Partnerscapes board member Jim Faulstich knows firsthand how a change in approach can open up new and lucrative opportunities for a decades old ranch. He has managed Daybreak Ranch, a 10,000+ acre grass-based cow/calf operation and no-till farm in South Dakota, since 1973. His focus on conservation and grassland management has allowed Jim’s family ranch to sustain its cattle operation while also adding a hunting enterprise and wildlife habitat. The complementary enterprises help to ensure the ranch is profitable and will continue for generations to come.
Daybreak Ranch didn’t start out as a wildlife enterprise nor was there originally an emphasis on grassland and pasture management. However in 1983, after a particularly troublesome period of drought, Jim decided to make some changes by focusing on rotational grazing. In the early stages of this change in approach, collaboration with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition was extremely helpful because Jim got to see firsthand how other ranchers were successful in the practice of rotational grazing. He then employed the practice and stopped all tilling after that. To his initial surprise, the diversity of plants increased and now, 37 years later, those plants help maintain water stores and improve the ranch’s drought tolerance.
While Jim was striving to bring back the native grasses in order to improve the cattle operation, he saw that, in turn, the area wildlife also improved. In fact, wildlife improved so much that it opened up the door to white tail deer hunting and wild bird hunting, including pheasants, prairie chickens and sharptail grouse. Now people travel from miles away to hunt on Jim’s land because he’s managed the habitat in such a sustainable way that wildlife is thriving.
Jim has led the way in South Dakota on a wildlife approach to managing the landscape which has resulted in numerous awards and a tangible improvement in quality and quantity of wildlife. He couldn’t have done it all on his own though. Partnerships were vital in helping him focus on grassland management – from technical assistance to cost sharing – and those partnerships were strengthened by the relationships nurtured by being a member of Partnerscapes.
From day one, Jim has been a part of Partnerscapes. He was on the founding board of directors and served as vice chairman for 10 years. Through the networking, collaboration and friendships at Partnerscapes, opportunities with national partners like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service opened up. These large-scale organizations and partnerships not only introduce Jim’s operation to new opportunities but also bring education on the latest best practices to the ranch.
Although he’s been ranching for more than 47 years, according to Jim, it’s important to be constantly learning because what was considered great land stewardship 30 years ago may be frowned upon today. By listening to experts, collaborating with others and having the courage to change, Jim believes that we all can continue to improve the land and its resources for generations to come.