From the Archives: Conservation Chat Podcast with Farmer Nathan Anderson

The Conservation Chat podcast is taking a break for the next few months, but I would like to take you back through our archives on a tour of the “Best of the Conservation Chat Podcast.” There are 38 great podcast episodes to choose from – what’s your favorite?


This month, take some time out to listen to Conservation Chat Episode 28 with Cherokee County farmer Nathan Anderson. Nathan’s interview with host Jacqueline Comito sheds light on a common problem that many young Iowa farmers are facing: how to make the transition back onto the farm.

“It takes people like my dad who are willing to let somebody come back into the farming operation,” Nathan said of his father. He recognizes that his father made sacrifices, including “[forgoing] some of that income, and also [letting] me try new things that maybe he doesn’t agree with or doesn’t know about.”

Livestock is an early entry point for the next generation to begin or return to the farm. Nathan raises a cow-calf herd with his father and was given the opportunity to try new practices including rotational grazing, cover crops, increasing herd size and changing herd genetics to favor cattle that could utilize certain pasture resources. Nathan has fire in his belly for conservation and farming, but he also recognizes that it’s important to be patient.

“This farming world that we work in, there are a lot of things that we might want to do and we can’t have them all right now,” Nathan commented. “It’s a practice of patience. Patience is active. If you’re being patient, you have to work at it.”

Listen to the podcast episode now! Learn more about Iowa Learning Farms’ Emerging Farmer Project and consider attending our upcoming Emerging Farmer Soil Health and Grazing Workshop  on March 15 in Creston!

Julie Winter

Webinar Recap: Whiterock Conservancy Shares Innovative Pasture Management Ideas


Did you miss our webinar last week with Rob Davis of the Whiterock Conservancy? We experienced technical difficulties on the day of the webinar; however, our archived version of the webinar includes better quality audio and some video of our presenter. Watch the webinar here!

Webinar1Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust of 5,500 acres located near Coon Rapids along the Middle Raccoon River. Most people may not realize that Whiterock is Iowa’s third largest recreation area in the state. In addition to its conventional cropping and pasture systems, visitors to Whiterock can explore prairies, pasture, woodlands and savannas through a network of trails.

Whiterock incorporates recreation into its pasture system by offering campgrounds and trails that are suited for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. They also host guided walks, tractor rides and Sunday drives through pastures with gators and ATVs.

For its 395 acres of permanent pasture land and 125 acres of savanna, Whiterock uses a variety of approaches to management including rotational grazing, management intensive grazing and conservation grazing.

Whiterock has also sectioned the pasture into 640 feet wide fencing alleyways, added filter strips around the ponds and installed a water line with a stub outs every 150 feet. Rob even considers cattle as a “tool” that can help control and trample dominant and invasive species like thistle.

One interesting approach Rob has tried is diversifying Whiterock’s pasture by mixing both warm- and cool-season species.

“We do have a couple demonstration areas where we’ve done a warm-season prairie seeding on a couple of our pastures. Most of those were flops. Those were seeded in 2009 and for whatever reason, whatever was seeded in 2009 on a couple of different seedings did not turn out well. But, when we grazed that in the end of May 2014, grazed that cool-season nearly to the ground, left two inch stubble, the warm-season community popped, even five years after that original seeding.”

Rob says that although he gets some funny looks when he pitched the idea of warm- and cool season pastures, he’s found a way to manage it at Whiterock. He uses small-scale prescribed burns, overseeds the warm-season in February or March and then encourages the warm-season community to grow by allowing high-density grazing over a period of days.

webinar5Learn about how Rob Davis manages his pasture in this webinar – there are many other unique things that Whiterock is doing that may be of interest to your operation. Better yet, head out to Whiterock to see it for yoursef! Watch the archived version of the webinar here.

Julie Winter

Iowa Learning Farms Webinar to Discuss Pasture Conservation and Grazing

WebinarWhiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust of 5,500 acres located near Coon Rapids along the Middle Raccoon River. The Conservancy demonstrates a variety of sustainable agricultural practices that build soil health. Rob Davis, Conservation Lands Manager with Whiterock Conservancy, will discuss pasture conservation and grazing for soil, livestock and wildlife benefits during the Iowa Learning Farms webinar on Wednesday, January 17 at 12:00 noon.

DATE: Wednesday, January 17, 2018
TIME: 12:00 noon
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Log on as a guest shortly before 12:00 p.m.:

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:

Julie Winter

Iowa Learning Farms Webinar: Talking Grazing with Joe Sellers

web3Did you miss our webinar with Joe Sellers, Iowa State University Extension Beef Field Specialist, this week? You’re in luck because we archive all of our webinars on our website!

Tune into the webinar to learn more about:

  • Results from long-term grazing studies on the ISU McNay Research Farm in Chariton
  • How pasture helps store more carbon and organic matter than it loses
  • How to manage grass throughout the growing season and your forage supply year-round
  • How to improve grazing through fertility maintenance and grazing efficiency
  • Why water placement is critical and can help with pasture utilization and manure distribution
  • Resources you can use to learn more, including an updated “Pasture Management Guide,” workshops, the Iowa Forage and Grasslands Conference and more in-depth classes such as the Greenhorn Grazing Class and the Iowa Certified Graziers Class

A few great quotes from Joe:


“As graziers, we are really managers of plant leaf area and root carbohydrate reserves.”

