Getting to know Canadian producers – Scott and Brandy Schiffner
Rodeo is a lifestyle for the Schiffner family based in Strathmore, Alta. So, it is only fitting that this passion for rodeo has led to a career in ranching. For over 20 years, Scott Schiffner was a professional bull rider and his wife, Brandy, was involved in the sport throughout high school as well. Together, they have three girls who also have an interest in the sport. The family continues to be involved in rodeo while running their ranch, which they started in 2005 and expanded in 2011.
Scott and Brandy are not yet calving, so their main focus is on pregnant cows. They care for these animals by maintaining the cattle’s healthy pregnancy weight, providing bedding and supplying mineral blocks for the herd to ensure the animals have all the nutrients they need to produce healthy calves.
“Making sure all animals have access to water,” is the top priority in winter, Scott says. Their operation uses solar power waterers that need to be checked often, especially in colder weather. This solar watering system was installed as a pilot project. It uses waterers that pull from the creek into the pasture, preserving the creek embankment and protecting the ecosystem.
In effort to innovate their day-to-day operations, Scott and Brandy worked on a producer app called Herdly, a cattle management tool.
Purchasing beef from a producer
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people became interested in purchasing beef directly from farmers. However, this brings a unique set of challenges. A certified individual must inspection the cattle before they can be processed. The assessment must be done by an individual that has taken a six-month course. Inspectors are not always accessible in all areas, which can cause difficulties for producers and consumers.
Scott and Brandy sell directly to consumers whenever they have the opportunity but these regulations have not made their jobs easy. Alberta’s government tried to make regulations easier for consumers to buy directly from the producer, but there are still rules around inspectors that need to be changed to make the process more streamlined for producers.
Supporting Canadian agriculture
For the Schiffner family, it is important to promote the benefits of the agricultural sector to people who may not have any previous experience. Their daughters participate in 4-H and raise their steers to show at fairs. The Schiffners participate in Open Farm Days in August. They invite individuals to explore their ranch and teach them about their cattle ranch. Open Farm Days is a Canada-wide effort to promote the awareness of and appreciation for the country’s diverse agriculture sector.
Brandy, who works as a part-time dental hygienist, wants to see more education about agriculture in professional and urban settings as she believes there is a disconnect between farmers and consumers. She has been to dental conferences where the speaker’s message has been, “Red meat is bad for you.” Brandy says this perspective misses the benefits of red meat. “The natural protein and vitamin B in meat are better and more easily absorbed than supplements,” Brandy explains.
Families in Agriculture
Ranching is not a nine to five job. After all, there is no consistent paycheque on most farms. The Schiffners are working with cattle, for which the price continually fluctuates, and there is no payment until ranchers decide to sell. This uncertainty causes many farmers to rely on their family for support.
“You are so dependent on your family because you may need help checking cows that could be calving, making meals for your family in the field or making milk bottles up for baby calves. It is truly a family enterprise and not something you can walk away from. You’re putting in many hours every day,” Brandy explains.
Throughout Canada, most farms are run by families, not large corporations, and the Schiffners believe it is important for Canadians to understand that families are producing their food. For some time now, there is a misconception that the majority of farms are factory farms when in reality, they are family owned and operated.
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.