Our Story – Cabin on the Coulee Farm

Our Family

We are the Eric and Josie Neilson family that lives and farms north of Fleet in east-central Alberta. We recently celebrated our 32nd anniversary and are a family of five, with all of our three children now grown up.  Like virtually all farms today in Alberta, we are busy with both on and off farm jobs and appreciate having our kids helping out as they can.

In 2012 we exchanged some summer pasture for my older brother’s herd for three heifer calves. Two of these eventually became the matriarchs of our herd of cattle, affectionately known as Chocolate and Blondie.  We have several daughters of these two cows in our herd today.  Over the years we have slowly grown and currently have a small herd of about 50 cows.

Eric’s Experience

 I grew up on a mixed farm (grain and beef cattle) in East-Central Alberta. In 1988 I graduated with a BSc. In Agriculture, animal science major, being especially interested in animal nutrition and physiology.  My first ‘real’ job was at Calgary Masterfeeds where I specialized in poultry operations.  

Starting in 1993, I was an entrepreneur for 13 years but we were forced to sell the business in 2005 due to an accident that resulted in my broken, dislocated hip.  At this point, I sold our business and went back to school to get my secondary teaching degree with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry.  I worked as a classroom teacher for several years but in 2014 I took a  break and for three years and worked as the extension and environmental program coordinator at Battle River Research Group .  During this time, we decided to go back to our farming roots because of all the innovative and interesting practices that I was learning about at BRRG and I wanted to begin to apply them to our operations.  One of the most interesting experiences I had there was being part of the discovery and identification of a new disease in Canola, called pink root rot.  I identified and submitted some diseased plants to the Alberta Plant Health Lab in Edmonton and it eventually led to the publication of this paper in the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology with me as a co-author: First report of pink root rot caused by Setophoma (Pyrenochaeta) terrestris on canola  

In 2017, I went back to teaching part time at the Brownfield Community School so that I would have more time for the farm. After completing two years there, I have resigned and am now ready to be dedicated full time to our farm and marketing our beef and our cabin, because that is really what I am passionate about.

Our Animals

Our animals are never confined to a feedlot.  We make every effort to incorporate year round grazing for our animal management by growing annual crops for three seasons of swath grazing, in addition to summer grazing on perennials. 

We do provide shelter from wind, bedding and extra feed during the most extreme winter weather.  Our cows have their calves during May and June as similar native animals do, when the weather and grazing conditions are the best.  The main goal for our cows is that they have long, healthy, happy, productive lives on our farm; in fact we currently have one mother that is 17 years old in our herd.  We do not brand our animals and we band all the steers at a very young age, the simplest most pain free method of ‘fixing’ them. 

We do our best to use stress free handling practices when administering all herd health treatments and we wean our calves in a two stage process that includes the use of the ‘quiet wean’ nose inserts which greatly reduces anxiety and stress for the calves and the mothers.  If you have any questions about any of these things, feel free to contact us below.

Our Cabin

In 2003 our family built a cabin on the coulee with a spectacular view of the coulees and the surrounding landscape in anticipation of wanting a family meeting and recreation place after the rest of the family had moved away from the original home location.  In 2004, plans changed as we decided to build our home on Josie’s parents home quarter, only one mile or so from the cabin.  This left the cabin on the coulee mostly unused near the middle of a whole section (one square mile) of land.  As we began farming and building up our beef herd, we often thought of the cabin and what we should do with it.  The cabin renovations are now finished and you can now book your stay at the cabin at Airbnb here.