Media Backgrounder NCBA 29th Annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Story-Starting Facts about the

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(News releases are available on beefusa.org)

INDIANAPOLIS — Corteva Agriscience announced seven  cattle operations were honored July 30 in the annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP) as outstanding stewards of their natural resources. Established by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in 1991, the program announced the latest regional winners during the NCBA Summer Business Meeting in Denver. The program will name its 29th national winner from this group, February 5, 2020, at the Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio.

ESAP is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and funded by Corteva Agriscience, McDonald’s Corporation and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Here’s an introduction to this year’s regional winners.


Region I

Overhome Farm

Crozier, Virginia

Ronnie Nuckols

Contact Ronnie, phone 804-647-1976

Email: rfnuckols@gmail.com

  • The farm, 30 miles west/northwest of Richmond, has been in Ronnie Nuckols’ family since 1876
  • Ronnie Nuckols assumed management of the 175-acre farm in 2009
  • The farm drains into the James River 1 mile away and eventually into Chesapeake Bay
  • The James River Water Quality Improvement Program identified polluted runoff from farms as a major contributor of nutrients, bacteria and sediment
  • Mandatory livestock exclusion is not currently legislated, but it has been discussed
  • When Nuckols took over the farm, cattle had access to woodlands and surface waters; cattle loafed near springs, creeks and ponds, resulting in the runoff of nutrients and eroded banks
  • Nuckols installed 15,000 feet of fence to keep cattle away from all surface waters, following a 35-foot vegetative buffer rule which significantly reduced his grazing area
  • Additional cross fencing established 19 permanent grazing paddocks which Nuckols subdivides into as many 60 temporary paddocks
  • Paddocks are rotational grazed with 63 cow-calf pairs, three bulls and 18 yearling heifers
  • Streams now run clear; rapid grass recovery and increased productivity have compensated for loss of grazing land
  • Nuckols installed a new watering system that pumps water from ponds to hilltop reservoirs and then gravity flows it to 14 paddocks; a separate pressurized system serves five more paddocks
  • Nuckols stockpiles fescue and strip-grazes it through the winter to save feeding hay
  • Nuckols converted about a third of his pastures to double-crop warm season annuals for summer grazing and cool season annuals for late fall and early spring grazing
  • Among his latest projects, Nuckols is planting native warm season grasses for quail habitat and converting toxic Kentucky 31 fescue pastures to non-toxic fescue
  • Nuckols opens the farm to host events for NRCS, Extension, cattle associations and school groups to demonstrate the benefits of conservation to soil health, cattle production and the environment
  • Nominated by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Virginia


Region II

Blackbeard’s Ranch

Myakka City, Florida

Jim Strickland, managing partner

Contact Jim, phone 941-812-1785

Email: stricklandranch@gmail.com

  • Galinski Enterprises bought the 4,500-acre ranch in late 2014; Jim Strickland is managing partner
  • The ranch lies just east of the Gulf Coast community of Sarasota, Florida
  • It is one of the last large intact cow operations in the region and provides a buffer to Myakka River State Park and protects the headwaters to slough systems that drain into the river
  • The 600-cow commercial herd is just one income generator; others include sod, cabbage palm harvesting, timber, honey, alligator hunting and a Mangalitsa pig operation
  • Strickland partners with other ranchers to finish 10,000 calves in Florida for the Florida market
  • Soon after buying the ranch, Strickland implemented prescribed burning, control of exotic invasive plants and restoration of natural systems and hydrology on the ranch
  • Since 2014, 90% of the native habitat on the ranch has been through a prescribed burn
  • Exotic invasive plants have been reduced by 70% since 2014
  • Restoration of natural areas increases water yield, protects drinking water and enhances water storage in the watershed
  • The ranch’s water management uses weirs and risers to rehydrate areas for cattle water supply and to provide wildlife habitat
  • Populations of deer, turkey and gopher tortoises have increased under Strickland’s management
  • Wildlife authorities have identified the ranch as critical habitat for the recovery of the Florida panther; Strickland is working with state wildlife officials to document panthers on-site
  • In 2018, Strickland placed 1,500 acres of the ranch in a permanent Wetland Reserve Easement
  • Strickland prioritizes outreach, hosting tours for state and federal legislators, students and teachers and cooperating with wildlife researchers
  • Strickland is a frequent speaker presenting to agricultural, environmental and government groups
  • Nominated by Florida Cattlemen’s Association


