What I've Learned From No-Tilling: Cattle, Cover Crops, No-Till and Improved Soil Health Provide Returns

Fifth generation of Doans keeping North Dakota’s Black Leg Ranch abundant with diverse business plan of cattle, crops and agritourism.

Pictured Above: WINTER FORAGE. In an average weather year, the Doans never have to supplement their herd and they’re able to leave about 50% of the cover crop litter behind to help boost soil health. They still harvest 600-800 round bales of perennial forage crops a year, however, in case a big blizzard hits

Check The Specs...

NAME: Jerry Doan

FARM: Black Leg Ranch

LOCATION: McKenzie, North Dakota


ACRES: 5,000 crops, 6,000 range

CROPS: Winter Wheat, Spring Wheat, Corn, Sunflowers, Soybeans, Forages, Cover crops and Cattle


The Doan Family. (l-r) Shanda Morgan, Jeremy Doan, Jerry Doan, Renae Doan, Jay Doan and Jayce Doan.

Some of the soils I helped farm as a child in southwestern North Dakota are probably somewhere in South Dakota now. I grew up in the era of wheat and summer fallow. A lot of the ground around here is very sandy and marginal. Did it ever blow when we were tilling. I remember as a kid getting sent with a disc or a drag to try and make it stop blowing. It seemed so futile, and it was.

At the time my family didn’t know any better. That’s just how things were done. We’d been doing them that way a long time.

My great grandfather came down from Canada and homesteaded what’s now Black Leg Ranch just east of the Missouri River near Bismarck in 1882. Who knows what it looked like then, but I imagine it was pretty similar to the abundant…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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