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It appears fewer cowboys are needing horses these days

August 22, 2008

Yesterday was a very important day for our area. It was the grand opening of the Gollier Creek Metakaolin Processing Facility located seven miles east of Wood Mountain. This facility will process the substance called kaolin into a powdery product that is used in the manufacturing of many products such as clay products, cement, and paper. This will strengthen cement and it will harden faster.

The main source of kaolin for North America has been a mine in Georgia (USA). White Mud Resources Inc. began construction and now has an $80 million investment in the Saskatchewan plant which processes and ships car loads out every week on the railroad at Scout Lake. This railroad runs from Assiniboia to Coronach. This new company and the contractors have employed over fifty workers at a time and the processing plant has about thirty full time workers employed.

The facility is located on the north side of the Wood Mountain Hills. With the large earth moving machines, they remove the top soil to get to the kaolin in the clay soil. They then load it into gigantic trucks and stack it near the buildings where it dries for a few days. It then goes into a building by conveyer where it receives final processing. It will then be shipped by the rail cars to the buyers anywhere in North America.

At the grand opening, they had several speakers. The mine managers explained how everything worked, as well as the opportunities that are available for this product. Bill Boyd, our Saskatchewan energy minister, brought greetings and congratulations. Member of Parliament, David Anderson, brought greetings from the federal government. The provincial highways minister was also present and different local people who contributed to getting the facility running were also recognized.

This facility will help our local economy a great deal. It will provide many jobs to farmers and ranchers who can supplement their income. Since the work first started, a new restaurant opened at Wood Mountain. Twelve miles of new highway have been built as well as gas and telephone lines and there are rumors that more plants will be opened in the future. The town of Assiniboia will probably get the most local commercial value from the mine. Already houses have been rented. My grandson Justin Froshaug has a job there as well as many locals from Wood Mountain, Fir Mountain, Glentworth, and McCord.

August 18, 2008

Yesterday was a very interesting day for me. The Grasslands National Park put on a picnic in the East Block. This grasslands park, which is still growing, is divided into an east and west block. The west block is a large area of about one hundred sections or more and is located on the Frenchman River and is just east of Val Marie. The head office is located in Val Marie and the park area there is known for the prairie dog town. It now has a herd of about one hundred or more bison (buffalo). It is also well known for rattle snakes that are there in great numbers. Over the years the west block has been getting most of the publicity and also the visitors. Now it seems that the East side will get more attention.

On Sunday, the Park people put on an old time picnic. It started with a pancake and sausage breakfast cooked and served at the old McGowan Ranch. A good crowd of ranchers and their families as well as many people from town turned out. After breakfast, the group was given a wagon trip around what was formerly Dawsons’ pasture. While the wagons were going one way, a group of horseback riders had a ride through and around the rugged and rough badlands. When they all arrived back about four o’clock in the afternoon, a barbecued meal was ready for them. There was excellent music and singing for some time before everyone headed out for home.

Cheryl Penny, the park superintendent, said goodbye to the crowd because she is now being transferred to Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. We will miss Cheryl. Great things happened under her leadership. We now have a herd of bison in the west block and cattle are back grazing in the east block. Both are progressive moves in my opinion.

Cheryl Penny just received a great honor. She has been invited as a key note speaker to a world wide conference in Madrid, Spain. The people of Canada and especially those of us in Saskatchewan will be very proud of this.

The people in attendance today came from different areas of Canada. I spoke to one man from Vancouver and there was a family of four from northern Ontario. It seems that a National Park will attract attention and bring out the people.

History often repeats itself. In 1931, I showed a troop of Boy Scouts from Lafleche into a natural campsite by a spring. In 1932, I took two groups that were organized by the United Church into this area. At that time there were not parks of any kind in our area. These young people were thirty miles from a telephone and camping in tents. No fuss was made from any group and no one drove out or in for the five days.

September 5, 2008

A very good yearling sale took place at Mankota today. Over 2,500 yearlings were sold by the Bruce Switzer Auctioneer company. The cattle were in very good condition and there were a good number of buyers on hand. The bidding was brisk.

Top price on steers was $1.13 per pound on the light weights. Many of the heavier steers, weighing about 900 pounds, brought their owners $900 per head. The buyers and the producers seemed satisfied with this sale. This seemed to be the best for several years.

The Hiltz family from McCord sold about 500 head and Joyce

Hiltz told me she thought the price was quite good. I believe this sale has helped restore some confidence in the cattle industry.

We plan on selling our yearlings in early October and I and hoping the price will stay up. Those of us raising cattle in our area are fortunate that we have good sale yards around us such as Swift Current, Mankota, Assiniboia, Moose Jaw and Weyburn. Right now the trucking costs are high. We can trail over to Mankota from the ranch and this helps a little.

The rancher owned and operated sale ring at Mankota has now served its members very well for over 50 years. At one time we only had sales in the fall. Now because of demand, sales are being held at all times of the year. At one time the buyers would go out to the ranches and bid by the head or by the pound. Now most of the feeder cattle are sold through a sale ring.

Lloyd and Nyla are busy baling, combining and stacking and we should have enough feed for the winter. Good machinery makes the work easier than the good old days, but my eyes are such that I do not do much ranch work anymore.

