76-year-old named Texas Conservation Rancher of the Year
Don Casey, a 76-year-old fifth-generation rancher from Blanco County, Texas, was named the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board's 2019 Texas Conservation Rancher of the Year.
Casey manages more than 1,000 acres in the drought-prone Texas hill country. He spent 25 years working as an engineer before taking up ranching full-time.
Casey comes from a long line of conservationists, including his grandfather who taught him to identify plants on the open range at a young age.
He now uses that skill to manage rangeland and use the condition and species of grass to determine when to rotate cattle out of a pasture.
"We raise cattle, but you can't raise cattle without grass. So, really, I am a grass manager," he said.
Fencing also plays a part in Casey's overall operation. Since he took over the ranch fulltime, he implemented practices like cross fencing to reduce pasture size to better manage grazing.
"Fencing is what keeps the cattle where they need to be for the length of time I need them to be there," he said. "Being an engineer, I'm a bit of an experimenter. Little more than 35 years ago, I put up a fence along County Road 302 and half was Bekaert, high-tensile barbed wire with a class 3 coating. The other half was low carbon barbed wire without a coating. To this day, none of those five strands of high-tensile wire have broken. None of them are rusty. The other strands have broken and it's rusty."
Casey's long-term conservation goal is to restore his land back to pre-settlement ecological conditions to provide qualify wildlife habitat.
"I wish I could go back and see what the land was like when my ancestors first arrived in the early 1840s," he said.