Environmental Stewardship

In 1995, Bob Dobson won the first  "Environmental Stewardship Award"         from the Ontario Cattlemen's Association. This was in recognition of the outstanding projects on the farm designed to enhance and protect waterways, as well as create bird and wildlife habitat while providing shade and protection for both cattle and grassland. Below are some of the innovations on the farm which provide not only a cleaner environment but healthier cattle as well.

Livestock Watering Systems
Bird and Wildlife Habitat

Livestock Watering Systems

As the number of cattle on the farm increased through the 1970s, the natural water supply, from a small creek running through the property, couldn't keep up with demand. Quite often there would be no water in the creek through five weeks of the hottest weather in the summer.

Along with Dutch Elm disease in the 1960s, continued livestock access over the years had completely destroyed the trees and shrubs along the banks of the stream. Some of the banks of the stream were eroding, and there was a concern over siltation and nutrient loading of the water. The cattle also suffered from higher than normal incidence of footrot from walking in the mud, requiring antibiotics for treatment.

Originally, cattle had full access to the creek. Water quality was poor, and there was little bird and wildlife habitat. (1983)

The new reservoir (1986)
To solve this problem, the cattle were fenced out of the creek completely, and a reservoir was dug. The cattle still need a source of drinking water, so an innovative trough system was introduced to give them access to water, while restricting their access to the waterway.

Innovative watering system.

Now cattle have clean drinking water year round, and they can access this water without setting foot in the pond. The reservoir's waters flow through a trough, which the cattle can access by a concrete walkway. No more dirty water, the cattle are now much healthier, and the habitat around the waterway has had a chance to grow back. Note how the fence is a good ten feet from the water's edge.

The new drinking system in 1988. Note the recently planted trees. (top right)

The reservoir in 2003. Many new wild guests take advantage of the abundant shelter and food offered by the many trees planted along its edge.

20 years later, over ten thousand trees have been planted along the creek's edge. The fence has been moved back even more to allow for extensive bird and wildlife habitat. This once barren area is now teeming with birds including hungarian pheasants, hawks, ducks, geese, and Great Blue Herons. Fish and frogs are everywhere along the waterway. The ecosystem can develop in peace, as no cattle ever directly access the creek.

The Solar Pond

In order to make the farm that much more sustainable, a second watering system was introduced. It uses solar panels to pump water from a pond to a trough located 300 meters away. This ensures that the cattle are even further from sensitive riparian habitat around the creek, and makes it easier to implement sustainable rotational grazing.

Solar panels are a sustainable way to
pump water to the cattle (1989)

Bird and Wildlife Habitat

When choosing the species of trees and shrubs to plant, birds and wildlife have always been considered. Along the creek, a variety of species have been chosen not only for their protective and water retaining ability, but also for their ability to provide food and habitat for wildlife. Where twenty years ago there were no trees at all, birds can now eat from the many elderberry, nannyberry, and cranberry trees on the farm. Planted in between bigger tree species and along waterways, these plantings provide everything needed for a healthy ecosystem to develop.

Cranberries provide valuable food for birds.
Elderberries are another choice
crop for wildlife

Two aerial views of the Dobson Farm - the one on the left was taken in 1982 and the one on the right in 2015.  The improvement of the terrain with new shelter belts of trees and more than a generation of soil enhancement is clearly visible.


Further Discussion

A holistic approach to land management is fast gaining ground.   The organization, Holistic Management International, believes in a planning system which addresses environmental, economic and social issues that farmers and ranches face today.  We are a member of this group.  Learn more!

Watch this compelling video by Allan Savoryrenowned research biologist, farmer and international consultant as he describes a process for reversing large-scale land degradation.