Leopold winners share tips to improve ranch resources | TheFencePost.com

Leopold winners share tips to improve ranch resources

Gayle Smith
Potter, Neb.

The family has built six new shelter belts of pine trees in recent years. There are no cedar trees in the shelter belts since they are considered a problem in the area.

“We come and we go, but the land is always here. And the people who live it and understand it are the people who own it – for a little while.” The meaning of this famous quote by Willa Cather of O Pioneers is one Kay Lynn Kalkowski, and her late husband, Larry, have instilled in their children.

“Larry taught his sons about the value of natural resources and that the land should always be left in better shape than it was when acquired. We think about the land we care for in five basic parts: the land itself, water, trees, wildlife and the people entrusted as caretakers. Each of these is an essential component of good stewardship,” she explained while receiving the Leopold Conservation Award

in 2010.

The Kalkowski Family Ranches near Lynch, Neb., were honored with the Leopold Conservation Award last year because of their outstanding stewardship practices and the improvements they’ve made over the years. The ranch, which was founded in 1957 by Larry and Kay Lynn, is now owned and managed by their sons: Jeff, Tim, Chris and John. During the recent Nebraska Grazing Conference in Kearney, Neb., Tim and Chris addressed the improvements they have made on the ranch and how such a large family is able to work together to achieve their goals.

Although the original ranch was 160 acres, the family has made additional purchases over the years to include areas along the Niobrara River. According to Tim, most of the grazing land is rolling hills with forested draws. The soil is primarily clay with cool season grasses. “We have been trying to incorporate more warm season grasses by how we graze our cattle,” he said. “Since our grass is primarily cool season, we have found the sooner we get the cattle in there, the better off we are. Sometimes, we are grazing these pastures in April,” he explained. “We think of our cattle as mowers. The moment we put them out there, the grass starts growing. We typically bring in 30 percent more than what we think the pasture will handle,” he continued. “We graze the pastures earlier and quicker. We like to sell yearlings in August to hit the high markets.”

In the cow/calf operation, the cows start calving March 20, so the family can incorporate rotating grass with the cattle in the spring. “We live in an area with a lot of gumbo, and rain in the spring,” Chris explained. “It can be a challenge to get around. Our challenge has been to try and match our calving season to Mother Nature.”

Recommended Stories For You

The Kalkowski’s use a rotational grazing system with 32-36 pastures. The cattle are divided into seven groups that each utilize a minimum of four, but up to six to seven pastures. The grass is divided into pastures with a two-wire electric fence. “This has helped us increase our stocking rate 32 percent,” he said. The pastures are utilized by 58 percent cow/calf pairs, and 32 percent yearlings, although Tim admits they may increase the number of yearlings they graze in the future.

Within these pastures, the family has installed 38,000 feet of pipeline. The pipeline carries water to rubber tire tanks the family has purchased from coal mines and tire stores. “Most of the tanks are 12 feet,” Tim explained. “Most are on pipelines. We have put in 25 tanks since 1991. It is a great way to water cattle because the tanks are indestructible,” he explained. “We have even found ways to utilize them during the winter.”

In addition, the property also has 49 dams. “My dad started this project in the early years to provide water for wildlife and livestock,” Tim explained. “We don’t put salt boxes near any water source. Most pastures have two dams and a pipeline in them.”

The pastures are rotated by moving the salt and mineral, shutting off and turning on tanks, and opening a gate. The cattle are always anxious to move to fresh grass, so little labor is involved in moving the cattle.

To improve the quality of their grass, Tim said they have just started to monitor grass growth. “We have set up monitoring systems in 12 locations,” he explained. “We have set up a software program so we can analyze how our grass is doing.”

The family has also experimented with Tiff grass in high traffic and high utilization areas. “We have planted it in a lot of smaller lots and it stands up well to heavier traffic and continues to grow well,” he said. “We are planning to plant some more.”

In addition, the family has also planted six shelter belts in recent years. “We plant a lot of pine trees,” Tim said. “We do not have any cedar trees in our shelter belts,” he explained. “We plant shelter belts for wind erosion, wildlife, livestock shelter and carbon,” he said. In the areas where cedar trees have invaded their grazing pastures, Tim said they utilize controlled burns. “Cedar tree invasion is a big issue in our area,” he said. “We also try and control them with spraying and sawing them down.”

Tim said the family also works together to stabilize the banks along the river and streams that run through the ranch. One of the more recent projects is controlling 1,500 feet of stream bank on Ponca Creek. “We are utilizing some of the cedar trees we cut down by using them to stabilize the creek banks,” he explained. Over time, the banks have grown back over the top of the downed cedars and become more stable. “That has been 12 to 13 years ago now. We are trying to use nature to our benefit,” he said.

Tim said for the most part, the family are all absentee landowners with jobs in town who return to the family’s ranches to plant trees, make repairs and improvements, and care for the cattle. “Our ranch foreman is an integral part of our operation,” he explained. “In family arrangements, communication is the most important part of the operation. You also have to be able to give in sometimes, and be flexible,” he said. Tim encouraged producers to not be afraid of trying new ideas or be afraid of failure. “You have to be willing to think outside the box, and not be afraid to try new things,” he said. “Just use common sense.”

