Frolek Cattle Company
In June, IAF’s board and executive staff gathered in Kamloops for a tour and their quarterly meeting. They had the opportunity to tour three different sites including Frolek Cattle Company Ltd., which has an ongoing Farmland Advantage project, and the Lac Du Bois Grasslands where they learned about some of the research taking place to conserve grasslands in BC.
The video below provides an overview of the work Farmland Advantage does on grasslands in BC.
The Frolek family has been ranching in the Thompson River Valley since 1906. Originally starting with a single quarter section (160 acres), the family business has expanded over the years and now encompasses over 35,000 acres of deeded land, and over 275,000 acres in leased/licensed grazing lands. Priding themselves on being excellent stewards of their land, the Frolek’s have worked with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and other organizations to protect and enhance the lands under their care.
Farmland Advantage is working with the Frolek Cattle Company on a project involving habitat protection, grazing management, and rangeland enhancements. Several restorative actions are taking place, including weed control and targeted and rotational grazing through fence maintenance and installation.
Invasive species can increase fire vulnerability, impact the health of native species, and diminish the grazing quality of the land. To control weeds on the Frolek site, a spot-spray tactic is used, with occasional ATV use to contain knapweed and other noxious invaders.
Grazing herbivores improve grassland biodiversity, contribute to enhanced carbon sequestration, and reduce fuel that fires use to burn. However, if they graze in one area too long it can deplete the land and cause poor grassland health. Managing grazing is frequently done through two methods, targeted and rotational grazing. Targeted grazing is the practice of strategically placing cattle to reduce fuel load, which is an important part of wildfire prevention. Rotational grazing is the practice of restricting cattle with fences and rotating them through different pastures. Rotational grazing gives the land a break to reap the benefits of being grazed, improving biodiversity and soil health.
On the Frolek site, construction of an 1,800-meter cross fence is taking place. This fence will split the pasture into two, allowing for better range management. Additional maintenance work is being done to existing fences as well. This action will improve the health of the pasture.
Lac Du Bois Grasslands
Following their visit to Frolek Cattle Company’s ranchlands, IAF’s board and executive staff travelled northwest of Kamloops to the Lac du Bois Grasslands. This protected area features sweeping grassland vistas, impressive cliffs and canyons, forests, and several small lakes and ponds. The protected area was established in 1996 and protects an area of over 15,000 hectares. The area is chock full of wildlife; California bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bear, waterfowl, Northern Pacific rattlesnake, sharp-tailed grouse, and flammulated owl all live in the area. They are surrounded by bluebunch wheatgrass, brown-eyed susan, balsamroot, and trembling aspen.
IAF’s board and staff were treated to a lecture by Dr. Lauchlan Fraser, Professor of Natural Resource Sciences at Thomson Rivers University. Dr. Fraser spoke about the establishment of the protected area. The Lac du Bois Grasslands have seen heavy use as ranch land over the years. Horses of the Hudson’s Bay Company roamed the land in the 1860’s, and cows grazed the land in large numbers around the turn of the century. Sheep were overwintered on the land in the 1940’s. All these activities took a toll on the sensitive grassland communities; the grasslands had become overgrazed. In the 1970’s an Agriculture Canada research station was established in the area, beginning a long path of scientific research. Several restorative actions were taken at this time, including fence installation, the implementation of rotational grazing practices, designating non-grazing areas, and restricting access to certain areas. Today, the grasslands have rebounded and are healthy once again, but there is still ongoing work in the area to protect the Lac du Bois Grasslands.
Farmland Advantage is an Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC program. The work being done on the Frolek site is being funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada.