Nebraska Cattlemen to host summer grazing tour
Mark your calendars for the Nebraska Cattlemen (NC)-Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition (NGLC) joint Summer Grazing Tour scheduled for June 11, 2013, in the southeastern Nebraska Sandhills.
The tour will involve four long-standing Sandhills ranches northwest of Burwell including the Gracie Creek Ranch; the Shovel Dot Ranch; the Twin Creek Ranch, and University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL) grazing research on the Barta Brothers Ranch.
Gracie Creek Ranch is a commercial beef operation managed by the Bob Price family and is located in the eastern Sandhills near Burwell, NE. This is a family operation including Bob, son Aaron and daughter Lindsey and her husband Clayton Smith.
The ranch’s main production goal is to promote grassland conservation through a profitable planned grazing system that allows for optimum levels of production and environmental services. To reach this goal, a yearround planned grazing system is implemented, supplementing when needed, and minimizing harvest feed demand. The ranch strives for management simplicity and production flexibility to account for climate and market volatility.
The Price family firmly believes conservation and agricultural production practices can be integrated, profitable, and sustainable for future generations. Conservation practices abound on the operation, and the entire ranch was recently enrolled in the USDA’s Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.
The Buell Family first took roots in the Nebraska Sandhills when Benjamin Franklin Buell homesteaded in Southern Rock County in 1882. Since that time, each generation has worked to preserve and maintain the unique landscape of the Sandhills while at the same time, running a profitable ranch.
The fourth generation, Larry and Homer and their families, operated the Shovel Dot Ranch as a partnership for over 30 years but in 2009, to facilitate the generational transfer of the ranch, they separated. At the present, Homer, his wife Darla, and son Chad and his wife Tricia operate the Shovel Dot Ranch while Larry and his wife Nick operate the Twin Creek Ranch along with their son-in-law Kelby and daughter Devon.
Each ranch, using about 15,000 acres, is a cow/calf, backgrounding, yearling operation with management of native grasses of paramount importance. Homer and his brother Larry, starting back in the 1970s, were always quick to adopt new ideas and technology. The Grazing Manager software program is just one of the tools that they use to set up grazing plans and monitor effects on range health over time. Other technology like Palm Pilots, Quickbooks accounting software, EID, Cow/Calf 5, and AI all contribute to managing both the land and the cattle well.
As stewards of the land, rotational grazing, cross fencing, water pipelines, calving later, winter grazing, and close monitoring of pasture use and production have all helped to improve the quality and quantity of the native grasses. The Buell family is proud to have the fifth generation working the land with profitable cattle ranches. One of the goals of each generation has been to pass along a heritage that runs deep with love for the Nebraska Sandhills, its gently rolling prairies, and its landscape bubbling with life which has continued for 130 years.
Barta Brothers Ranch was gifted to the University of Nebraska Foundation in 1992 by Clifford and Jimmy Barta. Research trials were started in 1998 on the 5,300-acre ranch resulting in eleven M.S. and eight PhD’s thus far. Some of the trials that have been conducted include:
• Long-term grazing study (10 years)
• 4- vs 8-pasture rotation system
• Supplementing yearling steers wet distiller’s grain on native range and feedlot performance
• Finishing yearling heifers on grass with a self-feeder
• Lead plant utilization by beef cows
• Bio-complexity study
• Sand dune re-stabilization
• Fly control trials
• Cedar tree wind break renovation
• Prairie chicken habitat & mallard duck nesting study
Current studies include:
• Above ground plant production by topographic positioning since 1999
• Plant and soil response to stocking rate and grazing period length
• Plant, soil and yearling weight response to grazing systems (including mob grazing) on subirrigated meadow
• Effect of grazing period length (number of moves/ day) on harvest efficiency and trampled vegetation
• Timing of rainfall events on herbage production under drought conditions
• Effect of pasture shape on harvest efficiency & trampled vegetation.
Do not miss this opportunity to learn from some of the most progressive graziers in Nebraska as they relate their unique incorporation of grazing techniques and timetested managerial practices that make their operations work. Box lunches will be provided for consumption en route between stops.
The day concludes with an evening steak dinner at the Barta Brothers Ranch featuring a panel discussion of the owners from the tour stops and UNL grazing researchers. Come and learn more about the activities of the NGLC and NC. — WLJ