About the Location
Australian Ranch is located in Quesnel, British Columbia. Its landscape is river bench and flat cropland.
About the Farm
Owned and operated by Bob and Holley Yorston, Australian Ranch first saw cultivation on the farm in the 1860s. It has been Yorston owned since 1903 with 200 acres cleared at the time of purchased). Early farm income consisted of wood fibre for steamships, root vegetables and grain for miners in Barkerville as well as serving as a stagecoach stopping house known as Australian’s Place. In the early 1900s the farm produced cream, pork, beef, grain and up to 100 acres of potatoes. Seed potatoes were in high demand because the area was classified as one of the few disease-free areas. A stockyards was constructed in the late 1950s that had a capacity of a 1,000 head of weaned calves and the ranch has been primarily cow/calf since the mid 1980s.
Learning About Rotational Grazing
Rotational grazing is not a new concept. The Yorstons had tried splitting the pasture into two large paddocks with electric fencing in the late 1980s, but the cattle were not trained and the technology was much poorer. A mess of wire stretched across the farm, discouraging them from attempting rotational grazing for many decades. The BC Forage Council’s seminars and field days encouraged them to try again and recent funding availability helped them invest in some proper fencing equipment. Bob watched YouTube videos to help with efficiency and tries to be quicker every time he moves the wire.
Why Rotational Grazing is of Interest
Australian Ranch has overgrazed its private pastures and the carrying capacity has dropped by a third since the early 1990s. Extending the grazing season, and maybe even increasing their herd size is definitely a goal. Rotating the cattle also allows them to rejuvenate sections of the pasture.
Australian Ranch has had two large paddocks. The dryland is grazed in early season and then the irrigated section is grazed during the summer, providing continuous grazing. This summer, the Yorston’s moved their cattle weekly under the pivot irrigation. The would like to move them more frequently next grazing season. The cattle grazed paddocks every 30 days.
Ultimate Blend no-till seeding occurred July 5, 2023 with emergence occurring July 11. Water installation occurred July 5 while fencing was installed July 8.
The site had a herbicide treatment done in late May. The kill was complete, but Canadian thistle did re-emerge late summer.
Fifty cow/calf pairs were turned into the plot on Aug. 23. It took them a day to graze it off. The Canada Thistle was mowed off once all the desired forage was grazed. The cattle were then excluded until mid September and it has been continuously grazed since that time. Proposed site maintenance is still under debate. The Yorstons would like to re-establish with perennials.
Funding for this project [in part] has been provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Climate Solutions – On-Farm Climate Action Fund.