Alta. company receives environmental stewardship award

Scott and Elan Lees of Soderglen Ranches Ltd. have been honoured with the 2021 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Alberta Beef Producers. | Screencap via YouTube/Alberta Beef Producers

Alberta Beef Producers presents this year’s recognition to Scott and Elan Lees, who operate Soderglen Ranches Ltd.

A prominent Alberta seedstock cattle operation is on a winning streak.

Scott and Elan Lees of Soderglen Ranches Ltd. have been honoured with the 2021 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Alberta Beef Producers.

It comes on the heels of Soderglen’s recent win of AgSight’s Mark of Excellence award for its leadership in livestock genetics.

“We’re very grateful to be recognized for our efforts in conservation and environmental stewardship,” said Elan at an online townhall meeting April 29 held by ABP.

“Environmental stewardship to us is about sustainable agricultural modelling, and the efforts that we have made in building these ranches down there that we hope that they will be there long after we’re gone.”

As one of the largest seedstock cattle businesses in Western Canada, the company does the most intensive part of its seedstock operations at Soderglen North near Airdrie, said a statement by the ranch.

However, its Soderglen South lands, which are co-owned by Scott and Elan, are a vital part of the business. The property is divided between two ranches in the Fort Macleod and Cardston areas that together contain about 15,000 acres of mostly native grasslands.

The former is used as a summer ranch, with the latter acting as a base for wintering and calving of a herd of about 1,500 cows from five seedstock lines, said the statement.

Soderglen focuses on breeds including Charolais, Red Angus, Black Angus, Red Simmental and Black Simmental. It has also developed two of its own hybrids: Continental Carcass Maker and Red/Black MAX.

“Ranching, I think for us over the years, we’ve come to realize it’s about looking after land,” said Scott in a video by the ABP about the award. “It’s about growing grass, selling grass, however you choose to do that, but it is really custodians of a piece of land while you own it — that’s what ranching is.”

Credit must also go to the three ranch managers at Soderglen South, said Elan in an ABP statement. Ross Howey at Fort Macleod, and Roger Gerard and Jeff DeMarni at Cardston each demonstrate a similar ethos to caring for and improving the land, she said.

Gerard outlined his perspective in the statement. “It’s a good feeling of knowing you’ve done a job that the land is in better shape than when you start the day before or the year before.”

The video was shot within Soderglen South, showcasing the prairie scenery of southern Alberta near the Rocky Mountains along the St. Mary River near the U.S. border.

“We love it down here,” said Elan in the video. “As you can see, Chief Mountain in the background, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

She described her and Scott’s philosophy as co-owners of the ranch.

“We believe in good grasses equal good cattle, and we’re not economically profitable if we don’t take care of our grasses and our lands, so those things go hand in hand. And our formula is simple: good cattle, good grasses equals economic profitability for us.”

Soderglen Ranches has sought to improve its grasslands to benefit wildlife as well as its cattle, said the ABP statement.

“It was with this goal in mind that the ranch began work with Ducks Unlimited Canada and Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve and protect the wetlands and native grasslands.”

To see the video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiXf3qLCGwY.

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