Turner Bison Exchange

McMurtrey Ranch


Ranch Description: McMurtrey Ranch

Location - Nenzel, Nebraska

Year Acquired - 2008

Size - 60,908 acres                        

Cows Exposed - 1,061

Cow to Bull Ratio - 11:1

Maximum Bull Age - 7 years

Ranch and Management Overview

Located in the remote heart of the Nebraska Sandhills, the nearly 61,000-acre McMurtrey Ranch comprises a diverse mixture of rolling sandhills, choppy dunes, and vast meadow and wetlands complexes.  The North Loop River flows through the southern portion of the ranch, providing excellent habitat for many species.

McMurtrey Ranch uses planned grazing to manage the grazing and recovery periods of its pastures and to promote healthy rangelands and animal performance. Our bison stockmen have attended low-stress handling schools and practice low-stress techniques whether in the pasture or the corrals.  The herds are usually moved by only one person, who knows the country and the animals well.

Along with the bison operation, McMurtrey Ranch actively pursues conservation projects, including the largest stream restoration project ever conducted in the Sandhills.  The 2015 Gordon Creek project reestablished the creek to its historic level and configuration which raised ground water in the associated wet meadows, improving the functionality of stream and the meadow complex for a host of conservation species.  This project continues to be a success with increased forage production and improved wetland habitat.

Breeding Herd

The breeding herd is run in one herd, grazing year-round with minimal supplementation.  Salt is used as an attractant to promote range management objectives and cake is used as a training and handling aid around working time.

The breeding herd is worked in January of each year.  Calves are weaned at this time.  All cows are pregnancy tested, vaccinated for mycoplasma and wormed.  All open cows are removed from the herd.

Replacement heifers are chosen from the top 15-20% of animals ranked by average daily gain on grass, with little or no supplementation, from weaning until the following November.  This criterion objectively selects for easy-fleshing females that will consistently conceive on rangeland with little to no inputs.

Yearling Herd

Calves are weaned in the January during the main herd works.  During their brief period of confinement during works, the calves are fed native prairie hay and an alfalfa-based range cube.  The calves are back out on range as soon as possible.

To increase stock density and recovery periods, the 2017 heifers offered for sale were run in common with the bulls of their age cohort for the 2018 growing season, in a herd of approximately 700 animals.The heifers offered for sale have gained well on pasture, showing they have what it takes to perform.


The McMurtrey cow herd is derived from the neighboring Spikebox Ranch.  In 2009 an outbreak of Mycoplasma occurred in the older breeding herd at the Spikebox, so the herd is not naïve to the disease.  Since that time, no other outbreak has happened at Spikebox or McMurtrey Ranches.