Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) presented VXV Farms and the Vandervalk family with the 2016 Environmental Stewardship Award last week at their Annual General Meeting. Each year, ABP recognizes an operation that demonstrates leadership in environmental stewardship – one that contributes to the land while maintaining productivity and profitability.
Jack Vandervalk moved to southern Alberta in 1956 and has been managing the ranch situated in the Porcupine Hills ever since. Together with his wife Merry and his son Gerald and his family, they run a cow calf operation with retained ownership to slaughter.
“It is my personal desire to make sure the land is better than when I found it. It is a goal of mine to keep trying to make it better. In my opinion, the cow is what we harvest our grass with and the grass harvests the sun,” said Jack.
Rotational grazing and unique water management systems have played roles in the stewardship success of the ranch. Throughout the summer they rotational graze their tame grass, moving cattle every two or three days to allow for adequate rest periods. The native grass is utilized during the winter months to lower feed costs.
“We are privileged to take advantage of flood irrigation. The landscape that we have allows us to flood our tame grass pastures with minimal costs outside labour,” said Gerald.
Numerous dams have been developed which are equipped with water troughs made from recycled mine truck tires. Turning old tires into watering systems has become a secondary business on the ranch. The excess tire materials have been used to build a wind fence to protect the cattle during the colder winter season.
The Vandervalk family is very active in the community working with various landowner and stewardship groups. Through the Lyndon Creek Conservation Group they worked on projects with neighbouring ranches, Cows and Fish has done riparian area work on their site, and Alberta Conservation Association worked with them on rotational grazing and off-stream watering projects.
“We have future generations coming and it’s important to have a place to call home… that they can easily take over and maintain what we’ve started,” said Gerald.