WEstern edition
March 3, 2015 $3.50
Alberta’s TK Ranch makes branded beef pay pg 38
Is it time
to sell?
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march 3, 2015
11 winning with team canada
These farmers are helping sell Canada overseas. Are we finally emerging from the shadow of the CWB?
16 the tastemaker
Toronto writer David Sax knows everything about food trends. He even knows that farmers have almost no say in them.
18 uganda decides: go big or go small
Farmer Morrison Rwakakamba has an inside seat on some of the world’s most pressing food and agriculture challenges.
22 around the globe
Nuffield scholar Becky Parker asks, Why are other countries
better than us at attracting young students to ag careers?
26 flatlining
After years of record-breaking growth, the life has gone out of
land prices. But, our experts say, don’t call the morgue just yet.
27 is it time to sell?
If your goals are short term, now may be your best window to sell land. But if long term, the outlook is bright for owners.
30 I do, and I don’t?
With farm values rising, it’s time to wrestle with prenups, or as
lawyer John Mill calls them, Family Farm Legacy Agreements.
33 finance metrics you may not have thought of —
diagnosing operating inefficiency
AME experts share how to use your financial statements for a better, more actionable analysis of your business.
36 will value adding work for you?
Helen Lammers-Helps begins her four-part series on value adding
with the most important question of all. Does it suit who you are?
PG. 38 The Direct option
Dylan and Colleen Biggs were warned they would fail
when they opted for direct market to save the family’s
Alberta beef ranch. Now, direct marketing is fuelling
the ranch’s expansion.
42 better family meetings
Sunday dinner doesn’t cut it. The evidence is clear that top farms
have adopted structured meetings. Here’s how they do it.
44 Guide HR — are you in shape?
Physical exercise isn’t just good for your health. It’s good for your farm.
46 shifting borders
The Canada-U.S. border is disappearing for machinery business.
uide life — better farm ambassadors
If you want to talk to consumers, be prepared to listen first.
48 the sCience of falling numbers
Here’s how the falling-number test works to count sprouts.
50 head on
The evidence is in. More farmers are tackling weed resistance.
52 time to get ahead
54 it gets worse from here
Forage machinery sees major wave of technology advances.
Are we at risk from tuberculosis? Marie Berry sets us straight.
That’s odd. Why won’t Ed pick up his phone?
Finally the time seems right for integrated weed management.
Weed resistance is certain to add more species, and more acres.
56 drift versus volatility
Think twice before spraying on those ideal spring mornings.
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march 3, 2015 3
Believe it or not, there’s a simple trick to protecting your
canola yield before sclerotinia even becomes a problem –
and you don’t have to be a magician.
Based 100% in science, easy-to-use Proline® fungicide
proactively protects your profits and continues to be the
number one choice for canola growers looking for effective
sclerotinia protection.
For more information, visit or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative.
Always read and follow label directions. Proline® is a registered trademark of the Bayer Group.
Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.
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Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine
Test the next generation
I can’t help thinking we’d all be better off if some of those exuberant FCC
T-shirts that shout “100% Farm Boy” or
“Future Farmer” would curb their enthusiam just a notch.
Yes, it’s a great time in agriculture, all
things considered, and yes, agriculture is
a great place to be, but we should think
twice before we allow ourselves to forget
all the wisdom that was learned at such
high cost during the 25 years that led up
to 2008’s reversal of agriculture’s outlook
and the optimism of our youth.
In particular, with a new crop of college and university grads heading home
to the farm, we should think back to
the advice that was almost universally
accepted only a few years ago.
That advice was for the next generation to work off the farm for a minimium
of three or four years (or, more likely, five
to seven years) before returning to the
We may be tempted to look back at
that advice, thinking it was only meant to
ensure that the son or daughter really did
want to farm, but there was much more to
it than that.
Off-farm employment meant the next
generation had to prove themselves,
because there was an expectation that was
sometimes articulated, sometimes not.
That was that the next generation
wouldn’t just prove they could hold on to
a non-farm job, they would have to prove
that they could excel at it. They would
6 have to show that they were promotable,
that they were valued by their colleagues,
and that they could manage their own
households and their own careers.
It was an encouraging sign too if they
started showing that they respected and
wanted to learn from their bosses for their
knowledge and for their management
At home, they would then have to
demonstrate that by putting their workplace experience in play, they could bring
strength and value to the farm.
Nor should we be too dismissive of
the value of their time in the city for giving them a better chance to judge whether
they really want to come back to the farm.
Success comes in many shapes.
Do I predict a gloomy future for young
farmers today who don’t get off-farm
experience? Maybe, for some of them.
Much more important, though, is
to consider whether the bulk of today’s
young farmers, good as they are, would be
even better if they had to prove themselves
in an unfamiliar world, where they could
learn lessons that will stand them in good
stead all their lives.
Look around you now at the 40-somethings who emerged 15 or 20 years ago
when this philosophy was so widely
adopted. I am continually impressed with
their competence and their dedication. I
expect you are too.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at
[email protected]
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march 3, 2015
Farmer. Visionary.
SeedMaster Founder.
You want to seed fast and efficiently. You want to place seed and fertilizer accurately. You want
the best stand establishment possible. You want the most profitable seeding system. We know
what you want. We’re farmers, too.
By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor
Don’t stop with the models we’ve highlighted from the five manufacturers below. We’re bringing you news on some
of the most innovative and efficient models, but forage equipment as a sector is experiencing a major technology boom.
Most manufacturers have unveiled multiple new designs in the past 12 months, particularly Deere, New Holland and
Vermeer. It certainly shows that forage crops aren’t being overlooked or undervalued in Canadian agriculture. But it also
means you need to be prepared to do your homework. It will pay.
 Krone — EasyCut F 360 CR Glide
A new model disc mower-conditioner with improved cutting and
conditioning, plus easy-to-use applications is what producers will find
in the EasyCut F 360 CR Glide front-mount disc mower from Krone.
The unit comes with a working width of nearly 12 feet and a conditioner that’s driven by top and bottom rollers, creating full-width conditioning. The EasyCut F 360 CR also features the SmartCut cutterbar
designed to produce a quality cut, even in a light crop. The design
allows for an increased blade overlap by the strategic placement of
the discs on the cutterbar, combined with the direction of the rotation.
QuickChange blades and SafeCut hubs also provide speed plus safety
when changes need to be made. The “Glide” part in its name signifies
the pull-type flotation system, with large springs and parallel linkage,
allowing the mower a smoother ride over rough or uneven ground.
New Holland — Roll-Belt 560 
The New Holland Roll-Belt 560 baler boasts eight different features that the company believes are worth a close look. These include
the twine wrap system, a relocated back wrap roll, a choice of monitors and tires, belt and pickup choices, a simplified net wrapper and
New Holland’s exclusive Bale-Slice system. With this unique feature,
bales are denser and easier to feed. Knives enter the bale after
the core is made, retaining a solid core with the option of how
much of the bale is cut to the outside face. The three different pickup configurations run from a five-bar ActiveSweep
system to the standard-duty four-bar ActiveSweep and a
60-inch six-bar Supersweep pickup. There are also three
belt choices which include the premium laced belts,
made with constant heat and pressure to eliminate belt
flaws and enhance tensile strength.
8 M arch 3 , 2 0 1 5
Start Fresh.
Annoying volunteer canola has been popping up
everywhere, stealing nutrients, providing a host for
dangerous diseases and limiting the yield performance
of your crop. But moving forward, this doesn’t need
to be a problem.
Pardner® herbicide is now registered as a pre-season,
tank-mix partner with Roundup® WeatherMAX®
herbicide and other similar glyphosate technologies for
control of all volunteer canola, even if they’re resistant
to other herbicide groups.
For more information, visit: or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative.
Always read and follow label directions. Pardner® is a registered trademark of the Bayer Group.
All other products mentioned are trademarks of their respective companies. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.
 Vermeer 600N Series Baler
It turns out 2014 was a busy year for Vermeer too, with a number
of launches and introductions in forage equipment, including the
600N Series round balers for hay, forage and even cornstalk baling.
There are many similarities to the Super M balers that are popular
—like the five-bar pickups and Direct Crop Feed System — but there
are plenty of new features too that mark this design for durability and
high performance. Among them are an optional pickup clutch that
actually stops the pickup when the desired bale size is reached. That
lessens the chance of inadvertent overfill of the chamber and helps
protect the rollers, belts and bearings. Adjusting the pickup height is
also made easier by a tool-less gauge wheel adjustment function. Bale
weights and moisture readings are also streamlined by the new E-Link
Pro display unit that’s coupled with an optional scale kit and moisture
Claas — Jaguar 900 Series 
As if the introduction of the all-new 800 Series Jaguar forage
harvester wasn’t enough for 2014, Claas engineers decided to redesign the Jaguar 900 Series before the end of the year. Rolled out in
August, the 980 model comes with power to spare, including a MAN
V12 engine at 884 horsepower. At 775 horsepower, the 970 boasts
a MAN V8 with the remaining four models (960 to 930) running on
Mercedes-Benz in-line 6 engines. The hallmark of the previous 900
series was the infinitely variable chop length, and that’s been carried forward into this redesign. And not only is it standard, Claas
has added an intake cylinder for continuous pre-compression for
improved chop quality. The 900 series also offers a tighter turning
radius (as little as 41 feet, depending on the tires), plus Trimble GPS
guidance and mapping capabilities that are easy to add.
 John Deere — 8000 Series SPFH
Until now, forage producers might have had to choose between
durability and technical sophistication capable of performing crop
analysis (with corn silage). Now John Deere says it is bringing the
two together in the 8000 Series self-propelled forage harvester. The
combination of the DuraDrum cutterheads and KernelStar technology means improved efficiency plus precision analysis, all designed
to save time and expense during harvest. With the 8000 series,
engine horsepower is matched to two cutterhead widths, enabling the
operator to adapt the capacity to conditions in the field. According
to the company, the new header solutions and crop-flow layouts also
increase flexibility in different crops and improve performance in wet
or dry conditions. The 8000 also brings enhancements for the operator too, including improved visibility and longer service cycles.
10 March 3, 2015
Winning with Team Canada
Applying the lessons learned by farmers
on overseas trade missions is the shrewdest
marketing move you can make this year
By Gerald Pilger
ast issue I disputed the marketing
ability of most Canadian grain producers. I argued that what most farmers, advisers, and the agriculture
industry overall calls marketing is
simply price taking, so it is not true marketing.
That is not to say, though, that there aren’t farmers who are true marketers. Here are the thoughts
of four farmers who have actually participated in
marketing Canadian wheat.
Each of these farmers was a member of a Team
Canada mission. The Team Canada approach to
marketing wheat is a joint undertaking of the Canadian Grain Commission, the Canadian International
Grains Institute, and Cereals Canada. It was instituted to fill the void that occurred when the Canadian Wheat Board lost its monopoly of its role as
the primary marketing agency of Prairie wheat.
Each mission had representatives of the CGC who
would describe the varieties, grades, and quality of
wheat grown and in storage in Western Canada. Cigi
representatives would provide technical details on
using that wheat in milling and baking. And an actual
wheat grower travelled with each mission to provide
the millers and bakers with information on the farming practices used in Western Canada to grow wheat.
That wheat grower would answer buyer questions, including questions on the environmental
friendliness and sustainability of Canadian farming
practices. Most importantly, that grower received
feedback directly from the buyers of Canadian
wheat, and was able to hear first hand what wheat
buyers like, dislike, and desire in Canadian wheat.
An actual producer is the best person to evaluate this key market intelligence and disseminate
it back to Prairie wheat growers. The information these farmers are bringing back is invaluable.
Applying the information learned by these farmers
to your own operation is likely the most important
marketing move you will adopt this year.
Continued on page 12
“We have to make
these trips to stay
in the business,”
says Kevin Bender,
seen here (third from
right) with Europe
march 3, 2015 11
Kevin Bender
Greg Porozni
Key Learning
Key Learning
Consider the buyer’s
needs when selecting a
wheat variety to grow
Kevin Bender farms in
west-central Alberta. He was
part of the Team Canada
mission to Italy, Germany
and England.
Bender says: “The purpose of the mission was to
promote Canadian HRS and
durum wheat. It was also for
relationship building with European buyers.
“I was more convinced as time went on of the value of the
trip. It is a necessity to do this. Americans spend several times
more than we do on selling their wheat. We have to make these
trips to stay in the market.”
Bender notes that these trips also provide Canadian producers and exporters the opportunity to hear any concerns the buyers may have about Canadian wheat. And he heard first hand
of three concerns European buyers have about Canadian wheat
shipments they have accepted over the past few years.
Buyers spoke of trace levels of soy in wheat. Bender noted the
levels are very low, i.e. five to 20 ppm. Bender believes the buyers are concerned because soy could be seen as an allergen.
Buyers were also concerned with the potential for mycotoxins
and fusarium in shipments.
But buyers’ biggest concern was the declining gluten strength
of Canadian wheat. Italian buyers report an erosion over the
past five years. Bender notes that gluten strength is partially
related to growing conditions. Gluten strength also varies by
variety. Harvest, Lillian, and Unity are varieties favoured by
farmers because of their agronomic performance. However, they
are not the varieties of choice for bakers because of their lower
gluten strength.
On a positive note, Bender reports gluten strength was better this
year. And he encourages growers to select high-gluten-strength varieties for planting in 2015.
Finally, Bender felt buyers really appreciated the presence of a
farmer at the meetings. “They liked to see and hear about the origins of the wheat they were buying.” He also felt they liked that
he would be taking their concerns back to Canadian growers.
Bender feels strongly that all sectors of the grains industry
have to work together if we are to successfully sell our wheat in
the world market.
Quality is critical
Greg Porozni, a farmer
from east-central Alberta
spoke to buyers in Morocco,
Algeria, Tunis and Dubai.
“The purpose of the mission to these countries was
to sell Canadian wheat, to
increase our market share,
and to ensure buyers in these
countries are satisfied with
our wheat. The Team Canada approach lets the buyers meet with every sector of the value
chain,” explains Porozni.
Porozni found buyers were really happy that a producer was
along on the mission. He said they were very interested to learn
about direct seeding, the care Prairie farmers take with inputs,
and how farmers are practising due diligence and sustainable
farming practices.
Equally important though was the work being done on farmers’ behalf by groups like Cereals Canada, the CGC and Cigi. To
illustrate this point Porozni noted how weather downgraded a lot
of durum this year. However, Cigi was able to provide the technical
testing to show that processors could blend as much as 70 to 80 per
cent of No. 3 Canadian durum with No. 1 Canadian durum without impacting the colour or quality of the end product.
“We need to promote Canadian wheat,” says Porozni. “The
CWB did a great job of building relationships and trust with
buyers. We have to continue and build on those relationships.
If we do not do it someone else will. The U.S. and Australia are
already doing it.
“Quality is different every year so it is so important to have
an organization like Cigi,” believes Porozni. “North African
countries buy Canadian durum because of our quality. We can
never lose quality because if we do, we lose markets.”
Continued on page 14
“I was more convinced as time went on
of the value of the trip,” Bender says.
“It is a necessity to do this.”
Greg Porozni (second from right) with ambassador Sandra McCardell and
Canadian delegation in Morocco, delivering Canada’s quality message.
12 march 3, 2015
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Branding starts
with the farmer
As I was putting this article together
I received an email from WineAlign,
a web service providing information
about wines to consumers. An article by
Canada’s first Master Sommelier, John
Szabo, entitled “Chile into the Future”
caught my attention. With Szabo’s permission the following two paragraphs
from that article are reprinted here:
“… But perhaps most importantly,
the new Chile has meant dissolving the
walls between growers, makers and
marketers. In 2006, winery visits began
in a boardroom, with the export manager delivering a corporate PowerPoint
presentation before the winemaker took
over to present wines. Vineyards were
never visited and vineyard managers
never seen.
“In 2014, every visit began in a pit
— a soil pit dug in the vineyards, with
the winemaker and vineyard manager
(and even the occasional export manager) enthusiastically digging away to
show the different soil structure of their
various subparcels, which were then
related to experimental wine lots back
in the winery…”
The lessons that the wine industry
has learned about the importance of
branding, of connecting the entire value
chain, of producing high-quality products, and of building on the uniqueness
of the product — right down to the soil
the grapes are grown in — is what we
in the grain industry must learn from.
We can pat ourselves on the back all
we want about a high yield or a price
we received which was greater than
what a neighbour got, but in the end it
all comes down to meeting the needs of
our customer. We need to support the
Team Canada approach and learn from
the farmers who are representing us on
these sales trips!
Randy Johner
Above, Randy Johner meets millers in Bangkok.
“Our competitors are already doing this.”
Key Learning
Information and
relationships are vital
Randy Johner of southern Saskatchewan made stops in Singapore, Malaysia,
Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines
with Team Canada.
“Our job was to tell our customers
what our crops were like” says Johner.
“The customer needs to know this. Our
competitors, the United States, and Australia, are already doing this. We need to
do it better.”
Johner believes when the CWB
was the marketing agency for Canadian wheat, the CWB had the quantity,
quality and technical information at
their fingertips and could provide the
information that buyers wanted. But he
feels this changed with the privatization
of the CWB, and that private traders
likely do not have the information the
CWB had.
Johner found the Team Canada meetings are so important to buyers that there
would be 50 to 70 people at a meeting
to hear about the Canadian crop. Johner notes these people are buying huge
amounts of our wheat, i.e. 50,000-tonne
shipments, so it is critical that we present
the information they are looking for. That
is why it is so important that farmers support agencies like Cigi.
Unfortunately, Johner says surveys
show only about one-third of farmers
know what Cigi does and how it benefits
farmers. Johner says all farmers need to
hear about the value of Cigi.
According to Johner, he received a
very warm reception at all meetings he
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Johner heard
Canada’s wheat is valued, but we need to do
more to communicate it.
spoke at. “I told the buyers of the four
generations who have worked our family
farm. I reassured the audience that farmers in Canada produce clean, safe food.
I told them how our long cold winters
minimized disease and insect problems and
enable us to store grain without spoilage.
“What really stood out for me was
these buyers were people like me,” Johner
says. “They were warm and friendly, and
really wanted to know about our farms in
Canada. They were very accommodating.”
Johner believes we must have good
communication all the way up the value
chain, from seed growers to growers, to
exporter, to trader, to buyer.
1 4 c o u n t r y - g u i d e . c a ma r c h 3 , 2 0 1 5
Lynn Jacobson
“You cannot sell wheat with just
a phone call,” Jacobson says.
“Skype is not a face-to-face meeting.”
Key Learning
It’s all about the brand
Lynn Jacobson, a farmer
from southeastern Alberta
travelled to China, Korea,
and Japan. He was representing Canadian farmers in what
may be our most important
markets. His findings were
both a good and bad story.
“Over the last few years,
no one had been branding
Canadian wheat. Canadians had not been making visits to millers and they were not happy about this. You cannot sell wheat
with just a phone call, and Skype is not a face-to-face meeting.
You have to develop a relationship with your buyers.”
Jacobson pointed out U.S. Wheat Associates, the Australians
and the Russians are meeting with Asian buyers regularly, and
we have to go there too if we are to compete in those markets.”
Jacobson reports Asian buyers are also concerned with
declining quality of Canadian wheat. “Millers are now complaining about the quality of Canadian wheat. The only advantage Canada has is our wheat’s quality. If we ever go away from
quality, we will lose markets. If we don’t have quality, even the
U.S. market will disappear. We will become a residual seller of
wheat if we do not supply what the customer wants.”
As an example, Jacobson notes that buyers have been concerned
about the gluten strength of our wheat for the last few years. He says
gluten strength varies between varieties, and that some of the most
popular varieties we grow have low gluten strength. Yet we continue
to grow these varieties because of their agronomics and high yields.
On the positive side, the buyers he visited with were very
happy with the new Team Canada approach and they were
happy that Canada is back in the business of actively marketing
wheat. He found they liked a farmer to receive their feedback.
They hope the Team Canada approach will deliver their feedback
back to growers in Canada.
Jacobson learned first hand that what wheat buyers and the
world wants from Canadian growers is top-quality wheat. “We
are the best source of high-quality wheat, but the Australians are
catching up and Kazakhstan can grow high-quality wheat; it is
their lack of infrastructure that is hindering their sales. If we ever
go away from quality, we will lose our markets.” CG
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CR3210942 (15-2)
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2/3/15 11:12 AM
The tastemaker
When consumers think food,
they don’t think farmer
By Helen Lammers-Helps
Sometimes the difference between how farmers
and consumers think about food is most glaring
when someone tries to cross the divide. Interviewer
Helen Lammers-Helps wanted to put the question
into the hands of David Sax, a Toronto-based
business writer who is becoming a lead voice on
food and on who decides what we eat. Sax recently
published Tastemakers, and in addition to other
books, he also writes regularly for publications
including N e w Y o r k T i m e s and B l o o m b e r g
Business Week.
CG: What are the drivers that produce a food
trend? What role do farmers and agricultural
scientists play in these trends, if any?
David Sax: There are several forces that drive food
trends. First of all, there are health and wellness drivers that are the result of research studies. For example, for almost three decades we were told not to
eat saturated fat, but that fear has now been proven
wrong. We’re all going to be eating butter again.
Social and cultural forces also affect our food
tastes. For example, where are people travelling
to and where are immigrants coming from? Those
foods and flavours will influence what we eat.
Finally, economics will impact our food choices.
When times are good, people are more open to trying
new flavours and ideas. Conversely, when the economy is bad, we tend to stick to known foods, comfort
foods. That’s when we’ll see Mac & Cheese coming
back, it’s almost like an edible security blanket.
CG: I didn’t really hear farmers in that
list. What role does media play?
Sax: The media is the mouthpiece for these
trends. Media includes not just newspapers but also
food blogs, The Food Network, Yelp, Twitter, and
Instagram. These media inform what it is we reach
for in the grocery store or point at on the menu.
Farmers and agriculture are very much tied into
the world of food and the world of food trends but
16 usually in a way that is a lot less obvious than chefs.
Before kale became a superfood, there were farmers
in California who were growing many varieties of
kale who were trying to get it into restaurants, who
were creating a market for it.
I’ve written about a farm family (Irma and Marius Botden) in Thornbury, Ont. who came from the
Netherlands and saw that the Ontario apple market
was saturated with low-price apples and not a lot
of variety. In the Netherlands there were many more
types of apples, boutique apples. So they developed
the Red Prince apple. They invested a lot of time
and money to develop the apple and the market for
it. They have established that there is a market for a
greater variety of apples here in Ontario — sales of
interesting apples are growing.
Inevitably, all food trends feedback to the farm.
Agriculture plays a crucial role.
CG: What are some examples of
emerging food trends?
Sax: I was just at a food trade show in California.
Single-origin honey and single-crop honey is gaining popularity. In the past, honey was essentially
a commodity, but with all of the attention on bees
and with concerns about colony collapse disorder
people are becoming more aware. It’s copying the
wine world — I had coriander and jalapeno honey
because those are the crops the bees were pollinating.
We’re going to have honey sommeliers.
Sometimes things are cyclical. I saw a lot of products around granola. Not granola bars but classic
granola. We see this often where a food will become
trendier and trendier, and it will be added to all kinds
of different products and then it almost loses sight of
what it started as until someone decides to do a reset.
March 3, 2015
CG: What causes a food trend to die?
Is it oversaturation?
Sax: There is an element of that. Take the balsamic
vinegar and olive oil trend of the ’80s and ’90s. It’s
no longer what it was. Sometimes things like that get
so big it becomes the de facto. Olive oil is now the de
facto oil that you use for salad dressing and cooking.
In the same way that Starbucks and the specialty
coffee trend have permanently changed the way we
drink coffee. People aren’t talking about cappuccino
anymore but coffee everywhere is better now with
more options than when the trend began. Sometimes
a trend may seem dead but it’s not.
CG: Is sustainability a flash in the pan?
Sax: I don’t think sustainability is a passing fad.
It’s not a new trend. The organic agriculture movement began 70 years ago in the United Kingdom and
the local food trend dates back 40 years, maybe longer, in California.
These are not new things but they are finally
entering main street consciousness. They will only
grow bigger (barring some kind of catastrophic recession or depression). The mass market is more aware
of this. This is why Walmart has organic food now
and why chains like Chipotle’s are sourcing local
meat. This is not going to suddenly disappear overnight. Farmers who can figure out how to do this
economically will reap the rewards because they will
be able to add value and differentiate their products.
CG: It seems that more food trends
are coming from “heritage” foods
and “heirloom” crops lately. Is this
something you think will continue?
It’s good news for farmers, says
Sax. Our Helen Lammers-Helps
isn’t quite so convinced
Sax: Yes, I do. This is part of the search for variety, diversity and quality in what we’re eating. We
are continuously searching for new and better food
and a fun experience. Growing heirloom varieties
is one way smaller growers can differentiate themselves. People will pay a premium for something different and unique. It’s all about the taste.
CG: How big is the role of media, such as
recipe websites, health magazines, TV talk
shows, newspaper coverage, etc. in producing
and fuelling food trends?
CG: How might demographic trends such as an
aging population and high immigration rates
be affecting food trends and markets?
CG: What is the best way for farmers to increase
the market for foods they are producing?
Sax: We have a great appetite for more variety and
as we’re exposed to a range of cultures, different from
the Western European ones that established Canada,
there will be demand for these foods. There are one million Chinese-speaking Canadians. Lots of other people
enjoy this cuisine too. Chinese food is the most successful ethnic food in the world. We’re moving away from
a meat and potatoes food culture, but this is good news
for farmers. There are more diverse markets for farmers.
Sax: Be genuine. Try to connect with a small
but influential food service or market. Word of
mouth gets the word out for a very little bit of effort.
Approach a few restaurants to try it out. Go to an
upscale farmers’ market. This will go further than
any advertising.
Get it into the hands of people who will have an
influence on people who really care about food. That
will create a demand. CG
March 3, 2015
Sax: Media is a reflection of what people want.
