Common sense environmental practices and strong community leadership have earned a central Alberta feedlot the Alberta Cattle Commission’s (ACC) highest award for stewardship. Don and Carol Curtice, owners of Little Red Feeders Ltd., are the recipients of the 2002 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA).
Little Red Feeders Ltd. is a 4,000-head capacity feedlot operating beside the Little Red Deer River southwest of Innisfail. The third-generation cattle operation began as a mixed farm before gradually evolving into a full fledged feedlot and bull test station.
As an older feedlot, it was not designed to today’s strict engineering standards. With a strong desire to protect the environment, Don had to come up with remedial solutions to the potential of feedlot runoff reaching the river.
"Our first goal was to ensure that any water leaving our land was not contaminated by our feedlot or farming operation," says Don. "So we developed a water treatment system based on natural ecosystems to remove nutrients. We constructed a settling pond to trap runoff which then successively filters through a constructed marsh/wetland, perennial forage floodable meadow, grass filter strips and a floodable forest filter strip."
Don felt the system was working but wanted research data to back up his assertions. That led to a partnership with the University of Calgary, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and the Alberta, Agricultural Research Institute and the development of the Ecotechnology Demonstration Study.
The study is measuring the effectiveness of the system in purifying runoff and will develop a model that other feedlots can use to develop their own constructed wetlands.
Don’s impetus in starting the Ecotechnology Demonstration Study also led to the formation of the Friends of the Little Red Deer River Society of which Don is president. The society’s members consist of farmers and local residents, and its mission is to enhance the water quality of the Little Red Deer River watershed through education and extension to all stakeholders and users of the river. The society has conducted water quality testing of the river to establish benchmarks, fish counts, assessments of the riparian health of the river and numerous information meetings.
These initiatives have led to numerous opportunities for Don to be an ambassador for the cattle industry and the community. Over 300 people toured the feedlot last year to see the Ecotechnology Demonstration Study ranging from high school students to agricultural engineers.
The ACC is proud to present the Year 2002 Environmental Stewardship Award to Don and Carol Curtice. Representatives from conservation and agriculture formed the judging committee. The judges examined the stewardship goals and activities of the nominees including accomplishments in land management, water quality, wildlife, animal welfare and leadership activities in the community.