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Converting 160ac pasture to wildlife mecca

IowaBowHunter1983

Super Moderator
Staff member
We have done some initial checking with FSA office about grassland and were told that it isn’t really used in Iowa. Told it was used in the prairie states like kansas and nebraska. Have you seen or heard of it in Iowa?
I would push back on that. It is amazing how little SOME USDA folks know about their own programs.

Hardwood11 is right, it doesn't pay a ton but it's better than zero.
 

cchadww

Active Member
We were in a similar situation, purchasing 295 acres three years ago. Since this was our first round with habitat work, it was beneficial to bring in a consultant to draw up a plan. Super helpful to get a jumpstart on education, and confidence when it came to cutting 100y old trees, etc.

I can’t speak to your situation, but here are some things that we have done:

This year we converted 70 acres of pasture/hay into crop ground with a view of converting to CRP eventually. In the meantime this gives us a higher rent. Plus, this fall it kept the deer on our farm browsing the harvested beans until dark instead of just passing through the pasture onto the neighbors before dark.

We have been cutting hedge to sell as fence posts. Great for my boys to learn how to run a chainsaw. :) Plus it is amazing how the deer hammer the new growth on the “mineral stumps”. And the downed tops are great for cover.

We used some old field management practices on 20 acres by spraying the cold season grasses (brome) and releasing the seed bank. This has been the quickest and cheapest win to improve the habitat for wildlife. HIGHLY recommend it.

We are also using EQIP monies to cover some of our timber work. We’ve been approved, but have yet to receive first payment. We’ll see how it goes.

This forum has been super helpful, as well as a couple other habitat forums and YouTube channels.

Good luck! Have fun and enjoy the journey!


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smithhunter1975

Active Member
We used some old field management practices on 20 acres by spraying the cold season grasses (brome) and releasing the seed bank. This has been the quickest and cheapest win to improve the habitat for wildlife. HIGHLY recommend it.
I really like this idea if there is a good native seed bank! Would be great to do this in select areas for diversity pockets. My fear is the seed bank may just be crap i dont want (thistles, etc). Have others had good success doing this?
 

hillrunner

PMA Member
I really like this idea if there is a good native seed bank! Would be great to do this in select areas for diversity pockets. My fear is the seed bank may just be crap i dont want (thistles, etc). Have others had good success doing this?
All I get if I kill vegetation and walk away is marestail, ditch weed, or foxtail.
 

smithhunter1975

Active Member
That is my fear, get a bunch of junk growing and then that junk goes to seed and have a real mess. I love this idea if it would work. Anxious to hear others input on this.
 

smithhunter1975

Active Member
I read through the grassland program today. Continued grazing is a requirement for the program which i do not want to do. Looks like that program is off the table.
 

Asclepias

New Member
That is my fear, get a bunch of junk growing and then that junk goes to seed and have a real mess. I love this idea if it would work. Anxious to hear others input on this.
This is where a plant community assessment would help to determine what is present, but held back. One year without grazing will tell a lot.
 

Tmayer13

PMA Member
Im not sure if I missed where you said this? But have you had a private lands biologist out there? If not I would call your local NRCS and make an appointment to have them come out. Then you can tell them your objectives and they can tell you about specific programs. There are SO many programs out there its unreal, my local office sent me a 600+ page document that has ALL of the programs listed in it, its simply amazing. The government sets aside money just for people like you and I to help the land, you may as well use it.

For instance: I am going to get paid to remove cedar trees, the get paid to burn the ground, then get paid to plant natives and also get paid to plant trees and shrubs.....Now these are one time payments but in your situation this could be beneficial on the parts of the farm that you wouldnt put into production.

Good Luck
 

MNDave

New Member
Understanding wanting to go program for income. First thing would be to prepare a 5 and 10 year plan for the entire parcel. Do carve out a parcel(s) for CRP but wildlife habitat and CRP can be different. Start planting trees/shrubs ASAP knowing will take 5 to 10 years to see good results. Second plan to access to hunting sites second. Then get dirty and start to develop areas of natural regeneration of native forbs and pollinators. Then designate area for government program(s), do check if program allows for deer stands and food plots.
 

smithhunter1975

Active Member
I have met with the dnr wildlife biologist at the pasture who is a big deer hunter so thinks our way. I have met with fsa in their office. I have not met with nrcs yet in that county, but did talk with the nrcs rep that i have gotten to know in my county. I plan to get the wildlife biologist back there soon to help me brainstorm and come up with a plan for different hunting habitat diversity. I agree with starting something ASAP because it will take a long time to develop and mature into some usable habitat. I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts and ideas!
 

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