Caring for and conserving land, water and wildlife is the charge that unites the winners of the 11th annual National Cattlemen's Beef Association's (NCBA) Environmental Stewardship Awards.
Selected by representatives from universities, environmental organizations and state and federal agencies, these winning enterprises illustrate practices that preserve and refine natural resources. Besides providing examples of management of water, wildlife, vegetation, air and soil, the winners showcase leadership abilities and the sustainability of their businesses.
One of these seven regional winners will be honored, and the national winner named, at the 2002 Cattle Industry Convention in Denver, CO, Feb. 6-9.
Dow AgroSciences sponsors the award.
Church's Grove Farm
Located within the Inner Bluegrass Region, Church's Grove Farm in Frankfort, KY, has several springs and streams on its 800 acres. That makes water quality a top priority for the 200-head cow/calf herd and backgrounding/feeding operation managed by Zack and Yvonne Saufley.
The Saufleys have cattle-operated water systems and practice rotational grazing. They use springs for gravity flow tanks and fence in pit ponds with livestock access ramps.
Other conservation practices include crop rotation, cover crop, conservation tillage, grassed waterways and filter strips. Cattle are excluded from forested areas to conserve forestry.
Besides forage, the farm produces alfalfa hay, tobacco, corn and soybeans.
Barthle Brothers Ranch
San Antonio, FL
At the Barthle Brothers Ranch in San Antonio, FL, natural resource management is considered the foundation of a sustainable future.
Larry, Mark and Randy Barthle run the 1,000-head cow/calf operation. They host numerous tours for youth groups, city groups and government officials to educate them about agriculture and environmental stewardship.
The Barthles practice rotational grazing and controlled burning at the 8,250-acre ranch. In addition, water generated with a combination of solar and electrical systems fills the cattle's water troughs, which are surrounded by foot pads to minimize erosion from foot traffic.
The ranch harvests hay and Bahia grass seed, and it includes sod and forestry operations.
Iowa River Ranch
Practices that save topsoil and increase forage production at the Iowa River Ranch in Union, IA, have made the entire operation more profitable, says David Petty. He runs the 400-head cow/calf operation with his wife Diane and daughter Dresden.
In cooperation with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Petty has re-shaped more than 11 miles of waterways, constructed more than 13 miles of terraces and put in 12 miles of tile drainage and three miles of buffer strips on the farm's 2,930 acres.
To decrease the need for processed feedstuffs during winter, cows do the majority of harvesting of forages. Little or no plowing is done.
And, to allow for increased rotational grazing and pasture resting, a new system is being implemented with 6,000 ft. of watering pipe below ground and six watering locations for the cattle.
Preserving the land for future generations is the ongoing fulfillment of David Holcombe's great-great-great grandfather's dream. The Cherokee ancestor established the 750-acre Holcombe Farms in Jay, OK, more than 150 years ago when Oklahoma was known as Indian Territory.
David and wife Gayla run a 200-head cow/calf herd and 300-400 head of stocker cattle on wheat pasture. Their conservation practices include grassing of the waterways and also field sprigging to prevent run-off and erosion.
In addition, the Holcombes have installed and fenced in farm ponds. They allow cattle to water in 16- by 30-ft. rams from the bank to the bottom of the ponds. These rams are covered with a fiber that prevents erosion and provides footing for the cattle.
The picturesque Gallatin Valley north of Belgrade, MT, is home to the Milesnick Ranch run by Tom and Mary Kay Milesnick.
The 500-head cow/calf operation spans 1,400 acres at the Belgrade place and 4,800 acres of mountain pasture at another location in Livingston.
The ranch utilizes a 17-pasture, short-duration grazing system with a grazing period of up to 3½ days and up to five grazings/pasture/year. The rest-rotation grazing program has improved range conditions and increased beef production more than 30%.
For energy efficiency, the ranch has interior solar fencing throughout and gravity flow stock water tanks. In addition, permanent vegetation reduces water and wind erosion.
Hay, grain, fishing and waterfowl hunting enterprises complement the Milesnicks' beef enterprise.
Dave Wood Ranches
For Dave Wood, habitat enhancement is consistent with good cattle management and good business.
The owner and operator of Dave Wood Ranches oversees his own ranches in California and Oregon, and he manages Harris Ranch Beef and Harris Ranch Feeding Companies.
The summer ranches total 107,000 acres and run several thousand yearling/stocker cattle and 1,800 cow/calf pairs.
Because riparian restoration management is key, the ranch fences each segment of pasture along a stream into a riparian pasture and only one segment of each stream is grazed per year. To prevent them from tailing the fences and stream banks, cattle are never driven in these areas but are allowed free access.
On high-elevation land, the ranch uses specialized fences with high-tensile strength wire and specific posts and stays that can withstand considerable amounts of snowfall.
Nagel Cattle Co.
Located within two miles of the Missouri River, the Nagel Cattle Co. in Avon, SD, must be especially conscientious of water quality and waste management.
Owned and operated by John and Delina Nagel, the 1,300-acre ranch includes a cow/calf herd and a 1,200-head feedlot.
The ranch's waste management system consists of evaporation ponds and debris basins. The solids are spread over 634 acres.
The Nagels installed 11,200 ft. of grassed waterways, 1,840 ft. of terraces and 47 acres of rangeland seeding.
The ranch practices crop rotation on corn, alfalfa and soybeans. From May to October, cow/calf pairs are pastured in a rotational grazing system of seven paddocks.