Bob and Larry Kidd, beef producers near Mayerthorpe, AB, are the recipients of the Alberta Beef Producers' 2011 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA). Annually, a selected group of representatives, on behalf of Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), travel Alberta-wide to evaluate nominees of the environmental achievement award.
"Alberta Beef Producers is more than pleased to give this award to the Kidd brothers for their outstanding long-term commitment to improving the environment," said Greg Bowie, ESA Chair.
The ESA judging team is typically made up of three members of the ABP Environment Committee, as well as last year's award winner, and one judge from an outside organization. This year, a Cows and Fish Riparian Specialist joined the tour. Cows and Fish is a non-profit organization that specializes in riparian habitat management. The judging team traveled1,500 km across Alberta to evaluate producers nominated for going above and beyond in their environmental stewardship practices.
The Kidd Bros. ranch was originally homesteaded in 1913. Larry returned to the farm in 1988 and Bob later in 1998. Since then, the Kidd brothers have worked hard to engrain themselves not only in the land they work off, but also in the surrounding community. They have worked closely with groups like the West Central Forage Association, Cows and Fish, and the Paddle River Stewardship Group. Through these groups, the brothers have hosted countless tours and demonstrations on their property to spread the message of environmental sustainability.
"I had a strong desire to work in agriculture production and when the opportunity came up for me to become a Kidd Bros. partner I knew returning to work with my family was what I wanted to do. I had great respect for the work my father and his brothers were doing on the ranch," said Larry.
"Bob and Larry have put a lot of effort into working with a number of environmental groups so others can benefit from their actions as well," said Bowie. "Protecting the river and the land and plant life around it is a very obvious priority to the brothers. They are continually increasing permanent and temporary fencing to protect the sensitive riparian areas on their land."
Bob was instrumental in the development of the Paddle River Stewardship Group in 2009, and through that, a number of riparian assessments and a complete inventory of the waterway has been completed. Bob and Larry recognize the importance of protecting the river and the surrounding riparian areas, so they utilize winter fencing around these areas and off-site watering systems. Cropping practices have been altered to include a larger buffer zone around all riparian areas as well.
"It's easier to protect the river and the riparian areas now then it is trying to reclaim them. We enjoy the river recreationally just as much as anyone else, so of course we are going to do what we can to take care of it," said Larry.
"People don't often look at ranching and the environment as a whole. They don't realize it's our home and where our food comes from. Together they are everything to us," said Bob.
Rotational grazing systems play a huge role in efforts to operate under energy-efficient management practices. Solar off-site watering systems, solar powered electric fences, and swath grazing are used to achieve the goals. Cattle are moved on foot to feed sources and forages are swathed and left to graze instead of being baled to further reduce energy consumption. The Kidd brothers strongly believe that changing their grazing practices not only had a positive impact on the environment, but also made sense economically for their operation.
"The brothers land management practices are what really stood out with their use of rotational grazing on pasture lands and knowledge of the plant species. They are very conscious of what works for their area and that benefits the soil and increases growth rates," said Bowie. "Whether it be perennial or swath grazed annual pastures, their cows are on grazing land the majority of the year and that really minimizes impact on the land."
Swath grazing and changes to winter-feeding systems has eliminated the majority of confined feeding, and allows the cattle to fertilize the fields so machinery is used less. Minimizing chemical inputs and increasing use of manure fertilization are part of the Kidd brother's efforts to lessen the impact on the soil. Wintering sites are chosen based on increasing soil nutrients. Similar soil types are farmed together so lowland and wet areas are left as shelter areas for wildlife. The brothers have noticed a considerable increase in ungulates, birds and waterfowl in these areas.
"Our great accomplishments have been recognizing our problems and weaknesses and coming up with environmentally sound solutions for them," said Bob. "The ESA award was quite a surprise and such an honour to be recognized by a group of our peers who understand the challenges we face and what we deal with on a daily basis."
"It's nice to be recognized for moving agriculture in a positive direction. The environment is constantly playing a larger role in the decision-making of the initiatives we take on," said Larry.
Bob and Larry are always working to improve their management practices while minimizing the impact of the environment. With all of their considerable accomplishments and continued dedication to the environment, the Kidd Bros. are more than worthy recipients of the 2011 Environmental Stewardship Award.