Carrs help teach next-generation grass managers

Jim Carr, Atkinson, has been a rangeland manager in the making since his days on the high school FFA range-judging team, and he’s determined to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers become successful grass managers.

Carr always emphasizes the need to understand and conserve Nebraska’s grassland resources.

His 6-year-old granddaughter, Gracie Pinckey, has taken up the challenge. “She can easily identify most plants on the family ranch pastures,” says Carr. “I would say she knows the names of 80% of the plants we have in our pastures.”

At a glance

• Carrs emphasize continual education for grass managers.

• They use intensive grazing systems on their two ranches.

• He and his wife recently earned the Rangeman’s Award.

It isn’t just teaching his granddaughter the difference between sand bluestem and little bluestem grasses, though. Carr also mentors two employees and is chairman of the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, which places a strong emphasis on producer education.

“The ranch’s hired help is encouraged to attend tours and seminars. We believe in increasing their knowledge,” says Carr.

It also helps them relate to the grazing system that Carr implements on the Carr Ranch near Burwell and the Brush Creek Ranch that he manages north of Atkinson. “And we hope the information they gain will be something they can implement on their own operations someday,” he says.

In 1999, he purchased the ranch near Burwell and promptly turned it into an intensive grazing system by cross-fencing 1,000 acres into 49 paddocks. The ranch’s carrying capacity was increased by 60%, he says.

Carr says cattlemen looking for more profit in these difficult economic times should consider their grazing routines. A change in rotation, location of water and animal stocking density can not only increase weights, but also the number of animal units a pasture can sustain. The system may create a change in plant species, which can directly affect the amount of energy supplied to cattle.

Soaking up knowledge

Over the past decade, Carr has soaked up the knowledge of Allan Savory, holistic management guru; Terry Gompert, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator based in Knox County; and “great grazing neighbors” to further his rangeland management skills. He and two other ranchers, Ross Garwood of Amelia and Thorvald Hanson of Burwell, formed an informal support group to bounce ideas off each other and walk each other’s pastures to see what practices were working.

At the start, the Carr Ranch had 15% to 20% of its acreage infested by leafy spurge, but he’s been able to control the invasive plant through grazing and today gives tours and presentations on his ranch.

Carr’s latest challenge has been the management of the Brush Creek Ranch. “Brush Creek has four major ecosystems that we have to manage for — the Sandhills, Brush Creek, a subirrigated meadow and a stretch of land we call the South Dakota Flatlands,” says Carr.

Between the two ranches, his days are filled with mapping grazing plans, gathering cattle — the ranches have a cow-calf and stocker operation and also do custom grazing — buying cattle and general ranch work.

Carr makes time to continue his grassland education by reading various grazing and ranch publications or attending events dedicated to grassland management. Carr has a stack of book and magazine resources on beef cattle and grasslands.

For those looking for more information, he recommends two reading staples, “The Stockman Grass Farmer” publication and the book “Holistic Management” by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield.

Vallery-Mills and her husband, Brian, live in western South Dakota where they work in the ag industry and are part of the family ranching operation.

Carrs honored for range work

Jim and Becky Carr recently received the Rangeman’s Award from the Nebraska Section for the Society of Range Management.

The award recognizes “those individuals with a commitment to the principles of sound range management through proof and practice.”

“Jim and Becky Carr have demonstrated success in initiating dramatic transformation on range and pastureland using livestock as the main mechanism for positive change,” the society said.

Their emphasis on mentoring others as a couple also was singled out in the recognitions.

At the same meeting, the range society presented the Range Management Service Award to the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition. Carr is the chairman of the coalition. Mary Hunter is coordinator.


KEEP ON LEARNING: Jim Carr and his wife, Rebecca, ranch near Atkinson. Continuing education is a major focus for Carr and his employees.

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.