The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have joined forces to help Minnesota livestock farmers in need of additional forage to feed their herds.

Many livestock owners were unable to send animals for processing due to COVID-19-related disruptions at meat slaughtering facilities, and as a result some farmers have larger herds and are running out of feed.

These changes, along with drought conditions in parts of the state, are putting additional pressure on an already low state-wide forage stockpile. The agencies are working to streamline the process of approving haying and grazing on state-owned land. 

Livestock producers in need of additional forage are encouraged to e-mail their DNR Area wildlife manager to discuss options in their area.

Contact information can be found on the conservation grazing map on the MDA Web site at www.mda.state.mn.us.

Most public land does not have adequate fencing for cattle, so grazing cooperators should expect to install and remove temporary fencing before and after the grazing period. The cooperator will also need to check to make sure any available water supply from ponds or streams is adequate for livestock.

Livestock farmers can expect to pay market value for hay and grazing done on public land. Deductions will be made for work done such as putting up and removing fence, hauling water and work to cut, bale and move hay.

“The DNR is eager to partner with Minnesota cattle farmers and demonstrate the value grasslands bring to local communities,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR fish and wildlife division director. “We know we can help local farmers while using haying and grazing to help us manage grassland habitat for wildlife and pollinators."

“We applaud DNR and MDA for working with farmers on conservation grazing,” said Gary Wertish, Minnesota Farmers Union president. “Our farmers appreciate having this option to keep their cattle healthy while providing habitat management for wildlife on our public lands. It’s especially important right now, as large meat processors have had to close at times during the pandemic and farmers are doing their part to slow the backlog of livestock.”

“Minnesota Farm Bureau knows that working together works,” said Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau president. “We are glad to see MDA and DNR work together with our organizations to ensure that farmers have access to additional forage while managing state grassland habitat.”

For more about conservation grazing, contact Greg Hoch of the DNR by calling (218)-443-0476 or via e-mail at greg.hoch@ state.mn.us, or Kelly Anderson of the MDA by calling (320) 808-4424 or via e-mail at kelly.anderson@state.mn.us.

“Grazing and haying can be a valuable tool in grassland wildlife conservation,” Olfelt said. “This is a win-win for both conservation and agriculture.” 

- Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain