Profitable Practices: Andrea Stroeve-Sawa and Shipwheel Cattle Feeders

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Four generations of innovation keeps you on your toes: and that’s exactly what Andrea Stroeve-Sawa loves about Shipwheel Cattle Feeders.

In our debut episode of Profitable Practices, we head over to Taber, Alta. to shine a light on innovation and management practices Stroeve-Sawa and her family employ at their 5,500 head feedlot.

Sponsored by Farm Credit Canada and RBC Royal Bank, this new video series will feature Canadian producers like Stroeve-Sawa who are adopting farm practices that have a positive impact on profit, people, and the planet.

The goal is to be environmentally sustainable, but maintaining and building profitability is also key to the future success of Shipwheel Cattle Feeders. On this episode, Stroeve-Sawa describes how rotational grazing, annual production of 10,000 tonnes of vermicompost and operating an on-farm store that sells local, sustainable products are all part of the plan.

The grazing operation runs off a multi-paddock system that Stroeve-Sawa’s dad started in the 1980s, after he went to a conference that talked about the process.

“He came back and converted our continuous grazing and cropping systems into 65 different paddocks, and three different grazing cells,” she explains. “When we started keeping track of data, we were stocking cattle at 2.36 animal days per acre. So 2.36 animals on one acre for one day. Currently, I believe we were at 177 animals on one acre for one day. So we have increased our stock days exponentially, but also have increased our organic matter, increased our biodiversity, and improved the water cycle, all in 40 years.”

(Check out episode one of Profitable Practices. Story continues after the video.)

Some of the other options Shipwheel has trialed and looked into include bale grazing and mob grazing. According to Stroeve-Sawa, the focus for now and the next few years, is to look at each paddock, and every spot at a micro level, and be able to take soil tests themselves.

“We’re going to learn how to read soil tests under a microscope and see what’s going on under the ground, and biologically, but also in chemistry as well,” she explains.

Shipwheel Cattle’s approach is not for everyone, Stroeve-Sawa admits, but generations of her family have been successful in finding, adopting and shaping ideas into sustainable and profitable practices that work for their operation.

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