“Management-intensive grazing is not intensive grazing!”




Tune into the webinar to learn more!

Julie Whitson

October 18 Webinar to Discuss Management-Intensive Grazing and Grasslands

Pasture and forage acres are critical to soil conservation and the profitability of beef cattle operations. Grab your lunch and learn from Joe Sellers, Beef Field Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Sellers will discuss practices that improve grazing effectiveness and how management-intensive grazing can work on Iowa farms. He will also discuss where opportunities exist to expand grasslands in Iowa.

DATE: Wednesday, October 18, 2017
TIME: 12:00 noon
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Log on as a guest shortly before 12:00 p.m.:

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:

Julie Whitson


Getting Started with Rotational Grazing

Considering the transition to rotational grazing?  Wondering where exactly to start?  Ruminate on the following tips and words of wisdom for getting started with rotational grazing, shared at an Iowa Learning Farms Whiterock Conservancy joint field day this past week.

1.  Build the system to what you can afford.
Infrastructure considerations up front include fencing, water lines, tank/waterer system, and mineral feeder.

2.  Start with a system that’s manageable for you.
Pat Corey, NRCS (tenant at Whiterock/rotational grazing guru) recommends starting with a 5-6 paddock system, in which the cattle are moved once per week. That gives each paddock a 30 day rest period before the cattle return.

3.  Scale up when you’re ready. Each initial paddock can be divided in half, resulting in a 10-12 paddock system, in which the cattle are moved every 4 days.

4.  Be aware of herbicide residuals.
Always read and follow label directions, and be aware of grazing restrictions – some herbicides have up to an 18 month residual.

5.  Integrate cover crops for an additional spring food source.
Let the rye grow big enough in the spring so there is good root structure in place to balance out compaction from the livestock. At Whiterock, cattle are out on the rye from approximately April 1 until May 15, providing an excellent supplemental food source in the spring months.

6.  Try to maximize flexibility in the system! 
It’s all a learning process. Planning up front for the desired infrastructure, combined with active on-the-ground management, can yield a robust rotational grazing system, resulting in improved pasture productivity, reduced inputs, increased wildlife, benefits to soil health and water quality, and healthier herds overall.

Thanks to Pat Corey (NRCS), Darwin Pierce and Rob Davis (Whiterock Conservancy) for sharing their insights on rotational grazing!  To learn more, check out the following resources:

Ann Staudt

Conservation Gone to the Goats!

As a dog owner, I’ve covered a lot of miles with my Siberian Husky walking the streets, sidewalks and trails of west Ames. However, one of our special adventures is taking a short road trip out to Ada Hayden Heritage Park on the north side of town. It’s just a few miles away, but visiting this urban park gives the feeling of a great escape when you’re immersed in the sights and sounds of the prairie, oak savanna, and wetlands surrounding the lake itself.

Wildlife sightings are always exciting out at Ada Hayden, and the changing seasons bring a plethora of unique insects, reptiles, amphibians, and waterfowl to the park. On our most recent visit, we were excited to stumble upon a different animal we hadn’t seen out there before – goats! A new herd has taken the park by storm, and it’s all in the name of conservation!

Along the south side of the lake, a herd of 40+ goats, provided by Goats On the Go, has taken up temporary residence in a 3.5 acre area. The goats were brought in specifically for the purpose of targeted grazing, clearing out low brush and managing invasive vegetation in the oak savanna area. Targeted grazing with goats offers many benefits – including reduced use of herbicides (and the associated challenges of herbicide resistance), reduced need for mowing, and their ability to work in rough terrain with minimal risk of erosion. The goats are fenced in to ensure they are grazing the correct targeted area, and they typically spend 4-7 days per acre before being moved. The Goats On the Go website says it best: Goats go where people can’t, eat what most animals won’t, and leave behind nothing but fertilizer.

How do the goats know exactly what to eat?  The goats are not specifically trained to eat certain plants and avoid others. It just so happens that quite a few common nuisance or invasive species are to be some of the goats’ favorite delicacies, including honeysuckle, poison ivy, wild parsnip, buckthorn, garlic mustard, thistle, ragweed, mulberry, and more. The goats will also eat some grass, but when the above species are present, the grass comprises a pretty small portion of their diets.

The City of Ames is in good company with its use of targeted grazing. Goats are gaining traction across the country as excellent mob grazers, from airports (Goats, Llamas and Sheep Make Up Landscaping Team at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport) to golf courses (Grazing Goats To Help Prune SF Presidio Golf Course’s Bushes, Lawns) and business campuses (check out the Goats of Google!).

SO, bring on the goats! It’s quite the show, and ALSO an excellent practice when it comes to land management, invasive species control, and conservation.

In addition to the goat spectacle, the prairie is ablaze in color out at Ada Hayden, as well. I’ll leave you with a selection of snapshots from our adventure exploring the prairies and wetlands, and the lake as well, on a gorgeous July day.

Ann Staudt