by Lorna Callbeck
The Howe family farm raises purebred Charolais and Red Angus cattle south of Moose Jaw, SK. Theirs is a true mixed-farm. With 300 mama cows, the Howes balance out their portfolio with 1,000 acres of land for grain farming along with hay land and pastureland.
This third generation family farm continues to grow as Julie-Anne and Kelly raise the fourth generation of Howes. Collectively, the Howe family has over 15 years post-secondary education strategically directed towards animal care, animal nutrition and veterinarian care.
What does caring for animals mean on the Howe family farm?
“We care for our animals every single day,” Julie-Anne explains. “Every morning we go out to make sure that everybody is eating, that nobody is sick, or hurt or stuck somewhere they shouldn’t be. We make sure that they have access to their feed, their water, and that they have access to their vitamin supplements.”
Whether the cattle are housed within the farmyard or out on the pasture, their welfare is always top priority. “We spend our time caring and planning ahead, to make sure the next step is always taken care of,” Julie-Anne says. “We make sure that we are up to speed on our nutrition practices and that we go above and beyond the industry standards for animal care.”
Beef production is very much an integrated part of the greater agricultural system. “Animal agriculture, specifically beef production, uses resources that we cannot use for the production of grain and many by-products of food production. Cattle farming can make use of land that cannot be used for grain production.”
Julie-Anne notes that there is an environmental farm plan on the Howe farm. “We work with many different conservation agencies such as the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and Ducks Unlimited in order to make our land more sustainable.”
It’s also important to remember that farming is also a business. “You have the challenges of marketing and managing finances as well as being able to put in a real good hard day’s work. We do our best by our animals because they are our passion, but also because they are our livelihood.”
She points out that Saskatchewan farmers are completely committed to producing safe, healthy and affordable food.
“In terms of myself as a farmer, I want it to be clear that I am not only a farmer, I am a parent and I am a consumer as well. The food that I produce, I eat. It is in our family’s best interests to make our food as safe, healthy, nutritious and as affordable as we can. We have codes of practice to help make sure that our cattle’s welfare is taken care of and we have a very extensive food safety program through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that ensures our beef is safe. The guidelines are clear and the audits at the production plants are quite rigorous.”
Julie-Anne wishes that the average grocery shopper knew how much heart and soul the entire industry puts into producing foods. “We have so much pride and passion for our profession and we’re blessed to be part of the agriculture industry. We also realize that we have a tremendous responsibility to do the best that we can and continue to strive to do it better, more efficiently and using more environmentally sustainable methods.”
Julie-Anne shares, “I am one of luckiest people. I have my dream job, working on a farm. Kelly and I worked for ten years off-farm in Alberta so we could get back to the farm in Saskatchewan. We saved so that we were able to do what we loved. As a farm family, what really does it for us, what we love the most, is working with animals and the cattle, connecting to nature and being outside. We are very proud of the fact that we get to help feed the world.”
“At the center of it all, we are cow people at heart.”