The Kiskatinaw River Ranch (Nimitz Ranch) started taking shape in the late 1970’s. Ernest and Joanne Nimitz had a dream of owning their own property. Like many determined folk before them with a pioneering spirit they purchased the first piece of land that was to become the Nimitz spread. They lived in a small home in the forest with no electricity, no plumbing but plenty of wildlife to keep them company. The ranch has come a long ways from the days of the root cellar and the bears that liked to invade it.
Over the next 15 years they continued to purchase land that became available during the recession in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Today the ranch covers an area of approximately 1150 hectares or 2800 acres. As of 2016 there are 325 breeding cattle, 170 yearlings and 18 horses to accompany them on their rotational seasonal grazing around the ranch.
The Kiskatinaw River winds through the property like a lazy snake. Its intrinsic value can be seen by standing at the top of some of the 100-150ft cliffs that provide spectacular and beautiful views of the river valley. The River is something that is beneficial both to the beauty and the management of the property as it supplies controlled seasonal watering for the animals.
The Ranch is home to many species of both flora and fauna. Our most regularly seen guests are Deer, Moose, Bears, Coyotes, Foxes, Grouse, Raptors, Song Birds, Garter Snakes, and in the winter Elk tend to make appearances near our hay storage facilities. As well as the land and its beauty we cherish the importance of biodiversity on our land and in our water and we take steps to ensure that it is encouraged to flourish in the future. You can read more about this under the Ranch Values.
Since the 1980’s a major focus of the ranch has been the use of electric fence. The use of electric fence not only decreases the labour needed and the effectiveness of the pasture grid. Electric fence is far more accident friendly to humans, livestock and wildlife than barbwire fencing that can injure and maim all these groups in certain situations.
Horses are one of the major factors that help our ranch operate in a way that is beneficial to the animals. With approximately half of our ranch covered in spruce, pine, poplar and willow forest it would be nearly impossible to manage our animals and our grazing program without the use of horses. It is our belief that horses are the least stressful way to manage our cattle herds as well as one of the most important influences on enjoying our way of life in the outdoors with our animals.
In 2010 our family (Michael, Joanne and Ernest) decided to examine the possibility of diversifying our income from our cattle. Since Nimitz Beef was officially established in 2012 we have expanded our marketing efforts every year. We hope to continue to expand our direct marketing in the future and explore new avenues of bringing quality products to our customers.
A low stress and cruelty free life is something that we believe benefits every animal on our ranch. We address 6 Stress Points in the animals lifecycles and work to reduce stress at each one. Stress in beef animals is one of the leading causes of improper marbling of the intramuscular fats throughout the animals life cycle. By reducing stress levels at stress points we are providing our customers with a better product. So not only do our animals benefit from our humane treatment system but so do our customers.
Calving: The cattle are calved
in pastures from mid April to mid June; this removes them from the stress of
winter from January to March. Late calving also
results in less fatalities due to freezing conditions and virtually zero
sickness. Field calving reduces the likeliness of infections and health
afflictions that are common with calving in constrained areas such as barns and
pens. As a result our calves do not require any antibiotics when they are born.
Cattle Handling: The handling of
animals is something that many people associate animal cruelty with. Our operations are based around causing very little
stress. We do not use any electric shockers when working our cattle; instead we
focus on positioning and using our hands to direct our cattle. As well by doing
our cattle round ups on horseback we avoid the stress that vehicles can cause
in rounding up. We work hard to avoid the cattle following their flighty
instincts. In 2015 we moved to a hydraulic squeeze system that reduces the
stress of the animals when they are being worked on individually, by properly
Branding, Dehorning & Castration: The animals in our
meat program are not dehorned or branded. The steer calves are castrated using
a banding technique that is bloodless and only leaves them in discomfort for
18-24 hours, which is very little compared to the problems that can be
associated with surgically cutting them.
