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Financial bad news and yet there is hope

David Zirnhelt’s column to the Free Press
Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

When my brain was warm enough this past week, it kept returning me to the question: why would anyone want to carry on ranching given low returns and major challenges to the very idea of livestock feeding people?

The bad news is really recent reporting of some research into the profitability of cattle ranching in Canada. Industry and government have been trying to find strategies that reduce costs while boosting the quality and output of meat.

I am reflecting views ( in the Western Producer paper) of one prairie rancher who has adopted many technologies and cultural practices that have been used by ranch and farm managers in recent years, Sean McGrath of Round Rack Ranching southeast of Vermillion, Alta.

He reports that a 200-cow (cow/calf) operation averages $90 per head for a net income of $18,000 per year. Subsequently, he tweeted that a young person working at Tim Horton’s after school does better than that with no investment.

Some hope lies in the recognition that best practices on the land can sequester more carbon, hence lowering the carbon footprint of the industry, while at the same time potentially reducing feeding costs (particularly winter feeding).

Cattle and Forage organizations have been working to enhance our understanding of grazing practices that suit the twin objectives of financial sustainability and environmental sustainability at the same time.

One practical way producers here can take on this challenge is by taking advantage of the Advanced Grazing Workshop coming up this weekend December 10-11, in Williams Lake. The workshop will focus on a new program called OFCAF (On-Farm Climate Action Program).

Up to 70 per cent of the cost up to $20,000 of implementing a grazing plan, can be covered by the program for fencing, livestock watering, and seed for pasture management.

The BC Forage Council is the main organizer and supplier that will display their wares and services at a trade show.

To register, go to or just show up at the Ramada Convention Centre in Williams Lake, at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 -11. I personally hope to exchange experiences with the producers from other parts of the Cariboo and the BC interior as well as tap into the experience of the expert presenters.

The presenters include:

Day One, Saturday, Dec. 10

Serena Black, BC Forage Council, OFCAF program

King Campbell, Environmental Plan advisor and Grazing mentor,

Grazing Principles at any scale,

Rob Dinwoodie, recently forest and range manager, BC Government: Assessing Forage Supply and Carrying Capacity of the land

Jim Forbes, consultant Cost of Production and BEEF expert: Grazing and Livestock Nutrition

Day Two, Sunday Dec. 11

Joseph Moilliet, Aveley Sheep Ranch: Effective Grazing with Electric Fencing

Serena Black, BC Forage Council: Components of a Grazing Management Plan

The cost of the workshop is basically the cost of food; $20 per person, $35 for two people, same organization. Participants who attend and commit to completing a Grazing Plan will be entered to win a Free Water Trough.

Get out of the early winter blues and mix with some hopeful people.

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