I was talking with Eric Boulton, 85, and his daughter Alexa Emerson recently about their beef operation on Gabriola Island just off
the east coast of Vancouver Island (near Nanaimo).
With an 85 head cowherd, they raise mostly Limousin calves for a local fresh meat market. Most of the market heifers, finished on their Somerset Farms go to a grocery retailer right on Gabriola Island, and the meat shop in Nanaimo wants them to produce in-tact virgin bulls finished at 15 to 16 months of age for its meat counter.
The Limousin breeding bulls, bred to mostly Limousin cows with some Angus and Hereford-cross cows produce excellent calves which in turn produces excellent, high yielding carcasses, says Alexa who is a graduate of the Olds College meat processing program. Their herd sires are supplied by Richmond Ranches from Rumsey, Alta.
She wasn’t rubbing it in, but Alexa sent a photo of the first calf of 2014 born the last week of January. It has been quite dry on Gabriola Island for several months, although there was some rain in January. That combined with a few days of plus 13C temperatures brought on some green grass.
They do have to feed cattle in the winter, although the cows can also pick away at any new green growth that does emerge. So as we sit here on the prairies with mostly -15 to -20C temperatures (-20 to -30 with the windchill) and in most areas a good snow cover, that bit of green on Gabriola Island looks almost as good as a Phoenix golf course, or Hawaiian beach this time of year.
Perhaps when Eric’s dad moved the family to Gabriola Island 65 years ago, from a homestead at Neutral Hills, Alta. (near Consort) he might have only started farming with what Eric describes as “a couple cows and a bicycle with a flat tire”, but in early February it looks like a corner of paradise.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]