Monday, July 26, 2010

International Mountain Section Meeting

The International Mountain section meeting was held near Nanton, Alberta July 15-17.  Members and families came from both Alberta and Montana to attend an action-packed IMS section meeting.

We began with a thorough historical account of ranching in the area.  Following the Thursday evening barbecue, our speakers started off with when the continental plates collided and narrated through to the past three years.  It was fun to hear about the ice age, homesteading, and current issues and trends, all in one evening.

The Friday tour was loaded with site visits and interesting information.  We toured several oil well reclamation sites.  Local restoration projects are geared toward matching reclaimed lands with the surrounding landscape.  In particular, projects focus on planting rough and Idaho fescue near well sites and associated monitoring efforts.  We learned about innovative approaches to drilling as well, including padded well sites.

A highlight was the tour of the Waldron Grazing Cooperative Association, where small ranchers can buy shares to supplement their grazing operations.  The Co-op demonstrated their solar water pump and fescue seed harvesting equipment (click to watch clips of the seed harvester in action online: video 1 and video 2).  My personal favorite was the targeted grazing demonstration, where the Co-op is using sheep to graze leafy spurge.  Cattle will not graze leafy spurge, and sheep need to acquire a taste for the invasive plant - according to the ranch manager, the key to getting sheep to graze it, is to let them regulate themselves so they do not burn their throats.  Thus far they have been having good success with their targeted grazing efforts, are breeding the sheep for meat, and are saving $15,000 each year on spray costs!  In the words of the ranch manager, they have "turned spurge from a liability into an asset".
Other highlights included the Vandervalk's spectacular home cooking for each meal, and activities and prizes for the kids who accompanied the tour.

Thanks to the International Mountain Section for their hospitality and a great learning experience!


John Tanaka said...

Aleta, thanks for the reports! Sounds like the IMS had a great meeting.

Aleta Rudeen,Outreach and Leadership Development said...

You bet, John! Thanks for following along. I have been very impressed with all section meetings thus far.