—– By Kenneth Wong
Phil Braig of Douglas Lake Ranch gives us some insight into the world of ranching.
Ranching has always been a huge part of the Nicola Valley’s history. Originally known as Forksdale in the 1880s, the town that would become Merritt was started by ranchers William Voght, Jesus Garcia, and the John Charters Estate.
Much like the early pioneers, Douglas Lake Ranch was in 1884 when John Douglas Sr. sold the property to Charles Beak. Beak and his associates, Joseph Greaves, Charles Thomson, and William Ward would then go on to turn the property into a ranch. Today, Phil Braig sits as the ranch’s general manager and vice president.
“When you think of all the things that have happened since 1884, there are a couple of world wars and there’s the Great Depression, lots of things that have wiped out business along the way due to those things and we’re one of the businesses that have continued on over the years,” Braig said.
Douglas Lake Ranch contributes to the local economy “in a big way,” according to Craig, staffing 130 people between four ranch divisions.
“The product that we buy comes from the local economy,” Braig said. “Fuel, fertilizer, seed, chemicals, vehicles, equipment, all this stuff is all purchased locally.”
Whilst cows are the ranch’s main product, the ranch also focuses on growing grass to ensure that the cows have food to eat during the winter. “We produce cattle on the ranch but essentially we’re in the business of growing grass right because most of the years the cattle are out on the countryside eating grass,” Braig said.
Businesses all across the agriculture sector have been impacted by climate change. “If there’s a shortage of water or precipitation or snowfall, that all affects the amount of grass that grows and ultimately how much grass is available for cattle to eat so we’re very dependent on the weather,” explained Braig.
One of the strategies Douglas Lake uses to adapt to climate change is pivot irrigation, a mechanized system of wheeled sprinklers that provide just the right amount of water at the right time. This system, according to Braig, allows the ranch to grow more crops using less water.
Braig describes ranching as a labour of love, being able to work outside with animals everyday and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “Looking out for the animals are really where we make our money so the better you look after them and make sure they’re comfortable and have the feed that they require and all those things, the reward for that is to see in the spring close to 7,000 calves born on the ranch and in a relatively short time and seeing that year after year after year, that’s a pretty rewarding thing.”
Braig thanks the Nicola Valley community for supporting Douglas Lake Ranch over its many years, “we’ve been part of the community obviously for a long time and will continue to be for many years, and they’ve always been a great supporter of us.”