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Texas ranch wins stewardship award

ESAP honors ranches which succeed with both ecological and economic sustainability.

August 6, 2016

2 Min Read


NCBA has announced six regional winners of the annual Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP).

Beef Producer is featuring one of these operations each day for the coming week, recognizing their excellence.

The Region IV winner is Turkey Track Ranch of Amarillo, Texas, with managers Dale Smith and Jay O’Brien, Adobe Walls Cattle Company.

Turkey Track Ranch, northeast of Amarillo, surrounds the site of the first and second battles of Adobe Walls, legendary conflicts between Native Americans and US cavalry and buffalo hunters in the 1860s and 1870s.


Turkey Track Ranch managers Jay O’Brien, left, and Dale Smith were honored for their work managing the ranch near Amarillo, Texas.

The Whittenburg/Coble family has owned the ranch since 1916. Adobe Walls Cattle Company is owned by Dale Smith and Jay O’Brien, has leased the ranch and operated the land surface and cattle enterprises on the 77,000-acre ranch since 2009. Nearly all of the major ecosystems of the Texas Panhandle are represented on the ranch.

The ranch is cross-fenced into 50 pastures to allow for proper grazing, rotation and recovery. The partners stock half with cow-calf pairs and half with stocker cattle. Stockers provides flexibility to adjust grazing pressure and destock quickly if necessary.

Over the last three years, 25-50% of the ranch has been rested during the growing season to speed recovery from drought and wildfire.

With stocker cattle, the partners employ early-intensive stocking on sub-irrigated meadows — stocking at double the normal stocking rate but only for half the season (mid-April to mid-July). Early-intensive stocked pastures rest the remainder of the growing season. The managers say their strategy of early-intensive stocking improves average daily gains and allows more pasture improvement

On short-grass pastures, stocker cattle graze from mid-April until September or October. The ranch is home to bald eagles, Rio Grande turkeys, bobwhite and scaled quail, mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope and many ground-nesting birds.

Turkey Track Ranch was nominated by Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Assn. and Texas Section Society for Range Management.

The Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) was started by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in 1991. It recognizes cattle producers whose efforts benefit both the environment and the bottom line, reflecting true sustainability – ecological and economic.

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

Any individual or group may nominate a cattle producer for the award. Winners are selected by a committee of from both within and outside the cattle industry. The selection committee chooses a regional winner from each of seven regions, then a national winner is named at NCBA’s annual convention each winter.

Nominations are due in March.

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