Six U.S. cattle operations win environmental awards

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Dec 20, 2007
by WLJ
The members of the 2007 National Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) Selection Committee announced the winners of this year’s regional awards at last week’s mid-year meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The winners hail from diverse family cattle operations from across the U.S.

The six regional winners have made extensive efforts to work closely with their local communities and government agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to implement conservation programs that benefit everyone. They have seen the value in utilizing conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on their operations.

“We are also proud to announce that 2007 marks the 17th year of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Over the years, we have seen an exceptional number of applications, and we look forward to the continued growth of this prestigious award program. We thank Dow AgroSciences LCC and the NRCS for their dedication to sponsoring this award program, which honors environmental innovation and perseverance among U.S. cattle producers,” said ESAP committee members in a statement.

The 2007 Regional ESAP winners are:

Sunrise Club Calves, Shippenville, PA

Sunrise Club Calves represents NCBA’s Region I, which includes nine states spanning from Kentucky to New York. They were nominated by Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association. The cow/calf operation specializes in producing club calves, which are calves purchased to be shown as project animals.

The farm has been in the family since 1942, when it was operated by Paul Wingard’s parents. In 1978, Paul and Beth purchased the operation and began to implement innovative conservation practices. As of today, the farm dedicates around 125 acres for grazing and has 200 leased acres for hay production and 25 acres of woodlots. Seventy cow/calf pairs and about 10 yearlings graze on the 125 acres, which are intensively managed with a small heard of boer goats utilized for weed control.

Dee River Ranch, Aliceville, AL

Located on the Alabama-Mississippi line, Dee River Ranch was nominated by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.

Dee River Ranch is a family owned and operated farming operation run by Mike Dee and his sister Annie. The ranch includes 10,000 acres: 2,500 acres for forages and cattle; 4,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program; and 3,500 acres devoted to corn, wheat, and soybeans. In 1989, the Dee family sold their Florida ranch to the state of Florida as part of the “Save the Rivers” program and purchased their current operation.

Maintaining productive soils is a top priority on the Dee River Ranch, which is witnessed in the three components of their ranch: cropland; highly erodible, environmentally sensitive land; and hay/grazing land. Improvements in pasture management and implementation of erosion control practices have maintained valuable resources while maximizing production. On-surface water monitoring now indicates little if any soil erosion from pastures.

In cooperation with NRCS and Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Mike developed a comprehensive plan to reduce sedimentation and erosion and improve water quality that served as an example for fellow producers. Mike identified three types of high-use problem-causing areas: gates, water troughs, and working facilities. A combination of geo-textile cloth and gravel was applied around all water troughs and under all gates. In 2006, Mike completed construction of new working facilities away from surface water.

Dee River Ranch’s experience in preventative moisture loss conservation practices has especially proved valuable this year, due to the severe drought in the southeastern U.S.

Oak Knoll Ranch, Salem, MO

Located in south central Missouri, Oak Knoll Ranch was nominated by the Top of the Ozarks.

Leon and Helen Kreisler own and operate Oak Knoll Ranch, a 100 head cow/calf operation which runs on 360 owned acres and 120 acres on long-term lease. Their commercial Angus herd is run on 380 acres of grass, and the remaining 100 acres are in timber production. In addition to the cattle and timber production, the Kreisler’s also provide limited hunting leases.

A partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation provided the initial funding to set up a grazing system years ago. They have spent years utilizing NRCS technical assistance in designing a water system and prescribed burns. The Kreislers became one of the organizing members of the Advanced Graziers Group, a multi-county producer-driven network. Leon and Helen have solicited the knowledge of guest speakers and implemented a farm tour program within this group to actively learn more about potential conservation practices.

Roaring Springs Ranch, Frenchglen, OR

Located in southeastern Oregon, Roaring Springs Ranch was nominated by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

Roaring Springs Ranch was purchased in 1992 by the Bob and Jane Sanders and Rob and Carla Sanders families. They have operated the ranch as a cow/calf-stocker operation which sustains more than 6,200 head cow/calves, 150 horses, and harvests 2,500 acres of meadow hay and 1,200 acres of alfalfa. Roaring Springs Ranch’s operations utilize a total of 1,011,792 acres of diverse lands, including 249,798 deeded acres, 735,359 acres lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 22,000 acres of private leases, and 4,640 leased from the state of Oregon.

