Beginning Grazier Handbook

Download a PDF version of the handbook here.




Training and Technical Assistance

Production Resources

Farm Business Planning

Additional Education Resources

Funding: Loans and Grants



Designed to assist the beginning grazier in designing and implementing a grazing system, this handbook is a starting place for you to quickly and easily find pertinent information. Most of the resources listed include website links – explore these links to find additional grazing information that is specific to your interests.

Linked at the end of this guide are lists of businesses that supply equipment and seeds for grazing systems. Use this list to find suppliers and negotiate the best value when purchasing. The goal of the handbook was to provide information; listing does not mean we endorse any of these suppliers.

This handbook was compiled in 2015 and updated in Summer 2021 by the Sustainable Farming Association with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Other support for the handbook came from Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Pasture Project.

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Training and Technical Assistance

Sustainable Farming Association

A Minnesota nonprofit organization that focuses on sustainable agriculture education, networking, demonstration and research, SFA has had a strong focus on soil health and good grazing practices for over 20 years.


Kent Solberg, Grazing and Livestock Specialist, Tyler Carlson, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead, Doug Voss, Grazing Lead, Wayne Monsen, Special Projects Coordinator, Angie Walter, Dairy Grazing Education Coordinator, Jerry Ford, Network Coordinator,


Soil Health Silvopasture and Agroforestry Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship


Midwest Soil Health Summit, annually in March SFA Annual Conference, annually in February Field Days, Cafe Chats and Workshops

Resources There are numerous print and video resources on the SFA website and YouTube Channel

Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS is a division of the US Department of Agriculture with regional offices in Minnesota that provides funding and technical assistance to farmers who want to improve the conservation practices.  One of their focus areas is permanent pasture with rotational grazing.

Service Centers Each state in the Upper Midwest has a state NRCS office, though individual graziers will find most of their interactions are with their local Service Centers, and these are a good place to start.

Minnesota Local Service Centers Iowa Local Service Centers Wisconsin Local Service Centers South Dakota Service Centers North Dakota Service Centers

Technical Support and Grazing Specialists

NRCS offers technical support, advice, and resources in on numerous topics related to conservation and water quality (, with a particular emphasis on grazing (

NRCS has staff and contractor Grazing Specialists to advise beginning and experienced graziers.  Contact you local Service Center (above) to connect with a Grazing Specialist in your area.

Programs for Graziers NRCS offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) EQIP “promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals” is the most commonly utilized NRCS program to help graziers with establishing new permanent pasture. More information specific to Minnesota here:

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) CSP is a “conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities; and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.” Whereas CSP is more focused such items as improving wildlife habitat, controlling soil erosion and water quality, many of these “enhancements” can be beneficial to grazing operations. More information specific to Minnesota here:

Again, the place to start is with your local Service Center – listed above.

Land Stewardship Project (LSP) Farm Beginnings


The Farm Beginnings® Program works to get more successful farmers on the land and organize for a system in which family farmers can flourish. Farm Beginnings provides wide range of trainings, including Farm Dreams, Farm Beginnings, and the Journeyperson Course.

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA)

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship links experienced dairy graziers with those who want to farm and provides a guided pathway to independent farm ownership. Sustainable Farming Association manages a DGA program specific to Minnesota:

South Dakota Grasslands Coalition

SD Grasslands Coalition serves and enhances grasslands by educating grassland managers to adopt sustainable and profitable management. Mentoring Network: Grazing School:

North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition 

The North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition has established a grassroots based guidance and council to interested ranchers on grassland management. The advice the mentors provide is based upon knowledge and experience gained on their operations and the interaction they have with other ranchers across the region.


GrassWorks is a grassroots membership organization that provides leadership and education to farmers and consumers for the advancement of managed grass-based agriculture to benefit present and future generations.

Practical Farmers of Iowa


Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing.

Pasture Project 

The Pasture Project works in the Upper Mississippi River Basin to increase the number of acres of farmland that are sustainably managed.  Long-term commitment to sustainable management requires an alignment of economic and environmental interests. We accomplish this by expanding grass-based systems of livestock production and introducing cover-crops and periodic livestock grazing into row crop farming, all of which both increase profits and rebuild soils and water cycles.

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Production Resources

SFA Publications

Silvopasture Handbook: designed to assist land managers and technical support staff on designing and implementing a Silvopasture system in woodlands.

Online Version Print/PDF Version

Cover Crop Fact Sheet This Cover Crop Fact Sheet is a concise resource for new and experienced farmers.

Soil Health Videos Bale Grazing, outwintering, grazing cover crops, fencing and more.

Soil Health Resources Savanna restoration for pasture, grassfed beef, bison and more.


