Seven ranches across the nation were recently honored as outstanding stewards of the land in the annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP). In the next week, we will feature one of these ranches each day.

ESAP is in its 25th year and the 25th national winner will be selected from among these cattle producers and announced in early February 2016 at the annual convention of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in San Diego.

Most, if not all, of  the ranches named ESAP winners in the past quarter century are multi-generational and have long-standing records of operation, showing the connection between stewardship and ranch profitability.

ESAP is administered by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation and is funded by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Tyson Foods and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Here is a “tour” of one of those ranches and some of the traits the judges thought made it so outstanding.

Rowe Ranch, Lorimor, Iowa

Glenn and Bev Rowe started farming in 1969 with Glenn’s parents, and on additional rented land in central Iowa. Later they bought the family farm, which they expanded and operated until 1999.

In 1999, they turned over the family farm and feedlot to their sons and reestablished 50 miles south. Today they operate 1,000 acres in pasture, row crops, Conservation Reserve Program, buffer strips and a wildlife refuge.

Here are some of the things the judges liked about their operation:

• Cattle rotate through 400 acres of pasture in 23 paddocks divided by solar-powered fence.

• Rotational grazing has reduced the need for fertilizer, herbicide and harvested forages.

• Pasture mix includes native tall grasses and forbs.

• Clean water piped to the paddocks has improved conception rates and forage utilization.

• The couple planted 17,000 trees in a 40-acre wildlife refuge.

• On one new farm, the Rowes went from a 2-bushel-per-acre soybean yield of the previous tenant to knee-high grasses in two years.

• The couple used herbicides to get weeds under control; grazing management maintains control.

• Grassed stream buffers have reduced runoff and improved water quality.