Region III

Didrikson Farms

Badger, Minnesota

Dana and Michelle Didrikson; Thor and Kelsey Didrikson

Contact Dana, cell phone 218-689-1480

Email: danadidrikson@gmail.com

  • Didrikson Farms is located in northwest Minnesota about 20 miles south of the Canadian border
  • Brothers Dana and Thor Didrikson are the fourth generation on the family farm of 4,500 acres
  • Since 2006, the brothers have converted their 2,000 acres of cropland to no-till and incorporated cover crops to promote soil conservation,
  • The 2,500 acres of pasture support a 450-cow herd and backgrounding and stocker enterprises in an intensive rotational grazing system implemented in 2015
  • The family sells packaged meats through a farmer’s market and to local food service operators
  • By implementing intensive rotational grazing, the brothers have more than doubled their grazing days on fewer total acres
  • They average 75 paddocks per herd
  • Stock density on a paddock at any one time has gone from 8,000 pounds per acre to 80,000 to 100,000 pounds per acre
  • The brothers say it takes eight to 10 paddocks per herd to stop overgrazing; 14 to 16 paddocks to improve animal performance, and more than 25 paddocks per herd to improve pasture health
  • Cattle strip-graze pastures and cover crops through the winter; the brothers move an electric fence daily to make most efficient use of forage
  • Tire-tank troughs are moved with cattle when strip grazing; those tanks tap into buried water lines
  • Short-season cover crops on cropland provide grazing for a period after harvest until cattle move to season-long cover crops; season-long covers provide grazing from November through January
  • Cereal rye, seeded into cropland after harvest in the fall, provides spring grazing
  • Beginning in 2019, the brothers will transition from grain farming to grass and cattle farming only, trading some cropland for more pasture
  • Nominated by Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association


Region IV

Killam Duval County Ranch

Freer, Texas

David Killam, owner; David Kitner, ranch manager

Contact David Kitner, phone 956-285-0466

Email:  dkitner@yahoo.com                 

  • Owned by Killam Ranch Properties, Ltd., the 125,000-acre Duval County Ranch is about 50 miles northeast of Laredo in South Texas; Killam Ranch Properties also owns ranches in Kansas, Nebraska and Montana
  • The growing season is typically 297 days with inconsistent precipitation
  • The ranch averages 21 inches of rainfall per year, but it has varied from 4 to 44 inches per year
  • Kitner joined the ranch as manager in 2001, a few years after Killam Ranches bought the property
  • When Kitner arrived, the ranch had been overgrazed and overhunted; Kitner destocked the ranch for two years to allow pastures to recover
  • Kitner implemented rotational grazing; pastures range in size from 1,200 acres to 9,000 acres
  • Light stocker cattle graze in herds of up to 2,500 head with time in pastures dependent on pasture size and forage availability
  • Pastures typically rest for a year after grazing and are not grazed in the same season the next year
  • Improved grass cover increased rainfall absorption so earthen stock tanks no longer catch runoff; Kitner installed 200 miles of water lines and more than 200 water troughs to provide stock water
  • Kitner located nearly 650,000 gallons of water storage on 19 high spots to gravity-feed the troughs
  • Anywhere on the ranch, cattle are within 1 mile of water which has improved grazing distribution
  • An early step to heal the land was opening brush canopy with aerial application of herbicides
  • Brush management continues with fire and both chemical and mechanical methods
  • Wildlife habitat is a key consideration in brush management; hunting is an income source
  • The ranch is a premier destination for trophy white tail hunters; Boone & Crockett scores have improved from 160 to consistently more than 200
  • Nominated by Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Section Society for Range Management and Texas Grazing Lands Coalition


