Andrew & Laurie Johnson
“The farm has expanded with every generation, I am a fourth-generation rancher and my kids are the fifth. My kids are still in school, but they’re all very involved on the farm.”
Andrew & Laurie Johnson Interview
Johnson Livestock January 17th, 2020
Q: Why do you want to share your farming stories with people?
We believe it is important that people feel a connection to their food. There is a growing interest from people to understand where their food comes from. By sharing our stories we hope that it can create greater confidence in the care and attention that is given behind the scenes on farms today.
Q: This past year you’ve participated in the #MyCanadianBeef program with Canada Beef. Do you have any comments about your experience as part of this program?
We’ve had so much fun being a part of the #MyCanadianBeef program. We enjoy what we do and are very proud of our beef. It is exciting to tell the agriculture story.
Q: How have your daughters been involved in farming on your family’s ranch?
From when we were babies, we rode along in the tractor and walked along beside our parents watching and learning animal behaviours. As we got a little older we learned to open gates for feeding & bedding cattle and started to help with sorting. Now we are involved in every part of the operation and continue to learn by watching.
Q: What are your daughter’s favourite chores to do on the farm?
Indy, the youngest, likes opening gates and cutting off twine and net wrap from bales.
Maya & Desta both like driving tractors, putting up feed, sorting and moving cattle.
Brielle is now married and working full time here. Her favourite is working with the newborn calves and checking pastures.
Q: How does working on the farm bring you together as a family?
We talk about the accomplishments of the day over the supper table. Agriculture is a family business and everybody understands when the busy times are and has learned to take responsibility for getting things done. We all have our own role in contributing to the operation.
Q: What’s one way you care for animals that you wish the public knew about?
Happy & non stressed cattle are the ones that thrive. Every decision that we make as farmers in how we handle them and feed them is taken into consideration. We also often look at the long range forecast and plan how we are going to care for them based on weather. For example, if it is extremely hot, we will either move them early in the morning or wait for a cooler day so they don’t become overheated. If there is a lot of rain or snow coming, we will move them to a place better suited for their protection.
Q: In your own words, how would you explain what a cow/calf ranch or farm is to someone in grade school?
On a cow / calf ranch you have mother cows that raise a baby each year. The calves are generally born in the spring and graze grasslands through summer and fall with their mothers. By the time the calf is 3 months of age, a large part of its diet is coming from grazing, although they will continue to suck until weaning time. Most calves are weaned at about 6 months of age and will go to a feedlot for the winter. The cows will often graze crop residues after harvest and then are fed harvested forage through the winter to start another cycle with a new calf in the spring.
Q:How do you think farming will evolve in the future?
Farming will take advantage of a lot of technology that will be available. Things such as virtual fences, health alerts making us aware of sick animals quicker, and traceability so we know where they are at all times. Minerals and vitamins are playing a larger role as well as better quality forages to keep the animals health optimum.
Q: As a 4th generation farmer how has your farm evolved over the years to be more sustainable?
We have incorporated things such as rotational grazing and better genetics over the years. Recently we have been improving drinking water tanks instead of sloughs and dugouts for cleanliness which means we are seeing improvements in health. We are using more portable windbreaks and fences for protection which provides the opportunity for keeping the cattle spread out during the winter months. We have better facilities which lower stress in cattle. When our farm started, that generation looked after 10-30 cows where now the same number of people are able to care for thousands here due to these improvements.