Reader: The Story of Colorado Beef 2020-2021: Issue 2 - Page 10

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Students will learn about rangelands by participating in a hands-on activity of growing their own grass to represent a beef or sheep ranch .
Materials :
• Jiffy peat pellet pots *
• grass seed *
• small , clear cup
• permanent marker
• pencil
• water * These items are included in the Rancher Starter Kit , which is available for purchase from AgClassroom . com
Background : Like many other western states , most of Colorado ’ s land is too rocky , cold , hot , or dry to grow crops , but it can support livestock . About 90 % of the feed consumed by cattle , sheep , and goats could not be eaten or digested by humans . Animals convert low-energy and otherwise indigestible plant matter into nutrientdense , protein-rich food , while returning organic matter ( manure ) to the soil — the original recycling program . Most of Colorado ’ s land is rangeland used for grazing livestock . Some rangeland is privately owned by ranchers , but public lands ( managed by the federal government ) are also used for grazing livestock .

Ranch Starter Kit . . . Grass for Grazing

Procedure - Phase 1 :
1 . Write your name on your cup using a permanent marker .
2 . Place your peat pot into the cup ( make sure the end with the small hole faces up ). Fill the cup half full with water .
3 . When your peat pot is completely hydrated , use a pencil to loosen the top ¼ inch of peat moss .
4 . Evenly spread ½ teaspoon of seeds on the top of the peat pot . Press the seeds down gently with your thumb so that they contact one another and the damp peat . Capillary action will move the water through the seeds and the soil .
5 . Remember to check your pot daily . Keep about ¼ inch of water in the bottom of the cup . Your grass should be up in about a week . Take care of your “ ranch !”
Procedure - Phase 2 :
1 . Once the seeds germinate , keep the peat pots moist , and allow the grass to grow until it has reached 2 – 3 inches ( 5-7 cm ) in height . Students will be applying two different grazing treatments and will leave some of the grass untreated .
2 . When the grass is 2 – 3 inches ( 5-7 cm ) tall , ask the students to use scissors to cut half of the grass blades short — 1 inch ( 2.5 cm )— above the soil to simulate a cow grazing .
3 . They should clip another quarter of the grass down to the crown — where the blades meet the roots ; this part of the blade is white in color . To simulate overgrazing , ask students to clip this quarter area to the crown every couple of days .
4 . The last quarter section of the grass should remain unclipped .
5 . Observe the grass for a few weeks , and then make comparisons . What are the results of the overgrazed , grazed , and ungrazed grasses ? Ask students how their grazing experiment compares to mowing their grass .