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Moving Buffalo For Rotational Grazing

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:00 pm, outside temperature 98°.

This summer has been hot and dry. The smokey haziness from afar fires have found their way into the skyline and crevices of the ranch giving many morning outlooks a doomsday feel and camouflaging the sweet aroma of the grass and sunshine. Thankfully, we have missed the fires. But make no mistake, we are feeling the effects and are experiencing our own crisis of a drought. The average annual precipitation in western South Dakota is around 15 inches and the average high temperature in the summer is around 88°.

In May we installed weather stations at various points around the ranch. Since then, according to the data collected, we have received just under six inches of rainfall, which Dan calls “just enough”, and the temperatures from late June through today have mostly been in the triple digits, with 116° coming in as the high! Oofta! A game changer with precipitation.

As a rancher during these times, you must have enough forage for your animals, or you must truck forage in. Through a proper grazing rotation schedule, it is possible to manage your land for optimal forage for drought conditions. Although this year has had its challenges – it is the rotational management of years in practice that has put us in a position to survive it all and keep the buffalo and all species happy. This is not easy, but it is a study of listening to the land and understanding what a certain pasture can withstand; giving it rest some years, hitting it hard other years, and so on. It is an art. And, it is critical in prairie regeneration and conservation.

The video below is a stitching of many clips of moving the buffalo over the land and observing them in their various pastures over this summer (June – August). It will give you an idea of the different terrains within one ecosystem that they occupy. Our process of moving them is slow, but toward the end you will see Colton giving the herd a few nudges during our last move, as the rut is in full swing and moving is not their priority. You will also see clips of the buffaloes’ behavior during the rut. While it may seem aggressive, the herd as a whole carry on. I hope you enjoy the scenery and that it gives you transparency in our large landscape grazing model.

Stay cool!

Drone footage: Jarrod Walton

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6 comments

  • thanks for the video/so informative.
    Separate thought (no answer expected): you wrote that it air temp was 98 degrees above ground….has anyone done comparisons between air temps at ground level on healthy prairie soil & soil temps below ground – compared to soil temps on bare ground/below bare ground and on mono-culture ag ground. just wondering if that is an additional reason to add to a growing list of reasons to save grasslands around the country//world.
    thanks for all you do.

    Pat Wood
  • Fantastic footage of very impressive creatures in such a beautiful open prairie. Nothing like it! Thank you for sharing. Hope to get back to the ranch for a visit some day. Thank you O’Briens, Jones’s and the whole WIB family for all you do.

    Chris and Kim
  • Thanks for bringing peace and tranquility to the end of a stressful day! I love your videos so please keep them coming. I appreciate everything you all do to nurture and preserve the land and the mighty buffalo.

    Rachel Makool

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