Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The JA Ranch - Bowie, TX

The JA Ranch serves as the site of a collaborative pilot project implementation for the Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable (SRR) ranch sustainability assessment initiative.  SRR, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation are  partnering with the 2010 regional Environmental Stewardship Award winning JA Ranch to integrate ecological, social and economic monitoring with business planning.  A guidebook that outlines this process is available for free download at http://www.sustainablerangelands.org/ranchassessment/pdf/ranch_guidebook_B1216.pdf

The JA Ranch is owned and operated by James K. “Rooter” Brite, Jr., a born-to-the-land Texas rancher. He was raised on the ranch his grandfather, J.A. Brite, purchased in 1929 near Bowie, Texas.  Rooter and his wife Lynda are pictured below.  Rooter took over his father’s cow herd in the mid-1960s and purchased the ranch in 1974, when he began full-time management of the ranch with his wife, Lynda, and eventually his son, J.K.  The JA Ranch consists of more than 3,200 acres.  It is a diversified operation consisting of a 225 Hereford cow/calf herd, 40 to 75 replacement heifers, and 400 to 500 stocker steers.  The operation is run primarily on native tallgrass rangeland, at a stocking rate of about one animal unit per 10 acres.  The ranch’s best range sites produce 5,000 to 6,000 pounds of forage during good years.

The Brite family invests in conservation every year on their ranch.  Weed control is used in pastures when needed to help increase grass growth at critical times.  Prescribed fire is another tool used in years when there is adequate moisture and fine fuel loads. Rooter also uses a high-density, short-duration grazing rotation to allow his cattle to graze highly nutritious grass.  Grazing schedules are adjusted as needed because of changing weather conditions, available forage, market conditions, and other factors.

Along with their attention to livestock production, wildlife habitat is also a major interest on the JA Ranch.  Management is designed to provide adequate cover and food for deer, turkey, and quail. Rooter aims to maintain 15 percent canopy cover of trees and shrubs in each pasture for wildlife. Several areas are managed primarily for wildlife, and human activity and grazing is restricted in these areas. Islands have also been constructed in the middle of several ponds to enhance waterfowl habitat. The JA Ranch continues to maintain abundant, productive, and nutritious grasses; quality cattle; and a profitable, sustainable ranching operation.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monitoring Site Selection at the JA Ranch

Earlier this summer, several Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Rangeland Management Specialists visited the JA Ranch near Bowie, TX to inspect the operation and select monitoring sites for incorporation into the Ranch Sustainability Assessment project.  Data collected from these sites will be used to inform the business plan that the Noble Foundation is assisting JA Ranch operators in developing.  Three sites were selected, and preliminary data was collected for comparison with a second sampling schedule for October 2011.  Soil samples were also collected at each of the three sites for analysis and classification.  These samples were shipped to a soil lab in Oregon for further testing. 

Monitoring site one (001) was set up on JA Ranch Field 16, which is a loamy prairie ecological site. Soils on this site run down to 36 inches, and roots were still present at this depth; high organic matter was also present.  The transect runs due north and 2 photos were taken at the 0 point looking down the line. Photos were also taken at the random points along the transect where production will be clipped by species in October 2011. There are 5 random points that will be used on all 3 transects for this monitoring project which are 7,21,44,66, and 90.

Monitoring site two (002) was established in field 4 north of the large lake. This is a sandy loam ecological site; however, the soil scientist has some concerns on this mapping. This site had been recently sprayed for weed control. Transect was established in the same manner as the site 001 transect.

Monitoring site three (003) was established in field 33, south of the JA Ranch headquarters. This is a tight sandy loam ecological site that contained high organic matter. The soil scientist had some concerns over this mapping as well. The sampling transect was established in the same manner as those on the other two sites.