Column: rejuvenating the family ranch

Columnist David Zirnhelt on the constant churn of work at the ranch

Just where do you put your efforts (labour), your planning and management time, and your money and other resources in order to sustain healthy land, people, animals and the business?

With any luck, much of the winter was spent making plans and sourcing needs and budgeting.

At this time of year, with nature playing catch up on the growth, it is only a month – or a little more or less – before we are fully into haying.

Starting with the people around us, they need balanced work/life activities to cope with the pressures of weather (too much or not enough water) and fixing the infrastructure ravaged by the winter.

Heavy snows probably pressed wires on fences. Moose will have jumped through some fences.

If we are to do any reseeding or renovating on hayfields and pastures, it has to get done just as soon as the soil is dry enough to work without compacting the soil.

If you are weeding a cultivated field, one has to get at the weeds when they are young.

Chances are, if you are a farmer, you will be gardening too, doubling the demand for your time at this busy season.

Then you have the calving and lambing or whatever livestock are reproducing or that you purchase as young stock (piglets or chicks).

If you are expanding your production, then there are undoubtedly more facilities to build — bigger pens or watering systems.

You have seed and fertilizer to order and your pasture to plan. If you have leased rangeland, then there are miles and miles of fence to fix. Remember the snow load on the wires! And the moose!

As snow melts and freezes, it can stick to the wires in large sheets and create a lot of weight, which stretches and sometimes breaks the wire.

Then the mosquitoes and black flies are there just as you want to work on the fence.

The joys of farming in the North!

Where you have fed your animals for the winter, you may have manure and hay so thick that the crop will be crowded out, so you have to push it up and spread the surplus around.

If you are a smart farmer, you will have your equipment ready to go as you put it away last year, repaired and serviced. That means you can get into the field as soon as it is dry enough.

I don’t know about you, but the spring rush as the days get longer can be tiring. Tomorrow is another day and next year is another year.

This could be what spring fever is all about. You go from frantic work to being tired and needing to kick back.

On the bigger picture of getting the next generation of ranchers to return or to stay on the land, it is a good idea that they equip themselves to add an enterprise and to scale current enterprises to where sufficient return comes from the efforts and money expended.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher in the Cariboo and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus.

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