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Lifelong conservationist gives up his cows

Staff writer

Gerald Rziha has been a longtime careful steward of the land.

The Tampa farmer and rancher has been recognized by Marion County Conservation District in the past with the Grassland Conservation Award.

This year, as he retires from an operation he has run since 1976, he is receiving the Continuing Conservation Award.

His most recent practices include moving corrals away from a draw that occasionally fills with water after rain and plugging two wells.

He recently purchased land he had been renting and continued the cleanup of trees and brush on the property. It already was terraced.

“All conservation work is complete on my farm,” Rziha said. “I plan to put terraces where it’s not required to further reduce erosion.”

Rziha owns and rents 900 acres. He and his son, David, have 250 to 300 cows altogether. He is planning to transfer his remaining cows to David this spring.

“I don’t want to be financially responsible anymore,” he said.

He plans to continue to help David in farming and ranching. They use custom farming for some of their land.

The cattle spend all but two months of the year on grass. Pastures are divided into paddocks for rotational grazing.

The cows are moved to pasture before they calve. When they begin calving in April, a drive-through once a day is the only checking the men will do.

The Rzihas use bulls that are known as “calving-ease” bulls because they produce smaller calves; therefore, birthing problems are almost nonexistent.

“It’s not foolproof, but calving is not a big issue,” Rziha said.

The men don’t tag cows or keep records.

“I don’t need some mad mamma charging at me,” Rziha said.

Now 74, Rziha taught school for eight years before he started farming. His 72-year-old wife, Jeannie, is a retired nurse.

Their farm is in the middle of Diamond Vista Wind Farm. Gerald and David both have two wind towers on their land, and Gerald has a substation on his land.

“The wind farm has been a blessing to farmers in northern Marion County,” Rziha said.

They are debt free.

“We squeaked by for 35 years, but when grain prices went high, we finally made some money,” he said. “We were out of debt before the wind farm.”

They have eight children and 28 grandchildren and enjoy sharing their wealth with family. They are looking forward to being free to visit family or travel whenever they want.

“If I don’t feel like going out and working some days, I won’t have to,” Rziha said.

Last modified Feb. 12, 2020

 

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