Mark your calendars for the 2021 Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition (NGLC) –Nebraska Extension jointly sponsored Summer Grazing Tour scheduled for June 15, 2021 in north central Nebraska. The 2021 tour will feature two Nebraska ranches that manage very different grazing resources including intensively managed cool season perennial pastures and native range, some of which has been rescued from invasive Eastern Red Cedar. Additional financial support comes from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, World Wildlife Fund-US and Pheasants Forever
Jessen Ranch originally was owned by John Jessen. John’s son Gene became partners with his dad when he returned from the Army in 1952. Gene bought out his father in the mid 80's when he became interested in rotational grazing. Gene was a pioneer in perfecting rotational grazing and low stress livestock handling. The third generation, Tim, worked with his father to implement more intensive rotational grazing through additional cross fencing, water line installation, controlled burns, spraying and clearing cedar trees. Originally, the pasture had a stocking rate of 11-12 acres per cow/calf pair. Rotational grazing over the last nearly 40 years has increased the stocking rate to under 7 acres per cow/calf pair. The Jessen Ranch consists of 2600 acres divided into 20 pastures running 350-375 pairs per season. The goal is to rotate through all 20 pastures 2-3 times a year. Plans are to increase stocking rate to 400 pairs per season through further grazing intensification. The cattle get moved on one criteria only…… the condition of the grass. One of Gene Jessen’s favorite sayings was "If we take care of the grass the grass takes care of the cows". According to Wayne Rasmussen NGLC Vice Chairman, Gene Jessen was originally exposed to the merits of rotational grazing after listening to Joel Salatin, (PolyFace Farms, Swope, VA) speak at a grazing school in the mid 1980s. Nearly 40 years later, Tim continues to follow in his father’s footsteps by understanding the needs of the livestock and listening to the land and the livestock for which he cares.
Kalkowski Family Ranch lies in the hills between the beautiful Niobrara and Missouri Rivers in northcentral Nebraska. Their beginning occurred in 1957 when Larry Kalkowski purchased 160 acres of grassland in Boyd County while just a young man. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, he married, and he and his wife Kay Lynn, and eventually their four sons Jeff, Tim, Chris, and John and then their wives Jacki, DaNay, Marsha and Anne continued to expand the ranch. Still later, grandchildren began to help with the operation as the three entities Kalkowski Enterprises, Inc., K Land and Cattle, LLC, and Louse Creek, LLC were run as one unit. As more land was acquired, farmland was reseeded and allowed to return to native grassland. Larry became a pioneer in pasture rotation and a champion of stewardship. When he died of cancer at the age of 56, his family continued his legacy of caring for the land. They continued to build more cross fences and intensify their pasture rotation system. They installed more water systems (dams, dugouts, and pipelines) until each pasture had at least two water sources. They harvested dead trees, cut cedars, and planted windbreaks (4,000 trees in their first efforts). They built and preserved wildlife refuges and stocked fish, always trying to promote healthy ecosystems for pollinators, birds, fish and animal populations. As the Kalkowskis continued to concentrate on their ranch’s grassland, they became involved with the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition through which they added such practices as controlled burns and use of cover crops. They have also been involved in Generational Transition seminars hosted by the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition. Along the way, their efforts have been acknowledged through the 1997 Master Conservationist Production Agriculture District III Award and the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award.
Summer Grazing Tour Registration at Jessen Ranch east of Niobrara, NE, Tuesday, June 15, 7:30-8:30 AM. $25 Registration fee (payable on arrival) includes boxed lunch and evening steak fry at the Springlake Angus Center near Lynch, NE. Tour begins at 8:30 AM.
Directions to tour registration site at Jessen Ranch: Approximately 15 miles east of Niobrara, NE on SR 12 turn north on Co. Rd 538. Follow tour signs approximately 5 miles NW to Jessen Ranch rock sign on right. Another 1 ½ miles to headquarters. GPS coordinates: 89480 537th Avenue, Bloomfield, NE.
Preregister required no later than Friday, June 4th by calling Ben Beckman, Nebraska Beef Systems Extension Educator in Cedar County office 402-254-6821 or e-mailing [email protected]. For more information, contact Ron Bolze, NGLC Coordinator, at 402-321-0067.
The Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition is an independent organization of ranchers, interest groups, and agencies whose mission is to collaborate on projects that improve the management and health of Nebraska grazing lands and ensure long-term stability of rangeland resources. The NGLC is funded through grants from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA and the World Wildlife Fund-US.