Principals in the Blew partnership explained to more than 100 ranchers attending Monday’s (8/6) KLA/Kansas State University Ranch Management Field Day near Medicine Lodge how they’ve rehabilitated the Nichols Ranch in Barber County. The first year they leased the ranch, which was 2012, the area was in the middle of a multiple year drought, water systems were failing, about 90% of the fence was in questionable condition and the eastern red cedar canopy was estimated at 35%. They stocked the ranch with 100 cows that year.
The first year was pretty tough,” Russell Blew told the crowd.
Through a combination of aggressive mechanical cedar removal, prescribed fire, improved water distribution and the landowner adding to the ranch, Russell and his brother, C.J., now are stocking the ranch with 350 to 400 Red Angus commercial pairs during optimal rainfall seasons. Their hopes are to further increase stocking density by adding more cross fencing.
One event that expedited the range renovation was the 2016 Anderson Creek Wildfire, which burnt nearly 400,000 acres in Kansas, including all but about 40 acres of the Nichols Ranch. Russell said studies showing cedar trees consume an estimated 40 gallons of water per day were verified after the wildfire, when the trees were killed and water started running out of rock formations and springs where it hadn’t run in recent history. He said the range “needed a big fire.”
Russell said much of the range improvement was accomplished with technical assistance from partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), including Range Management Specialist Dusty Tacha and Soil Conservation Technician Carl Jarboe. Tacha and Jarboe were on the field day program to share their thoughts on how grazing plans, relocating fencelines and water development have helped enhance carrying capacity.
“We couldn’t do what we do without partners like NRCS,” said Russell.
Sponsors of the ranch field day hosted by the Blew partnership were Bayer Animal Health and the Farm Credit Associations of Kansas.