September 28, 2008

On Friday night and Saturday, McCord held their 32nd, annual, indoor rodeo. McCord is a small village seven miles west of Glentworth. They have always had a number of energetic citizens who are very good volunteers for local activities and their annual indoor rodeo has been one of their successful enterprises. The rodeo is held in their hockey arena and it has always taken place in late September. It is a professional rodeo and cowboys come from all over western Canada and the United States. The cowboys are all looking for points which will qualify them to go to the Canadian finals that are held in Edmonton.

Saturday’s program started off with a horse sale. Horses are not in great demand right now and the auctioneer had a hard time getting much money for them. Some colts and yearlings sold for as little as $100 each. Some good mares brought $200 each or close to that. A few well-broken horses reached $500 and up. Many of the better horses were passed out of the ring. Is the horse losing out in western cattle country? Today many ranchers are using motor cycles, recreation vehicles, four-wheel-drive trucks and tractors to herd and gather their cattle. On our ranch Lloyd still uses the saddle horse. I believe that he is in a minority position. Whatever the reason, the horses did not bring their owners much money yesterday at the rodeo sale. I heard on the television a few days ago that a horse slaughtering plant in eastern Saskatchewan had gone broke. Will the horse make a come back again? I would like to think so but it looks to me that the cowboys are now using them mostly at the rodeos and trail rides.

After the horse sale, a cowboy singing and poetry program was held in the McCord community hall and there was also a home craft exhibit plus food and ranch supplies. At 7 p. m. the rodeo started in the hockey arena. The rodeo was excellent. Many of the top cowboys from western Canada and northern United States were there with their stock. The cowboys performed very well. Friends of mine from Virden, Manitoba, Clare and Betty Hicks, picked me up and gave me a ride to McCord. I caught a ride home with my brother Carl Anderson.

With the horse sale, the cowboy poetry, the exhibits, food and the rodeo, it was a very good day with much visiting. Harvesting is nearly over in our area and there were lots of people out enjoying the day.

October 5, 2008

These past several days have been very busy ones for our ranch. The annual Mankota yearling sale was held on Friday October 5. We have been selling our yearling steers at this sale since the 1970’s and we have done well there. It is rancher owned and rancher managed.

On Wednesday, my neighbor Bill Iwanicki drove me over to the Big Muddy ranch. I helped Ryan and his family round up the yearling steers and heifers that would be trucked over to Mankota on Thursday and sorted into various groups for the sale. The roundup at the ranch went very well. Ryan’s wife, Carla, himself and three of his children were all out on horseback helping. I stayed at the ranch overnight and at 7 a. m the first of three freightliner trucks arrived to haul the cattle to Mankota. Mine were the first to be loaded and I rode with the trucker to Mankota. The two other trucks with Ryan’s yearlings came right after.

In the meantime, Lloyd, his wife Nyla, their son Chay and a neighbor Pete Jenkins were all herding Lloyd and Nyla’s steers into Mankota with the use of saddle horses. After the cattle were all in the stockyards, Lloyd and the others sorted them into groups ready for the sale the next day. On Friday at 12 noon the sale started. There were 2,700 yearling steers and heifers sold this day.

With the cattle movement to the United States going smoothly now and with our dollar value lower, many of the cattle producers were looking for a better price. It did not happen. There were good order buyers at the sale but the market did not increase. My steers weighed an average of 800 and sold for about $1 per pound. Ordinarily, this would be a good price, but, with the high cost of all of the inputs, it is not enough for many producers who have debts. With all of the confusion over world finance, we could be in for some tough times. The 2,700 yearlings that sold were in excellent condition, the overall weight was good and people were hoping for the best.

I expect to see a lot of cattle sold off the ranches and farms in the next few years if the grain prices stay up. Help is hard to get and wages are so high that it is difficult or impossible for ranchers to compete for help. Lloyd does okay. His youngest son, Chay, is still at home and the older boys come home from university and help on weekends.

October 12, 2008

Yesterday I rode south to one of our cow pastures and watched Lloyd and his sons sort out about 125 steer calves and their mothers from a herd of about 250 cows and calves He will be herding the steer calves and their mothers up to a pasture that was oats, hay and rye crops that are harvested. This area has a lot of second growth and has natural springs and coulees. Lloyd wants the steer calves to get the better grazing. The heifer calves and their mothers will be kept on the summer range until December, if it is an open fall.

It is a pleasure to see Lloyd and his two sons cut their cattle out. There is very little running of the cattle, just the riders moving in and out slowly with their saddle horses. Steers and their mothers are going one way while the heifer calves and their mothers are going in another direction. All sorting is done on the open range by the three riders and good saddle horses; all know what to do. They sorted out the cattle in about two hours. It is impossible to do this with machines or dogs.

Later on today, I will be going down to Glasgow, Montana where my grandson Donald from Kamloops, British Columbia and myself will get on the Amtrack railroad. We will be starting out for a trip which will take us to Chicago, New York, Toronto, Calgary and then back home. We will travel by railroad and by airplane. A full report will follow.

Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.



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