(L-R Jamie Richardson, Trevor Tapp, Janice Tapp, Bill Lloyd & Jesse)
For over 18 years Trevor and Janice Tapp have operated the Copper-T Ranch alongside the picturesque 13,500-acre Fraser Lake west of Vanderhoof, B.C. They were the 5th operation in B.C. to become registered on the Verified Beef Production program back in 2006. Today this award winning operation is certified VBP+.
The Tapps actually came to the area over 32 years ago while Trevor was with the RCMP. After his retirement the couple set their sights on getting back to their farming 'roots' by starting their own ranch. Over time they built the operation up to nearly 1,000 acres of deeded land and today run 80 purebred Polled Hereford cows. About 20% of the cows are bred AI and the rest are naturally serviced. The Tapps market 2-year-old bulls as herd sires, replacement heifers, bred heifers, 4-H steers as well as grass cattle. They background their calves and have an established farm gate beef market for their premium Hereford beef sold through their local corner grocer in the Fraser Lake village and direct from the ranch.
The grazing management plan on the mixed native grass, seeded pasture and bush involves a conscientious rest rotation approach. The cows and replacement heifers are divided into 4 breeding groups rotated independently through a series of pastures using solar electric fencing. Pastures are grazed leaving 3 to 4 inches residual and the rested for 6 to 8 weeks depending on growing conditions. The aim is to ensure a balance of good forage availability and healthy pasture and range condition.
A great deal of the development and management of the Copper-T revolves around maintaining healthy riparian areas, creeks, lakeshore and wildlife habitat. All cattle access to water sources is restricted, which helps maintain water quality on, and exiting, the ranch. Recently the B.C. Cattlemen's Association recognized their work and achievements by bestowing the Copper-T Ranch with the 2017 Ranch Sustainability Award. The Tapps were also early adopters of the Environmental Farm Plan (2005, renewed 2015) and utilize the Canadian Hereford Association Total Herd Evaluation (THE) as a decision making tool.
Janice recalls when they first got onto the VBP program they did so with a focus on keeping solid records.
"As registered Hereford breeders we were already keeping lots of records on health management, herbicide use and such, and VBP just expanded and supplemented what we were already doing," she says. "We felt it was important to be able to prove to people that our cattle were being raised in as sustainable a way as possible."
For the past 2 years the Tapps have been operating the ranch in partnership with Bill Lloyd and Jamie Richardson and their young son Jesse. With no children of their own and yet a keen eye on the succession of the Copper-T, the Tapps figured the partnership made sense; and they have been good friends with Jamie's folks for years. Today they work the operation together, discussing and decision making togather and eventually Bill and Jamie will inherit the ranch.
In line with that future mind-set Janice notes that now being VBP+ certified fits the long-term objective.
"Because there are 2 families involved now, VBP+ gives us a way to keep track of what's happening, provides a central record keeping system and keeps us aware of what's happening on the ranch no matter who happens to be doing the chores at any given time," she adds.
The Tapps know the people buying their animals really appreciate getting the health records they provide when the animals leave the Copper-T: inclduing complete vaccination histories since birth and any treatment records. And their VBP+ records add that level of certainty when shipping their cattle either direct or through the auction mart.
"VBP records are important in that we are certain that no animal we are taking to slaughter has been treated or, if it has, it is well beyond the withdrawal date for the product used - if it isn't, the animal doesn't go. If we are sending to the auction mart - same thing applies," she notes.
For more information on the Copper-T visit their website at: https://www.coppertranch.com
AKC Farming & Repairs was founded in the late 1900's originally on Crown land. While operated today by Allan and Colleen Cathcart, they had purchased the farm from Allan's father Bruce, who still helps out and lives on a retirement lot next door. The homeplace is just over 96 acres and the farm rents about 200 acres for pasture in the summer and 400 acres for hay, forage and soybean seedings. They target the equestrian market on premium hays sales.
The Cathcarts run about 50 commercial white Charolais cows bred to registered Charolais bulls. They split calve the herd with about 70% calving January through February and kept through to November. The other 30% of the cows calve in the fall. They direct sell steers off the farm as well as through auction markets and presently don't finish their animals. Their future goals with the herd include moving to larger birthweights, spending more time summer grazing the pastureland and Allan plans to work with "Seed Stock" buying and retaining their own heifers and breeding them to their new registered Charolais bull Calypso.
The farm is located in the Ganaraska Watershed near Kendal, northwest of Port Hope on Lake Ontario and in the Oak Ridges Moraine zone. The Ganaraska Forest is nearby and the AKC Farm is blessed with several springs and fresh water flow across the property. It's rolling drumlin grassy hill country on Brighton Sandy Loam soils with panoramic views to the north and south sides of the property and is habitat for a wide range of wildlife species. They maintain many scenic walking trails throughout the farm.
The operation became Verified Beef Production (VBP) registered in September 2015 because - "the beef industry is where we are passionate about what we do," say the Cathcarts. "We want to build consumer confidence and validate our responsible practices."
The Cathcarts participated in the McDonald's Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot beginning in the fall of 2015. They passed the audit fine. Colleen took the Environmental Farm Plan through the Growing Forward 2 Ontario program that same year.
The Cathcarts are active members of the Beef Farmers of Durham, to which Allan is a voting delegate leading up to the Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) AGM. The operation was named a BFO MVP Family in 2015. They're also registered and active on the Beef InfoXchange System.
In 2016 Allan and Colleen took the Traceability course and as soon as the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program was announced that summer they set their sights on getting fully certified.
It's a natural evolution for this Ontario beef cattle operation - "We want to be involved in the VBP+ program to help promote the Ontario & Canadian beef brand. We recognize the importance of our operation's involvement in VBP+ now and in the future to being recognized as a credible, sustainable and trusted source of beef from an Ontario family farm."