Photo by Troy Walz
Prairie chickens draw people to Nebraska and are a potential enterprise for ranchers.
Ranches are home to more than families and cattle. A variety of wildlife also call the grasslands home. Ranch owners can learn ways to share their wildlife with others at a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Calamus Outfitters on the Switzer Ranch near Taylor. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the day will conclude at 4 p.m. CDT.
The workshop will provide an opportunity to learn about ranch enterprises that rely on more than cows, such as hunting and birding. Topics will include birding, habitat and grazing, and outdoor sessions.
Pre-registration is due by Sept. 3 to the Central Sandhills Area Extension Office. Call 308-645-2267 or 800-657-2113. Registration is limited to the first 60. This program is organized by UNL Extension and is free of charge, thanks to support from the World Wildlife Fund.
Grassland bird habitat is affected by grass height, cover density of the vegetation, and plant type. Walt Schacht, UNL Professor of Rangeland Sciences, is collaborating with Larkin Powell, UNL Professor of Wildlife, and graduate students to study the effects of livestock grazing on habitat and behavior of greater prairie chickens.
Nebraska has one of the largest populations of greater prairie chickens in the country. Identifying habitat requirements for leks (booming grounds), nesting, and brood rearing are important for increasing prairie chicken populations. Schacht will draw on research at the UNL Barta Brothers Ranch and surrounding area on grazing and habitat of prairie chicken and other upland birds to discuss how grazing and birds can work together.
“This research tells us that the patchiness in density and composition of vegetation that results from livestock grazing can provide lek, nesting, and brood-rearing habitat needed by prairie chicken,” Schacht said.
Bruce and Sue Switzer have experience establishing multiple enterprises on their ranch. The Switzers’ cattle ranch was sufficient for them, but they wanted to bring their children back to the ranch. Additional enterprises brought son and daughter Adam’s and Sarah’s families back home.
Lodging, tanking and tubing, Jeep tours, hunting, and birding are part of everyday life on the Switzer Ranch. The Switzers will give their insight on starting these enterprises, and give a Jeep/bus tour of their birding setup.
Also, Joe Bob Atkins with Arnold Insurance Agency will talk about insurance considerations, as most current farm and ranch policies may not be sufficient.