Organic ??

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We want to explain to you why we do not call ourselves organic, and strong disagree with the notion that all farming should be organic. We would like to share our point of view and why we have chosen to use modern farming practices like: chemical weed control.

We live right next to Canada’s only desert. Our ranch is on a 14% grade side hill. We have limited surface water for irrigation. In order to ranch and stay viable we use a very small supply of labour. Every decision must make sense financially. In order to survive, we have to be wise in our use of everything on our farm.

The basics of planting a crop is that you have to kill the old plants and weeds in order for the new seeds to get established and compete. In conventional tillage, which we do not do, a farmer might first plow, then disc one or two times, then cultivate, then seed, then pack in order to get a crop. This is all done on the same piece of land. In other words, the tractor is running over the same field up to 6 or 7 times. This type of tillage uses high amounts of fuel because you are physically breaking up the soil structure. It is similar to how most people work their garden with a rototiller. Conventional tillage looks pretty when the soil is all black and fluffy and the crop peeks through. Although by digging deep and working up the soil, researchers have shown that you loose between 9 to 25 centimetres of water over the land. On our ranch, that would be one pass with the sprinklers. For a person like me who does not like moving ‘irritation’, thats a huge savings right there! Did we mention how much we dislike picking rocks? That is another huge savings for us.

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Do you know why they called it the ‘Dirty Thirties’? All farmers conventional tilled, worked their land, lost their moisture and then the whole country blew away and everyone went broke. Here some pictures of some small scale conventional tillage dust storms.

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We plant and reseed our crops using a practice called ZeroTill or Minimum Till. This involves killing the old crop or weeds by using chemical, yes: RoundUp. To seed our field we make one pass with the sprayer, putting on between 1/2 to 1 litre per acre of actual chemical. Then we make one pass with our ZeroTill Seed Drill to seed and fertilize the field. One of the biggest advantages to this type of seeding is that we are leaving the organic matter on the surface of the soil and year after year are building healthier soil rather than making it into dirt. This layer of organic matter is what saves the moisture in the soil. Because we are more productive with the acres we do farm, we are able leave more land for grazing.

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By our estimations, 1 litre of RoundUp is being directly traded for 58.4 litres of Diesel fuel not burned plus the savings on labour, equipment and moisture. If you are at all concerned about the environment, how can you say that burning 58 litres of Diesel into the atmosphere (picture 3 – 5 gallon jerry cans) is better for the environment than using 1 litre of RoundUp?

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To summarize, our ZeroTill seeding reduces the use of Diesel, saves moisture, prevents soil erosion both from wind and water on our side hill, prevents us from picking rocks and is one of the major elements that has kept us in business over the years. Oh, did we mention that we get better production, use less seed and fertilizer and have fewer weeds? If you drove across the Prairie’s (Alberta and Saskatchewan) where the large scale farms are, you would notice that there is not a lot of dust in the air and that everyone ZeroTills.

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We totally agree that people overuse chemical. All we want you to understand is that modern farming uses many different tools. It is not as simple as doing it the way Grandpa use to. If you want to know why a farmer does a certain practice, there is probably a legitimate reason. We put a lot of thought and heart into our decisions. 4th and 5th Generation Farms got there by making wise decisions for their land, their family and their business.

~Erika Fossen~

Reflections

As we finish the 2015 calving season and welcome the warmer weather, we realize that one challenging job merges with another. Spring brings forth new jobs like setting up irrigation (irritation as we like to call it), and then actually doing irrigation (moving the irrigation every day to get water across the entire field on all of our fields), re-seeding a field, and turning bulls out. As calving is coming to a close it is interesting to reflect on the past season; maybe it is more at the forefront of my mind this year because any day now my husband and I will be expecting our first child. The process of procreation is amazing and humbling; every little detail has to go right and has to happen at the exact right time. It is truly amazing how many times Mother Nature gets this right. That is the interesting part of ranching we have to deal with life and death. I think at times people think the job of a rancher is a very romantic, riding off into the sunset moving cows and camping under the stars. While it is a great job and there are times when we are moving cows on horse back in the mountains in reality we do way more than that. There are times when this job is emotionally difficult. It is hard to have a sick calf and do all you can do to try and nurse that calf back to health, but still lose it. As ranchers we obviously try and minimize these things as much as we possibly can, but we are at odds with a greater force Mother Nature. While most of the time She is miraculous there are times she reminds us to be humble and the process of life is truly a gift, one that us as ranchers get to be part of so intimately.
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Feeding Zone

