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Atlantic Canada TESA nominee

Through proper management, Nova Scotia's Holdanca Farms can finish cattle and other livestock on grass on their 500-acre operation and at the same time protect and enhance the environment to the benefit of a wide range of flora and fauna.

It is definitely a win/win situation where proper management of forages and other natural resources on the farm supports economical livestock production while also benefiting the environment and diverse wildlife species as well.

The farm's management with nature-focused, regenerative and sustainable production systems, earned it recognition by the Maritime Beef Council as the 2024 Atlantic Canada recipient of The Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA).

"Proper pasture management is something that has been part of our approach to farming for many years," says John Duynisveld, who is the second generation on the family farm. "My dad started rotational grazing on a 10 acre field back in 1988 and it is still one of the most productive pastures on the farm. Grazing management was gradually applied to the whole farm by 1998."

DIVERSIFIED OPERATION

Today, Holdanca Farms, located in Wallace Bay, on Nova Scotia's North Shore is a diversified livestock operation, that not only produces several species, but also direct markets meat to consumers.

The farm, operated by Duynisveld and his daughter Maria, raises about 70 head of grass-fed beef cattle (a mix of cow-calf, finishers, and some locally bought to finish), 100 ewes plus 150-200 lambs for grass-finishing, 200 pastured pigs (farrow-finish), and pastured poultry in an adaptive rotational grazing system.  They also custom graze up to 150 head of beef cattle, determined each year based on forage availability and their own livestock numbers.

Their land base bordering the saltwater Wallace Bay includes several freshwater habitats and 250 acres of managed, biodiverse native woodlot. Another 250 acres of their land and a further 30 acres of leased neighboring land is in pasture production, most of it in long-term (30 plus years) perennial pasture.

They also use some annual polyculture (multi-species) cropping from time to time to fit the energy needs of their livestock.

"The North Shore of Nova Scotia is an ecologically significant environment, with key stopping points and breeding locations for migratory birds, and a diverse range of ecosystems," says Duynisveld. "We are proud to have a variety of these ecosystems represented and responsibly managed on our farm. As we have advanced to a longer grazing season the number of cattle we custom graze has dropped. We graze our cattle and sheep on perennial grass for 250 to 300 days a year, and use bale-grazing with the cattle and sheep to supplement the stockpiled pasture in the winter."

The Duynisvelds keep many things in mind as they manage their farming operation. Overall management involves looking after the forage resource so it can support efficient and economical livestock production. And at the same time they are well aware of the importance of biodiversity, and proper management of the various ecosystems on the farm that provide habitat for a wide range of plants and animals.

"When planning our grazing systems and managing our buildings, for example, we are aware of the breeding seasons of the bird species on our property," says Duynisveld. "Three threatened species, the barn swallow, willet, and bobolink, are actively managed in our operation. As we have become more aware of these species, we have been better able to manage our land in their favour. When managing our barns and sheds, we leave spaces for barn swallows to enter and exit safely during their breeding seasons, and we protect their nests from damage when we are working in those areas. We avoid cutting forages during key bobolink and willet nesting periods, and we fence around their nests when managing our grazing systems. Gaining knowledge about these species and being able to access information through conservation groups has allowed us to improve our management of native birds."

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