Dave Kaess is Conservationist of the year for East Otero Conservation District.
Dave Kaess is a fifth generation farmer/rancher. This story begins when Dave’s great-great grandfather immigrated from Germany and homesteaded in Hillside, CO. The family later moved their farming operation up the Arkansas River to settle in Salida. In 1975 Dave’s grandfather passed away and Dave began to lease the farm from his grandmother while still in college. The year 1979 saw several significant events in Dave’s life. He graduated from CSU with bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and married Almabeth Carroll. Almabeth was from Cheraw and the two met while both involved in college rodeo. During that same year he also bought his grandparent’s farm that he had been leasing while in college.
Dave farmed in Salida for about 10 years. He raised grass and alfalfa hay, backgrounded yearling steers to take to summer pasture, and helped his dad, who farmed and ranched on land close by. As his family grew, he supplemented the farming income by working for United Parcel Services and hauling hay.
In 1989 Dave and Almabeth had the opportunity to sell the Salida farm and purchase a ranch south of Pueblo along the Saint Charles River. The previous owners had practiced conventional grazing and due to some years of low rainfall, the ranch was in need of some rest to recover. To help build back the sod base and conserve the soil, Dave set up rotational grazing system. When development began to encroach on the ranch, the Kaess family sold that Pueblo ranch and moved to North Park, near Walden, where Dave was the assistant manager of the Big Horn Ranch.
Two years later, after the death of the ranch owner, and subsequent sale of the ranch, Dave and Almabeth began to look for another opportunity to strike out on their own. “We looked high and low for a farm or ranch that would fit with our goals and that was priced for its production value,” said Dave. In the spring of 1996 he finally found what he was looking for when the Kaess family purchased a 300-acre farm and feedlot operation located south of Swink. A few years later they began to lease a ranch located near their farming operation. Kaess Cattle Company now consists of a farming operation where they raise grass and alfalfa hay, run Angus cows and operate a small feedlot where they can background their calves before going to market.
For his entire career in farming and ranching, Dave has been conservation-minded in all the locations he has worked. In Salida he left the fall residue to help conserve moisture and build the soil. He established rotational grazing on the Pueblo land, and installed additional water systems to help managed pasture usage. The farm and ranch land near Swink had several conservation practices already established and Dave has continued those practices. To better utilize his Catlin Canal irrigation water, Dave installed a center pivot system in 2014 on 120 acres. He is currently in the process of installing a second center pivot irrigation system on an additional 100 acres. Dave is on the board of directors for the Timberlake Grazing Association, located north of Cheraw, and is a strong advocate for management that never leaves the ground bare.
Dave and Almabeth have three sons. Their sons live in the Denver area, but help with the busy times on the farm and ranch. There are five grandchildren with three more coming in 2018. Almabeth is the Associate Vice President of Enrollment at Otero Junior College. She has worked at OJC for 17 years. Dave said he is thankful for his family and for his ancestors for persevering through good and bad times, and for passing down their knowledge and work ethic.
East Otero Conservation District is pleased to recognize Kaess Cattle Company and Dave Kaess for their efforts in conserving the land and traditions in agriculture.