The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association awarded Utah ranch JY Ferry & Son Inc. with the 2022 National Environmental Stewardship Award at the association’s annual summer business meeting. Honored for outstanding environmental stewardship, the Ferry family has a 100-year history of conservation tactics that focus on water conservation, energy, and protecting natural resources. John Ferry is a fourth-generation rancher on his family operation who raises corn, silage, and other cash crops.
JY Ferry & Son Inc is located primarily on private and public wetlands in Corinne, Utah. Recognizing that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with the economic viability of their business, son Joel Ferry said, “We believe that the way we manage our cattle and crops improves the air quality, water quality and wildlife habitats, and we base decisions for grazing and crop rotation on water resource availability.”
One of the challenges of wetland ranching has been an invasive species called phragmites. While wetland vegetation is varied, this invasive reed grass impedes wetland quality, driving native wildlife populations out. Traditionally, phragmites were controlled solely through herbicide usage, but the Ferry family has discovered the efficacy with which cattle trained to eat the invader can improve wetlands, the ecosystem, and subsequently, native wildlife habitats.
“We’ve discovered in all operations that we can control Phragmites by grazing it. When you spray it, you kill everything, and when you drought it, you kill everything. We have been places where they haven’t had cattle ever, and it’s a thick, jungle, mess of Phragmites. You can’t walk through it, and there’s no habitat for anything,” John Ferry said.
By grazing cattle trained to eat the invasive species, he said, “You’re turning a disaster into a grazing opportunity. … Proper management of cattle in wetland areas actually improves the wetlands.”
“Sustainability is a daily goal for our family, and sustainability to me means managing the resource in such a way that it’s here for generations,” said Joel Ferry, “I’m constantly looking for ways to improve and enhance what we have, because we have a beautiful resource here. I love it.”
The Environmental Stewardship Award has been in place for 30 years, recognizing beef producers for their outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements. Regional winners and national winners are chosen annually based on their commitment to protecting the environment and improving wildlife habitats while operating profitable cattle operations. While rewarding and highlighting stewardship efforts, the program also helps provide other ranchers with examples and ideas for their operations.