Northern Grazing Workshops, Part II

By Emily Potter, Beef North Project Assistant

The month of August brought us to Manitoulin Island, Algoma, Sudbury and New Liskeard to host another series of grazing workshops with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). This time we were joined by the one and only Nancy Noecker (OMAFRA Calf and Heifer Specialist), Christine O'Reilly (the new OMAFRA Forage and Grazing Specialist), Megan Van Schaik (OMAFRA Beef Specialist), Barry Potter (OMAFRA Agriculture Development Advisor), Pierrette Desrochers (OMAFRA Agriculture Development Advisor), Christoph Wand (OMAFRA Livestock Sustainability Specialist) and Jim Johnston ("Grazing Guru").

Topics at the workshops included managing beef on pasture, low-stress cattle handling, pasture renovation, potential grass species mixtures to use, and mineral requirements on pasture. At the end of each workshop I had the opportunity to talk to the group about various Beef Farmers of Ontario activities, with a focus on the Beef North project.

Our first workshop was held on Barrie Island, which is part of Manitoulin Island. We went to two farms: John Featherstone's and Chris Pallister's. The first farm we stopped at did custom grazing of background cattle using a rotational strip grazing system. There seems to be a lot of custome grazing happening on Manitoulin Island, where people can pay based on number of head per day on grass. We spent some time looking at the handling facilities, where Nancy Noecker spoke about low-stress cattle handling. We ended the night with a tour of Chris Pallister's and a neighbouring cow-calf operation.

Our next workshop was held in Thessalon in the district of Algoma. We partnered with the Rural Ag-Innovation Network (RAIN) in Algoma and spent some time looking at their mulching trials. They planted some sorghum into the newly mulched areas and did some nitrogen fertilizer trials to determine the effect of mulching Alder trees (which provide nitrogen) into the ground. After this we moved over to the Algoma Community Pasture, where we talked about the best times to cattl cattle off pasture, mineral requirements and tile drainage.

The third workshop was held in Chelmsford near Sudbury. We visited Ken Burke's farm, where he is raising purebred Charolais. We spent a lot of time identifying weeks in pastures and hay fields, and talking about good grass and legume mixes for hay and forage.

Visiting Manitoulin Island, Algoma and Chelmsford gave me a new perspective on agriculture in the north as I had never been to those areas before. It was great to see what the farmers were doing in these areas and that there is potential for more beef there. The farmers were very welcoming and wanted people to know that there is opportunity there as well.

Our fourth and final workshop of the summer was held on my home turf, New Liskeard. We went to Jim Johnston's sheep and beef farm, where Jim showed us his operation and talked about different techniques to manage forages, rejuvinate pastures, and get the most out of your pastures. At the end, I talked about what I've been up to this summer while working for Beef Farmers of Ontario on the Beef North project.

Working the the OMAFRA staff on these grazing workshops has been a lot of fun and I have learned a lot about pasture management. If anyone has questions about beef or pasture management in the north, the OMAFRA staff are there to help. They even do farm visits!

Keep up with Northern Ontario OMAFRA staff by following them on Facebook here.

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