Hagan Valley Ranch – Virden, MB

Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. 

“Not very many people get to wake up every morning and just love their jobs, obviously there are days where you do not wanna to go outside and do chores when it’s minus 45 out but I think the good days outweigh the bad, that’s for sure” says Felicity co-owner of Hagan Valley Ranch.

Hagan Valley Ranch is a cow/calf and yearling operation that sits on 3200 acres of native pasture land south of Virden, Manitoba. They also train horses and direct market beef and pork. They have been practicing regenerative farming for over 5 years. 

Felicity and Thomas Hagan purchased their first half section in 2008, a full section in 2014, and the parcel they are living on now in 2016. Most of the land they took over was traditionally overgrazed pastures and lowlands that had a lot of dead grass and mat built up because of a lack of animal impact.

They have been holistically managing their land since they took their first Holistic Management course in 2015. That got them ranching in the right direction from the beginning. They learned from the course to look at the whole picture, Land, Money, and People. The course gave them courage to start their business from scratch, and purchase land, and cattle. 

“HM has introduced us to a group of people that have become our friends and family and that we have grown and learned with. Our methods continue to evolve as we learn but our goal to ranch regeneratively stays the same” says Felicity. 

Both Felicity and Thomas grew up on farms and just love the lifestyle. They get to be around their kids all day which is important to them. They are both passionate about riding horses and they incorporate that in their business by running the horses with their cattle. 

“The lifestyle is great and where it’s going is exciting! All the ability to learn and just grow in this industry is just really cool! All the different changes that have taken place over the years” says Felicity.

The challenges that Felicity and Thomas faced with ranching was them trying to figure out if they could make enough money to both continue ranching full time. That was the initial driving factor to get them to take a Holistic Management course. They thought investing the time and money into the course could make a change in their business and lives.

“When we left there, we had brand new eyes. We couldn’t wait to dive in and make these changes” says Felicity. 

It was important for them to find balance between the social, environmental, and financial aspects of their lives and the goals and objectives of the farm. This is why holistically managing the land was key. It allows them to take a step back from their busy schedules to compare their dreams and goals within their holistic context to make sure they stay on the right path. 

Felicity says that the top objective of their farm is to be financially secure in running one of the best cattle operations they can, in Manitoba. If their farm is a viable business, it will create more ease in their day to day life and they will be able to spend more time with their children. 

Felicity and Thomas have regular meetings where they strategize ways to improve each year and they write their goals on their big shop chalkboard. For a few years now they have been facing the challenge of growing their herd and having a wintering site that is too small. Their home and yard, where they winter their cattle, is located between two sides of the lake and has bushes on the other two sides. Giving them no room to expand without clearing the bush. Felicity explained how in their decision making process they rule out clearing bush because it is the best shelter nature can provide.

Their solution was to move the wintering site to a different location. With that decision came a huge cost of moving hydro to the new site and adding a new watering system. Felicity and Thomas applied to a few programs over the years to try and secure funds to implement this project. They were able to secure funding from the Ag Action Manitoba Program for Farmers and the Regenerative Accelerator Project. 

In 2021, Holistic Management Canada received funding from the Manitoba Heritage Habitat Corporation Conservation Trust for a project called the Regenerative Accelerator. The project set out to work alongside 5 farms in Manitoba, to provide expertise and financial support to implement regenerative practices. Hagan Valley Ranch was one of the 5 farms involved in the project.

Felicity and Thomas said they loved all aspects of the Regenerative Accelerator Project. Securing the funds to be able to do the project was huge. Having a third party come out to do the Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) monitoring so that they have concrete numbers to be able to qualify that they are indeed improving their land is important to them. Felicity said that just being able to communicate with the expert that was assigned to them through the project was extremely beneficial. Being able to connect with someone on a personal level that runs a similar operation and has a similar lifestyle with children was nice and they learned a lot.

For their project they installed hydro, water lines, watering bowls, and fencing. Felicity explains how before this project it was laborious to pump water out of the dugouts and move the water around the paddocks. Now their cattle have access to water from 6 different quarters by implementing alley systems that lead to the watering bowls. They can also bale graze at their new wintering site all winter long without issues of water. Felicity says that they are excited to get out there come spring and see all the leftover residue in that area.

When we discussed Hagan Valley Ranch’s competitive advantage because of their regenerative practices Felicity states, “it’s our ability to always grow grass here.”

This year’s drought was difficult on so many surrounding farms. And others ran out of pasture quickly, with not enough grass growth to feed their cows. Even in their marsh area they saw dugouts and sloughs dry up. Felicity says the more they improve their soil the better the grass will be. More organic matter in the soil will create healthier soil that will be able to retain the water that they do get. 

Felicity also says that more and more people are starting to care about what they eat and where they get their food from. Sharing with their customers that they regeneratively farm and holistically manage their land has made a huge difference for them in the market. 

What’s next for Felicity and Thomas? They are planning on not taking on any more large projects this year, but in a month or so things might look different, says Felicity. They want to focus their attention this season on continuing to set up the new wintering site and start to centralize everything around the watering system by adding more permanent fencing and more paddocks. They have been working on some test plots over the past few years and will continue to do that this season. Testing out different stocking density and planning to move the herd more frequently in some areas and slower in others.