A grassbank in Missouri welcomes cattle, showing how grazing and 'hoof traffic' help conserve prairie


By Eva Tesfaye, Harvest Public Media

via KCUR - September 21, 2022


Dunn Ranch Prairie has the first grassbank in the Midwest, a partnership where The Nature Conservancy allows local ranchers to graze their cattle on its grasslands while the ranchers’ pasture is allowed to rest.


A pristine tallgrass prairie in northern Missouri is home to hundreds of wildflower species and birds.


Herds of cattle help keep these 3,000 acres a sanctuary for diverse plants and wildlife — just by wandering around and munching on a tallgrass buffet. The cows eat invasive cool season grasses, while their hoof traffic pounds seeds into the ground.


“You got that benefit from the grazing side of things, but also I think one of the things that people don't really look at is the hoof traffic benefit,” said Kent Wamsley, the grasslands and sustainable agriculture manager at Dunn Ranch Prairie.


The Nature Conservancy owns this prairie land and entered into contracts three years ago with two local ranchers. It allows them to graze their cattle on the conservancy's land for a few months out of the year, while the ranchers’ pastures rest. The partnership has worked so well that the conservancy will offer to renew the contracts for another three years.


“We're getting great benefit from the cows in the early season months, getting on the fescue and grazing that,” said Wamsley. “They're getting great benefit at that time of stockpiling some stuff, giving some rest on some of their pastures.”


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