Lute Homestead Ranch and Krab Ranch of Keith County, Nebraska
This year, the Lute Ranch of Keith County, Nebraska celebrates its’ 125th anniversary, and continues the family ranching tradition started by brothers Fred W. Lute and John Lute in 1884. The original homestead house located four miles east of Ogallala was built with limestone quarried from the hills located just north of the dwelling, and is still standing today. Fred W. Lute and his son, Fred H. Lute, expanded the operation to land in Arthur County, Nebraska, which continues in operation today. Fred H. Lute’s son, Robert F. Lute Sr. and his daughters, Rose Sara and Lula Lute, shared ownership of the ranch through the 1980’s.
After the death of Rose Sara and Lula, Robert Lute Sr. and his son, Robert F. Lute II, carried on the family business. Robert Lute II married Kathleen Lute in 1987, and got an “instant family” of sons Rick and Ken, and daughter Michelle. Robert Lute II was active in the Nebraska Stock Growers Association, and served as its president. Robert Lute II attributed the longevity and success of the ranches to conservative business policies and the underlying principles of good stewardship management practices. He was fond of saying, “If you don’t take care of the land, it can’t take care of you.” In 1992, Robert Lute II died unexpectedly, followed by Robert Lute Sr. in 1994.
The family tradition of success started 125 years ago is continuing with the current generation. The examples and lessons of the past still resonate with good stewardship practices carried on today. The Keith County Ranch, in partnership with the family of Mike and Chris Krab, continues to function with the understanding that we are only temporary stewards of the land, and the footprints we leave must be for the benefit of future generations to come.
The Lute Homestead Ranch has also benefited many local and state youth through hosting an Area Range Judging Contest in 2003, as well as the State Range Judging Contest in 2009 with 350 contestants in attendance! In 1994, the ranch began to pursue aggressive new range management tactics to insure the highest land utilization while maintaining ongoing conservation and stewardship practices. Working with the local USDA-NRCS office, the Lute Ranch and Krab Family began to develop innovative grazing and land management practices, which included the addition of new cross fencing, water development programs, rotational grazing strategies, and conservation protection areas.
An example of ranch innovation is on the steep breaks above the South Platte River where extensive cross fencing is impractical on those grasslands. Alternatively, more livestock water sources were developed by the Lute Ranch, which allows for better cattle distribution on the steep hillsides without much fencing. The Lute Ranch also utilizes hay meadows in a sustainable way. Instead of haying the whole meadow every year, Mike Krab discovered equal or better tonnage by haying half the meadow in strips on an every other year rotation. While maintaining the more productive grasses in a healthier condition, the strips also serve as good cover for young calves during calving season.
Mike also worked with NRCS staff to initiate a range monitoring program utilizing exclusion cages to measure actual forage yield per acre. A center pivot on the Lute Ranch also provides high quality forage in the form of alfalfa hay, as well as corn production where the corn stalks can be grazed. With the assistance of EQIP funding and plans developed in partnership with the NRCS, the Lute Ranch continues to expand operational and conservation strategies that will continue to benefit not only the business, but also improve and protect the quality of the natural resources on the ranch.
Both ranch families have appreciated and benefited from the technical assistance offered over the years by staff from the Ogallala NRCS Field Office. Future practices being planned include expanding the grazing rotation and livestock water development to expiring CRP land for the benefit of livestock and wildlife. Mike and Chris Krab have been in partnership with the Lute Family on their ranch between Ogallala and Paxton since 1998.
Mike and Chris are the parents of five children. Drew and daughters Emma and Jamie reside in Ogallala. Drew is Vice-President and commercial lender for Adams Bank and Trust in Ogallala. Nick lives in North Platte and is employed at Gerald Gentleman Station in Sutherland in the Operations Department. Tim, wife Lindsey, and their son Wiley live in Ogallala. Tim is employed by NPPD as a Civil Maintenance Technician. Tim also works part time on the ranch. Lindsey is employed as a payroll clerk for Keith County. Jen and husband Todd Winder, along with sons Carson and Logan, reside in North Platte. Jen is employed by Wells Fargo Bank in North Platte as an Ag lender, and Todd is employed as a claim representative at the Social Security Administration. Jill and husband Curt Richmond live in Grant. Jill is employed as a 4th grade teacher at Ogallala Public Schools. Curt is employed at Richmond Farms in Grant. All of the children and grandchildren have contributed throughout the years on the ranch. Mike and Chris are members at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church of Paxton. Mike is a member of the Knights of Columbus and the Ogallala Elks. He is a past member of St. Patrick’s Church council and Paxton school board. Chris is a member of St. Patrick’s Altar Society, where she served as president. She also is a member of the Paxton Legion Auxiliary and member of Paxton Booster Club, serving as past president.