By Gavin Davidson
The Canadian Prairies, known primarily for cattle ranches, feature incredible bio-diversity and are home to more than 60 native at-risk species. The 2,000 km valley of plains, forests, and farmlands is also one of the world’s most stable carbon sinks.
But ranches are disappearing and we’ve already lost 74% of the Canadian grasslands to farming and development. Even with an investment of billions of dollars, they would take hundreds of years to regenerate, making it critical that we maintain the grasslands that remain.
Grass grazers are necessary
“Our native ecosystem is largely prairies and requires a grazing presence to flourish,” says Kristine Tapley, Regional Agrologist for the Beef Industry at Ducks Unlimited Canada. “When we hear negative stories about beef farming in the media, it’s often in a global context that misses the Canadian context.”
Ranchers and conservationists raising awareness
DUC has forged an alliance between cattle farmers and conservationists to raise awareness about the importance of the grasslands to our environment and the importance of cattle to the grasslands.
“The partnership is based on the fact that we have so much in common and share so many of the same goals,” says Tapley, who raises beef cattle. “Working together brings us closer to our shared end goal. We all want to keep water and grass on the landscape.”
An important and symbiotic relationship
The beef industry relies on the grass landscape as part of its production cycle and the prairie ecosystem needs the impact of grazing in order to rejuvenate grass and plants. Removing the top level of grass also allows more sun to penetrate the soil. It’s a necessary and symbiotic relationship.
“If we lose the beef industry we lose the grass that goes along with it,” says Tapley. “It’s really as simple as that.”