Back to Additional Resources

Pristine Prairie Organics

The soil was depleted and, as soon as he started to apply manure, the yields increased. The beef operation expanded, eventually reaching more than 3,000 head. Cattle now graze cropland, as well as pastures, and manure is spread on fields. Incorporating livestock is essential to have a successful organic field crop operation, according to Bryce.

Posted in Farmer Profiles
View Next Resource
Prisitine Prairie Organics 1

Family Farm:

Bryce and Twyla Lobreau and his parents, Danny and Robin Lobreau.

Farm Location:

Near Pipestone in the southwest corner of Manitoba.


The farm was certified organic in 2009.

Approach to Farming:

Do a small amount well then increase the size of your farm. Make money on a small farm then grow: don’t think that size will make you more profitable.


  • Acreage: 7,000 acres.

  • Crops: Spring wheat, oats, fall rye, hemp, flax, silage.

  • Livestock: 2,000 head of cattle.

  • Soil: Sandy soil.

When Bryce Lobreau was growing up, he never envisioned he would end up as a farmer. He “hated” farm work, whether it was on the family farm in southeast Manitoba or during summer jobs as a teenager. 

But after graduating from high school and working away for a year, he came to the realization that “farming life is not too bad.”

Bryce returned to the family farm, a small operation with 50 head of cattle, as well as grain and hay production. Bryce broke land and started growing fall rye. After discovering his neighbours were getting two dollars more per bushel for their organic rye, he started to think about organics and the farm evolved from there.

In 2009, Pristine Prairie Organics was certified organic and Bryce had 20 head of cattle. Bryce now farms with his wife, Twyla, and his parents, Danny and Robin.

“Did I make money back then?” he asks himself. “I don’t know.” But he was pleased with how much the farm improved after integrating the cattle throughout the rotation.

For years, his father and grandfather hadn’t applied manure or fertilized the land but continued to sell hay which, Bryce says, “is the worst thing you can ever do to your farm.”

The soil was depleted and, as soon as he started to apply manure, the yields increased. The beef operation expanded, eventually reaching more than 3,000 head. Cattle now graze cropland, as well as pastures, and manure is spread on fields. Incorporating livestock is essential to have a successful organic field crop operation, according to Bryce.

“The reason we’re able to grow good cash crops is because of the cattle. One doesn’t come without the other. If you think you’re going to grow 50-bushel wheat in an organic setting without cattle, I think you’re dreaming.”

He adds that organic farmers can get manure from other farms but he thinks manure of some sort is essential. In Bryce’s opinion, legume plowdowns aren’t enough to build nutrients but can help maintain nutrient levels and soil quality.

Prisitine Prairie Organics 3

Healthy Cattle

The cattle at Pristine Prairie Organics are healthy and rarely need intervention. The key to maintaining a healthy herd is, Bryce says, good genetics and a good system involving rotational grazing, low densities and nutritious feed.

“You can’t buy high-performing genetics for an organic setting; you’ve got to have the right kind of cattle.” For Bryce, “easy-keeping cattle” are Angus-based crosses with some Simmental genetics.

The cattle are vaccinated, as permitted by the organic standards, but rarely receive any other veterinary care.

The biggest difference between raising his organic versus non-organic cattle in his area, Bryce says, is that he doesn’t use insecticide (such as Ivomec) to kill lice. Instead, he controls the problem by providing the cattle with “a lot of space, including trees, that they can use as back scratchers.” Internal parasites aren’t a problem on the farm.

Feeding balanced rations is critical. And, to make sure the cattle are fed properly, Bryce tests the feed and forage. Bryce recounts stories of operations where the cows were malnourished even though they were eating what looked like great hay. He believes the extra effort and cost of testing forage and feed is well worth it. However, paying close attention to the animals is also key.

“Cattle can tell you that they’re still hungry and they don’t feel good,” he says. “You’ve got to have stockmanship to tell.

“If you keep the cattle in good shape, sickness doesn’t happen, just like in people. If you’re malnourished, you’re more likely to get sick,” Bryce concludes.

Bryce finishes the cattle on his own grain that doesn’t make the grade for human consumption or grain bought from other farms. Using spreadsheets he developed, Bryce keeps track of the daily feeding rates in the winter and calculates the cost of keeping the cows. He also uses other feed sources, such as, ironically, the leftover pea mash from the production of Beyond Beef.

Producing high-quality marbled meat without excess fat is important but there is also a need to cater to market demands. During finishing, Bryce will adjust the feed to meet the specific needs of his clients.

Be Your Own Marketer

One of the challenges with being organic is, according to Bryce, the need to create your own market.

“No one’s going to come and help you and tell you where to sell your stuff. You have got to figure it out,” he says.

