Friday, March 29, 2013

Alberta Cattle Ranchers Put Environment First

The following story was written for Aggie Days, a yearly agricultural showcase as Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta.

The Taillieu family of Tomahawk Cattle Ranch believes that cattle ranchers and farmers are environmentalists above all.

The Taillieus received the 2013 Alberta Beef Producers’ Environmental Stewardship Award for their innovative practices and sustainable management. They were nominated by fellow cattle producers and selected by a panel of conservation and agricultural representatives. 

Gerry (left) and Grant on the ranch. Photo by Dianne Finstad
Through grass and water management, Gerry and Grant Taillieu and their families brought new life to their ranch northeast of Drayton Valley, Alberta.

 “The recognition that we needed to fix things was right away,” said Grant, referring to the ranch’s condition when they took over in 2001. “There were no major breakthroughs or quick fixes. We’ve just tweaked a little every year.”

Grant said the ranch now has about four times more grass thanks to improved grazing management.

“We’re seeing grasses we haven’t seen in this area in seven or eight years,” he said. “The biodiversity, plant species and quality of the grass has improved.”

Gerry and Grant have conquered many of the obstacles presented to them by the land. A portion of the land is located on Low Water Lake, a body of water that left soft, vulnerable ground after being drained in the 1960s. Rather than allow the cattle to graze on it year-round and hinder its ability to keep producing grass, the soft areas are only grazed in winter when the ground is frozen, Grant said.

The Taillieus do not use tractors or other equipment to work grazing land and all moving of the cattle is done by horseback. They have also implemented controlled-access bale grazing.

Photo by Dianne Finstad.
“Bale grazing is a fantastic way to feed cattle in the winter,” Grant said. “It keeps the cattle out of confinement and in the fields as long as possible.”

A lined dugout prevents water seepage and solar-powered water pumps ensure a clean, reliable water source.

With improved grazing techniques, they have managed to add to their steer and weaning weights while raising lower-weight cows.

 “We’ve seen a world of difference in how the calves do,” Grant said. “Keeping the cattle moving to different pastures is good for the grass and the cattle.”

Grant said that the financial benefit of becoming more environmentally sustainable is evident. Keeping the grass in good condition has removed the costs associated with having to reseed periodically.

“We use the cattle as tools to improve the land,” Grant said.

The Taillieu family has used sustainable resource management to reform an overgrazed ranch into a successful, productive operation.

Grant said his family believes in leaving the ranch in better condition for the next generation and working with the land rather than around it.

“A healthy ranch will look after you,” Grant said. “We can’t be successful at what we do at the expense of the environment.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keep Calm and Farm On

Oh, hello.

It's me. I'm still alive, though you clearly wouldn't know it from the tumbleweeds bouncing across my blog all summer.

I spent my summer working in crop input sales, which seemed like a stretch for this cattle girl but turned out to be a fantastic learning experience. I've made the move south to Stillwater, Oklahoma where I am enjoying the heck out of my agriculture communications and agriculture economics classes and learning to look good in orange. More on that later.

Today, I want to share a great website that is empowering young people with passions for agriculture.

FarmOn is an online community with the mission to equip young agricultural businesspeople with the necessary knowledge, tools, and skills to become profitable. The founding folks of FarmOn are all rural Albertans who have turned their agriculture passions into success. I applaud FarmOn for filling a necessary void in Canadian agriculture by empowering the young leaders of our rapidly aging industry.

I was honoured to do an interview with FarmOn which they have posted on their site. You can check it out here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day and Agriculture

Yesterday was Earth Day. At home, my parents were working tirelessly to keep up with the baby calves that seem to be popping up like wildflowers on our three-generation farm these days. My uncle was planting the seeds for this year's crops of canola, wheat, and barley in efforts to beat the rain forecasted for later this week. I was studying, studying, and doing some more studying in preparation for my next two finals. One of those finals happens to be World Food and Agriculture, focusing on sustainable agriculture methods to lessen poverty in third world countries. So I suppose I didn't completely miss out on Earth Day.

While all of this was happening, my friend Fawn made a video. Fawn is the Manager of Environmental Affairs at the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, which means it's her job every day to manage environmental issues facing the cattle industry, and work with government, industry, and international partners to seek out sustainable solutions for those issues. 

This video highlights just a few of the hard-working farmers and ranchers who celebrate Earth Day everyday by caring for their land and livestock. I hope that this video inspires you to learn more about what farmers are doing to be more sustainable, and ask a farmer personally when you have questions.

Happy Belated Earth Day :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aggie Days- Opportunities in Agriculture

Hey there! This post was written as one of several feature blogs for Calgary Stampede's annual Aggie Days, a free event which showcases the diversity of agriculture to consumers. Aggie Days is happening April 21 & 22 at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta. See their Facebook page and other blogs here.

