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.