Apache-operated Ucross Ranch wins National Rangeland Stewardship Award
Houston, Texas – The Ucross Ranch has received the Society for Range Management’s (SRM’s) 2014 National Excellence in Rangeland Stewardship Award. Ucross, which is operated by Apache Foundation, won SRM’s Wyoming award in 2012 and advanced to win the national competition.
Doug O’Neil, regional vice president of Apache’s Wyoming operations, and Nathan Lindsey, conservation and stewardship manager, recently attended SRM’s meeting in Orlando, Fla. and accepted the award.
“In the tradition of Apache’s AIM UP program, the team at Ucross identified ways to improve the way pastures and grazing operations are managed,” O’Neil said. “These improvements showed how proper stewardship can benefit the land and agricultural producers and improve the bottom line.”
“This award recognizes a lot of hard work by Nathan and Barry Bauer of Bauer Land and Livestock, the agriculture lessee,” he added.
AIM UP – Apache Improvement Method through Understanding Performance – is an Apache program to encourage field-level employees to develop and implement ideas to increase production and reduce operating costs.
Grazing management was altered at Ucross several years ago and has greatly improved pasture performance.
For example, bare ground has been reduced from 50 percent in some pastures to near zero today, and some ephemeral streams now run water year-round.
Plant productivity has tripled or quadrupled over most pastures. Healthier, less invasive grass species have replaced other, less-desirable grasses.
Also, the stocking rate has more than doubled – which means larger, healthier herds and additional revenue. Wildlife habitat for big game, upland birds and waterfowl also has improved.
Apache Foundation, a nonprofit subsidiary of Apache Corporation, leases the 22,000-acre working cattle ranch from its owner, the Ucross Foundation, which was established by Apache in the early 1980s.
Ucross Foundation’s mission is threefold – a residency program providing space in which to nurture the creative spirit for selected artists and writers; meeting facilities for community and regional consensus building; and a model of land management for northeast Wyoming.
In 1999, the foundation placed a conservation easement, held by the Wyoming Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, on more than 12,000 acres of the ranch.
Starting from scratch
Before Apache took over operation of the ranch, previous managers practiced a set-stocking strategy coupled with high stocking rates.
Cattle were placed in pastures for the entirety of the growing season in high numbers and left there. With this strategy, they tended to concentrate in their favorite grazing areas, often near riparian areas, while ignoring available forage in the pastures.
As a result, actual stocking rates were high in the grazed areas and quite low in ungrazed areas. This degraded rangeland health, riparian condition and the ranch’s ability to generate revenue.
Apache solved this problem by adding additional stock water and constructing new pastures using combinations of permanent and temporary electric fence.
A unique design that used stock tanks accessible to multiple pastures called “water circles” was developed so that cattle could be moved readily and simply from one pasture to the next. This provided abundant stock and wildlife water while reducing labor costs.
As rangeland health improved and plant productivity increased, stocking rates could also be increased, resulting in a tripled harvest level in 2011 versus 2002.
The acreage involved stayed the same, so the overall ranch stocking rate increased.
This article is courtesy of Apache Corporation. For more information, contact Bill Mintz at 713-296-7276 or Patrick Cassidy at 713-296-6100.
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