Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Financial bad news and yet there is hope

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 a 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 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 mangers in recent years, Sean McGrath of Round Rack Ranching southeast of Vermillion, Alberta.

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 Dec. 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 there will be suppliers that will display their wares and services at a trade show.

To register go to communications@bcforagecouncil.com or just show up at the Ramada Convention Centre in Williams Lake, 10 a.m. Dec. 10 and 11th. I personally hope to exchange experiences with the producers from other parts of the Cariboo and the B.C. Interior as well as tap 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.

Read more: RANCH MUSINGS: What owns what, or who?

Read more: OPINION: Conserving forest, grassland and wetland ecosystems in B.C. has global impact


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