Dairy farming on a thousand hills

Think of dairy farming and you may imagine the flatlands of The Netherlands or the Fraser Valley. Although it carries the name, the Bulkley Valley is characterized more by slopes, hills, ridges, bumps and mountains than the occasional level field.

Thousand Hills Dairy, operated by Ed and Brenda Ewald in the Driftwood area north of Highway 16 and the Telkwa High Road, reflects the landscape, but also the faith-grounding of the Ewalds. Ed explains: The farm name refers to a Biblical psalm in which God says, “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills,” so Ed gets to care for a few of God’s cows.

Ed Ewald worked on dairy farms for years before the Ewalds were able to enter the dairy community with their own herd through a quota-building program which enables people to enter the restricted market. While many farmers inherit/buy-out a farm and land from relatives, the Ewalds used a different method. When their employer left the dairy industry, they worked out a way to rent the now-vacant buildings and a portion of land without the major expense of buying farmland and buildings themselves.

At ease with itself

Ed’s cows are mostly Frisian-Holsteins with one cross-bred Brown-Swiss. Most of his heifers and cows are bred through artificial insemination with some use of a beef bull from time to time. Herd health has generally been good with low somatic (bacteria) counts. The cows get their grain ration, pasture, hay or haylage, plus sodium bicarbonate and loose minerals fed free choice. Like most dairy herds in this region, Ed’s herd is checked by a visiting veterinarian who flies into the region to do routine “whole herd health” inspections and offers advice and help with individual cases. 

Ed buys most of his hay, although he does harvest a small number of round bales from his own deeded land. During the summer he relies on pasture. Ed has begun experimenting with paddocks and has been able to isolate one part of his large pasture for hay production.

Asked about his favourite parts of farming Ed mentions these:

  • getting the cows in the morning;
  • listening and watching them chew cud;
  • observing the creation and all the creatures;
  • being able to farm without feeling the need to build an empire.

Perhaps the single impression we received on the visit to Thousand Hill Dairy was that of peace. Perhaps it was the cooler weather, but the cows appeared content, the farm content, the Ewalds content with farming, the land a bit impatient for more rain but generally at ease with itself.

Without being too romantic or naïve about predator problems, Ed did tell us about a time during a previous summer when he called in a pack of wolves. The pups walked through the herd of cows towards Ed with the Wolf-Mom watching, until the cows became curious and chased the wolf pups to the fence line.

This anecdote reminded us of another part from the Bible:

  “The wolf shall live with the lamb,
  the leopard will lie down with the goat,
  the calf and the lion and yearling together,
    and a little child will lead them.”

He’s no little child, but Ed Ewald, dairy farmer and lover of nature, provides necessities for his family and the wider community . . . and finds time to consort – if not dance – with wolves. 

Author

  • Curt Gesch

    Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc.

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