Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Update to "Big Cattle Operation Worries Local Resident"

A long-time resident of Roblin, Manitoba, CA, Ray Spencer, says the onus will apparently be on him if he wants to proceed with his concerns about a big cattle operation north of town, near Boggy Creek.
(Please read the response of the owners of the operations, the Beasleys to the story, below and the author's response to that, immediately after.)
In a story in the weekly newspaper, the Roblin Review in April, Spencer said those who fish in a small lake next to the ranch, were worried it might get contaminated by the waste from the nearby cattle.
A provincial inspector went to the ranch to investigate his complaint.
But Spencer says the Minister of Conservation, Stan Struthers, has now informed him, he'll have to prove the lake has been polluted by the cattle, before any action can be taken under provincial regulations.
Spencer says he is angry that cattle producers don't seem to have to abide by the same sort of strict waste disposal regulations as, for example, cottage-owners do.
He says he was sure there were rules that would govern such situations. And he is disappointed there apparently are not.
The owners of the operation, John and Kelsey Dawn Beasley, have so far declined to reveal the size of their total herd.
But, an informed source (a person who lives in the general area but wants to remain anonymous), believes the Beasleys may be grazing as many as 3,000 to 4,000 cattle over several sections of land.
Letter to the Editor - The Review - Tues. Apr.21-'09

Dear Editor,
We appreciate the concern expresssed by Larry Powell & Ray Spencer over the well being of Langan Lake. Our family resides within a half-mile of the lake, draws our water form the aquifer around and regularly consume fish from it.
We also fel our ranching business has been mispresented as society often gets misguidied by opinions and prejudices rather than facts.
Firstly, we we are not an intensive livestock operation. We are a large scale, low density cattle ranch. We are stewards of the land and have a great responsibility developing an understanding of rangeland ecosystems and management principles necessary to support them. Sustainable agriculture systems are based on ecological soil management practices which replenish and maintain soil fertility by providing optimum conditions for soil biological activity. We consider our entire land base when making management decisions as our entire land base is located within the Shel River watershed. We reduce off-farm iputs & the environmental hazards associated with chemical applications & the reliance on non-renewable resources while building the organic matter back up in our soils. Sustainable grain farming also follows these principles as valuable inputs cannot be lost into the waterways. It would be like flushing money down the toilet.
Our goal it to produce a safe, sustainable product of superior quality while enhancing our landscape for the next generation. Our cattle are not confined at any time, in any season. We have a year round grazing system that incorporates winter feeding on perennial pastures. Our winter feeding system is primarily bale grazing. We utilize the sytem to lower our costs of production, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and tractor hours, improve our soil health and improve our watershed by reducing erosion and improving our range condition.
Our grazing system is a detailed and thoughtful process that we constantly monitor, reassess & makke changes accordingly. By incorporating a deferred, rest-rotational system, we have to change the sequence of use of our fields from year to year so that a given field is never grazed the same two years in a row. This is also integrated to our winter management. We rotate our winter feeding sites so we are wintering on a different field every year to recapture our nutrient depletion when it walks off our place via pounds of beef or hauled off via hay or silage. Some limitations include limited access to water and shelter & we are constantly making improvements such as planting shelter belts, improving off site water systems & reducing direct access to waterways.
Please understand tha we too are only human & addressing these issues as quickly as possible as they are of great importance to us. For example with the assistance of Lake of the Prairies Conservation District and the National Farm Stewardship Program, we have developed 3 portable off-site water systems, built over 5 miles of exclusion fencing (& planning to do more) & planted more than 6,000 trees to establish adequate shelter for wintering.
We have completed the Environmental Farm Plan, have a registered manure management plan and have met or exceeded those standards in our management. We are also undergoing a long-term nutrient management project with Mantiba Agricultre & the Roblin Soil Conservation District under Covering New Ground. Soil testing our winter feed sites creates baseline data that proides a means to assess our nutrient levels & make management decisions accordingly. For instance, by trend analysis we are able to determine how our forages are utilizing the nutrients provided by our winter management practices.
By feed testing & keeping detailed records of our feeding practices allows us to determine what goes in the roa & what is put on the ground, what has left via runoff & volatilizationnnn & what has been utilized by th plants, the following growing season. We monitor our Organic Matter Levels with the goal of increasing OM within the soil profile, therefore reducing erosion & increasing the soil's ability to filter & retain nutrients. We monito soil texture & moisture changes, soil pH & conductivity, as well as the changes in ground cover, species composition & yield.
Furthermore, we appreciate the lovely piciture that appeared along with the article as one can see that less than half of the wintering site is covered with leftover feed residue. Our spring time plan for that field includes firstly broadcasting a mixture of legume & grass seeds to replenish the forages, as the wintering site has now provided us with an excellent seedbed todo so. The cows will work thsoe seeds into the soil via hoof action as they clen up the feed residue. Secondly, a prolonged rest period will be provided to allow the seedlings to establish & the existing forages to grow & utilize the nutrients provided.
If anyone would like to tour our operation or has any concerns please feel free to contact us. Hopefully a better appreciation has been created of the management of our rangeland ecosystems & we are more than happy to disseminate knowledge & techniques to individuals interested i the science & are of rangeland stewardship.
We also invite Larry Powell & Ray Spencer to meet with us & provide positive input & solutions to some of their concerns over our management practices.
John & Kelsey Beasley
An open letter to John and Kelsey Beasley.
I'm sorry that you seem to have confused my news story about your cattle operation; ("Spencer asks province to check out cattle operation" - Roblin Review - Apr 7 p.16) with a personal expression of my opinion. It was not. I acted as a reporter. I wrote the story. I reported on Mr. Spencer's concerns. Then I interviewed you, John. I got your response on the record and reported on that. Period. That is what reporters do. Pretty standard stuff. So the opinions expressed in the piece were not my own. They belonged solely to the people quoted in it, namely Mr. Spencer and you, John. Both were quoted at some length and both received very close to the same amount of space.
Whether I privately agree with Mr. Spencer, or you, John & Kelsey, is of absolutely no
consequence here. My job was to accurately record the events and opinions expressed in the story. As far as I know, I did. If there were factual errors or misquotes in the story, no one has pointed them out to me.
I believe the points I've already made, also render as misleading the headline attached to your own letter-to-the-editor, "Beasleys appreciate Powell's and Spencer's concerns,"
I'd like to set the record straight on another count, too. You informed me on the 'phone, Kelsey Dawn, that I had been the one to call in a provincial inspector to examine your operation. I did not. As a reporter, it would not have been proper for me to have done that. I would invite anyone to re-read the very headline of the story, then re-read the first line. ".....Ray Spencer has asked.....Water Stewardship to look into..." So I believe it was abundantly clear it was Mr. Spencer, not myself, who did this. And he has never hesitated in saying this publicly. So why would anyone conclude that it was me? In your e-mail to me, Kelsey Dawn, you said, "You are completely justified in your actions and I appreciate your concern over this water quality issue." But why direct that at me? It was Mr. Spencer who raised those concerns. I just reported on them.
So I'll be reserving my right as a journalist to continue to convey to the public, concerns about newsworthy matters of legitimate public interest and importance. This is sometimes controversial. And controversy is not always pretty.
But I believe it is a price we must pay for an informed public and a healthy democracy.