Our ranch not only feeds our livestock but is a haven for Bald Eagle’s as well!  Here are some pictures and a video of the bald eagles’ that come back to our ranch year after year to feed on placenta’s.  I’m always amazed at how big these birds are. I’m glad we can supply them something to eat in the winter time when food is scarce.

~Erika Fossen~

Here is my video of them on YouTube:

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BSE Case, A Positive For The Canadian Beef Industry

IMG_2313I’m sure some people may have heard about the positive BSE cow that was recently found in Alberta. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to start a blog to clarify things that happen in the industry that maybe aren’t portrayed very well in the media. I think this case is a perfect example of something that is actually a positive for the beef industry when we really take an in depth look at the situation and not simply rely on the media’s interpretation of the event.

Firstly, it would be great if we could stop referring to it as “mad cow”. I think that conjures horrible images in consumer’s minds and is unrelated to the actual prognosis. The proper name is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is a progressive neurological disease in cattle. In addition, humans cannot contract BSE unless eating certain parts of the animal: the Specified Risk Material or (SRM). All SRM material is removed in animals who are 30 months and over in all slaughter facilities in Canada.

It was very unsettling news for cattle producers in Canada to hear the words BSE in the media. It takes us back to the dark years (2003) when our cattle were instantly worth nothing. For about ten years after that prices were still very low and it was hard and sparse years owning cattle. For example on our family ranch we probably lost over 1 million dollars of income during that ten year span. I am proud to say we made it through those years with our ranch (most of our land and cattle herd) still in tact. We had to find ways to subsidies our business of cattle production. We were lucky enough to have merchantable timber on our place so we did some logging, we also found a gravel vein so developed a gravel pit and sold gravel and unfortunately we had to sell some land as well to make it through. In addition, we could not make any positive progress because there was simply no money. We had to rely on what we already owned and lived very modestly. We have had some positive years lately, but the words BSE still make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. However, once the initial fear from the word subsided I got to thinking that this finding was actually very positive for the Canadian Beef Industry. This case was found because of the ongoing screening and surveillance Canada does for BSE. Canada, because of our status as “controlled BSE risk country”, needs to test 30 000 head of dead, dying or diseased cattle per year. These cattle being tested are not going into the food supply chain and the cow that recently tested positive was found from this screening and was not in the food supply chain. That means Canada’s surveillance system is working because we found this animal and she never made it into the human food system. I think this really shows how far Canada has come since our initial outbreak in 2003. I wish that was the story the media told!

I have attached some links to some websites with factual information regarding what is happening with the BSE case found in Alberta. I challenge and encourage our followers to find real information to base opinions and judgments on.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association BSE Update
http://www.cattle.ca/news-events/news/view/cca-statement-on-bse-in-a-beef-cow-in-alberta/

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association webpage
http://www.cattle.ca/news-events/news/

Canada Food Inspection Agency
http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reportable/bse/cfia-confirms-bse-in-alberta/eng/1423797248015/1423797327027

Real Agriculture
https://www.realagriculture.com/2015/02/new-bse-case-not-expected-major-market-impact-delay-move-negligible-risk-status/