“We come and we go, but the land is always here. And the people who live it and understand it are the people who own it – for a little while.” The meaning of this famous quote by Willa Cather of O Pioneers is one Kay Lynn Kalkowski, and her late husband, Larry, have instilled in their children.

“Larry taught his sons about the value of natural resources and that the land should always be left in better shape than it was when acquired. We think about the land we care for in five basic parts: the land itself, water, trees, wildlife and the people entrusted as caretakers. Each of these is an essential component of good stewardship,” she explained while receiving the Leopold Conservation Award

in 2010.

The Kalkowski Family Ranches near Lynch, Neb., were honored with the Leopold Conservation Award last year because of their outstanding stewardship practices and the improvements they’ve made over the years. The ranch, which was founded in 1957 by Larry and Kay Lynn, is now owned and managed by their sons: Jeff, Tim, Chris and John. During the recent Nebraska Grazing Conference in Kearney, Neb., Tim and Chris addressed the improvements they have made on the ranch and how such a large family is able to work together to achieve their goals.

Although the original ranch was 160 acres, the family has made additional purchases over the years to include areas along the Niobrara River. According to Tim, most of the grazing land is rolling hills with forested draws. The soil is primarily clay with cool season grasses. “We have been trying to incorporate more warm season grasses by how we graze our cattle,” he said. “Since our grass is primarily cool season, we have found the sooner we get the cattle in there, the better off we are. Sometimes, we are grazing these pastures in April,” he explained. “We think of our cattle as mowers. The moment we put them out there, the grass starts growing. We typically bring in 30 percent more than what we think the pasture will handle,” he continued. “We graze the pastures earlier and quicker. We like to sell yearlings in August to hit the high markets.”

In the cow/calf operation, the cows start calving March 20, so the family can incorporate rotating grass with the cattle in the spring. “We live in an area with a lot of gumbo, and rain in the spring,” Chris explained. “It can be a challenge to get around. Our challenge has been to try and match our calving season to Mother Nature.”

The Kalkowski’s use a rotational grazing system with 32-36 pastures. The cattle are divided into seven groups that each utilize a minimum of four, but up to six to seven pastures. The grass is divided into pastures with a two-wire electric fence. “This has helped us increase our stocking rate 32 percent,” he said. The pastures are utilized by 58 percent cow/calf pairs, and 32 percent yearlings, although Tim admits they may increase the number of yearlings they graze in the future.

Within these pastures, the family has installed 38,000 feet of pipeline. The pipeline carries water to rubber tire tanks the family has purchased from coal mines and tire stores. “Most of the tanks are 12 feet,” Tim explained. “Most are on pipelines. We have put in 25 tanks since 1991. It is a great way to water cattle because the tanks are indestructible,” he explained. “We have even found ways to utilize them during the winter.”

In addition, the property also has 49 dams. “My dad started this project in the early years to provide water for wildlife and livestock,” Tim explained. “We don’t put salt boxes near any water source. Most pastures have two dams and a pipeline in them.”

The pastures are rotated by moving the salt and mineral, shutting off and turning on tanks, and opening a gate. The cattle are always anxious to move to fresh grass, so little labor is involved in moving the cattle.

To improve the quality of their grass, Tim said they have just started to monitor grass growth. “We have set up monitoring systems in 12 locations,” he explained. “We have set up a software program so we can analyze how our grass is doing.”

The family has also experimented with Tiff grass in high traffic and high utilization areas. “We have planted it in a lot of smaller lots and it stands up well to heavier traffic and continues to grow well,” he said. “We are planning to plant some more.”

In addition, the family has also planted six shelter belts in recent years. “We plant a lot of pine trees,” Tim said. “We do not have any cedar trees in our shelter belts,” he explained. “We plant shelter belts for wind erosion, wildlife, livestock shelter and carbon,” he said. In the areas where cedar trees have invaded their grazing pastures, Tim said they utilize controlled burns. “Cedar tree invasion is a big issue in our area,” he said. “We also try and control them with spraying and sawing them down.”

Tim said the family also works together to stabilize the banks along the river and streams that run through the ranch. One of the more recent projects is controlling 1,500 feet of stream bank on Ponca Creek. “We are utilizing some of the cedar trees we cut down by using them to stabilize the creek banks,” he explained. Over time, the banks have grown back over the top of the downed cedars and become more stable. “That has been 12 to 13 years ago now. We are trying to use nature to our benefit,” he said.

Tim said for the most part, the family are all absentee landowners with jobs in town who return to the family’s ranches to plant trees, make repairs and improvements, and care for the cattle. “Our ranch foreman is an integral part of our operation,” he explained. “In family arrangements, communication is the most important part of the operation. You also have to be able to give in sometimes, and be flexible,” he said. Tim encouraged producers to not be afraid of trying new ideas or be afraid of failure. “You have to be willing to think outside the box, and not be afraid to try new things,” he said. “Just use common sense.”