MiG Brochures

Tri-fold brochures have been finalized and printed!
The brochure includes a summary of basic principles of intensive management (MiG) as well as the potential benefits of switching to this management style. Brochures have been distributed to some Kamloops stores (Purity Feed and the Horse Barn) as well as at the Climate Action Initiative Workshop held in Kelowna earlier in December (2015).brochure pg1brochure pg2

Workshop: Management-intensive Grazing in the Central Interior of BC

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On September 8th I hosted a day-long workshop on Management-intensive Grazing (MiG) for the Central Interior region of BC. The day began at the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Williams Lake campus where we conducted the indoor portion of the workshop. Initially, I provided the group with background information on the principles of MiG. Later we divided into 3 smaller groups, each of which tackled a set of questions based on one of three categories; Economics, Ecosystem Services and Climate Change. This was followed by a short group discussion and a delicious catered lunch. Afterwards, the group reconvened at a nearby ranch in 150 Mile House (Clint and Karen Thompson’s, San José Cattle Co.) to participate in a field tour. During the tour, I demonstrated the sampling procedures used in my Master’s research (comparing soil carbon levels between intensively managed pastures and conventional ones). The group also learned the basics of portable electric fencing from Clint Thompson, who uses these resources on a daily basis as well as supplying electric fencing equipment to many ranchers in the area. The day finished off with a soil pit which I used to identify different soil horizons and properties important to the study of soil health.

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In total, the workshop received an excellent turnout of 25 individuals. A short questionnaire was handed out at the beginning of the workshop. Based on this questionnaire, it was determined that about 60% of those in attendance were ranchers and 40% were not (many of these being from the Ministry of Forests and Range). Of the ranchers in attendance, about 50% currently practice MiG on their ranches, while the other half do not.

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The primary objectives of the workshop were as follows:

  1. Determine which principles of grazing management are practical and effective ion our region, and which require modification (based on different climates and conditions)
  1. Tie all of this together from a climate change adaptation and mitigation perspective
  1. Develop the framework for a document guiding effective and sustainable ranch management in the BC interior.

One of the main topics discussed included carbon marketing as an incentive for ranchers to actively try and increase the amount of soil carbon in their pastures through improved management practices. MiG was widely believed to help accomplish this, though limitations were identified; primarily water management.

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The concern regarding water management was raised for both supporting plant growth (irrigation, etc.), and for consumption by cattle. This hit home especially due to the drier than usual conditions experienced in the Cariboo region this past growing season. However, MiG was also proposed as one of the means in which ranchers can improve moisture retention in their pastures if it can increase organic matter in the soil. Another solution proposed to help reduce water loss from forage crops was the incorporation of trees and shrubs to reduce evaporation and transpiration from exposure to sun and wind.

Another limitation presented regarding MiG was the high input of labour. Although several other input costs (haying equipment, fertilizer, etc.) may be reduced by implementing this form of management, it is also important to consider the cost of labour involved in the day-to-day operations of managing cattle intensively. However, the point was also raised that by working closely with the cattle on a daily basis, there is the opportunity for much greater control over the impacts of cattle grazing on plant health (leaving residual growth, allowing plant recovery time, etc.). Furthermore, it is an effective means to monitor animal behaviour and health quite closely.

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Another principle of MiG which was identified to have some inherent limitations was based on matching herd size to the level of plant productivity. In other words, increasing herd size during peak plant productivity, and reducing herd size when forage becomes more scarce. This herd number flexibility was identified to sound effective in theory, but may be difficult to implement effectively in the Central Interior.

From a climate change perspective, several strategies were discussed that may increase a rancher’s ability to adapt and be more resilient to changes. Many of these strategies are linked to MiG practices, including bale grazing to increase organic matter on less productive sites (increasing nutrients and moisture retention), managing invasive species via high stocking densities, stockpiling forage to reduce the amount of hay fed during winter months, and increasing biodiversity of plants and animals.

Ultimately, the need for education was in the forefront throughout the workshop. Not only for the ranching community, but also those who can and should be supporting local ranchers who put in the extra effort to raise animals in an ethical and sustainable way. Furthermore, it was highlighted that being a successful rancher ought to be a continual learning process. Like any other industry, things are constantly changing and new technologies and information is being made available. It is therefore important to continue the pursuit of knowledge and try new things rather than simply always doing things in the same traditional ways.

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The informational brochure(s) produced based on this workshop (and the workshop itself) will help to achieve this. However, it was suggested that events such as this continue to occur within the community, and focus should also be directed towards educating the younger generations.

When asked “What potential barriers are there preventing ranchers from adopting MiG?” the group provided the following list: water, man-power, fencing (electric fencing is unfamiliar to many), paradigms (resistance to change) and time (MiG requires commitment to cattle movement on a regular basis).

Those present indicated that the main reasons why MiG ranchers have made the switch? Were as follows: economics (to be profitable), better use of the land base (greater productivity on same land-base), improved quality and growth of forage, long-term sustainability and reduced dependency on mechanical equipment and fuel.

