Four ranches nominated for national environmental award

The cattle operations are Charlton Angus Cattle Co., Hagen Valley Ranch, Deer Creek Ranch and Woodjam Ranch

The nominees for the 2020 environmental stewardship award given annually by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association are all beef producers who pay attention to soil and water as well as cattle.

Four farming operations were awarded by provincial groups and will vie for the Canadian title to be announced at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference later this month.

They include Paul De Jong of Charlton Angus Cattle Co. near Timiskaming, Ont.; Thomas and Felicity Hagen of Hagen Valley Ranch near Oak Lake, Man.; Richard Visser, James Bekkering, Kyle Turner and Jeff Smith of Deer Creek Ranch near Milk River, Alta.; and Ricky and Chad Seelhof of Woodjam Ranch near Horsefly, B.C.

De Jong, nominated by Beef Farmers of Ontario, has a 150-head cow-calf operation running on six quarter sections. He has worked to fence off sensitive land and believes in optimizing soil biology to grow healthier grass and better feed, according to CCA information.

The Hagens, nominated by Manitoba Beef Producers, have 320 cows and 320 yearlings managed on 3,200 acres of native grassland. They employ year-round grazing, accomplished with a system of cross fencing, which also allows growth of diverse grass species. Regular soil tests and attention to biodiversity are part of their focus.

Deer Creek Ranch, nominated by Alberta Beef Producers, is in sensitive badland and riparian landscape and was purchased by the four principles nine years ago. It runs 1,200 cows and 400 yearlings on dry mixed grassland. The ranch grows all its own feed under zero tillage and aims for ever-healthier grasslands with higher carrying capacity.

The Seelhof family, nominated by the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, has a 500-head cow-calf operation on a 2,100-acre ranch, with access to 80,000 acres of crown land grazing. They focus on protecting waterways by fencing them off from cattle and instead using off-stream watering facilities, among other efforts toward riparian protection.

In an online news conference to announce the finalists, each nominee said there is a cost to implement environmental stewardship projects, but the benefits tend to outweigh those costs over time.

Thomas Hagen said fencing of paddocks and creating dugouts for watering were major expenses but the animal use per acre has improved every year.

Smith of the Deer Creek operation said they take a long-term approach.

“We do view it as a long-term investment. It is out-of-pocket money up front, but we have seen some savings.”

The Seelhofs said they’ve been able to use programs from the department of fisheries and oceans and from the forest board, which has helped them implement various environmental projects. Even so, they require considerable work and time.

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