It reports on these trends and amplifies the message. 17
Uganda decides:
go big or go small
Morrison Rwakakamba is a presidential adviser. He is a
farmer too. In this African country, that puts him at the
heart of some of our planet’s most vital issues
By Stephanie McDonald
ike any farmer anywhere, Morrison
Rwakakamba feels that farming is in his
DNA, yet this 35-year-old finds himself
pulled in two directions — home to his
farm in the southwest corner of Uganda,
but also to the city and to the corridors of power in
the capital Kampala where he has been appointed
special adviser to the president.
But his beliefs know where they are rooted, for
Rwakakamba passionately believes that if Africa is
going to reach its agricultural potential, it is going to
be Uganda’s small-scale farmers, not its big plantations, that help get it there.
They may be small scale rather than large, diversified rather than specialized, and low input rather
than high, but these farmers can be the foundation of
a healthy future, Rwakakamba says, as long as they
get the government support they need for improved
access to better seeds, information and markets.
It is a message that he is intent on getting
through not only to President Yoweri Museveni,
who appointed him special presidential adviser on
research and information in 2013, but also to any
international audience he can get to listen.
Farmer as activist
From Monday to Friday, Rwakakamba is based
in Kampala where he’s always sharply dressed in
crisp shirt, pressed slacks and glossy leather shoes.
His schedule is packed. The first time he and I
tried to schedule our interview for Country Guide,
Rwakakamba emailed from World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva where he had been invited
to debate the question, “Agricultural trade and food
security — are the benefits sufficiently inclusive?”
Uganda’s population of
37 million, Rwakakamba points
out, is forecast to reach 114
million by 2050
Later, I suggested perhaps we could find some
time on Uganda’s Independence Day, but he tells me
he has no time that day. It turns out he’s integral to
the national celebrations.
On our third try we connect by Skype on a Friday afternoon, although his beeping cellphone is a
kind of soundtrack to our conversation.
In that interview, Rwakakamba tells of his journey from growing up on a coffee farm 400 km
away from the capital city to now having access to
the State House and the president. After finishing
university, Rwakakamba rose through the ranks of
18 March 3, 2015
the Uganda National Farmers Federation and, at age 30, he became CEO of
the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After working as the country director
for an East African civil society organization, he founded the Agency for Transformation, a “think and do tank,” as
he calls it, which provides research and
policy information on agriculture and
the environment.
Rwakakamba says he was compelled
to create the agency because of his deep
roots in the farming community, and
because he saw that agriculture policy
in Uganda was like a “broken brick.”
There were too many policy documents
being issued and too many institutions
involved in implementing programs. The
result was a clash of mandates where
nothing moved forward. Now, every policy paper the Agency for Transformation
publishes is shared with the president.
The farmer
Ironically, his work for farmers has
made Rwakakamba an urban, whitecollar professional, sitting behind a desk
most weekdays. Yet nearly every weekend he returns to his farm, which he now
manages with his parents and a brother.
The farm is where he says he can relax
and breathe properly. It’s also a place he
wants his three children to know, so they
can be in touch with their roots and the
legacy of those who came before them.
The family’s 15-acre farm is located
in Rukungiri District, closer to the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic
Republic of Congo than the nation’s
capital. The family grows coffee and
bananas and raises cattle and goats, but
the emphasis has always been on coffee. “It’s how we got school fees to go
to school. The economy of the household and our education really gravitated
around the success of the cash crop.
That is why coffee has always been part
of me,” Rwakakamba says.
The coffee is harvested twice a year,
in April and November. During the
harvest season, eight to 10 people are
employed on the farm, while half that
number work year round. The beans are
March 3, 2015
Uganda’s small family farms largely missed out on the Green
Revolution. But maybe that’s an advantage.
husked and then dried in the sun. With
no electricity on the farm, “it’s very difficult for us to do value addition and
have the entire coffee chain contained at
the farm. We move value out of the farm
and other actors along the value chain
are the ones who make the money,”
Rwakakamba says.
He cites the example of a cup of
coffee, which sells for 10,000 Ugandan shillings in Kampala, or about $4.
While the price of coffee constantly
fluctuates, in some years the cost of this
single cup of coffee is the equivalent of
what Rwakakamba makes from selling three kilos of beans to the middleman at his farm gate. “It is absolutely
obscene,” Rwakakamba says.
The government has promised that
Rukungiri will be connected to the
national grid by the end of 2015. And
when that happens Rwakakamba has
big plans. First, he intends to purchase
processing machinery — a pulper, hurler
and roaster — for his own beans and to
offer on a custom basis to neighbours for
a fee. The processed coffee should then
fetch a premium price.
Secondly, Rwakakamba intends to
transform his farm into an agro-tourism
coffee resort. “Lovers of coffee across
the world can come to my farm and be
able to stay there, harvest coffee, dry it,
roast it, and take it,” he says. A house
already on the farm will be converted
into a guest house. The family will provide local food, and community members will be employed to guide tourists
through the coffee experience, from field
to steaming cup.
Future is small,
efficient farms
Rwakakamba recalls an incident that
shaped his belief in conservation and
organic farming. He purchased fertilizer
from a local market that turned out to
be counterfeit and ineffective. When he
switched to using his cows’ manure on
his coffee and banana plants, the transformation was undeniable. He says that
his farm is now an ecosystem of components that support each other.
“For me, the future of agriculture is
about making small farms efficient such
Continued on page 20 19
Continued from page 19
that they can produce more, but in an
environmentally sustainable way,” Rwakakamba says. “We can use our own organic
fertilizers and resources to do that. Efficiency is usually confused to mean you
have to bring GMO seeds, you have to
bring exotic stuff, which for me is really
not the case.”
The status quo in Ugandan agriculture
was challenged in February 2013 when
the governing party’s Biotechnology and
Biosafety Bill had first reading in Parliament. If passed, the bill would legalize
20 the use and export of genetically modified
seeds, plants and livestock in Uganda.
Rwakakamba opposed the bill, but it was
in the midst of the debate that the proGMO president, Museveni, appointed
anti-GMO advocate Rwakakamba his
Special Presidential Adviser, catching
many political observers off guard.
Two years later, the bill is still pending, deferred to allow members of
parliament more time to consult their
constituents. Rwakakamba remains
firmly against the bill as it’s written. “To
increase efficiency we don’t need a kind
of seed structure that would make the
farmer a slave of the market,” he says.
For Rwakakamba, it’s also a branding issue. In the past, Uganda’s farms
might not have had any choice but to
be low-input farms because farmers
couldn’t get access to inputs. But now,
they can use that history as a point of
Only 60 per cent of the country’s
arable land is being worked, so there is
opportunity to expand, but “we cannot
compete in economic terms and market
access for GMOs with countries which
have done GMOs for a long time, like
Canada, the United States, and Aus-
March 3, 2015
tralia. Going GMO is actually moving
away from the niche, because in Uganda,
in many ways our farmers remain de
facto conservation and organic farmers.”
Rwakakamba points to studies that
estimate the untapped organics market for
agricultural products in Europe, Japan, the
U.S. and Africa exceeds $100 billion.
Once farmers are introduced to
genetic modification, Rwakakamba also
cautions, “it becomes a different ball
game that requires different kinds of
skills, that requires a different kind of
land space.” He worries that if Uganda
opens its doors to the international seed
market, the sustainability of its farmers will be compromised. He stresses
that commercialization is not bad, but it
needs to be done in a way that also protects food security at the household level.
Increasing efficiencies will become
the primary focus of agricultural policy
moving forward, whether or not the Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill passes. The
Ugandan population is expected to reach
114 million by 2050 (in 2013 the population was 37 million with nearly half
under the age of 15).
The country will have to significantly
increase its productivity in order to feed
that population. Rwakakamba thinks it’s
doable, with an intensification of smallholder farming where value is added on
the farm and there is access to markets,
better seeds, extension services and information. “Once we achieve that, then we’ll
be sure that we first of all feed ourselves
but also feed the continent.”
As our conversation winds down
Rwakakamba tells me he’s closing up the
office and heading to his farm for the weekend. For the next couple of days, he says,
he’s looking forward to changing out of his
city clothes, and getting his hands dirty. As
he puts it, he’ll practise what he preaches. CG
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March 3, 2015 21
Around the globe
ecky Parker’s passion for agriculture
and its future shines through when
she talks about her upcoming twoyear research adventure as a Nuffield
scholar. But Parker also knows that
it’s going to take the best people doing the best
work to keep our agriculture at the forefront.
In particular, she is focused on one crucial question. “Sustainability in terms of having a workforce is essential to everybody
— whether you’re a primary producer, food
processor or agribusiness — it’s something
that challenges everybody,” Parker says.
Passion, curiosity and the ability to gather
and share knowledge are what Nuffield scholars have brought to agriculture since the program was launched in 1947 by Lord Nuffield,
also known as William Morris, who believed
strongly in the benefits of travel and study.
Nuffield’s idea was to send qualified people
out into the world to bring the best agricultural
practices back home to improve the domestic
industry in England.
And that’s exactly what Parker intends to do.
Since 1947, the Nuffield concept has spread
across the world so it now has branches in the
U.K., Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand,
Zimbabwe, the Netherlands and Canada. The
Nuffield organization also has ties to the Eisenhower Fellowship in the U.S.
The Canadian program’s mission is to “foster
agricultural leadership and personal development through international study.” Scholars are
funded to help them do research on special topics over a two-year period, during which they
spend at least 10 weeks travelling, six of them
consecutively. At the end of the study term, they
then present reports on their findings.
22 Parker comes by her passion for agriculture honestly. She is a born farm girl, and
while she now lives in Prince Edward County
where husband Hunter works at Huff Estates
Winery, she was raised on a seventh-generation mixed livestock operation in Eden Mills,
outside Guelph, Ont.
Her proposal, “Collaborative models of
agriculture career education,” won her one
of the three Canadian scholarships awarded
last September, based partly on the idea that
while others have worked to get post-secondary youth involved in agriculture, more effort
is needed with upper primary and high schoolaged kids.
Parker is also project and partnership
manager at Ontario Agri-Food Education,
and will use her scholarship to study how
other countries are helping young students
see agriculture as a sector with great career
Parker will go beyond the formal educational systems, also looking at how industry
groups and youth development organizations
can contribute to attracting youth to agricultural careers.
“There are all these different players who
can have a significant role in educating about
agriculture careers,” Parker says. “How can
we work together more efficiently so we are
presenting the right messages to young people
in the right medium, and we’re not duplicating each other’s work?”
That research and all the flying around and
staying in far-off places will cost money, and
the Canadian Nuffield Scholarship Association
Continued on page 24
Photography: Peggy deWitt Photography
Why are other countries better than Canada
at getting their young people excited about careers
in agriculture? With support from Glacier FarmMedia,
Nuffield scholar Becky Parker is on her
By Lois Harris
way to find out
march 3, 2015
Parker sees Canada’s
poor track record of
attracting youth to
agriculture as a threat
to our sustainability. She
also sees it as fixable.
march 3, 2015 23
Continued from page 22
depends completely on membership fees
and donations to finance its scholarships.
Glacier FarmMedia, which publishes
C ountry G uide among other farm
periodicals including Grainews, Western
Producer and Manitoba Co-operator,
provided Parker’s $15,000 scholarship.
“Glacier has been very successful
with our farm publications, and we look
for ways to give back to the agricultural
community,” says John Morriss, associate publisher and editorial director.
“Nuffield has a high international profile, but there’s been a lot less support
for participants in Canada compared to
some other countries — we see this as an
area where we can help.”
Also winning last fall’s scholarships
were Greg Donald of Kensington, P.E.I.,
who will be studying the competitive strategies of other potato-producing regions
as well as looking at other approaches
to commodity organizations, and Colin
Hudon from Rosser, Man., who will be
doing research on innovative approaches
to farmland ownership.
Parker was looking for professional
development opportunities when she
learned of Nuffield. Getting time off for
travelling was not a problem since her
study topic dovetails with the goals of
the organization.
“Before I applied, I talked to my
executive director Colleen Smith, and
have received nothing but full support,”
Parker says.
The whirlwind of travel is already
underway with a flight to the Champagne region of France. Parker will
attend the weeklong Contemporary
Scholars Conference with other new
Nuffield scholars from around the
world. It kicks off everyone’s study
period by providing participants with
a forum for getting a broader view of
agriculture, meeting a global network of
farm and agricultural leaders, and developing the kind of leadership skills participants will need both on their travels
and when they get back home.
From France, Parker flies to the U.K.
where she will meet with farm and youth
organizations in England and Scotland.
Finally she’ll go on to New Zealand and
Australia before flying home again in midApril. She’ll travel more — probably in the
U.S. and across Canada — in early 2016
before wrapping up her report and presenting her research later in the year.
24 Asks Parker: “How can we work together
more efficiently so we are presenting the
right message to young people?”
Parker is also hoping local agriculture and commodity organizations will
be receptive to her fundraising efforts to
“help support me and allow me to visit
more places and engage in more meetings
with people while I’m away.”
Nuffield scholars are free to pursue their research however they wish.
Besides determining all the angles of her
topic and scheduling meetings with the
right people, Parker is also mapping out
where she’s going, figuring out how to
get to her destinations, and where to stay
once she arrives.
Having already completed a master’s
degree in education, she understands the
intricacies of organizing a big research
project. She’s also received a lot of help
with both her approach to the project
and logistical planning.
Karen Daynard, a previous Nuffield
scholar and a public relations business
owner from Ontario, was generous with
advice on both her area of study and the
application process.
Daynard also referred Parker to Clayton Robins, a 2013 scholar from Manitoba who is the executive director of that
province’s 4-H organization.
When the two of them met at the Nuffield annual general meeting last fall in
Montreal, Robins was able to give Parker
good contacts in England and Australia,
and supported her including youth development groups in her research. At the
same meeting, a participant from England
offered her a place to stay.
Contacts made during the program
can last for years, and members have
access to a database of information
on some 1,600 people who have gone
through the scholarship program so far.
“It’s a vibrant network of people who
can direct you to whom you should talk to
and improve the depth of your research,”
says Parker. “This way, you can make sure
you’re not missing any angles because of
your unfamiliarity with the country.”
In the coming months, Parker will
be busy. Besides travelling, working on
her research and keeping up her day job,
she’ll be contributing at least weekly to
her new blog,,
and tweeting about her experiences. Her
Twitter handle is @becky_parker_2
For Parker, the Nuffield experience
will mean translating passion to practicality by finding and reporting on agricultural career education models that can be
useful to Canada.
“I will be connecting with program
staff, so I can have a conversation with
them about details and logistics of programs,” Parker says. “As a project manager, that’s how I think.
“I’m really committed to devoting
whatever is necessary to coming up with
tangible ideas that can be put into place
— I don’t want it to be a report that sits
on a shelf somewhere.” CG
Country Guide will continue profiling
Parker’s progress as she continues her
Nuffield research.
march 3, 2015
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It may seem like the life has gone out of land markets,
By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor
but don’t call the morgue just yet
f you get most farmers and landowners to talk
about it candidly, most will admit to being a
bit awestruck by just how far and how fast
land prices have risen.
Simon Ellis, a young fourth-generation
farmer from near Wawanesa, Man., says he and his
neighbours have watched over the past decade as
land prices have roughly tripled.
“These days it’s about $3,000 an acre, 10 years
ago it was about $1,000 an acre,” Ellis tells Country Guide. “As a young farmer, you look at that and
you wonder how you can possibly afford it.”
Another young Manitoba farmer echoes that sentiment. Chris McAllister farms just north of Portage
la Prairie, where higher-value crops like potatoes and
edible beans cover a lot of the ground. He says the
price of land depends on who’s buying, who’s selling
and what day it is, but he’s hearing values quoted in
a range from $4,000 and $6,000 an acre.
“Even with those higher-value crops, it’s tough
to justify buying land at these prices, and to make it
pencil out,” McAllister says.
It’s seldom a good idea to bet the farm on conclusions you draw from looking at just one area, or just
one season of grain prices.
After all, land markets are always largely local
markets too, but a lot of farmers throughout North
America are seeing similar trends over the recordsetting past few years.
Even so, grain prices have fallen, and it raises the
question: are land prices experiencing a Wile E. Coyote moment?
Have they just run off a cliff, and are they currently suspended in mid-air, blissfully unaware of
what’s about to happen?
Or are today’s land prices actually supported by a
strong foundation?
Few people in Canada are better situated to
26 answer that question than J.P. Gervais, chief agricultural economist for Farm Credit Canada, the country’s largest agricultural lender. He says the answer
to the question of farmland values isn’t a blanket one
that covers the entire country. Instead, it can roughly
be split into two regions, east and west.
In the West, it’s largely driven by the productive
value of the land itself for crop producers, as there
are few competing land-use industries. In places like
southern Ontario, however, extraneous factors, like
a preponderance of supply management producers
competing for the same land base, can make the picture a bit muddier.
“The ratio I always look at is crop receipts to farmland prices,” Gervais says. “Across Western Canada,
that number is right about where it’s been for the past
40 years. Saskatchewan, for example, is right on that
trend line. In Ontario, where you have those other
factors at play, it’s a bit higher, but even at that, it’s
not dramatically overvalued based on this ratio. It is
possible, depending on what happens with commodity
prices, that you could see a slight decline in Ontario.”
Gervais cautions that the 2014 income numbers
aren’t yet fully included, but says that for all the
sound and fury about what might be happening to
farm incomes, the numbers to date aren’t as discouraging as the headlines may have led many to expect.
“It certainly wasn’t the best year, but I don’t think
it was a complete disaster either,” Gervais said. “Looking forward to 2015, forecasts are expecting about
a five per cent increase in crop receipts over this past
year, which would support farmland values.”
In no small part, that’s because domestic incomes
are calculated in Canadian dollars, while international
grain sales are denominated in U.S. dollars. As the
Canadian dollar has softened and flirted with the 80
per cent mark, it has served to cushion the blow for
grain producers.
March 3, 2015
Is it time to sell?
Have prices peaked, or will you regret taking
the price you can get in 2015?
Generally, however, farmland values
seem to be flatlining as the entire industry
catches its breath and adjusts to the new
paradigm that’s emerged over the past few
years, Gervais says.
One person who’s been writing and
speaking bluntly about North American
farmland value for the past few years is
Brent Gloy, first as an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University in
West Lafayette, Indiana, and now from
the family farm in Nebraska, where he and
his wife have returned to farm. He’s been
calling Midwest farmland overinflated for
a few years now, but even he’s stopping
well short of calling for an outright crash,
saying instead there’s likely to be a modest
adjustment downward over time.
“If the question is, ‘Is this a Wile E.
Coyote moment?’ I would say the answer
is, ‘Yes, quite possibly, but he’s not hundreds of feet above the canyon floor, he’s
just a few feet above it,’” Gloy responds.
“It might drop a bit, but it’s not going to
be the big impact and puff of dust.”
Gloy said he wouldn’t be surprised
if, over the next few years, a scenario of
sideways commodity prices and a modest
reduction of about 10 per cent in Midwest U.S. land prices were to unfold.
When asked to comment on Gloy’s
well-known position on the market, Gervais says parts of this country could possibly see the same sort of a pattern, but
he’s also quick to add that anyone’s predictions are going to depend on a number
of variables, such as when and how much
crop prices rebound.
“In Canada, southern Ontario is
much like what he’s talking about in the
U.S. Midwest, with the same crop mix,”
Gervais says. “If we do see a longer
period of lower grain prices, I think there
is the potential there, based on the cropreceipts-to-land-price ratio, for a small
move downward.”
One thing nobody is predicting is an
outright crash, not even the young farmers who are wistfully eyeing the nowexpensive land surrounding them.
Continued on page 28
M arc h 3 , 2 0 1 5 W
ith the heat leaking out of ag real
estate markets north and south
of the border, you can almost see
landowners starting to ease back in their
armchairs, settling in for a good, long wait.
As an investment strategy, in fact, that
might be a wise choice.
All eyes are on the market, wondering if
prices are about to sag, but for Mike Boehlje of
Purdue University, there’s no “if” about it.
With expectations of a rising interest rate
meeting bearish commodity prices, American
land values are softening. “We have been saying for the last year or more that we would
expect them to decline over the next two to
three years by 15 to 20 per cent,” Boehlje says.
“It looks like that process is already underway.”
Canadian prices may be supported by
the weak loonie, says Bob Thompson, an
appraiser near Calgary who works in nearly
all of Canada’s central and western provinces, but he’s concerned about the effect
of lower commodity prices on future land
values. And he doesn’t believe he’s alone.
A flat market has emerged in his area,
though farm sales may not really show that
until April since most deals go down in February and March.
In the U.S., there are myriad regional factors
that make it difficult to point to clear trends. eastern Corn Belt (Indiana and Ohio) land values,
for instance, tend not to ratchet up or down as
much as western Corn Belt (Nebraska, Iowa and
Illinois) values.
Still, recent survey results also suggest to
Boehlje that this may only be the beginning
of the decline. Yet land in the United States
has been a wise investment, Boehlje adds.
When part of a 20- to 50-year buy-and-hold
strategy, it is a rare asset that offers both
portfolio diversification and also an excellent
hedge against inflation. But these economics haven’t favoured non-farm investors.
“Land, properly purchased, is a very
good investment, but, like anything else,
you can pay too much for it,” Boehlje says.
“Land historically generates a four to six per
cent earnings return, and if I pay for land
and it only generates three per cent earnings return, I probably paid too much.”
Right now Indiana and Iowa farmland is
only generating about a three per cent return
By Amy Petherick
he says, so investors just haven’t been able to
stay in the game when farmers with long-term
horizons start bidding prices up.
“Farmers have had the purchasing power
and a willingness to bid land values away
from many disciplined investors,” Boehlje
says. “But they (investors) can still buy successfully in permanent crops in Florida, California, and other parts of the country.”
Not everyone shares Boehlje’s balanced
outlook, however.
Based in Omaha, Farmers National Company manages properties for nearly 6,000 landowners across the country and a significant
number of them have been non-farming investors. “For years while I’ve been with this company, we’ve had investors call and want to buy
land,” says Jim Ferrell, company president.
That pace picked up starting in 2006,
with investors taking over properties,
improving them, and renting them out to
local farmers. “Over a billion dollars’ worth
of farmland was sold in 2012 in that class
that we’re aware of,” Ferrell says.
But some people would say that’s when
smart money started to get out of the market.
“I sit on the Federal Reserve Board here
in the States, so I’m involved enough in
interest rate discussions to know that we
have fuelled an exuberance in land values
that I think probably pushed land values at
least 25 to 30 per cent above where they
should have gone,” Ferrell says. “If you buy
my theory, even if we just normalize interest
rates, we’re going to pull a lot of money out
of this market.”
The counterbalance, however, could
prove to be the strong Chinese market and
ongoing government support for the ethanol
industry. “If you want to put three legs under
a stool and set the ag market on top of it,
it’s monetary policy, the influence of China
that hit this market in 2006, and the ethanol
market that hit in 2006 that created the perfect storm,” Ferrell says. As long as the Chinese market holds at six or seven per cent
growth, it will support U.S. land prices. Projections for the ethanol business also look
positive for the first half of 2015, and Ferrell
also thinks biofuels will offer similar results.
“Land values are a symptom of what’s
going on,” he says. 27
Continued from page 27
“I just can’t see it coming down,”
Manitoba’s Ellis says. “I think it’s more
likely to stay where it is.”
In no small part, Ellis says, that’s
because larger operations, which are
becoming the norm, can typically put
the resources together to purchase land
without needing it to instantly generate
net revenue.
“They can just spread that risk out
over more acres,” Ellis says.
Ellis also notes that if farmland
doesn’t fetch current values, many sellers
aren’t under a lot of pressure, so they’d
simply take the land off the market
rather than settle for less than they think
the land is worth.
The recent 2015 Canadian Agricultural Business Outlook, an annual survey
of producers co-sponsored by Country
Guide, backed up the appetite to continue to acquire assets. In that report
agricultural economist Al Mussell
reported a declining sense of optimism
within the sector, but noted that most
farms were still comfortable making capital investments to grow productivity,
writing in his report “…the larger the
farm the more comfortable they are.”
Down the road at Portage la Prairie, McAllister has the same sense of
how the market is shaping up, saying
non-traditional land buyers and even
non-farming members of farm families
inheriting land are going to likely keep
values up. In the end he says his preference — and that of many young farmers
— would be to own the assets rather
than rent or lease land, but that may
not be possible, at least for now.
“I’m definitely an ownership guy,”
McAllister says. “To me ownership is
control and stability. But if that’s not
possible, I do think there are creative
ways to structure rental agreements,
things like long-term rental agreements,
that can do the same thing, especially if
you can structure them so they’re winwin situations.”
Gloy adds that it’s inevitable some
producers will struggle through this
period of lower prices, and he says the
industry appears to be entering a period
where good financial management will
be rewarded.
“There will be some pain, I don’t
doubt that,” Gloy says. “The people who
will be hurt are the people who are out
of position — they’ve paid a lot for land
28 With near-term forecasts on North American farmland
ranging from steady to down 25 per cent, most experts
are saying now is the time for a long-range view
recently and they’re heavily indebted, and
they need the higher prices.”
If all other things remain equal, however, what Gloy describes is more of a
soft patch than a total wipeout — but he
does admit there is one outlier he’s definitely keeping an eye on.
“If the EPA were to start monkeying
with ethanol mandate, that could really
be significant,” Gloy says. “There’s little
doubt that it was ethanol demand, in large
part, that drove higher prices. If that were
to be significantly altered, that would be
bad news. I think there’s a very low likelihood that will happen, but it’s certainly
something we should be watching.”
Barring any significant policy
changes, however, he says what producers are now facing is the typical up,
down and sideways of commodity mar-
kets over time, something most famers
understand well and will be able to manage through.
FCC’s Gervais has been spending a
lot of time on the farm-meeting circuit
this winter, and says there’s no doubt
farmers are a little nervous. One question that keeps popping up is whether
the business is in for a replay of the terrible times of the 1980s. He says a bit of
caution isn’t a bad thing, but also says
he’s still optimistic about the sector for
the most part, and key ingredients for a
real train wreck are so far missing, such
as high interest rates.
“I always compare agriculture and
the broader economy,” Gervais says.
