OAKFIELD, Wis. – Jerry Huth and Josh Scharf were recently recognized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The organization named their connected businesses – Huth Polled Herefords and S&H Livestock Enterprises – as a regional winner of its 2022 Environmental Stewardship Award Program.
Living and farming near the Horicon Marsh in southeast Wisconsin, Huth and Scharf say they have a keen appreciation for conservation and wildlife habitat; the two cattlemen are committed to environmental sustainability.
“It really was an honor being nominated by the Wisconsin Beef Council and receiving the award,” Huth said. “We were one of seven regional award winners that represent a diversity of operations. It’s very humbling to be in their company.”
Scharf said, “It reassures us about what we’re doing. And it also gives us new energy to keep going and look for more ways to improve.”
Huth established his farm near Oakfield in 1964. He develops Registered Hereford seedstock, generally selling 20 to 25 bull calves per year. He’s also selling some bred cows this spring because he and Scharf don’t have enough pasture.
Scharf began working for Huth while still in high school; he continued during summers between his college years. Scharf has been transitioning into the business through S&H Livestock Enterprises.
“Jerry has allowed me to get some skin in the game,” he said. “It’s been good to have him as a mentor; he’s a wealth of knowledge.”
Huth said, “Josh has the audacity to question why I’m doing things.”
The key to their partnership is honesty, mutual trust, good judgment and reliability, Huth said.
Huth owns about 800 acres devoted to pasture, hay ground and crops. But the business partners’ expanded operation required more pasture so they formed an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to graze 130 acres of state-managed public land that borders the farm.
The National Cattlemens’ Beef Association stated that the public-private partnership to graze state land has been beneficial to the sustainability and expansion of the cattle producers’ operation while also providing environmental and habitat benefits to public land.
Huth and Scharf qualified for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which offers cost-share funding for seed as well as for fencing and water systems. Staff from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service developed a grazing plan for the main farm and the state-owned property.
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Mary C. Anderson is a grassland and conservation-agriculture specialist for the WDNR’s Division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She worked with the cattlemen to implement the plan with wildlife-habitat-management objectives for that site for the WDNR’s Glacial Habitat Restoration Area program. The program takes a regional approach to habitat management by creating, restoring and maintaining habitat for waterfowl, wild pheasants and non-game songbirds.
“The program’s focus is the creation of a patchwork of restored grasslands and wetlands amid the established croplands of Columbia, Dodge, Fond du Lac and Winnebago counties,” the DNR states. “In an era of increasing rural development, and disappearing farmland and wetland, these areas are critical to the nesting, feeding and overall survival of birds and other wildlife populations.”
Huth and Scharf graze cattle about a mile north of Horicon Marsh – part of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. Anderson worked with the cattlemen to determine where additional livestock pressure was needed to help control invasive-plant species. Prior to grazing, the land was overgrown with dense vegetation.
“We also opened up dense reed canary grass stands through deliberate early-season grazing under high stocking rates,” she said.
The hoof action of the cattle enabled other plants – warm-season grasses and forbs – to access nutrients and grow without needing to compete as much with reed canary grass. The pasture currently features a mix of red and white clover, timothy, Kentucky bluegrass and meadow fescue. It also features big blue stem, little blue stem, swamp milkweed and a variety of forbs.
“That’s important for birds and pollinators,” Anderson said. “The pasture is meeting site goals that are aligned with the Glacial Habitat Restoration Area’s master plan.”
She said the business partners spend the time needed to calculate appropriate cattle numbers for species in the pasture. She lauds them for being willing to try new practices.
Josh Scharf’s father, Steve Scharf, is a multimedia account executive for Agri-View. He’s understandably proud of his son and his son’s business partner.
“Jerry’s knowledge and experience coupled with Josh’s hard work and determination are setting a tone for a successful farm-business structure and serve as a model for future operations in the cattle industry,” he said. “Their work with the DNR is a testament to being willing to try new and innovative strategies in an industry that’s been around for a long time.”
The regional winners of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program will compete for a national award to be presented during the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Legislative Conference, to be held Apr. 24-27 in Washington, D.C.
Visit youtube.com and search for "2022 ESAP Region III winner" to watch a video featuring the environmental-stewardship practices implemented by Jerry Huth and Josh Scharf.
Visit huthcattle.com and environmentalstewardship.org and dnr.wisconsin.gov – search for "glacial habitat restoration areas" – for more information.
This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.
Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.