In southeastern South Dakota, amidst a sprawling complex of row crops planted to monocultures of soy and corn, lies 960 acres of lush, verdant prairie, covered in native grasses such as big bluestem and native flowering plants such as pasqueflower. Amidst the vegetation are the hidden nests of Greater Prairies Chickens, Grasshopper Sparrows, and Bobolinks. All around them graze cattle. From some distance away, you’d think it was 1868 and you were looking at bison grazing. The calls of the Western Meadowlarks would help transport you to this time, and with the habitat management plan in place that benefits not only rancher Jeannie Franceus and her cattle, but also the wildlife, only the bison and prairie dogs are missing.
A Love of Land and Its Management
This land has been in Jeannie’s family for over 50 years, first purchased by her parents and now owned and managed by Jeannie herself. Jeannie’s love for the prairie was sparked by watching birds with her grandma, who taught Jeannie about the beauty of even the smallest of creatures. She also learned about the importance of having large herbivores on the landscape, and how cattle can actually benefit grassland birds and pollinators through grazing activity, which recycles nutrients and allows vegetation to regenerate, providing cover and insects for fledglings of many species
The Leone Valley Ranch has been enrolled in the Audubon Conservation Ranching Initiative since 2019. Even with the recent enrollment, hundreds of pounds of Leone Valley Beef have been shipped to homes across the country through Blue Nest Beef. Blue Nest Beef delivers direct-to-home beef shipments and cattle from the Leone Valley Ranch are a part of this service. Jeannie’s goals in her habitat management plan include providing high-quality grasslands for birds, protecting the diversity of insects, protecting the riparian areas throughout the ranch, and monitoring how the birds and insects are doing through standardized protocols, allowing her and Audubon Dakota range ecologists to make management adjustments as needed.
To order beef from the Leone Valley Ranch, visit Blue Nest Beef today!
Western Meadowlark Photo: James Halsch/Audubon Photography Awards
Buy Beef from Audubon-Certified Lands
When you buy beef from Audubon-certified land you are purchasing from ranchers and landowners who protect and enhance grassland bird habitat.