The Turkey Track Ranch, owned by the Whittenburg and Cole families of Texas, was selected as one of six regional honorees of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award, announced during the 2016 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting, recognizes the outstanding stewardship and conservation efforts practiced on the ranch. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the Annual Cattle Industry Convention in February 2017.
Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to recognize outstanding land stewards in the cattle industry, ESAP is generously sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.
“Turkey Track has an outstanding record for their environmental stewardship practices, water management programs and excellent grass diversity,” said Pete Bonds, past president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “They face some pretty tough conditions, but because of their stewardship have been able to keep the land in good, productive condition.”
This ranch in the Texas Panhandle has been owned by the same family for a century. Before their purchase, the land was the site of two historic battles of the Old West between the Native Americans and the westward bound settlers. Today, thanks to careful stewardship, the land remains virtually unchanged from those early years. It offers a place of remarkable beauty, history and ecological diversity, while supporting a profitable cow-calf herd and stocker operation. Increased water availability and improving grass species diversity, even after one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, have enhanced the ranch’s success.
“What I’ve been most proud of is how we were able to weather the drought and still have the forage resources to support more cattle. And we were geared up and ready to go when the rains did come,” said Turkey Track manager Dale Smith.
One unique aspect of the ranch is the number of history buffs and battle re-enactors who come to it to view the site of the two Adobe Walls Indian battles (1864 and 1874) and Medal of Honor winner Billy Dixon’s famous 1,500-yard shot with a .50-90 Sharps. Because of the visitor traffic, proper grazing management is very important, because sightseers not only form opinions of the battle but of the stewardship of ranchers. Photographs of the site showcase the stewardship of the ranch when the images are posted on social media.
“We take pride in not only having our conservation efforts on display, but in knowing that we’ve preserved the natural beauty of the landscape for the public to enjoy while still running a productive, profitable cattle operation,” Smith said.
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