AKC Farming & Repairs was founded in the late 1900's originally on Crown land. While operated today by Allan and Colleen Cathcart, they had purchased the farm from Allan's father Bruce, who still helps out and lives on a retirement lot next door. The homeplace is just over 96 acres and the farm rents about 200 acres for pasture in the summer and 400 acres for hay, forage and soybean seedings. They target the equestrian market on premium hays sales.
The Cathcarts run about 50 commercial white Charolais cows bred to registered Charolais bulls. They split calve the herd with about 70% calving January through February and kept through to November. The other 30% of the cows calve in the fall. They direct sell steers off the farm as well as through auction markets and presently don't finish their animals. Their future goals with the herd include moving to larger birthweights, spending more time summer grazing the pastureland and Allan plans to work with "Seed Stock" buying and retaining their own heifers and breeding them to their new registered Charolais bull Calypso.
The farm is located in the Ganaraska Watershed near Kendal, northwest of Port Hope on Lake Ontario and in the Oak Ridges Moraine zone. The Ganaraska Forest is nearby and the AKC Farm is blessed with several springs and fresh water flow across the property. It's rolling drumlin grassy hill country on Brighton Sandy Loam soils with panoramic views to the north and south sides of the property and is habitat for a wide range of wildlife species. They maintain many scenic walking trails throughout the farm.
The operation became Verified Beef Production (VBP) Registered in September 2015 because - "the beef industry is where we are passionate about what we do," say the Cathcarts. "We want to build consumer confidence and validate our responsible practices."
The Cathcarts participated in the McDonald's Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot beginning in the fall of 2015. They passed the audit fine. Colleen took the Environmental Farm Plan through the Growing Forward 2 Ontario program that same year.
The Cathcarts are active members of the Beef Farmers of Durham, to which Allan is a voting delegate leading up to the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) AGM. The operation was named a BFO MVP Family in 2015. They're also registered and active on the Beef InfoXchange System.
In 2016 Allan and Colleen took the Traceability course and as soon as the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program was announced that summer they set their sights on getting fully registered.
It's a natural evolution for this Ontario beef cattle operation - "We want to be involved in the VBP+ program to help promote the Ontario & Canadian beef brand. We recognize the importance of our operation's involvement in VBP+ now and in the future to being recognized as a credible, sustainable and trusted source of beef from an Ontario family farm."
L-R, Taylor, Tamara, Laura and Mark Grafton.
The Bar K Ranch, northeast of Prince George, B.C., was the first ranch in B.C. to transition to the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program. But that's not the only 'first' for this operation. Back in the fall of 2005 the Bar K became the first ranch in the province to join the former Verified Beef Production (VBP) program. For Taylor Grafton, Bar K Ranch manager, being on the VBP+ program boils down to showcasing the good production practices the operation adheres to.
"I see it as being able to show the public what we are doing and to prove that we are using practices that are environmentally sound, very good for the animals and overall reinforcing the wholesomeness of our product," says Grafton.
William (Bill) Kordyban Sr founded the Bar K Ranch back in 1951 and the Kordyban family have owned the ranch ever since. Today William (Bill) Kordyban Jr holds the reins. A few years after its founding Mark and Laura Grafton, Taylor's parents, became the first managers of the Bar K. In 2015 Taylor took on the ranch management role and today Mark and Laura have mostly retired from the ranch operations. Laura works for the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) program and Mark manages the Livestock Protection Program in B.C. The ranch also employs several hired hands.
The ranch had humble beginnings with 400 auction market cows. Today the Bar K runs about 1,000 commercial crossbred cows and some Black Angus purebred cows on 8,000 deeded acres of mostly mixed tame fescue, orchardgrass and bromegrass pasture. The winter feed is put up as mostly silage and they extend the grazing season through swath grazing. Recently they have started trying out winter bale grazing and grazing standing whole corn plantings.
They tag their calves at birth and input their RFID numbers into the ranch database allowing them to keep meticulous records and register all birthdates. They market their feeder calves and yearlings via the B.C. Livestock Producers Co-operative video auction sales each year.
The ranch is a patchwork of trees and open pasture and forage crop. It's important habitat for wildlife including key northern nesting grounds for certain birds.
Taylor believes being on the VBP+ program strengthens both their ability to sell locally and bolster the national marketing position of Canadian beef. The program helps them showcase to local customers they're commitment to safe on-farm food practices and the addition of the new VBP+ modules for animal care, environmental stewardship and biosecurity enables the Bar K to prove they take care of their animals and the ranch environment.
"I hope one day it will give us a marketing benefit bigger than just our local market," says Taylor. "All the indicators show this is coming as companies will be trying to source sustainably raised beef cattle."
Taylor says even if the market perks didn't materialize they'd still be on the VBP+ program. "I think it's extremely important for positioning our country's product against competing markets," he adds.
Taylor sees himself as a Canadian beef producer first and figures individual ranchers might want to consider the national benefit to participating in VBP+.
“We are all in this together,” he says, “We need to think about it not only in terms of what is in it for me, how am I going to get paid back for the extra time filling out the paperwork." Instead, he figures producers need to think about it in terms of making the country’s industry stronger and bolstering consumer confidence not just within Canada but internationally as well. He believes that VBP+ can reinforce the industry's global reputation for producing a wholesome sustainably raised beef product in Canada.
Taylor does note some immediate benefits to the record keeping required under VBP+. “It has become a tool we use to improve our production practices.” He delivers 2 examples: 1) with herbicide application they can go back and see how much money they are spending on each field and how effective it has been; and, 2) they can examine the effectiveness of their treatment protocols, which, in turn, allows them to have very concrete discussions with their veterinarian on better alternatives.