Beale milks benefits of grazing program

A herd of cattle group together after arriving at Beale Air Force Base, California, Nov. 2, 2016. The cattle graze on Beale’s unused land to help suppress invasive species and the fire danger. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

A herd of cattle group together after arriving at Beale Air Force Base, California, Nov. 2, 2016. The cattle graze on Beale’s unused land to help suppress invasive species and the fire danger. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

Ed Broskey, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron biological science technician, waits to unload a herd of cattle from a trailer Nov. 2, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Broskey has been working with cattle for 18 years and is known as the “Government Cowboy.” (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

Ed Broskey, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron biological science technician, waits to unload a herd of cattle from a trailer Nov. 2, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Broskey has been working with cattle for 18 years and is known as the “Government Cowboy.” (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

A calf pauses from grazing in a pasture on Beale Air Force Base, California, Nov. 14, 2016. Beale leases 12,000 acres for cattle to graze on during the winter and spring months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

A calf pauses from grazing in a pasture on Beale Air Force Base, California, Nov. 14, 2016. Beale leases 12,000 acres for cattle to graze on during the winter and spring months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Tristan D. Viglianco)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Cowboys, cattle drives, and brandings are some things you might expect to find in an old western movie, but in reality you need to look no further than Beale Air Force Base. Beale participates in a grazing program where the base leases approximately 12,000 acres to ranchers for their cattle to graze from November through May.

Ranchers work with personnel on base to bring in the cattle at the beginning of the grazing season. The cattle will breed and give birth on Beale, increasing the size of the herds.

“We bring in as many cattle as the environment can support,” said Blaze Baker, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron flight chief. “By the end of the season we have approximately 2000 cattle.”

The arrangement is mutually beneficial to all parties involved. The base makes money off of the leases and benefits ecologically, all while allowing the rancher’s cattle to graze on green pastures.

“The cows eat invasive species and help with fire suppression,” said Ed Broskey, 9th CES biological science technician and “Government Cowboy.” “The grass in a non-grazed field can be 3 foot tall or higher. By the time the grazing season is over, the cows can keep it down to a few inches.”

Broskey has been working with the cows for 18 years. He has witnessed how the partnership is beneficial to the Air Force as a whole and for the ranchers.

“The money starts up at the Air Force level and filters down through ACC and eventually to the base. The base gets a percentage of the money to use for base improvements and projects,” said Broskey. “The cattle are coming from mountainous areas where there is very little growth. Coming here they can continue to graze and populate their herds.”

Not only does Beale benefit ecologically and financially, Broskey believes it helps with the morale of the base populous.

“When folks start seeing that the cows are back it is a big morale booster,” he said. “People love driving down the road and seeing the calves bouncing around out in the fields. If you are lucky enough to have an office window, you can look out your window and watch the cows graze.”

The number of Beale’s bovines is already plentiful, and their numbers may increase in the coming years.

“We renew the leases every five years,” said Baker. “We are looking to expand the program and the number of cattle on base by designating more unused land for livestock.”

With the grazing program being beneficial in a variety of different ways, it isn’t surprising to hear the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk will share a home with the livestock for the foreseeable future.