Nebraska Grazing Conference to kick off with range plant identification tour |

Nebraska Grazing Conference to kick off with range plant identification tour

The focus of this year’s conference will be rangeland health and resilience.
Photo by Teresa Clark

Conference Schedule:

August 12, Monday Pre-Conference Tour

1:00 PM Plant Identification Tour, Chris Helzer, The Nature Conservancy

5:30 PM Catered dinner for registered participants

6:30 PM Overview of The Nature Conservancy

7:00 PM Evening concludes

August 13, Tuesday Welcome Session

9:00 AM Registration (Refreshments in Exhibit Area)

9:50 AM Welcome and Opening Remarks, Daren Redfearn, Chair, Nebraska Grazing Conference Steering Committee

10:00 AM “Managing Sand Deposits after the Flood,” Daren Redfearn, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

10:40 AM “Rangeland Health: What Is It and Why Do I Care?” Patrick Shaver, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

11:20 AM “Managing a Sandhills Ranch with an Eye to Soil Health,” Dana Larsen, Broken Heart Livestock, Thedford, NE

12:00 PM Lunch

Grazinglands Management Session

1:00 PM “Soil Health: Expectations & Evidence,” Virginia Jin, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, NE

1:30 PM “Mob Grazing on Nebraska Sandhills Meadow,” Walt Schacht, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

2:00 PM “Effect of Length of Grazing Period on Upland Sandhills Range,” Jerry Volesky, Nebraska Extension, North Platte, NE

2:30 PM “The Role of Dung Beetles on Nebraska Grazinglands: A Review of Current Science,” Jeff Bradshaw, Nebraska Extension, Scottsbluff, NE

3:00 PM Break

3:30 PM “Carbon Input and Loss in Semi-arid Sandy Rangeland,” Martha Mamo, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

4:15 PM “Graze 365,” Jacob Miller, 7M Ranch, Culbertson, NE

4:45 PM “Soil Health and Grazing Strategies: Opportunities for Increasing Soil Water,” Andrea Basche, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

5:15 PM Social (Compliments of Ramada by Wyndham Kearney)

August 14, Wednesday Art & Science of Winter Grazing Session

7:30 AM Registration (Refreshments in Exhibit Area)

8:00 AM Producer Panel: Winter Forage Strategies Lon Larsen, Broken Heart Livestock, Thedford, NE John Maddux, Maddux Cattle Company, Wauneta, NE Logan Pribbeno, Wine Glass Ranch, Inc., Imperial, NE

9:00 AM “Odds and Ends of Non-traditional Winter Grazing Strategies,” Bruce Anderson, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

9:30 AM “Size Does Not Matter When It Comes to Conservation,” Jim O’Rourke (2018 Leopold Award Recipient), RuJoDen Ranch, Chadron, NE

10:00 AM Break

Rangeland Resilience Session

10:30 AM “Resilience of Sandhills Grassland to Wildfire during Drought,” Jack Arterburn, Nebraska Extension, Rushville, NE

11:00 AM “Grazing Before and After Prescribed Burns,” Sarah Sortum, Switzer Ranch, Burwell, NE 11:30 AM “Resilience in Working Landscapes,” Craig Allen, Center for Resilience in Working Agricultural Landscapes, IANR

12:00 PM Lunch

Conference Reflection

1:00 PM “Where to Next?” Bruce Anderson, Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

1:30 PM Final Comments, Evaluations, Adjourn

The 19th annual Nebraska Grazing Conference is still slated for Aug. 12-14 in Kearney, Neb., despite recent flooding in the city. But the event will be held at the Exhibition Building at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, 3807 Avenue N, in Kearney, near the Buffalo County Extension Offices and not where it was initially scheduled.

For a list of hotels with contracted conference rates, refer to the Nebraska Grazing Conference website at Hotel reservations must be made by Aug. 1.

“We are pretty excited about the program this year,” said Daren Redfearn, who is one of the coordinators for the annual event. The conference will kick off with a plant identification tour Monday afternoon, Aug. 12. “This tour is in response to comments on a survey from people wanting to learn more about plant identification. A program on plant identification is a challenge in an indoor facility, but we had an opportunity to have it in the field,” Redfearn said. Chris Helzer with The Nature Conservancy will host the half-day tour in an area where they have access to several different plant communities from Sandhills plant communities, to floodplain grasslands, wetlands, restored croplands and grassland vegetation. “Participants will have the opportunity to receive hands-on training in plant identification. This will be a great opportunity to look at a wide range of different plants and tune up your grass identification skills,” he said.

Two keynote speakers that are now retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will highlight this year’s conference. Patrick Shaver, who now teaches at Oregon State University, will discuss “Rangeland Health: What is it and Why do I Care,” and Dana Larsen, who has returned to her family’s ranch, Broken Heart Livestock in Thedford, Neb., will discuss “Managing a Sandhills Ranch with an Eye to Soil Health.” Both individuals are heavily involved in grazing land conservation, planning and application, Redfearn said.

One goal of the conference has been to address grazing needs. To accomplish this, Redfearn said they try and make sure every presentation is related to grazing lands management. “It is designed for people with an interest in the utilization and conservation of grazing lands. This year, we have a session on grazing land management involving extension and research specialists from the University of Nebraska,” he said. The focus of that session will be a summary of an eight-year research project conducted at the Barta Brothers Ranch in the eastern part of Nebraska in the Sandhills.

Walt Schacht, who is an agronomy and horticulture extension specialist, will talk about “Mob grazing on Nebraska Sandhills meadow,” which is a summary of animal responses to grazing. Nebraska extension educator Jerry Volesky will discuss the “Effect of length of grazing period on upland Sandhills range,” which will summarize plant responses during the research project.

Jeff Bradshaw, who is an extension educator in Scottsbluff, will discuss his research findings on the dung beetle work he has conducted. “Over the years, we have also tried to include some producers during these sessions to show how they are applying some of this research on their own operations,” Redfearn said. Jacob Miller of the 7M Ranch in Culbertson, Neb., will discuss how he has used grazing research in his own program during his presentation “Graze 365.”

Another highlight is the producer panel that will discuss the art and science of winter grazing. Lon Larsen of Broken Heart Livestock in Thedford, John Maddux of Maddux Cattle Company in Wauneta and Logan Pribbeno of Wine Glass Ranch, Inc., in Imperial will share their own winter grazing strategies.


The grazing conference was developed after two Nebraska extension educators, Terry Gompert and Bob Scriven, had an initial vision for the need to serve ranchers, farmers, wildlife managers, conservation groups and advisers. “The conference is basically designed for anyone who wants to make grazing a profitable enterprise,” Redfearn said.

“The first Nebraska Grazing conference was held in August 2001. This year will be our 19th annual conference. The reason the conference is held is if you look at the land grant mission for the University of Nebraska, there is a philosophy of teaching, research and extension that will first meet the needs of the citizens of the state by combining those three philosophies,” Redfearn said. “The conference focuses on the utilization and conservation of grazing lands, and the desire to learn more about them based on the most current information available.”

The conference also features a vendor area where some businesses who partner with the Nebraska Grazing Conference, set up displays to promote their products. Other vendors are also welcome at the conference, but need to first register for the event by calling Brent Plugge, University of Nebraska extension in Kearney, at (308) 236-1235.

The grazing conference is open to anyone. For more information or to register, visit or call (402) 472-8747. ❖

— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at

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