Niobrara County producers, conservation groups gather to discuss successes and challenges
Lusk – In late October, Niobrara County Conservation District (NCCD) united ranchers from the region for a chance to discuss best practices in an effort that rekindle regular meetings from the 1990s.
“NCCD and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) used to gather the ranchers in this area every month for what we called, ‘Meeting of the Minds,’” said NCCD Manager Lisa Shaw. “We toured each other’s ranches and had speakers on conservation practices, grass ID, weeds and cattle management.”
Shaw noted that monthly meetings began to take a toll, and participation decreased.
“I think we started to burn everyone out, so we decided to let ranchers take the knowledge and apply it how they felt best worked for them,” Shaw said. “This recent event was a reunion.”
The 2016 Meeting of the Minds Reunion served to bring the group back together again and to share new ideas, introduce new people and learn from each other.
“A decade ago, many of the ranchers’ goals were to increase production so a family member could move back to their roots,” Shaw said. “In visiting with them over the summer, I realized that a lot of those ranchers had done just that, which is pretty cool in my mind.”
NCCD sent 50 invitations to the people who were the core of the original group, and additional invitations were sent to other folks who had worked with the group, taken over their family ranch or were new to the county.
“These folks will fuel the fire to revive the group,” Shaw added.
During the meeting, not only did the group catch up on the last 10 year’s worth of work, they also heard a presentation from Nancy Hersey on bale grazing.
“Nancy is new to the group, and her presentation was followed with open discussion for questions and answers,” Shaw said. “The Hanson family also provided a lot of interesting information about what they’ve been doing with crested wheat grass and cattle grazing.”
The meeting was also opened up to anyone who wanted to share something new that they were doing on their operation.
“I added a new section on technology, as that has vastly changed since the 90s,” Shaw continued. “We talked about how easy it is to use technology to accomplish things that used to take so long. We discussed precipitation, mapping, Excel sheets and more.”
To conclude the session, NCCD distributed a survey to gain direction on activities for the future.
“We will bring back the Meeting of the Minds group and tour the county to see the cool things that are happening in our area,” Shaw said. “In 2017, we also plan to host several day-long workshops to continue to learn from each other.”
Shaw concluded, “NCCD was blessed to pass the mill levy again at the beginning of November, so we are Niobrara Strong and ready to go to work for the folks of the county.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.