2010 Environmental Stewardship Award Winner
Region II: Deseret Cattle & Citrus
Orange, Brevard and Osceola Counties, Fla.
Erik Jacobsen, general manager
Nominated by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association
Deseret Cattle & Citrus, a diverse cow/calf operation that spans 290,000 acres across Orange, Brevard and Osceola counties in Central Florida, is a 2010 regional Environmental Stewardship Award winner. Representing Region II * of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the ranch was recognized here at a reception last night during the 2010 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.
The ESAP award, now in its 20th year, is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); the National Cattlemen's Foundation; and NCBA. One of the seven regional nominees will receive the national award at the cattle industry's winter meeting in February 2011.
The ranch, home of the largest cow/calf herd in the country, is managed by Erik Jacobsen and has been owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the past 60 years. The operation stocks some 44,000 cows, 1,300 bulls and weans about 32,000 calves a year, while additionally utilizing land for uses such as citrus trees, sod production, row crops, fishing and hunting.
"This is an incredible operation and they are outstanding ambassadors to showcase the beef industry and superior environmental stewardship," said Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen's Association, which nominated the ranch for the ESAP award.
"The key questions Deseret always asks are, ‘Is it the right thing to do?' and ‘Is it in the best long-term interest of the ranch and the region?' That's the essence of environmental stewardship," added W. Michael Dennis, Ph.D., of BDA Environmental Consultants, which supported the Deseret nomination.
Among the ranch's noteworthy stewardship practices:
* In the 1980s, Deseret managers began to see themselves as land managers, not just cattle ranchers. Pasture renovation includes planting deep-rooted grasses to stabilize sandy soils and increase organic matter. Annual controlled burns rejuvenate native vegetation. Fertilizer is applied judiciously to avoid impacts to water quality.
* Deseret carefully monitors and manages its wildlife populations and has even created habitat for some species, especially wading birds.
* Cattle are grazed rotationally, with some four acres per animal, and are usually moved every two weeks, depending on forage conditions.
* Deseret has been a leader in forming regional water planning partnerships and has sought to protect limited groundwater. Deseret has also built stormwater retention areas to improve the quality of runoff before it leaves the ranch.
* The ranch is proactive in showcasing its operational practices and stewardship to the public, hosting some 500 tours and welcoming 1,500 visitors last year alone.
Deseret's ESAP nomination was supported by Lykes Ranch, a former Region II ESAP winner, and the University of Florida's Department of Animal Resources.
"Our operation also goes back many years, so we are acutely aware of the challenges of running a commercial cow/calf operation in Florida – such as heavy rainfall, a pronounced dry season, high heat and humidity and challenging soils. Yet Deseret has been exemplary in conserving and even enhancing these resources," said Michael Milicevic, general manager of Lykes Ranch.
For more information, visit www.environmentalstewardship.org.
* NCBA's Region II includes Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.