Blending Farming and Conservation
replanted the switch grass and also planted 7 acres of eastern gamma grass.
The warm-season grasses are vital to their farming operation. The summer of 2007 was very dry, and most of McConnell’s neighbors were feeding hay during July and August. However, the 16 acres of warm-season grass provided 53 days of grazing during July and August. “When the neighbors were feeding hay, all I was doing was moving a poly wire to provide new grass,” Richard said.
Reducing the amount of soil erosion occurring along the stream also became a priority. They noticed that the amount and diversity of aquatic life seemed to be on the decline. Although the rotational grazing system had reduced the effects the cattle were having to the stream banks, the McConnells wanted to expand the riparian corridor and make that area more wildlife friendly.
They followed the conservation plan that included fencing off a half-mile of stream from cattle, restoring a 50-foot-wide riparian corridor along the stream, constructing two rock stream crossings and enrolling the riparian corridor area into the Conservation Reserve Program.
Now, nearly 15 years later, the riparian corridor is dense and thick, providing shade for the stream and much cooler water temperatures. During most of the summer there are pools of water full of minnows and crawdads. Before the modifications, the stream would normally dry up in June. Deer and turkey are regularly seen using the riparian corridor as a travel lane and to drink water. The McConnells also noted that now during heavy rain, the stream will rise but not with the same violent force that it did before. The water color will be milky but not the deep brown it once was. These changes mean that the soil particles are staying on the streambanks and not being carried downstream.
When asked if there is anything else they have planned for the farm, Richard said, “No, I finally have it pretty much how I envisioned it 19 years ago when I purchased the farm.” He then added, “Without the technical assistance from employees of the NRCS, SWCD and MDC and various cost-share programs through these agencies, I would have never been able to achieve this dream.”
Visit us online at mdc.mo.gov/node/2089 to learn more about resources for landowners and farmers, or see Page 3 for regional contact information. Discover how conservation can benefit your farm, our economy and everyone’s quality of life.