A cow nuzzles up to its baby calves on the Canyon Ranch near Alexis Creek.

A cow nuzzles up to its baby calves on the Canyon Ranch near Alexis Creek.

Column: Changes in the grasslands

Keeping up with changes in the cattle industry and preparing the next generation of ranchers are topics under discussion this weekend.

Keeping up with changes in the cattle industry and preparing the next generation of ranchers are topics under discussion this weekend in Penticton as the Annual meeting of the BC Cattlemen’s Association gets underway.

The day before is a day to hear from researchers who focus on matters of interest to ranchers.

This year the two main people we will hear from are Lauch Fraser of Thompson Rivers University who has looked into Carbon Sequestration on rangelands in BC and Nina von Keyserlingk who is one of the lead researchers at UBC (Vancouver) who has been analysing best practices for animal care and pain mitigation.

This is my favorite time seeing the green of the young range grasses as I passed through the Cache Creek/Kamloops corridor along the Thompson River. Particularly poignant is remembering Cherry Creek Ranch, just after the golf course at Tobiano.

Large intact grasslands were the mainstay of the ranch. Now, many parcels supporting hobby ranches and subdivisions have altered the landscape. This is one of the main threats to grasslands of BC.  Large ranches play a big part in grassland conservation as long as they keep operating.

Research undertaken has been examining how much carbon is sequestered under different grazing regimes. Hand held Instruments can measure carbon underground by the colour and reflection from the growing plants. Similarly, infrared type satellite imagery can measure carbon a well so large scale analyses can take place.

Intensive residential developments sprawling, often with their horses, can lead to overgrazing. Less carbon is stored under these conditions.

Driving past the older ranch buildings brought back memories of what kids do at play. For our part, fun was in the orchard when apples were ripe and we could feed the fallen fruit to happy finishing  pigs.

Of course (and I don’t recommend this), we would ride the bigger pigs if we could get  on them.  After being chased they would retreat into their low pig house.

So a brave cousin would go in and chase them out, hopefully slowly enough that the to be rider could drop onto the pig by straddling the door and getting down on the pig exactly at the right time.

They were going so fast the hair on their back would heat up our backsides and we would be on the ground. Pig Rodeo, at the pig’s expense! We were not supposed to do this and would catch heck if caught.

We like to try to be kinder to our pigs, for their sake and for those who wish to buy the pork.

Pigs, apples, horses, as well as cattle, were some of the diverse enterprises on the ranch.

Pheasant hunting was a favorite pastime of the men in the family and they were plentiful. The kids were like dogs flushing up the birds to be shot on the wing.

Visiting cousins at Cherry Creek Ranch was the highlight of the summer and fall.

Generations later, cousins are doing the same thing at our ranch. They haven’t been caught riding pigs yet. I hope they don’t do what we did!

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.

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