`Our farm is situated along the Blindman River, in south-central Alberta. Most of our land is best suited to pasture, rather than annual crops, which is why livestock have always been at the core of our operation.
Managing the environment, and particularly the grasslands, is our number one priority — it’s why we call ourselves ‘grass farmers’.
- We use techniques like rotational grazing, bale grazing, and soil testing to ensure the health of our soil.
- Where possible, we use solar and gravity watering systems, fence off riparian areas and limit animal’s direct access to water bodies. This improves the water quality not only for our cattle, but for aquatic life and recreational users downstream of us throughout the entire watershed.
- In 2016, we installed two grid-tied solar arrays. Today, 75% of our on-farm energy requirements are supplied through renewable energy.
- We plant trees, fence off ecologically sensitive areas and wide windrows of trees for wind shelter and to help reduce erosion. These also provide important wildlife corridors and creates habitat for animals other than those we farm.
- Our arable land is primarily used to grow winter feed for our cattle, which allows us to experiment with various crop rotations including ‘cocktail mixes’. These mixtures increase biodiversity, improve soil health and reduce in-crop disease and pest pressures.
Animal Welfare and Antimicrobial Stewardship
- Pain Management – In the summer of 2014, we started using an injectable analgesic during castrating and de-horning. This year, we trialed an oral version, and were happy with its ease of use. Because of a strict cull policy, and the use of naturally polled (non-horned) breeding bulls, only six calves needed to be de-horned this year. Our goal is to get this number to zero within the next five years.
- Weaning – We use a two-stage weaning method developed at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine. This low-stress process means the calves are able to stay with their mothers for companionship, while learning they no longer need to nurse.
- Growth Promotants – Although we recognize there are environmental benefits to using hormone injections and other growth promotants (it takes less time for animals to reach a suitable size for butchering) we have chosen not to use them in order to meet specific consumer demands. Check out ABP’s comparison of hormone levels in everyday foods.
- Antimicrobials – Management practices like having a herd health program, vaccination protocols and using two-stage weaning, are not only important for animal welfare, but also for antimicrobial stewardship. We do not administer prophylactic antibiotics to our calves at weaning, nor do we treat large numbers for respiratory disease. In fact, in the last three years, we have only treated two calves for pneumonia. We need antibiotics to treat our sick animals, which is why judicious use of antimicrobials is among our top priorities.
- We believe it’s important for businesses to prove their worth. That’s why we are part of the voluntary, national, on-farm food safety program, called Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+). In order to register, we must meet a strict list of requirements, ranging from appropriate storage of vaccines to proper management of grasslands. A third-party audit is conducted as part of the program, including an extensive review of records. It’s about proving to our customers that we don’t just care about animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and biosecurity — but that we’re doing something about it.