Improving the land for the next generation

The Ryan Peters family at home on their farm near Lehigh.
The Ryan Peters family at home on their farm near Lehigh.
Ryan Peters, 38, knows he?ll see ?a lot of land change hands over the next 10 years.?

But he also knows that farmers today all have a growing consciousness that they need to keep improving conservation including soil organics for the sake of generations to come.

That and the practices he has installed are the reason the Marion Soil Conser?va?tion District is recognizing the Lehigh farmer as winner of the Young Conservation Farmer Award this year sponsored by the UMB Bank of Abilene.

Peters is primarily a beef producer with an Angus and Simmental-based herd, but he recognizes that cropland must be improved to support a growing cattle business.

?We?re crossbreeding in order to get some size, and selecting to harvest calves at slaughter weight at an earlier age,? Peters said.

Nearly the entire operation is keyed to cattle with crops grown for feeding. Breeding cows are on mostly a grass and hay roughage diet while calves are fed to sell at different stages?the less desirable are sold after backgrounding and the best ones are fed out for slaughter or selected for breeding stock, Peters said.

Many cattlemen, in-county and otherwise, come to the family ranch for bulls or replacement heifers, according to Peters.

He said if he could change anything, it might be to keep a higher percentage of the cattle to feed out to see how they perform.

Peters knows it takes a healthy soil to produce a crop, whether it?s a bushel of grain or a pound of beef.

He uses 80 to 100 acres of grass waterways plus gradient terraces, diversion terraces and no till to control soil erosion and maintain soil health.

Peters grazes cattle on some of the cropland each year to speed the recycling of soil nutrients.

He rotates crops to enhance the diversity of root systems in the soil, and to break weed and insect life cycles.

Besides brome, he uses a variety of crops for cover, feed, grazing and hay including clover, alfalfa, triticale, turnips and oats.

Peters said the brome has begun to grow very well this year with a better abundance of moisture after several years of drought.

?It takes a lot of rain to make a difference,? he said. ?But we?re seeing the springs come out of the hills in a lot of places, and the creeks are running.?