Abelardo Gonzalez, a long-time resident of the Premont area with his wife Belia, originally operated a 200-head dairy operation for 35 years on the county line of Jim Wells and Duval counties.
When the dairy operation was no longer profitable, Gonzalez changed over to a commercial beef cattle operation, which he continued until 2002.
Because of the area’s variable rainfall, in 1994, he started working with a neighbor to bring in stocker feeder cattle to graze the additional forage his own cows were not using. By 2002, he completely sold his commercial cow herd and now leases the stocker cattle grazing exclusively.
He allows the stockers to graze the pastures on a schedule he determines. The use of stockers allows him to uniformly graze the entire property without the cattle becoming selective in what grass is eaten, allowing him to maintain a mixed buffelgrass pasture.
His conservative values ensure that quite a bit of grass remains behind to protect the resource. During the recent drought, while almost every other operator was completely out of grass and hay, Abelardo maintained 6- to 8-inch grass stubble. He was constantly sought out by folks wanting to graze or hay his reserved grass, but he protected the resource.
He also works to keep the brush under control with a chemical program, including individual plant treatment. He experiences no soil erosion on the property, and has little brush to interfere with the forage grazing. To diversify his operation, he went back to school and became certified in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, which is where he now spends most of his time.
For his work to operate better for the environment, and his willingness to protect the soil resource and preserve grass forage, Abelardo Gonzalez and his wife were recognized as the 2009 Resident Conservation Rancher of the Year.