Moes Feedlot of Watertown, S.D. is one of six regional finalists for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Awards.
Moes Feedlot of Watertown, S.D. is one of six regional finalists for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Awards.
More than 700 of the nation’s cattle industry leaders wrapped up another successful Summer Business Meeting in Denver last week.
In addition, six regional finalists for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Awards were announced. This year’s finalists are Birdcall and Clark Ranch of Henrietta, Texas, Thunder View Farms of Grahamsville, N.Y., Haleakala Ranch of Makawao, Hawaii, The Hahn Ranch of Townsend, Mont., Moes Feedlot of Watertown, S.D., and Landuyt Land and Livestock of Walnut Grove, Minn. The winners will be announced at the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in New Orleans in January.
Here’s more on the ESA winners from the region:
Moes Feedlot got started in 1987, with 20 bred heifers in 1988. The operation got to the point where they were feeding 400 head on outside lots without much in the way of their own facilities, but changed when John Moes’ son, Bryan, returned to the operation. The Moes family knew that they needed a way to support future generations, so they installed a new monoslope facility in order to increase the capacity of the feedyard.
“We didn’t really have the availability to buy any land,” said Bryan, “so we started investing in the feedlot. In 2011 we did another expansion to have 1,999 head.”
With the feedlot expansion came the need to control any runoff. All of the facilities were carefully designed so water and nutrients are captured before they can reach sensitive wetlands and watersheds.
“It was very important for us to make sure that all of our runoff was contained and handled in a safe matter to the environment,” said Bryan. “So, everything is collected from the manure for rain runoff where nothing goes to our slews. That was very important for us to coexist with the water holes we have around us.”
Manure scraped from the pens is a valued asset and applying it to the fields has improved soil quality and crop yields while decreasing the use of commercial fertilizer.
“We’ve raised our organic matter from a two to a 6 ½,” said John. “With that, every percent of organic matter that you increase you get an extra inch of holding capacity. We’re keeping the water on the ground, and it’s going up to the atmosphere and coming back down on our area instead of running down the river.”
The Moes family is always on the lookout for new technology that can help them become better stewards of the land. Their feeding systems includes identification tags to allow for increased efficiency in sorting. They also use their tablets and smartphones to keep track of the feed wagon and monitor the health of the cattle—even when they’re away from home.
For more than a decade, John has worked with South Dakota State University (SDSU) on beef cattle reproduction projects. The research has helped them tighten up their breeding and calving seasons. “This family’s really willing to try new things,” said Stephanie Perkins, a lab technician at SDSU. “Every year when we finish with the study John wants to know the results right away. He’s very keen on knowing what the next step is and what he can do to better his operation.”
The Moes family has also planted 25 acres of trees to serve as a windbreak and to provide habitat for wildlife. Their pastures are currently in a 10-year easement program, and they put a perpetual easement on 230 acres. Over the years they’ve cross-fenced pastures and installed pipelines and water tanks to help improve their rotational grazing system.
“When we do all this, we’re thinking of the next generation,” said Bryan. “We want to make this land as good—or better—than when we got it for them. So by making it as good or better for them they can keep growing and expanding, and keep this symbiotic relationship with the livestock and the wildlife.”

The Hahn Ranch raises 550 cattle across nearly 28,000 acres of public and private land and has been doing so for nearly a century. Today multiple family members work together on the Hahn Ranch.
“I’m the third generation on the ranch,” Chuck Hahn said, “and my sons are the fourth. The fifth generation is coming up with nieces and nephews.”
 With fewer than 12 inches of rain each year, the Hahns have installed more efficient irrigation systems and have added new stock water tanks to allow them to fence their cattle out of riparian zones.
“We’re looking at ways to maintain water quality in those watersheds to maintain a healthy ecosystem and also to do things to improve the streambank health,” said Dusty Hahn, Chuck’s son and the fourth generation on the ranch.
The Hahn family was also part of the restoration of Deep Creek, the Missouri river tributary that crosses the Hahn Ranch. The family worked with private and public partners to install the Montana ditch siphon, rerouting irrigation water under instead of through the creek, reducing sediment issues, improved water flow, and allowed fish to return.
“Immediately after that project was done, we started having fish move up from the Missouri river into Deep Creek here to start spawning,” said Ron Spoon, a fisheries biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
“There’s more grass on the range units due to the rotational grazing system that the Hahns are implementing, getting stock water away from the creeks and the springs so those areas can be left for wildlife with less livestock impacts,” said Justin Meissner, a district conservationist with USDA NRCS.
The Hahn Ranch also grows wheat, barley and hay crops, extending the grazing season to allow for longer rest periods on the range. Additionally, reduced tillage and cover crop rotations have had a positive impact on soil health.
“I want to do things better and leave the land in a better condition than I found it for the next generation who will hopefully take as good or better care of it than we have,” said Dusty.

Landuyt Land and Livestock has roots going back to 1928. Today, father and son George and Mike work together to care for their crops and cattle. The operation originally was a dairy farm, but Mike’s grandfather also had beef cattle. He exited the beef business in the 1950s and it took until 1999 for Mike to bring the cattle back to the farm. Since then Landuyt Land and Livestock has built a hoop barn and a monoslope barn.
“Our operation is a fourth-generation cattle feedlot and farm. We have about 2,200 acres of crops and about 700 cattle on feed at a time,” said Mike Landuyt. “We feed all our cattle under roofs here and it works well for us. It keeps the environment steadier for the cattle and we have zero run-off from the barns.”
On the crop side of the farm, the Landuyts use a reduced tillage system to prevent erosion. To protect water quality they have installed buffer zones along their fields to prevent run-off. They have intensified their soil sampling to better apply their crop inputs and to make sure they are properly utilizing the manure as a valuable fertilizer.
A significant challenge on the farm is controlling erosion due to rainfall. The Landuyts have partnered with NRCS to build 15 water retaining structures. The basins are there to control heavy rains and most of them can hold a 6-inch rainfall. The basins hold the water and slowly release it back into the stream by a metered system.
“We are able to treat the water in the watershed before it gets to the stream. That’s important for the streams and rivers here in Minnesota, and they are getting better all the time,” said Brian Pfarr, Resource Specialist, Soil and Water Conservation District. “It’s because of people like Mike and the Landuyt family; they are practicing better management.”
From crops to cattle, everything works together on Landuyt Land and Livestock and it’s clear that the family tradition of doing what is right for the land is in good hands. The goal is to have the farm be around for at least another 90 years.
“Take care of the earth,” according to George Landuyt. “Sure, it will take a little bit of money, but if it’s going to save the soil and the earth you just need to do it.”