If there is one thing about the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) process that makes it worth doing, it’s raising the awareness of your operation’s true potential, says Dale Young, a purebred cattle producer and custom grazier from Parkbeg, Sask.
“I think just to take the EFP course is a really good experience,” says Young. “You learn so much about what you can do to improve things. It made me aware of a lot of things that I hadn’t even thought to do, or knew I could do, which would help make my land more productive and at the same time more environmentally sustainable.”
After completing an EFP, Young set about improving his forage land by sowing some of his custom grazing areas to permanent pasture with a mix of legumes and grasses. He avoided alfalfa in the mix, instead using cicer milk vetch to reduce risk of cattle bloating. He cross-fenced another half section into 80 paddocks for rotational grazing, fenced off the dugout and installed a remote watering trough with a solar-powered pump.
Carrying capacity increased
The improvements made as part of his EFP, coupled with a rotational grazing system, has increased the carrying capacity of Young’s pastures by around 60 per cent, and he estimates he is saving about $7,200 a year by being more productive on the same land base.
Young, a previous RM councillor, is well aware of the water and drainage issues in his area. He knows other producers have also benefited from similar improvements on their land and takes every opportunity to persuade more farmers of the value of the EFP process.
“I am really happy I took the course because it also made me more aware of what a lot of farmers are already doing for the environment,” says Young. “I would encourage more people to just take the course, even if they don’t end up with a written EFP, to learn how they can make improvements their own farm.”
For Young the EFP process has only whetted his appetite for improving management of his land. He has some high-alkaline soil areas in some pastures where he wants to bale graze and use the manure to help restore soil productivity. “I am looking at some portable windbreaks so I can bale graze those areas and get the nutrients back into the soil,” says Young. “In a few years that land might start growing something again.”
Technicians will help
The EFP program in Saskatchewan is delivered through the Provincial Council of Agriculture Development and Diversification Boards (PCAB), and Young says their technicians can help guide farmers in the process. “I worked with a technician who was really helpful in the planning process,” says Young. “Your ideas change as you go. For example, I didn’t think about the windbreaks at first, but I went back and talked to them about the idea this summer. I learned I can apply for a grant that will help pay for half of the cost. It takes time and money to do everything. But you make a game plan and it’s a long term process, but PCAB helps you keep moving forward.”
Young has become a strong advocate for the EFP process, as he recognizes the need to be environmentally responsible to sustain his land and livelihood for the future. “Everyone is concerned about the environment these days,” he says. “We need to protect our resources and anyone who takes the EFP course will find out how important it is to do that and also how easy.” †