“When you put the two side by side,
agriculture still looks like a pretty good
place to be.” CG
March 3, 2015
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I do,
ANd I don’t?
Let’s agree. Prenuptial
agreements will never be
easy to talk about, but
knowing the facts can
help you get started
t a meeting this winter I sat down with
a friendly group of farmers. The conversation turned from the weather to
crop prices and slowly shifted into the
personal, mostly about children. We
shared our farms’ stories, our wins and our defeats.
Then the man with tuffs of white hair beside me
bent quietly toward my ear as he told me about how
a woman had stolen his heart and then his farm, a
farm that had been in his family for five generations.
His hands shook in anger and despair.
It happens. Relationships do break up, whether
you’re a farmer or not. According to Statistics Canada in 2009, the probability of divorce in this country is about 41 per cent. With second marriages and
people living together, the rate of split-ups is even
higher. Although there’s no official data, says Mike
Rosmann, a farmer and psychologist from Iowa,
it appears the divorce rate for farmers has become
more equalized to the general population.
So let’s not kid ourselves. Farms are big assets
that hold generations of emotional punch and can be
instrumental to the business. It can take the legs right
out from under a farm if a key section of good land
or half the quota is lost.
But most people simply don’t think of getting a
prenuptial agreement signed. They don’t want to
consider or talk about anything that might imply
their partnership might not succeed, says Rosmann.
“When people get married or decide to live together,
they want and expect to make their relationship
work, so most don’t even think about creating a prenuptial agreement.”
From his office in London, Ont., Mike Bondy, a
chartered accountant and national director of succession planning with Collins Barrow, says the divorce
rate of his farm clients in southwestern Ontario is
30 By Maggie Van Camp, CG Associate Editor
much lower than the average population, only about
five per cent. However, that doesn’t lighten the emotional and financial impact of breakups on farms.
“Divorce is the No. 1 thing I hate to deal with,
and prenuptial agreements are the second-worse thing
to deal with, so I try to do prenups,” Bondy says.
Prenuptial agreements are basically a way of negotiating a divorce settlement ahead of time, before you
even get married. Each party has to have their own
independent lawyer and those lawyers tend to tell the
person marrying the farmer to not sign the contract.
It can be hard to get everyone to see the benefits of
preplanning for something negative.
“It’s difficult, but I tell many clients really, you
should have a marriage contract,” says Bondy.
Planning becomes even more important if you
have substantial assets at the time of marriage,
whether inherited or earned. Bondy says it’s more
common to have prenuptial and cohabitation agreements in second marriages, where one or the other
partner owns significant assets. This is often because
they’ve been through a divorce or know someone
who has been through a nasty breakup and want the
assets to go to the next generation.
So what are the laws?
The specifics of divorce and separation law vary
from province to province and from state to state.
The laws on their own are complicated, and then
there’s the additional complicating factor that the
facts of each case are unique. However, the essential
idea behind all these laws is that value created or
property acquired during the relationship will be
equally shared on separation.
March 3, 2015
The value of the property a spouse owns on the
date they get married is not part of the net family property, just the increase in value during their
marriage. In Alberta, for instance, if you’re married, the Matrimonial Property Act applies, and the
increase in the value of property acquired during the
marriage is equally divisible, says Gayle Langford,
lawyer and registered family mediator at Red Deer.
It doesn’t matter whose name the property is under.
In law, the term property means everything that
can be transferred — shares of a family farm corporation, inventory, quota, land, equipment, homes
— even if it’s in your own name or valued as part of
your farm corporation.
Gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are excluded and, in most provinces, any
growth on these gifts is excluded.
The matrimonial home has a special status. There
might be complicated issues, such as children or
an established right to occupy the home. Contact
a family lawyer if you’re in that position. It’s way
beyond this article.
Nuptial means legally married, and cohabitation
means living together but not legally married. You
will be considered common law for taxes after certain lengths of time, depending on where you live.
As long as the property is still in the farmer’s
name only, it will remain that person’s after the
common-law relationship breaks up, subject to the
claim for the increase.
However, the rules for settlement after living
together are changing. Recently, the Supreme Court
of Canada decided where there’s a “joint family venture,” such as a farm, the value created during the
relationship may be split.
To protect against this, the common-law spouse
who doesn’t own the property needs to be compensated fairly for what they were doing on the farm
so they don’t have a claim. It’s common for farmers
not to pay themselves well and not to pay for labour
from wives and children.
“Absolutely, pay the cohabitating partner a reasonable salary all along for what they were doing on
the farm,” says Bondy.
The law regarding living together in Alberta is
quite a bit broader than most other provinces. If you
live in a relationship with another person outside of
marriage, and if you share one another’s lives, are
emotionally committed to one another and function
as an economic and domestic unit for a period of
not less than three years, there could be legal obligations between the parties.
“That one might catch a few farming families by
surprise,” says Langford. “I know of siblings, and
family members, for example, elderly mothers living
with their children, that may fall under the legislation and have ongoing obligations.”
March 3, 2015
The agreements
So what can we do to protect the farm? Written
agreements, and prenuptial and cohabitation agreements can be structures to help ensure the family
farm legacy will be intact and the leaving partner will
be taken care of if the couple split.
A prenuptial agreement can be modified later if
both partners agree, even after they marry, or you
can write an agreement while married, in which case
it is called a postnuptial.
These agreements can help reduce the impact of
divorce, but if not handled properly, they can also
cause more problems. “The term prenup has too
much baggage: images of the gold-digger versus the
controlling patriarch. A better name would be Family
Farm Legacy Agreement,” says John Mill, succession
specialist and tax lawyer from near Windsor, Ont.
In a family farm, the goal is to protect the family
aspect of the farm itself, so an agreement might want
to acknowledge the family intends to keep the farm
in the family for generations, says Mill.
To demonstrate it’s a fair agreement, it has to protect a legitimate interest and make sure the spouse is
taken care of as well. When it’s unfair, such agreements
get set aside. Separate lawyers should review the completed agreement, since one attorney cannot represent
both parties in the event of a divorce or dissolution
of marriage. “A lot of prenups are tossed out of court
because they aren’t done properly,” says Bondy.
Continued on page 32
“Divorce is the No. 1 thing
I hate to deal with,” says Bondy.
“I try to do prenups.” 31
Continued from page 31
Protect your farm
from divorce
The following are some ways, other
than written agreements or not getting
married, to mitigate your farm’s vulnerability to divorce. Check with your trusted
advisers, lawyer and accountants before
doing anything, and whatever you do,
don’t spring any surprise arrangements on
your family.
1. Consider not transferring gifts to a child
until after marriage. In most provinces,
gifts or inheritance after the wedding
date are not joint property.
2. Some pieces of land are more important
to the operation than others, so keep
them in the married-farmer’s name only,
especially if it was a gift. Sometimes you
may be encouraged to put joint names
on property to avoid probate fees, but
remember, if it’s in joint names, the
spouse legally owns half.
3. E ncourage the new couple to buy a
house or small acreage as their matrimonial home instead of a house on
larger acres or on land with barns
essential to the operation.
4. Pay partners or spouses a reasonable salary for what they are doing on the farm.
5. Another way to exclude farm property
from net family property is to use the
tools available through your farm corporation, says Bondy. If the farmer gets
married, the increase in value of his or
her shares is included in the calculation of net family property. So Bondy
suggests an estate freeze just before
marriage. The farmer exchanges his
or her common (normal growing-invalue shares) for fixed-value preferred
shares. Then a parent subscribes for
the new common shares and the day
after the wedding, gifts the shares to
the newly married, next-generation
farmer. The new common shares have
little or no value at that time and when
gifted, the parent indicates in writing
that the gifted shares, any substituted
shares and any income from the shares
are to be excluded from the calculation of family property. The preferred
share value is frozen and is an asset at
the date of marriage (so their value is
excluded in a divorce), and the growth
in value of the new common shares
is not included in family property for
divorce purposes.
32 Over the 40 years he’s been helping
farmers with succession, Bondy has seen
a couple of ugly emotional cases just trying to work out a written agreement.
“I’m a big believer in them (prenups) but
I hate, hate, hate to do them,” he says.
When individuals with large interests
in separate assets are planning to marry,
prenuptial agreements can help achieve
clarity and trust and they can dispel suspicion. However, they can sometimes be
very hurtful and add stress to new family
relationships. Bondy has seen too many
tears hit the floor over this discussion
and says it’s important to manage the
process with fairness and sensitivity.
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements simply divide the net assets if
separation occurs. These agreements
typically list all the property each person owns along with all debts, and they
specify the rights each will have if the
marriage ends in divorce, dissolution, or
death of a spouse.
Bondy advises his client to ensure
fairness. For example, the matrimonial
home is valued like a house in town, and
cash settlements for the spouse can be
written right in the agreement. Often on
farms the house is owned by the family
farm corporation or is on a large property or the property has a barn on it.
When done properly, the great thing
about doing a formal prenuptial or
cohabitation agreement is that couples
and families fully discuss the couple’s
present finances and future goals. “The
discussion around a prenuptial or cohabitation agreements is what is valuable,”
says Langford. “Anything that helps families discuss all the what-ifs and to come
to an agreement before the what-if occurs
makes things more predictable and easier
when those what-ifs happen.” For the agreement to be enforcible,
each party must completely and accurately disclose all assets and liabilities
existing prior to the marriage, including
copies of tax returns, balance sheets and
deeds. The ones Langford has done listed
the assets each party brings into the marriage with an agreed value, and an agreement that if the asset increases in value,
then the increase is divisible if the marriage lasts a set amount of years. In her experience with farm families,
Langford finds there are two key issues,
the farm as a business and the emotional
context of the family farm. For example,
“The term prenup has too much baggage,” says Mill. “A better name
would be Family Farm
Legacy Agreement.”
the home quarter might have family history tied to it. It may be the site of the
original sod hut.
“If you don’t want to have to sell off
a particular parcel of land in case of a
divorce to pay out the other spouse, then
an agreement might be of benefit,” says
As farms increase in size and new
family members become a part of the
business, either directly or indirectly,
Langford says a real need emerges to
discuss how assets and liabilities will be
For these agreements to be effective,
they need to address all the what-ifs and
formalize their informal agreements. If
families want to protect the farm as a
business, then they need to formalize all
the agreements, not just prenuptials, says
Langford. For example, land and farm
assets can be held in family trusts, which
if done properly can provide some protection for family-owned operations. To
protect the farmland from divorce, then
a “gift” might be better to be a subdivided acreage and an agreed value as of
the date of the gift, or loaning formally
the funds to buy land, she says.
For more information Ohio state has
a helpful fact sheet on prenuptial agreements for farmers (
bst-fact/pdf/Prenuptial_agreement.pdf). CG
March 3, 2015
Canadian Forage
and Grassland
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©2015 CNH Industrial America LLC. All rights reserved. New Holland is a trademark registered in the United States
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Canadian Forage
and Grassland
Welcome to the second annual Forage & Grassland Guide, produced in partnership by the Canadian Forage &
Grassland Association (CFGA) and Farm Business Communications and distributed through Country Guide, Canadian Cattlemen and
Le Bulletin des agriculteurs. It focuses on issues of importance of forage and grassland to crop and livestock producers across Canada.
For more information on forage and grassland management in your area, we encourage you to contact and participate in the activities
of your regional or provincial association.
Canadian Forage &
Grassland Association
C/o Corie Arbuckle
63 Clearwater Road
Winnipeg, Man. R2J 2T4
Phone: (204) 254-4192
[email protected]
BC Forage Council
Fran Teitge
Phone: (250) 267-6522
Email: [email protected]
Alberta Forage Industry Network
Lyndon Mansell
Phone: (780) 592-2262
Email: [email protected]
Saskatchewan Forage Council
Phone: (306) 969-2666
Email: [email protected]
Manitoba Forage and
Grassland Association Wanda McFadyen
Phone: (204) 475-2241
Email: [email protected]
Ontario Soil and Crop
Improvement Association
Andrew Graham
Phone: 1-800-265-9751
Email: [email protected]
Ontario Forage Council
Ray Robertson
Phone: 1-877-892-8663
Email: [email protected] Soil & Crop Improvement
Association of Nova Scotia
Carol Versteeg
Phone: (902) 758-3530
Email: [email protected]
Quebec Forage Council /
Conseil québécois
des plantes fourragères
Helene Brassard
Téléphone : (418) 719-9972
Courriel: [email protected]
A special supplement brought to you by:
1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1
(204) 944-5765
Fax (204) 944-5562
Lillie Ann Morris
(905) 838-2826
Email: [email protected]
Forage & Grassland Guide
Forage Guide 2015 Trends
in the Canadian forage industry
Regional groups across Canada agree in the need for more recognition and
research for forage and grassland By Doug Wray, Chair, Canadian Forage and Grasslands Association
he Canadian forage industry is
impacted by dynamics at home
and around the globe, as is all
of agriculture. In a changing world,
producers continually evaluate and
build strategies that will support successful business plans. Identifying
trends is one way to clarify the picture and provide direction. The following is a look at several trends at
play in the forage industry.
Beef and milk consumption are
increasing in many developing
countries as their economies grow
and their citizens have more disposable income. This is having an
impact on our forage industry in
a couple of ways. First, Canadian
beef is being successfully marketed
in many of those countries, helping create the record-high prices
for cattle and beef here at home.
Those record prices are widely
expected to drive herd expansion.
The cow herd diet is almost exclusively forage, and more acres and
higher-yielding varieties will be
needed to fill the gap.
The second impact of improving
diets in developing countries stems
from their desire to produce more
meat and milk at home, despite the
lack of all the resources necessary. For
some, importing high-quality forages
is a successful strategy to increase production. Japan, Korea and China are
importing Canadian forages. Some
Middle Eastern countries have decided
to concentrate their available irrigation water on the highest-value crops
and are now major importers of for-
Forage & Grassland Guide
ages for their dairy and camel herds.
Canada, with our fertile soils, rainfall,
infrastructure and skilled producers, is
well placed to export to these markets.
Forages are Canada’s largest crop
by area, with 32 million acres of tame
perennials and annuals. These are the
pasture, hay, greenfeed and silage acres.
Another 37 million acres of native pasture rounds out the forage supply for
Canada’s ruminant herds. Approximately
80 per cent of the beef diet is forages. For
dairy, the portion is 60 per cent.
Competition for land with cash
crops and other uses will limit the
increase in acres to feed a larger herd.
Producers will look to improved varieties, better management, more use
of legumes, and production systems
that optimize their resources to create
the most value. Most of the increased
acres will come on mixed farming
operations as they adjust rotations to
grow more feed.
Some cash crop producers have
successfully included high-quality hay
acres in their rotations. These acres
are intensely managed to produce
specific products for the dairy and
equine markets in North America as
well as primarily dairy markets overseas. While these acres are relatively
small in the big picture, they bring
important diversity to monoculture
rotations and farming enterprises.
While there is increasing recognition of the environmental goods and
services provided by forages, progress
has been slowed by the science to sup-
port it. The wide variability of growing conditions and huge complexity
of interacting cause-and-effect factors
make it extremely challenging and
costly to quantify dynamics such as
greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, nutrient flows, water infiltration
and runoff. Fortunately management
practices that enhance forage productivity and longevity are also positive
for the environment. When producers
adopt better management practices,
along with more production, they get
environmental benefits they intuitively
know are there, but rarely can quantify.
Support may be coming from multinational retailers wanting a “sustainable
production” stamp on the food they
sell. This will play out through organizations like the Canadian Round Table
for Sustainable Beef.
Forage research has been declining in Canada for the last 30 years.
The tide is turning. Since forming
five years ago, the CFGA has effectively promoted the need for, and
value of, forage research. Great work
by the provincial forage and livestock
associations and strong leadership
from the BCRC and its staff, particularly Andrea Brocklebank and Reynold Bergen, have greatly increased
the investment in ways that will help
retain capacity and encourage succession plans for retiring scientists.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba
have collaborative research programs
to deliver more productive forages,
and management systems which have
an energized focus on realizing the
full potential of the sector. n
Dryland grass breeding in
the Canadian Prairies
By Duncan Morrison, Freelance writer
Bruce Coulman is a professor at the plant sciences department in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the
University of Saskatchewan. He has helped develop and register 22 forage cultivars through research programs at the
University of Saskatchewan and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Highlights include the development of AC Grazeland,
a bloat-reduced alfalfa, and the development of several hybrid bromegrass cultivars. We recently contacted professor
Coulman for his thoughts on perennial forage breeding, research, climate change and the advantages of forages as a crop.
Q: Why is forage breeding important?
A: In all crop types, it is important
to have breeding programs to consistently improve the varieties grown
by farmers. In the case of forages,
they have a larger acreage of land in
Canada than other crops. Our forage-breeding programs allow us to
improve production, and develop varieties resistant to diseases.
Q: Is some of the forage breeding you
are working on in response to our
changing world, in particular climate
change on the Prairies?
A: As long as plant breeders are testing their breeding populations in the
field, varieties adapted to a gradually
changing climate will be selected, since
we select the most productive lines
each year, whatever the climatic conditions. In addition, as part of our program, we are evaluating species which
are presently marginally adapted to
our climate but which may become
better adapted under climate change.
Q: Where do you feel the most
potential is in breeding new
varieties — native vs. tame?
A: Most of the focus is with tame
grasses and legumes as producers are
most often growing these. With native
species, there are challenges with producing seed, which drives up seed cost
to the producer. A collaborative program over the last 20 years involving
Ducks Unlimited Canada, Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada and the Universities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan has resulted in seed of “ecological
varieties” of a number of native species being available to producers.
Q: What traits do producers demand?
Is it primarily yield?
A: It is primarily yield; however, there
is demand for improved varieties for
grazing purposes that grow early in the
spring and stay green later in the fall.
There are numerous other traits that
interest individual producers, such as
alfalfa varieties that retain their leaves
when dried or when frosted in the fall.
Q: Why did the hybrid bromegrass
produce the highest beef gains
as compared to the meadow and
smooth bromegrass?
A: That is likely due to a slightly
better forage quality of hybrid bromegrass, especially at the late vegetative
stage of growth when grazing is often
done. The fibre content of hybrid
brome is somewhat lower than smooth
and meadow brome at this stage.
Q: What is the reality for the
potential of grasses for biomass
production? Is ethanol really
viable on the Canadian Prairies?
The University of Saskatchewan has evaluated
biomass production of adapted cool-season
grasses and found intermediate wheatgrass to be
the highest yielding. Photo: Dehaan/Creative Commons
A: There is still work to do on the
methodology for economically producing ethanol from cellulosic materials.
If this was to become a reality in Western Canada, cereal crop straw would
provide a high-volume reliable source
of material for ethanol production.
There are also certain grasses that can
be grown on marginal land that could
be used for ethanol production, but
yields on these areas would be lower.
There has been a tremendous amount
of money and time put into developing
switchgrass and miscanthus grass as biomass sources south of the border. But
these species are not as well adapted
to Western Canada. We have evaluated
biomass production of adapted coolseason grasses and found intermediate
wheatgrass to be the highest yielding.
Rather than for ethanol, grasses may
have more potential as energy sources
through direct combustion of pelleted
materials. Pelleted switchgrass is already
being used as a fuel source in Eastern
Canada and the U.S.
Q: What would you tell the world
about Western Canada’s forages?
A: Forages have a lot of advantages
as a crop. They provide large amounts
of quality feed for ruminant animals.
In addition, perennial forages provide
numerous benefits to the environment,
such as soil conservation and wildlife
habitat. It is important we continue to
improve these kinds of crops. n
F o r a g e & G r a ss l a n d Gu i d e
The Normandins have modified a small
square baler to turn big squares into small
squares. While Norfoin Inc. puts up all its
hay in large square bales, half the hay is
sold as small squares. The conversion is
made after the hay is harvested and dried.
Photo: Allan Dawson
Quebec haymakers use homemade
dryer to improve quality
The Normandins also modified a small hay baler to convert big square bales into small ones
By Allan Dawson, manitoba co-operator
avid Normandin and his
brother Mathieu preferred driving tractors to milking cows and
that’s why they make hay and not milk.
The brothers, along with their
father Luc and Luc’s partner’s daughter, Audrey Mailloux, operate Norfoin Inc., 57 km southeast of Montreal
in the Montérégie region of la belle
The operation had been a dairy
farm started by David Normandin’s
grandfather in 1958, but switched to
haymaking in 2000, Normandin told
“We dry about 90 per cent
of our hay with a custommade bale hay dryer.”
David Normandin
Forage & Grassland Guide
a tour group attending the Canadian
Forage and Grassland Association
annual meeting in nearby Bromont
on November 17.
The company also provides snow
removal services during the winter.
The family operation puts up
around 6,000 large square bales from
its own 618 acres of land, plus bales
from another 198 acres under contract. It also buys 6,000 large square
hay bales.
The Normandins dry almost
all their hay, have almost an acre of
inside hay storage, including a new
50x110-foot building, which will eventually be heated, and they can convert
large bales to small square ones as
About half of Norfoin’s hay is sold
in Quebec and the rest is exported
to the United States through hay brokers, Normandin said.
The company puts up various hay
mixes, including alfalfa, timothy,
orchard grass, fescue and clover. And
the hay goes to a wide variety of livestock, including milk cows, dry cows,
calves, horses and even zoo animals.
Hay buyers demand top quality so the
Normandins strive to get their hay up in
good condition and keep it that way.
After the hay is crimped and cut, it’s
‘tedded’ or fluffed up to speed drying.
Then it’s raked and baled. The bales
are picked up the same day to prevent
sucking up moisture from the field.
They can pick up bales as quickly as
they are made, Normandin said.
The hay is baled at about 25 per
cent moisture.
“We dry about 90 per cent of our
hay (to 10 to 12 per cent) with a custom-made bale hay dryer,” Normandin said.
“We saw a dryer in Europe but it was
really expensive so we thought about
building it. We began the first year with
some prototypes, then we built a dryer
to meet our needs. Now we dry 100
(big square) bales at a time.”
The dryer is wood fired. Wood
is plentiful and cheaper than other
forms of energy, he said.
Hay and fire don’t mix. A wood fire
heats water, which feeds a radiator used
to warm air blown through the bales.
It takes six to 15 hours to dry a bale
depending on its moisture content.
They can dry about 300 bales a day.
The dried bales are stacked 11 high
in sheds.
All of Norfoin’s hay is put up in
large square bales because it’s faster,
Normandin said.
“We can do the work of 10
people with a small square baler
with only four people with one big
square baler,” he said.
However, five years ago, after sales of
large squares slowed, the company built
its own system to turn large square bales
into small ones. Now half of Norfoin’s
hay is sold as small squares.
The family brought a small square
baler into one of its sheds, powered it
A World of
in Every Bag…
David Normandin of Norfoin Inc., a family-owned haymaking operation in Saint-Césaire, Que., explains the
operation, including their homemade wood-fired hay dryer, which can dry 100 large square bales at a time.
Photo: Allan Dawson
with an electric motor and modified it
so it turns a big bale into small ones.
Normandin said they cut their
hayfields two to four times a season.
Nitrogen is applied after each cut
and manure is spread every spring. n
[email protected]
 See the Manitoba
Co-operator’s website for a
video about Norfoin Inc.
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3823 BY-Forage-BEEF-HalfPg-FINAL-FGG.indd 1
2015-01-29 11:20 AM
Research has shown that forages, like cereals
in the rotation, can provide an added boost
to subsequent corn crops.
Getting back to the basics
the fundamentals of good forages
New market opportunities may beckon, but quality remains the key
By Ralph Pearce, production editor, country guide
very time commodity prices start
to cycle lower, questions are
asked and pencils are put to
paper: “Should I start thinking of a
cropping alternative?” In Eastern Canada the considerations are often edible
beans, identity-preserved soybeans,
oats… maybe even barley or flax.
But what about forages?
The answer can be less than
straightforward, depending on whom
you ask. Today’s challenges to produce quality and quantity are different
than 15 years ago. Some are based
on demographics, or the availability
of land and dairy quota. In the past
three years, there also has been considerable speculation on the potential
for export opportunities through the
construction of an alfalfa compaction
facility somewhere in Eastern Canada.
Despite the potential for marketing forages to New York State or the
Middle East, reality always comes back
to the fundamentals. Forage growers
tend to adhere to the notion of “the
more you know, the better you grow.”
Joel Bagg, forage adviser with
the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA),
says growing forages for compaction
or export requires strict quality standards. Stepping into a relatively new
crop often requires new equipment
purchases or the adoption of a new
production regimen, not to mention
a level of familiarity that takes several
years of experience.
Forage & Grassland Guide
Planting considerations
Still, there is room for a quick
refresher on the basics of forage production. For instance, is spring or fall
better for establishing a good hay crop?
Aric Bos and Martina Pfister,
agronomists for DuPont Pioneer, say
spring is becoming the easier choice
for establishment. It depends on the
individual producer’s situation, and
there are some who simply default to
the fall because there’s a wider window. But spring planting can offer
several advantages.
“Moisture is the biggest
challenge (and) the longterm trend would say that
moisture is a lot more
dependable in the spring.”
Aric BoS, DuPont Pioneer
“Moisture is the biggest challenge,”
says Bos, who is based in Exeter, Ont.
“This past year (2014) there was no
problem: I saw a lot of good, established forage crops planted mid- to
late-August after wheat, but there was
plenty of moisture throughout the
year. The long-term trend would say
that moisture is a lot more dependable in the spring, so that would be
my first choice. Get it in between the
end of March and most of April is a
good window — even until mid-May,
depending on where you live.”
But that may not be convenient
from a logistics standpoint, as it conflicts with the other seeding and spraying operations. On the other hand,
late summer to early fall provides a
wider window following wheat harvest,
with the midsummer dry spell usually
done by the time a forage crop should
be planted.
But finding the balance between
sufficient moisture late in the season
and a narrowing window before first
frost may be expecting too much. By
the same token, heavy driving rains in
May, June or October can make things
difficult for early stage forage stands.
That’s also why Pfister also prefers
spring, and the earlier the better.
