Grass in the storied Nebraska Sandhills near Bassett can foster a staggering volume of beef. Despite the vagaries of weather, it can do so year after year, too, if you focus first and foremost on nurturing this unique land.
That’s basically what Homer and Larry Buell’s great grandparents discovered when they settled here in the 1880s, establishing what would become the Shovel Dot Ranch. Moreover, that’s the commitment they made to the land, an unwavering dedication passed down the line to Homer and Larry and their wives, Darla and Nickie, and on to their kids—the fifth generation—now directing day-to-day management.
Cattle have always been a mainstay—both a tool to nurture the land, and the hopeful currency to carve out a sustainable living. Since the 1930’s stocker cattle and grazing yearlings have been a substantial part of the strategy.
Each subsequent generation refines the management and marketing to fit current goals and markets. For Homer and Larry, that included making more efficient use of their forage by grazing more head in smaller pastures, and targeting gains and management of their own calves and purchased ones to achieve specific weights in order to exploit the seasonally high feeder cattle markets typical of July and August.
They discovered these milestone—the stepping stones of their program’s evolution—when they began taking a more business-minded approach to managing their ranch in the mid-1980s. They continued to manage the ranch as a single system, but concentrated harder on the interaction of individual enterprises within the system. In their case, the Shovel Dot cowherd and backgrounding enterprise are geared to serving and boosting the potential of their yearling operation.
It’s that legacy and forward-leaning management approach that earned the Shovel Dot Ranch the BEEF Stocker Award for 2015. Read more in the October issue of BEEF about the Buells and why they are this year’s BEEF National Stocker Award winners.
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