A local livestock producer has received province-wide recognition for his efforts to improve the environment through his methods and handling.
The Hjertaas family, past and present, have farmed in the Redvers area for over a century, and have certainly seen the massive advancements in agriculture technology through that time. However, sometimes the old ways turn out the best, as the clan has found. Blain recently was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Stock Grower's Association TESA (The Environmental Stewardship Award) for his operation, an experience that Blain Hjertaas calls, "humbling."
"Our whole farm was sowed back to grass about 20 years ago. We raise cattle, and about 10 years ago our son and daughter in law joined the operation and they raise sheep. What we do is, virtually every day through the growing season, we're moving animals across the landscape," he says.
They use 'Holistic Planned Grazing', where the animals are on a piece of land for one day, then moved to another plot. This leaves the previous spot a chance to recover over 70-100 days. The origins of this method trace back to the time of the buffalo.
"(It's) been around for eons. When you think about the bison, grazing here in North American before we came, they didn't graze sedentary like we graze today. They grazed tightly together because there were predators around, called buffalo wolves. If the bison spread out, the buffalo wolves would get them, so the animals had to stay tightly packed together. They would eat the whole area off very quickly, there were no fences to hold them so they continually moved across the prairies. The only existing herds doing that today are the wildebeest herds in Tanzania and Kenya, we've all probably seen nature shows about how they move and how the lions and hyenas and so on keep them constantly moving and tightly bunched together."
"Basically, what we're doing with planned grazing is mimicking that very system," Hjertaas explains.
"It makes for wonderful places for wildlife to live, insects to live, and all sorts of biodiversity starts to happen. Plus, in the process of doing that, we are very good at sequestering carbon into the soil."
He points to recent world calls to act on global warming, and advocates that the planned grazing is an excellent way to do just that. To boot, certain studies have shown that the beef from a grass fed bovine can be healther for the consumer than grain fed. Once set up, the system is less time consuming, the animals are healthier, and there's more profit to be made due to the increased grass per acre.
Hjertaas adds that he hopes his grandchildren will take up the torch and carry the operation on in time.