Doud displays methods that earned first Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota

Honors ... For the audience, the check and crystal award were again presented to the Doud Ranch for earning the first Leopold Conservation Award in South Dakota. Shown, from left, are: Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation, Jim Faulstich, Natural Resources Conservation Servi

The main reason for the gathering at the Doud Ranch, Friday, July 29, was for the audience to see first hand the reasons that Rick and Marlis Doud were the recipients of the 2010 Leopold Conservation Award.

First, a history of the award and of the Doud Ranch was held, then an awards ceremony. The day ended with hundreds of guests and organization and department dignitaries climbing aboard a parade of flatbeds and pickups to tour different aspects of the Doud ranching operation

Brendt Heglund represented the Sand County Foundation, the originators of the award. "One of the key components of the Douds to make this reward is the folks inside this tent, the outreach of the Douds to the rest of the community," said Heglund. "Our work in Sand County Foundation is looking to who is doing the work on the land, and those who support them. We want to keep private lands private."

Jody Hickman, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen, said, "It was a great honor for the Douds to win the first one, very deserving, and they raised the bar high for the rest of us. We don't need the city people regulating us, we can do just fine, but we can educate them. The Leopold award is already one of the best ways to tell our story. Congratulations Douds."

As part of Rick Doud's acceptance of the award, he said, "There are people out there willing to tell you where they went wrong and what has worked for them." Doud gave a brief history of the ranch and the eventual changes. "We made the switch from March/April to May/June calving, and we haven't looked back."

Doud told of attending a Ranching For Profit school in 1999 and again in 2000. "I got just as much out of it the second time as I did the first." Doud also took a nutrition course. "When your biggest nutritional needs, when your grasses, are right, and if you're calving with Mother Nature, they will all line up," said Doud.

At one of the stops of the tour, Doud said, "Cows have to trust a water source, the same with grazing. If they go without (expected) bales for awhile, it adds stress." He rotates his herds through seven pastures on an average of a 14-day basis. Not only does this keep the herds ahead of the fly hatch, but actually improves the grasses."

If a pasture is little more than dirt, "The seed is already there. All it needs is cow hoof action, manure and herd water and 'pound it hard.' It'll come back," said Doud.

Tour co-organizer Wayne Berry, holistic resource management educator from North Dakota, said, "The business we are in is harvesting sunlight and water. One extra ounce of plant on a cubic yard is four semi-loads of hay per section." Berry added, "The longer the season (on a summer or winter pasture) the more it's about the numbers. The more the herd and smaller the field in rotation, the more it's about the timing."

Doud said the if a cow is a "bad mama," it is sold. It is his goal to eventually keep all his calves on background. Doud concluded, "First thing you notice is you don't use as near as much feed. I've heard, 'Rick is so lazy he doesn't even feed his cows,' and I take that as a compliment. We use only a quarter to a third the hay we used to."