Mark & Heather Shouldice of Big Rock Bison near Shallow Lake in Grey County are the recipients of the 2021 MAPLESEED Ontario Pasture Award. For their environmental and pasture improvements and management, the recipients will receive $250 and a bag of forage seed.
The Big Rock Bison operation includes 140 bison which are on pasture twelve months of the year. The 150 acres of pastureland is set up with 9 paddocks to practice rotational grazing, allowing sufficient time for each pasture to rest, re-grow and recover before the bison go back on that paddock.
Mark says, “The bison stay out 12 months of the year in a low-stress environment, with room to roam and be social. They are built for and thrive in the winter, but we do have to sacrifice pasture for the wet and muddy spring season, so typically the bison move out on fresh pasture on May 7th and this is when we stop feeding hay for the season”.
Mark commented that they “are committed to sustainable and regenerative farming practices that have a positive impact on the land and the bison while producing both a nutritious and delicious red meat protein.” For pasture health and vitality, Mark says, “We try to prevent pasture from getting grazed below 4” in forage height, to maintain maximum growth and health, as well as to prevent erosion due to rain and/or wind.”
The Shouldice family believes that healthy pastures and soil create a diverse and robust ecosystem, which positively impacts climate change. As Mark says, “Healthy pastures = healthy bison = healthy meat = maximum profit.”
In reviewing this nomination, Scott Fisher, Sales Manager (Western Ontario) with MAPLESEED said, “I find it exciting and encouraging, that land stewardship is front and centre across all portfolios of meat production.”
Ray Robertson, Manager of the Ontario Forage Council commented that “Even though this applicant is truly unique in the area, it demonstrates the economic and environmental benefits of a well-managed pasture operation.”