Here is some background on how I came to think the way I do. In January 2000, before we began farming, my wife and I attended a Holistic Resource Management (HRM) course. That summer we started grazing hogs, cattle, laying hens, turkeys, and horses. At the course, we were taught to keep our costs as low as possible.
Following this thinking, we didn’t build any permanent fence or water systems; we built temporary paddocks and hauled water daily. Although we were in awesome shape, the labour involved was crazy!
Easy for Young Hands
In 2001, my friend’s twelve-year-old daughter Heather and her thirteen-year-old friend Tiffany came to stay with us for the summer. Since our system was so labour intensive, it was very difficult for the two girls to help in a meaningful way. By the end of our second season, I realized we needed to do things differently.
Heather and Tiffany came for the next several summers. Each summer, we had to simplify our daily chores. Everything had to be constructed so that the girls could handle it, which made the chores easy for us as well.
The first thing we simplified was water delivery. Our HRM instructor showed us the old water truck he used to haul water to his cow herd. He and his HRM friends competed to have the oldest truck to haul water. Following suit, we built a deck on the frame of an old hay rack and mounted a 1250-gallon plastic tank on it. This was quite labour intensive to use because the wagon had to be brought up to the house, filled, then hauled back to the herd. The float used to fill the water trough was home-made (another piece of HRM advice) and frequently leaked, which created a mud hole and caused us to refill the tank often. Something had to be done to improve our water system.
The provincial government offered a grant for water pipeline, so I planned out a pipeline system to distribute water on the entire 373 acres we owned. At the time, 1¼-inch polyethylene pipe was all we required to supply water. This did work great for several years, until we started to expand.
The next project we tackled was permanent fencing. We started out hand-pounding ¾-inch rebar posts, then stringing high tensile wire. At the time, rebar was cheaper than wood posts and we didn’t require a post-pounder. However, there were always issues with the wire grounding out on the steel posts, which created more labour. After a few years I realized wood posts were the way to go.
Based on a Way of Thinking
I share our early years only to demonstrate that we tried a number of things before we arrived at the template I now use and recommend. However, it is really a way of thinking that has evolved to get to a system where a twelve-year-old or an eighty-year-old can ranch effectively.