Brad Magness was raised to be a good steward of the land. So working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited to protect his family's South Dakota ranch with a conservation easement made perfect sense to him. "It was an easy decision because it wasn't going to alter any of our operation," Magness said. "When a conservation program comes along that will compensate us to keep our land as close to prairie as God made it, we'd be foolish to turn it away."
© Ron Spomer, DU
Magness is deeply troubled by the widespread loss of prairie grassland that is occurring in South Dakota's ranch country. "I have a concern not only because we have a ranch but also because we run a livestock auction market," he said. "And when grass is torn up, it's just that many fewer cattle that have a chance to come through our sale."
He is hopeful that the market for grass-fed beef will continue to grow and help support this region's ranching economy in the future. "I'm not a cardiac specialist, but I understand health and environmental benefits will become a basis for greater demand for grass-fed beef in the future," he said.
Magness believes raising cattle is a more cost-effective use of the land than crop production because ranchers don't have to pay as many input costs for seed, fertilizer, and herbicides. "We may sometimes have to spray weeds or apply fertilizer, but not every year, and we sure don't have to keep replanting," he said. "We work with what the Lord gives us for free—sunshine and rain—and we harvest the cattle."