Mary McCashin of Real American Cowboy Magazine
Before the sun even rises over the Porcupine Hills of Southern Alberta, the Lane family’s day has already begun. Shaunere (Shaun-ur-eh) has bacon sizzling in a cast iron pan, while Brian slowly sips his coffee at the table as the family of six plan out the day’s agenda for their ranch.
A local, honest ranchman and a levelheaded, money smart Texas woman, Brian and Shaunere incorporated Brown Creek Ranch in 1997. The 2,700-acre ranch located outside of Claresholm, Alberta specializes in black and red Angus cattle.
Throughout the valley they live and work in, out into the lushes green hills and beyond, Brown Creek Ranch has gained a following of loyal customers who value the Lanes’ reputation for honesty and excellence. “Brian doesn’t say too much but he’s honest and customers appreciate that. If he doesn’t think a bull is the right match he’ll tell them that and offer up another option.”
The ranch prides themselves on the quality of their stock; every year they host their annual bull sale at Ft. McCloud’s auction house. Both new and returning clients fill the auction house and the Lanes the offer up the best of their stock at a fair price, in April 2014 they sold 39 bulls.
Each of the Lanes’ bulls is vetted and ready to go to work, however they couple go above and beyond that; there’s a follow-through and a personal phone call to every buyer to make sure they’re satisfied and their bull is working. “You can’t keep them in a glass box or predict the future, things happen”, states Brian. If in fact a customer is unsatisfied, the Lanes re-vet the bull on their own dime and even go as far as to replace the bull at no cost. Brown Creek Ranch’s attention to detail is what helps set them apart and allows for a steady influx of new clients.
The family are equally as proud of their ranch’s environmental impact as they are of their stock. In 2007 Brown Creek was awarded the ‘Alberta Beef Producers Environmental Stewardship Award’; an award that recognizes good ranching practices and their impact on land and community. “You could say we’re a ‘green’ ranch, we don’t spread chemical based fertilizers, we let the cows do the work.” The Lanes black and red Angus are moderately-sized and because of their size they can graze more cattle at one time; more cattle equals more calves and their pastures longevity remains. Pasture rotation to maintain their fields and allow the cattle to perform their own weed control is a priority; allowing them to save money and only spray for specific weeds the cattle do not eat. The cows provide natural fertilizer that is spread across fields for a natural fertilizer, while the cows are on weed control which is one sector the Lanes are fertilizing and allowing the pastures to thrive in the other sectors.
Brown Creek Ranch is currently home to 420 head on the main ranch and 150 head in a neighboring pasture where the Lanes rent the land. Their son, Chancie (20) lives on the rented pasture and calved out 150 head this spring in temperatures slipping below -35F. “Needless to say it was a cold and challenging calving season”, he says. The level of passion and the dedication to hard work is something the Lanes have passed down to all four of their kids, Ty (22), Chancie (20), Chloe (15), and Holly (13).
As a family they make the ranch work, something Shaunere always aspired to. “We’re just so blessed to live where we live and raise our kids here. Ranch life teaches you values that you can’t learn in the city, animals teach you things about life that people can’t. All I’ve ever wanted to do is raise cattle, live in the country, and raise my family.”
As a family the Lanes are devoted to Brown Creek Ranch, through good times and hard times. Every day the ranch faces new challenges and changes, whether it’s locally or beyond. “You pour your heart and soul into this business and the price of your goods is dictated by world events, the government, and the economy. The cattle prices are good right now but you can’t take that for granted, you’re at the mercy of the market.“ However, they have always considered themselves lucky and each day they arise with a passion for their lifestyle and the dedication to make it work. “It’d be nice if people knew that we aren’t taking what we do for granted. We’re caretakers and we’re not just using the cattle.”
It’s a hard life filled with backbreaking work, hours that extend far beyond 8-5, and the ability to be financially flexible when the market takes a blow. “There’s not tons of disposable income so it’s not as attractive to young people, and they have to love to do it. Lots of places are selling out because no one is there to take over the operation or they just don’t want to.”
However, the cattle community in Alberta remains very united as each ranch bends over backwards to help one another. As a community Alberta Beef Producers strives to help educate people about the different ways people raise cattle and to correct misconceptions about their industry. Brown Creek Ranch’s cattle are never confined until they are shipped to feed lots prior to production to keep them in the best condition before the sale. “Because our cattle have been on the grass and roaming over pastures they’re in great shape when they go and therefore they don’t have to stay at the feed lot as long.” Another common misconception the Lanes face is that cattle production in the United States varies greatly from that of Alberta’s, “We’re all just borrowing the land, the cattle rely on us and we rely on the cattle. We all have the same thing, we all have a family and mouths to feed; it’s a commonality.” Shaunere, born and raised in Texas, also notes, “I’ve realized that people are all fundamentally the same. We all have the same concerns, worries, fears, money problems, but at the end of the day we all find this to be a rewarding and fulfilling life.”
When they’re not working their cattle, Brown Creek Ranch also has a ‘Bed & Breakfast’, boasting a small cabin on their property with picturesque scenery and access to the farm life. The B&B is in its 11th year and has provided the Lane family with an additional income and has exposed their kids to life around the globe. “We constantly have people coming here from Europe and sometimes from Asia. Not only are we supplementing our income but also our kids are learning about how other peoples’ lifestyles. I can be home with them this way too.” Shaunere also has her own business, Wild Rags, specializing in handmade silk scarves that are a natural part of cowboy attire. “I sew all winter long because the B&B slows down then. I sell them at local stores and even a few trade shows throughout the year. We stay busy!”
At the end of the day when the sun settles behind the Porcupine Hills, whether the Lanes are done working or they are still repairing fence by truck headlights, there is always something to do and something they can improve on. However, it is clear that the Brian and Shaunere, and their four kids, all love the life they lead and would not trade it for anything. If they said it once, they have said it 10,000 times, “It’s a good life.”
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An adventurer, fun-loving free spirited cowgirl, Mary McCashin is a freelance journalist who is appearing in Real American Cowboy Magazine more and more often and building a huge following. Mary tackles ANY story and asks the up close and personal questions that make all the difference in a great article
A hard worker with a strong agricultural and equine background, Mary stays busy with her horses in Tennessee though she’s up for just about anything – she recently spent a week in California climbing and having her version of a rodeo-vacation!