“In the rural landscape, cattle ranching is the backbone of so many small communities.”
Originally from Ontario, Jill has been involved in raising Canadian cattle in some way, shape or form from an early age – working in animal nutrition to spending 12 years at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and most recently, shifting her focus to full-time ranching. Jill understands the important relationship between ranching and sustainability.
Jill Harvie Interview
January 20, 2020
Q: Tell us a little bit about your ranching story and background.
I graduated from the University of Guelph and moved to the other side of the country to finish some schooling at Olds college. I studied agriculture, science and business, deciding to work for an animal nutrition company called Cargill. I was traveling to farms across western Canada, and talking to people about how to feed their cattle to get the optimum results that they were looking for, in terms of their overall health and nutrition.
My husband and I along with his parents have a purebred Hereford cattle operation. We have 250 cows at any given time and just short of over 600 head of cattle. We’re located in Mountain View County, just between Olds and Didsbury–an hour north of Calgary.
After working in animal nutrition, I moved over to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and worked there for 12 years. A couple of months ago however, I decided to shift to ranching full-time with my husband. My parents have leased us some cattle and they ranch with us as well. We have three families total ranching together.
Q: What makes you most proud about being a Canadian beef rancher?
I would say what makes me most proud is the quality of the food we raise. We live in a country ideal for raising cattle. Although we have some weather extremes, cattle typically prefer the colder climate.
Q: What is it about raising beef that you want consumers to know?
I think that it’s hard to conceptualize how much work goes into raising cattle and how many facets are tied to it.
In the rural landscape, cattle ranching is the backbone of so many small communities.
Without it, you really wouldn’t have the tire shop or the clothing store. Those communities are really built off of agriculture. It’s not just beef, but beef is a big component when you get into many of the provinces.
Q: What keeps you up at night about raising cattle or your business?
I do think succession is a challenge. It’s a challenge for most families and from my years in the Cattlemen Young Leaders, I listened to many people about their need to be able to purchase their farm, or to allow their parents to be able to have a comfortable retirement without having to sell the land they operate on.
Q: Does anything about cattle genetics make them taste better?
Marbling is a big thing that we measure. When it comes to flavour, it has everything to do with marbling. In the west there is barley, and in the east, there is corn. Some people have preferences, but either way, having that finished diet certainly has an impact on taste and having more flavourful beef.
Q: What is it about a ranch lifestyle that draws you to it, and why have you chosen this over other lifestyles?
If you’re born into something, it becomes part of your culture. I’m thankful that my parents included me at a very young age on the farm. I learned from them and all the people involved in raising cattle, so there’s no doubt where my love of animals stems from. It was my lifelong journey to be involved in the industry.
I cannot imagine a day going by not having cattle in my care.
Q: What is it about cattle that really helps support wildlife? If they didn’t graze, what would that mean to wildlife?
When you have a monoculture, it can disrupt a variety of wildlife habitats and soil. Whereas if you keep it as a grassland,you’re less likely to do that. Cattle can coexist really well in a synergistic way with wildlife. For most farmers, we find ways that they can coexist and welcome it.
Q: What are your favorite family beef recipes?
My all-time favourite is a prime rib. My husband cooks a delicious brisket on the smoker BBQ as well. As far as recipes go, we make a great rouladen recipe. We’ll stuff it with pickled asparagus, or pickled artichokes with cream cheese. Then we’ll add a little bit of mustard and we’ll roll those up and cook them in a white sauce with some capers and onions. It doesn’t always have to be your highest cut steak either to make this meal. It usually can be a flank steak or something like that
Join Jill Harvie (@brightpasture) as I explore a broad range of fascinating careers from gate to plate with my guests. Food has a great way of bringing people together. Whether your interests lie in food production, manufacturing, retail and food…more
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