Site Background

About the Location

Mattheis Research Ranch is a 12,300-acre ranch located 25 kilometres north of Duchess, Alberta, at the junction of Hwy 36 and Hwy 556. Located within the Dry Mixedgrass Natural subregion of Alberta, the Mattheis Research Ranch is part of a large contiguous tract of rangeland with diverse topography, vegetation and wildlife.

The ranch is adjacent to the Red Deer River in the north and encompasses a creek, wetlands, vegetated sand hills and shrublands. It is made up of 10,000 native prairie Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) wetlands, 420 acres that are pivot irrigated, 200 acres of annual forage, riparian areas, 10 miles of shallow pipeline for water sources, 70 research sites used for comparison and numerous oil and gas wells.

About the Farm

Donated to the University of Alberta in 2010 by Edwin and Ruth Mattheis, the Mattheis Research Ranch is managed as a custom grazing operation. It is currently in its first generation at the university. Since the university acquired it in 2011, the ranch has been rotationally stocked with approximately 800 beef cattle for an average of six months each year, beginning in early May.

The university is conducting extensive grazing of the land base and monitoring livestock production at a research level. 

The Rotational Grazing Objective

The objective of the project is to move from a 20-day rotation to a five-day rotation.

Agronomic Details

The Mattheis Research Ranch covers approximately 5,000 hectares (ha), about 4,000 ha of which is native grassland, including loamy mixedgrass and sandgrass-dominated prairie, river coulee breaks and riparian areas.

Dominant grass species include needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata), Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and sand grass (Calamovilfa longifolia). The plant community also includes several forbs, such as pasture sage (Artemisia frigida) and scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea) and shrubs, including prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) and thorny buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea).

Irrigation-fed wetlands cover approximately 400 ha of the ranch. The water that circulates through these wetlands, most of which DUC created in 1952, is delivered to 250 ha of cultivated land that is used to grow winter cattle feed, spring grazing pasture and annual crops.

Irrigation water augments several of the property’s natural wetlands.

Other anthropogenic features on the ranch include high-voltage transmission lines, two provincial highways and an extensive network of oil and gas infrastructure.

Fencing and water installation will be completed in August and September, 2023, along with shallow-buried pipeline.

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.