ACR Women’s History Month-Oklahoma and Texas | Montana Audubon

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ACR Women’s History Month-Oklahoma and Texas

Rancher Name: Debbie Davis

Audubon Certified Bird Friendly Ranch: Bandera Grassland

Location: Tarpley, Texas


What is your favorite bird and why?

Instead of answering my favorite, as there are many I love for different reasons, I will answer with the bird I best identify with this property. That is the Vermilion Flycatcher. The brilliant red of the males, in combination with their ability to hover like a butterfly, amaze visitors to this property that have never seen this beautiful bird that is quite common here.
What do you wish more people knew about conservation on your ranch?
Mechanical removal of invasive juniper brush on our property increases moisture infiltration of the soil. This property is in the fragile Balcones Escarpment that recharges the Edwards Aquifer. Controlling invasive woody species secures the future availability of water for human communities while enhancing quality of grazing lands for livestock and wildlife, including birds and pollinators.
If you could enjoy a meal with any woman, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Gosh, it’s a tough decision between Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall. Jane for her compassion for animals and Rachel for her fearless exposure of the chemical industry. Regardless, both for their love and defense of the natural world.
Where is the worst smelling place you’ve been?
That’s yet a second toss-up. The walking tunnel under the road at the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo border back in the 1980’s was pretty unbearable. It smelled of a combination of urine, vomit, rotting crickets, and gray sewer water all masked with the nauseating fragrance of Pine-Sol. Perhaps worse was the time I cut the heads off two dead whitetail bucks that had gotten hooked up while fighting and fell off a cliff into a shallow pool of water. At least one died on impact. It was hard to determine if the second also broke his neck or if he suffered a terrible death from starvation. By the time I discovered them, the maggots had gone to work on them. There were so many thousands, the green, slimy water moved as waves. With a scarf over my face, I gagged between held breaths while my pocketknife did its work. The entangled antlers made an interesting conversation piece for 10 years until they were lost in a housefire in 2007.
Support Bandera Grassland Debbie offers delivery in the Austin and San Antonio area, including all points in between. Click here to place your order.

Rancher Name: Rhona Lemke

Audubon Certified Bird Friendly Ranch: McCollum-Lemke Ranches

Location: Mason, Texas

Website: TBD

What is your favorite bird and why?
My favorite bird is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. They are not only beautiful with their metallic green top and ruby red throat (at least for the males), they are extremely agile and territorial during breeding season. It is amazing something so small can be so aggressive.
What’s been your biggest work-related conservation success?
After practicing Holistic Management for many years, we decided to partner with the Savory Institute and become the Texas Savory Hub. The Grassfed Sustainability Group began in 2015. We now are part of the Ecological Outcome Verification program, and I am the Hub Verifier for Texas. Our home ranch was one of the first land bases in the world to receive the Ecological Outcome Verification designation from the Savory Institute. That work allowed us to have the ecological data to be included in the Audubon bird-friendly management program. The initial bird survey was a very rewarding learning experience. We found all the key species for our ecoregion on our property.
Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in ranching?
My advice for women looking to pursue a ranching career is, be prepared for the “mountain tops and valleys”. There are some days so great you can’t wait tell someone about it and other days you just want to cry. A passion for hard work and a circle of friends makes it a very worthwhile adventure. You never know what that day is going to bring.
If you had to live in a different state, what would it be?
I live in the heart of Texas, so I have lots of choices in my state. I can go to the big city, out to the country, to beaches, deserts, forests, grasslands, and mountains. I think I will stay right here in the Great State of Texas.
Support McCollum-Lemke Ranches: If you live in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or Arkansas, you can find McCollum-Lemke Ranches beef at the fresh meat counter at your local Whole Foods. Click here to for a list of locations.

Rancher Name: Lauren Nitschke

Audubon Certified Bird Friendly Ranch: Circle N Ranch

Location: Jefferson County, Oklahoma


What is your favorite bird and why?
Belted Kingfisher… Never having lived near a body of water before now, this entertaining bird has become my favorite feathered friend to watch here on our ranch ponds. Its distinctive, loud rattling call lets me know it’s here to hunt. I love watching them dive down from a high perch straight into the water at amazing speed, surface with their prize, and flit back into a tree to prepare to spear another tasty treat.
What do you wish more people knew about conservation on your ranch?
It’s HARD work! First, we’re going against the grain (literally!) by rejecting conventional practices such as tillage, chemical sprays and fertilizers, and growing monoculture pastures. Second, the effort put into grazing strategies that move our cattle onto fresh pasture constantly is always challenging. Third, the way we move cattle and manage our forages (such as no-till drilling seeds and not overgrazing) puts carbon and moisture back in the soil in a way conventional cattle ranching does not. Continuing to build soil health this way increases microbial populations so the cycle can repeat without having to add more and more inputs. It’s great for the soil, the plants, wildlife, and our cattle, as well as being a more cost-effective approach.
Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in ranching?
Learn all you can about the concept of regenerative agriculture and animal welfare best practices. Don’t look to conventional land grant universities for depth of experience in either, but investigate alternative resources such as Holistic Management International, The Noble Research Institute, Regeneration International, and The Savory Institute. Make sure you have goals and metrics to measure your progress, financial stability, and mentors actually practicing these methods. Read, read, read, and attend recommended conferences and workshops for education AND networking –you don’t want to go it alone! I also encourage investigating certification requirements for organizations like Audubon and American Grassfed Association to become familiar with the specific protocols that will point toward worthy ranching goals. Niche markets have the potential to be more profitable than the commodity market. Identify your ideal customer and market only to that person or entity. Don’t shy away from charging what you deserve to be paid. Ranching shouldn’t be a fast dive into broke!
What’s your dream job?
Any endeavor that supports and educates others about regenerative agricultural practices and their importance to returning health to our soils and ecosystem, nutrition to our food and vitality to our bodies. I’m living my dream job every day as I interact with friends, neighbors, and our customers, and I feel exceedingly blessed to be in this place.
Support Circle N Ranch: You can support Circle N Ranch if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by visiting Nitschke Natural Beef to learn more about pick up locations and to place an order.

Rancher Name: Wendy Taggart

Audubon Certified Bird Friendly Ranch: Burgundy Pasture Beef

Location: Grandview, Texas


What is your favorite bird and why?
The Cattle Egret –cows like them too. It’s great to see one creature helping another to get along.
What do you wish more people knew about conservation on your ranch?
Over the last few years we have converted 1,200 acres of farmland back to native-type prairie (Climax Plant Community).
Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in ranching?
Success in ranching is not only understanding the land but understanding that any business must eventually justify its management and inputs. It is a great time to be progressive and of the “open minded” approach in agriculture.
What’s your dream job?
Conversing while handing a customer (home cook) a cut of meat that I know literally everything about…from the pasture to the plate.
Support Burgundy Pasture Beef: Visit one of Burgundy Pasture Beef’s three retail stores, or visit all three, if you live in Dallas, Fort Worth, or Grandview, Texas.
Burgundy Pasture Beef also ships nationwide, so if you don’t live in the area you’re still in luck! Click here to place your order online.

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