| Cool Springs Ranch
Ranching Holistically and Providing Healthy Traditional Food
by Janeen Colvin
Well, I’m not sure where the time has gone, but it’s coming up on our 10th anniversary of Cool Springs Ranch as a provider of grass-fed meats and eggs in Saskatchewan! We could probably write the book on what NOT to do in ranching, butchery, and sausage making! But in spite of fresh challenges every year, the dream of raising healthy traditional foods and ranching holistically has only blossomed and matured.
Central to all our trials, errors, and successes are three principles that guide us, and I’d love to share a little about each one…
Natural health and lifestyle became a very big part of my life while recovering from teenage health issues, but nothing influenced me more than the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation. They have been an incredible resource by providing education on how traditional cultures stayed healthy before modern food, plus facilitating a network of community support for farmers and eaters! Even though no cultures ate the same foods, they all had three things in common: high enzyme content, high mineral content, and high fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2. Whether they fished wild salmon or caught shrimp, fermented cabbage or berries, sourdoughed bread or soaked corn for tortillas, milked yaks or Jerseys (often fermenting these products), prized bison liver or beef heart, ate coconut oil, butter or whale blubber, made bone broths out of bones and feet, or fish heads or lobster shells... these foods nourished people! It’s worth mentioning that they also had never seen processed white flour, white sugar, or vegetable oils, nor was the food environment polluted by any chemicals. War and the elements were hard on people, but modern chronic disease was not! Their teeth were strong, cavity free, and not crowded. Immune systems were primed. Now you could say we have the opportunity to have the best of both worlds—shelter, safety, clean water, and sanitation—but it’s our diet and lifestyle about which we need to make conscious choices to maintain our health, since such excess of cheap mass convenience exists. As we went on ranching, it just became clear that we had the means and ability to make many of these truly nourishing foods available in Saskatchewan, so how could we not!
In 1999, I happened to pick up Joel Salatin’s book, Salad Bar Beef, and it changed my life! My whole view of food and agriculture literally did a 180 in about 15 minutes. The entirety of my practical and college education had missed the most important truths of how animals thrive on their own with minimal meddling! It may be “efficient” to pull calves when it’s still winter, to wean and ship calves all at once, to cram animals into feedlots and barns, but all of these things lead to stress, injury, and disease which makes pharmaceuticals unavoidable and inevitably kill far more than necessary! It turns out that low-stress ranching and animal handling is really quite uncomplicated! The cows calve on their own virtually trouble-free on clean pasture when the deer are fawning and the nutritional needs of the mama cow match the grass growth. We rotate the animals through many pasture paddocks to keep their plane of nutrition as high as possible and limit their exposure to parasites and pathogen overload. High quality 90 mineral sea salt has eliminated foot rot, pink eye, and pneumonia—the most common problems. Weaning calves has become completely seamless, with the introduction of barley grass sprouts a month or two before a simple fence line is put up to wean them. The lack of stress and a familiar high energy, vitamin, and enzyme diet means calves won’t ever see the illnesses they see in the feedlots. When it comes time to harvest the animals, there is no long stressful ride to the slaughter plant; they are simply out on the pasture and literally never even realize that their last moment has arrived. Nature itself is not that kind, but there’s no reason we can’t be!
Tied right into the nutritional and welfare factors is the “directional goal” of managing our land using the animals to build organic matter and foster as much growth and diversity of life as possible. To do this, we need functioning water cycles, mineral cycles, energy cycles, and carbon cycles. In the age of government attempting to fight climate change, there’s one message that isn’t being talked about or acted on... the one of well-managed cattle being the SOLUTION to regenerating our desertifying earth. When the planet is covered in plants with deep root systems and as much solar (leaf) capacity as possible, it breathes in the maximum amount of C02, it retains the water to be used where it falls, rather than flood and erode soil or just have it evaporate away. Plants are key to balanced CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Intense grazing and herd impact followed by a prescribed recovery time keeps the plants in a green growing state, rather than getting old and oxidizing into “wildfire tinder.” It’s the PULSING of plants, the “harvesting” and “growing” of perennial cover that gives us beauty, diversity, productivity, and resilience to the ever-changing climate. If we are to ever feed the projected nine billion people, we need to heal our wasted and abused land (which is over 2/3 of it!), and grazing herds truly are the ONLY answer for the scale that’s required. I highly recommend following the holistic management work of Alan Savory to understand why all efforts to control climate change will be of minimal impact if we don’t take care to maximize the “sponge” of organic matter of the top six inches of the earth. For a concise explanation, he has a TED Talk that may be the most important one you will ever see.
It’s tricky to condense all there is to say about the interconnectivity of people, nutrition, animals, and environment into one tiny article, but it’s a topic we are super passionate about. It’s honestly not even revolutionary, it’s simply honouring nature by gaining clarity around how the earth works to regenerate itself, and how people and animals stay healthy! You are always welcome to come out to the farm, where we can have endless conversions and add real context.
Literally and figuratively, “GRASS ROOTS” are something to believe in!!
If you’d like to check out Janeen Colvin’s family story, join their mailing list, or check out the smorgasbord of pasture-raised goodies they make in their butchery, visit coolspringsranch.ca or call (306) 547-4252. Their ranch is located near Endeavour, SK. They deliver to Saskatoon and Regina and many towns along the way! Also see the display ad on page 13 of the 25.2 July/August issue of the WHOLifE Journal.