Weaning: Our weaning program
(diagram below) is one that was developed on the ranch for the specific purpose
of reducing the stress of weaning on the calves to almost nothing. The animals
are split in October (when they are 5.5 months old) and placed on different
sides of a 4 wire electric fence. The mothers and calves can see each other and
while the calves graze and continue with their lives the mothers watch them for
24-48 hrs and then move on with theirs. The system is not 100% reducing in
stress on the cows as no system ever will. The calves do not experience a long
haul experience or a change of environment so there is little to no stress on
The system works where the Cows (mothers) have approximately 3-4 days of feed when the weaning process begins. By the time it comes for them to be moved to a new pasture they have gotten over the stress of weaning as the pressure in the utters has declined. They move easily and weaning is finished. The calves are then raised through the fall and winter as their own grazing unit. Using this system since 2014, not a single calf has needed to be vaccinated for fever or any other sickness throughout the fall and winter. Animals shipped off to feedlots over this same time period would on average receive 2-4 shots of antibiotics. Our cows and calves graze most of their lives in large pastures providing them with the space they need to live a natural life in the sunshine, free of crowding and extensive confinement. Between adequate room and a low stress environment 99% of our animals never need an antibiotic shot unless do to unforseen injury.
Animal health is a high priority to us at the Ranch. All of our livestock receive their vaccinations to deter them from contracting possibly contagious or fatal conditions. The vaccinations administered have no affect on the quality of the meat and are not transferred to humans that consume the product.
Our cattle are watered using solar watering systems that are portable, assuring that they receive clean water as often as possible. As well controlling their access to mud and swampy conditions it limits their health afflictions and infections associated with their feet.
A healthy animal yields a healthier product. Our cattle receive mineral and salt supplements throughout the year in all seasons to insure a healthy immune system balance and fewer health problems during calving.
The ranch is managed according to a recognized Environmental Farm Plan featuring a holistic approach to human and natural resources. While this covers a broad number of issues the most important that we focus on is not adding any harmful toxins to our soils, grasslands or forests. The ranch is managed without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and benefits from our natural manure management. We do not harvest any of our own hay and as such our tillage is limited to small areas and is only done with an Aerway and chain harrows which improves water retention capacity of the soil, while reducing dust and soil erosion. By purchasing all of our hay we are essentially adding organic matter and nutrients to our land through grazing and feeding and not taking any from it.
Our three part holistic goal for our ranch is: To envision things long term and eventually develop the landscape to a sustainable level that will support various means of production that will provide the necessary income to allow all members of the family to have the appropriate lifestyle that they requires both in terms of economic and personal development.
A major focus of the ranch is to increase and maintain the current biodiversity balance on our land and in our water sources. From where we stand working with nature and increasing biodiversity makes good economic sense. Through intensive management and controlled grazing and the promotion of what we have termed Ranch-Maxi-Eco-Sites we work towards balancing our lives and land with natures needs.
Our controlled and intensive grazing program allows us to maximise our grazing efficiency while limiting the stress on the environment by our cattle. We accomplish this by limiting the amount of time out cattle have access to small pieces of land at one time. By limiting their time in areas it quickly relieves stress from areas that can be sensitive to animal exposure and encourages rapid re-growth.
Our Ranch-Maxi-Eco-Sites program is based around the protection of riparian areas. Riparian areas are the areas around waterways such as rivers, streams, creeks and dugouts that can be sensitive and damaged by animal pressure. We protect wash areas, and areas that we view as being sensitive to cattle exposure. The areas are fenced off and only exposed to animals to control weed growth and to reduce the threat of fire. Along with protecting riparian areas we also fence off many of our dugouts (man made livestock watering holes), thereby offering protection to the rodent, reptile, avian, small predator species and other mammals that make their habitats in these areas. Essentially these are buffer areas around our water sources that also help to act as a screen to any negative runoff that could come from oil patch and uncontrolled neighbour farming activities.A simple depiction of a Ranch-Maxi-Eco-Site is shown below. The buffer area represents the protected habitat for the organisms that live near the water source including both flaura and fauna. The offsite controlled water area is for the cattle that will travel to the water site from one or several pastures. The picture to the left of the diagram is of an active site after being protected for a number of years.