John and Mary McDonald were selected to receive this year’s Grassland Award at the Geary County Conservation District’s Annual Meeting and Thursday’s meeting.
The McDonalds were nominated because of their outstanding work and management skills used to protect over 2200 acres of Geary County tall grass prairie.
The McDonalds own Rawhide Portable Corral in Abilene.
John and Mary both grew up in Dickinson County and both attended Kansas State University, studying Animal Science and John competing on the rodeo team. After nearly a decade in Colorado, the couple and their three children, Cassy, Heather and Ethan, returned to Kansas in 1995 and moved back to Abilene in 2002. There they started their own manufacturing business, Rawhide Portable Corral, Inc., building portable corrals and livestock equipment of their own design.
The McDonalds had always wanted to own a ranch in the iconic Flint Hills and when the Deer Horn Ranch property came up for sale in 2015 they seized the opportunity and purchased the grassland and headquarters. They have just recently moved into the house on the ranch and are now full time Geary County residents. The ranch played host to the Symphony in the Flint Hills in 2017.
John and Mary work with their children in their business and on the ranch. They run a commercial cow/calf operation of black angus and use various management practices to keep their rangeland sustainable. They have cleared invasive trees to improve grass stands and increase water flow through various springs and streams.
They have worked on several of the ponds on the property to improve their water capacity and have also installed concrete water tanks where ponds were not feasible to improve grazing distribution. Cross fencing was also installed, and rotational grazing of the herd implemented to avoid overgrazing certain areas of the pastures.
They have, at times, utilized cost-share opportunities through the Conservation District to install pipelines, watering facilities and hook up to rural water to make sure their cattle have reliable access to fresh water.
The McDonalds now have eight grandchildren and look forward to passing the ranch onto them in the future. With their conscientious work and conservation ethic, the Deer Horn Ranch will be in outstanding shape when that generation is ready to take over.