The Sanders’ family main goal for the operation, as implemented by Stacy Davies, ranch manager, is to be economically, ecologically and socially sustainable. The vast size and elevation variance of the ranch provides high-quality forage for year-round grazing. By matching the livestock production cycle with the native plant nutrition provided by stewardship efforts, they eliminate the use of stored feeds.

With a diverse ecosystem of forage and wildlife, Roaring Springs Ranch initiated and implemented the nationally recognized Catlow Valley Fishes Conservation Agreement which sought to remove threats to the native fish species and reestablish them to their native range. Creating partnerships and cooperative agreements has become a major focus of the operation in stopping the spread of evasive species, improving wildlife habitat, educating future agriculturalists, and implementing proper management techniques.

Roaring Springs Ranch has managed environmental challenges that come with utilizing multi-use public lands. In cooperation with BLM, the Roaring Springs Ranch instituted a prescribed fire program on over 100,000 acres to restore upland watershed health. This partnership has not only benefitted the watershed, but has increased forage for wildlife and livestock.

Yolo Land & Cattle Co., Woodland, CA

Located on the outskirts of Sacramento, CA, the Yolo Land & Cattle Co. is a family-owned limited partnership. This cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle operation was nominated by the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Rangeland Trust.

Formed in 1976, Yolo Land & Cattle Co. was a partnership between Henry Stone and John Anderson. In 1983, the partnership was dissolved and Henry retained the headquarters, and soon after, his sons joined him in further developing and diversifying the operation. Yolo Land & Cattle Co. runs on deeded, leased and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres that encompass more than 12,000 total acres. The cattle division includes cow/calf, stocker, and registered cattle. They also operate a farming division including rinse water management and the production of wheat, corn and hay crops.

A sampling of the projects that Yolo Land & Cattle Co. has implemented include: a Vegetative Management Plan (VMP), rotational grazing, grazing on CRP lands, and invasive weed control. Partnering with the California Audubon Society and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection created the largest VMP in the state of California for the purpose of conducting annual spring grass burns and fall brush burns on a total 45,000 acres. The Stone family has a long tradition of conservation work with the Yolo County Resource Conservation District and with USDA’s NRCS, as well as many other agencies and conservation organizations. They also have a long tradition of opening up their ranch for tours and conservation education opportunities.

Alexander Ranch, Sun City, KS

Located just a few miles north of the Oklahoma-Kansas line, the Alexander Ranch was nominated by the Comanche Pool Prairie Resource Foundation.

The ranch covers 7,000 acres and has flourished as a custom grazing operation for the past 23 years. Often stocking between 500-700 cow/calf pairs or 2,500 yearlings, the operation runs on a rotational grazing method. When beneficial to the management of the stockpiled forage, cattle are custom grazed during the winter months.

Environmental enhancements to the land include removal of invasive eastern red cedar trees, development of livestock water sources, improvement of forage productivity, and increasing the native plant and wildlife diversity. The ranch is divided into three grazing cells, each consisting of smaller paddocks of acreage.

Partnering with several agencies, the Alexander Ranch leveraged resources to optimize the land’s environmental capabilities. The ranch works with NRCS and recently utilized EQIP to install a water system to expand the grazing system.

Additionally, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is key to many of Alexander Ranch’s accoplishments. The ranch is home to many wildlife and aquatic species that are candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act. As a result of the partnership, the Alexander Ranch was able to enhance water developments, incorporate native forbs on the old cropped areas, and expand the grazing system.

The culmination of the Alexander Ranch’s grazing lands management practices has contributed to an increase in stocking rates of over 100 percent from the 1984 level, maintained individual animal performance, and increased the pounds of beef produced per acre while upholding the management goals to improve water quality, water quantity, soil health and native rangelands.

The 2007 ESAP Selection Committee consists of past award winners, university faculty, federal and state government agencies, and conservation and environmental organizations. The program is administered by NCBA and sponsored by Dow AgroSciences LCC and NRCS.

The 2007 National Winner will be selected from one of the six ESAP Regional Winners and revealed at the 2008 Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, NV, next February.