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Farmers using bison to improve crop sustainability: ‘A joy to work with’

‘A joy to work with’: Farmers using bison to improve crop sustainability
WATCH: Bison are being utilized in regenerative farming techniques.

Regenerative farming is a long-term conservation and rehabilitation approach to growing food and is becoming more popular in North America.

Southwest Manitoba farmer Brooks White and northwest Saskatchewan farmer Avery Shepherd both use bison to improve the quality of their land.

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White has been raising bison year-round for 20 years. He uses an annual grain crop along with perennial covers for the bison to graze, improving soil life and increasing the output of crops. The technique is also environmentally friendly.

“We found a benefit to using the livestock in our system [with] the amount of fertilizer and the amount of chemicals we can reduce in our cropping system,” White explained at a regenerative learning workshop in Saskatoon on Friday.

“We’re utilizing them as a valuable tool by doing that.”

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Regenerative farming can also help with unexpected weather conditions, such as droughts.

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“The annuals have a place in the system where they’re improving my soil faster as well as providing a forage that I need in the fall or filling a forage gap I have throughout the season,” Shepherd said.

“It makes the farm more resilient. It should be opening up markets. It’s giving us a higher food density in our product.”

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Other livestock, such as cattle, can also be used, but the farmers said bison are fun to raise.

“I enjoyed seeing them on the farm and they’re a joy to work with. They’re very low maintenance, very hearty animals, built for our environment,” Shepherd said.

“They were genetically designed in this environment and that’s the way we need to keep it.”