November / December 2021
ENTREPRENEURS IN AGRICULTURE
in adversity Family values guide Alberta producers on and off the farm
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in adversity By Natalie Noble
Wide-ranging Drought Ramifications
Big Prices, Big Decisions
A Farmer’s Viewpoint by Kevin Hursh
Livestock Health by Alexis Kienlen
Defining “Adequate Rainfall” for Herbicide
Grain Market Analysis
Those Wily Weeds
by Scott Shiels
by Tammy Jones
Withholding Fertilizer Likely to Hurt Your Yield
How to Read a Water Quality Test Result
by Jessika Guse
by Tom Wolf
How to Talk to Your Banker
Farming Your Money
by Natalie Noble
KEVIN HURSH 4
by Paul Kuntz
DEVISED ON THE PRAIRIES. FOR THE PRAIRIES. Our new homegrown pre-seed herbicide gets the toughest weeds. Inspired by our local herbicide team, new Smoulder™ was designed to manage the most difficult weeds that thrive out here. It provides burndown of emerged weeds – even tough perennials and resistant weeds – as well as residual control of secondary flushes of volunteer canola. In short, this prime example of Prairie ingenuity delivers everything you want in a pre-seed herbicide ahead of wheat and barley. Visit agsolutions.ca/pre-seed to learn more about Smoulder and the rest of the BASF pre-seed herbicide portfolio, including Certitude® and Voraxor™.
Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions, CERTITUDE and KIXOR are registered trade-marks of BASF; all used under license by BASF Canada Inc. © 2021 BASF Canada Inc. Canadian trademark registration has been applied for and is pending for Smoulder™ and Voraxor™.
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Regular Contributors Kevin Hursh Tammy Jones Paul Kuntz
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Nikki Mullett Nerissa McNaughton
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WIDE-RANGING DROUGHT RAMIFICATIONS | A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT
Wide-ranging Drought Ramifications Kevin Hursh, P.Ag. Kevin Hursh is one of the country’s leading agricultural commentators. He is an agrologist, journalist and farmer. Kevin and his wife Marlene run Hursh Consulting & Communications based in Saskatoon. They also own and operate a farm near Cabri in southwest Saskatchewan growing a wide variety of crops. Kevin writes for a number of agricultural publications and serves as executive director for the Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan and the Inland Terminal Association of Canada (ITAC). Twitter: @KevinHursh1
The growing season of 2021 will be indelibly etched in the minds of farmers and in the pages of record books. Not since 1988 has there been a drought of comparable extent and severity on the Canadian prairies. The ramifications will continue well into the next growing season and beyond. Will production rebound in 2022 or is this a multi-year problem? That’s the multibillion-dollar question. Precipitation deficits are huge, but many regions have had late summer and early fall rains. Others though, remain bone dry. Unless abundant precipitation arrives, the general trend will be reduced fertilizer use. Producers are hoping fall soil tests show much greater than normal residual nitrogen reducing the need for fertilizer. The ever-increasing price of fertilizer will also be a big incentive to cut back. Numerous factors have combined to push prices higher on nearly all the major nutrients. Fertilizer costs also influence seeding decisions. When nitrogen is expensive, soybeans, peas and lentils become more attractive cropping options. Canola becomes less attractive. Seed will be more expensive than ever because many grain prices are at record or near record levels. Seed supply is likely to be a problem, particularly on certain varieties. It’s a good idea to lock in your seed supply early. 9
A FARMER’S VIEWPOINT | WIDE-RANGING DROUGHT RAMIFICATIONS In addition to fertilizer and seed, expect to pay more for almost every other input. Inflation is real and it may be more than a short-term issue. Pre-pricing of next year’s crop will be a dicey game. With many producers having to buy out deferred delivery contracts due to drought-reduced production, there will be less appetite to price what you haven’t yet produced. And after the sky-high prices for most commodities following harvest, new crop prices will have to be very attractive to garner interest. Production contracts with an Act of God clause negate the risk of contract buyouts, but prices will still need to be strong to encourage sign up. Only time will tell, but unlike 2021, 2022 could end up as a year when pre-pricing pays off. Companies are going to be eager to lock up some deliveries. It will be a lean winter for all the businesses that rely on grain volume. Grain companies and the railways won’t get much sympathy for reduced grain volume cutting into their bottom lines. However, custom truckers will also be hit hard. Not only is there less grain to move to market, but there’s likely to be less fertilizer movement to input suppliers and farmers. Even in times with much less market volatility and much greater grain volumes, some specialty crop buyers have run into financial difficulty. ILTA Grain and Canpulse Foods are recent examples. Given the current drought challenges, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more companies in trouble. An added complication is the container shipping malaise which is disrupting schedules and greatly increasing costs. In my opinion, it’s a bad idea to defer grain cheques. The licensing and bonding provisions of the Canadian Grain Commission provide pretty good protection against non-
