From Pasture to Pond

by Matt McIntosh, Farm & Food Care

(Mooretown) – Chad Anderson might not be an avid outdoorsman, but he has a definite appreciation for natural spaces and the wildlife they support. On his cow-calf farm near Mooretown in Lambton County, Chad has invested in both new pasture and a new pond in an effort to improve the environment for wild birds as well as his beef herd.

The view of the Anderson farm from the duck pond

The view of the Anderson farm from the duck pond

Last year, Chad’s farm was in the middle of a transition. A section of cropland was being converted to permanent pasture for his animals. However, his pasturing plans hit a roadblock when they encountered a stubbornly wet section of ground just behind his barn.

“Part of the area we were seeding down to pasture was always a really wet and low lying area,” says Chad. “Leaving it like that and making it into pasture would have been an issue. I didn’t want my cows to get in it because they could get stuck in the mud, or get sick from drinking the water.”

In the interests of his herd’s health, says Chad, the area was going to have to be drained before it could be used.

Before any work to empty the low-lying patch of land was started, however, Chad was contacted by a member of the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority. That member provided him with a reference to Ducks Unlimited Canada – the Canadian division of an international charitable organization dedicated to conserving wetland habitats- and the idea to convert his soggy bit of cropland into a duck pond.

Chad Anderson stands outside his beef barn

Chad Anderson stands outside his beef barn

Chad’s current waterfowl haven started to take shape after he partnered with Ducks Unlimited under the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program – a provincial cost-share program for farmers that are investing in Best Management Practices to protect natural spaces on the farm. The provincial government’s Grassland Habitat Farm Incentive Program, which offers funding to complete projects that support grassland birds, also covered a portion of the cost for seeding his pasture.

Because the pond was being excavated on ground that was already wet, explains Chad, they could only work on the project when everything was quite dry. Despite this and the time it takes for new pasture grass to establish itself, though, the whole project was completed in August of 2013.

Perhaps ironically, Chad says he has not actually seen that many ducks in his new pond yet, but it is definitely a popular rest spot for geese. In the dry summer months, it also acts as a good source of clean drinking water for his cattle, and the white clover and flowering shrubs planted around the water provide a better habitat for pollinators.

The improved pollinator space, says Chad, is a particularly good thing since he is also a hobby beekeeper with around 40 beehives.

An on-farm solar panel

An on-farm solar panel

Significant as his duck pond is, though, it’s not the only environmentally-friendly aspect of the farm. Part of the funding Chad received was also used to plant two rows of spruce trees to act as a windbreak, and he is also generating renewable energy for the power grid using a large on-farm solar panel.

I’ve found that planting a windbreak really helps increase the longevity of the fence and reduce maintenance costs,” says Chad.

 

“Overall I’m pretty happy with how everything worked out.”

This article is one in a series produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. The stories highlight innovative initiatives in the areas of animal welfare and environmental stewardship in Ontario agriculture. To submit a profile idea, email info@farmfoodcare.org.

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