Ranchers are the original Environmentalists.

Regenerative Farming and Pasture Grazing Practices

Canada produces some of the most premium beef in the world and we are proud to showcase what our local farms and ranches do differently!

We choose to partner with the top producers in the Province based on specific criteria.

Our top priority is and always will be animal welfare. We believe – above all – that livestock animals are entitled to the best quality of life possible. All of the cattle and pork purchased through our site have been given free range to roam the pastures of the Prairies and are not confined to feedlots. None of our product contains any added growth hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. In some cases, our partners, like High River Chicken guarantee their meat as fully Raised Without Antibiotics. You can be confident in your product choices by looking for these  symbols on each individual producer page:

Regenerative Farming practices are the second core value that makes The Craft Beef Co unique – and it is something we feel very strongly about. Most of you have heard of “Sustainable” agriculture but we feel that “Regenerative” takes things a big step further.

Ranchers are the original Environmentalists. Farmers and Ranchers care for the land because they know that healthy cattle starts with healthy soils and grasses. To get and keep the pastures healthy, ranchers must think of them like the ecosystems that they are. They need microorganisms, clean water, plant food and natural wildlife, like deer and insects. All of these things must remain in a delicate balance and done properly, cattle can enhance it by providing the much-needed manure and grazing. This leads to carbon sequestration and many other positive environmental impacts.

The thought from many people today is that by removing cattle from certain areas, we reduce the environmental impact and make those natural areas healthier. Scientists and grazing experts are proving that theory wrong! Cattle are an integral part of managing forest fires, water management, fish & wildlife habitats and much more. We highly recommend this Ted Talk from Allan Savory on desertification and using grazing management to unwind global climate change.

One philosophy, which is still prevalent today, is to graze a pasture right down to the dirt because grass is food and the longer the cows graze, the less the rancher has to manually feed expensive feeds through the winter months. The problem with this old way of doing things is that the soil is not the priority and when the soil is stripped year after year, we are not contributing to carbon sequestration and we are not allowing the build up of organic matter. By removing too much grass, we also remove the ability for those grasses to act as funnels for water, capturing it into the soil. When pastures are over-grazed and soil is left exposed, rain water struggles to soak into the top soil and tends to run-off into streams, rivers and other waterways – often taking the top soil and manure with it. This is what we refer to as “water erosion”. Nitrogen run-off happens when too much manure and urine is carried by water and gets pulled into waterways, farm wells, and other places that it shouldn’t. Maintaining grass on the land at the end of grazing season also captures the nitrogen in the soil and greatly reduces the risk of nitrogen run-off.

Organic matter is one of the most important parts of the soil composition. It could most easily be compared to the soil you might have in your garden. It is rich, black earth that holds moisture and nutrients but also releases it again for plant use. A heavy clay soil binds nutrients and water and restricts their ability to be used by plants and a sandy soil holds very little water or nutrients. Organic matter comes from the decomposition of leaves, grasses and manure. All of these things get broken down and contribute to building up top soil and taking carbon from the atmosphere with it, as well. The composted materials (organic matter) then cycle nutrients back into the roots of the plants, stimulating a healthier, moisture rich environment.

Organic matter stores an impressive amount of water. An increase of 1% in organic matter can increase water holding capacity per acre by 40,000 – 90,000 Litres! On a 60 acre pasture, that increases water storage capacity of 2.6 – 5.4 Million litres of water with only a 1% increase in organic matter! This is key to drought management, wildfire management and so much more. But in order to capture that water and not have it run-off with water erosion, ranchers must not over-graze.

Cattle Ranchers are typically grazing pastures that are not adept to grain farming. The ground is too rocky or the land is too steep, with hills and valleys that make it impossible for use as commercial grain land. These areas are typically “waste” areas that are not useful for anything other than wildlife habitats or grazing. Regenerative Grazing can make use of these lands while maintaining wildlife habitats and fisheries and actually work to enhance them. When cattle graze, they stomp the grasses and add manure and urine to the soil. These actions help to not only fertilize the land for healthier grass growth but they also push the grass stalks into the soil, the way bison would have naturally done a century ago. By pushing the stalks down, they cover the soil and prevent erosion, they allow bugs and other microbes to breakdown the plant material and they promote faster regeneration of new grass growth. Grass, whether standing or flattened, also helps to funnel rain water to the roots of the plants and into the soil.

Many of our partnering farms also use a technique called a poly-crop. Rather than intentionally growing a field of a single plant variety (barley, corn, oats, etc.) they choose to grow a mixture of nearly a dozen plants in the same field. They then cut these grasses and plants around September and lay them into rows, called “windrows”. The cattle then are given access to small sections of the fields at a time throughout the winter and graze these windrows. This is a fantastic technique to assist in environmental management and builds the organic matter in the soil very quickly. The plants are usually a mixture of grasses like, oats, triticale, beans, peas, sunflowers, and many more and then also mixed with turnips and kale varieties. The turnips are fascinating! The cows eat the part of the turnip that is above ground but when spring comes, the turnips are food for microorganisms and worms. They are broken down quickly and leave little caverns under the soil surface. This naturally fights soil compaction by loosening the top layer as the turnips decompose. As it composts, it turns into organic matter (top soil).

It was thought for many years (and still thought by many today) that it takes a million years to create an inch of top soil. What our partnering ranches are proving is that it can happen much quicker than that! WR Grazing recently took part in a research study with Food Water Wellness to test carbon sequestration and organic matter over time with the grazing practices discussed here (pastures in the summer and poly-crop in the winter). They began with an organic matter content of approximately 3% in the 1990’s and have increased it to nearly 6% today.

The greatest catalyst to change is to influence it with your purchases. This means supporting local farms and ranches that are doing the right thing and are following techniques that put the environment first.

Healthy soils equal healthy cows and that makes the Best Beef!

 

The Craft Beef Company Ltd.

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