Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Inc.
November 2013

Southwest Wisconsin Grazing Broker Project 
is Funded!


Southwest Badger recently received a grant for $189,304 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which has partnered with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Walton Family Foundation to enhance their grant funding opportunities.


This is a two-year project grant to hire a full-time Grazing/Grassland Broker.  The primary responsibility of the Grazing Broker will be to connect landowners who have grassland acres with graziers who want to lease grassland acres for grazing.  For more information, position description and application procedures, click here.


Thanks to our many partners who have offered support (and matching contributions totaling $524,955) including:  Wisconsin Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS); Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP); The Nature Conservancy (TNC); County Land Conservation Departments; University of Wisconsin Extension; GrassWorks; Wisconsin Grass-fed Beef Coop; Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association; Pheasants Forever; Trout Unlimited; and Green Lands Blue Waters.


Southwest Badger also received $30,000 from the Wallace Foundation at Winrock International to again host a series of three workshops to encourage contract grazing.  The first will be held Saturday, December 14 in Dodgeville and focus on grazing as a land use option for landowners.  A workshop on expanding pasture resources for producers will be held in February, followed by a workshop bringing producers and landowners together in March. For more information regarding the upcoming workshops, click here. 


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About Us
Southwest Badger is a community development organization serving Crawford, Grant, Green, Iowa, LaCrosse, Lafayette, Richland, Sauk and Vernon counties. Our mission is to implement natural resource conservation, managed growth, and sustainable rural economic development in our area. We are a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization based out of Platteville, Wisconsin.
In This Issue
Grazing Broker Funded
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Forest Stewardship with Patrick Dayton
Aquatic Invasive Species with Don Barrette
Miscanthus Update with Mike Lieurance
Grazing with Dennis Rooney

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Forest Stewardship
Patrick Dayton, Forester/Project Coordinator


There is a chill in the air as the Wisconsin forests return to dormancy and the summer heat once again

becomes a fading memory.  The forest stewardship effort of Southwest Badger is as strong as it ever was since I've been here.  We are currently wrapping up our work/assistance with the city forest in La Crosse and my focus has shifted to the Driftless Forestry Network (DFN).  


The Driftless Forest Network project emphasizes outreach and work with "unengaged" forest landowners.  In the past, Southwest Badger forestry projects have assisted landowners who are already partially "engaged" with the thought that working with those people would advance the cause of forestry further; but the federal and state governments have concentrated their efforts to get more people involved.  A big part of this project is measuring how many landowners get involved in grant projects and what is accomplished when they do.  That information is of high value to the Forest Service.  The DFN's measurement of actions and accomplishments of landowners working with the grant project is state of the art and very cutting edge.  


This project allows me to work with landowners who may have never had a professional forester walk the woods with them, so it is a great opportunity for me to teach (and learn).  The DFN has many strong partners and is a veritable "who's who" of forestry in Southwest Wisconsin.  This is an advantageous group for Southwest Badger to be a part of because it will refine our work and help us connect better to landowners and others in our area practicing forestry.


Southwest Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Planning Initiative
Don Barrette, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator


Thanks to our partners for another successful season in the battle against aquatic invasive species. To date we have sampled over 120 public river/stream access areas and 15 public boat landing areas. From these surveys we have organized aquatic invasive species plant removal projects and have gained insight into future aquatic invasive species needs of the region (outlined in a strategic plan).  From this success we are encouraged that our presence has made a difference in this fight.


There have been several new discoveries (Japanese Hops/Richland and Iowa Counties and New Zealand Mud snail/Dane County) making our job of increasing education about prevention methods and awareness of aquatic invasive species distribution that much more important. We need to stay vigilant and educate all natural resource users to ensure they don't transfer aquatic invasives from one place to another.  


Strategic Plan

The new Southwest Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Strategic Plan is a tool to help natural resource users, conservation professionals, regional biologists and others involved in the fight against new aquatic invasive species introductions.  The strategic plan concentrates on target groups and offers preventative measures and best practices to mitigate new aquatic invasive species introductions.  Included in the plan are aquatic invasive species distribution maps that can be helpful for gauging risks when traveling to an unfamiliar or new area. The plan is a road map for organizations and individuals who want to make a difference in reducing aquatic invasive species introductions and transfer.



