Wyoming Day 3&4 AgriFuture Conference



The last two days spent in Wyoming were consumed with the AgriFuture conference. It was such an excellent experience. It started off with Director of Agriculture Jason Fearneyhough giving a keynote about dreams. It was really exciting to be in a room filled with other young people who were passionate about agriculture, but the thing that struck me the most was how welcoming and curious everybody was as to how we do things in Canada. We were the only 3 Canadians represented at this conference and we were welcome with open arms. We got to talk to so many interesting people. One thing I found to be to very interesting is ranching in Wyoming is very similar to ranching in BC. In both places most crops need to be irrigated, there is government land that is leased to turn cattle out on in summer months, and lastly both places are quite rugged, so cattle are a perfect fit because they are able to turn sunshine and grass into a nutritious and safe protein source, using land that otherwise would be useless. This was quite exciting for me because usually when I attend Canadian Cattlemen’s conference people from other parts of Canada think I’m crazy because in BC we really do things differently than most other provinces in terms of cattle production, so it was quite refreshing to be understood in Wyoming.

During the presentations at the conferences I found it quite interesting because even though a border separates our two countries the problems we are facing and talking about are the same. At some moments I could totally forget I was not in Canada because the conversation is the same at home, the industry needs to do a better job of advocacy so the consumer understands what we do, how do we get more government support, how can we attract more young producers to the industry? I really found this to be fascinating that both our countries are facing vitually identical problems. I think it would be great if we could work together to solve these problems and in turn have a stronger more dynamic cattle industry.

A really neat thing about the conference, that I found unique to AgriFuture is on the first day all the attendees were broken up in 4 different groups to discuss issues facing our industry and instead of just leaving them as issues on day 2 we get back together with the same groups and discuss solutions what can we do to help eliminate or solve these problems. That was quite refreshing and a great idea, there are tons of young passionate people under one roof and instead of dwelling on the negative the conference acknowledge the issues and tries to come up with tangible solutions.

Lastly, the best part about our stay in Wyoming was all the great people we met! Thanks to Brook, Haley and Pam for hosting us. Also a big thanks to Director Jason Fearneyhough and all those from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the organizers of the AgriFuture conference it was truly a great event that I am so thankful I was able to take part in. 





Wyoming Day 2

uwyomingOur group was up an atter early again Wednesday morning with a tour of the University of Wyoming Meat Science facility. This was an amazing facility. Whenever I am lucky enough to take a trip to the States I always come back envious of the opportunities that the University’s offer their students in terms of practical hands on experience in the agriculture department. In this instance the university has a meat processing facility right on campus. The students are able to learn so much about food safety, processing, cuts of meat and carcass judging. I think this is really important because we need all these people in our agriculture department and our food safety and service departments to have a good practical understanding or how things are done. The students that go through this program at the UW are so fortunate, they get to learn the theory, but then put that theory into practical application. In contrast, during my University career at the University of Alberta in Edmonton I took a Meat Science course. During that course we learned a bunch of theory about what happens to meat when there is no longer oxygen, what causes rigor mortis, what are some signs that meat is of a lower quality. All of these things are very important, but in my opinion theory is sometimes wasted when there is no practical or hands on experience to back up the theory and really create understanding. After learning all this theory I never once, in my meat science class, got to judge a carcass to see meat quality characteristics.  The students at the University of Wyoming get to have these practical experiences daily as part of this class. 

After our tour we had to hustle back to the hotel and get our selves looking presentable because our group was presenting to the Wyoming Board of Agriculture about our CYL program. All three of us spoke about different aspects of the program. Jolene is the program coordinator, so she spoke more about the logistical side of the program. Andrea @AndiDawn10 is a current CYL menthe, so she spoke about the program and goals she hopes to accomplish with her mentor and I am a CYL graduate, so I spoke about what I did accomplish with the program (this blog :), my experience with my mentor and things like that. All in all it was a another great day in Wyoming! IMG_1674 


