Livestock News

NCBA honors six cattle operations for outstanding stewardship

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Six cattle operations across the United States have been recognized as outstanding stewards of their natural resources. Established by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in 1991, the Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP) will name its 28th national winner from this group, January 30, 2019, at the Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans.

The regional winners are:

Region I
Thunder View Farms
Grahamsville, New York
Philip and Richard Coombe

Thunder View Farms is a 130-cow seedstock, cow-calf, and freezer-beef operation on 1,500 rolling acres 100 miles north of New York City. The farm is located in a watershed draining to Rondout Reservoir through which flows more than half of New York City’s drinking water. When proposed regulations threatened the viability of area farms, Dick led an effort to develop a voluntary watershed protection program; 90 percent of farms in the watershed have enrolled. Other than some purchased grain for cattle finishing, Thunder View Farms is totally forage-based. The family fenced streams and rented 15 acres to the federal government for a riparian buffer. Planting 3,000 trees in the buffer has helped organisms remove more nutrients from the water

For winter feeding, the farm installed heavy use pads of compacted gravel on geotextile fabric. The pads are placed more than 1,000 feet from any stream to protect surface waters; the pads also allow 2,000 tons of manure to be collected and applied according to a nutrient management plan. The family also installed 5,000 feet of pipeline to gravity-flow water to pastures and feeding areas.

Region II —No nominations

Region III
Landuyt Land and Livestock
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Mike and Kari Landuyt, George and Kris Landuyt

Located in southwest Minnesota, Mike is the fourth generation to operate Landuyt Land and Livestock. He and his father, George, farm nearly 2,200 acres and custom-farm another 400 acres. They also finish about 1,400 fed cattle per year in a hoop barn and a monoslope barn. The Landuyts use reduced tillage and cover crops to improve soil health.

The family takes soil tests on each 2.5 acres of cropland (grid sampling) to fine-tune inputs. Their corn crop is fed or sold to a local ethanol plant which provides distillers grains for feeding.

They use corn stover as bedding for cattle in their barns and apply it back to crop land with manure from the barns as fertilizer. The family tests all manure annually to determine nutrient value. With soil tests and manure values, they can apply fertilization where it’s best used.

The family also uses integrated pest management, low-drift sprayer technologies, and tissue sampling that together have provided both environmental and economic benefits

Region IV
Birdwell and Clark Ranch
Henrietta, Texas
Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark

Birdwell and Clark bought their ranch in north central Texas in 2004 and have operated it following the holistic resource management principles advocated by Allan Savory. They typically run 5,000 stocker cattle per year in a time-managed one-herd grazing program. That herd rotates through about 340 paddocks on their 14,200 acres

The couple created 140 paddocks by adding a one-wire electric fence to existing fencing. They chose stocker cattle to achieve the stock density and hoof action they desired to knock down old plants, break up the soil surface, and incorporate litter and manure into the soil.

When drought emptied earthen stock tanks, the couple installed 25 miles of water pipeline. As part of that system, Birdwell built a mobile watering trough from a surplus propane tank. Vegetation now grows to the water’s edge in those earthen tanks and water quality has improved.

Region V
The Hahn Ranch
Townsend, Montana
Chuck, Dusty, and Buck Hahn; Cory and Jennilee Bird; Bev Bird; John Hahn; Dorothy Hahn

The Hahn Ranch has operated for 110 years in southwestern Montana; four generations currently live on the ranch, including matriarch Dorothy Hahn, 92. Two generations remain active in the business. The operation comprises 27,760 acres including deeded, public, and private lease land.

The 550-cow herd grazes 23,000 acres. Irrigated alfalfa, wheat, and malt barley are cash crops. With a 60-day calving season, 87 percent of the ranch’s calves are born in the first three weeks . Their ideal is a moderate-framed cow capable of weaning at calf at 210 days weighing 50 percent of her weight at a body condition score of 5.

Minimum-till, cover crops, and composted fertilizer have improved soil organic matter; where it once averaged 3 percent across the ranch, it now approaches 5 percent. The increase in soil organic matter saves about 0.25 acre-feet of irrigation water per acre.

Through the Hahns’ work with private and public interests, Deep Creek was delisted as an impaired waterway for sediment; also streamflow temperature and fish populations have improved. Riparian fencing, off-stream stock water systems, and noxious weed control continue to be key components in a watershed restoration plan.

Region VI
Haleakala Ranch
Makawao, Hawaii
Peter Baldwin; Greg Friel, Vice President-Livestock; Charlene Ka’uhane, media contact

Haleakala Ranch occupies 29,000 acres on the eastern slope of Haleakala and is the island’s largest and oldest landowner. The ranch maintains valuable open space and vast diversity, ranging from near sea level to 9,500 feet in elevation, dry leeward coast to subtropical rainforest, temperate pastureland to alpine forest. Haleakala Ranch is owned by more than 100 family shareholders.

Grazing lands currently support more than 1,200 brood cows, mostly black and red Angus. The ranch is rebuilding cow numbers as it recovers from drought in 14 of the last 20 years.

In 2015, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service exempted 8,700 acres of the ranch from Critical Habitat designation because of the ranch’s voluntary conservation activities. These activities protect 55 endangered/threatened plants and two endangered forest birds. The ranch has increased geranium arboretum, an endangered plant native only to Maui.

Region VII
Moes Feedlot LLC
Watertown, South Dakota
John and Donita Moes

John Moes started his operation with 20 cows grazing rented pasture in 1987; he became a full-time producer in 1999. Today the operation in northeastern South Dakota comprises a 250-cow commercial herd, row crops, and a feedlot permitted for just less than 2,000 head. Fed cattle are typically harvested at 13 to 14 months of age grading high choice. Through selective breeding, John has improved the number of calves qualifying for Certified Angus Beef from 25 percent to 65 percent in four years.

A system of sediment basins, holding ponds, a solid manure stacking area, piping, diversion dikes, channels, and nearly three acres of drainage area allows collection of nutrients from the feedlot. Those nutrients are applied to more than 1,200 acres of cropland.

John tests soils for nitrogen annually to fine-tune manure applications as fertilizer. Applications of feedlot manure have improved organic matter to as much as 4.5 percent which improves water-holding capacity. John also worked with Pheasants Forever to cross-fence and install 900 feet of water line to pastures to implement rotational grazing and keep cattle away from surface water, improving water quality.

ESAP is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and funded by Corteva Agriscience, McDonald’s Corporation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Tags: Livestock News, Conservation, Environment, Agriculture
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