DENVER (July 31, 2019) – Blew Partnership of Castleton, Kan., has been selected as one of seven regional finalists for the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award, announced during the 2019 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting July 30, recognizes the operation’s outstanding stewardship and conservation efforts. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the 2020 Annual Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to recognize outstanding land stewards in the cattle industry, ESAP is generously sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, McDonald’s, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.
“America’s cattle producers are the original stewards of the land. They rely on a healthy ecosystem, including land, air and water resources, for their livelihood and they understand better than anyone the benefits of caring for those resources,” said NCBA President Jennifer Houston. “The lands we manage as farmers and ranchers are only entrusted to us for a short time and farmers and ranchers across the nation are committed to passing those resources to the next generation in a manner which ensures their future success. This year’s ESAP nominees Award Program exemplify the greatness of our industry and they share a common the common goal of bettering our industry through outstanding stewardship practices.”
The Blew Partnership has been in the Blew family for five generations. Brothers CJ and Russell run the cow-calf operation, which stretches across 19,000 acres. The Blew family leases about 95 percent of their lands in three counties: Reno, Chase and Barber.
The brothers like the challenge of taking land from a dire state to healthy again. Their Barber County ranch was purchased in 2012, which at that time had between 23 and 40 percent canopy of Eastern Red Cedar.
“At the end of the day we really are in the land rehabilitation business,” said CJ. “We couldn’t have the cows without the land resource. The cows are a tool for us to help improve it.”
The Barber County ranch faced devastation in 2016 when a multi-state wildfire burned through the land. With devastation came blessings; the fire helped restore native grasses, improve soils and accelerate the timetable for reducing Eastern Red Cedar. Streams that had dried up began flowing again. The Blews partnered with the National Resources Conservation Service to add miles of cross fencing to support their intensive rotational grazing plan and install an extensive water distribution system throughout the ranch.
“The water systems have definitely helped us to graze a greater herd size and increase stock density, thereby improving grazing distribution,” said Russell.
“The grass has improved tremendously,” said Dusty Tacha, Rangeland Management Specialist for USDA-NRCS. “A lot of that is due to obtaining an animal forage balance.”
The Blews work with neighbors and are leaders in their prescribed burn associations. They use fire as a natural resource to improve range land and stay on top of the invasive Red Cedar. Controlled burns allow the grasses and stocking density to improve.
“We deal with vast tracts of land in Barber County, burning two and three thousand acres at a time, which necessitates vast equipment and vast personnel,” said Russell. “We can control a 3 to 4,000-acre fire without any issues.”
In Reno County, the Blew Partnership has moved away from grain production and worked with the Cheney Lake Watershed Task Force to fund the conversion of more than 1,500 crop acres back to perennial grasses and cover crops. As commodity prices went down, it prompted an easy transition to a grazing crop harvested by cattle.
The Blews continue to build a family tradition of improving their cattle and land, whether irrigated pasture or native range. The brothers keep a long-term approach when it comes to management because they know the decisions made each morning will affect the longevity of their operation.
“We definitely manage our cow herd and our land resource with the idea that it’s going to the next generation,” said Russell. “Sustainability is a huge part of that. We want to manage for the next 50 years and not the next five months.”