Black Leg Ranch, McKenzie, N.D., earned the distinction of winning the national 2016 Environmental Stewardship Award. The Doan family, who own and operate the ranch, was selected from a group of regional finalists and named the overall winner at the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.

The original central North Dakota ranch land was homesteaded in 1882 and has remained with the Doan family since that time. Currently, the ranch consists of 17,000 acres with all but 3,000 acres being permanent pasture.

Black Angus cows were brought to the ranch in 1930, some of the first in the region that had been predominantly Hereford country. The Doans now stock 600 head of commercial cattle and custom graze another 2,400 head.

The family places an emphasis on soil health to boost productivity and uses an intensive grazing system, rotating cattle from paddock to paddock and allowing for adequate grass recovery time.

To implement an effective rotational grazing system, about 65 miles of cross fencing was installed on the ranch. Cattle are moved every one to seven days, depending on the weather and number of animals.

Water access for cattle has also been improved; six wells and more than 16 miles of pipeline were installed. This has allowed the family to move cattle into areas that previously couldn’t be grazed and shortened the distance to clean, fresh water.

The Doan family consists of Jerry and Renae Doan, Jeremy and Ashlee Doan, Jay and Kari Doan, Jayce Doan, and Shanda and Don Morgan. Jerry is the fourth generation to operate the ranch, while his children and grandchildren are the fifth and sixth generations.

“We want to make sure that the ranch is sustainable and in a better position than when we obtained it so it can go on for generations,” said Renae Doan.

Added Jerry, “I want stewardship not to just stay the same, I want it to improve. We’re not near where we want to be, but I want to keep pulling up that hill. There’s plenty to do, but it’s moving in the right direction.”

As more generations live and work on Black Leg Ranch, the Doan family has incorporated some new enterprises. They currently host weddings and corporate events and sell hunting experiences.

Dow Agrosciences, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation sponsor the Environmental Stewardship Award program.

To learn more about Black Leg Ranch, view the video below or visit their website at