Brosius Ranch / Robert & Jennifer Bosius of Lincoln County, Nebraska
John Brosius was born in 1838 at Schleidweiler, Germany, where he was educated above the average. In 1883 Mr. Brosius came with his wife and children from Germany to Minnesota and then in early 1884 came to Logan County, Nebraska and took up homestead five miles south of Gandy on 159.89 acres. It was a time when there were no fences in the County.
From 1921 to 1965 land in the northeast corner of Lincoln County was gradually purchased to piece the ranch together. The Brosius ranch, now owned by William Brosius, John’s grandson, is currently comprised of approximately 4,500 contiguous acres.
The Brosius Ranch’s approach to land and resource management has changed over the years. In 2000 the ranch was leased from William and Donna Brosius to Jennifer and Robert Brosius, William’s nephew. At the same time the partnership that Robert was in with his father and brother was dissolved. As a result, Robert retained approximately 100 cows to run on the leased ranch. An additional 1,000 acres of rangeland owned by Robert and Jennifer and Robert’s father added to the grazing available. A portion of the ranch was sub-leased and yearlings were summer grazed. Grazing was set stocked and cows were calving in March. At that time Robert was running the cow herd, watching the take in yearlings and working as day help, while Jennifer was working as an Agricultural Loan Officer. Robert and Jennifer both have Bachelor degrees in Agri-Business from Chadron State College.
In 2004 the couple attended a Ranching For Profit workshop in Thedford, NE offered by the University of Nebraska Extension. They left the workshop with a hunger for additional information. Robert had been toying with some of the ideas presented and they both wanted to know more. A month later they attended the week long Ranching For Profit School. The school taught the couple about economics, finance, fundamentals for building a sustainable business, as well as ecology, range influences, principles of cell grazing, animal nutrition and reproduction. Some big decisions were made that week and neither regret the changes made, which has turned their ranch into a successful business while building on what Robert and Jennifer had already been thinking.
The Ranching for Profit School showed them how they could implement their ideas. The first major decision was to sell haying equipment. Although the ranch was not large, the cow numbers had tripled. The ranch has no meadows so any hay that had been put up in the past had been done on flat spots here and there. The Brosius’ determined that the cost of keeping the equipment was outweighed by the cost of purchasing necessary feed supplies. All the haying equipment was sold in February 2005. The next decision was to do some serious culling. The cows were weighed and frame scored at preg checking. Cows over 1,400 lbs and or a frame score over five were sold. Because it was too late to change the calving season, plans were made for the following year to turn out bulls July 23th for a May 1st start date.
The Brosius’ determined that because they leased a portion of their herd it would be necessary to have a written drought plan developed and agreed upon with the lessor. The drought plan lists critical dates and amount of moisture needed to continue as planned with the grazing year. If moisture were to fall below benchmarked levels at any of the four critical dates, a plan was written to easily identify what class of cattle and how many would be sold or go back to the lessor. Acknowledging that drought is inevitable was key in making the decisions in regard to the Drought Plan. Thanks to the written drought plan in place by 2012, the ranch has responded as planned and destocked forty percent of the herd.
Robert and Jennifer recognized that they were in the business to grow grass. The way the animals graze determines the health and productivity of both the animals and the range. They have spent considerable amount of time studying plant and animal health and production. In the spring of 2005 the Brosius’ started subdividing the section pastures into smaller paddocks. In addition, the Brosius’ have an irrigated pivot that had been seeded to grass and divided into paddocks in the spring of 2004 that became a part of the grazing cell and utilized more efficiently with daily moves.
At this time there are thirty paddocks on just over 4,000 acres of grass. The cow herd had grown to over 600 head before destocking for the drought, and replacement heifers are being retained. Cows graze cornstalks from November to the first of April. In April the cows start rotating through the ranch paddocks and start calving the first week of May. The Brosius’ drive about half of the cow herd to the KAR Ranch, Inc., north of Stapleton, to be summered there. The remainder of the herd is rotated throughout the ranch and the irrigated pasture is used as part of the rotation.
To enable cattle to run together, a great deal of livestock water pipeline has been installed and tanks have been set. The Brosius’ have taken advantage of the EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program to make this possible. A tree reclamation was developed in 2012 and additional pipeline and cross fencing was put in place in 2013.
Other stewardship practices implemented have been: wild life ramps, supplement location rotation, irrigation pump evaluation, and annual monitored grazing. Unique grazing strategies used on the ranch include: strip grazing windrowed forage feed, and building a feed bank during the growing season.
Long-term sustainability is being built as the energy flow, water and mineral cycles, and biodiversity of the range improves with managed rotational grazing. The improved health of the land will continue to directly correlate with long-term sustainability and decreased operational costs. The premium is found in the increase in carrying capacity and animal performance.
Community involvement for the couple comes naturally. Both of their parents instilled service to others as an important part of their lives. They strive to be an example to their own children in the leadership and support roles they serve in. Robert is a Fair Board/Ag Society member. He coaches youth basketball, and has been a NSAA football official for twelve years. In 2011 his crew was selected to officiate the Class D2 State Championship game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE. Jennifer is a past Logan County 4-H Council President, she is Secretary of the St. John’s Altar Society, was involved in the development of the Stapleton website, is a PTA and 4-H leader/volunteer. Together they co-chair the Stapleton Jr. Rodeo, serve as lay ministers for their church, and sit on an Executive Link board for Ranching For Profit alumni. In 2011, when the Harvest Fires burned approximately 24,000 acres of their friends and neighbor’s land, they worked to raise over $25,000 to replace nearly 7,000 fence posts lost by the community’s farmers and ranchers. Other memberships include: NE Cattlemen, NE Beef Quality Assurance, and American Quarter Horse Association.
Jennifer currently works part time in the Human Resource department at Adams Bank and Trust in North Platte and is on the ranch the rest of the time. The Brosius’ daughters, Britney (13) and Hope (11) provide much of the “cowboy” help along with the Tony and Jane Haake family; Tristan (14), Gage (12), and Dayle (7). Outside day help is used as needed. The Brosius’ are firm believers in low-stress stockmanship and livestock handling using the Bud Williams model and techniques.
The Brosius Ranch mission statement is: Working with Mother Nature to build a sustainable business. Robert and Jennifer are proud to be fourth generation stewards of the Brosius Ranch. Although they don’t own the land they live and work on, they have made it their mission to use the knowledge and practices they have learned to increase the effectiveness of resource management and above all do what is right to ensure the sustainability of the land.