A Busy Time of Year

Yesterday we didn’t finish hauling the last load of cows home until 10:45 pm! This is because the pairs were rounded up, so we had to get the job done and them hauled home! It is not like a 9 to 5 job where you can leave when the clock reaches time. With the cows and calves corralled, and no water or feed in the ‘catch pen’, leaving them overnight was not an option. One may say, “Just let them go and catch them tomorrow!” But you would not do that, cuz sure as guns you’d not find those cows again for a long time. Rounding up cattle in the fall is a delicate balance of keeping the cattle calm and comfortable, so they continue to gain weight.
Our day started at 8 am, when we loaded our saddle horses and gator in the trailer and headed out to the Midway Range. With 4 horses and riders, 2 dogs and 2 people on the gator, we were able to round up 45 pairs. Then the work started as we had to load and truck them home. Like I said above, it ended at with us loading cows with flashlights.
It is a very busy time of year as we are trying to get the cows and their calves home and off of range. The calves are 8-9 months old and are what our ranch sells each year to make our annual income. Here are some pictures of the range:

(yes that hill is that steep!)
Right now we are putting in very very long days to accomplish this round up. It is physically demanding on us and our horses and dogs. We also use our airplane to spot animals and save wear n’ tear on our vehicles. It is a very unique job also because the weather can play a big role in how successful we are. Foggy mornings has made it a challenge to see the cattle to round them up! Here are some pictures of the horses after a big day, and our rigs getting loaded up.
We equate it to something like a 2 week long marathon crossed with a rugby game played in a beautiful outdoor Fall setting. Even though the work load is heavy, it is a spectacular time of year which I look forward to.
~Erika Fossen~

Wyoming Day 1

ImageSunday, October 6 to Thursday October 10 I was lucky enough to spend in Wyoming. I went there to attend a conference called AgriFutures. I was able to attend this conference through my participation in CYL (Canadian Cattlemen’s Young Leaders). We (we meaning a current CYL mentee, the CYL program coordinator and I) flew into Denver on Sunday evening and rented a car and headed to Laramie Wyoming.

The next morning we were off bright and early to meet Brook, who was going to be our tour guide for the remainder of the trip. Brook works for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and organizes the AgriFutures conference. Monday we headed the University Research Farm where we saw greenhouses, crops research facility and cattle research facility.

Next, we went to True’s feedlot where they feed 30 000 head of cattle. Lastly, we stopped at a young farming couple’s operation to hear about what they do and some ways modern productions practises they use. After a busy day of touring we ended with a delicious meal catered by Brook’s neighbour. Honestly, it was the best meal I have ever eaten, complete with amazingly tender prime rib, mashed potatoes, salad and to top it off peach cobbler for dessert. What an amazing day! 



Frontier Blue 2nd Session

Here is a video of our 2 year old Quarter Horse ‘Frontier Blue’ getting the saddle put on for the first time. As this is a series, watch the 1st blog on him ‘Introducing Blue’ if you haven’t already.

As my husband says, after you have them saddled, they are likely to ‘blow’ (throw a fit, start bucking and trying to get the saddle off of their back!) when you ask them to walk out for the first time. He was prepared for this, although Blue did not. Doug stops often and reassures the horse that it is okay, helping him to realize the saddle is nothing to fear. After the horse seems settled with the saddle and movement, Doug goes back to what the horse learnt in his 1st training session, now with the saddle on. He continues to learn his ‘whoa’ and both directions on the lunge line, but now with a saddle.
It all starts with the trainer being confident and calm. The horse is looking to Doug for security. Doug wants Blue to learn to stay calm and relaxed, that there is nothing to fear. We do not want Blue to learn how to buck. If he did start to dance around or buck, we would say whoa, and try and get him to stop as quick as possible. Bucking is a learned behaviour. We do not want him to know how to do it. The saying ‘Breaking a Horse’ came from the olden days where some people would saddle up the horse, put it in a corral and let it buck until it was too tired to keep bucking. We do not practice this type of training. Horses are very smart and we like to train them to be comfortable and calm instead. Horses also have a fantastic memory. That is why you have to be careful how you train them. For example, if you go out to catch your horse, and he runs around and around, and you think, “Maybe he doesn’t want to ride today.” So you leave and don’t catch him. Right there you have just taught him that he decides when he gets caught or not. You will then have a problem on your hands. You have to stick with the plan and catch him, even if it means more time spent or getting him into a smaller pen to catch him.
With all the horses we have trained they will always test you at some point. They may be willing at first, but at some point they will try and rebel. Both King and Count went through a stage where they would run away every time you got close enough to catch them. This went on for months but we would always eventually catch them. Now both horses know when we walk in the pen they could run around but why waste the energy? They are both awesome to catch.
All this to say, breeding is very important. We love working with these horses and their characteristics.
~Erika Fossen~

