Region III: Couser Cattle Co., Nevada, Iowa
Bill and Nancy Couser
Nominated by Iowa Cattlemen’s Association
Couser Cattle Co., owned by Bill and Nancy Couser of Nevada, Iowa, is a 2010 regional Environmental Stewardship Award winner. Representing Region III * of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Cousers were recognized at a reception last night, held in conjunction with the 2010 Cattle Industry Conference, being held here July 28 – Aug. 1.
The ESAP award, now in its 20th year, is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences; USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); NCBA and the National Cattlemen's Foundation. One of the seven regional nominees will be named recipient of the national award at the cattle industry's winter meeting in February 2011.
Couser Cattle Co. is a second and third generation multi-faceted operation that annually feeds and finishes 5,000 to 6,000 head of cattle and farms 5,000 acres, producing both corn seed and soybean seed. The business philosophy centers on working to ensure that both profit opportunities and environmental performance are present in cattle and farming operations.
"Bill and his family have been a driving force for new and innovative ways of moving the Iowa cattle industry forward by providing practical solutions to today's environmental needs," said Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, in a support letter for the Cousers, who were nominated for the ESAP award by the Iowa Cattlemen's Association (ICA).
Through the years, Bill Couser has actively partnered with environmental agencies and universities to use his farm for a number of sustainability-related research and pilot projects.
* Couser partnered with ICA, NRCS, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa State University and the U.S. EPA to develop a pilot system that would replace the effluent basin with a series of vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) and infiltration systems to treat feedlot runoff to an acceptable standard. After study and monitoring, the VTAs have reduced the mass of total solids, nitrogen and phosphorous by at 75 percent, or more.
* In 2009, again partnering with DNR and Iowa State, Couser built a mono-slope style feeding building that directs rainfall away from a new pen and allows more feeding capacity without compromising the VTA system. Runoff is eliminated and the value of manure for fertilizer is preserved.
* Currently Couser is working with other groups to test new biomass harvesters, which transforms corn stalks and cobs into new forms of feed, fuel and bedding.
* Another experiment involves beaming light through leaf tissue to apply only the rate needed to take a crop to maturity. Yield data has shown the practice could cut nitrogen use, reducing fertilizer costs and the amount of nitrate that could end up in ground water.
* Bill Couser helped develop a 50-million gallon local-investor owned ethanol plant in 2006. The plant is seven miles from Couser's feedlot. "We raise the seed corn that raises the grain for ethanol. We use the distillers' grain from the ethanol to feed cattle. We use manure from the cattle to fertilize the next crop of seed corn so the cycle can continue," Couser explained, describing the value and efficiency in re-using resources.
Bill Couser has won numerous awards for conservation and community service, and was named as one of 10 People Who Matter by Time magazine in 2006. He has been a director of the Story County Cattlemen's Association for 33 years, is chair of ICA's business issues committee and a past vice chairman of NCBA's animal health committee.
He is a former and current president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, a director of Iowa's Institute of Cooperatives and a director of the Nevada Economic Board.
In addition to Lt. Gov. Judge, Couser Cattle Co.'s ESAP nomination is supported by Iowa's Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University's Office of Science and Technology.
* NCBA's Region III includes Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.