A century of conservation: Cundall Ranch wins Environmental Stewardship Award
Glendo – 2017 marks 100 years for Cundall Ranch, operated by Larry and Ruthie Cundall, and the milestone is also marked by Wyoming’s highest conservation honor awarded to the couple.
This year, Larry and Ruthie Cundall are the recipients of the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA), presented by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
“We’re so appreciative of the people who have helped us through the years and nominated us for this award,” Larry Cundall comments. “It’s really exciting and humbling to receive this award.”
Cundall Ranch was established in 1917 by Harry Cundall and his sons Paul, Ray and Walter.
“The original base of the operation was on the Platte River,” describes Cundall. “They had a lot of irrigated acreage back then, but when Glendo Dam was built, the main ranch buildings were inundated.”
The ranch was split up between the generations, and today, the Cundalls run on the original summer range.
“We’ve still got the nucleus of the original place,” he says.
Ranching near Glendo
Cundall Ranch is a cow/calf operation today, but Cundall explains the family started in the seedstock business.
“In the 1920s, my family started with purebred Herefords,” he says. “When the partnership broke up, the seedstock part went to another branch of the family, and my dad ran a yearling operation.”
Cundall returned to the ranch after serving in the Vietnam War and marrying Ruthie, noting it was at that time he switched to a cow/calf operation.
“When I came home, I wasn’t as keen on yearlings,” Cundall comments. “We went back to the cow/calf operation, and that’s what we’ve done for the last 45 years.”
Cundall’s Angus cattle are run across leased, deeded, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation (BuRec) and state land. Cundall says he has dabbled in crossbreeding through the years, but today, he runs black cattle with a few Hereford bulls, choosing to artificially inseminate the heifers.
“Ranching has always been in my blood, and it was always what I wanted to do,” Cundall says. “I enjoyed ranching when I first started, and I still enjoy it today.”
From a young age, a conservation ethic was instilled in Cundall.
“When I was young, my dad had a few Great Plains Projects with the Soil Conservation Service, before the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). I could see the improvements on the land when he was working on those projects,” Cundall explains.
As he works day-to-day, Cundall notes he takes note of areas that need to be improve on the ranch, and he’s continued in his father’s stead, working in partnership with NRCS to complete a number of projects.
“We’ve done cross-fencing, water projects, grazing plans and more,” he explains.
Among their many projects, Cundall says water projects have been central to their operation.
“When I was 10 years old, we carried sprinkler pipe by hand, and my wife and I carried sprinkler pipe until about eight years ago, when we installed three pivots through the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP),” Cundall says. “We saved water and increased our production, as well.”
Additionally, the Cundalls have installed solar wells to increase the number of cattle for grazing in short-duration pastures.
“Windmills worked great in the 20s and 30s, but a windmill won’t water 150 cows on our ranch,” Cundall says. “The water development has helped us to develop better grazing plans.”
They further distribute water using nine miles of waterlines and over 10,000 gallons of underground storage tanks.
More than 10 miles of cross-fences have also been added to improve distribution of cattle across the landscape.
“Grazing and water development not only improve the grass but can improve water quality as a result of good cover in extreme weather events,” Cundall comments.
At the same time, he has implemented conservation projects on the ranch, Cundall has focused on advancing agriculture research, as well.
“As I began working to implement different conservation practices, I ended up being on the University of Wyoming’s James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) Advisory Board in Lingle,” he says. “For the past 20-some years, I’ve had an interest in research, which is also part of conservation, in my mind.”
Additionally, Cundall is the chair of the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education board, which focuses on providing grants and education in 17 western states and the Pacific Islands.
“I get to see a lot of research, and I see how these practices are used on the ranch,” Cundall explains. “It’s exciting. Research is interesting. Sustainable ag is interesting. Conservation is fun.”
He further adds, “Many of these things can also be profitable. It’s natural instinct for me to want to improve our property and improve our livestock. It’s something I do.”
Research for sustainability
For Cundall, research on grazing, water, genetics and more is necessary to continue to advance and sustain the agriculture industry.
“It’s exciting to see research projects done, and the organizations I work with do it from a grassroots level. It’s not top-down,” he says. “Farmers and ranchers come up with ideas to try to improve the ranch. NRCS has been willing to listen and try ideas for different projects, as well.”
Cundall comments, “To me, research, conservation and agriculture go hand-in-hand, and they all three have to happen to be sustainable.”
While Larry is involved in research, Ruthie also actively participates on the Farm Service Agency county committee, and before that, the Farmer’s Home Administration Farm Loan Board. Ruthie’s involvement allowed her to stay engaged in the ag community, as well.
As Cundall looks towards the future, he sees some uncertainties, along with a number of opportunities.
“Over the years, we’ve never been lucky enough to have children, so we’ve brought other kids to the ranch,” he says. “We’ve mentored dozens of kids over the years.”
“We’ve doing thing differently now,” Cundall comments. “We’re slowing down, but there are still a lot of exciting things on the horizon for the ag industry.”
This summer, Larry and Ruthie Cundall will host a tour of their ranch in summer 2018. Look for more information on the Environmental Stewardship Tour in upcoming editions of the Roundup. Learn more about the Cundall’s operation following the tour.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.