“Alfalfa only needs 3 C to germinate, so it can go in earlier in the
spring,” says Pfister, who is based
near Baltimore, Ont., just north of
Cobourg. “But what we need in the
summer is about six weeks of growth
before the first frost, so if the alfalfa
can’t get established enough —
whether it’s due to dry weather or
planted too late — the risk of winterkill is higher.”
Other influences
Pfister notes a pair of trends taking place in forage production. One
is more young farmers are entering
the family operation, so it’s important in helping them understand why
their fathers or grandfathers grew
forages as feed for their cows. And
Bos notes some recent management
challenges such as herbicide resistance provide an opportunity to put
forage into the rotation.
“Just by geography, there might be
some weed resistance problems, like
some of the counties of southwestern
Ontario where there’s dairy but also
pressure with glyphosate resistance.
A lot of those guys would be growing
Roundup Ready corn and soys in the
other parts of the rotation, and that
can make things more complicated
in terms of keeping glyphosate resistance at bay.”
Bos says that even in times of higher
commodity prices, the renewed interest in forages has been positive. Farmers generally have a good grasp of their
cost of production, he notes, and many
are “pencilling out” the numbers for
forages, even if they’re not involved in
In the 1990s, Ridgetown College
provided a comprehensive study that
found that wheat in the rotation
provides a yield boost to subsequent
corn and soybean crops. Bos says forages can do the same thing.
“From what I’ve seen, OMAFRA
and the industry and also the University (of Guelph) have done a good
job of showing the benefits of alfalfa
in the rotation,” says Bos, citing the
potential for a seven to 10 per cent
benefit to the corn crop that follows
“Even though growers are making
margins in their cash crop ventures,
they’ve started looking at forages
with more interest. And there’s a
pretty well-established hay market
that’s always been there, and that
always has a need for good-quality
forage. Hay making — at least dry
hay — has always been something of
an art form.”
Pfister adds that farmers do realize the importance of good-quality forages. “When you have high commodity
prices it means that any supplementary
feed coming in will be more expensive,
too. So the better quality forage is, the
cheaper the feed bill may be at the
end of the month.” n
Moisture is the limiting factor in establishing a good
forage crop, which is why spring planting is favoured
over the fall.
Forage & Grassland Guide
The forage challenge —
higher yield and higher quality
One goal is to break the inverse link between yield and digestibility
orage production is a vital component of Canadian agriculture,
since it covers nearly half of our
cultivated land. Moreover, forages
make up around 60 per cent of dairy
rations and 80 per cent for beef cattle.
Innovations in forage production
will be essential for these sectors. The
challenges and opportunities will
mainly hinge on four major issues:
economic and environmental sustainability, social acceptability of farming
activities, climate change and world
population growth.
What are the “forage solutions” to
these issues?
They will have to involve the
improvement of both yield and nutritive value, which represent the two
mainstays of successful forage production. A consistent higher yield
will improve profitability and competitiveness of dairy and beef farms,
while reinforcing our capacity to feed
a growing world population. At the
same time, forages that are more
digestible and show higher sugar
content will allow us to increase their
share in the ration. They also allow
us to decrease our use of grain, sta-
Forage & Grassland Guide
By Gilles Bélanger
bilizing production costs, reducing
nitrogen release to the environment
and making those same grains available for human consumption.
Potential versus actual yield
Yield of perennial forage crops
has not increased as fast as for many
annual crops like corn and wheat. A
recent study showed that U.S. alfalfa
yield increased by 0.25 per cent per
year, compared to 1.4 per cent per year
for silage corn. The authors attribute
this low yield increase to the complexity and large number of forage species,
to the fact that all their above-ground
biomass is harvested and to a lack of
investment in breeding.
Potential yield at any location
depends on conditions like solar
radiation, temperature, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as well
as on the characteristics of the species. However, this yield potential is
rarely achieved due to stress — cold,
drought, pests, poor drainage and
other reasons. Hence, we sometimes
observe a big difference between the
potential yield and what is actually
achieved. This difference could fur-
ther increase if we intensify our use
of marginal land for growing forages.
Improving the yield potential of
our forage crops is perhaps possible,
but will require major and well-targeted research. Avenues for research
include improving photosynthetic
efficiency, or modifying biomass distribution between above- and belowground parts of the plant.
In the short and medium terms,
reducing the difference between
potential and actual yield seems
a more promising approach. Very
little research has been carried out
to quantify this difference. A recent
U.S. study suggests that the average
yield of alfalfa in the field is only
around 30 per cent of its potential
yield. In order to decrease this difference, one must better understand
the effects of different stresses on our
forage species, so that we can develop
cultivars and agronomic practices
that will enable them to better tolerate these stresses.
Cold tolerance and digestibility
Our winter conditions are a good
example of stress conditions that
can cause significant yield losses of
perennial forage crops, particularly
in winter-sensitive species like alfalfa.
Since the introduction of alfalfa in
Quebec, breeder selection and sound
agronomic practices have improved
winter survival. One only has to think
about the “Apica” alfalfa cultivar or
the recommendations on harvest
management in the fall. However,
these improvements are not sufficient to eliminate the risk of winter
the expense of the yield. Also, alfalfa
cultivars expressing better digestibility have been developed in recent
years but, in most cases, these have
showed lower yields or a lower persistence.
Therefore, the challenge is to
increase digestibility of forages while
maintaining or even increasing
their yield. It is quite a task, since it
requires dissociating yield and digestibility. Our research studies on timothy have shown this to be feasible if
we decrease the ratio between lignin and cellulose. Similar results on
alfalfa have recently been obtained
by an American research team. Thus,
there is hope.
Producing more forages of higher
quality is vital to Canadian farmers
and to our planet. However, to achieve
this goal, sustained multidisciplinary
research efforts are necessary. n
Gilles Bélanger is a researcher for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and recipient of the 2013 Canadian Forage and
Grassland CFGA Leadership Award. This
article is based on his presentation to the
CFGA annual meeting in October 2014.
A recent study showed
that U.S. alfalfa yield
increased by 0.25 per cent
per year, compared to
1.4 per cent per year
for silage corn
Other recent studies show more
promise. Using a new selection
approach, Canadian breeders have
shown it is possible to improve cold
tolerance of alfalfa and red clover by
more than 5 C. These innovations
are especially valuable in the context
of climate change in which we foresee an increasing risk of winter damage for alfalfa.
Is it possible to improve the nutritive value without decreasing the
Digestibility of forages is one of
the crucial aspects of their nutritive value. Improving digestibility is
possible but is often associated with
a decrease in yield or persistence.
For example, shortening the interval between cuts, and harvesting at
a younger stage allow improving the
digestibility of forages, although at
Photo: Tessa Nybo
Forage & Grassland Guide
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Elevate your uptime
Nuffield scholar focuses on
energy-dense forages
Study will explore using energy-dense perennial forages as annuals By Duncan Morrison,
freelance writer
ne learns fairly quickly upon
first meeting him that Clayton
Robins is a bundle-of-energy
person. So it comes as no surprise that
the 2013 Nuffield Scholar has actually travelled the world to learn more
about energy.
Energy-dense forages, that is.
“Every other country I visited looks
at sugars in forages except here in
North America,” says Robins, who
now spends his post-Nuffield Scholar
travelling days as executive director of
the Manitoba 4-H Council.
“We are fibre-focused. My report
will provide a big-picture perspective as to how we can adapt the beef
production model we currently are
using, which will require a shift in
thinking. I feel very privileged for a
guy from Rivers to present my report
and knowledge on beef production
gleaned from the top experts in the
world. There was no other way for
me to do that without doing so as a
Nuffield Scholar.”
Robins still operates a mixed farm
in Rivers, Man., with wife Rebecca and
son Quinn, who Clayton says stepped
up bigtime during his Nuffield travels
to keep the farm in good stead with the
help of Clayton’s parents, Brian and
Arlene, who live on the property as well.
“I travelled to Argentina, England,
Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the
Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Finland,
U.S.A., Australia, and New Zealand
for my study,” says Robins. “I met with
some of the top scientists in their field,
in their respective countries and, in
some cases, globally, with top producers in each country, as well as leading
extension experts and consultants.”
Robins expects his much-anticipated energetics-themed study to be
ready for peer review and distribution soon. He mentions two themes:
energy-dense perennial forages used
as annuals and early development of
marbling cells in calves.
Forage & Grassland Guide
“The report will focus on several
key areas as to the impact of incorporating energy-dense forages into key
points in Canadian and, in particular, Prairie beef production systems,”
Robins says. “Utilizing specific species
of short-term perennial forages capable of high levels of metabolizable
energy that are currently not often
considered due to overwintering ability, is the core of the strategy being
recommended in the report.”
He says focusing on sugar and
digestible fibre to evaluate their
potential is key, and that data collected from experts around the world
will demonstrate that the grazing of
these forages has the potential to:
• Provide several positive benefits to
rumen digestive efficiency.
• Decrease greenhouse gas emissions
versus traditional grazing.
• Lower the beef carbon footprint.
• Improve soil structure and biology,
in addition to sequestering carbon.
• Induce programming of intra-muscular fat cells in suckling calves.
Clayton Robins (r), with son Quinn and
father Brian, travelled to 11 countries as part
of the Nuffield Scholarship program.
• Improve the healthiness and eating
quality of forage-fed beef.
Robins says his report will also
address the potential for improved
energetic efficiencies and the role of
genomics in the strategy. The Canadian Prairies, he says, have an advantage over other regions regarding the
potential for plants to accumulate
high levels of water-soluble carbohydrates (sugars).
“Longer days, cool evenings, and
degree of solar intensity provide
the basis for this opportunity,” says
Robins. “High-sugar forages elicit
beneficial shifts in rumen fatty acid
profiles and microbial communities
that mimic grain-feeding, without the
same risk for acidosis. All I hope is
that the report will motivate the right
people to ask the right questions.
And then, eventually, we will get the
right answers.” n
Get in line
and move on
call it my ‘big red swather,’” Brian
Harper told a group of cattle producers visiting his farm near Brandon, Man., last August.
Harper smiled when, as if on cue,
63,550 lbs. of his herd of Shaver Beefblend/Lincoln Red cattle started
munching their way down one of his
field’s narrow one-acre grazing paddocks.
“Up to 2013, we had 16 plots that
we moved the cattle around on. This
allowed 45 to 60 days of rest for each
of the plots to recover from the grazing until next rotation,” said Harper,
who runs his forage-only, purebred
operation Circle H Farms with his wife
Sonja. “This year, we switched to the
high-stock density system for grazing
and are moving our herd among 128
one-acre plots within the old 16-paddock system, allowing 127 days rest for
each plot.”
Harper moves his herd from paddock to paddock using an automatic
gate opener called a Batt latch, a solarpowered, self-contained unit that is
set to open at a time and date that he
“The benefits to our herd, the
grass, the soil and the environment
have been substantially noticeable,”
Harper said. “On the business side,
we doubled the carrying capacity as
we were only half done the pasture
at the time of year when in past years
we were generally through it already
once. This would be the big factor
for most producers as there is more
return per acre.”
Harper was joined by Neil Dennis, an experienced mob grazier from
Wawota, Sask., who was brought in
by organizers to help showcase the
high-stock density grazing systems as
a viable economic and environmental
option for cattle producers.
The tour of Harper’s mob-grazing
system was funded by the federal government’s Commission of Environmental Cooperation (CEC) as part
of an 18-month agreement with the
Manitoba Forage and Grassland
Association (MFGA). The aim is to
implement and promote ranch-level
beneficial management practices
(BMPs) that improve environmental
and economic sustainability of live-
Brian Harper says he’s doubled the carrying capacity of his pastures by using a high-stock density system.
Switching to a high-stock
density system with 128
paddocks instead of 16
By Duncan Morrison,
Freelance writer
stock production.
“The CEC have collaborated in
protecting North America’s environment in the United States, Canada
and Mexico through the North
American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation,” said MFGA
executive director Wanda McFadyen. She quarterbacked the larger
agreement with CEC that has similar
events planned in Saskatchewan and
Alberta. “When CEC connected with
us about Prairie forages and grasslands and the beef industry, we felt it
was an excellent fit to showcase the
environmental stewardship that producers such as the Harpers provide
to Manitobans as well as their economic savvy as businesspeople in the
cattle industry.”
Local partner
With the CEC agreement in place,
MFGA turned to Manitoba Grazing
Clubs, a long-time partner, to organize
the event. Grazing club co-ordinator
Michael Thiele suggested the Harpers
Continued on page 16
Photo: Duncan Morrison
Forage & Grassland Guide
Continued from page 15
— with Dennis in support — as
excellent candidates to anchor the
half-day tour.
“These two producers are strong
advocates for grazing systems and
they are extremely well respected
by other producers,” said Thiele,
a contracted employee of Ducks
Unlimited Canada (DUC). “The
narrow width of the paddocks
mean the cattle work it hard back
and forth. What they don’t graze
they stomp down, which enables the
regeneration of forages during rest.”
Thiele refers to the highstock density grazing system as
“biological agriculture,” as he says
the principles of biology are being
applied to healthy, high-quality
food production. He quickly lists off
benefits such as soil health, range
health, biodiversity, carbon capture
and critical wildlife habitat that the
narrow paddocks provide within the
scheduled rotation.
In addition to the paddock with
Harper’s “big red swather,” the tour
made three other stops to highlight
the benefits of areas that were
currently being rested or had been
established with cicer milk vetch.
Harper pointed out the excellent
vegetation health, the high sugar
content in the forage, and lack of bare
ground spots above the soil.
“Most pastures are high nutrients
and low sugar,” said Dennis. “The
healthier the soil and the healthier
the plant, the higher the sugar
content in the plant will be, and the
more nutritious it will be for the
cattle. Also, with the more nutrientdense plants, they are better able to
withstand frost as they get started
earlier and last longer.”
The action below the sur face
drew just as much of the tour’s
attention as the visible action above.
“Look at the soil armour,” Dennis
said as he and Harper hovered
over a fresh spade full of soil and
grass. “A deep healthy root system
like this really benefits soil erosion
and is excellent for increasing the
water-holding capacity of the soil
so the water is not running off and
increasing erosion or adding to
Forage & Grassland Guide
Each plot now gets 127 days of rest, leading to more soil cover and a healthier root system.
Photo: Duncan Morrison
To see the video of Brian Harper’s system, visit
The soil is where the Harpers
have focused their attention as
they pursue healthy, high-quality,
nutrient-dense food.
“We believe that ever ything
we are and everything we eat has
come from the soil either directly
or indirectly,” said Brian Harper.
“With this system, there is also the
benefit of improved soil health
which may not seem an economic
return in the short term. However, I
believe that in the future as the soil
health improves, there will be even
more grass. As stock density goes
up everything keeps getting better,
but only if the proper rest period is
allowed. Rest is the key!” n
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a new legume for
Ontario livestock
Its non-bloating qualities make it a perfect companion to
long-standing favourites, or it works well on its own
By Ralph Pearce,
production editor, Country Guide
ention the term “forage
legume” in Eastern Canada,
and just about any producer
will mention alfalfa or clover. Livestock producers can likely name off
another 10 or 12 species, like birdsfoot trefoil, alsike, timothy, orchardgrass or meadow bromegrass.
But few will mention sainfoin,
well-known in Western Canada but
a relative newcomer to Ontario
and Quebec. It’s a perennial forage
legume, typically taller than alfalfa
up to a height of three feet. The
plant has hollow stems with leaves
that are divided and look similar to
vetch leaves. It also has a deep and
branched taproot.
Sainfoin’s origin is unclear,
although it’s known to have been cultivated in parts of Europe and Asia for
several centuries. It was introduced
to North America in the early 1900s,
with early varieties from Europe displaying poor winter hardiness and low
yields. It wasn’t until varieties were
developed in Russia and Turkey that
improved winter hardiness became
part of the plant’s genetic makeup.
Despite a 90 per cent yield index
relative to alfalfa, tests at Winnipeg,
Man., and Lacombe, Alta., have
showed yields comparable or better
than alfalfa.
Growers in Western Canada have
Forage & Grassland Guide
been the benefactors of breeding
efforts by Surya Acharya at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge, Alta. His varieties include
Mountainview, Nova, LRC 3900,
LRC 3519 and LRC 3432. Acharya’s
colleague, Tim McAllister, who specializes in ruminant nutrition and
microbiology at the Lethbridge station, has also worked with sainfoin.
Moving east?
One of sainfoin’s vocal supporters in Eastern Canada is Tarlok Singh
Sahota, director of research and business at Ontario’s Thunder Bay Agricultural Research Station (TBARS).
Sahota planted his first trials in 2014,
and says he will have a better handle
on its particular attributes in the year
to come. Yet he sees no reason why
the legume can’t work as well in Eastern Canada as it does in the West,
regardless of concerns over heat or
humidity or soil types.
“It should do well,” says Sahota.
“I’ve seen it do well here at the
research station, and I was happy with
what growth I saw.”
Some of the other positive attributes of sainfoin include its adaptability, digestibility and health/
nutrient benefits. There are also some
reported agronomic advantages that
make it a compelling supplement or
replacement for alfalfa. To start, sainfoin can be grown on its own or as a
blend, and is suitable for hay, ensiling
or for pasturing.
“The one key difference between
alfalfa and sainfoin is the hollow stem
similar to clover,” says Sahota, noting
that the plant retains its leaves longer
than alfalfa. “When it’s hollow, you
can harvest it at any stage and you get
consistent levels of protein. That’s why
we like the hollow stem — because it
remains soft; it will not gather much
fibre as compared to alfalfa, which has
a solid stem.”
According to the research, the condensed tannins in sainfoin protect the
protein and enable it to pass through
the rumen and into the lower gut,
where more of the protein is digested
and retained. Research has also shown
sainfoin has lower acid detergent fibre
(ADF) and neutral detergent fibre
(NDF) levels compared to alfalfa.
If there’s a drawback to its palatability, it’s that sainfoin is also preferred by wildlife as much as by cattle,
horses, sheep or goats.
Weeds, pests and diseases
As a relative newcomer, there
hasn’t been a herbicide registered for
sainfoin yet. It does, however, show a
natural resistance to glyphosate, and
its growth is competitive enough in
its establishment year that it can easily
provide a weed-free stand the following year. It’s also immune to alfalfa
weevil and, to date, there are no mentions of disease issues in the crop.
Sahota says the field trial at TBARS
will be closely monitored in 2015.
“You can harvest (sainfoin)
at any stage and you
get consistent levels
of protein.”
Tarlok Singh Sahota, Thunder Bay
Agricultural Research Station
Cutting and grazing
Mountainview, is a newer high-yielding,
low-bloat variety, but seed will not be widely
available until 2016. Photo:AAFC
It’s tasty
Sainfoin has a higher “voluntary
intake level,” which means it’s preferred by ruminants. Some research
puts it as much as 25 per cent higher
than other forage sources. Tests have
shown weight gain at more than 400
grams per day in sheep. In cattle,
feeding alfalfa plus sainfoin (without
a specific percentage mentioned)
resulted in weight gain of 1.2 kilograms per day.
The general accepted practice is
that sainfoin can only be cut once, as
it doesn’t regrow as vigorously after a
first cut as alfalfa. On the other hand,
it also starts growing earlier and faster
in the spring than other legumes,
often blooming up to two weeks
ahead of alfalfa. If it’s to be cut for
hay, the literature recommends it be
done at 50 to 100 per cent bloom or
it can be grazed at bud or early bloom
to encourage the best regrowth.
In spite of what the earlier research
indicates, Sahota plans to test those
“standards” in 2015.
“They say you can take two cuts,
but sometimes it won’t give a good
yield on the second cut,” he says.
“But when we are growing it here,
we’ll be planning on two cuts, just
like with alfalfa.”
One of the more attractive benefits
of sainfoin, adds Sahota, is its nonbloating property. In blends of just
15 to 25 per cent with alfalfa, sainfoin
can overcome most bloat in livestock.
Sainfoin is gaining popularity, not just with livestock
and their producers but with bees as well, with
sainfoin honey considered to be of the finest quality.
Photo: rgbstock
Based on work done in Western Canada, it’s advised that seeding be done
early in the spring, at eight to 10 seeds
per foot-row at 1/4- to 3/4-inch depth
in soils that are firm and moist.
In the fall, the plants have a rosette
appearance and will remain green
under a snow cover in winter, exhibiting a high tolerance to frost in either
fall or spring. Although it’s said to do
well on deep, well-drained soils (pH
6.2 and up), sainfoin also performs
adequately in shallow or gravelly soils,
which is another property that sets it
apart from other forage legumes.
Foundation seed was lost in 2014
for Mountainview, the highest-yielding of the four varieties bred at AAFC
Lethbridge. It’s projected that it won’t
be available in large commercial supply until 2016. Sahota says that Nova
and the three other Lethbridge varieties are well suited and available for
2015 and beyond. n
Forage & Grassland Guide
Sliverbend Ranch in western Manitoba had been subject to severe erosion before Brian and Karen Greaves took it over in 1993.
Silverbend Ranch shines again
Forages and livestock restore health to a badly eroded farm in Manitoba
he moon shines on the bend
in the meandering Assiniboine
River and reflects a shimmering
silver glimmer that illuminates the
lush riverside and well up the gently
sloped hill toward the farmhouse.
Thus the name Silverbend Ranch, or
so the story goes.
But while the moon may glisten at
night, things weren’t always so shiny
during the day on the long-time family
farm operation located north of Miniota, Man. In fact, had it not been for
urgent stop-gap measures, the sandy
soil of Silverbend Ranch might have
blown away to the point of no return.
“The ranch was being run by
Karen’s two uncles who had run the
operations for some time,” says Brian
Greaves, who came to Canada in
1993 with Karen Hill, a Canadian he
met while she was teaching near his
home in New Zealand. “The land was
so burnt out. They were advancing
in their years and were struggling to
make things work. They were going
to sell it but it was so burnt out and
degraded from the years of traditional
agricultural practices and cropping
that didn’t work on this soil. Good
topsoil was being blown away. It was
the poorest land in the municipality.”
Forage & Grassland Guide
Greaves credits Dave Hill, Karen’s father and a former provincial
ag rep in Dauphin, for taking the
largest step toward saving the ranch
in 1988 by putting large portions of
it into alfalfa and hay and halting
the worst soil erosion. He and Karen
were offered the opportunity of running Silverbend Ranch in 1993. They
jumped at the chance.
“When we arrived, there were
windblown ridgelines that we needed
to use the rural municipality’s grader
to move. Still, some ridges were
impossible; they were pretty much
gravel,” he recalls. “But after Karen’s
dad started the alfalfa stand, things
turned around. I was coming from
a system in New Zealand where we
pastured year-round. We took that
concept and we saved the land via
a rotational grazing system that we
designed for the ranch. In order to
have healthy livestock, we needed to
have healthy pasture.”
Sheep/cattle mix
Besides his understanding of
healthy pastures, Greaves also
brought a businessman’s grasp of
the value of sheep to both the farm
operations and the bank account.
By Duncan Morrison,
freelance writer
Brian Greaves takes a break during a hard day of
shearing, a skill he learned in his native New Zealand.
Photo: Daniel Winters
Fast-forward to 2015, and the mix of
sheep, cattle and a dedication to conservation practices over the past two
plus decades are showing their worth.
“We currently run 120 cows and
400 ewes,” says Greaves. “When we
came over, I was used to sheep. Sheep
are cheaper and easier and when it
comes to multi-species grazing, sheep
clean up the lower-quality grass species and they are not competing. This
allows the plant species that the cattle
like to graze to get stronger which
improves production.”
Sheep are browsers and cattle are
grazers and therefore sheep need an
effective rotational grazing system as
they are more prone to bloat. Coyotes, bears and eagles have prompted
Greaves to implement a guard dog
system to deter the predation. But
sheep have helped the bottom line.
“Before the cattle industry
boomed over the last two or three
years, sheep were bringing more
annual income to our operations,”
he says. “There’s a ratio I use of five
sheep to one cow. They eat the same
amount of food and cost the same
amount of money.”
Greaves and Hill were awarded
the 2008-09 Farm Family of the
Year by the Manitoba Conservation
Districts Association. Since then,
Greaves has intensified the conservation aspects of Silverbend Ranch’s
“Our pasture rotation is good for
the soil,” Greaves says, noting his system’s success with crested wheatgrass.
“We have replanted tree lines for
shade, our dugouts are fenced and
we use watering systems away from
them to maintain water quality for the
livestock. We’ve donated a conservation easement on our property that
includes sloughs and restored wetlands
and walking trails with public access.”
During the day, besides her work
on the ranch, Hill works for Agriculture in the Classroom. The willingness
to mentor and use Silverbend Ranch
as an example to others is something
Greaves obviously takes pride in.
Ryan Canart is the manager for
the Upper Assiniboine Conservation
District that nominated Silverbend
Ranch for the conservation honour
in 2008 and continues to work closely
with Hill and Greaves.
They’re basically doing everything
from a conservation perspective,”
says Canart. “Shelterbelts, restoring
wetlands, watering systems, donating
land for an easement, native grasses,
managing soil and pasture and on
and on. They are a farm family that
go above and beyond.” n
A ‘living library’ for forage
and beef producers has had 200 research
papers added in the past year
Alberta Agriculture Agri-News contains the latest information on forage and beef
research for producers in Canada and the northern United States.
“The site summarizes research for farmers and ranchers,” says
Ken Ziegler, beef/forage specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural
Development. “It’s a unique approach to developing and organizing
North American research information for the Canadian forage and beef
cattle industry.”
As an example, extending the grazing season is a popular topic, and is well equipped to provide visitors with various folders on
the subject.
“The grazing season can be extended in different ways at different times of the feeding season either at the beginning of the season
using well-established forage regrowth that is grazed into the Christmas season, during the winter months using swath grazing of annuals
like barley, oats, or triticale, by saving carryover forage over from the
previous summer as fine youthful regrowth that the nursing cows or
backgrounded yearlings can use as soon as the snow has melted off. also offers folders on other strategies such as using brassicas
or using corn,” he said. is updated regularly as fact sheets and research papers
are added to the folders on the website. Approximately 200 research
papers have been added to the website over the past year. “The site is
a living library for research and extension information that is useful to
Canadian beef and forage producers,” Ziegler said.
