Cousins Karl and Raymond Heaton are fourth generation ranchers responsible for the management of over 140,000 private and federal acres at Heaton Ranch, located in Alton. The ranch consists of approximately 1,250 head of cattle.
The Heatons believe that natural resources conservation is critical to the success of their ranching business. They utilize conservation practices to improve grassland, water quality, and wildlife habitat at the ranch. Water quality and delivery improvements include the development or restoration of over 50 stock ponds, as well as converting flood irrigation systems to wheel move sprinklers and pivot irrigation on over 150 acres. The Heatons also developed a spring through the installation of a solar pump.
Heaton Livestock Company
Grassland has improved since the Heatons adopted rotational grazing in the 1980s. They also cleared nearly 5,000 acres of trees and brush, seeding these areas with forbs and grasses that are beneficial to mule deer and the Heatons’ sage-grouse population, which is the southern most sage-grouse habitat in the United States. Karl and Raymond use a combination of prescribed burning and chemical treatments to maintain the health of these areas.
When faced with a mule deer depredation problem, the Heatons organized other landowners, with similar issues, into an association to tackle the problem. Since then, mule deer have become an asset to the ranch.
The Heatons have diversified their ranching operation by running an outfitting business and offering cattle drive vacations where tourists participate in the Heatons’ cattle drive, moving livestock from the summer to the winter range. This endeavor offsets the costs of the drive.
Not content to confine what they have learned to their ranch, Karl and Raymond have an impressive legacy of outreach and service inside and outside of the agricultural community.
“When it comes to conserving the natural resource base in our area, they not only ‘talk conservation, they walk conservation,” wrote Tyce B. Palmer, UACD, in his letter of recommendation. “For the Heatons, conservation doesn’t cost, it pays!”