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Holistic Ranching annual conference

About 150 people attended our annual HR conference at Manitou Beach near Watrous, Sask.

David Irvine’s keynote address gave us two tasks for an integrated, successful life, individuation (growing up) and connection (having relationships).

He says an integrated family business has four main points:

  1. People have their own goals and support each other in achieving those goals.
  2. Caring, without attempting to save people from their unhappiness.
  3. Concern, without worry.
  4. Respect for each individual’s journey — without compromising yourself.

He ended his talk by discussing the four seasons to life or a family business: dependence, growing up, partnership and letting go.

David took the Monday morning session as well with a discussion on improving family communication that touched on conflict resolution and dealing with anger.

His definition of maturity is:

  1. The ability to do a job whether or not you are supervised.
  2. Finish a job once you start it.
  3. Carry money without spending it.
  4. Being able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

He says we are all leaders in that we have the capability to take responsibility, contribute, build, talk about solutions, show loyalty, mastery, right wrongs, with the courage to let go and the ability to see discomfort as an opportunity.

Our producer panel this year included Allen and Arlette Seib, Sam and Janeen Covlin and Richard and Sue DeBruijn who told us about their family businesses.

This is always one of the highlights of our conference.

Arlette talked about their sheep operation and the setting up of a website for their operation,

Sam and Janeen shared the story of how they direct market grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chicken, free-range turkey, free-range duck and goose, pastured free-range eggs and grass-fed raw pet food. They have their own abattoir. Their website is

Richard and Sue shared their story about why they left two good off-farm jobs and moved from Ponoka, Alta., to Stump Lake, Sask., to establish a custom grazing operation.

Jodie Griffin then gave us some insights into the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program that gives producers the option to purchase price insurance for a future date.

Blain Hjertaas followed with an excellent presentation on regenerative agriculture which builds the soil by increasing organic matter and sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As organic matter increases so does water retention minimizing run-off and the biological life which translates into more nutrient-dense food being produced. As organic matter increases so do yields making farmers more profitable. In short everyone wins. Blain’s talk was very inspiring.

Linda Edgecombe talked about breaking busy. Linda says the need to be “busy” has become the new norm which has wound us into the most unproductive, stressed-out and basically unhappy demographic in the past 30 years. Then she gave us some tools to get back on track.

Tuesday opened with a talk by Greg Smith who moved from South Africa to Canada a few years ago with his wife Lisa and their two children to establish a ranch at Debden, Sask. He gave us a heart-wrenching account of life in South Africa which made us all realize how blessed we are to live in Canada.

I followed Greg with a short presentation on the current financial opportunity in the cattle business.

Based on a herd of 200 cows income has increased by about $110,000 or 75 per cent from 2013 to 2014. The same percentage holds whether you have 10 cows or 1,000. I challenged the audience to seize the opportunity by investing 90 per cent of this increased income in ways that boost future profits so they will be able to look back in 30 years and say, “yes, I remember the good times.”

I can see where I invested my money. I am still enjoying the benefits.

Our final speaker was Linda Edgecombe who explored what it means to be a leader. She showed us how to become change resilient no matter what challenges we face.

Our annual conference is open to everyone. Please consider attending next year. Happy trails.

About the author


Don Campbell

Don Campbell ranches with his family at Meadow Lake, Sask., 
and teaches Holistic Management courses.



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