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Wednesday, 01 August 2012 13:58

Irwin family wins BMO Farm Family Award for County of Newell

Written by  Calgary Stampede
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The Irwin Family from Patricia were the County of Newellrecipients of a 2012 BMO Farm Family Award from the Calgary Stampede. Following is their story.


The community of Patricia is a very close-knit one, says Todd Irwin.
Quite often, he notes, newcomers enjoy the community’s spirit and friendly atmosphere so much that they settle down and never leave.
Perhaps that’s what happened to Bob Irwin when he arrived in the area in 1910. The family still has a strong presence — strong enough for the Irwins to earn the 2012 BMO Farm Family Award for the County of Newell.
In 1950, Bob and his son Albert purchased the Circle Ranch from the Pat Burns family. Today, Albert’s sons Todd and John, with their families, continue the ranching tradition. Todd is assisted at busy times by his sons, Rob and Bill. John and his wife Kathy, their daughter Krista and her fiance Rick are also on the land full-time.
Krista’s brother Mark works off the farm, but returns when he is needed. The family matriarch, Julia, is still actively involved, as well.
Extending over 9,000 acres of deeded land and a couple of thousand more leased acres, the Irwin Ranches are mainly native grass pasture with about 500 acres irrigated for hay. The biggest component of the Irwin outfit is 600 cow/calf pairs. The steer calves are sold off in the fall, while the heifer calves are kept. The best Hereford heifer calves are kept for replacements, while the best Hereford/Red Angus cross heifers are sold annually as bred heifers.
“Our customers can’t believe how tame those heifers of ours are,” Todd says. “Around here, if it even looks at you sideways, it’s gone.”
The preference for well-behaved animals is why the ranch uses Red Angus bulls.
“Grandpa bought a pair of Black Angus bulls in the late ‘60s,” Todd recalls. “I had to look after them. They’d try and kill you. They’d try to kill your horse. They’d go through fences. They’d be six miles away and you’d have to fix all the fences behind them all summer. I just hated them. I guess,” he adds with a chuckle, “I still hold a grudge.”
Todd attends between 20 and 30 bull sales every year.
“I like buying bulls,” he says. “It’s my favourite thing.”
His passion is in the family’s tradition, he points out, since the family has either bought or sold animals at the Calgary Bull Sale in March for 70 consecutive years.
Over the years, the Irwin family has made many contributions to causes such as the Brooks hospital, county hockey and curling rinks, community halls, local schools, and churches. John and Todd are on the board of directors and the Bull Inspection Committee of the Patricia Community Pasture, and a number of other organizations.
There is now a fourth generation of the family on the Irwin land, with the involvement of John and Kathy’s daughter, Krista. Todd, who worked for a time in the oilpatch before returning to the ranch, is unsure if his sons will do the same.
“It’s been in the family a long time, so you don’t want to lose it,” he says. “I told them, ‘Don’t ever sell it!’ and they agree. If they ever want to come back, they know how to do it.”

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