SD Grassland Coalition promotes message through Grazing School, workshops |

SD Grassland Coalition promotes message through Grazing School, workshops

Promoting land stewardship – that’s the message of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, an organization working to benefit farmers and ranchers by providing them with the knowledge and tools to properly manage their grazing and forage lands. And in order to share this message throughout the state, the Coalition hosts a variety of educational trainings each year.

One such training opportunity is the annual South Dakota Grazing School. Held in September, the Grazing School is designed to give producers tools to maintain healthy ecosystems while getting the most from natural resources. This year’s three-day event featured a diverse group of guest speakers, rangeland specialists and others who provided information on innovative techniques to improve and enhance operations. In addition to classroom discussion, participants gained hands-on experience in the field.

“The Grazing School is just one of the educational programs the Coalition uses to promote proper range management in South Dakota,” says Kyle Schell with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. “The hands-on training portion of the event provides students the opportunity to put their new-found knowledge to work. Our presenters bring a wide array of ideas, knowledge and techniques to the table, resulting in valuable discussions for our participants.”

The Grazing School provides a full gamut of information, from proper pasture allocation and the principles of grassland productivity to holistic grazing and the implementation of fencing and watering systems. Throughout the event, participants gain a better understanding of how to determine they are getting the most from their grazing lands while providing optimal nutrition for their livestock. And if they’re not seeing the right results, they learn to make the necessary changes to improve their operations.

Heidi Rients a Soil Conservationist with the USDA-NRCS office in Plankinton participated in this year’s Grazing School. Because she works with producers, she gained new information to share with farmers and ranchers in her area.

“This school is an excellent opportunity for participants to network with other producers and instructors to share ideas,” says Rients. “The school offers a variety of sessions, including hands-on training, which is invaluable.”

Each year the Grazing School sees approximately 30 producer participants who are eager to learn from the experts. “Because this is an intense training, we prefer a small group to allow for more thorough discussion and one-on-one time with presenters,” added Schell.

“I would encourage producers to attend this school to interact with instructors and other participants, to share ideas and learn more about the importance of grassland management,” Rients adds.

In addition to the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, several organizations co-hosted the 2008 Grazing School; the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lower James Resource Conservation and Development.

The Coalition will host a the 2008 Annual Meeting on Dec. 2 at Cedar Shore Resort in Oacoma, SD. Guest speaker Jim Gerrish of American Grazing Lands Services, LLC will speak on making grazing management decisions for economic and environmental sustainability. Registration begins at 9 a.m. There is no cost for Coalition members to attend, however the fee for non-members is $30 per person, which includes a one-year membership.

To learn more about the annual South Dakota Grazing School, the Coalition’s Annual Meeting, as well as membership information, contact Kyle Schell, (605) 688-6623, email or visit