Tamara Ranch is an amazing hub for those wanting to nerd out on gardening and grazing! Home to Prairie Pastured Gold Meats, Field to Fork Pasture Poultry and Steel Pony Farms we had a jam-packed tour with these amazing farmers.
“I like to describe a garden tour like coming to a party. If you come and tour it in the late fall, its a bit like coming to the party at 2am when things are winding down and you’re crawling over sleepy people to find a place to sit and can scarcely find a beer around. When you come in June, its like coming to a party at 2 in the afternoon. The party guests haven’t arrive and things are just getting set up.” – Mike Kozlowski, Steel Pony Farm.
Mike has been trying out a new approach to data management and work flows on the farm this year. Working with Jody Marshall, Mike has been looking at productivity and improving processes on his farm.To learn more about Jody’s approach check out a recent presentation from Alberta Agriculture here. Mike has developed a systems designed for tracking what different crops need when that staff can easily access and visualize.
Mike also demo-ed some his spring weed management techniques including his flame weeder and his Williams Tool System seen above. YA apprentice, Mackenzie, showed us how they use this for in-row cultivation in their onion crop.
From brooding to butchering, if you want to know about pasture poultry, Sven from Field to Fork is your guy. Sven shared his experience over the past 3 years raising broilers on pasture at Tamara Ranch. His pens and management approaches are modelled on Joel Salatin’s techniques found in Pasture Poultry Profits but Sven talked about how he has adapted things to work in our climate. Sven gave great us some tips like getting his chicks in cooler spring weather since its easier to bring the temperature up than try to cool the chickens down if it gets too hot. He also tries to give the chicks access to pasture as soon as possible if the weather is cooperating which starts to get them ready for moving out to their pasture pens, seen above.
Blake Hall of Prairie Gold Pastured Meats was in his element teaching about grazing management. Blake worked through how to do a ranch inventory to assess how much forage you have, how determine how much feed your herd requires and then deciding on your paddock size and how often you will move your herd around your ranch. Blake shared that in the last year, they had a big break through when they started planning based on managing for winter grazing needs rather than summer grazing needs. This mean they will hopefully be grazing longer into the the winter and earlier in the spring with stock pilled grass, which greatly reduces their winter hay cost.
Here, the YA Apprentices are calculating forage inventory through a tool from Land EKG that uses clippings from a 93″ ring and takes you through dry matter and utilization calculations to get lbs/acre of forage. With the year we are having, Blake is aiming for about 30% of his forage so that he can keep the plant in a vegetative state but still leave plenty of plant left for more photosynthesis and growth.
Next, came the first ever YA Apprenticeship Grazing Olympics. Apprentices competed in ring-top javelin (seen above), trivia, cattle calls, and an electric fence set up race to compete for two grazing sticks, a bird house and their name on the Grazing Olympics Golden Fencing Pliers Trophy.
With home-turf advantage Josh (apprentice at Prairie Gold Pastured Meats) and Mackenzie (apprentice at Steel Pony Farm) took home the prize. The other apprentices were strong contenders and the competition was tight. All will be sure to bring their top game to the next one!