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Brosius receive Twin Platte NRD Grassland awardTell North Platte what you think
Courtesy Photo­Image
From left, Twin Platte NRD Board Chairman Dennis Schilz, Hope Brosius, Jennifer Brosius, Britney Brosius and Robert Brosius.
Courtesy Photo­Image
Grazing and loafing on a hilltop
Courtesy Photo­Image
Grazing a feed paddock
Courtesy Photo­Image

Robert and Jennifer Brosius of the Brosius Ranch received the 2013 Grassland Conservation Award from the Twin Platte Natural Resources District Monday.

The Brosiuses received a plaque and outdoor sign sponsored by Adams Bank and Trust of North Platte in recognition of their efforts.

Twin Platte NRD Board Chairman Dennis Schilz announced the award at the 50th annual Farmer-Rancher Appreciation Banquet in the Sandhills Convention Center.

The text of the award announcement:

John Brosius was born in 1838 at Schleidweiler, Germany, where he was educated above the average. In 1883, Mr. Brosius came with his wife and children from Germany to Minnesota and then in early 1884 came to Logan County and took up homestead five miles south of Gandy on 159.89 acres.

It was a time when there were no fences in Logan County.

From 1921 to 1965, Brosius purchased more land in the northeast corner of Lincoln County to piece the ranch together. The Brosius ranch, now owned by John’s grandson William Brosius, is comprised of nearly 4,500 contiguous acres.

The ranch’s approach to land and resource management has changed over the years. In 2000, William and Donna Brosius leased the ranch to William’s nephew, Robert and Jennifer Brosius. At the same time, the partnership that Robert was in with his father and brother was dissolved. As a result, Robert retained approximately 100 cows to run on the leased ranch.

An additional 1,000 acres of rangeland owned by Robert and Jennifer and Robert’s father added to the available grazing.

A portion of the ranch was subleased and yearlings were summer grazed. Grazing was set, the ranch was stocked and cows were calving in March. At that time, Robert was running the cow herd, watching take-in yearlings and working as day help, while Jennifer was working as an Agricultural Loan Officer. Robert and Jennifer both have bachelor degrees in Agri-Business from Chadron State College.

In 2004, the couple attended a Ranching For Profit workshop in Thedford, offered by the University of Nebraska Extension. They left the workshop with a hunger for more information. Robert had been toying with some of the ideas presented and they both wanted to know more. A month later, they attended the week-long Ranching For Profit School. The school taught the couple about economics and finance -- the fundamentals for building a sustainable business, as well as ecology, range influences, the principles of cell grazing, animal nutrition and reproduction.

Some big decisions were made that week and neither of them regret the changes, which have turned their ranch into a successful business while building on what Robert and Jennifer had already been thinking. The Ranching for Profit School showed them how they could implement their ideas.

The first major decision was to sell the haying equipment. Although the ranch was not large, the cow numbers had tripled. The ranch has no meadows, so any hay that had been put up had been on flat spots, here and there.

The Brosius’ determined that the cost of keeping the equipment was outweighed by the cost of purchasing feed supplies. All the haying equipment was sold in February 2005. The next decision was to do some serious culling. The cows were weighed and frame scored at preg checking. Cows weighing more than 1,400 pounds and/or with a frame score over five were sold. Because it was too late to change the calving season, plans were made to turn out bulls July 23 of the following year for a May 1 calving start date.

The Brosius’ determined that because they leased a portion of their herd it would be necessary to develop a written drought plan, agreed with the lessor. The drought plan lists critical dates and the amounts of moisture needed to continue as planned with the grazing year.

If moisture were to fall below benchmarked levels at any of four critical dates, a plan was written to easily identify what class of cattle and how many would be sold or go back to the lessor. Acknowledging that drought is inevitable was key in making the decisions in regard to the drought plan.

Thanks to the written drought plan in place by 2012, the ranch has responded as planned and destocked 40 percent of the herd.

Robert and Jennifer recognized that they were in the business to grow grass. The way the animals graze determines the health and productivity of both the animals and the range. They have spent considerable time studying plant and animal health and production.

In the spring of 2005, the Brosius’ started subdividing the section pastures into smaller paddocks. In addition, the Brosius’ have an irrigated pivot that had been seeded to grass. It was divided into paddocks in the spring of 2004 that became a part of the grazing cell and was more efficiently utilized with daily moves.

At this time, there are 30 paddocks on just over 4,000 acres of grass. The cow herd had grown to more than 600 head, before destocking for the drought, and replacement heifers are being retained.

Cows graze cornstalks from November to the first of April. In April, the cows start rotating through ranch paddocks and start calving the first week of May. The Brosius’ drive about half of the cow herd to the KAR Ranch, Inc., north of Stapleton, to be summered there. The remainder of the herd is rotated throughout the ranch and the irrigated pasture is used as part of the rotation.

To enable cattle to run together, a great deal of livestock water pipeline has been installed and tanks have been set. The Brosius’ have taken advantage of funding from the EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program to make this possible. A tree reclamation was developed in 2012 and more pipeline and cross fencing was put in place in 2013.

Other stewardship practices include: wildlife ramps, supplement location rotation, irrigation pump evaluation and annual monitored grazing. Unique grazing strategies used on the ranch include: strip grazing windrowed forage feed, and building a feed bank during the growing season.

Long-term sustainability is being built as the energy flow, water and mineral cycles, and biodiversity of the range improves with managed rotational grazing. The improved health of the land will continue to directly correlate with long-term sustainability and decreased operational costs. The premium is found in the increase in carrying capacity and animal performance.

Community involvement for the couple comes naturally. Both of their parents instilled service to others as an important part of their lives. They strive to be an example to their own children in the leadership and support roles they serve in.

Robert is a Fair Board/Ag Society member. He coaches youth basketball and has been a NSAA football official for 12 years. In 2011, his crew was selected to officiate the Class D2 State Championship game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Jennifer is a past Logan County 4-H Council President, she is Secretary of the St. John’s Altar Society, was involved in the development of the Stapleton website, is a PTA and 4-H leader/volunteer.

Together they co-chair the Stapleton Jr. Rodeo, serve as lay ministers for their church, and sit on an Executive Link board for Ranching For Profit alumni.

In 2011, when the harvest fires burned nearly 24,000 acres of their friends and neighbor’s land, they worked to raise more than $25,000 to replace nearly 7,000 fence posts that were lost by the community’s farmers and ranchers. Other memberships include: Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance and the American Quarter Horse Association.

Jennifer currently works part-time in the human resource department at Adams Bank and Trust in North Platte and is on the ranch the rest of the time. The Brosius’ daughters, Britney (13) and Hope (11) provide much of the “cowboy” help along with the Tony and Jane Haake family; Tristan (14), Gage (12), and Dayle (7).

Outside day help is used as needed. The Brosiuses are firm believers in low-stress stockmanship and livestock handling, using the Bud Williams model and techniques.

The Brosius Ranch mission statement is: Working with Mother Nature to build a sustainable business.

Robert and Jennifer are proud to be fourth generation stewards of the Brosius Ranch.

Although they don’t own the land they live and work on, they have made it their mission to use the knowledge and practices they have learned to increase the effectiveness of resource management and above all, do what is right to ensure the sustainability of the land.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 11/5/2013
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