Flying Diamond Ranch
By: Leopold Conservation Award Program
Scott Johnson and his family own and manage 25,000 acres of land dominated by shortgrass and sandsage prairie, and over ten miles of riparian area along Big Sandy and Horse Creek.
After attending a Holistic Resource seminar in the 1980s, Scott decided to make holism a central tenet to the ranch management philosophy. The Johnsons now look at the ranch as a whole and strive to achieve a balanced approach to how they manage the land.
In partnership with NRCS, they implemented a rotational grazing system supported by an extensive pipeline and fencing infrastructure, providing control of herd impact to reach the levels of range improvement they need. Such practices have led to improved production levels, health and fertility in their land and cattle.
Using their digital data library, the Johnsons can identify variations in historical averages, allowing them to quantify grass deficits and surpluses while responsibly adjusting their stocking rates.
Rather than beginning their calving season in March, they start in May when the natural forage supplies meet the nutritional needs of their cattle. This reduces the need to supplement forage and decreases calf deaths due to inclement weather. The later start also benefits wildlife; there is no need to hunt coyotes because they have access to other food sources and are no longer a threat to livestock.
The Johnsons deeply believe in their duty serve the greater agricultural community. Each family member has held agricultural leadership roles or is heavily involved in promoting agriculture in the community. The ranch sponsors the Catch-a-Calf contest at the National Western Stock Show and supports rural youth through their regularly hosted ranch visits for local schools.
“Flying Diamond Ranch has demonstrated a multi-generational commitment to the conservation and protection of its most important assets: grassland and water,” wrote William Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association. “Their holistic approach to stewardship is one that could serve as a model for all livestock producers.”