Larry Powell Roblin MB
Kelsey Dawn said...

Just wanted to clarify a few things in your previous response.
We didn't attach the headline in the letter to the editor, I am not sure who did.
I also didn't say you were the person who contacted manitoba conservation, you misunderstood. Furthermore, because you were so very quick to assit Ray via reporting a story on us (an action that to me seemed a little onesided towards your own opinions), I contacted you. I don't have a contact for Ray. Also I feel you are more willing to communicate with me than Ray is.
And finally the amount of cattle we run is not the issue, it is how those cattle on managed on the landscape that is the issue. Frankly how many cows we run is like asking us what our net worth is, it's none of anyone's business, but if a person is that curious I guess they could count cows from the roadside and see for themselves.
Lastly, thanks for coming out to the riparian workshop, I hope you enjoyed it. I know that I had a great learning experience. It is always a good thing when you are given more options & tools to utilize in ranch management.
Larry Powell said...

Kelsey - I'm glad you're reading and responding to these articles. It is a good way to reach some mutual understanding on things, sometimes.
You are right about the headline - it would have been Ed, the newspaper editor who wrote that -
I was thinking of submitting the "open letter" to you as another letter to the editor. But I changed my mind.
I really have no appetite to perpetuate a running "feud" in public. (At least not beyond the limited readership of this blog.) I'm sure you don't, either.
I was happy to attend the workshop.
While the story I've written on it may not be in the form you would have liked, either, I have re-worked it several times from the original draft and made it, I believe, balanced and fair.
(Now posted on my blog.)
I also believe you, Michael and Eric did a good job in explaining the merits of riparian management.
So, while I raise the question of a "mixed message," I see no reason why readers, once they see the details, will not just as easily agree with Eric - i.e. that there isn't one.
I'd welcome your input on this latest story, or anything else in future, too.
I will always publish your response.
Another Comment;

Why the hell should Struthers care after all they let cattle enter both the
Icelandic River and Lake Winnipeg near Riverton, for years now. He's blind to the pollution aspect, can't understand what he can't see. Thats my thought on the subject.

Peter Marykuca

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