Region V

Cundall Ranch

Glendo, Wyoming

Larry and Ruthie Cundall

Contact Larry, phone 307-735-4356

Email:  cundallranch@gmail.com

  • Larry and Ruthie are the fourth generation on the Cundall Ranch, established in 1917
  • The 20,000-acre ranch, including deeded and public lease land, is about 80 miles east of Casper
  • The ranch includes part of the Oregon Trail with five campsites and at least three emigrant graves
  • Under the prescribed rotational grazing plan, pastures are grazed 10 to 30 days in the spring and early summer, then rest 60 to 75 days before being grazed again in late summer and fall
  • Grazing rotation is facilitated by 10 miles of cross fencing and four water lines stretching nine miles with five solar pumps, three storage tanks and 28 watering sites
  • Larry established monitoring points in pastures to manage optimum stocking while protecting and improving natural resources
  • Monitoring data shows positive trends in rangeland condition and riparian improvement
  • Riparian areas are managed separately to enhance water course and show increased willow growth, cottonwood regeneration and improved water quality
  • The ranch is rich in wildlife — deer, elk, antelope, small game, upland birds, raptors, predators
  • Larry installed bird ramps in water tanks and follows center-to-outside hay swathing to allow wildlife an avenue of escape
  • About 100 wild turkeys make their home near the Cundall Ranch headquarters
  • Three pivot irrigation systems with two wells and 2,816 feet of pipeline have improved water efficiency and increased hay production on 120 acres of irrigated hay fields
  • The Cundalls established five living snow fences to minimize drifting on public roads, provide shelter for livestock and habitat for wildlife
  • The Cundalls have mentored young producers wanting to get experience and ranching knowledge
  • Nominated by Wyoming Stock Growers Association


Region VI

Ute Creek Cattle Company

Bueyeros, New Mexico

Tuda Libby Crews

Contact Tuda via website: www.utecreekcattlecompany.com

  • Ute Creek Cattle Company (UCCC) lies 190 miles east of Santa Fe, comprising 14,000 acres of deeded and state lease land supporting 250 cowsUte Creek Cattle Company (UCCC) lies 190 miles east of Santa Fe, comprising 14,000 acres of deeded and state lease land supporting 250 cows
  • Starting with Spanish land grants in the early 1800 Tuda’s family has ranched here for seven generations. Her family roots trace back to Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Baca
  • Raised on the ranch, Tuda met her husband, Jack, in college and moved to his family’s Wyoming ranch where they lived for 37 years
  • Tuda inherited one-fifth of her family ranch and the couple moved to New Mexico. The ranch had four pastures with four water sources and had suffered from continuous overgrazing and recurring drought
  • Using cost-share programs, UCCC fenced 10 miles of Ute Creek to implement riparian recovery
  • An Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract treated salt cedar along the creek to restore water year-round
  • To facilitate adaptive rotational grazing, UCCC installed 26 miles of interior fencing, 18 miles of pipeline, three water storage tanks and new drinkers to create 25 pastures
  • Shade balls – small plastic spheres floating on the surface of 9 stock tanks – reduce evaporation by 91%; the application saves the ranch 16,000 gallons of water per tank per year
  • All drinkers are fitted with wildlife escape ladders
  • Bare ground and soil erosion decreased under rotational grazing as grass production and soil moisture retention increased and improved carrying capacity and drought resistance
  • In 2003, Tuda established a 23-acre wild bird sanctuary with a water source, berry bushes, grape arbor and bird houses. Over 14-years, bird species sighted increased from 16 to over 100
  • UCCC all-natural calves are Angus-age and source-verified; the ranch is IMI Global third-party certified
  • Nominated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife New Mexico Partners program


