Three Manitoba beef producers who have demonstrated excellence in the development and implementation of grazing systems were recently recognized for their achievements at the Manitoba Grazing School, organised by the Manitoba Forage Council and Manitoba Agriculture.
Chapman Farms of Virden, Rob and Charlene Graham of Holland and the Bos Family Farm at Rapid City, were recognized as 2010 Graziers of the Year for their innovations in management and production practices which contribute to profitable, sustainable, environmentally sound farming operations.
CHAPMAN FARMS, VIRDEN.
The Chapman family farm has grown from a father and two sons operation in 1961 to a multiple generation farm of two brothers, Darren and Parry, a cousin, Rob, his nephew, Justin, and Rob’s brother-in- law, Jeff Elliott. They crop 12,500 acres, hay 1,800 acres and graze 500 cows/calves on 3,400 acres of pasture.
The farm grows commercial hay for sale, staying with small, square bales, as a portion of their production is marketed to specialty clients in Canada and the U.S. The farm converted to zero till in 2004, and employs various environmentally beneficial practices to the livestock operation, such as twice over rotational grazing and bale grazing. The Chapmans have greatly increased the carrying capacity of their land by making the bale grazed areas more productive thanks to the recapture of manure nutrients recycled through the herd. Sites are also chosen carefully to avoid surface water contamination. The beef cattle also make use of the non-dairy quality hay from their commercial hay enterprise.
The Chapmans are adept at finding practical (and often low cost) solutions to problems. They constructed their hay sheds from locally available oil fitting pipe and developed labour-saving devices for loading hay bales. They use airplane cable and steel posts for their paddock fences. The troughs for their solar watering systems, which are also a part of their riparian management efforts, are fashioned from many recycled items such as old anhydrous ammonia tanks cut in half. Their creativity and expertise at integrating different aspects of their operation have played a big part in earning them the Graziers of the Year award.
ROB AND CHARLENE GRAHAM, HOLLAND.
The Grahams run a 275 cow-calf herd of mostly Hereford and Charolais cross cattle on 3,200 acres of mainly native, sandhill pasture. They have developed an innovative, year-round, rotational grazing system.
The pasture is divided into seven paddocks to accomodate their twice over summer grazing and also incorporates solar-watering systems. They began corn grazing two years ago, seeding vetch with the corn to increase protein levels. They have even grazed their cows successfully on barley regrowth. Their swath and bale-grazing sites are in an isolated location, so they set up the system ahead of time and can graze the cattle throughout the late fall and winter without the use of a tractor. They move fences every three to five days, use snow as a water source, and maintain lots of shelterbelts for protection from the elements.
With no centralized holding or confinement areas on the farm, cattle remain out on pasture, which helps ensure all nutrients stay on the land. Rob generally allocates 35 lbs. of dry matter hay per cow for a three-day period, but adjusts the amount as needed to meet additional nutritional needs when the weather is colder. The cattle are brought home to calve in March and then put on stockpiled forage until new growth on pastures are ready.
The main pasture is east of Spruce Woods Provincial Park and brush control is important to maintain grass production. The Grahams had a roller/chopper for brush control custom made and use other tools such as controlled burns, some herbicides and a higher stocking rate to help keep brush under control.
THE BOS FAMILY FARM, RAPID CITY.
Gerald and Jeannie Bos returned to Gerald’s family farm in 1990 and have increased the herd of breeding cows from 100 to 315 head. During that time (and especially since taking the Ranching for Profit course about five years ago), Gerald has made changes on the 3,400 acre farm which include switching from winter calving to May/June calving. He also turned all grain land into pasture and has implemented rotational grazing with paddocks rested for 25 to 60 days between grazings.
He has just more than 1,000 acres in hay production for winter feeding and bale feeds the cows using a modified bale-grazing system. As needed, he supplements the bales with a ration of hay or straw, all supplied on the bale-grazing site. By keeping cattle on the field all nutrients from manure go back into the soil. With properly managed bale and pasture grazing, Bos now has 2,400 acres of pasture completely input free.
Along with forages, Bos also supplies four to five pounds of screening pellet ration to calves daily. He built an attachment for the front-end loader, which deposits about 30 pound piles every 15 feet.
Gerald usually produces enough feed to background an additional 600 to 700 steers as well as his own heifers and calves, which are generally sold in August by a tender process. Gerald gives buyers a week view steers at the farm before bids close. After steers are sold, buyers have a week to pick them up.
The 2010 Graziers of the Year awards were sponsored by Kane Veterinary Supplies Ltd., Feed Rite and Virden Animal Hospital.