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Holistic Conservation Practices are a “Win-Win” for Family in Mercer County

Being conservation minded is something Marc Schriefer grew up with. His father planted trees, strip cropped and installed grassed waterways on the family farm near Golden Valley. 

Kindra Gordon writes from Whitewood, S.D.

 As the third generation on the family’s grain and cattle operation, Marc and his wife, Jodi, have kept conservation top-of-mind.

rancher, wife

“We look at things holistically. It’s not about this conservation practice or that, but what can we do to affect our enterprise and benefit the larger area as a whole,” Marc says.

The Schriefers have worked to instill that conservation ethic in their two children, daughter Cassi and son Riley, who with his wife, Cheyenne, are now the fourth generation involved on the family operation.

Today, Schriefer Red Angus includes registered and commercial cattle. He and wife Jodi, started the Red Angus herd with a couple registered heifers for their kids to show when they were younger. As their cowherd grew, so did their investments in conservation.

Lori Klein, District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Beulah Field Office, credits the Schriefers for taking a thoughtful approach to conservation implementation. And, she adds, “They are willing to share their experiences as they implement new conservation practices on their operation.”

Working with NRCS, they utilized an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract to add cross-fencing and four miles of water pipeline. “This has helped enhance our grazing options especially during dry years,” Marc says.

Another conservation improvement they were able to address with their EQIP contract was an ag waste system for their backgrounding feedlot. “Our original corrals were built in the 1930s and 1940s and it was down in a creek bottom. It wasn’t a year-round creek, but it was a drainage,” Marc says.

Recognizing that their backgrounding lot was not set up ideally, especially with regard to water quality for the creek, the Schriefers installed a complete ag waste system, which they say was a win-win. “It added efficiency to our production and it is better for our downstream neighbors,” Marc says. Today, they background lightweight steers, as well as yearling bulls and heifer calves in the facility.

The Schriefers have no-tilled since 2004, have planted several hundred trees, utilize planned rotational grazing, and most recently, through a Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract, are using manure analysis to monitor forage quality and identify protein deficiencies for their cowherd. Both NRCS programs and local watershed 319 funds have helped the Schriefers achieve their conservation goals.

The Schriefers believe conservation’s biggest benefit is leaving the land better for the next generation.

 “There are a lot of operations like ours where a father and son are operating together. With the current farm economy and challenging commodity prices, conservation cost share programs are important to ensure conservation practices are being implemented to benefit future generations,” he says.

cattle, field