Introducing Blue

Introducing Blue

I will be doing a videos series on our horse ‘Frontier Blue’ and his training. We got him when he was 1 and 1/2 from Frontier Ranch down in Oroville, Washington, who has been breeding Quarter Horses since 1969. His colour is called “Grulla” which is pronounced :grew-ya, like tortilla, the ‘lla’ makes a ‘ya’ sound. Grulla is a grey mousey colour with a black dorsal stripe, darker ear tips and zebra striping on legs. There are no white hairs in his coat, which is the difference between this colour and a Blue Roan. This colour comes from Dun horses which gives Dun Factoring.
This is the fourth horse we’ve gotten from Frontier Ranch. They are great horses to train and ride: smart, calm and athletic. Go to this link to see the 1st time ‘Blue’ was lunged and worked with:

Doug is teaching him to stop when he says ‘whoa’, so he uses a long lead rope or lunge line and asks him to walk or trot around him until Doug asks him to stop. This is where the trainer builds a relationship with the horse. It is important in this step to teach the horse that they need to listen to what is being asked of them. Before this, Blue had been trailered to our ranch and then put out to pasture. We like to keep the training sessions short at first, if they learn quick and do what is required, they get rewarded by being put back. Stay tuned for more instalments of Blue’s training.
~Erika Fossen~

Canadian Farm Writers Tour


On Thursday our ranch, Pine Ranch, hosted the Canadian Farm Writers Tour. There were multiple stops, but our ranch was responsible for 2 of the stops. The first stop was on our crown range land. I met the bus at the furthest point of our range, range is where our cows spend the summer. Our range is on both sides of the Coquhalla freeway between Kingsvale and Coquhalla Lakes (if you’ve ever driven that highway from Vancouver to Merritt). I toured the farm writers around that part of the range because lately our ranch has had a lot of pressure from recreation. ATV’s and campers are allowed on be on our range because we lease that crown land from the government, so we don’t own it, but we have to pay an annual fee to graze it and make a Range Use Plan that specifies when we will have cattle out of certain pastures, so it doesn’t get over grazed and it limits us to a certain amount of animals we can run on that land. Crown land is suppose to be multi use land. That means forestry can log it, ranchers can graze cows on it, and recreation can use it. However, the sport of ATVing has increased so drastically in the past couple of years that our range is flooded with people on off road vehicles. Now this may not sound like a problem, but to us it is and has a great effect on our operation. I don’t think people realize what they are doing, but when they are tearing around on their ATV’s they are destroying grasslands, spreading weeds and scaring our cattle all without having to pay a cent to use that land. It was an interesting spot to introduce people to some of the issues we face as BC Ranchers, because we are so reliant on our range, without it many ranchers couldn’t raise cattle in BC because they don’t have the capacity on their deeded land to sustain their whole herd throughout the whole summer. After our range stop, the tour bus went to our home ranch where we toured around there, talked about the river running through our place and some obstacles that it presents and also what we have done to prevent erosion and keep cattle away from the river. Next, we heard about the Environmental Farm Plan from the man who completed our ranch’s Environmental Farm Plan. Secondly, another local ranching family joined us and talked about their ranch’s diversification, cider making and we got to sample some delicious Left Field Cider @LeftFieldCider. Then, over a delicious lunch provided by a local bakery, Brambles Bakery, we listened to the tales of a cowboy poet. Lastly, I spoke a bit about our ranch’s diversification, my natural beef business. All in all it was a great day and we really lucked out and had beautiful weather. I want to thank BC Cattlemen’s Association @BCcattle for asking my family and our ranch to be involved in the tour, all the Canadian Farm Writers for coming and to Annemarie Pederson @CDNBeef_ag from Canada Beef Inc for joining us as well! 

Check out the Canadian Farm Writers Federation website!


A cider maker @leftfieldcider, a cowboy poet, and a rancher @erikastrande