Intro to Small Ruminant Pasture Management Basic Stockmanship & Livestock Handling Winter Bale Grazing at Cloverleaf Grass Farm

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Website with links to numerous publications on grazing. Including:

  • The Cropland Grazing Exchange (CGE) matches livestock farmers with crop farmers who have forage (crop residues, cover crops, etc.) to harvest. 
  • and more.

MN Natural Resources Conservation Service Publications

Grazing and forage management publications, including:

University of Minnesota Extension

Numerous articles and videos on grazing-related topics, including:

Green Lands, Blue Waters

There are a number of good resources on contract grazing on the Green Lands Blue Waters website.

Pasture Project


Watering Systems for Grazing Tutorial (video)

Fence Building Tutorial (video)

Land Stewardship Project

Grazing & Soil Health Resources

Renewing the Countryside


Farmland Access Hub

The Farmland Access Hub is a consortium of partners including non-profits, government agencies, local companies, and private citizens dedicated to assisting beginning farmers with their quest for land tenure.

Premier One

This is a commercial fencing supply company that has some excellent fact sheets for beginning graziers.  SFA does not endorse their products.   This page on their website includes instructions and charts on fencing systems and equipment for multiple types of livestock.

Pasture Pro

Another commercial fencing supply company that has some excellent articles for beginning graziers.  SFA does not endorse their products.

Fencing Tips Grazing


Graze “The magazine that’s by graziers, for graziers”

Graze is a print magazine devoted to promoting management-intensive rotational grazing and family-scale livestock farms. If you want to start a livestock farm or ranch, if you are looking to reduce costs and labor, if you’re organic-certified or thinking of transitioning to organic, then Graze is for you.

The Stockman Grass Farmer – The Grazier’s Edge

The Stockman Grass Farmer has been a grazing publication since 1947 devoted solely to the art and science of making profit from grassland agriculture. Each month it brings its readers the latest information on high profit grassland ideas from all over the world. 

On Pasture 

On Pasture is a subscriber and sponsor supported weekly, online magazine for graziers. Each week we publish 5 to 7 articles, translating research and experience into practices farmers and ranchers can use right away.

Hay & Forage Grower

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Farm Business Planning

Sustainable Farming Association

Sustainable Farming Association Adjust 2015: New Farm Reality Check

SFA’s Adjust 2015 project reviewed the key difficulties experienced farmers faced early in their farming careers. The New Farm Reality Check curriculum gives farmers tools to help avoid the most common of those pitfalls, which will strengthen business plans and ultimately improve chances of long-term success – financial benchmarks you should be incorporating into your plan, considerations for business plan assumptions, dealing with and planning for changes in family structure and function, and tools for building a team of experts to help you launch your business.

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture

Beginning Farmers

The purpose of The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) is to bring together the diverse interests of the agricultural community with interests from across the University community in a cooperative effort to develop and promote sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and beyond.  their Beginning Farmers webpage has the Whole Farm Planning book & the Goal-Setting Handbook and the Building a Sustainable Business book.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service

Fearless Farm Finances

This resource is packed with instructions, tips and tools for setting up and managing a farm’s financial system, and includes real-life examples from successful farmers, with sample data to show how forms and records should look.

Cornell University Small Farms Program

The Cornell Small Farms Program offers a suite of more than 20 online courses, primarily taught by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, to help farmers improve their technical and business skills.

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Additional Education Resources

Pasture Water Systems

University of Minnesota Extension – watering system design for rotational grazing. The Cattle Site – Alberta Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Stewardship Division. Grass Fed Solutions – How to Build a Mobile Cattle Water System for your Pasture Rotation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)

This website provides information on the effects of grazing on natural resources. The USFWS has Waterfowl Production Areas and National Wildlife Refuges that are available for grazing.

Greg Judy from Green Pastures Farm

Greg Judy is from Rucker, Missouri and rotationally grazes livestock on rented lands. Greg has written how-to books as well as gives on-farm tours and presentations.

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm

Books, videos and more from this icon of multi-species grazing.

Neil Dennis on Mob Grazing

Neal Dennis was an experienced mob grazier from Saskatchewan. He was a well-known presenter and loved to share his experiences with mob grazing.

Brown’s Ranch, Bismarck, N.D.

Gabe Brown is one of the pioneers of the current soil health movement that focuses on regenerating our resources. 

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Funding: Loans and Grants

NRCS Programs (see above)

Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Livestock Investment Grants (MDA)

AGRI Livestock Investment Grant (MDA)

These grants encourage long-term industry development for Minnesota livestock farmers and ranchers by helping them improve, update, and modernize their livestock operation’s infrastructure and equipment.

Beginning Farmer Loan Program (MDA)

This program was established to help people who want to farm in Minnesota, and offers affordable financing, a reasonable down payment and built-in safeguards, such as farm management training and financial planning to help minimize the risk all farmers face.

