Continuing to graze in Manitoba

Four-year community pasture transfer process complete

 
Twenty of Manitoba’s community pastures will continue to be places for young, new and small-scale producers to graze their cattle, thanks to the producer-led Association of Manitoba Community Pastures (AMCP) program.
 
Officially formed in 2014, a year and a half after the federal government announced it would discontinue the operation of the community pasture program, the AMCP took shape when Manitoba Beef Producers invited the chairs from each pasture’s Patron Advisory Committee to discuss the transition of management to the patrons of the pastures. Together they formed a steering committee to lead the development of a not for profit corporation, AMCP, that would take on the management of the community pasture program.
 
“It’s very fragile land. There is valley, sand and muskeg - which is really no good for cropping - and a lot of it is native, so it’s never been anything but grass,” said Barry Lowes, AMCP chair. “We’d like to preserve the land and keep it how it is to continue grazing.”
 
As of October 2016, the final eight pastures will be functioning through the new producer-led program, which helps keep producers and community members involved in decisions regarding land use.
 

A vision realised

 
“Four years ago we hoped to be where we are today,” said Lowes. “We wanted to keep it for grazing, we wanted to keep it for young people and we wanted to maintain it for members of the public who use the land to hike and hunt when grazing season is over.”
 
Lowes and his family own farmland adjacent to one of the community pastures in McAuley, and make up seven of the 30 people who share the land. This particular pasture is 44,000 acres and is home to 3,000 cattle between June and October.
 
“These pastures are used to graze for about five per cent of the province’s cattle,” said Barry Ross, manager of land management and planning for Manitoba Agriculture. “We’ve seen more and more new and young farmers, some who are children of patrons already involved with the program, build their herd on community pastures. It’s a great opportunity for producers who otherwise could not afford the land.”
 
AMCP charges 70 cents a day per cow and $35 for the entire summer per calf.
 

Stability in maintenance

 
Keeping the program also allowed for the people who work on the pastures, including pasture managers and riders who maintain the land and watch the herd, to keep their positions. These are the people who help to ensure the land’s resources stay intact and the pastures remain appropriate for grazing. Aside from being managed by producers, the only noticeable change under the producer-led AMCP program is the equipment.
 
“A lot of the moving assets, like vehicles and quads, were sold so we had to replace those. We did buy a truck, a trailer and a quad for every pasture to get them operational,” said Ross. These purchases were made through funding support from the Growing Forward 2 - Growing Assurance program.  “As a new organization, AMCP would have had a hard time to get capital to get that kind of equipment.”
 
Applications for grazing space can be obtained by emailing amcp@pastures.ca or by calling 204-868-0430.