The winner of the state’s top conservation award says that rotating grazing land has helped his ranching operation endure the drought.
The Beel family of Johnstown has won the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award.
Henry Beel says his family has always rotated the pastures their cattle graze and that practice has been especially helpful the past year.
“We were able to go clear until November 1st with grazing cows,” according to Beel. “The rotational grazing just produces more grass out there and it really did help with our drought situation.”
Henry Beel operates the 22,000-acre cattle ranch with his brothers Frank and Adam along with wives Jennifer, Mary and Jenny. Their grandfather started the ranch.
Grandfather Henry O. Beel started the first conservation plan for the ranch in 1945; rotating grazing, mowing weeds and seeding wheat. Wildlife habitat has increased as well.
Drought has tested the practice of rotating pasture land and the practice has passed.
Beel says rotating grazing land helped the ranch survive the drought. Due to the dry conditions, the ranch is holding cattle back 10 days longer than normal to allow pastures to soak up as much moisture as possible before grazing begins.
“We’re going to feed our cows a little bit longer here in the springtime and delay turn out. Hopefully, we have some grass here. We have picked up a little moisture in the month of April, but we still need more to get us through this year,” Henry Beel says.
The Leopold Conservation Award is named for conservationist Aldo Leopold. The recipient gets a Leopold crystal, and $10,000. Sand County Foundation, Nebraska Cattlemen and Cargill present the award annually.
Ken Anderson with Brownfield Ag News contributed to this story.