Agricultural Improvement Loan Program (MDA)

A loan participation program to assist eligible farmers to finance capital improvements to their farming operation.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Microloan Program

These loans focus on the financing needs of small, beginning farmers, niche and non-traditional farm operations, such as truck farms, farms participating in direct marketing and sales such as farmers’ markets, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), restaurants and grocery stores, or those using hydroponic, aquaponic, organic and vertical growing methods.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Financial Assistance For Family Farmers (PDF):


The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has loans for farmers and ranchers that are unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Contact your local FSA office for information.

Dairy Business Planning Grant (MDA)

This program covers 50 percent of the cost of completing a business plan for a dairy operation. Producers who have applied for this grant are exploring the feasibility of expansion, environmental upgrades, stray voltage testing or transferring the operation to the next generation producer. Applications are funded on a first come first serve basis.

Dairy Profitability and Enhancement Teams Grant and Minnesota Dairy Initiative:

These grants encourage business planning and modernization activities and other improvements on Minnesota dairy farms. 

North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Grants

NCR-SARE’s Farmer Rancher Grant Program is a competitive grants program for farmers and ranchers who want to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects.

Lakewinds Organic Field Fund

A grant program dedicated to making an impact on local farming and organic food by furthering the development and sustainability of farms in the region.

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This list of resources is not intended to be all inclusive and does not constitute an endorsement. It is simply offered as a service to aid the producer in finding available resources; there may be other sources out there for some of these products and services.

Scroll through below, or click these links to download a printable list:


Portable windbreak vendor list (updated June 2021)


Southwest Minnesota K Fence, Daniel and Therese Hall,  Butterfield, MN    507-956-2657

Grassland SolutionsMatt Schafer, Cokato, MN   320-286-2196

K-Fence, Zumbro Falls, MN   (507) 753-2706   (507) 753-2943

Dana Melius, Ashton, SD   C-605-216-4410

Grant Breitkreutz, Redwood Falls, MN   507-430-0607

Mohr’s Fencing, Aberdeen, SD    (605) 225-9633

Rausch Fencing, Onaka, SD   605-380-5311

Ludemann Fencing, Shane Ludemann. Fort Pierre, SD     (877) 472-0776

Olson Fencing LLC, Mike Olson, Winona, MN   507-421-6934

Deutschlander Fencing, Brian Deutschlander. Pine City, MN    320-629-1288

Seven Pines Farm & Fence, Kent and Linda Solberg, Verndale, MN   218-445-7580

Horsman Fence Co., Kevin Horsman, Utica, MN    507-281-4420    507-259-6312


Many local feed/farm and big-box “fleet farm” stores carry fencing supplies.

Premier1Supplies, Washington, Iowa 52353

Seven Pines Farm & Fence, Kent and Linda Solberg, Verndale, MN    218-445-7580

Cammack Ranch Supply, Union Center, SD    605-985-5591

Gallagher Catalog   800-531-5908

Jeffers Livestock   800-533-3377

Kencove Catalog    800-536-2683

Grassland Solutions, Cokato, MN    320-286-2196

Common Sense Fence, Geotek, Inc, Stewartville, MN    800-533-1680

K-Fence, Zumbro Falls, MN    507-753-2943

Kiwi Fence Products, Blairsville PA    800-536-2683

Southwest K Fence, Daniel and Teresa Hall, Butterfield, MN    507-956-2657

Hutchison Incorporated,  Grinnell, IA    800-588-6155


Albert Lea Seed House Albert Lea, MN    (800) 352-5247

Minnesota Native Landscapes, Otsego, MN    763-295-0010

Agassiz Seed and Supply, Locations in ND, SD and MN

Behm Seed Company Atwater, MN   320-974-3003

Paul Hamann, Fountain, MN   507-268-4980

Millborn Seeds, Brookings, SD   888-498-7333

Sharp Bros Seed Co., Healy, KS    (620)398-2231

Prairie Restorations, Inc., Several Locations in MN    1-800-837-5986


K-Fence, Zumbro Falls, MN    (507) 753-2706   (507) 753-2943

Southwest Minnesota K Fence, Daniel & Terese Hall, Butterfield, MN    507-956-2657

Grassland Solutions, Cokato, MN    320-286-2196


Many local feed/farm and big-box “fleet farm” stores carry watering system supplies.

Cammack Ranch Supply, Union Center, SD    605-985-5591

Jacobsen, Inc., Adair, IA    800-243-7473

K-Fence, Zumbro Falls, MN    (507) 753-2943

Jobe Valves 

Hutchison Incorporated, Grinnell, IA    (800) 588-6155

Agri Supply

Gallagher Catalog   800-531-5908

Frost Free Nose Pumps

JUG Livestock Waterer   800-584-6675

Rural Mfg. Co., Inc., Freeman, SD    800-477-7135

Carlson Wholesale, Inc., Rochester, MN   877-700-2694

Cobett Company, E. Peru, IA    888-699-4722

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