Along with a quarterly formal business meeting, the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board visits a site in the watershed to learn more about practices that improve soil health and water quality.
The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority Board is comprised of a representative from the cities, counties, and soil & water conservation districts in the Squaw Creek Watershed. The are representatives from the cities of Stanhope, Stratford, Gilbert, and Ames; the county board of supervisors from Boone and Story County; and the soil & water conservation districts in Hamilton, Boone, and Story County. Although it is common misconception of the word ‘authority’ in their title, the group acts as more of an alliance of communities and counties coming together to support each other in their efforts in water quality improvement.
July’s quarterly meeting offered a glimpse at an uncommon site in Hamilton County – a dairy cow herd. Kevin and Ranae Dietzel operate their dairy herd business, called Lost Lake Farms, that they started in 2012 using an intensive rotational grazing management style. This management style is designed as daily or twice-daily movement of fencing through paddocks of perennial and annual grasses. This helps the cattle have a great food source without trampling the area too much, which would cause soil compaction and domination on less-desirable plant species. Kevin and Ranae use the milk produced from their cattle to make cheese, which they sell on their website and at local farmer’s markets.
The group observed Ranae moving the 20-cow herd to another section of Sudangrass while Kevin explained the operation and the importance of conservation in a farming operation. They use no-till, extended crop rotation, no synthetic fertilizer (their cattle do the fertilizing), and use perennial plants with long roots on a lot of their acres. These practices help build their soil health and minimize their impact on adjacent water bodies.
Bringing the group together to not only communicate and collaborate on their community’s work in watersheds, but to actually view the kinds of things that are going on in the watershed is essential for great leaders focused on better soil health and water quality for their citizens.