Whitewater Ranch / Stewart Allen Family of Lincoln County, Nebraska
Whitewater, Inc. operates ranching interests in the Sandhills of Arthur and McPherson Counties. The ranch was established in 1884 and is owned and operated by Stewart and Kathy Allen, Mark Allen, Matt and Audra Allen, and their children Kegan, Kaleb, and Kirsten. Stewart and Kathy manage the business headquarters in Lincoln County. Matt and Audra live at Three Mile Ranch and their children represent the seventh generation of the ranching family. The ranch maintains a cow herd, and the majority of the calves are sold as yearlings.
A registered quarter horse operation provides working horses for the ranch and horses to be sold as working and performance horses. A conservation tree planting program was implemented in 1978 to establish windbreaks for livestock protection. With the help of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District, tree strips were planted in areas where winter feeding and calving took place. The first tree projects had only marginal success and limited survival rates. Drip systems were incorporated in additional plantings in 1989 and 1990, and the survival rate and health of the trees improved tremendously. Additional tree strips were planted in 2010 and 2011 to help reduce wind erosion on the fragile soil, and expand wind protection in the calving areas. These projects were the first to incorporate both water conservation mulch and drip irrigation. The results of using this combination produced superior results in the difficult growing environment of sandy, highly erodible soil.
The addition of mulch fabric reduced competition from weeds and lessened the moisture requirements of the trees. Although a variety of tree species have been planted over the years, the tree strips planted in eastern red cedar have become the most impressive. The benefits of establishing windbreaks far outweigh the cost and labor involved in the projects. The addition of water conservation mulch and drip irrigation increases the cost of tree planting projects, but also produces superior results. The introduction of the tree strips has increased calving survival rates and feeding efficiency during the winter months.
Shelter belts provide extra protection for livestock during severe weather events, and mediate the effects of wind erosion in the sandy soil. The tree plantings both enhance the landscape and provide desirable habitat for wildlife. The Allen family appreciates the technical expertise and cost sharing assistance provided by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District in the development of the tree planting program.