Aggie Days. Source
When you think of a career in agriculture, what comes to mind? A farmer driving a tractor in a field, or milking cows every morning and afternoon? These are vital jobs in Alberta’s agriculture sector, but you may be surprised to discover just how many other career opportunities are available in the business of food, fuel, and fibre.

The agriculture and food industry includes primary production, manufacturing of agricultural products, distribution, and marketing. Professionals in agriculture can be found ensuring meat safety in a processing plant, treating sick animals at a veterinarian’s office, developing national campaigns promoting farmer’s products, or harvesting fields of wheat.

As an Agriculture Business undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, my degree has shown me the many diverse opportunities I will have as an agricultural professional after graduation. I’m planning to use my university education to work in communications for an agricultural company, and continue my passion of sharing the positive stories of agriculture with the public. I may not be doing the combining myself, but I hope to advocate for the people who are.

My passion is showing and telling others about agriculture. What's yours?
In 2000, agriculture accounted for 1 in every 7 Canadian jobs, and contributed to 8.3% of our total Gross Domestic Product. Agriculture is a huge aspect of our nation’s economy and jobs, and encompasses far more than just primary producers. Canada is a large producer of grains, oilseeds, red meat, poultry, swine, and dairy products. We require a strong labour force to not only make sure we can produce these agricultural products, but also market, distribute, and export them. There are many people working to keep agricultural practises sustainable, finding new energy sources and uses for agricultural by-products.

You'll find plenty of interactive agriculture exhibits like this one at Aggie Days!
A job in agriculture is not what it used to be. Hundreds of degree programs are available at universities across Canada for you to pursue your professional dreams in agriculture. How does a degree in Agriculture Economics, Range and Pasture Management, Sustainable Agriculture, or Animal Nutrition sound? The agriculture industry has evolved to allow career opportunities for virtually all talents and passions. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rosie Goes Okie

8 days, 2 states, 3000km on the rental car and one visit to my future university.

This year's "Reading Week" (Canadian Spring Break) involved very little reading but a whole lot of fun-having. My dad, Byron, and I flew to Dallas, Texas and made the drive to Stillwater, Oklahoma for the next morning. The purpose of this trip was to explore Oklahoma State University campus, meet with professors and advisers, and get everything in order for my big move to Oklahoma this fall. As it stands, everything is falling into place and I can't wait to get started as an Ag Communications and Ag Economics double major.

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, I was able to meet up with some good friends IRL (in real life) for the first time. The lovely and talented Katie Vaz was my unofficial OK State tour guide along with Professor Ferrell and Cara, showing me around campus and treating me to my first Eskimo Joe's experience.

I also got to meet up with Jessica and Levi, and that evening we had some excellent pizza and did some bowling. 
Verdict: professional bowling is not in my future. 

I fell in love with the campus. I'm sure it's not hard to see why.

I'm so happy with how everything went in Stillwater. I met friends I already knew I'd love, and was treated to some fantastic southern hospitality. I can't count how many times I was offered help for my transition to Oklahoma from new friends and contacts.

After all the paperwork was settled and we had seen the sights of Stillwater, it was time to move on. We spent a day in Oklahoma City and visited Express Ranches, the Cowboy Hall of Fame, an Oklahoma City Barons hockey game, and Cattlemen's Steakhouse in the OKC Stockyards.

Our Canadian friend Doug who manages the Express Clydesdales was kind enough to give us the grand tour.
I think these horses have better living conditions than most people!
Papa Byron and I with the Express Stagecoach
No family trip is complete without looking at cattle. Their bulls looked great.
Express was amazing. I'd heard about it countless times so it was great to finally make the visit.

From OKC we headed to Texas, and spent the next three days on a grand tour of West and North Texas and plenty of their historical points, western shops, and trailer dealers.

Palo Duro Canyon, one of Dad's big bucket list items.
Hereford, Texas in Whiteface County. Well worth the detour off the interstate.
West Texas. Flat, treeless, and beautiful.
Templeton's seem to have a problem with cowboy boot addictions. This trip was no exception.

I brought home this pair, some Corrals for my sister, and Dad found himself a pair of Lucchese's.

On our final day in Texas, we spent the evening at the Fort Worth Stockyards. This is definitely somewhere I'll be revisiting as we didn't have nearly enough time to explore. We had a delicious dinner at H3 Ranch with another Twitter friend, Mark!

I loved my time in Oklahoma and Texas. I can't wait to get the Oklahoma State this fall and do some more exploring of the southern states. It will be a big change for me and doesn't come without some pretty major sacrifices, but I know it will be one of the better decisions I ever make.