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Course aims to improve grazing in Western Washington

Washington State University Extension is offering a course to help ranchers west of the Cascade Mountains learn new intensified grazing techniques.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on May 22, 2014 10:34AM

A new course is underway that will help ranchers learn techniques for intensified grazing.

Though the first session has already taken place, two more are scheduled:

• 9 a.m. June 20 at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash., with a farm site visit in Olympia.

• 9 a.m. July 24 at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Wash., with a site visit in Tenino.

The course is unique to conditions for ranchers west of the Cascade Mountains, said Washington State University Thurston County Extension Director Lucas Patzek. It is designed to maximize pasture productivity while promoting native habitat and water quality.

Under management-intensive grazing, or holistic grazing, a rancher divides his grazing area into smaller pastures with temporary fencing, Patzek said. The cattle are managed according to the landscape and health of the pasture.

“The health of your cattle is fundamentally related to the health of your grass,” he said. “We’re honing in on how to have the healthiest possible grass-pasture systems.”

The course examines the timing of grazing forage grasses and forbs to avoid overgrazing and maximize productivity over several years.

“If you impact your pasture really negatively one year, you’re going to feel the effects of that for years to come,” Patzek said. “The grasses can’t regrow as well.”

“There’s a need to put on a course like this just to put all of that education in one place,” he said.

The second and third sessions exploring cattle interacting with water, assessing water quality risks and monitoring the effects of grazing over time. They also cover smaller ruminants like sheep and goats, and the health of the animals.

The third session also covers USDA cost-share programs available to ranchers and using native plants in pastures.

The workshop is part of a new collaboration between USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington State University and the Center for Natural Lands Management, Patzek said.

“(There are) ways we can promote habitat while still getting all the grazing goals the rancher might have,” Patzek said.




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