“The organic grain growers who are successful are really good at marketing and growing quality product.” He adds that in addition to producing high yields and skillful marketing, producing a high-quality product is also important. He feels some people think that “once they are certified organic, that’s enough, but you also need to have a high-quality product, not just organic.”

The greatest challenge on the farm is marketing the cattle. Marketing grain isn’t as difficult but getting the premium price for organic finished cattle takes a lot of time and creativity, particularly now that there is a lot of bad press surrounding beef.

“The cattle market is very tough,” Bryce says. He hasn’t always made money with cattle but stuck with it during the bad times.

The Lobreaus now have about 2,000 head of cattle. They downsized from 3,500 head after drought hit a couple years ago. With the current high interest rates and shipping costs, Bryce is in no hurry to increase their numbers.

He has sold live cattle all across Canada and the U.S., including Minnesota, Nebraska and Colorado.  The US market is huge but requires a large scale to meet the demand; this creates a substantial barrier to entering the market. He ships 40-45 head at a time.

Initially, Bryce cooperated with three other organic producers to ship to the US. They each had about 30 head and combined their cattle to make three loads a year. One of the producers dealt with the marketing and logistics and was paid extra for that but, otherwise, they split the revenue four ways. The other partners no longer sell cattle; however, Bryce now helps out a few small producers by including their cattle on his loads.

Skyrocketing fuel prices have led to exorbitant transportation costs, such as (in late 2022) $10,000 to ship a load of cattle to Colorado. Bryce is looking for closer markets. That’s where 8Acres Inc. comes in.

Three years ago, Bryce and his business partner, Ben Stuart, founded 8Acres Inc. Ben, who recently moved from New Zealand to Saskatchewan, raises grass-fed cattle using regenerative agriculture. Bryce provides certified organic, grain-finished beef. Bryce and Ben have made arrangements to ship the cattle to a federally certified abattoir in Carman MB, a two-hour drive away, that can process certified organic beef.

Bryce and Ben are doing more than marketing their product; they’re aiming to convert vegans from highly processed meat substitutes to their sustainably raised beef.

Beef gets a bad rap, says Bryce. “Everyone says cattle are bad for the environment but if cattle are produced in a certain way, they’re actually beneficial.”

One way that Ben and Bryce market 8Acres beef is through analysis of their soil, which reveals how much carbon they are sequestering. They share the results with supermarket chains which can then offset some of their carbon footprint by selling 8Acres’ sustainably grown beef.

8Acres recently entered two valuable markets, Farm Boy and Whole Foods, that could be “game changing” for Bryce. He explains that Whole Foods alone will take 20 cattle a week.

Bryce enjoys reading the feedback from 8Acres consumers. The main complaint is that people can’t find 8Acres products in their area. Urban Quebec is their largest market but they also have a strong demand in big cities in Ontario, BC and Alberta.  The other common message is customers complimenting the ranchers on doing good work and producing a quality product.

8Acres Inc.

8Acres has a retail line of products, including burgers and hot dogs, called the 86line. The name reflects the company’s commitment to sustainability, including carbon sequestration. The ‘8’ reflects the symbol for infinity and ‘6’ refers to carbon, the sixth element in the periodic table. For all 86line products, there is both an organic option, with the Lobreaus’ beef and a grass-fed option, made from Ben Stuart’s beef. All other ingredients are certified organic.

There’s an option at to “Tip your rancher.” The idea is to encourage people who appreciate their steak or hamburger from 8Acres, or simply want to support sustainable beef production, to make a donation. The funds raised are divided among the producers. 


Year 1: Cash crop

Year 2: Silage

Year 3: Silage underseeded with alfalfa             

Years 4-5: Alfalfa

The rotation starts with breaking alfalfa and spreading manure. Then the Lobreaus plant a cash crop to take up phosphorus from the manure and nitrogen left by the alfalfa. Hemp or spring wheat grow well in the first year, however “fall rye and oats are the best organic crops,” Bryce says. They both grow well and compete well with weeds; however, oats are much easier to market.

He is now happy with the yields of crops, including wheat, oats, hemp and flax, however, he feels they have reached a plateau.

“It’s very hard to get to the next level even with manure,” Bryce explains, “because we can’t balance our nutrients as well as you could in a conventional setting.”

Due to the application of manure, his farm has very high phosphorus levels, the opposite situation from many organic grain farms. He finds it hard to get enough nitrogen to balance the phosphorus, even though he grows alfalfa, which he estimates provides 100 lb/acre of nitrogen.

The Lobreaus use a tandem disk or moldboard plow to break alfalfa. “I’m not proud of using a moldboard plow because of its effect on soil health,” Bryce says, but to be organic, he considers it “pretty hard” to avoid all tillage or plowing.

