Northern Ag Network Note: The following is a portion of an article that was printed in the FFA New Horizons magazine this month about Range . Great article about the importance of range management education and range judging contests.
by Jessica Mozo, FFA New Horizons
The issue [Range Management] is so important for these Western states that it’s a major educational component for agricultural education courses. FFA members in more than 20 states learn about range management as a unit in their agriculture classes. Many students even compete in statewide range judging contests, where they have to identify living plants and soils on rangelands and then determine how much livestock the land can support. The National Land & Range Judging Contest is held in Oklahoma City every May.
Ben Roeder, a junior at Choteau High School in Montana, won the Montana State Fair range judging competitions in 2013 and 2014. He also competes in range judging at Montana Range Days, an annual event in June that focuses on range education.
“My dad is a researcher at Montana State University, and he used to manage sheep at a large ranch. So I was exposed to range judging contests at an early age,” Roeder says. “The contests aren’t for us to tell landowners how to use their land. They are to teach FFA members about the land, since a lot of us may take over the family ranch one day. It’s important to analyze the land so you learn how much livestock you can run on a pasture without overgrazing – to optimize the land without damaging it.”
Range management is especially important in states like Montana where the land is not suitable for cultivating crops due to climate, shallow soils and the lack of adequate rainfall.
Roeder’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Milford Wearley spends four to six weeks teaching a unit on range judging to his agriculture students every school year. Wearley lived on a ranch when he was in high school and competed in range judging contests.
“It’s so important to our state. In Montana, we have three cows for every person, and agriculture is our No. 1 industry,” Wearley says. “Range management plays an important role in our economy and society. Plus, it’s fun to look at different pastures and grasses and be able to identify them.”
CLICK HERE to read the full article
Source: FFA New Horizons