Gilchrist Brothers ranch house. At the time this photo was taken, ca. 1941, it was the largest ranch in Canada.
Everett Baker (Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society)

Saskatchewan reported nearly 3 million beef cattle in the 2001 Census of Canada. While the majority of these cattle were reared on mixed farms, ranching remains extremely important, especially in the southwest of the province, where 40% of the land is unimproved rangeland. Ranching involves the rearing of stock for commercial purposes; it is an extensive rather than an intensive form of land use. The need for access to large areas of grazing has meant that ranchers have always been dependent on public lands. These areas are usually found in hinterland regions far from markets, where other more intensive forms of commercial agriculture are unable to compete. During the first decades of settlement ranchers leased Crown land from the federal government. Today community pastures run by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration and by the provincial government make grazing available to a wide spectrum of ranching enterprises. On these pastures, many of the traditions and methods of working cattle on “open range” have been maintained for more than a century.

Simon Evans