ZIMMERMAN, Minn. — The Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) and University of Minnesota Extension (UMN Extension) will host a Silvopasture, Oak Savanna, and Adaptive Grazing Field Day from 8:45 p.m. – 3 p.m. on Thurs., June 2, 2022 at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman, Minn. SFA’s Silvopasture and Grazing specialists will be co-hosting the event with a cohort of UMN researchers and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge staff to share the results of recent research at the refuge.
The Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge spans 30,700 acres on the Anoka Sandplain, and is largely oak savanna. The refuge is home to a wealth of wildlife diversity, including the sandhill crane, Blanding’s turtles, and wild turkeys. And, since 2013, sometimes cattle.
“Our interest in hosting the silvopasture research evolved from the addition of grazing being implemented on the Refuge in 2013,” says Steve Karel, a Project Leader and Refuge Manager for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. At that time, they found that grazing “played a significant role in brush and invasive species management as well as promoting healthy oak savanna and grassland habitats.” There was room for more research; the Refuge has a goal of restoring 13,000 acres of oak Savanna by 2105.
For nearly three years now, University of Minnesota researcher Austin Yantes, seasoned graziers Kent Solberg and Doug Voss, and an assortment of other partners have been studying the impact of targeted grazing on vegetation management and restoration of oak savanna at the Refuge.
“To restore the oak savannas at SNWR, the main thing we needed to accomplish was getting the overly-dominant shrubs under control,” says Yantes. “Through targeted grazing we’ve been able to successfully reduce shrub density by fifty percent in just two years of management.”
Grazier and consultant Kent Solberg concurs on the success of the research at the Refuge, and the possibilities for applying targeted grazing elsewhere. “Adaptive grazing has demonstrated its ability to manage and enhance oak savanna and prairies at the Refuge. How managers integrate cattle on the landscape is critical for meeting resource and livestock goals. The work at Sherburne has demonstrated that grazing done well can benefit both cattle and natural resources,” says Solberg.
In addition to seeing the cattle in action at the field day, there will also be an overview on oak savanna history, restoration and management, as well as discussion and demonstration of adaptive grazing management and prescribed fire. Some hands-on training will be offered.
All interested members of the public, conservationists, farmers and graziers, and members of the press are invited to attend this free event. Registration is required, no walkups. Find registration at www.sfa-mn.org/silvopasture-agroforestry. Lunch will be provided.
Address: Oak Savanna Learning Center 16797 289th Ave NW Zimmerman, MN 55398.
For More Information
Some early research findings were discussed on a recent episode of SFA’s podcast series, Dirt Rich. Researcher Austin Yantes and grazier Doug Voss shared some of their initial observations on Episode 48: “Grazing Cattle to Restore Oak Savanna in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge”. The episode offers an introduction and insight to the research, and is available on all major podcasting platforms.
Additional resources are available on the SFA website, and on the Silvopasture Learning Network website. SFA, UMN Extension and other project partners work to scale up the use of silvopasture for oak savanna restoration through the development of the Learning Network, which provides educational programming, facilitates peer learning and promotes volunteerism to expand natural resource conservation.
This field day is funded by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. The event is part of a joint effort between the University of Minnesota Extension, SFA, Great River Greening, and the Center for Integrated Natural Resource Agricultural Management.
— Sustainable Farming Association