The website provides three levels of information. The top level is “cut
to the core” information on a particular topic. Called “Knowledge Nuggets” this level provides the most important pieces of understanding on
that topic.
The next level is for the reader who wants more information about
that topic. Links are provided to the best related information, usually in
fact-sheet format. The objective is to select the most comprehensive and
applicable information for Canadian and northern U.S. agriculture.
The third level is for people who want research-related information. This level focuses on relevant scientific review papers, research
abstracts, research papers, major publications and links to research
communities throughout Canada and the world.
The site features in-depth information on forage production, silage
management, forage seed production, beef cow-calf management,
animal health issues, grazing management, and range management in
addition to many other topics.
“This is a living website and news items, research results and summaries will continually be added to the site,” added Ziegler. “With these
knowledge summaries, fact sheets, and research reviews,
is the gateway to the future for forage and beef information for the forage and cow-calf industry.” n
Forage & Grassland Guide
Is your pasture
ready to graze?
Start counting leaves
Grazing a pasture for six weeks costs about half of
the annual production potential for your forages
By Jennifer Blair
eciding when to graze a pasture has nothing to do with
plant height, says an Idahobased grazing expert.
“Height doesn’t tell us ver y
much,” Jim Gerrish said at a Foothills
Forage and Grazing tour near Acme,
Alta., last summer.
“What we really want to know is, physiologically, is a plant ready to be grazed?”
And leaf stage is the best indicator
of that, he said.
“What really determines if a plant
is ready to be grazed is the carbohydrate balance in that plant,” he
said. “We know if we have a lot of
leaves, we’re capturing solar energy
and converting it to sugar.
“The question becomes at what
point is energy flowing more from
the top of the plant to the bottom,
or from the bottom to the top? Leaf
stage is a good clue for that.”
Grass growth happens in three
phases, he said.
In Phase 1, there’s limited solar
energy capture, so growth is slow.
As leaf area expands and more solar
energy is captured, the growth rate
accelerates, and the plant enters
Phase 2. In Phase 3, the plants
mature, and growth slows down.
The two- to three-leaf stage is
“the high side of Phase 1,” while the
three- to four-leaf stage is the “low
side of Phase 2,” said Gerrish.
“Ideally, we would like to be grazing at four or five leaves, but is it OK
to graze at 2-1/2 to 3-1/2? It depends
on what you’re going to do tomorrow,” he said.
In a study conducted in Idaho,
researchers found that when they
removed the cattle from the pasture
after one week, the total production for
Forage & Grassland Guide
the year was not reduced. Grazing for
two weeks resulted in a 10 to 20 per cent
loss in annual production potential,
while grazing for four weeks cost 20 to
40 per cent in production potential and
six weeks cost 40 to 60 per cent.
“Going out on high Phase 1 or
low Phase 2 grass and parking for six
weeks costs you half the production
potential of the year,” said Gerrish.
“But you can go out early in a rotational system, take a bite, and leave it,
and it’s going to be OK. If you allow
it next time to recover to four or five
leaves, you haven’t hurt a thing.”
If a random sampling of 10 tillers
is at the two-leaf stage, Gerrish recommends waiting to graze until they
hit the three-leaf stage.
“If they’re at a three-leaf average,
you can go out there and get started,
but take that bite, get off, and next
time allow it to get to four-, five-, or
six-leaf recovered stage,” he said.
But waiting until every pasture is
at the four- or five-leaf stage isn’t feasible for most operations, he said.
“We do have to get started earlier
than the optimum to create the type of
pasture that we want later in the season.”
Recovery period
The length of the recovery periods
depends, again, on leaf stage.
“For recovery, we’re really looking
at growing more leaves,” said Gerrish.
Early in the grazing cycle, plants
might be at the two-leaf stage, but optimally, plants should be at the five-leaf
stage before they’re grazed again. And
how long it takes to grow the necessary
number of leaves — in this case, three
more leaves — will dictate how long
the recovery period needs to last.
“In very good growing condi-
Grazing consultant Jim Gerrish says that leaf stage,
not plant height, is the best indicator of when a
pasture is ready to graze. Photo: Jennifer Blair
“Ideally, we would like
to be grazing at four or
five leaves, but is it OK to
graze at 2-1/2 to 3-1/2? It
depends on what you’re
going to do tomorrow.”
Jim Gerrish
tions… it takes about five to seven
days to grow a leaf,” he said. “In
those perfect growing conditions,
how long does the recovery period
need to be? Fifteen to 21 days, if you
multiply five and seven by three.”
In poorer growing conditions,
however, it may take the plant 10 to
15 days — or even longer — to grow
a new leaf, and the recovery period
needs to lengthen accordingly.
“That is what is determining how
long your recovery period needs to
be — how long does it take it to put
out a single new leaf? Once again,
we’re back to counting leaves.”
Gerrish admitted it “almost
sounds nerdy” to pick tillers and
count leaves.
“But if you’re at the point where
you’re ready to take your grazing
management up to the next level
of fine-tuning management, I think
that becomes an essential part of
the program.” n
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A M E - ma n a g eme n t
Finance metrics you may
not have thought of —
diagnosing operating inefficiency
By Larry Martin and Heather Broughton
ur last column introduced the concept of Earnings Before Interest,
Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) and used it to
define Operating Efficiency Ratio,
(EBITDA/Total Revenue). With some exceptions,
financially successful farms have Operating Efficiency Ratios above 35 per cent, i.e. with at least 35
cents left from every dollar of sales after paying all
non-capital operating expenses.
Using EBITDA in investment strategy
One aspect of financial strategy is your plan for
growth based on how operating income (EBITDA)
is invested. Many growth-oriented operations have a
rule such as, after paying taxes, 40 per cent goes to
new investment, 35 per cent goes to service debt and
25 per cent is to pay owners.
On such a farm, EBITDA is on a growth
path because it is using 75 per cent of its operating income for new investment or debt service. By
contrast, a farm that is reaching business maturity
might have a rule putting more emphasis on income
to owners and less on capital investment.
The important thing is to have a rule because it
means you have a plan.
Using operating efficiency to
diagnose operating problems
An interesting question that often arises is, if
operating efficiency is less than 35 per cent, what’s
the reason? What is causing it to be lower, and what
needs to be done to fix it? This gives rise to a powerful application of the standardized operating statement and its attendant benchmark ratios.
Below we reproduce the standardized operating
statement from our most recent article:
Gross Operating Revenue
(-) Crop and Livestock Expenses
(=) Gross Margin
(-) Labour, Machine Operating Expenses, Land Rent
(=) Contribution Margin
(-) Management, Office and Overhead Expenses
(-) Depreciation/Amortization
(=) EBIT
(-) Interest
(=) Earnings Before Taxes
(-) Taxes
(=) Earnings After Taxes
(+/-) Non-Core Income and Expenses
(=) Net Income
Again, operating efficiency is the ratio EBITDA/
Gross Operating Revenue. If one looks above the
EBITDA line, it is apparent that three sets of costs are
deducted from revenue to get to it: crop and livestock
expenses; labour, machine operating, land rent; and
management, office and overhead expenses.
There are also benchmarks for each category:
crop and livestock expenses should be no more than
35 per cent of revenue; labour, machine operating,
and land rent should be 15 to 20 per cent; management, office and overhead expenses should be no
more than 10 to 15 per cent.
By definition, this means that Gross Margin
should be 65 per cent or more of sales and Contribution Margin should be 45 to 50 per cent of sales.
Let’s assume that a farm has Operating Efficiency
of 22 per cent, which is the Canadian average. What
is keeping it from achieving 35 per cent? Why isn’t it
generating more cash?
One way to diagnose this is to look at the other
ratios. Assume the farm’s Gross Margin ratio is 57
per cent and its Contribution Margin is 45 per cent.
What is this telling us?
Continued on page 34
March 3, 2015 33
A M E - ma n a g eme n t
Continued from page 33
First, because the difference between Gross Margin and Contribution Margin is only 12 per cent, this
farm is doing a great job of managing operating costs
in terms of labour and other operating costs. 15 to 20
per cent is the standard: this farm is beating it.
However, there is an issue with its Gross Margin.
Its production expenses are 43 per cent of total revenue but the benchmark says they should be 35 per
cent or less. The manager’s focus needs to be on production efficiency and/or marketing: the farm is not
getting enough for what it’s selling, its conversion of
inputs into products is underperforming and/or it is
paying too much for inputs. Following back to the
detail will probably pinpoint the exact problem.
Another farm with 22 per cent Operating Efficiency has 70 per cent Gross Margin and 33 per
cent Contribution Margin. This farm has different problems. Crop and livestock costs are 30 per
cent of revenue, better than the standard. But its
operating costs are 37 per cent, far worse than the
standard 15 to 20 per cent. The immediate focus
for this operation will be on some combination of
labour costs, other operating costs, and/or land
rents. Also, when this category is this far off base,
it may be that the farm is expensing equipment and
machinery that should be depreciated. This makes
operating performance worse than it should, and
could have major repercussions for liquidity.
We find using this financial information and the
benchmarks to be very powerful in helping managers manage well, and in undertaking realistic strategic and operating plans. The space available here
prevents considerable nuance about application,
but the examples are realistic given our experience
with a number of farms.
While it is useful and important to evaluate
your income statement and ratios each year, assessing that particular fiscal year, there is significant
importance in also understanding and watching the
trends and comparisons over a period of years and
understanding why the costs and expenses in terms
of percentages deviate from one year to another.
Seeing the trend can identify successes or problems
over time. CG
Larry Martin is co-owner and lead instructor in
AME’s management training courses. Heather
Broughton is co-owner and president of AME.
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Know Your Options: Take the Risk Out of Grain Marketing
Tyler Russell, Cargill National Grain Marketing Solutions Manager shares
how farmers can mitigate grain marketing risks and go from price takers
to price makers.
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Hear about the resiliency of Canada’s agri-food industry and its
importance in the Canadian economy from FCC Chief Agricultural
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34 March 3, 2015
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Will value adding work for you?
This first in our four-part series on value adding for farmers
starts with the most important question of all
By Helen Lammers-Helps
o you think you have a great idea for a
value-added business on your farm. Before
you even begin to evaluate your idea to see
if it will fly, however, it’s a good idea to ask
the even more basic question: Is this kind of
business venture a good fit for you and your family?
First of all, what do we mean by value adding?
A general definition is that value adding refers to
any product that is developed beyond the commodity stage.
This includes everything from selling produce direct
to the customer to raising heritage pork, producing
a unique soybean or canola oil, opening your farm
up for agri-tourism, creating your own brand of dog
food… the list is endless.
Consumer interest seems endless too. Estimates
put the number of Ontarians who prefer to buy
locally grown food at 79 per cent, for example, and
other provinces are posting similar numbers.
The goal, of course, is to generate income, perhaps because you’re trying to find additional income
during the overlap years when there are multiple
generations on the farm, or because it seems to you
to make sense to intensify the income you get out of
your current property rather than expand at today’s
land prices, or for any of a number of other reasons.
It turns out, however, that if you’re only in it for
the money, it’s tougher to succeed.
That’s not to deny the money potential. In his
book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
estimates that, on average, direct and local sales
allow farmers to take home as much as 94 per cent
of the selling price, rather than share it with grocers,
truckers, processors, and all the others.
But when you talk to successful value-adders,
they rarely start by wanting to discuss dollars. Many
cite being able to connect with consumers as one of
the best parts of running a value-added business. For
instance, Jim Eby who processes the milk from his
Waterloo, Ont. Guernsey herd and sells it in glass
bottles says the best thing about his business is the
feedback he gets from customers. Many people tell
him they really appreciate the quality, flavour and
digestibility of his Guernsey milk.
Other reasons farmers choose to start valueadded businesses include increasing employment
opportunities on the farm, improving cash flow by
creating off-season revenue, feeding their entrepreneurial and creative spirit, spreading the risk by hav36 ing more than one product and having more control
over the value chain.
Despite all of the economic reasons for getting
into a value-added business, all of the farmers and
experts interviewed for this series agree on one thing:
going the value-added route isn’t a good idea if you
aren’t passionate about it.
Of course, there are lots of different reasons why
consumers buy from farm value-adders too.
Moren Levesque, CPA Ontario chair of international entrepreneurship at York University’s Schulich
School of Business says there are people who want to
buy local so they know that their food didn’t come
from China. “They are willing to pay a premium for
it, but farmers must be genuine,” she says.
Eby agrees. “Being friendly and transparent with
your customer is a must.”
That’s also the view from Cambridge asparagus
grower, Tim Barrie, who sells several products made
from his asparagus. “That’s part of what the customer is paying for,” Barrie says.
By contrast, for some people, having to deal
with customers is a good reason not to get into a
value-added business. Be honest with yourself. Are
you a people person? Some consumers can be very
demanding. Are you prepared and equipped for customer service?
That leads to a list of tough questions for
would-be value-adders, because it’s important to
recognize that the demand for customer service
isn’t always something you can control as easily as
you might like.
If you’re thinking of opening an on-farm store
or agri-tourism venture, are you willing to have
people come to your farm? (This can also increase
your liability risk and may require additional insurance coverage.)
Plus, if you’re selling food products direct to the
consumer, food safety can also be an issue. There are
bound to be many regulations and there is the potential of increased risk. Are you prepared to deal with
inspectors and paperwork?
While creating a job for a family member or additional work for existing employees may be a benefit, if
you have to hire new employees this could be a drawback. When hiring outside the family, employee safety
training and additional paperwork will be required.
Many farmers also complain that it can be difficult to
find reliable employees with the necessary dedication.
March 3, 2015
Not the least of your concerns will
be the additional financial investment
needed to get your value-added processing business up and running. Will you
contract out the processing, or will you
need to build to accommodate processing
and retail activities?
If you contract it out, can you get the
consistency and quality that you need? If
you do it on farm, will you be spreading
your management ability too thin?
When Bonnie den Haan, owner of
Sheldon Creek Dairy near Alliston, Ont.
first learned that the provincial marketing board was making it easier for farmers to process and sell dairy products
made from their own milk, she envisioned just a small dairy plant that might
cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
Once she realized what would be
involved in meeting the new regulations
she realized it might be twice that or more.
Not only will a financial investment
be required, there will also be a substantial time commitment to get your business off the ground. “We all work like
dogs,” says Marianne den Haan, who
handles marketing and schedules deliveries for the family’s dairy business.
It’s also important to understand your
own strengths and weaknesses. What is
your tolerance for risk? Will you need
to hire someone with expertise in marketing, packaging, human resources or
financial management? Can you manage the logistics of running the expanded
operation including making and scheduling deliveries? Are you an innovator?
Cindy Wilhelm, co-owner of Dragonfly Garden Farms which sells 130 products from their farm in Chatsworth, Ont.
says it’s important to be a leader. “Don’t
just do what other farmers are doing.”
Also vital for launching a successful
value-added business is persistence. The
van Bergeijk family makes Gouda-style
cheese from their Holstein dairy herd in
a cheese plant on their farm near New
Hamburg, Ont. Their cheese is now sold
all over Ontario including through a
major grocery store chain. When asked
what it takes to successfully launch a
value-added business, cheese maker and
owner, Adam van Bergeijk says: “It takes
someone who doesn’t give up. When
there is a roadblock you have to think:
How am I going to manage it so I can get
to my goal?”
But in the early stages, you’ll need
to separate dreams from farming business opportunities. When you are starry
March 3, 2015
eyed in the very beginning (in what entrepreneurial experts call the “infatuation
stage”) it can be difficult to distinguish
a chance to expand your business from a
non-viable drain on your farm. The way
to inject some reality into your idea is
by conducting research. This could mean
talking to farmers doing projects similar
to what you envision, looking up data
online, consulting advisers, or surveying
potential customers. Most of all, aspara-
gus entrepreneur Tim Barrie recommends
farmers get unbiased feedback. Don’t rely
on family and friends, he says. They are
likely to be too optimistic. CG
With a passion for farming and food,
New Dundee, Ont., writer Helen
Lammers-Helps brings farmers and
value-add experts together for her fourpart Country Guide series. She can be
reached at [email protected]
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The direct option
At first, direct marketing gave Dylan and Colleen Biggs
hope to save the farm. Now it’s driving robust expansion
By Steven Biggs, CG Contributing Editor
hey told me I would fail,” says Colleen
Biggs, remembering the phone call she
made soon after taking over sales and
marketing on the home ranch. It was
1995, and with no room to cut costs any
deeper, she had called the Alberta Ag Ministry to find
out more about direct marketing, thinking their way
forward had to be to add value.
Conventional wisdom said it couldn’t work, especially in a province dominated by a powerhouse commercial beef sector. But what other choice was there?
Biggs had already ruled out working off farm to
help keep their dream afloat. With three young children, the minimum-wage jobs nearby wouldn’t cover
childcare, and a better-paying job in her field would
mean working over three hours away in Calgary.
38 “In the beginning I had an old half-ton truck
with two freezers and a generator in the back, and
three car seats in the cab,” Biggs recalls. While her
husband, Dylan, managed his family’s ranch, she
took the girls with her on the road selling meat.
I’m glad to have finally had a chance to talk to
Biggs, who by the way is no relation to me. She
had had to reschedule our first interview because of
unplanned tractor duties. After almost 20 years, it
seems, the ranch still keeps her on her toes. “Unfortunately that is the nature of the family farm. If one
person can’t make it for work, someone else (usually
me) gets pulled into the tractor to help,” she says.
Biggs doesn’t seem too worried by the lastminute change, though. It’s because she seeks out
change that she’s still on the ranch.
march 3, 2015
TK Ranch
TK Ranch in the northern fescue grasslands of east-central Alberta was founded
by Dylan’s grandparents in the 1950s.
Colleen met Dylan in 1990 at one of
his talks on holistic management. She had
been raised in Edmonton but had spent
many summers on her aunt’s farm and
her family was no stranger to agriculture.
Today, she and Dylan own the ranch
that they made into the first registered
ethical farm in Western Canada, and the
first registered ethical beef operation in
the country.
Everything they sell is under their TK
Ranch Ethical By Nature brand, and even
the local Hutterite Colony that grows
poultry specifically for them, and the three
beef producers who supply weaned calves
had to become Animal Welfare Approved
On 9,300 acres today they have some
1,200 cattle, and they also raise lamb,
hogs, and a few laying hens.
“We have very clearly differentiated
roles within our ranching enterprise,”
Biggs says. “My husband manages all
of our animals right to the kill.” After
slaughter, she looks after everything until
the meat reaches consumers.
Three of their five daughters are on
the farm at the moment. Jocelyn, the
eldest, assists with the meat side of the
business. Their second daughter, Julia,
helps Dylan on the ranch, and while their
third and fourth daughters (Maria and
Tiffany) are away at school, Hannah, the
youngest, who is in Grade 11, looks after
the laying hens.
Their online store allows customers to
buy bulk (halves, quarters, and eighths)
or individual cuts, and the orders are
coming in. Biggs has 140 retail and consumer orders to deliver to Edmonton —
350 km away — the weekend following
our interview. On alternate weekends,
she delivers to Calgary, 300 km away.
march 3, 2015
Consumers want to connect to their family,
their land, and their shared values
The first customers
That first year of direct marketing,
Biggs started calling on restaurants. “Cold
calling was kind of a reality then,” she says,
talking about how she connected with chefs.
Because she was selling dry-aged meat (as
opposed to the regular “wet-aged”), her
calls piqued the interest of many chefs. The
problem was getting them to make a change
and buy her product.
So she allowed six chefs to order
cuts for free, on the understanding they
would compare TK’s dry-aged against
their best conventional suppliers. Those
comparisons resulted in her first customers. Word soon spread within the
small community of high-end chefs in
the province. “We had so many chefs
calling us,” she remembers.
Pleased with her success selling to
chefs, Biggs now had another problem:
Most chefs want only high-end cuts.
Needing to sell the other cuts — and hoping to build a customer base outside of
the restaurant industry — Biggs visited
health food stores. “They quickly showed
me the door,” she notes with a laugh.
“They weren’t interested in selling any
‘dead animal’ protein in their stores.”
That left her with the 3,000 pounds of
ground beef. “I had it all stored on the front
deck of my house. Spring was coming and
I was starting to get a little nervous,” she
says. She continued calling on health food
stores, and with effort she found buyers.
The ground beef was gone by spring thaw.
“I’m quite persistent,” she says, and
then she tells me what might be her most
important message for farmers hoping to
get into direct marketing. It takes attitude,
not just aptitude, Biggs says. “You have to
be very sure of what you’re doing and be
very determined, and not let someone closing the door on you dampen your enthusiasm to go back and talk to them again.”
Talking to customers, Biggs is articulate and warm over the phone, but she
is no newcomer to communications.
She knows how to be clear. She joined
the Canadian military while still in her
teens, and rose to become one of the first
women to teach in battle school.
Their own brand
Colleen and Dylan branded their meat
business Ethical By Nature, based on their
strong personal beliefs about animal welfare, but the branding decision wasn’t as
simple as it might sound, Biggs says. “First
you have to figure out who you are and
where you’re going.” They thought deeply
about their farm and their product, and
how they could be differentiated from other
Continued on page 40 39
Continued from page 39
farms and other product in the industry.
“We were very meticulous to figure out
what we were marketing,” she says.
“I could see that it wasn’t good enough
to sell a product with just one differentiating feature,” she says. Thinking about
what they do, where they live, and what
might make them and their products interesting to consumers, she realized that the
story of the grasslands was important.
“We have this beautiful piece of land
that has most of the species at risk for
Alberta located on it. Lots of consumers are
very concerned about species loss,” she says,
listing species such as loggerhead shrikes and
burrowing owls. It was a case of telling consumers the story of shared values.
“When you buy TK Ranch products,
you’re not just buying a package of ground
beef. You’re buying the fact that we’ve taken
care of that animal from birth to slaughter
in a way that doesn’t confine it in a feedlot
and is using low-stress handling techniques
and ethical practices,” she explains. “I’m
also taking care of this endangered ecosystem that we’re raising these animals on.”
Market awareness
“I am constantly monitoring our
inventory and uptake,” says Biggs, adding, “Last year I couldn’t keep ground
beef in stock for love nor money.” It was
a good thing, but it left her with unsold
high-end cuts in the freezer — and they’re
too valuable to grind. Her solution was to
raise prices on the ground beef to balance
sales with those of other cuts.
“Part of the marketing process is figuring out who your target market is,” says
Biggs. The toll-free line, 888-TKRanch,
has helped her know her target market.
(Today, the website has largely replaced
the telephone line as the conduit for
inquiries.) “Our toll-free number allowed
us to see emerging trends in the marketplace,” she says as she talks about consumer interest in antibiotic use, organics,
grass feeding, and animal welfare.
When 9/11 occurred, Biggs’ sales to
high-end restaurants came to a screeching
halt. “That was the biggest bump we hit
in the beginning,” she says, talking about
thousands of room cancellations in the Calgary-Banff corridor. Room cancellations
meant cancelled restaurant orders too. “I
didn’t anticipate the fallout,” she concedes.
To make matters worse, by this time she
40 was selling pork, lamb, chicken, yogurt,
and cheese contracted from other producers. She bought the products on contract,
but it took months to move that entire
inventory. “We got through it and were able
to sell all of the products,” she says.
The volatility of the restaurant sector
was an eye-opener that made her shy of
restaurants. With a growing retail network, she dropped them. “I never went
back,” she says.
Another challenge was the BSE crisis.
“All of a sudden our cattle were worth
nothing, except for those that we were
marketing through our meat business,”
she says. As commodity beef prices collapsed, more farmers started direct marketing meat, shrinking profits in that part
of the business too. This time around, it
was an off-farm income that kept them
afloat. Since 1995, Dylan had taught
low-stress livestock handling across Canada and the northern U.S. “That is how
we survived the post-BSE year,” she says.
The business of
direct marketing
When I ask Biggs where she learned
business skills, she replies, “For me it was
a huge learning curve.” To understand how
to price meat, she set up a spreadsheet listing all of the different muscle groups in the
animal, tracking the percentage weight of
each. This was a critical step, she says, in
knowing how to price products.
The other key aspect of the business of
direct marketing is generating return customers. “It’s one thing to sell a grass-finished
animal, it’s another thing to sell one that
people will buy twice,” she says. If custom-
ers don’t have a very good eating experience
with grass-fed beef, they won’t return. And
that’s not an uncommon thing, she says,
because grass-fed animals are slower than
feedlot-raised animals to develop intramuscular marbling. Slaughtered too soon,
they can be gamey and tough.
Biggs feels success with direct marketing
requires listening to consumers. She says
producers are often afraid consumers will
tell them how to raise their animals. For her,
that discussion is an opportunity. “If people
can be proactive and listen to what consumers want and meet those needs, there is a
tremendous opportunity,” she says.
Mortgaging the farm
With the business doing well, they are
taking a giant step. “We have mortgaged
the ranch and everything we own to build
our own on-farm abattoir this spring,”
says Biggs. They are also building a cutting-processing facility near Calgary, where
it will be easier to hire help. “We start construction within a week or so,” she says.
Biggs stops to reflect on the high price
of commodity beef today. She could do
well selling to the conventional market.
Raising her voice, she says, “What goes
up will come down.” She’s not interested
in the roller-coaster price ride.
Business is good. They are hiring a
ranch manager. “Our meat business has
grown exponentially the last five years,”
says Biggs. All of their animals (except
any treated with antibiotics, on average
about two per cent) are for direct marketing. Far from a failure, direct marketing has allowed her to stay on the farm
with no off-farm job. Right in Alberta
beef country. CG
march 3, 2015
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Better family meetings
If your family meetings aren’t going as well as you hoped,
check out these tried-and-tested strategies
By Helen Lammers-Helps
s farms get bigger, meetings become
increasingly important. Without effective communication, there is conflict,
anger, a lack of vision and a loss of
efficiency, says Chilliwack, B.C. farm
adviser Jim Soldan.
