Topic – Alberta’s Ranches

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Alberta’s Ranches

Alberta has almost 7 million hectares of ranchland. Ranchers in Alberta raise more beef cattle than any other province in the country.

Cowboy Country

A herd of cows on an Alberta farm

Cowboy checks on his cattle

Almost one-third of the land in Alberta is farmland. Scattered across the province are about 59 000 ranches and farms. Cowboys ride horses or all-terrain vehicles to keep an eye on their cattle. No wonder Alberta is sometimes called “Cowboy Country!” The cowboys have to check to make sure the cattle are healthy and that they have enough water. Cowboys also make sure the fences are in good shape and that there’s no sign of predators such as coyotes. Almost half of Canada’s beef is produced in Alberta. Some beef cattle ramble over the province’s rich grasslands and graze the grass and low plants. They are outside almost all year round. Other animals live in pens and are fed at feedlots.

Ranches Long Ago

Alberta grasslands

Alberta farmlands

Settlers began arriving in Alberta in the 1800s. They found the land in the southern part of the province was too dry for farming. However, they soon discovered the grasslands were great for raising cattle. The streams there provided water for the animals to drink. The small valleys, called coulees, gave the cattle shelter when the weather was bad. Warm winds, called chinooks, helped keep the animals warm.

Ranches Today

The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, Alberta, Canada

Some ranches are now open to tourists. People can stay there, take part in some of the ranch activities and find out what life on a ranch is really like. Today, cattle aren’t the only animals raised on Alberta’s ranches. Some ranchers raise buffalo, emu, llamas and sheep. The Bar U Ranch National Historic Site is another great place to find out about ranching. It’s located in Longview, Alberta, south of Calgary in the foothills of the Rockies. For 70 years, the Bar U was one of the top ranches in Canada. At its largest, it stretched more than 65 000 hectares and was home to about 30 000 cattle and 1000 large horses known as Percherons. Much of the ranchland was sold in the 1950s and today the ranch is about 148 hectares.

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