Soil Health Labs

37 Biologist-Rancher Renovates Pasture for Wildlife and Livestock

Episode Summary

Dr. Shaun Grassel is a wildlife biologist who works out on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation’s headquarters for the tribe’s Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation.  In addition, Shaun has recently taken a more active role in managing his family land in Lower Brule, both in ranching and experimenting with growing native grasses, including big bluestem, side oats grama and western wheatgrass for seed.  This is a fairly new venture and Shaun talks about applying his wildlife biology knowledge to understanding the rangeland, much of which was not fenced off and watered.  Shaun provides his perspective as someone new to this venture and remains mindful about finding ways to ranch profitably while attending to soil health, animal health, wildlife migration, novel fly and pest control practices, and getting fencing and water infrastructure onto the family land.  We also discuss how some of Shaun’s native grass fields provide him with multiple sources of income in a good year and serve as a backstop in bad years. Finally, we touch on mindset and the fact that Shaun changes his operation every year to adapt to circumstances and to what he learned in the previous season.  This is reminiscent of many of our adaptive grazers we talk to who are known for doing something new every year. In the next podcast, we do a special feature on Shaun’s work with the black footed ferret and their influence over prairie dog downs, if you are a rancher and this is something that concerns you, stay tuned! Dr. Grassel can be reached at the Lower Brule Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation Dr. Shaun Grassel’s Research Gate profile also provides one with an insight into his research interests Also please visit the SD NRCS Range and Pasture website for more information at: