First Nations "Introduction to Beef Cattle Farming" Course at Collège Boréal

By Emily Potter, Project Assistant for Beef North

As part of Beef Farmers of Ontario’s “Beef North” project, a training course for First Nations people interested in beef farming has been developed in collaboration with Collège Boréal. The goal of the course is to enable participants to either “successfully integrate the labour force at a beef cattle production farm or consider the possibility of starting their own beef cattle enterprise,” according to the curriculum.

The course is specifically geared towards the Kashechewan First Nations people, who live in a community along the northern shore of the Albany River close to the James Bay coast. Due to regular flooding when the ice melts on the Albany River, the Kashechewan people are evacuated every year to Kapuskasing. The program is at maximum capacity with its 7 participants and they are very enthusiastic about the opportunity. They started this program with absolutely no knowledge of beef production, so everything is very new to them.

The 8-week course has 13 modules designed to cover every aspect of beef production, with both in-class and practical training at the Kapuskasing Demonstration Farm. The course began at the beginning of July, with the participants completing health and safety training. Throughout the course they will learn about herd management, genetic improvement, herd health, nutrition, crop production, pasture management, feedlot management, farm equipment maintenance and business planning. Andrew Gordanier, who runs the Kapuskasing Demonstration Farm, is very involved in the hands-on portion of the program. The participants are able to observe his farm and will be involved in different farm projects, such as fence building. At the Kapuskasing Demonstration Farm, Andrew raises cattle, dairy sheep, chickens and pigs. The participants are able to see a wide variety of agricultural practices on one farm.

I was invited to speak to participants about the Beef North project and my own farm as part of the course’s introduction. They had a lot of questions for me about the project, my farm and the beef industry in general. I spent the morning talking to them and then stayed for the afternoon, where they learned about managing a herd using stage of production and body condition score. They also toured the farm that afternoon and learned about Kapuskasing Meats, through which Andrew sells his own beef to the local community.

The day after, Jason Reid, who is from Thunder Bay and one of BFO’s Cow-Calf Directors, spent the morning talking to the group about BFO, how the beef industry works and his own farm. He explained the steps involved in producing beef, from cow-calf to finishing to the final product. That afternoon, Andrew took the group out to the pasture where he had different groups of cattle in rotation. He explained the differences between breeds of cattle and how to manage cattle based on body condition score.

The two days I spent with the program participants were great. When I asked them how they were liking the program so far, they all answered very enthusiastically and said they loved it. They are enjoying learning day by day. While there, they also taught me the Cree word for cow, which is “mistisu” (pronounced “mistoosh”). Hopefully this program will spark a long-lasting interest in agriculture for the participants and can be made available for others interested in entering the beef industry.

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