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Learning over time Conservation Large Part of Ranch Operations

Learning over time: Conservation Large Part of Ranch Operations

Story by Jaime Tankersley

With an open gate policy and a variety of educational stations set up, the historic Mitchell County Spade Ranch was the location of an intensive conservation range tour attended by more than 130 producers, residents and agency officials.

The Big Country Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) along with the help of the Spade Ranch, offered an educational tour for producers interested in learning more about plant identification, wildlife habitat, chemical application and industry updates. The workshop was sponsored by the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, Dow Chemical, DuPont, AgriLife Extension Service, Colorado River Municipal Water District, local soil and water conservation districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and various local entities.

Steve Shrode, NRCS district conservationist, not only aided in tour planning but participated as well.
�Participants were provided an opportunity to not only hear specifics of brush management, wildlife management and forage use from experts in these fields, they were also able to see the results of these practices in the increased forage production and abundant wildlife on the Spade Ranch,� Shrode said.

With an intriguing outdoor setting, this tour was a benefit to all that attended. The Spade Ranch actually was two separate ranches in West Texas, each under different ownership, but whose histories are linked by barbed wire and a distinctive brand.

The first Spade Ranch was started in 1880 by John F. �Spade� Evans, who had formed a corporation with Judson P. Warner, an agent who sold Glidden�s barbed wire. In August of 1880, J.F. Evans and Company purchased land near Clarendon from J.A. Reynolds.

Their first camp was established near Glenwood Creek and a log cabin built on Barton Creek was designated as their permanent headquarters. In the end, neither Evans nor Warner had the time to devote to active ranching. They turned over operations to Baldy Oliver and Dave Nall. Alfred Rowe worked at Spade for a time before he started his own RO Ranch. It is unknown who designed the ranch�s distinctive brand. The brand, which resembles a shovel or �spade,� was first used on a cattle herd that Evans and Warner had gathered in Larimer County. The wranglers trailed the cattle to the open grasses of the Panhandle and turned the herd loose near Saddle Creek.

In October, the ranch shipped 6,000 three-year-old steers and another 5,200 the following spring in a second roundup. By 1926, about 80 percent of the north land had been sold. By 1938, Ellwood Farms, as the conglomerate was called, had sold off about 189,000 acres, most was being used for farming in the years that followed. By 1947, the sale of the former Spade land was completed. The Ellwood family retained only 21,754 acres in Hockley County. In the early 1980s, Spade cattle were still being run from the nearby Renderbrook Ranch by some of Ellwood�s heirs.

With a history so distinct and etched into the lives of several West Texas families, it was an easy selection for this year�s tour to highlight the work currently being done at the Mitchell County location.

Big Country RC&D coordinator, Riley Kitchens, played a key part in obtaining funding for the tour and planning all activities.

�This area of the state has a rich ranching heritage filled with history. One of the most overlooked aspects of that history is the knowledge early immigrants learned through experience,� Kitchens said.

�Conservation, though never mentioned much in the history of the area, was the most important lesson learned by early ranchers. This lesson was well learned on the �Spade� and it is evident in the operation today. Nothing has changed in the area and tours like this provide area ranchers with more tools to address their needs.�

After completing morning tours, the attendees returned to Colorado City for lunch and afternoon presentations offered by both DuPont and Dow Chemical. To close out the day, a tour was also offered to show the biological control of salt cedar in the area.

�A single large salt cedar can absorb 200 gallons of water a day. Salt cedar�s high water consumption can result in lower water tables and cause springs to dry up. Biological control of salt cedar is an economical method to manage salt cedar and make that water available for native plant species and wildlife,� Shrode said.

For more information about future tours or local area assistance, please call the Big Country RC&D, located at 119 East Third, Suite 304, at 325-235-4300 or visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

Introductions and welcomes from Big Country RC&D Coordinator Riley Kitchens, NRCS District Conservationist, Steve Shrode, and a Spade Ranch Foreman (pictured-center) kicked off the 2010 Big Country RC&D Conservation Tour on the Mitchell County Spade ranch.

An interactive wildlife station, made available by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, was part of this year�s Conservation Range Tour hosted by the Spade Ranch and sponsored by the Big Country RC&D.
Introductions and welcomes from Big Country RC&D Coordinator Riley Kitchens, NRCS District Conservationist, Steve Shrode, and a Spade Ranch Foreman (pictured-center) kicked off the 2010 Big Country RC&D Conservation Tour on the Mitchell County Spade ranch. An interactive wildlife station, made available by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, was part of this year�s Conservation Range Tour hosted by the Spade Ranch and sponsored by the Big Country RC&D.
 
Plant identification was one of four stops during the Conservation Range Tour offered by the Big Country RC&D, workshop attendees were walked through this station by Zone II Natural Resources Conservation Service specialist. The Spade Ranch between Colorado City and Sterling City, Texas was host to the 2010 Big Country RC&D Conservation Tour which brought in over 130 participants.
Plant identification was one of four stops during the Conservation Range Tour offered by the Big Country RC&D, workshop attendees were walked through this station by Zone II Natural Resources Conservation Service specialist. The Spade Ranch between Colorado City and Sterling City, Texas was host to the 2010 Big Country RC&D Conservation Tour which brought in over 130 participants.