Meetings provide an opportunity for farm team
members to get together to plan and communicate
essential information, discuss issues, identify farm priorities and make decisions. Yet too many farms focus
only on production, stresses Soldan. They’ll spend 95
per cent of their time talking about production versus
five per cent on the team. By contrast, Soldan says 50
per cent of the meeting time should be focused on the
team, since it’s the farm’s human resources that drive
Establish a code of conduct for
your meetings. It can be informal
but it must be lived up to
Kristi Nilen-Burns, one of the owners at Windy
Poplars Farm, a cattle and grain farm in Wynyard,
Sask., says regular meetings have resulted in more
effective communication among their four owneroperators. “With a large farm it’s hard to keep track
of what everyone is doing,” she says.
Their system has evolved over time, she says. They
have three types of meetings. Every morning there are
team meetings for employees, monthly meetings for
the five people with managerial positions, and quarterly meetings that also include all the spouses.
Nilen-Burns explains that this way people are
able to work in their areas of strength and then
report back to the group.
If your meetings aren’t going well, Soldan says
you may need to go back to basics. It helps if everyone knows the benefits of meeting. “Everyone needs
to see the importance of meetings and therefore have
a desire, and a willingness to participate. And they
must know their responsibilities towards making
meetings successful,” says Soldan.
42 Several essential components should be in place
to help ensure time spent in meeting is as productive
as possible. These include having an agenda, minutes, orderly conduct and participation by all.
By establishing a Code of Conduct (a framework
for how everyone will behave) family members will
be more willing to participate because they can speak
freely when they know there is a system in place to
keep meetings orderly.
Reg Shandro, a farm adviser in Lacombe, Alta.
agrees it’s essential that everyone behave in a professional manner. They need to be respectful of others
and focus on listening to what the other parties are
saying, he says.
If meetings aren’t going well, the leadership (or
lack of leadership) might be the problem. People
need to respect the chairperson, says Soldan. The
chair or moderator needs to keep the meeting on
track and enforce consequences when people are disruptive. They need to start the meeting on time and
have it end on time, and they have to keep people
from going off topic.
The chair should put thought into how meetings
will be held. For example, having a business meeting
in the lunchroom where employees are coming and
going means there will be interruptions, points out
Kevin Kirkwood, a consultant with Backswath Management in Melville, Sask. who provides training to
farmers on conducting effective meetings.
Shandro agrees. “Choose an environment that
allows everyone to be comfortable with minimal
distractions.” And, he adds, “all phones should be
turned off so everyone can focus on the agenda.”
One mistake Kirkwood sees farm families make
is to have their meetings informally over the Sunday
dinner. These meetings aren’t effective because they
aren’t run like a proper meeting, he says. There
needs to be an agenda so that people can come prepared for the meeting. Too often only one person
does all the talking at this type of meeting, adds
Kirkwood who feels it is better to separate the business meeting from family time.
Besides, says Kirkwood, “Your grandson would
rather you take an interest in his hockey at Sunday
An agenda should be circulated in advance of
March 3, 2015
the meeting and participants should be encouraged
to submit additional agenda items in advance of the
meeting, the experts agree.
Nilen-Burns says at the beginning of their meeting, they set the date for the next meeting. That
way everyone knows that any topics that aren’t concluded will be carried over to the next meeting. Setting the date for the next meeting ensures everyone
is able to make it.
People need to come prepared and they should
stay for the entire meeting, says Soldan. If not, they
need to be held accountable for their actions, he adds.
For meaningful conversation to occur, all attendees need to participate in order to get everyone’s perspectives heard and understood, says Shandro.
Before calling a meeting, the purpose and objectives for the meeting should be clear. Kirkwood says
there are three main types of meetings. Employee
meetings are for everyone and should be held at least
twice per year, i.e. before the busy spring and fall
seasons. Then there should be business meetings for
those involved in the farm who have decision-making
responsibilities. And finally, family meetings including all of the family, not just the members involved in
the farm, should be held annually to keep all family
members abreast of what’s happening.
Volume 40, Number 15 | SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
Search news.
Read stories.
Find insight.
Whether you’ve got enough storage space this year after last year’s
bumper crop or you need temporary solutions, try these four tips
e were probably all
expecting a tough harvest, despite hoping
for the luxury of good
weather and an open fall. Rain, frost
and even snow in early September likely
mean there will be an even greater need
to ensure grain storage management
strategies are well in hand.
“Just because you are done combining does not mean you are done
managing the crop,” says Joy Agnew,
an agricultural engineer and project
manager of agricultural research
services at the Prairie Agricultural
Machinery Institute in Humboldt,
Saskatchewan. “Grain requires regular monitoring while it is in storage
to ensure it does not go out of condition — that is going to be the challenge from here on out.”
Considering the value of the inputs
and the hours and months of time and
effort put into producing the crop, this
is good advice. But surprisingly, it is
advice that is often not heeded as carefully as it should be.
Grain going into storage should ideally
be binned clean and dry. It’s debatable if
that will be entirely possible this fall, and
if not there should also be the means to
either dry the grain or to aerate the bin
throughout the storage period and a plan
in place to monitor the grain in the bin on
a regular basis.
“Temperature cables are very popular
and cost effective to monitor the temperature of the grain throughout the
bin,” says Agnew. “The cables are put in
place before the bin is filled and a reader hooked up on the outside provides a
temperature profile of the grain in bin
at any time.” This technology, like any
other, is constantly advancing. Now
there are wireless systems that will send
email or text notifications when the
temperature rises beyond pre-set limits.
For farmers harvesting damp or wet
grain, there will be added work to
ensure the grain does not degrade or
spoil in storage. “Ideally grain should
go into storage dry,” says Agnew. “If
that is not possible, natural air drying with the right capacity fans, even
under conditions of high humidity
and low temperatures will draw off a
lot of moisture. Any airflow through
damp grain is beneficial.” Getting the
grain cooled off is important to prevent any further degradation in quality. Turning grain in the fall or winter
can have beneficial outcomes when it
comes to mixing and cooling. Avoid
turning grain in the spring when temperatures are on the rise.
0.1 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of airflow
per bushel. A 5,000 bushel bin would
require about 500 cfm from fans to cool
the grain.
Natural air drying requires at least 10
times that amount of air to dry grain in
storage — one cfm per bushel of grain
or 5,000 cfm for a 5,000 bushel bin.
Aeration fans could never achieve those
air flow rates. Moisture removal would
be minimal and grain would spoil.
“The next biggest misconception out
there is the difference between aeration
and natural air drying,” says Agnew.
“Drying and cooling are very different
and it’s critical farmers know this as
there is a lot at stake if they don’t.”
Aeration is cooling only and is a valuable part of grain storage management.
Natural air drying, on the other hand,
will actually remove moisture from the
grain but requires much higher airflows
than aeration fans can typically provide.
High capacity fans are required to dry
grain in the bin. Aeration requires about
Because of winter logistics problems
and the 2013 bumper harvest, many
farmers may need temporary storage for
their 2014 production. “Grain storage
bags are quite popular with farmers in
recent years,” says Agnew. “Bags offer
a convenient storage option, however,
they also require diligent management
to ensure the grain is maintained in
good condition over the storage period.”
Bags are prone to damage by wildlife
so weekly monitoring is recommended
In This Issue
Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240
Wheat & Chaff ..................
Features ............................
Crop Advisor’s Casebook
Columns ........................... 16
Machinery & Shop ............ 26
Protect your
crop sale
Both Kirkwood and Soldan agree it’s crucial to
take minutes or notes at the meetings. Items requiring action need to be highlighted, and it needs to be
clear who is going to do them, and by what date.
There should be followup to ensure action items are
completed. And it’s essential that when things have
been done, this needs to be communicated to the
meeting participants so that everyone can see the
value of the meetings.
When holding meetings, avoid having people sit
in the same place each time, says Kirkwood. Sometimes this leads to people having side conversations
during the meeting. “Change the seating plan from
time to time,” he suggests.
Also Soldan recommends that if there is going to
be food, it should be served at the end of the meeting. This is when the storytelling and socializing can
take place, he explains.
Farms that have effective and regular meetings in
place benefit by having more harmonious work and
family relationships, improved efficiency and less
burnout. Meetings are where cost-savings and revenue-generating ideas are discovered, where employees get clear direction for increased productivity and
buy-in, and where the vision and goals of the farm
team are established. CG
Home ec
» Pg 27
Cattleman’s Corner .......... 35
John Deere’s 9R tractors
get new features
FarmLife ............................ 41
Rely on the unrivalled
standability of Proven Seed
Busy farmers take time for
CFGB growing projects » Pg 18
Just how did today’s poultry
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Learn more at
or ask your CPS retailer
Publications Mail Agreement # 40069240
october 16, 2014
SerVinG manitoba FarmerS Since 1925 | Vol. 72, no. 42
Forage concerns
after wet season
High nitrate levels in
frost-stressed crops can
be fatal for cattle
By Meghan Mast
Co-operator staFF
attle farmers should
test their feed this year
because wet weather has
compromised the nutritional
value in late-seeded cereal
crops, and cold weather could
make them potentially dangerous, a provincial forage specialist says.
“We’re quite concerned about
nitrates this year after the stress
that the plants have been under
all summer and then with the
recent frost and the crops being
late,” said Pam Iwanchysko,
from MAFRD, during the year’s
first StockTalk webinar on
September 16.
Poor weather impacts
wild rice operations
Wild rice has been harvested in northern Manitoba for thousands of years,
but modern demands may outstrip supplies as the grain increases in popularity
By Shannon VanRaes
Co-operator staFF
Publication Mail Agreement 40069240
see FORAGE on page 7 »
Murray Ratuski of Shoal Lake Wild Rice Ltd. at the company’s processing facility in the Rural Municipality of Springfield. photo: shannon Vanraes
all it too much of a good thing.
Wild rice needs plenty of
water to grow, but heavy rains
and high water coupled with cool
temperatures has hit producers hard
this season, particularly in northwestern Manitoba and northeastern
“There’s this little pocket that covers
the majority of Canadian production
and they had a terrible year. Some of
the people I was inspecting, they were
going to harvest nothing,” said Stuart
McMillan, an independent organic
“It’s hard to imagine with an aquatic
plant, but they got drowned out,” he
said. “At some stages of growth it’s
really sensitive to rapid fluctuations in
water levels.”
Ideally, wild rice needs between
three and five feet of water as a growing medium.
“We’ve been calling it a perfect
storm,” said Tracy Wheeler-Anderson,
owner of Naosap Harvest in Cranberry
Portage. “It’s just been a very, very odd
year. The water table was high last fall,
then we had an abnormal amount of
snow and then we had an abnormal
amount of rain, so come spring the
water levels were way higher than
what they normally are.”
see WILD RICE on page 6 »
VO LU M E 1 1 , N U M B E R 2 2
High costs
cattle herd
Canada’s beef cattle
industry is poised for
expansion, but will
high capital costs cause
O C T O B E R 2 7, 2 0 1 4
Big shows offer a
chance to reconnect
Every year, Alberta’s farm shows attract hundreds of thousands of visitors —
and socializing remains the major draw
trong prices are signalling
that it’s time to start retaining heifers and build the
herd — but rising capital costs
could cause some producers to
hold off.
“There’s lots of opportunities,
but it’s costly,” said Rick Dehod,
farm financial specialist with
Alberta Agriculture and Rural
A decade of pain and low prices
means many producers have
other priorities than expanding
at the moment, he said.
“A lot of those ladies and
gentlemen for the last 13 years
have kept their cost of production down, and they’ve really
managed their farms well and
survived,” he said. “But they’re
behind on some of their working
capital and some of the things
that need to be done.
“I’m sure they’re going to take
their profit and meet some personal goals and some farm goals
prior to keeping those cows back.”
That’s the plan on Jake Meyer’s
farm south of Lethbridge.
You just need to accept it by October 20th.
To date we have received over $45 million of non-binding commitments from farmers who
want to participate in this opportunity to build a grain handling and fertilizer distribution
company. It is now time to make a full commitment. We have released our offering
memorandum outlining the details of this opportunity, but we need your commitment.
The cattle on show are only one of the attractions at Farmfair International.
Before there were
smartphones, Twitter
and Facebook, farmers
perfected the art of social
networking the good oldfashioned way — face to face
at meetings, trade shows,
and conferences during the
busy winter season.
nd that’s still what keeps ’em coming
back for Alberta’s two biggest farm
“For agricultural folk, whenever they
gather, networking is a major component
of what they do,” said Dave Fiddler, show
manager for Farmfair International.
The Edmonton event has grown from
humble beginnings 41 years ago into one
of Western Canada’s largest — and lon-
gest running — farm shows. With nearly
300 exhibitors and 90,000 visitors over the
week-long show, Farmfair attracts farmers
from across the country who come to talk
shop about beef.
“It’s where the beef industry comes to
meet,” said Fiddler. “It’s the largest beef
event in Alberta, and that is the major
Over the years, Farmfair has added equine
events and sales, entertainment, and competitions to appeal to a broader audience
SEE BIG SHOWS  page 6
The first closing of this offering is currently scheduled to take place on October 20, 2014.
Visit us online or call us toll-free to participate.
FNA.CA/GRAIN or 1-877-362-3276
Participation is limited to accredited investors or those that are otherwise exempt. You do not need to be an FNA Member to participate.
March 3, 2015 43
Are you in shape?
By Pierrette Desrosiers, work psychologist, business coach, and author
arm work is physically demanding, so it is
no surprise that farming has always been
synonymous with health and good physical condition. But is that still the case?
Peter has no energy anymore. He
wakes up exhausted and feels winded at the slightest
effort. It seems he always has a backache too. On his
wife’s advice, he consulted his doctor, who recommended that he lose at least 40 pounds, change his
diet and get some exercise.
Leaving the doctor’s office, he felt insulted, and
he mocked the doctor’s warnings: “Since when does
a farmer need exercise? As if we didn’t get enough
already! It seems to me that he doesn’t know much
about our work.”
Even though both the public and farmers themselves perceive farmers as healthy and physically fit, I
see in my own practice more and more farmers who
are less and less in shape.
It is exercise alone that
supports the spirits and
keeps the mind in vigour.
— Marcus Tulleus, 65 BC
Should you care about exercise? The answer is
yes, and not just because of your health. Exercise will
help you better manage your business.
Scientists have learned more about the brain in the
last 10 years than in all previous centuries combined.
In regard to thinking clearly, making better decisions,
and improving memory, John Medina, a molecular
biologist, says, “Research has consistently shown that
exercisers outperform couch potatoes in tests that measure long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problemsolving and fluid intelligence. When combined with the
health benefits exercise offers, we have as close to a
magic bullet as exists in modern medicine.”
In other words, if you think that exercise is a
luxury, think again.
But what should you do to remain in shape? Physical health scientists assert that to retain or improve
one’s condition, you should do an average of 30 to
60 minutes of light to moderate activity three to five
times a week, depending on the intended objectives.
Does normal farm work meet that minimum? “That
is no longer the case for many farmers,” says Quebec
kinesiologist Jimmy Lévesque. “Over the last two
decades, the modernization of farming has produced
a profound transformation in the farmer’s work.”
44 Furthermore, Lévesque explains that in daily
farming work, some muscle groups may be worked
very hard at the expense of other muscle groups,
producing backache or the phenomena of curvatures
and muscular imbalance.
In the end, even Peter ends up admitting, “When
I work 16 hours a day planting, it’s the machinery
doing the work, not my body or my heart.”
But how do you know if you need more exercise?
• Your body mass index (BMI), your weight in kilos
divided by your height in metres squared (BMI =
kg/m2), is higher than 28 (Google for web sites that
help you calculate and use this number).
• You climb three flights of stairs, and you are too
winded to talk.
• You have trouble doing 10 sit-ups.
• After a moderate (70 per cent MHR) 10 to 15
minute workout, it takes more than five minutes to
return to your normal heart rate.
• You have trouble touching your toes with your fingers
when seated on the floor with your legs extended.
The more yeses you have, the more you should
consider getting in shape and eating healthily. At a
gym or not, individually or in a group, getting back
in shape is an important decision and requires major
commitment and discipline. So, yes, you have to invest
time, energy and money, but the benefits are extremely
profitable with regard to your physical, psychological
and financial health. Remember, if you don’t invest in
your health now, someday you will be forced to do so
by an illness; it will no longer be your choice.
As the years pass, I see more and more farmers
who recognize their need to get in shape. This isn’t
true for everyone — some are in shape already, while
others still think that farmers don’t need to exercise
because exercise is for those who work with a pen.
I sometimes meet business owners who find it crazy
that a farmer would go to the gym or ride a bike.
Health comes from changing your belief system,
knowing why you want to improve yourself, and
planning to take action.
Finally, if you hear your little voice saying, “I don’t
have time for that, I can’t afford that,” ask yourself if
you can afford not taking the time to be healthy.
But start smart. See your doctor before any significant change in physical activity. CG
Pierrette Desrosiers, MPS, CRHA is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author
who specializes in the agricultural industry. She
comes from a family of farmers and she and her
husband have farmed for more than 25 years (www. Contact her at [email protected]
March 3, 2015
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Shifting borders
Get ready to buy a whole lot more from your
equipment dealer than just equipment
By Scott Garvey, CG Machinery Editor
ave you ever seen an International
Harvester refrigerator, or a MasseyFerguson cream separator? They
were farmyard fixtures at one time.
Farmers bought them from their
local farm machinery dealership while buying a wide
variety of other essentials too.
Over time, those equipment dealers evolved
from that “everything-you-need-we’ve-got” business model to become machinery specialists, strictly
purveyors of iron. Today, that trend is reversing,
albeit not back to adding refrigerators and cream
separators to their product line. But many of today’s
equipment dealers are once again becoming a kind of
one-stop farm support shop.
This time data management, agronomy and various other support services that are all intended to
make farming more efficient are being blended with
the traditional lineup of iron that sits on the front
lot. While not every dealer has yet embraced this
concept, it’s one that is gaining momentum across
the industry — in both Canada and the U.S.
“What our customers are looking for are solutions,” says John Schmeiser, executive VP and CEO
of the newly formed Western Equipment Dealers
Association, who says there’s a good reason dealers
are offering more data and information solutions
Jim Wood is VP of
agriculture at
Rocky Mountain
46 too: “Customers will gravitate to a dealer or provider that will provide the easiest, most cost-effective
solutions to their farming operations.”
And today’s largest farmers are on the leading
edge of that wave of customers who are looking
for much more than oil and filters when they walk
through their dealership’s doors.
“We’re moving into a new era of service delivery,
beyond just selling and servicing equipment,” Schmeiser says. “We’re selling data and information now to
help the customer increase profitability. We think that’s
what the customer wants. Certainly the larger customers are moving to this, because the needs and requirements on their farms have changed considerably.”
The drive for providing a broader range of services to customers arises in part from the extremely
high purchase cost and growing sophistication of
today’s machines, says Jim Wood, VP of agriculture
at Rocky Mountain Equipment, Canada’s largest ag
equipment dealership chain. He says dealers simply
have to offer more support to farmers so they can get
maximum value out of their costly equipment.
“What we’ve done over the past year and a half,
we call ag optimization and technology,” Wood says.
“We’ve got 25 specialists all across Western Canada.
It’s not only technology, it’s the fact that when you’re
selling someone a $400,000 or $500,000 piece of
equipment, and they’re making their living with it,
we better make sure that thing is operating at the
most optimum, perfect performance possible.
“We’ve found in the farm equipment business, a
lot of our customers trade every year. And a lot of
new technology is included every year, but no one’s
done a really good job of showing them how to use
it,” Wood continues. “A lot of dealers talk about
the data collection and that side of the business with
GPS, but a lot of it is supporting the technology
that’s built right into the equipment.”
Although Rocky itself won’t be adding things like
agronomy services to its dealerships in the foreseeable
future (which many dealers have chosen to do), those
25 optimization specialists will be helping customers collect data and engage with companies that do
provide that service in the most efficient way possible.
That is why Rocky has recently partnered with
the precision ag firm Decisive Farming, letting it
handle that aspect of business but still making
Rocky dealerships the first stop for farmers looking
for expanded services.
“We (dealerships) are selling advice in addition
march 3, 2015
Dealership managers in Canada
and the U.S. are finding they
share the same problems and are
looking for the same solutions.
Photo: Scott Garvey
to the equipment,” says the dealer association’s Schmeiser. “That’s a whole new
area we’re moving into, providing new services to the customer to help them be more
profitable on their farm.”
And just as dealers have evolved to
better support their farmer customers, the
trade association that represents dealers
has also had to change. Last September, the
Canada West Equipment Dealers Association, which had represented dealers in Western Canada for about 114 years, merged
with the U.S.-based Southwestern Equipment Dealers Association to form a group
with a broader North American focus,
creating the Western Equipment Dealers
Association. It now represents about 1,000
dealers in five states (as far south as Texas),
four provinces and three territories.
“I’ve come to believe our producer
customers want to do business with successful businesses,” Schmeiser says. “The
whole goal (of the dealer association) is
to increase the service level, professionalism and delivery right to the producer at
the dealership level.”
Before the merger, the two groups —
separated by the 49th parallel — initiated
a study to help decide what a new dealer
association should look like in order to
meet dealers’ evolving needs.
“We called it Task Force 2100,” says
Schmeiser. “The question that was thrown
march 3, 2015
out was, if we were starting a new equipment dealer association today, what would
it look like? The consensus was it would
be one association across North America.
That’s really the impetus for this initiative.”
The consensus was really that equipment dealer networks were consolidating,
but their associations weren’t. Schmeiser
points to Titan Machinery, headquartered out of Fargo, N.D. as an example:
“They have locations across the United
States that are in six different equipment
dealer associations.”
A working group got set up with dealers from Canada and the U.S., and Schmeiser says that the more they talked
dealer to dealer, the more they realized
their issues were the same.
“The border didn’t matter as much
as one might think,” Schmeiser says.
Instead, challenges like finding good
employees were the same, as were challenges with used equipment.
“That’s why I think this has come
together so easily,” Schmeiser says.
Wood agrees. “It doesn’t matter if it’s
in Oklahoma or Calgary, Alta., all the
dealers have the same issues,” he says.
“It’s people, it’s training, it’s manufacturer
issues. There aren’t many borders when it
comes to the farm machinery business.”
But there’s also more to it than that.
“Those larger dealer organizations
John Schmeiser, executive VP and
CEO of the newly formed Western
Equipment Dealers Association.
are requesting a different level of service from their associations than singlestore operations,” says Schmeiser. “We’ve
spent a lot of time investing in education
and training, because the large, multistore operations were looking for people
with the ability to manage a location that
was doing $25 million in business. Where
do you find this level of manager? So we,
as an association, have invested heavily
to provide training to groom store managers, or service, or parts managers.”
At the same time, Schmeiser says, the
association is keeping up its resources
to help single-store dealers who have no
desire or opportunity to grow.
Back in 1990, the Canada West
Equipment Dealer Association had 650
equipment dealer locations, with only a
handful boasting multi-store operations.
“In the last 24 years, that’s changed to a
large multi-store environment like Rocky
Mountain Equipment and Cervus Equipment,” Schmeiser says. “We don’t see
that trend changing at all. It’s really the
trend for the future.” CG 47
By Ellen Goodman
The science of falling number
The test is an effective way to determine sprout damage in wheat
re-harvest sprouting or germination of
wheat triggered by wet weather during
the end stage of new-crop maturity can
lead to poor end-product quality. The falling number test is one effective and objective way to determine the extent of sprout damage in
a wheat sample.
“Farmers are especially interested in falling
number when they come to our courses,” says Rex
Newkirk, vice-president of research and innovation
for Cigi, the Canadian International Grains Institute.
Cigi uses falling number for its annual harvest
assessment and at the request of customers. “Falling
number is important but doesn’t measure everything
regarding wheat quality,” Newkirk says. “It only
measures the effects of sprout damage. Quality characteristics such as protein content, moisture levels,
frost damage and plant disease are detected through
other methods.”
Canadian grain quality is supported by a process
in which wheat must meet certain standards in order
to become a registered variety. Quality is also supported by grain grading standards which include
visual inspection of sprout damage by Canadian
Grain Commission grain inspectors who also look
for a number of other downgrading factors including
midge, fusarium, and ergot using various procedures
outlined in the Official Grain Grading Guide.
However, because visual inspection for sprout damage is subjective, some farmers would prefer falling
number testing for grading, Newkirk says. “Possibly
because falling number is used heavily in some other
countries, there is an impression that it can be used as
an objective method for grading. But it only measures
sprout damage which activates the alpha amylase
The test
The falling number test follows international standards procedures and
involves an instrument consisting of a water bath, test tube, and a stirring
mechanism. A ground sample of grain, flour or semolina is placed with distilled
water in the test tube and shaken. The test tube containing the flour-water
slurry and the stirring mechanism is then placed in boiling water and stirred.
As the temperature of the flour-water slurry increases, the starch in the
sample begins to make the sample more viscous. Meanwhile, any alpha amylase enzyme in the sample will break down the starch, reducing viscosity. After
60 seconds of stirring, the stirring mechanism, or plunger, is released from the
top of the tube and the time it takes to reach the bottom is measured in seconds to provide the falling number. The more sprout damage in the grain, the
greater the alpha amylase activity which lowers the viscosity, resulting in the
plunger falling faster and giving a lower falling number.
48 enzyme that causes end-product quality issues, especially in baking. The test is also time consuming and
there is the additional cost of equipment.”
The recent new crop of durum wheat grown in
Saskatchewan was hit especially hard by atypical wet
weather conditions, causing higher levels of sprout
damage than usual, so it became more of a focus
than in previous harvests, says Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi
director of science and innovation.
“This past year there was such a combination
of downgrading factors that the amount of durum
grading as number one and two was the lowest that
it’s been in the past decade,” Sopiwnyk says. Durum
semolina is primarily used for processing products
such as pasta and couscous.
