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Rocosa Ridge Ranch Receives Prestigious Stewardship Award

story by Matt Machacek, NRCS Grazingland Specialist

The Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award is a joint award with TSSRM and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. That award went to Bruce Berg (center) and the Rocosa Ridge Ranch near Meridian, Texas.Rocosa Ridge Ranch was recently awarded the Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship award by the Texas Section Society for Range Management (TSSRM) and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association at the 2013 TSSRM Annual Meeting in Ft. Worth. The purpose of this annual award is to recognize those cattle producers who have demonstrated outstanding skills and knowledge in practicing sound management and care of rangeland resources.

Rocosa Ridge Ranch, located near Meridian, TX, is owned and operated by Bruce Berg. Berg has been in the ranching business for 20 years. He purchased this ranch in 2006 and began making improvements. He became a district cooperator with the Bosque Soil and Water Conservation District and utilized technical and financial assistance from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Within a three year period, the ranch conducted prescribed burns to jump start grass health and reduce Ashe juniper encroachment on all but 150 acres which provided valuable habitat for the Golden-cheeked Warbler. The Golden-cheeked Warbler is an endangered bird that relies on mature oak and juniper canyons as habitat. With Berg’s interest in preserving this key habitat, the ranch entered into a mitigation agreement with Ft. Hood in exchange for funding to improve other wildlife habit on the ranch.

Since then, nearly 800 acres of shrub Ashe juniper have been cleared following fire to improve habitat for whitetail deer and provide more grazable acres for livestock. The ranch was also subdivided into 17 pastures and pipelines were constructed to distribute water into every pasture. Now, livestock spends more time utilizing parts of the ranch that were rarely used in the past while giving more rest to areas that were overgrazed in the past.

The ranch is an Angus cow-calf operation that utilizes conservative stocking rates and a flexible rotational grazing system.The ranch is an Angus cow-calf operation that utilizes conservative stocking rates and a flexible rotational grazing system. Rangelands are valued on the ranch because they provide low cost forage while also providing food and shelter for wildlife. These pastures have an average carrying capacity of a cow to 29 acres. Flexible stocking rates are set by balancing forage supply with animal demand, and adequate forage reserves are maintained on rangeland by utilizing introduced pasture as sacrifice areas during drought. In 2007, four old cropland fields were converted to Bermudagrass and a fifth was planted to Eastern gamagrass to provide quality forage early in the spring while giving natives adequate time to recover for stockpiled grazing later in the season.

Excellence in grazing management provides quality habitat for whitetail deer, and the ranch makes an effort to manage deer populations to maintain deer quality and not damage key native forbs and shrubs. The ranch does not lease hunts, but instead uses this as an opportunity to allow urban children to participate in their first time deer hunt. Berg also hosts ranch gatherings for his co-workers from the Metoplex to attend. He gives children and parents an introduction to his goals as a livestock and wildlife producer and describes how they are used to maintain his land. This is his way of giving back and informing consumers about where their products are raised. This also helps to shape the perception of the beef and wildlife industry and to help his friends go back to the city and influence other consumers.

Berg is a current member of the Blackland Prairie Grazing Land Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Board of Directors. Through GLCI, he provides critical insight on grazingland issues and shares his knowledge of land management with other produers. This year at the Texas Grazingland Conference, Berg spoke to 100 producers on how managinig for endangered species can open opportunities for rangland improvement on other protions of their operation. In 2010, Rocosa Ridge Ranch won the prestigious Lone Star Land Steward Award for his outstanding efforts.

Berg has a working knowledge of cattle production and understands how to manage his land to produce quality cattle and wildlife while continuing to enhance his rangeland resources. He has opened the door to many not familiar with cattle and wildlife industry. Rocosa Ridge Ranch continues to serve as an example of a sustainable working ranch, and many ranchers and agency personnel have benefited from visits out to the ranch.

Water development and cross fencing has distributed livestock grazing to allow recover of rangeland between grazing periods.Bruce Berg has proven himself to be a steward of the land. In 2010, Rocosa Ridge Ranch won the prestigious Lone Star Land Steward Award for his outstanding efforts.