Ultimately, the ranchers concluded that regardless of the name placed on a particular management style, the guiding principles for a successful ranching operation should be the following: be profitable and sustainable, with healthy plants, animals and soil while maintaining a rancher’s passion and personal well-being for their lifestyle.

Now that the workshop is complete, the next steps in the process are to a) create informational brochures for the public (one for producers and one for the consumer) and b) to continue research on the impacts of grazing management on soil carbon (as this relates to climate change adaptation and mitigation). To obtain more definitive results, the next step for this research project is to initiate controlled grazing trials that will help isolate the effects of grazing management on soil carbon. However in order to achieve this, we are looking for ranchers who would be interested in collaborating with us. This will require commitment on both sides, as we would be asking ranchers to alter the way they might normally graze their land.

If you would like to find out more about my research or MiG in general, feel free to contact myself by email at: daniel-denesiuk@tru.ca

The soil carbon monitoring workshop hosted by Peter Donovan (Soil Carbon Coalition)

On June 8th of this year, I helped host a soil carbon monitoring workshop delivered by Peter Donovan of the soil carbon coalition (http://soilcarboncoalition.org/). The soil carbon coalition is a non-profit organization with the main goal of increasing how much carbon is in the soil, and places its primary focus on grazing lands, as they can be extremely responsive to shifts in management practices. Peter was accompanied and assisted by his friend and associate, Didi Pershouse.
The workshop consisted of two parts, the first was theory based and was held at the TRU campus in Kamloops. This portion was about two and a half hours long and covered various social and environmental issues relating to carbon cycling, with focus on increasing carbon levels in ranchland soils. The second component of the workshop was a field sampling demonstration, with participation by those in attendance. The field portion was held at a nearby ranch (in Barnhartvale). The importance of simple yet consistent and effective sampling methods was emphasized, as it is necessary to accurately measure carbon changes over time (with the goal of increasing).
We were very lucky to be able to visit the ranch of a former TRU graduate, Percy Folkard, who has very recently purchased the ranch and has plans to implement Management-intensive Grazing practices and improve the health of the land.
The flyer was emailed to specific ranchers, posted on the BC Cattlemen’s website, shared on farming/ranching Facebook group webpage, as well as geography and Natural Resource Science (NRS) Facebook groups for Thompson Rivers University. I also reached out to TRU professors as well as other associates attending TRU.
Although several avenues were taken in advertising this workshop to the public, notice was relatively short, and many individuals who expressed interest were unable to make it. In total, there were 10 participants, which was quite conducive to group discussions relating to a variety of topics, including our understanding of the carbon cycle. The 10 individuals involved in the workshop ranged from working ranchers to academics as well as those merely interested in learning more about soil carbon.
All-in all, the workshop was a success and all in attendance were grateful to Peter and Didi for volunteering their time and knowledge to improving our understanding of the soil carbon cycle and what we can do to monitor and hopefully improve soil carbon locally.

Percy Folkard generously offered to let us sample on his ranch

Percy Folkard generously offered to let us sample on his ranch

Doing an infiltration test

Doing an infiltration test

Peter pounding a section of aluminum pipe into the soil for infiltration test

Peter pounding a section of aluminum pipe into the soil for infiltration test

Peter Donovan

Peter Donovan

Soil Carbon Monitoring Workshop

Dan is helping host a workshop with a soil scientist from Oregon (from the Soil Carbon Coalition). If you’re interested in learning about soil sampling, measuringsoil carbon change, etc. it would be great if you could make it out to TRU this coming Sunday (June 7th). We’ll be meeting in the International Building (IB) room 1014 at 9:30 am. After the theory session we’ll be heading to a ranch in Barnhartvale to demonstrate a soil carbon sampling regime. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about it!

Video for Catherine Potvin’s “Researcher in the Field ” series

Dr. Catherine Potvin, professor at McGill University, is a plant biologist interested in land use and the protection of land for the people who live in or from them. She has developed a ‘Researcher in the Field’ video series with 3 areas of focus: 1) climate change, 2) impact of changing climates, and 3) points out to solutions.

We submitted a video clip to be a part of her “Researcher in the Field” series. Watch the video, produced by Sam Numsen at Shaw TV Kamloops, to learn more about our research:

The Cariboo Cattlemen Association Field Tour was a success!

On September 18th & 19th 2014, a field tour took place at Redl Ranch. Topics included: electric fencing equipment/methods and livestock watering devices (for winter grazing), a special presentation by Dr. Lauchlan Fraser and his grad student Dan Denesiuk who presented on soil carbon sequestration as it relates to ranching, and Dr. George Powell discussed nutrient management.

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From left to right: Dan Denesiuk, Travis Redl, and George Powell presenting

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An engaging group discussion

68th Annual Society for Range Management Meeting

On January 31st, I will be heading to Sacramento, CA, USA for the 68th Annual Society for Range Management Meeting. Myself and my colleagues — Wendy Gardner, Aaron Coelho, and Lauchlan Fraser — will be presenting our research at the meeting. I am displaying a poster, “Grazing Management as a Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Strategy”.

Keep posted for an update about the SRM Meeting.

-Dan