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Intergenerational farm takes holistic approach

Management course sparks changes to calving and winter feeding to improve bottom line and quality of life

ANOLA, Man.— Many farmers try to use every piece of land to its full potential, but paying attention to achieving maximum profit while also looking after the health of the land and the people is the driving philosophy of the Bouw family farm.

The farm in Anola, Man., was started in 1960 by Peter and Mathilda Bouw shortly after they immigrated to Canada from Holland.

The next two generations of Bouws have worked together to make Edie Creek Angus what it is today.

The farm is run by Herman and his wife, Marilyn, and their two children, Jonathan and Stefan.

“All three Bouw boys graduated from the (University of Manitoba) agriculture diploma program, with Herman also having an animal science degree,” said Marilyn.

Jonathan is married to Eileen and they have two daughters, Lucille and Karis.

“I am a full-time mom working the minimum hours needed keep my nursing licence,” said Eileen.

Stefan is married to Kendra and they have two sons, Jaxon, newborn Micah, and two daughters, Mikaya and Alexa.

Marilyn has retired from teaching and has become the farm bookkeeper, managing the bills and keeping the farm office running.

“She also guided the farm through two subdivisions of surplus yard sites, as well as doing the paperwork for three new driveways,” said Herman.

“As for day-to-day operations, she assists with the cattle or sheep drives when absolutely necessary.

“The farm has evolved through hog and dairy production in the ’60s and ’70s into a beef feedlot from 1976-2004 (shortly after the BSE crisis of 2003), to its present state as a cow-calf, organic grain and commercial lamb producing mixed farm,” he said.

The family farms 1,700 acres, 1,000 owned and 700 acres rented.

There is an old saying that applies well to the Bouws’ farming philosophy — when mixed farming is separated into grain farming and livestock production, a solution be-comes two problems.

As such, the family mixes things up, using hay and grain acres in rotational grazing.

“We run 160 registered Black and Red Angus cows, 300 commercial ewes, and 700 acres of certified organic grain and hay, with the balance being used as pasture,” said Jonathan.

“This symbiotic mix of livestock and grain production maximizes the resources of animal manure and hoof impact, to build organic matter and improve soil structure.”

The farm produces 35 two-year-old forage-raised bulls a year. They are sold at their annual auction held at the Ashern Auction Mart in mid-March.

They also produce 600 market-ready lambs, organic wheat, oats, barley, soybeans, and alfalfa-grass hay.

Jonathan and Stefan, along with their wives, recently took a Holistic Management Course instructed by Don and Bev Campbell of Meadow Lake, Sask.

This helped sharpen their focus, challenged them to plan more, and resulted in a changed calving season from February winter calving in the yard to May-June calving on pasture.

The Bouws have also adopted bale grazing as the method of winter-feeding their herd.

They say these changes have resulted in drastic improvements to their quality of life and bottom line.

They further plan to expand the herd to 250 head, using current hay and crop fields as pasture and buying any needed winter hay.

“Diversity has been a key philosophy to manage risk, and direct marketing is another strategy employed whenever possible to maximize returns,” said Stefan.

“Approximately 15 to 20 head of grass-finished beef steers and heifers are sold directly by the quarter to repeat customers via word-of-mouth and website contacts.”

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