“Sprout damage is more of an issue in baking
where breads rely on higher water content during
processing,” Sopiwnyk explains. The addition of
water to the flour sets off the alpha amylase enzyme
that affects sugar and yeast activity. This in turn
causes excess gas production during the fermentation stage that can impact quality characteristics
such as loaf colour and volume, and crumb structure. The quality of pasta from durum semolina can
also be affected by sprout damage although usually
not as severely since the processing involves lower
water content. CG
March 3, 2015
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ourPhoto of the Week
By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor
Head on
Fighting weed resistance will be a long, tough battle, but the
latest information says farmers are definitely paying attention
oing chores on a mixed farm in South
Australia, Josh Lade dreamed of working on a really big grain farm. It was a
dream that intensified as he was growing up, like when he used to put in
shifts on the large inland grain operation owned by
members of his mother’s side of the family.
Later he attended university to study agronomy,
which he describes as his “big passion.” During that
time he started to come into contact with research
being conducted in Canada, and he started to get a
glimpse of how farming is done over here.
“I saw the big, square fields, and I thought, ‘I
want to see that,’” Lade says. “I wound up coming
over to work for a farm, and they were looking for a
longer-term solution, and it worked out well for all
of us and I stayed.”
These days Lade lives and works near Osler, just
north of Saskatoon, where he’s living the dream of a
large-scale grain operation. But along with finding
his dream in his adoptive country, Lade found the
beginnings of a nightmare — the nightmare of runaway weed resistance, something his native land has
been grappling with for years.
“I’ve seen it there, and I’m starting to see it here
too,” Lade says. “I’ve seen a field sprayed and then
walked into it a few days later and seen the weeds,
still happily growing.”
crop protection companies as concerned as anyone
in agriculture over the development of resistance. Al
Eadie is market development manager with Bayer
CropScience, and he says it’s in everyone’s interests
to guard the tools we have remaining.
“We really do need to protect them, because
the hard reality is there isn’t anything in short and
medium term in the pipeline to replace them,” Eadie
says. “That’s true of our company, and to the best of
my knowledge, all the other major companies. I talk
to people in the business every day, and everyone is
concerned about this, and taking it very seriously.”
Over time, there’s little doubt that new products
will emerge, but the simple truth is that the crop
protection business has already picked the lowhanging fruit, so newer products can be expected
to be harder to identify and commercialize. There
is also a worrying hold-over from the ‘glyphosate
effect’ which saw off-patent glyphosate seriously cut
into herbicide economics, dropping the amount that
growers are willing to spend per acre and thereby
also challenging the return-on-investment calculations for any company that wants to develop and
register a new active.
Eadie says Bayer has produced guides on herbicide resistance for the Praires. These can be found
on the weed resistance website and can
help growers get their heads around the issue.
“The numbers are very clear,” says ag pollster Kent Fraser. Some 20
per cent of Prairie farmers are already battling resistance on their
farms, but 90 per cent see fighting resistance as good stewardship
Australian growers are definitely at the forefront
of this global fight, having some of the earliest and
most serious problems. But weed resistance is a
challenge for growers the world over, and the reason why boils down to simple mathematics. In any
naturally occurring population, there is variability
of all sorts. In weed populations, this variability can
include a handful of plants that can shake off chemical treatments and go on to not only survive, but
also to produce seeds. After repeated applications of
the same product, all that’s left of the population is
basically this resistant subtype.
That means the efficacy of that herbicide is seriously reduced, putting all the more pressure on the
remaining tools.
It’s this vicious feedback loop that has the major
50 “The information is specific to issues in each of
the three provinces, and will be relevant to farmers
and the local challenges they face,” Eadie says. “I
really would recommend growers visit the site and
take a little time to familiarize themselves with the
In fact, if anyone doubts just how serious this situation is, consider the actions of the major chemical
companies. In a business that’s as bottom-line driven
as any, you’re beginning to see a unique situation
emerge where at times, companies find themselves
increasingly in the unlikely position of recommending a competitor’s product.
“It might not be our product we wind up recommending this year, and we’re fine with that,” Eadie
says. “In the end, if we can extend the life of these
March 3, 2015
Weed management
products, that’s good for all of us, farmers and crop
protection companies alike. It will help us all have
sustainable businesses.”
Lade says there are a lot of valuable lessons that
Canadian growers can take from Australia. The
climate might be different, but the crop mix and
cropping systems are very similar, meaning at least
some of the Down Under solutions are likely to be
applicable to the Great White North.
Among the most valuable lessons, though at times
the hardest, was that sometimes growers had to let the
weed spectrum in their fields dictate their crop rotation.
“We all have to be profitable, there’s no doubt
about that,” Lade says. “But we also have to make
sure we remain profitable into the future.”
That might mean occasionally growing crops
that aren’t immediately profitable, with an eye to
longer-term sustainability of the operation, Lade
says. He also strongly endorses having a herbicide
rotation plan that delves into the various herbicide groupings, rather than simply swapping brand
names, since frequently different chemicals are in the
same family, resulting in continued selection pressure on the weed population.
More growers on board
More and more producers throughout the Prairies are getting on board the resistance management train, according to one agricultural research
firm. Kent Fraser, VP of Stratus Ag Research, says a
recent survey shows growers acknowledge resistance
is an important issue, and they are taking a proactive approach on their farms.
“The numbers are very clear — about a third
of farmers say they have some resistance on their
farms,” Fraser says. “Twenty per cent say it has a
big impact on how they farm, and 45 per cent of
farmers in Western Canada expect it to have a big
impact in the future.”
Fraser says more than 90 per cent of growers
said that fighting weed resistance is good stewardship, because they expect they and their families to
continue farming the land. About the same number
said they were willing to change their farming practices to address the issue. About three-quarters of
producers say they’ve already got a plan in place.
For the most part, Fraser says those plans
appear to centre around exactly the sort of crop
and product rotation systems that fit large-scale
farm operations. In a way, Fraser describes an
industry grappling with the art of the possible,
adapting their production system to this new reality. He says there appear to be three major barriers
that prevent farmers from adopting techniques and
they can basically be boiled down to time, money
and best agronomic practices.
For example, the survey respondents were reluctant to engage in practices that would slow down
their seeding season, such as meticulously cleaning
equipment between each field. They also predictably
didn’t favour any solution that would significantly
March 3, 2015
“I’ve seen it there,” says former Australian
Josh Lade. “I’m starting to see it here too.”
increase their cost of production, such as additional
field operations. They were also extremely reluctant
to step backwards and consider options like reincorporating summerfallow into their farms after the hard
work of eliminating tillage through zero till.
In the end, Fraser says growers are simply learning this new reality and, through trial and error and
experimentation, they’ll eventually settle on solutions that work under the reality of local production
conditions. The important point, he says, is growers
have gotten the message.
“They are definitely aware of this issue,” Fraser says. “It is clearly one of the things that is on
their radar.”
Lade says he suspects growers may have to make
some hard choices going forward, including adopting some practices in the middle ground, including cultural practices like tighter row spacing and
heavier seeding rates, among others. Those might
not be entirely palatable, but he says watching the
situation back home has convinced him that there
are even worse things waiting in the wings.
“It’s gotten so bad that some people have had
to pull the mouldboard plow back out and they’re
turning the top six inches of their fields and burying
the weed seeds deep,” Lade says. “That’s definitely
not somewhere you want to go.” CG 51
By Ron Friesen
Time to get ahead
With herbicide resistance on the rise, is integrated weed
management an idea whose time has finally arrived?
f you want to know how bad weed resistance
can get, ask the cotton farmers of Georgia
about Palmer amaranth. From a single field
in Macon County in 2005, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth has exploded across
the southern U.S. Cotton Belt.
A member of the pigweed family, Palmer amaranth has seriously affected weed management in
cotton and other crops. Its resistance to glyphosate
has forced some farmers to hoe Palmer amaranth
by hand because the chemical intended to control it
doesn’t work any more.
Travel north to the windswept Canadian Prairies
and you’ll hear a story that starts to sound eerily
familiar. This time the weed is kochia. In 2011,
scientists first detected glyphosate-resistant kochia
in southern Alberta — the first case of a glyphosateresistant weed in Western Canada. Because it is a
tumbleweed, kochia travels on the wind, scattering
between 10,000 and 25,000 seeds per plant as it
rolls along. Today, glyphosate-resistant kochia has
been detected in parts of Saskatchewan and as far
east as Manitoba.
It’s a long way from Georgia to southern Alberta
but there’s still a straight line between the two. That
line is herbicide resistance — a phenomenon resulting from the continuous use of herbicides with the
same mode of action year after year.
There’s a growing realization that relying solely
on one technique to control weeds gives the weeds
a chance to adapt and become resistant. What’s
needed is a system to keep weeds off balance by
using a variety of control practices which makes
resistance less likely.
In fact, there is such a system. It’s called integrated weed management. Now that herbicide resistance is on the rise, this system, called IWM for
short, could be an idea whose time has come.
Although IWM has been around as a concept for
some 30 years, it’s sometimes seen as nice but not
very practical. However, that attitude may be changing as our overreliance on herbicides means cases of
weed resistance continue to mount.
“Weed resistance is increasing all the time. That’s
just a given. The more you use herbicides, the more
resistance you will have,” says Bob Blackshaw, an
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada weed scientist in
Lethbridge, Alta.
52 “Integrated weed management is probably the
No. 1 way of delaying the onset of resistance and
perhaps preventing it,” Blackshaw says. “It’s also
probably the No. 1 thing you’re going to do if you
have resistance on your farm. It’s managing existing
weed resistance.”
Weed specialists cite three practices as the foundation of an IWM program: preventing weed problems before they start by limiting the introduction
and spread of weeds; choking out weeds with crops
that compete successfully against them; and keeping weeds off balance by making it difficult for
them to adapt.
Joe Vink, weed management technical lead for
Monsanto Canada, calls IWM a series of “many little
hammers” to control weeds. Herbicides are only one
of those hammers. “Integrated weed management is
certainly not all about herbicides,” Vink says.
These “little hammers” include rotating herbicides, using multiple modes of action, incorporating
tillage at strategic points in the rotation, diverse
crop rotation, cover crops, increased seeding rates,
narrow row spacing to shade out weeds, and optimum use of fertilizer.
Of these, crop rotation is probably the most critical in Blackshaw’s estimation.
“Crop rotation is the starting point for all pest
management — weeds, diseases and insects. It’s
probably the most important thing you can do,”
Blackshaw says. “A weed may emerge at the same
time as the crop, have a similar growth cycle and
require the same growing conditions. If you grow
that same crop over and over again, that weed is
going to get larger in number and compete more
effectively against the crop.”
Another hammer in the IWM toolbox involves
controlling weeds through the timing of a specific
crop. As an example, Blackshaw cites winter wheat.
It is planted in summer, goes dormant in the fall and
revives in the spring. So do winter annual weeds, such
as downy brome and shepherd’s purse, which have
the same life cycle. As a result, they compete successfully against winter wheat. To combat this, Blackshaw suggests switching to spring wheat, enabling
producers to deal with emerging winter annual weeds
before the spring wheat comes up.
Vink says producers see IWM as expensive and
time consuming. But that’s not necessarily so. He
March 3, 2015
weed management
says the test for IWM can be very simple, and growers may be practising it without even realizing it.
“If you have a diverse crop rotation and you are
using at least two modes of action on every acre
every year, you are practising a form of integrated
weed management,” Vink says. “And if you’re just
growing a wheat-canola rotation and using the same
herbicides, you’re not practicing it.”
In a recent publication, Julia Leeson, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada weed biologist and
Hugh Beckie, an AAFC weed scientist, list two
“Weed resistance is
increasing all the time. That’s just a given. The more
you use herbicides, the more
resistance you will have.”
— Bob Blackshaw,
AAFC Lethbridge
major changes in Western Canadian farm management systems since the 1990s, namely zero-tillage
and herbicide-resistant crops (especially canola).
Farmers quickly saw the advantages of the new
systems and adopted them rapidly. This changed
their weed management strategies but significantly
increased herbicide use. Leeson and Beckie say producers’ willingness to try new cropping techniques
could now be channeled in a new direction, i.e.
adopting IWM practices.
“Producers must be made aware of the potential
of these practices not only to reduce pesticide use
but also to delay resistance,” the two weed scientists
wrote. “Further efforts must be made to convey the
importance of diversifying operations in the face of
the increasing development of herbicide-resistant
That’s all well and good. But a criticism sometimes heard about IWM is that it’s not suited for big
farms. Some say large farms require simple solutions
and IWM is too complex to implement on extensive
Blackshaw doesn’t buy that argument. He
believes IWM can actually work better on a big
farm because you have more land for implementing
a diversified crop rotation, whereas a smaller land
base limits the number of crops you can grow.
Some crops use specialized equipment (e.g. corn
and soybeans) which require a cash outlay that
a small producer may not be able to afford but a
larger one can. Adding new crops brings agronomic
diversity to the rotation, so you’re not seeding the
March 3, 2015
same field at the same time every year, thus selecting
for weeds that thrive best in that kind of rotation.
Blackshaw recommends extending limited rotations (e.g. wheat and canola) to a longer ones which
include pulse crops or forages. Alfalfa is a particularly good fit because the cutting means the weeds
get chopped down before they can produce mature
seed, thereby reducing the seedbank.
Other non-chemical methods of weed control
include increased seeding rates and precision fertilizer placement. Blackshaw says seeding rates
for cereal crops in Western Canada have doubled
or even tripled in the last two decades — a good
thing because more seeds produce a more competitive crop that chokes out weeds and pays for itself
through higher yields. Banding fertilizer rather than
broadcasting it places the nutrient close to the seed.
This gives the emerging plant a jump on weeds,
which usually germinate at the soil surface, not
lower down where the fertilizer is.
When it comes to herbicides, a new hammer in
the IWM toolbox is on the horizon. Seed companies are beginning to develop weed control technologies which include trait stacking. For example,
Monsanto is developing next-generation, herbicide-tolerant crops to allow for multiple modes of
action. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, scheduled for release next year, will contain tolerance to
both glyphosate and dicamba, a Group 4 herbicide
mainly used in corn. Vink says the company plans
to release the product across all soybean-growing
regions of Canada in 2016. CG 53
By Richard Kamchen
It gets worse
from here
Herbicide resistance is almost guaranteed to keep getting worse.
But you might be able to keep it manageable on your farm
ild oats have reigned as Western
Canada’s worst weed for about
40 years, and multiple herbicide
resistance and farmers’ reluctance to alter their practices may
ensure the title doesn’t change hands in the foreseeable future.
“Based on our surveys, we estimate that over
half of the cultivated land in the Prairies — about
36 million acres — is affected by herbicide-resistant
wild oats, and a portion of that would be multiple
resistant,” says Hugh Beckie, an Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada research scientist specializing in
herbicide-resistant plants.
Most of the multiple-resistant wild oats demonstrate Group 1 resistance, but a rising amount of
Group 2 resistance is showing up as growers switch
from Group 1 herbicides that didn’t work to Group 2s.
The first documented case of Group 1-resistant wild oats was reported in 1990 in Manitoba
near Swan River. It wouldn’t be very long before
multiple-resistant wild oats would be discovered in
the northwestern region of the province. These were
the first wild oats documented with three-way group
resistance, with populations resistant to Group 1,
Group 2 plus Group 25 herbicides.
Herbicide selection pressure led farmers down
this path to multiple-resistant wild oats.
“Selection pressure just means you apply the
same herbicide over and over again,” explains Neil
Harker, a weed science specialist with Agriculture
Canada, adding the resistant biotype has always
been there. “If the resistant biotype is one in 100
million, it takes a few years to select that out of all
the susceptibles. The more you put on herbicides,
the quicker you get there.”
Unfortunately, many have tried to tackle a herbicide problem with more herbicides.
“Growers usually try and find any Group 1 or 2
that still works,” says Beckie. “Clethodim we know
is a low-risk Group 1, so they’re trying that, or Axial,
which is a ‘den’ Group 1 herbicide. Sometimes that
works. By trial and error, they’re trying to see if there
are still effective herbicides within those groups.”
Some try to minimize the viability of immature
wild oats by applying a pre-harvest glyphosate.
Also emerging as a solution are some old chemistries.
“I always recommend growers don’t forget some
54 of these old herbicides liked Edge or trifluralins, the
Groups 3s, because even in Australia, they’re relying
on those old chemistries as the backbone of their
resistance management,” says Beckie. “We still have
residual herbicides, even in our age of direct seeding,
that need to be looked at.”
“We should put some emphasis on bringing some
of them back,” agrees Harker. “For those unwilling
to switch to cultural management strategies, it would
at least bring some diversity in herbicide use.”
When it comes right down to it, there aren’t a
great many herbicide options left for grass weeds
like wild oats.
“It’s not like broadleaf weed resistance management where tank mixing is what I recommend,”
says Beckie. “If you’re mixing Group 1 and Group
2, they’re both high-risk herbicides, so I’ve never
advocated that practice because you may select for
resistance mechanisms in the population — like
enhanced metabolism that confers this broad cross
resistance across both groups.”
Ultimately, though, farmers need to wean themselves off their ag chemical dependencies.
“The way that you slow down selection pressure
for resistance is to be less dependent on herbicides,”
says Harker.
A more integrated approach
Much less popular but more likely to minimize
wild oats issues are preventive and cultural weed
control practices. But it’s not an easy pitch.
Studies have found efficacy in implementing higher seeding rates, planting winter cereals
like winter wheat, fall rye and winter triticale, and
perennial forages such as alfalfa.
“Some of those practices when used together,
even without wild oat herbicides, can be very effective on wild oats without putting on any selection
pressure,” says Harker.
There’s mixed acceptance of higher seeding rates.
“I know it’s a tough sell for pulse crops or canola
because of the seed price, but for bin-run cereals, we
always recommend that you try and use the upper
recommended seeding rate because it’s a natural
biological control,” says Beckie. (Harker adds that
those more willing to up their seeding rates tend to
be more progressive and therefore more likely to use
certified seed.)
March 3, 2015
weed management
Studies have shown higher crop density is one of
the more consistent cultural weed management practices that are effective in reducing weed populations,
Beckie notes.
Also effective are fall-seeded crops. If the plant
gets established well enough, it’ll be so far ahead of
wild oats in the spring that a farmer may not even
need to apply wild oat herbicides, and in turn minimize the selection pressure.
“The crop outcompetes the wild oat, and that’s
one of the advantages to growing those crops,” says
Harker. “So not only do you have less cost from not
having to apply a wild oat herbicide, you’ve put on
no selection pressure for herbicide resistance.”
But farmers went in the wrong direction when it
came to planting last fall. Most glaring was Prairie
winter wheat seedings, which plunged to 665,000
acres from the previous year’s 1.13 million.
While forages are also well-established weed fighters, they aren’t a particularly favoured option either.
“Maybe in parts of Manitoba you see (alfalfa
planted) more commonly, but when you get into
Saskatchewan and Alberta, growers don’t want to
be bothered with including a two- or three-year
stand of alfalfa, unless they have livestock or they
can sell it. It’s always been a challenge that way,”
says Beckie.
“People are losing diversity in their cropping systems,” says Harker. “Some people grow continuous
canola, some people grow canola/wheat, but they’re
not putting forages in their rotation, they’re not putting winter cereals as much as they should. That’s
going to be a problem in the long term. It won’t be a
problem in the short term because right now you get
away with it as you don’t have the dominant resistance yet, but some guys are starting to get it.”
More diverse rotations wouldn’t hurt either.
“The most popular rotation on the Prairies now is
canola/wheat, canola/wheat. People have been doing
that over and over again to try to maximize their
short-term profitability, but that puts a lot of pressure on wild oats and other weeds when you use the
same herbicides over and over,” says Harker.
Farmers also should look at planting tall cultivars or just simply more competitive cultivars.
“Some growers know what cultivars do better in
their own area. There isn’t really a prototype cultivar
that is better than all the rest unless you know that
there’s one that comes up earlier and grows faster
early — that’s what you’re looking for,” says Harker.
Land that becomes infested with multiple resistance can take a long time to recover, he warns.
“We’ve had cases where people have gone back
20 years later after resistance happened and it’s still
there — same level.”
And that ultimately impacts the value of your
land. “There are cases in the southern U.S. where
they have huge resistance issues where the land
value is significantly degraded,” says Harker, who
March 3, 2015
“People believe there’ll just be a new
herbicide,” says Harker. “There’s little or no
evidence to show that that’s the case.”
indicates less productive land is bound to be less
enticing to a prospective buyer. “Who wants to
farm there?”
Nevertheless, there remains hesitation to adopt
alternative practices to combating multiple resistance.
“Unfortunately, farmers don’t embrace things
until they’re forced to in many cases,” says Harker.
“A lot of people believe there’ll just be a new herbicide solution. ‘We may lose these herbicides that
we use now, but the herbicide industry will come
up with something new.’ And there’s little or no evidence to show that that’s the case.”
Future grim?
Both weed scientists believe that it’s inevitable
the situation will only get worse, especially with no
new herbicide chemistries in the pipeline.
“There hasn’t really been a new herbicide mode
of action or a major mode-of-action group introduced in the last 20 years,” notes Harker. “So these
herbicides, you could almost call them a non-renewable resource, because we just don’t seem to be getting a lot more new ones.”
Beckie thinks that in the interim, glyphosate and
glufosinate will be two of the mainstay herbicides to
slow down problems. Considering stacked traits in
the pipeline, Beckie says Liberty and Roundup have
helped keep a lid on the wild oat resistance problem
because of their different modes of action.
“In that way, I think they’ll be very effective,
either with the single trait Roundup Ready alone
or the Liberty alone or stacked. I think that’s one
example where it’s demonstrated to be really the
cornerstone of multiple-resistant wild oat management,” Beckie says.
But he also predicts there will be more multipleresistant wild oats populations recorded across all
three Prairie provinces, pointing out that surveys
since the 1990s have found the weed is increasing
in its distribution and abundance. And that will
continue to adversely affect profitability, crop yields,
quality and herbicide costs.
“My outlook is we’re going to have more and
more of this until people feel like they’re forced
to do something different,” adds Harker. When it
comes to grower resistance, it hasn’t been a club
exclusive to Prairie growers. “People also say they
don’t want to do anything like pull a chaff cart or
buy a Harrington seed destructor. Well, the people
in Australia didn’t want to do that either, but now
they are because they have to.” CG 55
By Ralph Pearce, CG Production Editor
drift versus
Spraying on a quiet, still morning is the best way
to cut your drift risk, right? (Answer: No!)
ust when farming already seemed complicated
enough, here are more misconceptions that science is disproving. Except this time, the new
findings will help more growers get more value
from their crop protection dollar. The best part
is, you’re probably one of those growers too.
Drift — Physical
Trying to paint drift as worse than volatility, or
vice versa, is overly simplistic, experts say.
To be specific, drift can be broken down into two
forms: particle drift and vapour drift. Particle drift is
the more straightforward form, and mainly occurs at
time of appliction when a strong wind blows some of
the spray off-target.
Vapour drift, on the other hand, is linked to volatility, the situation where a pesticide, once applied to
a surface, be it leaf or soil, can volatilize given the
appropriate temperature and humidity conditions.
“All pesticides can result in physical drift — it’s
just a physical property and it doesn’t matter what
pesticide you’re using — all of them will drift to
some degree from physical movement of the wind,”
says Dr. Andrew Thostenson, pesticide program
specialist at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
“But very few pesticides will volatilize, and we know
this because we can measure the volatility of the
chemicals, and predict or estimate their ability to
gas-off or vaporize after they hit a surface. And there
aren’t large numbers of pesticides that volatilize.”
Still, there are conditions that can make physical
drift more difficult to cope with, especially in this era
of larger acreages and tighter application windows.
But even there, there can be misconceptions.
Dr. Tom Wolf, sprayer specialist with AgriMetrix
Research and Training in Saskatoon notes that many
growers suspect the best way to prevent physical
drift is to spray when their isn’t any wind.
Not necessarily, Wolf says. “We do need some
wind,” says Wolf. Just because a field seems to have
no wind blowing across it, that doesn’t mean there
aren’t air currents. Calm conditions eventually produce airflows, and with these variable winds during
a spray application, it’s harder to control whatever
amount of spray remains aloft. “On the other hand,”
says Wolf, “with a consistent breeze, you know
what’s downwind and you can protect that area.”
Inversion figures into this too. It often occurs
early in the morning (but can come at dusk as well).
What the farmer sees is the sun rising, the air perfectly still — supposedly an invitation to responsible
spraying. Yet spraying into a still atmosphere with
zero turbulence means there’s zero wind to help distribute the spray, so a portion may be left suspended
in the air. When the winds do pick up, there’s a tremendous risk for damage.
It’s all why Wolf discourages growers from spraying in low-wind conditions or inversion conditions.
Instead, he says, they should spray with some wind.
The addition of genetically modified technologies
has created more convenience but also the need for
greater awareness of interactions and situations
associated with physical drift and volatility.
56 Vapour drift is a greater concern because it’s a
less-known, harder-to-predict risk of many sprays.
Historically, vapour drift was the more serious of the
two, but only because in the past, farmers used more
highly volatile chemicals, and volatility was always
much harder to control.
“Vapour drift can occur from plants or soils days
after spraying is finished, and it depends entirely on
March 3, 2015
weed management
the weather that follows,” says Wolf, adding that regulators in Canada have scaled
back on registrations for many volatile
products. “That’s one of the reasons why
we’re no longer seeing the dinitroanilines
and trifluralins for new crops, even though
they would have a fit. There’s just too
much vapour. Also there’s the deregistration of the higher-volatile esters of some
of the products like bromoxonil and 2,4-D
that have been gone for a long time now.”
Thostenson agrees, citing glyphosate as
an example of a chemical that’s widely used
and has a very low potential to volatilize
or vaporize. Once it hits a surface, it won’t
gas-off under hot or humid conditions.
There are other products and different
formulations of 2,4-D and dicamba that
will volatilize, however, although a lot
depends on the particular product and
formulation in question.
“If you look at the new 2,4-D choline formulation (used in the Enlist technology), it has been reported to have a
much, much lower volatility potential,”
says Thostenson. “That’s not to say that
the 2,4-D choline will not volatilize, it’s
just much better at resisting volatility.”
So if we return to the question of
whether drift is worse than volatilization,
it becomes clear why the experts are saying
it may be the wrong question to ask.
