… livestock offer a “resilient long-term solution to agriculture profitability, productivity and climate change”… 



Cattle seen as agriculture’s long-term solution

A producer’s research determines that farmers can improve the ecosystem by increasing forage and grazing positively


By Karen Briere, The Western Producer (Canada)

January 7, 2021


Nuffield scholar Ryan Boyd says Western Canada is missing a huge opportunity by not incorporating more cattle into farming systems.


Boyd, who operates a mixed farm near Forrest, Man., said his observations from travel around the world last year show that livestock offer a “resilient long-term solution to agriculture profitability, productivity and climate change.”


Boyd went to the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Nuffield Canada Scholarship is a rural leadership program available to people involved in agriculture.


“It was a really enlightening experience,” he said during a Farm Forum presentation.


His family operation was on the regenerative path, focusing on reducing inputs and working in concert with nature, he said.


But a few dry years challenged that. The travel allowed him to step back and look at possibilities, he said.


“I don’t think I learned anything that’s going to shatter the world, but it just reinforced some of the things that I’ve come to notice and see at home,” Boyd said.


By that he means the opportunity to have more cattle on the land.


He said increasing forage and grazing positively affects the ecosystem. He noticed that in Mexico, where flood irrigation is required in the desert, and Brazil, which receives metres of rainfall each year.


In Australia, he said, it was obvious where good grazing management was employed as the east coast region came out of a drought.


“It was good to see those extremes and see just how the subtleties of management can have a major effect,” Boyd said.


He said water is an easier concept to grasp than carbon.


“To get more water into the soil you need more carbon,” he said. “And how do we do that? We grow a diversity of plants.”


Water infiltration, and storing water on the farm instead of getting rid of it as fast as possible in the spring, is important, he said.


Boyd said his travels led him to think that he needs to spend more time and focus on marketing.


“We have about 400 cows that calve, and that many yearlings, and a bunch of bulls as well and we’re doing that on a couple thousand acres of perennial forage and about 1,000 acres of cash crop land,” he said.


“In our spot in that acreage the potential to improve on our bottom line with an extra emphasis on marketing is great indeed.”


The Boyds employ a strip-grazing system using poly-wire. The cattle are given a quarter-acre to half-acre at a time and are moved four to five times a day...