencing for cattle. Producers should expect to install and remove temporary fencing before and after each grazing period. Water is often available but should be checked for quality and quantity.
- Farmers can expect to pay market values for hay and grazing done on public lands. Deductions will be made for work done such as putting up and removing fence, hauling water and work to cut, bale and move hay etc.
- Since a major reason for this increased haying and grazing initiative is to provide additional forage for Minnesota producers, we ask that any hay harvested from public land stays in Minnesota or the surrounding counties.
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Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Working for Farmers (www.mfu.org)