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Seeds in Season | June 2024 *BONUS*

Range ID Season

contributed article by Justin Fruechte, Ag Product Expert

Renovo Seed, Brookings, S.D.

We all know spring brings new life and new growth, but when you’re spending extra time fixing fence for turnout and gazing over your pastures, do you really know what that new growth is? I’ve always been a plant ID nerd, so part of our family fun in the evenings is waking pastures and guessing plants. This is purely a recreational activity, but there is some practicality in knowing your Range ID to understand how to improve your grazing.

I would do a horrible job of describing how to identify plants in an article, so it’s best I recommend some tools to help you. One of the best books I’ve discovered that categorizes plants and shows great pictures is “Grassland Plants of South Dakota and the Northern Great Plains”. This book gives a forage value rating for species, which makes it awesome for livestock producers.

Additionally, if you have a smart phone, I highly recommend downloading a plant ID app. I use Seek by iNaturalist and PlantNet. I was skeptical at first, but have been shocked by how accurate these are. Simply open the app, take a photo of the plant, and it will provide you the name. It’s “Range ID Alexa” at your fingertips!

Understanding what you have can help you manage for what you want (and what you don’t want) through grazing strategies.

In early spring, the first introduced grasses are Brome, Kentucky Bluegrass, Crested Wheatgrass, Ryegrass, and Forage Fescue. Depending on your goals from grazing, you may or may not want those grasses. Grazing these early while they are actively growing will get you the best quality.

On the flip side, if they are invaders to your native grasses, you still need to be aggressive with grazing early to set these back so the plants you want aren’t crowded out. Cool season grasses that grow early but hold their quality and feed value later are more of the native grasses like Western Wheatgrass, Green Needlegrass, and Slender Wheatgrass. These are deep-rooted species that can continue their growth longer through the growing season and provide more grazing opportunities.

When temperatures rise, the warm season grasses start their growth. It is important to not graze these hard too early. So, if you want more warm season grasses in your pastures, graze hard very early to set back the cool seasons. Then, rotate off so the warm season grasses have a chance to grow.

On heavier ground with ample rainfall, the tall grasses like Big Bluestem and Indiangrass are the best for grazing. On lighter soil, shorter grasses like Buffalograss, Little Bluestem, Blue Grama, Sand Bluestem, and Sideoats Grama will thrive. Really, a combination of all these is best if you are planning a perfect grazing situation. The tall species provide more yield, but the short provide persistence and a thicker understory.

Managing for better plants ultimately increases your carrying capacity. So, start practicing Range ID and manage for what you are (or aren’t) seeing.

Photos courtesy Renovo Seed

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Renovo Seed, Brookings, S.D.

The team of folks at Renovo Seed have roots that run deep in farming, agriculture, and in the overall respect for the landscape. They opened their doors in 1987 and continue to walk alongside farmers, ranchers, and landowners across thousands of acres throughout the Midwest.

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