Green Ranching

I’m always intrigued by new ways of using technology to improve farming, and with the latest buzz being about sustainability and environmental responsibility, I did a little research into some new trends. What I found was pretty interesting, and I’m still learning and trying to understand some of it (a scientist I am not).  I’m pretty intrigued by two ideas and interestingly enough they are on different ends of the spectrum – one is taking ranching into the future, and the other is returning to grassroots ideas.

So cool idea #1 – Have you ever heard the saying “Making honey out of dog #$*&”? Now you can make electricity from refuse – specifically manure. Manure makes gas, which is then converted into electricity. Methane never smelled so good. If you take a look at this ranch’s site, you’ll see how they use the manure from their cows to create enough electricity to completely power their own operation – and then some.  There’s been a lot of development in this area over the last few years; I hope other Canadian operations will soon follow suit! 

As Spring Creek puts it: When you work with a live inventory that keeps eating and growing everyday, challenges are a fact of life; they also present a heap of opportunity.  Case in point, cattle produce manure; crop production results in organic waste…It simply makes sense to renew the resources that sustain our family and community – today and well into the future.

I’m guessing this is a pretty expensive venture to set up, and yes there are manufacturing considerations for fuel cells etc. but one would hope there would also be grants available to assist. What a renewable resource! Everybody poops! Holy Cow!

The other cool idea is one I came across researching some areas in Southern Alberta. I found one particular operation that’s kickin’ it old skool when it  comes to methods. The OH Ranch takes conservation very seriously – through a Heritage Rangeland Designation and Conservation Easements. What does that mean? I’m going to snag the explanation from the OH Ranch Site:

For the OH Ranch, the public grazing land portions of the Longview and Pekisko sections of the ranch are now designated as heritage rangeland. The heritage rangeland designation helps protect about 10,200 acres (41.28 square kilometers) of public land that has consistently been ranched under grazing leases by the OH Ranch. The designation helps preserve a way of life through the continuation of traditional ranching practices that have stewarded and managed sensitive native prairies in southern Alberta for generations.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a private landowner and a qualified land trust which limits the amount and type of development that can occur on a property. Easements are negotiated to preserve the natural character of the land, and its ecological integrity, scenic values and/or scientific and educational potential. The OH Ranch is working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Southern Alberta Land Trust Society on conservation easements for their Longview and Pekisko ranch lands, and with Ducks Unlimited on easements for he Dorothy and Bassano ranch lands. The easements will be registered against the land title, ensuring that current and future owners manage he land according to terms of the easements.

The other term you’ll see here is “traditional ranching practices”. Since its inception in 1883, the OH Ranch has always operated using traditional methods. Today, cowboys continue to ride the range, moving cattle and doctoring sick animals in the open field by roping from horseback. While the ranch owns trucks and other equipment, horses are still the primary mode of transportation on the ranch and continue to be used for such tasks as packing fencing supplies, minerals and salt and protein blocks. The OH Ranch is one of the few large cattle outfits in North America which continues to be operated utilizing historic methods.

It’s really interesting to see ranchers come up with new ways of preserving the environment and staying sustainable in an economic climate that is anything but farmer-friendly.

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9 thoughts on “Green Ranching”

  1. Fascinating blog, Donna. I’m all for green ranching, anything that helps the environment. The way animals are treated in some of these huge operations makes me sad. I try to buy from producers that treat them more humanely, but that isn’t always easy. Glad traditional ranching is still practiced in some places.

  2. Great post, Donna. I think that when it comes to agriculture, the way of the future is, in many cases, a return to the way of the past, but creative new technologies are terrific adjuncts to that.

  3. Speaking as someone who lives on a ranch, ranchers are all incredible conservationists. And they don’t really need laws to tell them to be. Preserving the land so it continues to support your cattle is economically so obvious that all ranchers do it without being told. If they don’t, they’re out of business fast.
    Love the stories about the manure–now there’s a strange statement.
    … and the land preservation.

  4. Donna, this is so interesting. I had no idea ranchers were using plain old manure to make money and help the environment. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised though since pioneers collected buffalo and cow chips to make a fire when nothing else was available.

    Congratulations on your new book.

  5. Great post, Donna. With the number of farms and ranches in our countries and the amount of rectal output from the creatures being raised, farm and ranch areas should be able to greatly reduce their dependance on fossil fuels. We should all be looking for alternatives to oil and nuclear power plants. Wind and solar do not add pollutants to the environments. Manure will give off methane gas whether we are trapping it for use or letting it pollute the air. Landfills can also be tapped for the methane they give off. The initial investment may be large, but in the long run, the cost to the environment and our pocketbooks will be reduced.

    There is a program here in the US similar to the one you mentioned to keep parcels of private land in their natural state and free from development. Can’t remember the name to look up the details.

  6. Thanks everyone, glad you stopped by!

    As a farm girl – not livestock, but horticulture – I marvel at how practices have changed over the years. Some things remain the same, but there have been many changes from when I was a girl. Good changes in a lot of ways, I think. I know the way I thought back then is very different from how I think now. I think there is a greater sense of stewardship and that’s wonderful.

  7. Great post, Donna. When we bought our 1/4 section back in ’99, the land was used to chemicals. It took years before we could certify the farm as chem-free, but now both the 104 acres under cultivation as well as the 40 acre pasture are certified organic. It’s nice to know that if I baled my flax straw I could make a straw house – a safe, warm house free of chemicals – and one to last 100 yrs. I could use geothermal for heat and wind and solar power. So we may not be on the same scale as the ranches you mentioned, but it’s amazing what smaller farms can do toward sustainability.

    And thanks for the tip about the OH Ranch, Donna. I’m going to check it out… I need to do some research on ranching…

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