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Ranchers Workshop History

… As told by Dave Steffen


“As I remember, Dale Mallory, Ext Agent, and I came up with the first program after STRONG encouragement from conservation district supervisors from the Mellette and Todd County Conservation Districts.  Delvin Meyer, Clifford Klein, Derrill Glynn, Bob Fronek, and Andy Harris were all supportive of putting a ranchers workshop together.


The first program featured James K "Tex" Lewis, professor and teacher from the Range Department at SDSU.  The audience as I recall were about 20 INVITED ranchers from Mellette & Todd County.  No, the public was not invited.  Each of the invited ranchers were asked to evaluate the program and tell Dale & me whether they thought such a workshop should be continued on an annual basis.  I do not recall who all the invited ranchers were, but they all suggested that the program be continued.


After the workshop was held at the Todd County Fairgrounds Building, and it was a success, Dale had an article put in the newspaper.  That's when all the problems started.  Ranchers started calling and asking Dale and me why they had not been invited to the ranchers workshop.  The only thing we could tell them was that there would be another "annual" ranchers workshop held in January the following year.  It went from there.  Arlie Green made excellent home made rolls, so for years we had her make rolls for the event.  They always went over very well.  Sponsors for the event were never hard to find, local businesses must have thought that the ranchers workshop was a worthwhile venture.”


“The ranchers workshop was cancelled only once due to bad weather.  I do not recall the year [1992], but it was scheduled for the Catholic Hall in Mission.  Jeff Adrian and I were in Mission getting things set up the day before.  A terrible wind and snow storm came up in the afternoon.  Visibility was reduced to a few feet.  Jeff and I stayed at Delvin and Maxine Meyers home that evening.  We played cards for entertainment. As I recall Maxine and I did very well playing "pitch" against Delvin and Jeff.  Jeff and I decided to cancel the program early the next morning even though the sun came out and was a pretty pleasant day.  Roads were blocked and cattle had to be tended to.”


“…the committee always tried to put together the best speakers and the best lunch possible.”


Written By:  Mary Scott, November 2003

Annual Rancher’s Workshop Has Become a Tradition

The first Rancher’s Workshop was held in January 1979 in Mission, SD. The Mellette and Todd County Conservation Districts had a challenge. The challenge was to help the local people improve their natural resources while maintaining their standard of living. The conservation district boards studied the land use of the two counties and discovered that 80% of the counties’ lands were rangeland. From this discovery the concept of a rancher’s workshop to fulfill the needs of local ranchers was born, the brainchild of Derrill Glynn, the chairman of the Mellette County Conservation District. Now more than 2 decades later the Annual Rancher’s Workshop has become a tradition for many people both locally and regionally, with planned attendance of 120 people.


The first Rancher’s Workshop was a small gathering of invited key local businessmen and ranchers. It was evaluated for its effectiveness in presenting needed information to the local livestock inventory. Dave Steffen, NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) District Conservationist, and Dale Mallory, SDSU County Extesion Agent developed the first agenda. The workshop was so successful that the word began to spread and people began to notify the conservation districts that they wanted to be invited to the next workshop. As a result, the rancher’s workshop became an annual event and it began to change. Ranchers needs, as expressed to the conservation district board members, became the focus of the agendas. The workshop began to grow and gain a reputation for providing the ranchers with the information that would benefit their operation.


The Mellette and Todd County Conservation Districts have remained steadfast in maintaining this worthwhile event. They have worked with the local ranchers, businessmen, NRCS, SDSU Extension Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and now the South Central Resource Conservation and Development Council Incorporated (South Central RC &D), to insure coverage of a wide array of topics by some of the most knowledgeable speakers. For example, in 1980, Maurice Davis, NRCS Range Conservationist, told of the nutrient value of range plants. In 1984, Barry Dunn, Bill Cumbow, Melvin Shelbourn, Ken Kingsbury, and Darrel Batie, local ranchers, conducted a panel discussion of how grazing systems work on their place.


Nutritional requirements of the beef cow on the range, was the topic of a presentation by James Butler, DVM. Valentine, NE, in 1985. In 1988, Jan Rasmussen, a local rancher, led a panel discussion of her daily ranch operations. In 1990 we learned how to better manage our cross bred herd from Terry Goerhing, SDSU extension beef specialist. In 1991 Barry Dunn, a Todd County rancher, explained the benefits of the “Bootstraps” program. This was another local program that has now grown from local to statewide, nationally, and there has even been some international interest. This program was started from needs expressed by the Todd County Conservation District board.


In the last 5 years, there has been a concentrated effort to include at least one “hands on” session for the producers. By hands on we mean animals have been brought in for body condition scoring, bull evaluation, pulling calves, and injection site blemishes. It seems to be a great learning tool when actual animals are used to demonstrate.


The Mellette and Todd County Conservation Districts are proud that they have had a successful Rancher’s Workshop for 22 consecutive years. They are the only Conservation Districts in the state with this record. The workshop success can be directly contributed to the fact that it is developed for the rancher by the rancher. It has become a tradition. If you have some ideas, please feel free to contact your local Conservation District member or Extension board member, also feel free to bring a neighbor and attend the Rancher’s Workshop.

Written by:  Lisa Rounsley, December 2000

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