On the Farm: Ryan and Ashley Kattler raise cattle and goats as well as build portable panels and livestock equipment
INDIAN HEAD, Sask. — Ryan and Ashley Kattler could probably best be described as go-getters.
Or maybe they just don’t sleep much.
They started their farm in 2007, on their own, buying four quarters just months after they met.
Since then, they’ve built Deep Lake Land and Livestock into a larger operation with more land, cattle, goats and their own two children.
Ashley works off the farm as crop inputs manager at Paterson Grain in Indian Head, and Ryan has started a successful business building portable panels and livestock equipment.
“We’ve got our hands in a little bit of everything I guess,” said Ryan.
Their farm sits near Deep Lake south of Indian Head not far from where Ryan grew up. Ashley was raised at Broadview.
Ryan says school wasn’t his thing. Ashley obtained an animal science degree at the University of Saskatchewan.
“Livestock is the passion,” says Ashley, who represents the Saskatchewan Goat Breeders Association on the board of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association.
They started into cattle three years ago and have a small herd of 25 purebred Red and Black Angus, plus commercials.
There had been cattle when Ryan was growing up but after BSE his family sold the herd.
They use artificial insemination to select the sires to build the best herd possible. Ashley also does custom AI.
The longer-term plan includes selling high percentage commercial heifers, keeping Blacks for cash flow and perhaps eventually a sale for commercial bulls.
The goats, which also number about 25, came in 2015 and were initially marketed as breeding stock but last year nearly all went to the meat market.
The two enterprises represent a tradeoff, they said.
“I said, ‘you can have goats and I’ll have some cows,’ ” said Ryan.
The goat business has been a challenge, particularly as cattle calved and goats kidded during this past cold winter.
Goats often deliver multiple babies, and kids seem to die for no reason. It kept the family on their toes.
“That was rough,” said Ashley of trying to keep goats alive.
They are considering kidding later in spring and early summer for better outcomes.
Fortunately, they built a barn a few years ago and had some facilities to protect the young ones.
When they moved to the site there was only a small old shack on the property. They moved into their house in 2013 and they have built all the other facilities on the farm.
The crop land, meanwhile, has expanded to about 1,700 acres including rented land for both pasture and crops. They run older smaller equipment, conscious of costs as they try to pay off debt while establishing themselves.
“We didn’t have the leg up as far as taking over an established operation,” said Ashley. “We bought our own and we appreciate it. It builds character.”
They are also getting used to all the risks involved, from goats that die unexpectedly to the weather that affects crop yields.
Ashley spent some time on the Saskatchewan Goat Breeders Association board, and says she is realistic when she talks to people who are interested in the business. Goats can be profitable, and stocking rates per acre are obviously higher than cattle, but there are predators to worry about, and fencing, and those extremely cold days in February.
“Don’t think it’s going to be easy,” she said.
The Kattlers cull both their goats and their cattle aggressively to focus on quality, not quantity, said Ryan. They try to match their resources to what they can carry.
They want to try using some Hereford semen on their Black Angus cows for the popular brockle or white-face result.
With the lack of canola sales to China looming over the upcoming planting season, they will still plant the crop that carries many farms.
“I haven’t heard of a single person backing off acres,” Ashley said, and Ryan noted that companies are still offering $10 a bushel.
Their crop mix also includes wheat, flax, canaryseed, feed barley and, for the first time this year, peas. They won’t be planting peas too close to the home quarter, however, as they know there are significant root rot problems on the land.
“We might just pasture or hay the home quarter,” Ryan said.
Last year they grew oat greenfeed and this year will try an oats/pea blend.
Like most of southern Saskatchewan, they had little moisture last year, but the 119 millimetres they got was actually better than the 74 mm the year before. They had decent snow cover but are hoping for rain.
The Kattlers’ son, Flint, is seven and daughter Summer is four, which means the family has several busy years ahead. Flint is already playing hockey and Ryan was a coach.
Ashley likes to barrel race, so there are five horses, a pony and a donkey on the farm, too, and the family spends time riding in an outdoor arena behind the house.
They are optimistic about their future both in their farming operation and with Ryan’s welding business taking off last year.
“We’ll just keep quietly doing what we do,” says Ashley.