Rancher Roundtable Wrap Up and Video Recordings

Photo by: Kjerstin Sandru

After four great events on a variety of topics, this winter’s Rancher Roundtable Series came to a close in February. For folks who missed an event or would like to re watch, video recordings of the presentations are available to watch here.

The series kicked off at the Ennis Public Library on January 11th with large animal veterinarian Will Oliver of Chuteside Veterinary Science presenting on livestock vaccination. Will covered topics including reasons to vaccinate, goals of a vaccination program, brands, the mechanics of vaccinating, and potential related adverse effects. 

The series continued with state soil health specialist Marni Thompson on January 25th at the Alder Firehall discussing cover crops and other potential tools for dryland soil health. Marni brought in examples of healthy and unhealthy soils, and provided demonstrations showing differences in soil stability and water infiltration between the two. Marni went in depth into selecting cover crop seed mixes based on soil type, how the soil health could be improved, seed costs, and potential to graze cover crops. Other topics Marni covered included bale grazing, stripper headers, and disc drills. 

Next, Bryan and Cole Mannix joined us in Ennis on February 15th, to discuss their perspectives and experiences managing soil health on a family ranch. They highlighted techniques including swath grazing, where hay is basically cut into a swath and placed in the field for cattle to graze during the winter. The process can greatly reduce feed, labor, and machinery costs associated with feeding livestock through the winter. By using less machinery, this method reduces soil compaction, improving soil aggregation and water infiltration. The feeding method also helps incorporate organic matter, diversify the soil microbiome, and improve nutrient cycling. Byran and Cole covered several other topics, including using sheep to control invasive species like knapweed, and considerations for calving later in the season. 

Finally, the series wrapped up on February 22nd in Alder with Dr. Jeff Mosley of MSU Extension discussing rangeland conditions for livestock during drought. Dr. Mosley led a highly  practical discussion on ways ranchers could alter management plans during drought for improved soil health and an overall more successful operation. Considerations included timing and intensity of grazing, planning rotations, choosing pasture based on whether it was used before or after the onset of drought in previous seasons, and when and how to cull cattle. 

The event organizers would like to say thank you to all of the speakers for contributing their time and expertise, as well as to all those who attended for creating such engaging conversations. Finally, thank you to Madison Valley Bank and Opportunity Bank of Montana for sponsoring delicious community meals from Pic-a-Nic Basket and Blue Anchor! We hope to see everyone again for next winter’s Rancher Roundtable series!