14 In One Day

Erika Fossen beat me to the punch on her last Blog, February 25- 12 New Babies. I was going to write a very similar blog, but ya snooze ya lose! We chatted about it and decided I should go ahead and post my blog even though they would be very similar in content. I thought I’d at least give you guys (our readers a couple days in between)!
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On February 25 (our cows must be on the same schedule) we set a calving record at our ranch, we had 14 babies in one day. It makes for a very busy day, but we love it! We love it for various reasons
1) I am nervous even to write this, but the weather has been fantastic -5 overnight so the ground stays hard, so we don’t have mud, but it’s not too cold for the babies to be born. It is the perfect time for the cows to calve, so when the weather is good we like to have as many baby calves born as possible to take advantage of the gift of good weather in February from Mother Nature.
2) It’s nice to have a calving period that is short and sweet. Calving makes long days and nights checking on cows and making sure things are going smoothly. It is great to have a condensed calving period and get it over with as quickly as possible and go back to sleeping full nights!
3) It means our bulls are doing a good job and our cows are cycling early. A cow only cycles every 21 days, so she can only get bred every 21 days. When we have a big groups calving all together like that that makes us happy that our cows and bulls are healthy and fertile. It is also a bit of reassurance that our management practises are working. In my area of BC, because we turn our cows out on huge amounts of crown range land with little fences, it is worrisome that the cows can take off and not be with bulls, and therefore miss a cycle and our calving can stretch out for months. How we manage this is we keep the cows closer to home for the first cycle and a half and have them in smaller pastures locked in with the bull. This is great for our calving, but costly for hay, because most of the time there is not enough grass by the first of May to totally sustain the cows, their calves and breeding bulls, so we have to feed into May, but when we have majority of our calves born in February and March it definitely validates this decision.
In total as of February 28 we have 109 healthy calves on the ground. Not quite half way there! Keep going girls!

Here are some pictures of our girls with their calves!
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February 25th – 12 New Babies

It was a big day of calving yesterday. Here are pictures of the mothers and baby calves born on February 25th. The information is below the picture.

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51Z had her heifer calf unassisted @ 6:00 am and it nursed on its own.

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S61Z had her heifer calf unassisted @ 7:00 am and it nursed on its own. She had her 1st calf last year and now this is her 2nd calf.

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K264U had her heifer calf unassisted @ 8:30 am and it nursed on its own. This cow has a tendency to ‘show her reed’, which means in the last weeks of her pregnancy, her cervix pushes out and could prolapse. Because her calf is a heifer, we have noted this. We will not keep her in our herd.

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T601A had her bull calf unassisted @ 10:00 am and it nursed on its own. This is her 1st calf.

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52X had her heifer calf unassisted @ 10:30 am and it nursed on its own. This is her 4th baby. We bought this cow as a bred heifer at an auction.

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N234T had her bull calf unassisted @ 1:30 pm and it nursed on its own. He was a big boy when he came out. As you can see by the position of her (the cow’s) head, she is NOT happy that we are near her new calf!

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127P had her bull calf @ 2:00 pm and we had to assist her. It was a large calf. This cow’s name is ‘Fertile Mertal’ because she accidentally got bred in the fall, as a calf. When she was 15 months old, and was in a pasture with her pen-mates and a bull, she gave birth to a healthy calf! Thus she has had a calf every year for 12 years. She is a good cow.

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U13Z had her heifer calf unassisted sometime in the morning, although wasn’t found until after lunch. It had slipped under the fence and wandered off with the older calves. Because the mom was separated for 3 hours we then had to help it nurse, as she was kicking at it. As you can see by the picture and how far away she is standing, she’s still uncertain about the baby.

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570S had her bull calf @ 5:00 pm with help from us. It was another big boy. We bought this cow as a year old heifer in the spring, from a ranch in Lumby. They have been good cows. This is this cows’ ninth calf.

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234S had her heifer calf unassisted @ 7:00 pm and it nursed on its own. This line of cows has been in our herd for a long time, the black cow (6th picture) is her niece. This picture of her and her calf shows the excellent mothering qualities. She has her leg back, so the calf can get at her udder with ease, and the cow is licking her baby’s butt and pushing her into nurse.

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S13U had her bull calf unassisted @ 7:15 pm and it nursed on its own. The ’13’ line has also been in our herd for a long time and are awesome cows.

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219T had her bull calf unassisted @ 7:20 pm and it nursed on its own. This cow is a good producer, but she makes us a little frustrated when she has her calf. She likes to hurl insults (beller loudly) from about 40 feet away, but not help him get up and nurse. Thankfully there was no snow on the ground this year so we knew we could leave him and eventually he would get up and get going.

Today, February 26th, is turning out to be another big day with already 7 born and it is only 1:00 pm. ooh, now 8! Bring ’em on girls!
~Erika Fossen~