As the British Columbia cattle industry enters the 21st century, it is facing a whole new set of challenges. In the face of growing concern about the environment and accusations that cattle ranching is a major source of land and water degradation, ranchers point out that they have been rangeland conservationists since the beginning of settlement in the Interior. The BC Cattlemen's Association strongly endorses stewardship of the land and presents annual stewardship awards. The BCCA also has committees and programs that promote stewardship. Nonetheless, ranchers are increasingly under an obligation to prove that they are good conservationists. In addition, as recreational demands increase on Crown land where cattle once grazed, ranchers are losing valuable rangeland.

Ranchers are also facing a challenge in the area of education as more and more city-dwellers are unaware of where their beef comes from. Ranches frequently host ranch tours for farm classes so that young people can get a better understanding of the role of cattle ranches in the food industry. Also, youth group involvement through organizations like the 4H are raising awareness of the principles and challenges of animal husbandry. Other movements, such as the “100 Mile Diet” are emphasizing locally produced produce over mass-produced food that has to be shipped great distances. As the cost of fuel increases, there is a growing need to look at the smaller local producers for our food and this will benefit the small ranches.

Other challenges, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad-Cow Disease, that resulted in closure of the US border to live cattle, and the extremely high wages paid by the energy sector that are drawing young people away from working on ranches, have made it increasingly difficult for the smaller ranches to survive in a competitive market. But ranchers have faced the ups and downs of markets and weather for over a century, and, as they face the future, there is little doubt that ranchers will find a way through the difficulties so that cattle ranching will continue.

Media Files

Aug 2, 2008 – Cow Boss - Stan Jacobs
Stan Jacobs talking about the Douglas Lake Ranch and the challenges in the cattle industry today.

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