23 January 1998

Cattle are top dollar in this Canada ranch

PRODUCING beef at the lowest cost in Canada is the claim of British Columbias biggest ranchs manager.

Joe Gardner told the conference delegates the 0.2m ha (0.5m acre) ranch had four enterprises, the most profitable of which was cattle, producing 56% of its revenue.

At any one time there could be 19,000 head of cattle on the ranch, including 7000 suckler cows, 550 bulls, 1500 replacement heifers and 6300 calves.

These were managed in 3200-4000ha (8000-10,000-acre) fields by 11 full-time cowboys in winter and 23 cowboys in summer, all on horses.

"Production is low cost because we dont have to supplement cows much. Cows graze until Jan 8 and then graze again from the end of February, so are fed for less than 60 days a year," said Mr Gardner.

Cattle did not come inside in winter but were fed within fences in groups of about 500 cows, near feed stocks and where a water hole could be chopped in the ice. The farm made about 14,000t of hay, or its equivalent in hay and silage depending on season.

Early spring grazing was 7-8% protein and very dry but could support cows without supplements, he added.

Cows were Herefords or Black Angus cross Herefords, which were served by Hereford, Angus or Charolais sires.

About 75 bulls a year are bought, at different sales each year to keep the sellers guessing and ensure prices were not increased for the ranch, he added.

Replacements heifers were selected on weight for age and conformation at weaning, and calved at two years old.