Alta. Hereford rancher honoured

EDMONTON — Don Richardson’s 30-year dedication to farming and Hereford cattle has been rewarded with a place on the Hereford Honour Roll.

Don and his wife Leslie live at Tlell on the northeastern side of Moresby Island, the largest in the Haida Gwaii chain off the coast of British Columbia. Theirs is the only ranch on the islands.

About 5,000 people live on Moresby, and half are Haida.

Sport fishing is common on the west side of the island. Tourism is popular and there are some hobby farms. As well, a settlement of Mennonites has started to establish farms.

The Richardson family has been there since 1919, when Don’s great grandfather left a grain farm in Vermilion, Alta. He travelled via the Grand Truck Railway and found what was then called the Queen Charlotte Islands with a rich salmon fishery.

Don’s father brought a Hereford bull from the Guichon Ranch at Merritt, B.C., in 1952, and Don and Leslie started a purebred herd in 1982 when regular ferry service was established.

Farming along the Tlell River presents challenges. It is a tidal river that floods the meadows with salt water, and Don has learned to work with the environment.

“It means I can farm it, manage it, look after it and feed it, but I can’t change it. If I change it to something else, it will die,” he said during a break at Farmfair International, which was held in Edmonton Nov. 9-13.

He showed cattle at Farmfair in 2013 and the World Hereford Show in 2012.

All contact with the mainland means long ferry trips to Prince Rupert, B.C., and overland driving.

The family barely made it this year to attend the honour roll ceremony because hurricane force winds prevented ferry travel.

Besides ranching, Richardson and his son have a veterinarian practice and just expanded the hospital. Most of the practice consists of small animals, but they also see some livestock and wildlife.

Living on an island does not mean they are isolated. Tlell Herefords have been sold all over the world. At one point, he sold cattle at Vanderhoof, Abbotsford and Williams Lake in B.C.

“It used to be a drive for two days, and if the right person wasn’t there, you were stuck with it or took a low bid,” he said.

“You couldn’t take it home because you already had the trailer booked for fertilizer.”

The world changed when the province introduced wi-fi, and for the last seven years he has run an Internet sale. There is less risk in travelling and nothing leaves until it is paid for.

He runs about 30 cows and works with a dairy vet from Chilliwack, B.C., to flush the top ones once a year and take all the necessary steps to make them internationally acceptable. His cattle are qualified for shipment to the European Union.

“I’m trying to get two crops out of my cows,” he said. “It has been very good to us, and we have sold a lot of embryos to Europe from the Queen Charlottes.”

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