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Zavala County Rancher Uses Conservation to Benefit Ranches

Debra Parsons, Winter Garden Soil and Water Conservation District

For outdoors fanatic Anthony Gallegos, working as ranch manager for the Double Dime Ranch in Zavala County was a dream come true.  Gallegos worked at the 9,000-acre ranch for 16 years while it was owned by Atlanta Braves MVP third baseman Chipper Jones.  In addition to running the ranch during this time, Gallegos leased approximately 1,000 acres to run his cattle at the ranch.  Unfortunately, he soon realized his cattle needed more forage to graze.

Gallegos decided to seek assistance from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Winter Garden Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).  Gallegos applied for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which is a Farm Bill program that provides financial and technical assistance for implementing recommended conservation practices.

 To increase forage, NRCS District Conservationist J. M. Villarreal created a conservation plan for Gallegos to help meet his short and long-term goals for the ranch. This included cross-fencing, a conservation practice focusing on reducing soil erosion. Villarreal also provided technical assistance to Gallegos for rotational grazing, prescribed burns and brush management – all conservation practices to improve pasture conditions.

Gallegos now manages a private ranch where the owner has utilized a different Farm Bill program, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  The CSP is the largest conservation program in the United States.  It is a five-year program designed to address natural resources concerns through a more comprehensive approach.  Additional conservation activities are undertaken while existing conservation activities are improved, maintained and managed.  This approach is more cost-effective and achieves a greater conservation result when activities are performed simultaneously.  Conservation practices completed at the ranch under the CSP program include patch burning to enhance wildlife habitat, and grazing management to improve wildlife habitat. These practices compliment practices previously implemented at the ranch, which include improving pond conditions for livestock water quality and quantity, cross-fencing and the reduction of his cattle herd.  Winter wheat, oats and sorghum are planted for livestock and wildlife, but also as cover crops for soil health improvement. 

“We also plant a spring dual mix for birds,” states Gallegos. “We have a large quail population right now.” Just like during his tenure at the Double Dime, Gallegos leases land at this ranch to run his cattle as well.

Gallegos still finds the time to manage his own 135-acre ranch near La Pryor.  For many years, this land was leased, and the lessee had a Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) administered through the USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Through this program, the lessee was able to continuously plant buffelgrass and rotate planting milo, oats and wheat.

“Thanks to these previous cover crop programs, the soil has been kept pretty healthy for my cattle to graze,” says Gallegos.  “I have continued to plant milo, and I rotate planting oats with winter wheat myself.  Once again NRCS has provided me with the technical assistance I need to improve the pasture with brush management and cross-fencing, two practices I was already familiar with from practices implemented at the Double Dime.”

He went on to say, “Aerial spraying was recommended to help control the huisache.  Probably most important was the technical assistance I received for my pumping plant at my water well; water is essential – I can’t do anything without it.  No matter where I am, I can tell that conservation practices really do enhance the land.”

Whether working or relaxing, Gallegos likes to be outdoors.  He is an avid hunter and likes to hunt whitetail deer with his bow.  He is also an avid fisherman, taking his bass boat out on Lake Amistad every chance he gets.

The Winter Garden SWCD, in partnership with the Texas-Mexico Border Coalition, would like to highlight the success story of Zavala County producers.  For more information on SWCD assistance, please contact Debra Parsons and for more information on how NRCS can assist you with your land management goals, please contact J. M. Villarreal. Their telephone number is (830) 374-3838, extension 3. The SWCD and NRCS office is located at 319 N. 1st Ave., Suite 2 in Crystal City.  For more information on how FSA can assist you, please contact Judy Muller at (830) 876-2115, extension 3128 or visit the local FSA office at 200 South 1st Street in Carrizo Springs.

Zavala County Rancher Uses Conservation to Benefit Ranches, By Debra Parsons, Winter Garden Soil and Water Conservation District, (2019, Nov)