The farm’s soil is sandy which Bryce feels minimizes the negative effect of plowing. The plow not only breaks sod but also controls weeds. By inverting the soil, the plow turns up dormant weed seeds from deep in the soil. These take time to warm up and germinate; by the time weeds have emerged “the crops are already ahead of the mix.”

The use of the plow every five or six years and their crop rotation is enough to control weeds.  Bryce doesn’t do in-crop weed control. However, if a crop is weedy, he chops it for silage.

The cattle are on the fields throughout the rotation. For example, they graze the stubble after cash crops are harvested and are in alfalfa fields after the first two cuts are taken. When silage is grown, if the time allows, Bryce re-seeds with a cover crop when the silage comes off. The drill will be in the field when the silage is coming off unless there is a weed problem, in which case, he will focus on dealing with that before doing anything else.

Unless your fields are prepared and in good shape, don’t seed anything,” Bryce suggests, “because if you’re organic, you don’t get a chance to fix anything.”

If it’s too late to seed or a field is weedy, “you might as well just change the plan and put a cover crop in. I’ve learned that myself the hard way.

“It’s a different mindset if you’re coming from a commodity setting to an organic setting. You can’t cut corners. If you’ve got some weed patches and think you’ll just seed through those, it’ll be a disaster,” Bryce says.

Prisitine Prairie Organics 2

Managing Risk

The Lobreaus manage the risk of crop failure in several ways, including:

  • Integrating cattle into the operation
  • Crop insurance
  • Irrigation

Cattle provide a form of biological crop insurance by adding value to failed crops. Poor grain can be used as feed or a weedy crop can be cut for silage. But even in this case, Bryce will use crop insurance. They “simply get the insurers to come out and appraise the crop before harvest.”

Irrigation isn’t common on many farms in the area but has proven to be a worthwhile investment for Bryce’s operation. Not only does irrigation increase yields; it also provides a bit more security in years when rainfall is unreliable.

A huge challenge and barrier to expansion is labour. The Lobreaus bring in seasonal workers from New Zealand and Europe, particularly Germany. It’s a working holiday for the young people who want the farm experience and the opportunity to visit Canada. Bryce considers these workers are a good fit to meet the needs of the farm.

Quality of Life

The farm has changed substantially over the last fifteen years. The levels of organic matter and yields have greatly increased. Bryce estimates that they get more than double the production they had before. He attributes this to the crop rotation, the application of manure and the addition of an irrigation system. All this leads to great job satisfaction.

“I like the farming part and I like the business part of it,” he says. He also enjoys the flexibility of the work in that “every day is a new day.”

Bryce even appreciates the intensity of the work. Because he likes to keep busy, he says a nine-to-five job wouldn’t be enough to fulfil him.

“Raising livestock is not a glorious life,” Bryce adds, laughing. “Everyone else is out having fun while you’re messing around with cattle.

“But it’s a good way to raise a family.” Bryce and his wife, Twyla, have two boys, aged two and four.

“The thing that motivates me is that we raise the cattle from birth to the retail shelf across Canada,” Bryce says with pride. “I don’t think anyone else can actually say that.”

He is encouraged by the feedback he gets from his customers and challenged by “the thrill of chasing new customers and clients.”

Bryce also takes pride in his ability to finish cattle, which also makes financial sense. Finishing comes at a cost – organic grain – but also garners a premium price. Bryce receives a 30% organic premium on the carcass weight of slaughter-ready cattle.

He is concerned for people who go into organic beef production expecting a 20% premium, for example, on a 500-lb calf. He feels there’s little point in selling calves. There’s little or no organic premium on them and, he says, he couldn’t “just grow some crops and sell some calves to someone else because it wouldn’t be exciting.”

Bryce sums up his view of farming: “It’s very challenging but also very rewarding when it works out right.”

Lessons to Share

  1. You need to be your own marketer.
  2. Incorporate livestock into the operation or at least import manure.
  3. Test the livestock feed and forage to ensure it has optimal nutritional value and give the animals balanced rations.
  4. Choose appropriate breeds and genetics for an organic system – not high-performance breeds.
  5. Unless your fields are prepared and done right, don’t seed anything.


The Prairie Farmer Profiles (Sundog Organic Farm, MJJ & A Organic Farm, Haywire Farms, Mill Creek Organics Ltd, Pristine Prairie Organics, Upland Organics, Our Farm, G & G Farms, Marshall Farms and Penny Lane Organics) were written by Janet Wallace.  The Ontario Farmer Profiles were provided by the Organic Council of Ontario.   The Farmer Profiles were developed as part of the Prairie Organic Development Fund’s Canadian Organic Ingredient Strategy (COIS).  The COIS was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Government of Canada.  Translation services were provided by the Government of Manitoba.