Protecting wildlife, preventing erosion and managing waste are some of the endeavors undertaken by the winners of the 10th annual National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Environmental Stewardship Awards.
Nominated by state and beef breed cattle organizations, these winning operations demonstrate innovative and sound practices that protect and improve natural resources.
At its annual meeting in San Antonio, TX, Feb. 1-4, NCBA will honor the seven regional winners and announce a national winner.
Representatives from the beef industry, academia, government agencies and environmental groups make up the selection committee that presents the award, which is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
Ritters’ Farm, Glascow, KY
Located adjacent to a reservoir, Greg and Joan Ritter’s farm in Glascow, KY, has several flowing waterways and annual rainfall of about 44 in. That makes correcting erosion and preventing manure runoff high priorities.
In addition to raising 80 head of cattle, the Ritters grow tobacco on the 240-acre farm they started refurbishing in 1985. They practice strip cropping and plant vegetative cover to help contain erosion that results from cultivation.
To further reduce erosion, the Ritters installed perforated drainage tile to drain excess subsurface water. They use filter materials and gravel cover to build roadways to feeding areas.
They also built a waste management facility to store waste and provide a covered, concrete area for feeding hay. A chain harrow distributes animal waste in the pasture.
Gaddis Farms, Bolton, MS
Keeping the land productive and profitable is one of the goals of Gaddis Farms, Bolton, MS. The 30,000-acre operation began in the late 1800s and is owned and operated by descendents of the first landholders. Ted Kendall III, Ted Kendall IV and Kendall Garraway make up the management team.
Besides a cow/calf herd of 2,100 cows and a winter grazing operation of 5,000 head, the farm also crops nearly 6,000 acres.
Manure is routinely hauled away from concentrated feeding areas and spread to areas where it can enrich fertility and help control erosion.
Managing close to 12,000 acres of timberland, Gaddis Farms has enrolled nearly 1,200 acres of forestland in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program. The forestland provides habitat for deer, wild turkey and other wildlife.
Triple U Ranch, Correctionville, IA
Being environmentally proactive is the business foundation of the Triple U Ranch, Correctionville, IA. Craig, Elaine, Brad, Karen, Kirk and Barbara Utesch and their children own and run the 200-head cow/calf operation. Their unit also includes a 2,500-head, one-time capacity feedlot and 2,000 acres of cropland.
With so many cattle and a feedlot surrounded by cropland, managing waste and runoff is imperative. Triple U Ranch uses a system of pollution control terraces and two ponds. Waste from a lagoon in the confinement part of the feedlot goes through a modern lagoon system that distributes the effluent over the cropland.
To conserve fuel and soil, the ranch also practices minimum and no-till farming.
Morgan Cattle Co., Chickasha, OK
Protecting soil and ensuring water quality is a lifelong goal for Ralph Morgan. He, wife Evelyn and son Jimmy own and operate Morgan Cattle Co., Chickasha, OK, a 1,000-head stocker-calf business.
By sprigging Bermuda grass, the Morgans converted less productive cropland into pasture that helps stabilize the land and protect natural resources. Besides managing the pasture and hayland to maintain the soil, the Morgans practice rotational grazing and conservation tillage.
The 984-acre ranch has 24 ponds; many of them have retention dams that help prevent flooding, collect sediment and provide water for livestock.
Hanson Livestock Inc., Lusk, WY
On its 37,500 acres, Hanson Livestock Inc., Lusk, WY, incorporates a holistic range management style. Danny Hanson, who operates the ranch with his wife Donna and two sons, says the holistic approach helps increase profitability and improve the land’s ecological condition.
With approximately 800 cow/calf pairs, 270 replacements and 480 stockers, the Hansons rotate their cattle to different pastures to promote a positive rangeland ecosystem.
Besides ponds and spring-fed streams, 18 miles of underground pipelines transport livestock water to areas without perennial streams. This enables the use of forage in areas otherwise limited by lack of stock water.
Dung beetles help control manure, and the remainder is used as fertilizer.
Johnson Ranch, Rush Valley, UT
Located in the high desert valley of Rush Valley, UT, the Johnson Ranch aims to restore the land to the pristine condition the family’s ancestors homesteaded on more than 140 years ago.
Darrell Johnson and his family maintain a 250-head cow/calf operation on 7,000 acres. They’ve improved the range’s condition and increased their land’s carrying capacity through a series of range improvement measures. These include using prescribed burns, controlling juniper growth with a tractor and fencing the land to control the animals. The ranch manages its resources to provide as much grazing as possible before any supplemental feeding.
With 9-18 in. of rainfall annually, the Johnson Ranch uses a gravity sprinkler system to irrigate about 100 acres of hay to feed the cows during calving and the heifers during winter. Springs provide stock water, and 49,200 ft. of pipeline provides water to the pastures.
Cammack Ranch, Union Center, SD
Improving the range, creating wildlife habitat and conserving energy is the philosophy at the 4,400-acre Cammack Ranch, Union Center, SD.
Owners Gary and Amy Cammack and their four sons raise 290 cow/calf pairs. They say creating a productive operation that wisely uses natural resources is an evolving process.
For 20 years, the Cammacks have been improving what was once rolling prairie in poor condition. Improvements include planting tree windbreaks, locating new stock water sources to distribute grazing and implementing rotational grazing and energy-free cattle-watering systems.
Wild turkey, partridge, grouse, deer, antelope and fox are among the wildlife at Cammack Ranch, which also has six natural springs stocked with trout.