Feedlots can be an environmental nightmare, which is why many people are surprised by the work that Shipwheel Cattle Feeders of Taber, Alberta, Canada has done to improve soil and animal health on a number of different initiatives. Blake Holtman and his daughter, Andrea Stroeve-Sawa, own and manage Shipwheel and have been long-time Holistic Management practitioners.
Blake attended Holistic Management courses and presentations in the early ’80s and has been adapting management ever since, beginning with creating 65 paddocks and three grazing cells on the grassland property. The results have been impressive with moving from 2.36 Animal Days per acre (ADA) to around 110 ADA, a 4,561% increase. They are also grazing 6 times the suggested stocking rate for their soil types. And, they have also averaged a 5% increase in organic matter in their soils.
An article on Alltech’s website highlights the family’s yearling operation on 900 acres of grassland as well as their numerous pollinator plants, pasture-raised chickens, a no-till “chaos” garden, a fruit orchard and agricultural compost production where they compost 20,000 metric tons of manure and turn it into 5,000 metric tons of compost.
The Canadian Cattlemen have also written an article about Andrea who is a minority as a woman operator in the natural beef cattle feeding industry. Shipwheel runs a 5,550-head cattle feedlot, and Andrea is in charge of the feedlot as well as the yearling operation with help for her husband, Trevor, and the rest of the Shipwheel crew. When Andrea took over the feedlot operation in 2015 she spearheaded a major overhaul of the facilities including the new processing barn with lots of natural light and a “Bud Box.” As part of her decision making she has also focused on serving the natural beef industry with low-stress livestock handling that supports the finishing of natural beef without hormones and antibiotics as part of their feedlot program.
This kind of innovative thinking is part of the Shipwheel creed and vision statement which states: “Shipwheel exists to harvest sunlight energy from crops and animals at a profitable level to sustain the quality of life we desire. We achieve this through encompassing regenerative agriculture practices that are innovative, integrated and dynamic.”
Click here to learn more about Shipwheel Feeders.