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Posted By: Jesse Williams
If you didn’t catch Part I of the two day Women’s Grazing School Review, click here.
While Part I focused on the on-site tour of Nature’s Green Acres, Part II will be an overview of the classroom portion of the event, which was jam packed with great information.
Low Stress Cattle Handling
Dylan Biggs is a Special Areas rancher who has made a name for himself in low stress cattle handling, teaching the subject and working with ranchers across the industry to improve their methods. He believes that every step an animal takes should be voluntary and not relying on force or fear. When it comes to calving, branding, turning out bulls or weaning, Dylan Biggs believes there is a stress free way to handle your cattle. And I would have to agree.
I had seen Dylan speak about his techniques before this Grazing School, but a refresher course never hurts- no matter how long you’ve been in the game. While his methods aren’t anything out of the ordinary, he reminds us to use cattle psychology to make the right things easy and the wrong things difficult when handling cattle. I think every rancher would have to agree that sometimes emotions run high in the sorting pen or when that bull won’t cut from his herd, voices may raise, tears may fall and wives will storm off (come on ladies, you know it’s true!).
Whether it’s Dylan Biggs or another herdsman of your choice, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to refresh their low stress handling strategies and I challenge you to share those methods with someone else. Whether it’s your spouse, your neighbour or your kid, remind them where those blindspots are for a cow, or how to indirectly push from the sides, or maybe just to remember its ok to back up and give that cow some space! With so many consumers looking ever deeper into our operations, it never hurts to reinforce low stress livestock handling methods with your ranch hands. To learn more about Dylan Biggs and his cattle handling techniques you can visit his website at www.dylanbiggs.com or read more in this Grain News Article.
Managing Forages from the Ground Up
This was probably my favorite presentation from the whole event. Karin Lindquist, Forage-Beef Specialist with Alberta Agriculture, was an absolutely fabulous speaker. I think I enjoyed her presentation so much because of the immense passion that she spoke with- she truly is a “Range Nerd”, as she put it.
She stressed that the best way to manage our farms is from the ground up. Start by managing your soil first, as it influences what can be grown and how well. I think over the last few years our industry has been doing an amazing job encouraging producers to start thinking about their soil as their top asset. 2015 was deemed the International Year of Soils by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and boy did our local research associations do a great job promoting it. (You can head over to http://www.chinookappliedresearch.ca to see what was and still is going on in my area!).
Karin then reminded us that to manage your forage, you need to know what plants you have. This can be easier said than done if you don’t have an agriculture degree or a self-proclaimed Range Nerd nearby! However, Karin gave us some great resources to use to identify the plants in our pastures, and assess the health of our range:
Alberta Range Plants & Their Classification
Range & Pasture Management When Dealing with Drought
Alberta Tame Pasture Scorecard
Management of Canadian Prairie Rangeland
Pasture Planner- A Guide for Developing your Grazing System
HR on the Ranch
Abby Verstraete, Alberta Agriculture & Forestry’s Rural Business Specialist, was on hand to chat about the importance of Human Resource Management on the farm. This topic is all too often overlooked when it comes to employees on farms and ranches, maybe due to the seasonality or wide variance in positions. Country Guide recently interviewed Abby about attracting and retaining workers on the farm. You can read it by clicking here.
Overall, the two day Original Grazing School for Women was a fun, information filled event that I would recommend to others. With such a diverse group of ranching ladies from across the province and experts from across our industry, this event and others like it, are worth the time and investment in my opinion. After all, the best way to improve your operation is to ask questions, meet other ranchers and learn from their experiences!
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