The Kalkowski family began ranching in the 1950s in Boyd Co., NE, and today, with use of rotational grazing and cover crops the family is focused on ensuring the rangeland and other natural resources remain viable for future generations.
The Kalkowski family began ranching in the 1950s in Boyd Co., NE, and today, with use of rotational grazing and cover crops the family is focused on ensuring the rangeland and other natural resources remain viable for future generations.


 


In the 1950’s Larry and Kay Lynn Kalkowski were teachers by trade, but it was their purchase of pasture and farmland in Boyd County, Neb., – in the northcentral part of the state bordering South Dakota – that became the best classroom for teaching their four sons. The Kalkowski ranch was especially beneficial in teaching the lesson of stewardship of natural resources. 

Today, their son Tim Kalkowski reflects on those experiences saying, “My parents were good partners. They were conservation minded and started rotational grazing in the 1970’s. They were innovative in running yearlings on grass and understood rotational grazing was good for the cattle and grass. They believed in hard work, and although we didn’t live at the ranch full time, we worked there all summer.”

As a result, Tim and his brothers Jeff, Chris and John each gained their parent’s passion for being stewards of natural resources, striving to improve whatever land was under their care.

In 1991, when Larry succumbed to cancer, his family was determined to continue the conservation legacy he had initiated. Today, Tim, Jeff, Chris and John and their wives and children, along with their mother Kay Lynn Kalkowski, have grown Kalkowski Family Ranches, and it still includes the original land that Larry Kalkowski purchased in the 1950s. The ranch is managed by a foreman and while each of the Kalkowski families live and work full-time off the ranch, they are at the ranch nearly every weekend.

Their ranch entities include grazing cow-calf pairs and yearlings, as well as farmland for forage crops, including corn silage (some of which is grown with irrigation). Rotational grazing continues to be utilized as a conservation strategy benefitting the cattle and grass. Prescribed burning to regenerate the grasslands is also utilized. Through a field study supported by the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, the Kalkowskis are incorporating cover crops into their cropland, which offers a boost to soil health and extra opportunities for cattle to graze. Looking ahead, Tim says they are interested in exploring expanded permanent forages for grazing grown under irrigation.


Conservation 

Considerations

In all they do, stewardship drives their decisions. Tim explains that at the foundation of their family endeavors is a focus on conservation and consideration for soil health, water quality, wildlife and producing a good honest product. Along with that, he notes that community involvement, leadership, family and generational transfer, and faith are all key to their ranching efforts. The Kalkowski Family Ranches’ mission statement is this: “Committed to high standards of ethical business and conservation of our natural resources in an environment that supports and models strong family and community values.” For their conservation commitment, the Kalkowski family was recognized in 2010 as the Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award recipient.

For everyone involved in farming and ranching, Tim notes it is important to recognize the interconnectedness of resources. “Water, soil, range, wildlife, pollinators, livestock – it’s all connected, and it’s one big cycle. We are all in this together taking care of the livestock and the land and producing the food to feed the world.”

Tim credits his father for providing him and his brothers that perspective. He notes, “Dad was a speech teacher, a great communicator and willing to teach.”

Today, Tim encourages farmers and ranchers to be willing to share their conservation ethic with others – recognizing the opportunities to teach and learn. He credits the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, of which he is currently chairman, for being an organization of farmers and ranchers who willingly share their own stories and experiences in a humble and honest way – on topics from grazing practices to generational transfer.

Tim concludes, “I think we have a responsibility to help others not to be afraid to experiment [with conservation practices]. Mother Nature throws twists. Don’t be afraid to learn from others.” 


The Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition offers the Cowboy Logic Stewardship Network which facilitates the exchange of ideas and successful practices in ranching, grazing lands management and conservation. Ranch owners and managers are paired with interested individuals — including other ranchers, farmers, landowners, agency personnel, or youth and college students – to share experiences. For more information visit www.nebraskagrazinglands.org and click on “What We Do.”