12/15/2015 12:00:00 AM
Environmental Stewards Honored at Iowa Cattle Industry Convention
AMES, IOWA – The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association has named Glenn and Bev Rowe, Lorimor, as winners of the 2015 Iowa Environmental Stewardship Award Program. Theirs has been a stewardship journey that started in Dallas County and is now operated on farmland in Union and Madison Counties.
Their farm operation includes pasture paddocks, wildlife refuge, and some crop acres. Cattle have always been an integral part of their farm operation and environmental decisions that have improved land use, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
The couple began their farming careers in 1969 in rural Dallas County with a small cow herd, while working on the diversified farming operation of Glenn’s parents. They were part of the change on that Dallas County farm that converted it from moldboard plowing and finely tilled soils for planting, to leaving soybean stubble untouched and disc chiseling corn stalks that would leave enough residue on the field to avoid wind erosion.
While those processes were taking place on the cropland, they purchased some pasture ground in Madison County that had conservation measures in place. There was no rotational grazing; weed management in the pasture was done with chemicals; and cows drank from ponds and creeks. The Rowes used a goal-oriented process to make changes; one that allowed economic sustainability as well as environmental sustainability. They installed fencing around ponds, put water tanks in below ponds for watering options, built internal division fences and more secure perimeter fences, installed low-stress working corrals, and seeded native grass species for weed and erosion control.
In 1999, they found a new challenge for another type of sustainability; that of mentoring the next generation of cattle farmers. When sons Justin and Tanner indicated they wanted to be part of the farm operation, Bev and Glenn decided they would build a new home and facilities on a 427-acre farm they had purchased in 1997 in Union County. Once revitalized, the location would lend itself well to rotational grazing and rural water access for their cow-calf herd.
The Rowes focused on returning old CRP and lower quality farmland to improved and rotationally grazed pastures. They already knew that doing that part successfully would help them move to sustainable economic goals such as increasing the carrying capacity of the land and increasing forage yields.
They partnered with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) on no less than seven projects including rotational grazing, rural water pipeline installation, reseeding and fertilizing after soil testing, internal fencing of paddocks, water heavy use fabric at crossings, and stream bank stabilizations.
As Iowa’s ESAP representatives, the Rowes have been nominated for recognition at the regional level, which includes four other states. If they are successful in the regional competition, the Rowes will move on to the national level.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association initiated the environmental award program in 1991 to highlight exceptional work done by cattle producers to protect and enhance the environment. Since its inception, Iowa cattle producers have won 16 regional awards and three national ones.
Glenn and Bev Rowe were also selected as the ESAP Region 3 winner. They will compete for the national ESAP title with six other regional winners. The national winner will be announced during the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, CA, in January 2016.
ESAP is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Dow AgroSciences, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents more than 10,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education.”
About the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention: Nearly 1,000 members of the Iowa beef industry gathered in Des Moines Dec. 8 and 9 for the 2015 Iowa Cattle Industry Convention for educational sessions, policy discussions, a trade show and networking. The event was sponsored by Zoetis and Farm Credit Services of America (at the $5,000 Platinum level), Iowa Beef Industry Council (at the $3,000 Ruby level), Summit Livestock Facilities, The Fine Twine Co., Allflex USA, Alltech, Huvepharma, Iowa Beef Breeds Council/Iowa Beef Expo, Iowa Corn, Lytton Farm Equipment, Nutrition Physiology and Phibro Animal Health (at the $750 Bronze level).
Editor’s note: The following paragraphs include greater detail about Glenn and Bev Rowe’s farm operation:
There are at least 23 paddocks on the farm operation, which now includes 1,000 acres. The largest paddock is 24 acres, so this requires the Rowes to rotate herds at least weekly and more often if weather conditions dictate that.
Solar power is used on the farm for both division fencing of paddocks, and for powering water pumps to move rural water to the various paddocks, although there are a couple of energy-free waterers below fenced-off ponds. The Rowes feel the rural water system makes sure the cows always have available fresh, clean water, which results in better conception rates, healthier cattle and better utilization of forages.
Even with sustainable water systems, drought always has an impact on livestock producers. The Rowes like to run 120-plus cows in their herd, but with the drought of 2011 and 2012, they became short on feed. The piped-in rural water and rotational grazing were very important for them. Even though the dry conditions forced them to reduce their herd by 30%; many farmers in their area were hurt much worse if their pastures were constantly grazed.
As the rain returned in 2013, the Rowes focus now on rebuilding their herd.
The drought also impacted the work they had done to bring trees to the landscape. When they decided to move to their farm near Lorimor, there were no trees within 1/8 of a mile. The Rowes planted 166 trees around the building site and lots. Mostly oak and ash trees were moved in at about 3-4 feet tall. Blue spruce, arborvitae, fir and cedar trees that were 2-3 feet tall were also planted along the west side of the building site and lots for wind and snow protection.
Today, most trees are 20 feet tall or more. Some of the ash trees may be lost to the emerald ash borer which has invaded Iowa, but they continue to plant different tree species every year. They now have a tree-lined lane, plus lots of trees bordering their yard, including several kinds of fruit trees.
Some tree species are pests for a cattle operation. The Rowes have invasive red cedar and thorny locust trees in their pastures. Both are very prolific and require constant management to keep ahead of them by cutting, mowing, dozing or spraying them.
Controlling weeds is also a challenge every landowner faces. Doing so in an environmental way requires planning and follow-through. The Rowes did use chemicals to control weeds at first, broadcasting with Grazon, and then spot spraying with Forefront as control was needed. After control of broadleaves is accomplished, they then started frost seeding in the winter with red clover into established grasses, thereby furnishing nitrogen to the soil which added to the carrying capacity of the pastures and quality of the grasses.
Haying, mowing or grazing of the pastures takes care of weeds and invasive trees later on. They also flash graze waterways and around ponds. This short grazing period stimulates growth and helps to control invasive plants.
When pasture conditions are right for the cattle to thrive, so do the wildlife. The Rowes have 40 acres of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) that has been planted to over 17,000 trees of different varieties. This serves as a shelter for wildlife between the open pastures and row crop land. It harbors abundant populations of whitetail deer, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, turtles, lizards, blue herons, birds, rabbits and a variety of other small animals. There are also fish-stocked ponds on the farm.
High resolution photos available at flickr.com/iacattlemen.