buck island ranch sign HLPhoto by: Haoyu Li


cattle at ranch cropped HLPhoto by: Haoyu Li

Cattle Management

Buck Island Ranch manages its herd of commercial cattle through several common methods. As one of the main goals of the ranch is to emulate an average cow-calf operation, the ranch uses technology and practices available to every producer. Our herd is comprised of many breeds, with a commercial cowherd bred back to purebred Angus, Brangus, Beefmaster, Braford, Hereford, Charolais, Brahman, Santa Gertrudis, and Balancer bulls. Our cattle are tracked by brand and the use of electronic identification tags, or EIDs. The EID can be scanned at the chute and will pull up that individual's records within our data system. These tags, when paired with brands, are an essential system of tracking data on each individual animal and their performance. These EIDs are also a tool for disease traceability across the country is an animal disease outbreak were to occur. Our herd is split into two calving seasons, Fall and Spring. Our Fall calving herd will calve from August to December, and our Spring herd will calve from January to May. By splitting our calving seasons, we spread out our "paycheck" when it comes time to sell the calves. Each calf group is handled differently based on the market at the time of weaning.

mowing cropped

Pasture Management

We utilize several methods of pasture management at Buck Island Ranch. These include controlled burns, mowing, spraying, aerating, overseeding, chopping, minimal fertilizing, and pH additives.

The Ranch is on a three year rotation burn schedule. Each year we burn one third of the ranch, including wetlands, grazing plots, and ditches. Every burn is supervised by a Certified Prescribed Burn Manager and is permitted through the Florida Forest Service.

To combat invasive and non-native grasses, we mow and overseed some pastures to manage the spread of certain species. One particular invasive we are managing is Smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus).

Historically our ranch has been fertilized heavily until only recently. We now only fertilize specific research plots as needed.

Patch Burn
Eddy FluxPhoto by: Carlton Ward, Jr.

Environmental Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring at Buck Island Ranch is part of a greater network of environmental monitoring projects initiated by Archbold Biological Station. The Ranch's long term environmental monitoring datasets include climatologic, hydrologic and biotic data of the Ranch. Systematic data collection started in 1994. These data are used by research and operations staff to analyze data collected from experiments, inform research and management decisions, and evaluate the success of restoration projects. Archbold makes most environmental monitoring data, and associated metadata, available publicly. The Ranch has four weather stations with data collection starting in 1992- current. We record data on temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind, and barometric pressure on 15 minute time stamps. The Ranch has multiple sites dedicated to climatological and hydrological measurements including four weather stations, five eddy flux towers measuring carbon dioxide and methane, twenty-eight groundwater wells and four automated ISCO water samplers.

bobcat on ranch HLPhoto by: Haoyu Li

Wildlife movements

Forty game cameras are installed across the Ranch for long-term tracking of wildlife and feral hogs. Scientific publications are available upon request. Scientists also track game species on the Ranch, including deer, alligators, and turkey to ensure sustainable harvest.

A multifaceted operation and facility
A multifaceted operation and facility
A multifaceted operation and facility

Water Management and Wetland Restoration

The ranch has a two-way water management system, now adapted to provide water retention services through the South Florida Water Management District's (SFWMD) Dispersed Water Management program. 78 water control structures are utilized to rehydrate wetlands and ditches. Benefits include but are not limited to habitat enhancement for numerous species, hydrologic wetland restoration, groundwater recharge which reduces stormwater discharge volumes to the regional system providing flood protection, improves the nutrient concentration of discharges while also retaining TP and TN loads, keeps lands on the tax rolls which benefits the local economy, and a multitude of other green space benefits such as carbon sequestration. Directly benefits Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries by helping reduce the large quantities and timing of stormwater which contain high levels of nutrients. Scientific publications documenting several of these co-benefits are available upon request. We also have a nutrient removal project that provides phosphorus removal in 189-acres of existing pastureland, consisting of a 5,000 GPM pump provided by SFWMD to direct off-ranch water into four (4) forage production cells. Three (3) step-down culvert-riser structures convey pumped inflows from cell to cell (west to east) and a fourth culvert-riser structure will be used as a control structure directing excess flows back to the primary system from the east cell. Water tolerant forage is grown and harvested for haylage from the project to remove nutrients from the project area and is used as winter cattle feed in other parts of the ranch. Forage nutrient requirements are met using off-ranch pumped inflows, rainfall and nutrients contained in the soil profile.

Structure 26
Conservation Easements

Conservation Easements

Buck Island Ranch has 3,771 acres is the USDA Wetland Restoration Program/Wetland Restoration Easement programs. An additional 1,869 acres is enrolled in the USDA Agricultural Land Easement Grasslands of Significance.

Reserve Cattle Operations

The Reserve is a 3,648-acre restoration site lying next to Archbold Biological Station that utilizes cattle as a tool for its restoration efforts. The cattle on the Reserve are managed as part of the Buck Island Ranch cattle operations and used as a method of control for growth of grasses and other forages.

Cattle are used as a tool to help maintain the open space to the land at the Reserve. By grazing the pastures, there is less competition for native species to compete with during the early growth stages. In unison with rotational grazing, this grazing practice is used to slowly restore the Reserve to a more natural land type.

The herd at the Reserve is focused on sustainability and ecology, whereas the herd at Buck Island Ranch is geared towards economics and full herd production. What we've learned with the cattle at Buck Island Ranch is applied at the Reserve, and it has allowed us to better manage the cattle as an aid in restoration.



Buck Island Ranch facilities consist of office spaces, a chemistry laboratory, a soil and biomass laboratory, and cottages available for staff, board members, and visiting researchers

Plan for the future

Help us reach our goals


Our research program has grown exponentially with our participation in LTAR and to meet the increased demand by our stakeholders for agroecological research, education and outreach. We are fundraising for three new buildings to expand and modernize our offices, labs, and education facilities. Detailed building plans are available on request.