Region VII

Blew Partnership

Hutchinson, Kansas

C.J. and Beckie Blew; Russell Blew

Contact C.J., phone 620-459-6731, cell 620-727-2494

Email:  cjblew@blewpartnership.com                    

  • Blew Partnership operates 19,000 deeded and leased acres in three south-central Kansas counties
  • It is a vertically integrated enterprise with cow-calf, backgrounding and finishing components — after weaning, calves are backgrounded on the ranch and finished in commercial feedlots
  • Their 1,700 brood cows graze year-round, consuming very little forage that’s harvested for them
  • Less haying has saved machinery costs and fuel
  • The Blews converted more than 1,500 acres of cropland back to perennial grasses and annual cover crops to protect the watershed that serves the city of Wichita
  • Precision agriculture applications have reduced fertilizer use; legumes in cover crops and nutrient recycling through grazing have reduced fertilizer needs by half to 2/3
  • Nearly all the ranch land had been overgrazed at some point; the Blews’ holistic resource management has increased plant diversity, water infiltration and soil health
  • The Blews use rotational and intensive grazing to increase stock density and improve soil health on both native range and converted cropland
  • Grazing management is aided by miles of underground water line, storage tanks and pumps
  • Rangeland management is adjusted to benefit the lesser prairie chicken, a threatened species
  • The Blews manage eastern red cedar, an invasive species, with both fire and mechanical means to improve forage production, water availability and grassland wildlife habitat
  • A 2016 wildfire pushed red cedar control ahead five years, but destroyed ranch infrastructure
  • The family adapted systems for better grazing management, adding wells, large solar-powered pumps and additional water storage on hilltops to gravity flow water to paddocks
  • The Blews installed escape ramps for wildlife in stock tanks
  • Nominated by the Red Angus Association of America


About the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP)

  • Instituted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in 1991
  • Program recognizes cattle producers whose efforts benefit both the environment and the bottom line, reflecting true sustainability — ecological and economic
  • Administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation
  • Funded by Corteva Agriscience, McDonalds Corporation and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Dow AgroSciences, one of three legacy companies that now make up Corteva Agriscience, became a sponsor in 1998. It is the longest sponsorship in the history of the program
  • Any individual or group may nominate a cattle producer for the award
  • Winners are selected by a committee of experts from both within and outside the cattle industry
  • Selection committee chooses a regional winner from nominations in each of NCBA’s seven regions
  • Regional winners then compete for the national award
  • Nominations are due in March of each year; regional winners are announced at Summer Conference; the national winner is announced at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention
  • Through the program, winners have generated positive media coverage, influenced government policy and told their story of how properly managed cattle production exemplifies sustainable agriculture 

Advancing Range & Pasture Management

For more than 70 years, the company known as Dow Ag Products, DowElanco and Dow AgroSciences was the leading provider of rangeland and pasture weed and brush control products for U.S. ranchers. With the transition to Corteva Agriscience, that legacy lives on. Through trusted products, Corteva Agriscience helps ranchers maximize on their lowest-cost feed source: their grazing land. Eliminating low-value, competitive plants with highly effective herbicides delivers a positive return on investment for cattle producers.


Follow Range & Pasture at Corteva Agriscience at RangeAndPasture.com and on Twitter.


About Corteva Agriscience

Corteva Agriscience is a publicly traded, global pure-play agriculture company that provides farmers around the world with the most complete portfolio in the industry - including a balanced and diverse mix of seed, crop protection and digital solutions focused on maximizing productivity to enhance yield and profitability. With some of the most recognized brands in agriculture and an industry-leading product and technology pipeline well positioned to drive growth, the company is committed to working with stakeholders throughout the food system as it fulfills its promise to enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come. Corteva Agriscience became anindependent public company on June 1, 2019, and was previously the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont.


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Kacey Birchmier

Corteva Agriscience




Laura Svec

Corteva Agriscience