Waits Ranch, McPherson County
In 1972 Vernon and Pauline Waits purchased the ranch operation consisting of 1,280 acres from Vernon’s father, Lee Waits. After several years of leasing rangeland for their livestock operation, Vernon and Pauline purchased an additional 7,720 acres in 1990. In 1991, they began operation of their Uncle Francis Waits’ place which had been the original Waits and Wisner homestead. Following many years of improvements on the ranch, they now utilize 16,000 acres which complement their 1,000 cow/calf operation and the raising of 450 yearlings. With sons Steve and Mike Waits and other family members actively involved in the operation, the Waits Ranch is successful as they continue to use conservation practices on their grasslands.
There are several examples of conservation activities which have allowed the Waits Ranch to manage their grasslands well. They have installed multiple miles of cross fencing and developed numerous livestock water locations over approximately 30 years. That has allowed for improved grazing distribution within their pastures while improving grass cover and plant vigor. More recently, the Waits Ranch removed invading cedar trees that were spreading over newly acquired grasslands.
The Waits Ranch has participated in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), and the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Program (NSWCP) in recent years. This has allowed them to receive cost-sharing and technical assistance from the USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). The Waits Ranch has hosted tours to help share conservation information with others. The family has also participated in other rangeland education programs to expand their knowledge base.
The Waits Ranch has progressively moved toward rotational grazing strategies on all of their rangeland. They run their cattle in different age class herds, which generally rotate through a set of three to five pastures during the growing season. The number of days of grazing in each pasture varies according to the size of the pasture and number in the herd. This usually results in the grazing period being less than 45 days in a given pasture. That allows ample rest and recovery for the grasses. The Waits Ranch recognizes the importance of allowing rest for their pastures during the growing season to maintain good grass production, health, and vigor. They also have observed that their grazing program has prepared their grasslands to better withstand occurrences of drought, fire, grasshoppers, and hail. It is due to this commitment to the resources under their management that the Waits Ranch is receiving the 2016 Grassland Conservation Award from the Twin Platte Natural Resources District.