Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) presented Tom Thompson and Winding Creek Ranch with the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award in December at the Annual General Meeting. Each year, ABP recognizes an operation that demonstrates leadership in environmental stewardship – one that contributes to the land while improving productivity and profitability.
Tom Thompson grew up in farming and agriculture, but it wasn’t until the property across from his parents’ land became available in 1984 that he decided to build a career and a life in ranching. Today, Winding Creek Ranch is a cow calf operation that rotationally grazes 500 acres, with 700 acres of hay crops.
“Growing up there was something always pulling me into this direction… being a steward of the land. What sustainability means to me is, what you’re doing today, will this carry on for generations,” said Thompson.
The West-Central Forage Association played a large role in changing the focus and management practices on the ranch. Frustrated with some outcomes, Tom attended a seminar on matching production cycles with grazing cycles and began to make significant improvements to his operation. After incorporating changes to his winter grazing, watering systems and power fencing for rotational grazing, Tom completed an Environmental Farm Plan.
“When the forage and the grass are growing, and the animals are happy… you will be profitable and sustainable. My stewardship goals are to keep the animals and the plants healthy, growing and viable,” said Thompson.
When rotationally grazing his animals, Tom adheres to the adage of eat half, leave half so the grass has plenty of time for rest and regrowth. Cattle bale graze through the winter months to recycle nutrients back into the soil. Riparian areas and dugouts are fenced to keep cattle out, and water is pumped to solar powered watering systems.
“I’m out in the sunshine working with plants and animals. When you have a passion for something it isn’t really work. You want to be out there doing a good job and seeing the changes. We’re just caretakers here… borrowing this land from the next generation,” said Thompson.