WASHINGTON, Ind. — For more than 25 years, Victor Shelton,
Indiana agronomist and grazing specialist with the Natural Resources
Conservation Service, has provided advice about grazing’s best practices.
Shelton travels across the state conducting pasture walks,
working one on one with farmers and participating in grazing talks.
Also, a newsletter, Grazing Bites, was created as a way to
talk about current and seasonal grazing issues and what farmers need to be
“It can help keep them in the loop and aware of issues,”
Shelton said. “It also makes them better managers.”
Shelton, a fifth-generation farmer, lives on a farm that has
been in his family for more than 200 years. Shelton said he is a
“conservationist at heart.”
“I think we should be managing our land as best as we can,”
he said. “I am determined to leave the land in better shape than I found it.”
Shelton also likes to be innovative with technology and
tests devices on his own property.
“I persistently experiment on my own place to prove or
disprove something to see if it will work,” he said.
A frequently asked question is what kind of stocking rate a
producer should have on a pasture, Shelton said. One of the biggest tips he has
is not to overstock a property.
“People tend to overstock — that has accelerated in the past
two years,” he said. “Specific animals need specific amounts of acreage.”
The amount of animals that should graze on a property
depends on how much dry matter animals will require. Overstocking will require
more input in the operation, Shelton said.
Another tip Shelton has is to maintain cover of soil.
Maintaining dense sod and cover is necessary when keeping soil temperatures
where they should be for the best results.
A third tip is reducing the need for hay and inputs and
keeping some of the marginal ground for pasture instead of converting everything
over to crop rows.
Maintaining the stop-grazing height, which is four inches in
most cases, is crucial, Shelton said. A grazing stick is a useful tool when it
comes to maintaining that height.
Most producers will take a grazing stick out on a routine
basis and eventually will develop a pretty good idea of height just by eying the
area, Shelton said.
He said grazing and soil health information continues to
“I’m finding when it comes to grazing and soil health, the
more I know, I don’t know,” he said. “I certainly don’t have all the answers,
but I strive to find answers.”
Recent articles of Grazing Bites can be found at the
Indiana NRCS Grazing and Forages webpage at
www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/in/technical/landuse/pasture. Shelton can
be reached at Victor.Shelton@in.usda.gov.