“Is one worse than the other?” says
Thostenson. “No, all pesticides will
physically drift, but some pesticides will
physically drift and they can also volatilize or result in vapour drift.”
“We do need some wind,” says Dr. Tom Wolf.
“With a consistent breeze, you know what’s
downwind, and you can protect that area.”
GMO debate
In mid-January, Monsanto gained registration of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, with expectations the company
will have sufficient seed containing its
dicamba-resistant trait for the 2016 planting season. There’s a similar expectation
for Enlist seed technology’s 2,4-D ester
technology from Dow AgroSciences.
The launch of these technologies
has many growers hoping their lives get
simpler, letting them address their weed
control and their weed resistance management needs in a practical, reliable way.
Again, Thostenson and Wolf don’t
entirely agree. Thostenson cites glyphosate
as a simple, non-volatile herbicide that
replaced a variety of high-volatile pesticides that were used until the introduction
of GMO crops, including phenoxy herbicides and dicamba. So the introduction of
glyphosate tolerance actually reduced the
amount of volatile pesticides being used.
“Now we’re proposing to reuse some
of these pesticides that we haven’t used
for perhaps 10 or 15 years on a broad
scale,” says Thostenson. This time, however, the difference is that the new products have lower volatility.
“Some of these phenoxy herbicides,
are vastly different improvements over
where we were using 15 or 20 years
ago,” Thostenson says. That said, however, he adds that “everybody is a little
apprehensive because they think about
the way it used to be, and they’re wondering if that sort of problem is going to
manifest itself with the introduction of
these new-generation, genetically modified organisms that include these phenoxy-based herbicide resistance.”
From his perspective, Wolf says there’s
another correlation between GMO technology and drift. He refers to it as “the
Big Wake-up” when Roundup Ready was
introduced in Saskatchewan in 1996. Prior
to that, glyphosate was used primarily as a
pre-seeding treatment while the land was
still relatively dormant.
“Now we’re spraying in the middle
of the growing season, when everything’s
vulnerable, and that’s when the wakeup began,” says Wolf. He also started
working with Monsanto, Bayer and other
companies, trying to document how to
mitigate the drift risk with coarser drop-
- Holly L., Didsbury, Alberta, 2014 AWC Delegate
y! .
da ed
to it
er lim
st s
gi g i
Re atin
“ Thank you for helping me on my journey as a woman, rancher, mom and human.
All the speakers were amazing and relevant in so many ways.”
Continued on page 58
Capitalize on your opportunities and reap the benefits of your growth! This conference could
change your life. Join women from Ag and related businesses as they reveal the secrets to their
success. Attend in Calgary or Toronto - or both. Early Bird and Group Rates available now.
Register today! Visit or phone 403-686-8407.
March 3, 2015 57
Advancing Women Conference / Canadian Cattlemen 7” x 3.357” / Alberta Quote
Tighter windows and tank mixing different chemicals cannot override the
need for diligence and attention to detail in spray applications.
Continued from page 57
lets. “That’s how the whole movement
to low-drift nozzles really gained traction and the air-induction technologies
showed that these products could be
applied safely with those types of nozzles.
Those are still the first kinds of technology that people use to reduce drift.”
But the GMO issue also bumps into
shifts in weed species such as kochia, a
very troublesome weed in Western Canada and parts of the U.S. Great Plains.
“Instead of just one kochia species,
we now have three,” says Thostenson,
citing subspecies that are resistant to
glyphosate and fluroxypyr (Starane).
“What happens is that these resistant
biotypes become a different genetic problem that we’re having to deal with, which
means we have increased our problems
threefold in kochia. The resistance issue
means that we’re going to have more
biotypes, which means we have more
problems to deal with.”
Do we have to go
slower, smaller?
Against the backdrop of tighter planting and application windows, many
growers are upping their sprayer speeds.
But Wolf urges caution. Sprayer speeds
are definitely a challenge, with both
physical drift and vapour drift.
To Wolf,
sprayer speed is among the biggest enemies of the modern spray operation.
“Aside from spray drift, which we can
show increases with faster travel speeds,
a lot of other things also become worse,”
says Wolf. “Wheel tracks become worse,
uniformity of deposition from the boom
becomes worse because of turbulence.
And you have difficult situations in terms
of pressure management — booms have
to be higher for faster speeds — and all
of those things work against the quality
job that we’re trying to achieve.”
Wolf adds that if there’s a reasonable wind but a fast travel speed, there’s
a large amount of wind being generated at the boom, and that removes the
fine droplets that would otherwise be
pushed to the canopy with the spray
cloud. This allows them to drift free
to move wherever they get blown, so a
greater portion of the spray is at risk.
Thostenson admits slowing down may
be impractical. In a perfect world, he
says, it would be better if growers did
drop their speeds, but it may be more
realistic to focus on finding better windows for when and where to spray.
“If you slow down and you’re much
more prudent in your operations, there’s
much less of an opportunity for spray drift,”
says Thostenson, adding that it simply
enables the grower to manage things better.
Yet the “ideal” spraying conditions related
to weather are limited, meaning there’s a
A new Ontario resource
Dr. Jason Deveau (@spray_guy) is one of the latest to land with the Ontario Ministry
of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) as the go-to source on sprays, applications and the physics involved in maximizing deposition. Since his arrival with the ministry,
he has been a veritable treasure trove of information, with videos and Internet links,
guides and research reviews.
Deveau is quick to defer to the research and findings of Drs. Andrew Thostenson and
Tom Wolf (see main article). Yet Wolf is the first to say growers in Ontario are certain to
benefit from Deveau’s dedication and commitment.
Readers can learn more from Deveau’s many presentations by going to: Deveau’s take on the issue of drift versus
volatility is Presentation 8, but there are other worthwhile documents and videos worth considering, including one on sprayer cleanout.
58 greater need to maximize efficiency with
so few “good” days. “We also know that
if you apply pesticides at extremely high
ground speeds with an airplane — speeds
in excess of 160 to 170 m.p.h. (roughly 255
to 270 km/h — you do get more breakup of
the droplets and so there are more fine droplets available to be subjected to drift.”
With ground applications of 24 to 32
km/h (15 or 20 m.p.h.), the same thing
happens: the droplets break up more at
that high rate of speed and so you get
more driftable fines.
Impact of nozzles
A decade ago, Wolf started saying
that the type of nozzle is the biggest factor in drift risk, whether it’s the latest
from Tee-Jett or an air-induction design.
Instead, it was the operator’s knowledge
of water volumes, chemical makeup,
weed species, air pressures and boom
heights, among others.
That hasn’t changed, Wolf says.
“What I have now is a renewed emphasis on communicating the exact spray
quality that the producers are getting out
of their nozzles,” says Wolf, who’s trying
to develop some tools to help with that.
That means that producers need to
get the numbers on their nozzles, which
can take some digging through manufacturers’ catalogues and other literature.
But he also urges growers to keep
those numbers in perspective.
“Without exception, even the very best
nozzle that’s been designed to minimize fine
droplets, in the hands of somebody who
doesn’t have it properly set up can make
things very, very bad,” cautions Thostenson. “It’s absolutely critical, no matter what
pesticide nozzle you’re using that you use it
within the parameters recommended by the
nozzle manufacturer.” CG
March 3, 2015
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Better farm
More farmers are developing
strategies that actually do
connect with consumers
By Helen Lammers-Helps
n her other life as a school board trustee,
Okanagan Valley chicken farmer Christina
Coers sees the value of education. It’s a mindset that she brought with her when she and
her husband Steven became chicken farmers under the new-entrant program of the British
Columbia chicken-marketing board a year ago.
Coers, 46, didn’t grow up on a chicken farm, so
she educated herself about chicken farming. “It was
natural for me to want to share what I had learned
with others,” she explains.
Coers says the myths and misinformation about
chicken farming make her see red, such as the A&W
restaurant ads that say the chicken they serve is hormone and steroid free. She says this implies that most
chicken contains hormones and steroids.
Except… that just isn’t the truth, she says. “It’s
been illegal to use steroids and hormones in chicken
production in Canada since the ’60s. People think
that because chicken grows so fast, farmers must be
using steroids, but it’s due to other things like better
10 tips for being a better farm ambassador
Whether you are hosting a farm tour, writing a letter to your local newspaper or simply standing in line at the grocery store talking to a stranger, here
are 10 tips from Farm and Food Care Ontario to ensure you are being an
effective ambassador for agriculture.
1. Be positive. Think customer service with a smile!
2. Know who you’re talking to and what their concerns are.
3. Be prepared. Keep up to date with issues in the media.
4. Use easy-to-understand words and explanations, not industry jargon.
5. Provide comparisons that your audience can relate to.
6. Use examples from your farm or your experience when answering questions, instead of guessing or generalizing.
7. Show you care. Really.
8. When answering a question, “I don’t know” is a valid answer. Refer them
to someone else when appropriate.
9. Invite discussion. Avoid debates and confrontations. Everyone is entitled
to their opinion.
10.Remember, you may be the only person in agriculture someone ever has
the chance to meet. Make that impression memorable!
Don’t forget, as an ambassador for agriculture, you are always on duty!
60 For chicken farmers
Steven and Christina Coers,
seeking opportunities to
engage with consumers
is part of farm life
Coers has also experienced consumer confusion first
hand. Standing in line at the meat counter at a local
grocery store, she overheard the man in front of her ask
if the store’s chicken was “free run.” The young woman
working behind the counter had no idea.
Coers spoke up and explained that it most likely was
free run since most chicken in Canada is raised this way,
with free access to water and feed. It was during her discussion with this man that she realized he was confused
by what free run, free range and organic meant.
It isn’t just the non-farming public that can be
ill informed. Last year when a group of local dairy
farmers made a stop at the Coers’ chicken farm, one
of the dairy farmers expressed his surprise that the
broiler chickens were not in cages. Even within agriculture there’s room for improvement, says Coers.
Coers believes farmers need to be proactive with
their messaging. “We can’t expect the board to do
all the work. It’s our industry, and as growers we’re
a part of that.”
Consumers should be able to have confidence in
the chicken they buy, she says. For example, the public
doesn’t know that chicken farmers are licensed and that
they must be audited every year to keep that licence.
Recently Coers volunteered with the BC Chicken
Marketing Board to participate in a supermarket
campaign that would put consumers in touch with
chicken farmers. The idea was to put a face on a
farmer and give consumers the opportunity to ask
farmers questions, says Coers, who spent time in a
grocery store in the nearby town of Salmon Arm.
March 3, 2015
Listen first
The campaign was modelled after a similar campaign by beef
producers. Hallmark, a local chicken processor, supplied free samples of chicken.
Coers put together a PowerPoint presentation of pictures from
her farm showing the chickens at all stages of development. The
photos were interspersed with facts about chicken farming and
loaded onto a computer tablet that sat on a nearby table for easy
viewing by those who were interested.
Most of the interest came from shoppers with young children.
“Not too many people had concerns and there was only one vegetarian,” says Coers, who wonders if more people would have had
questions in a more urban store.
As a school trustee, Coers has also made it known that her farm
is available for school tours. Chickens are part of the kindergarten
curriculum in British Columbia, so Coers has had kindergarten
classes come to the farm.
While visitors are off limits on most chicken farms due to biosecurity risks, the Coers installed a large roll-up door in their barn when
they had it built. This allows people to get a good look inside the barn
without having to go inside and risk spreading disease.
“Kids are the future,” says Coers. “And if we set the record
straight with them they’ll tell their parents.”
The Farm and Food Care Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to providing credible information about agriculture. It provides an ag
ambassador tool kit on its website and training workshops across Canada.
Go to the website at for more details.
March 3, 2015
For Emily den Haan, 24, who grew up on a
purebred Holstein dairy farm near Alliston, Ont.,
farming is second nature. She says she took that for
granted until she left the farm to attend the University of Guelph.
While pursuing a minor in music, den Haan
interacted with a lot of students who didn’t come
from farms. It was an eye-opener for her. “People
had a lot of assumptions and a lot of questions. I
could see there was a real disconnect between the
farm and the non-farming public.”
After completing her degree, den Haan returned
to the farm. She and her father manage the farm
while her mother and older sister, Marianne, run
the new dairy-processing plant where they bottle
whole milk and make yogurt and kefir. They offer
tours of the barn and the dairy to individuals and
groups on a regular basis.
The tours give den Haan the opportunity to
share her passion for farming, she says. “People
have lots of questions about antibiotics, GMOs,
organic and neonics.”
Sometimes people challenge her, and her first
reaction is to get defensive. She says then you have
to take a step back, take the emotion out of it, and
use your knowledge to answer them. “You want to
find out what they do know. It will help you with
your answer,” she says. And you have to bring it
down to their level so they understand, she adds.
Sometimes den Haan admits she doesn’t have
the answers to their questions. She says sometimes
she discovers it’s just the way they’ve always done
things and there may actually be a better way.
“When you dig down for the answer, it can help
you as a producer.”
Den Haan’s parents, John and Bonnie, have
always been active volunteers and have instilled
the value of volunteerism in their children. She has
also participated in the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s
Grains in Action program which gives young farmers from across the province a better understanding
of what happens to their corn, soybeans and wheat
crops after they are delivered to the elevator.
While the program primarily helps participants have a better understanding of the full value
chain in production, it also better prepares them to
answer questions from the media.
Den Haan also shares her passion for agricultural education as a youth adviser for Ontario AgriFood Education Inc. (Agriculture in the Classroom
program). Since it’s only been six years since den
Haan was in high school, she’s able to use her experience to help get youth engaged.
“It’s very rewarding to see people learn something new,” says den Haan with a smile. CG 61
h e a lt h
Tuberculosis — Are you at risk?
By Marie Berry
ften simply called TB, tuberculosis also used to be called “consumption” and you are probably familiar
with the symptoms from movies and
books. These symptoms include a
long-lasting cough, chest pain, coughing up blood,
and weakness.
In 1926, health reports cited tuberculosis as the
cause of one out of every 13 deaths. Historically,
it was a common disease affecting both famous
and regular people equally. Robert Browning, John
Keats, King Henry VII of England, and Florence
Nightingale were reputed to have had tuberculosis.
More recently, individuals like Vivian Leigh, Tom
Jones, and Ringo Starr were affected in their youth.
Today, the risk of contracting tuberculosis is small,
thanks to various medications and less congested living conditions with improved sanitation. However,
about 1,600 new cases are reported in Canada each
year, with the highest incidence of tuberculosis among
25- to 44-year-old people, and First Nations and Inuit
having the greatest risk.
Women seem to account for most cases until the
older ages are reached when men seem to have an
increased incidence. Perhaps these trends arise from
women being in the home more often and potentially
in contact with others with tuberculosis. Then, as
men age, they have more medical conditions that
impact their health.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by a bacteria
known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It affects the
lungs most commonly since this is the site where the
bacteria are usually first breathed in. However, the
bacteria can spread to the kidney, spine, and brain. If
not treated, the infection can result in death, so early
diagnosis and treatment is key.
The disease is transmitted by droplets spread by
an infected person when they exhale. An uninfected
person breathes these droplets into their lungs, and
when the bacteria from the droplets begin multiplying
in their lungs, the new person becomes infected. Some
people, when they are exposed to the bacteria, do
not become infected, a phenomenon termed “latent
tuberculosis.” Their body is able to stop the bacteria
from multiplying so the bacteria become inactive,
although they are still alive and may be active later.
It is for this reason, that anyone who comes into contact with an infected person needs to be treated.
About 10 per cent of people who are infected will
develop tuberculosis some time during their lives,
and the chances are the greatest during the first two
years after exposure. Thus, after exposure, you don’t
know if or when you might develop the disease, but a
healthy immune system seems to be key.
If you already have an immune system that is not
healthy, then exposure to tuberculosis increases the risk
for the disease. Babies and young children may not have
fully developed immune systems. Diseases that affect the
immune system such as HIV infections or cancer, and
even diseases like diabetes can increase your risk.
Any drugs that impair the immune system can add
to the risk, for example anti-rejection drugs for organ
transplants, rheumatoid arthritis drugs, and drugs of
abuse. Heavy cigarette smoking, low birth weight,
and malnutrition may also weaken the immune system and thus raise the risk.
Tuberculosis is not spread as easily as the common
cold or flu, but it is the same type of spread, i.e. droplet
spread. While the common cold or flu can be spread
through contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs or
handshaking, tuberculosis is not. However, if you spend
several hours with an infected person, you are likely to
breathe in contaminated droplets, and if you are sharing a crowded home, your chances increase. Families
sharing cramped living spaces, nursing home residents,
prison inmates, and health-care professionals working
with people with tuberculosis are at greatest risk. People
with a low socio-economic status also seem to have a
greater risk, perhaps because of crowded living quarters,
homelessness, or maybe even inadequate treatment.
Today, antibiotics are the cornerstone of tuberculosis
treatment and are used both for anyone who has come
into contact with the disease or actually has the disease.
A six- to nine-month course of treatment is needed, and
if it is not completed, the infection may remain, with the
bacteria becoming resistant to the antibiotics.
Tuberculosis treatment is one prescription where
you want to follow the instructions carefully and
finish all your antibiotics.
Marie Berry is a lawyer/pharmacist interested in
health and education.
Using eye drops can be difficult, and if you need to use them regularly, it can be a challenge. Sometimes,
the drops drip from the eye or you “hit” your cheek with the drop, and if you routinely use two different
ones, you may not know which to use first. Next issue, we’ll talk about eye drops and how to use them most
62 March 3, 2015
“What should I wear to church?” We
are in Phoenix, Arizona, and have been
invited to attend a large, theatre-style
church in the desert. “You can wear what
you want. From jeans to a suit and tie,
anything goes.” Perhaps I was overdressed
in a blazer, slacks and shiny shoes, but I
don’t think anyone noticed or cared.
When I was not paying attention to the sermon, I reflected
on “church clothes.” At one time a certain standard of dress
was expected. Only the best would do when meeting the
Lord. Sadly, I recall a family saying they did not attend church
because they could not afford the obligatory clothes.
Apparently there is a debate about church clothes. Some
churches encourage people to wear casual clothing. They
quote verses such as 1 Samuel 16:7 “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Other
churches consider worship a time for “Sunday best.” They
quote Psalm 24 “ascend to the hill of the Lord with clean
hands and pure hearts.”
Gone are the days when men owned one suit and wore
it for weddings, funerals and church services, while women
looked for a new hat each Easter. “Smart casual” is in.
A man attended a church for many months. One Sunday he
sat in his usual spot with his hat on. An usher reminded him
that he was wearing his hat. A few minutes later the chair of
the church committee gave a gentle reminder that he had his
hat on. The man sat waiting for the service to begin. Then the
head server spoke to him, followed by the choir leader. Word
spread. “There is a man sitting in church with his hat on.”
The president of the women’s group and the parish treasurer
spoke to the offender. He sat unconvinced. The pastor came
and pleaded with the man to remove his hat. Finally the man
spoke: “I have been coming to this church for many months
and no one has spoken to me. Today I have met all these
people, and I have even met you!”
Trevor Mwamba in his book, Dancing Sermons, tells a
story from an English cathedral, the sort of place where nothing appears to have changed for centuries. “It was a glorious
hot day in August, and a girl arrived in a bright coloured
beach robe. She prayed devoutly for some time.”
“Inside the cathedral the temperature rose to 95 degrees F and
the girl sensibly shed her beach robe. Beneath the beach robe was
a bikini of remarkably skimpy dimensions!” Trevor says this was
too much for the cathedral staff who, after a hurried conference,
consulted the clergy for advice in coping with this emergency.
The clergy in charge were not noted for quick decisions.
What was to be done about the girl in the bikini? Could she
be persuaded to replace the bath robe? Would she move to a
cooler part of the building? One elderly priest suggested the
decorum of the cathedral was at great risk. The senior cleric,
called a dean and noted for sound theological principles, was
“incapable of constructive thought.” Mwamba says, “In true
Anglican fashion, they unanimously decided to do nothing at
all. Leave her alone and hope for the best.”
At the next staff meeting they concluded that of all the
people who had gathered for worship, the girl in the bikini
was the only one who was suitably dressed for the occasion.
Suggested Scripture: Luke 12:27-34, Colossians 3:12-1
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Rod Andrews is a retired Anglican bishop. He lives in Saskatoon.
©2015 Farm Business Communications
March 3, 2015 63
By Leeann Minogue
Please answer the phone!
By the morning of the third day, Dale Hanson was worried
“I don’t know why he’s not answering his
phone,” Dale said to his wife Donna.
“Remember the last time you got all worked up
about Ed not answering the phone?” Donna said,
looking up from her magazine. “He was at a fish
fry in the trailer court.”
The first year his father had packed up and
headed south to spend the winter in Arizona, Ed
had phoned home at least once a day. Now that
he’d made friends in the Yuma trailer court and
was spending most of his time with his girlfriend
Helen, Ed’s social life was more active than the rest
of the Hansons at home on their farm in southeast
Dale ignored his wife and went down the hall to
his office. “This has gone on long enough. What if
something’s wrong? I’m going to look up the number for the trailer park office.”
While Dale was using Google to find the phone
number, his son Jeff knocked on the door and came
in. Donna poured him some coffee and passed him
a slice of poppy seed cake.
“You haven’t made this for ages,” Jeff was telling his mother when Dale came back.
“Answering machine. The office is closed for
the weekend,” Dale muttered.
“You still haven’t got hold of Grandpa?” Jeff
64 asked. “Do you think maybe he decided to come
home early?”
That would have been a relief. In the past few
weeks, every time Dale or Jeff had asked Ed when
he planned to come home from his winter holiday,
Ed had dodged the question. “First you couldn’t
wait for me to go, now you can’t wait for me to
get home,” he’d said last week. “I don’t know why
you’re in such a rush to get me back to that farm.
Can’t you do some of the work without me?”
It wasn’t that they needed Ed to do all the work,
of course, but Dale and Jeff knew it was going to
be a busy spring. With all the crop disease across
the Prairies, the Hansons’ phones had been ringing
non-stop with calls from farmers trying to track
down seed for 2015.
“What do you mean, you don’t have any more
durum,” one frustrated caller had shouted. “It says
you do, right here in the seed guide.”
“We had a little left last month,” Dale had said,
trying to keep calm. “But it’s spoken for now.”
He’d put that caller on the growing waiting list.
“Too bad we took anything to the elevator at all
last year,” Dale told his wife. “We could probably
get a premium selling pumpkin seeds from your
garden in this market.”
But now, in March, with most of their seed sold
March 3, 2015
at a reasonable price, the Hansons were starting to
worry about who, exactly, was going to be in the
yard to load that seed into their customers’ trucks.
They would need someone almost full time in the
yard, as well as someone running the tractor and
keeping the cart filled during seeding.
“Grandpa hasn’t seemed very interested in the
farm this winter,” Jeff said to his father. “What if
this is the year he decides he doesn’t want to work
“People retire,” Donna said. “It’s not out of the
“You don’t expect Ed to retire,” Dale said. “I
just wish he’d answer his phone. He’s almost 80,
you know. And living by himself.”
“He’s not by himself,” Donna said. “Helen will
be with him, wherever he is.”
“He has his own trailer,” Dale said. Dale liked
Helen, everyone did, but he still wasn’t quite ready
to admit his father was living with her.
“Would you be happier if he spent all day on
the phone with you? Wishing he was here?” Donna
asked. “Or better yet, do you want him to spend
all winter here? Driving out from town to spend his
days with you in the shop?”
Dale sighed. “I’m just worried, that’s all.”
“Every year it’s the same thing,” Jeff said. “We
think we’ve got everything handled, then we run
around in a panic, trying to figure out who’s going
to do all the work. Between people from Indonesia answering our online ads and retired farmers
breaking their ankles falling out of our tractor
cabs, figuring out how to keep farm help is going
to drive me berserk.”
Jeff was right. Keeping skilled operators in all
the equipment was one of the main challenges the
Hansons had faced over the past few years.
“Maybe we should try another ad,” Donna
said. “I know it didn’t go well last time, but the
economy’s a little different this spring.”
Dale and Jeff nodded. With lower oil prices,
there was already less traffic on the road in front of
the Hansons’ farm.
“The last time we were going to advertise,”
Dale reminded his wife, “you stepped up and took
a seat in the combine. Maybe if we wait a few
weeks, that’ll happen again. You might like running the sprayer. Do you even know how fast it can
“Nice try,” Donna said. “But I’ve had these
plane tickets to Peru for three months, and I’m not
letting those other five women hike up that mountain without me.”
Dale was quietly shaking his head, wondering
what had gone wrong with the universe, and why
March 3, 2015
nobody in his family could ever just stay home
when his cellphone rang.
He looked at the screen and breathed a sigh of
relief. It was Ed.
“Dad! It’s good to finally hear from you! I was
starting to think something was wrong!”
“For crying out loud, son. I’m not an invalid.
You don’t have to phone me every five minutes to
make sure I’m still alive.”
“It’s been three days since you’ve answered my
“You should find something else to do. We went
up to Mesa to visit one of Helen’s cousins. Since
we were there, we thought we might as well take a
look at Flagstaff.”
Dale was quietly shaking
his head, wondering what
had gone wrong with the
universe, and why nobody
in his family could ever
just stay home
“Can’t you answer your cellphone?”
“When I’m driving? And I’m not going to
answer my phone when I’m standing on a platform
looking out over the Grand Canyon, am I? Do you
want me to fall into the gorge?”
“All right, all right. We were just wondering
when you’re coming home. It’s getting pretty warm
up here, and we’re going to have seed buyers lined
up out the driveway by the first of April.”
“Oh?” Ed said, sounding like he hadn’t given
the whole thing any thought at all. “I don’t have
any idea when we’ll be home. I’ll have to see what
Helen wants to do. I called to see if you could help
me out. I signed up for one of those hotel chain
points cards. It probably came in my mail. Could
you root through my stack and find it?”
Dale took down Ed’s details, then pressed the
button on his cellphone to cut off the call.
“Might as well try another ad, Jeff,” Dale said
to his son. “Doesn’t look like anyone around here
wants to work.”
Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews, a playwright and part of a family grain farm in southeastern Saskatchewan. 65
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