Southwest Badger hosted several Clean Boats Clean Waters watercraft inspections, produced and presented on aquatic invasive species topics at county fairs and other educational institutions, held conservation workshops to train biology professionals on aquatic invasive species prevention methods and identification, organized a group check in the Sauk County Wisconsin River/Mirror Lake watershed region and participated in a host of aquatic invasive species events.


Aquatic invasive species don't take a vacation, so we are planning for 2014.  During the winter I intend to hold several meetings with our county partners to discuss new aquatic invasive species goals and new changes in the DNR grant writing process. I would also like to look at alternative methods for accomplishing preexisting goals. This may include funding options to continue to do aquatic invasive species work and discussions on regional reorganization outlined in the strategic plan.


Miscanthus Demonstration Project
Mike Lieurance, Biomass Specialist


Back in 2008 Southwest Badger began a farm scale switchgrass demonstration project on six area farms. The goals of the project were to determine the best agronomic practices available for switchgrass yields on marginal soils and provide the needed financial data to determine if switchgrass was an economically viable biomass crop for Southwest Wisconsin.


When the study originally started it was assumed that we could average yields of 5 tons per acre. In reality it appears that 3 - 3 tons per acre is more the norm with present varieties available after the study was completed. Two factors that may have contributed to lower yields include the fact that we purposely targeted lower producing (marginal) cropland and no fertilizer was applied to the demonstration plots. The reason marginal soils were selected was so we would not be taking our better more productive cropland soils out of production.


In 2009 Southwest Badger entered into a cooperative agreement with Tom Ralston to implement "Hybrid Switchgrass Establishment and Miscanthus Research" in Southwest Wisconsin. Two varieties were planted. In the 4 growing years, the miscanthus reached approximately 9 feet in height in its best growing year and averaged 4 tons of biomass per acre on very marginal soils. 2013 was the fourth and final year for this biomass research project.


Grazing Initiative
Dennis Rooney, Grazing Specialist


For producers who manage livestock operations, prescribed grazing systems offer an effective way to reduce energy use, decrease costs, and improve animal health and productivity. Well managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants, enhance the quality of water, reduce soil erosion and improve soil condition.


Prescribed grazing allows producers to alternate between resting and grazing two or more units in a planned sequence that takes several factors into consideration, including the rate of plant growth, level of vegetative cover, needs of the grazing animal, and other environmental inputs. The availability of water throughout the grazing area is also important because it minimizes concentrated areas of livestock and enhances nutrient distribution.


It takes 40 pounds of nitrogen and about 1.35 gallons of diesel fuel to raise, harvest, store, and feed a ton of grass hay. At today's cost of $0.45 per pound of nitrogen and $3.50 per gallon of fuel, there are direct energy savings of $10.95 per month per cow for each month cows remain on pasture. Most cost savings arise from using less fuel to harvest hay, store it, and transport it to feeding locations. In dairy operations, leaving cows on pasture also reduces the need for electricity to moderate the climate of freestall barns, and decreases labor cost associated with feeding cattle in confinement and associated manure handling, storage, and spreading.


In addition to energy savings, prescribed grazing has been shown to improve the profitability of cattle operations. Beef cattle raised and finished on high quality pasture that is thick and lush have been shown to have a rapid average daily gain of two or more pounds and reach a marketable weight within just 20 months at a coast of $27 per hundred-weight of gain, verses $60 in confinement. By applying grazing management, dairies in New York and Wisconsin found that pastured lactating dairy cows consistently show higher net farm income from operations over a four year period when compared to confined cows, whether measured per cow or per hundred weight of milk.


Since August I have attended 4 pasture walks, attended the quarterly Southwest Badger meeting in Dodgeville, attended 2 grazing broker meetings, consulted with 20 landowners on their pastures, did soil samples for one and profiles and stocking rates for four landowners. I recently started working part time as a Grazing Consultant with Valley Stewardship Network with land owners in the Kickapoo Valley.


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