Ranchers use water wisely, avoid drought impacts

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With the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas ranchers Gary and Sue Price are guiding ranch management into the future.

They raise high quality beef and have lush pastures on their 77 Ranch in northern Texas, but they have still another focus at the center of their operation.

“It all boils down to water,” Gary Price said. “How we manage the rainwater we receive is the key to everything we do. We can’t just pray for rain and everything will be fine; we have to be ready to receive the rain we do get.”

If ranchers plan right, that rain will grow grass and water livestock, and they won’t lose any of it before it has served its purpose on the ranch. Then it will eventually go downstream and wind up in someone’s sink in Houston, he added.

Part of their conservation plan is participating in NRCS’ National Water Quality Initiative. The initiative works in priority watersheds to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners improve water quality and aquatic habitats in impaired streams.

State agencies, key partners and state technical committees assisted in selecting priority watersheds in every state, where on-farm conservation investments have the best chance to improve water quality.

NRCS helps producers implement conservation and management practices to control and trap nutrient and manure runoff. Qualified producers will receive assistance for installing conservation practices such as cover crops, filter strips and terraces.

“The technical assistance NRCS provides is invaluable in our operation,” Price said. “I can’t think of another kind of business that offers professional management advice like this that helps people be better businessmen.”

The initiative builds on efforts that NRCS already has underway in areas such as the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf and the Great Lakes.NRCS is working with landowners and partners in 157 watersheds, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 acres, to improve the quality of our nation’s water.

“They have access to resources beyond my scope and were always willing to share them,” Price said. “Sometimes it was scientific information, other times it was just about telling me what has and hasn’t worked on other ranches in the area.  I would not be where I am today without the help of the NRCS.”

The Prices have benefitted greatly from implementing conservation practices.

“All of our conservation practices have come together to improve water quality and soil health which helps mitigate the impacts of extreme weather,” Gary Price said.

Throughout the severe drought of 2011 and 2012 the 77 Ranch never ran out of water and the Prices never had to buy supplemental feed for their cattle.

At the end of the day, ranchers aren’t just providing beef for America – they are providing other things like clean air and clean water, he added.

To find out if your land is in a targeted watershed, contact your local NRCS office. For more information, visit the National Water Quality Initiative page.

Source: Ciji Taylor and Dee Ann Littlefield, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Public Affairs



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