Cattlemen and producers are invited to the Fall Forage Tour, Friday, October 31, 2014 and Saturday, November 1, 2014. The tour will begin at 1:00 p.m. on both days at the Dale Strickler Farm, one mile south of Courtland on the west side of the highway. Two audiences will benefit from participation in the Fall Forage Tour–cattle producers and those interested in utilizing cover crops to improve soil health. The tour will focus on improving soil productivity by using of cover crops, forages, and perennial grasses.
According to Strickler, ranchers have two options to increase cattle carrying capacity. They can choose “Horizontal Expansion” by acquiring more land–and more debt–or they can improve existing pastures through “Vertical Expansion.” Vertical Expansion increases the cattle carrying capacity by both expanding the root zone and increasing plant bio mass. Strickler advocates expansion of the root zone through the use of selected cover crops and enhanced soil biology.
Soil and plant roots tell the story of how managed grazing, re-growth, and rest effect not only the top growth of grasses but also their roots. To illustrate this, Strickler will dig a soil pit at his farm’s Eastern Gamagrass site permitting attendees to walk down into it and closely examine the roots and the soil beneath the grass. Dale will explain what is happening at the site so that ranchers can see for themselves that increased root depth results in elevated organic matter levels and improved biological activity in the soil. Expanding the root zone by managing the grazing has the potential to increase the land’s carrying capacity.
At the cabin site, ranchers will have the opportunity to view many varieties of cool season cover crops. Most varieties are solo seeded to see the effects of soil tolerances. Five different soil types exist at this location: Calcareous, eroded, poorly-drained bottom ground, well-drained bottom ground and saline sodic. Participants will see Eastern Gamagrass, Grazing Alfalfa, Low Alkaloid Reed Canary Grass, Dale’s Cover Crop Test Plot, Brown Midrib Forage Sorghum Sudan, Tropic Sun Non-Toxic Sun Hemp, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, and many other legume, forage and grass varieties.
Dale Strickler, is a former Agronomy Instructor at Concordia’s Cloud County Community College, Cover Crop and Forage Specialist for Star Seed and is passionate about soil health.
Dale purchased his irrigated farm in 2000, and slowly has transitioned it to a sub-surface drip irrigated grazing system. He utilizes annual and perennial pastures to grow the forage for his grazing operation. His ranch is an ongoing research classroom. His annual tours share the various practices that Dale utilizes to make his ranch more productive, reduce costs and improve soil health. Each year many different species of cover crops, legumes and forage possibilities are showcased to better understand how they can be used. He is a leader in helping farmers and ranchers find alternatives to purchased hay and expensive inputs especially during the recent drought. Dale is on the forefront of helping ranchers think through the endless possibilities to meet the needs of their ranch, livestock and financial situation. He is a phone call away and always willing to help. He presents at many meetings, does on farm tours and consulting. He is like the “energizer bunny” when it comes to teaching people about crops, grazing, and livestock.