Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – “The biggest thing is that cattle ranchers and cattle are working alongside natural ecosystems. If managed carefully and attentively, cattle not only pair with many of our landscapes, they’re actually part of its vibrancy.”
Tim Wray, along with his family from Irricana, Alberta, are big believers in the power of cattle to help the environment.
On Wednesday night, the Wray family was awarded the 2023 Canadian Cattle Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA) for their stewardship and vision.
Tim’s comments came only minutes after Doug Wray gave a heartfelt speech on stage while accepting the award in front of a large group of ranchers from across the country at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary.
Years of hearing from critics in the general public, media, and government that ranchers and cattle are part of the climate change problem.
He told the crowd this award was reassurance that producers are doing the right thing when it comes to environmental stewardship.
Doug was still in disbelief when they were named as the recipient, as he thought it was an impossible dream.
“You don’t dare expect to win it because we knew the competition level was so high, but to be awarded this honour is amazing.”
Doug’s grandfather started the Wray’s story in Alberta when he arrived in 1910 and started farming the land that Doug & Linda and Tim & Joanne are stewards of today.
It’s been 25 years since the Wrays decided to take the farm in a different direction, moving away from a mixed crop and pasture operation to a strictly grazing in the 1990s.
25 years of working with the cattle across the landscape to make sure they are using the forages on their land.
While they have always had their eye on the big picture, Tim says they have really been paying attention to the small things that have brought about some really great benefits, like the carbon that’s been sequestered in the soils.
“It’s good for the soil, it’s good for the air, it’s good for society, it’s good for ecology.”
He explains that they do this by paying attention to the plants, how they’re responding to the various seasons and moving cattle across those landscapes in appropriate ways.
Everything they do is for the good of that landscape and their business, a hallmark of sustainability.
Keeping Everyone Sharp
The Wrays say they rely on a wide variety of people for support, information, to keep their game sharp and on point.
“Many of them challenge us from time to time. It’s our vet, our nutritionist. All of that is part of the mix. It’s a big system, really.”
Connections that have been built up over several decades.
Doug says it all started with the Foothills Forage and Grazing Association, an organization he has been a long-time member of, sitting on the board and chairing it at one point.
“They’ve been the community really that we’ve been engaged with for decades that’s helped us come along.”
He says their community of support has now grown to include Kimberly Cornish and the Regenerative Ag Living Lab and other people in the science community, including Reynold Bergen.
He also points to everyone from the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which has been doing forage work for years as a big supporter.
“There’s a whole landscape of those connections.”
Doug says Tim has taken these connections and run with them expanding them in his own context.
Environmental stewardship is an everyday practice and way of life at the Wray Ranch, one where the cattle and the natural ecosystem work as one. An environment they have been working to build over the past 25 years and one they are proud to call home.
The Environmental Stewardship Award, which has been awarded annually since 1996, is a partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada, Birds Canada and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and is sponsored by MNP.
The provincial nominees TESA this year included: