Several years ago Ivan Olynyk sold his cattle farm south of Canora to an Alberta couple, and was ready to relax in retirement.
But the long-time cattleman is back in the business, albeit in a smaller way, with an eye to keeping his investment of both money and time at the lowest levels possible.
Olynyk said the decision to get back into cattle was simply made to utilize a resource.
"I had a quarter of land that was pasture," he said, the location of their new home.
Olynyk said he had always been interested in seeing just how efficient pasture could be by utilizing rotational grazing, so he fenced 30 paddocks of grass on the quarter with the initial idea of running steers over the summer.
But the price margins on steers tightened.
"So I went to the stockyards and bought some big bred cows," he said.
But Olynyk wasn't done yet. He said he went looking for some smaller framed cows, ones he thought might fit better into a low maintenance system.
That was when he heard about some belted Galloway cows for sale at Swan River, and headed to take a look on a minus-25 winter day.
The Swan River producer had acquired the Galloway for sentimental reasons.
"He bought them because where he was from in Scotland was where Galloway is from," said Olynyk.
"They were little cows, a thousand pound average, but they were hardy little things," he said, adding "… I was looking for small cows that fit this system, just grass, no grain."
For Olynyk they were a perfect fit for what he wants to do on his quarter of pasture.
"I want to prove this rotational grazing, and see what a smaller, hardy cow can do," he said. "… It's my little experimental farm."
Olynyk said in terms of the cows he can see the difference already.
"The Galloway go out and graze a couple of hours, then sit down and ruminate," he said. "The big cows (from the stockyards) have to graze longer."
In terms of grazing, Olynyk said he generally moves cattle every day or two, letting them graze the small paddocks hard, and then moving them so the grass has a chance to recover.
"The grass is improving," he said, adding he can see the improved grass stand after only two summers to the point he believes his 110 fenced acres could run 60 cow/calf pairs.
Olynyk said in a good growing year, like 2012, the greatest challenge is keeping ahead of the grass so it is grazed before it heads out, at which time it has less nutritive value, and will not recover from grazing.
And the cows have become used to the moves, so that too is easy.
"Once the cows get used to it, it's easy," he said, adding he has created somewhat of a hub and spoke pasture system with the watering hole at the centre, so the cows naturally gather there.
As it stands Olynyk is keeping things simple, noting he made a rule "no cattle when the snow is on the ground."
That does not mean he will sell his Galloway, but he will leave the winter work to someone else, taking them to a neighbour to be custom fed.
"I plan to bale graze them until Christmas and then they'll go over," he said.
Olynyk said at a cost of $1.60 a day to keep the cows he feels he is getting good value.
"When you figure it out, and somebody else is doing the work and putting up the feed, it really is quite reasonable," he said.
Olynyk also has no interest in calving in the cold.
"I breed them to calf in Mid-May - June," he said.
It's a system designed to keep the work to a minimum for the producer, and to utilize the grass resource, which Olynyk said is the key aspect of a cattle operation.
"The cows are just a tool," he said, adding the rancher is really producing grass. "… It's time most cattlemen realize they are raising grass."
As for producing beef, Olynyk said producers have to reassess that part of the business too.
"It's not how much you get in town at the end, but how much it cost to get there," he said, adding smaller cows may not produce the largest calves, but their inputs to maintain can make them more profitable.
Olynyk said he believes the trend toward bigger cows and calves was made because there was cheap barley through the years to feed them. That is no longer the case, and as cereal crops have risen in value, with a likelihood they will stay higher than in the past, cattleman have to turn back to grass.