It may be more important than ever to have your crop protection products lined up well in advance. Farm equipment parts are also a worry, but it’s difficult to stock up in advance on everything that might need to be repaired. payment, but on deferred cheques you quickly go beyond the prescribed timeframe and then there’s no payment protection. Some producers found this out the hard way. The drought effects are in addition to the ongoing battle against COVID. Supply chain disruptions were a worry back in 2020 when the pandemic first began. Most of those concerns were unfounded, but as the country battles a fourth wave, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, supply chain issues seem to be getting worse. It may be more important than ever to have your crop protection products lined up well in advance. Farm equipment parts are also a worry, but it’s difficult to stock up in advance on everything that might need to be repaired. As a grain farmer who had a dismal crop, I still feel much less beleaguered than my cattle producing neighbours worried about whether they’ve scraped enough feed supply together to get through the winter. My heart goes out to those producers.
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GROWING CONFIDENCE WITH RESULTS. NEW
See how InVigor® hybrid canola is performing near you. Go to InVigorResults.ca for: • Replicated yield results from your area • Results for Pod Shatter Reduction hybrids • Results for clubroot-resistant hybrids • Competitive comparisons – see why more growers choose InVigor We’re updating our hybrid leaderboard with new results weekly, so be sure to check back often. For more information, contact BASF AgSolutions® Customer Care at 1-877-371-BASF (2273).
Always read and follow label directions. AgSolutions and INVIGOR are registered trade-marks of BASF, used under license by BASF Canada Inc. © 2021 BASF Canada Inc. John Deere’s green and yellow color scheme, the leaping deer symbol, and John Deere are trademarks of Deere & Company.
GRAIN MARKET ANALYSIS | CONTRACT ROLLOVER
Contract Rollover By now pretty much everyone across the Prairies should have their crop in the bin, but there’s likely far too much bin space left over after what could only be described as a very disappointing harvest. In a year like this, there are situations occurring that are very much out of the ordinary, and knowing how to handle them, and how best to work through the problems, becomes very important. Scott Shiels Scott grew up in Killarney, Man., and has been in the grain industry for more than 25 years. He has been with Grain Millers Canada for five years, doing both conventional and organic grain procurement as well as marketing for their mills. Scott lives in Yorkton, Sask., with his wife Jenn. www.grainmillers.com
The first thing that I want to cover, or more so clarify, is the meaning of “replacement cost” when there is a shortfall on a contract. This year with the small crop, many producers are being pressed by buyers to “buy out”, or more correctly termed, “buy in” for their contracts. For most of us in the industry, the cost to buy in the grain to fill a contract is determined by the replacement cost of the grain. Now, most producers assume that this price is based off the current bids being offered, but that is not the case. Replacement cost is the price at which the buyer could go and buy the tonnage needed to fill their contract immediately at that time. In many cases, like what we have experienced this fall, that price can vary greatly from the bids being posted at the time. This discrepancy has caused some confusion and, in some cases, some very heated discussions between producer and buyer. There most likely are a lot of individuals on both sides of this that have little to no experience in dealing with this type of situation, so a better understanding definitely is needed here. Another big source of confusion this fall has been regarding contract rollovers. Here at Grain Millers, we roll contracts to the following crop year with no penalty or cost to the producer. However, most of the line grain companies, if they will offer a rollover at all, do them differently. In the event a producer and buyer agree to roll contract tonnage over to the following year, the buyers will take the current price, or replacement price, less the contract price, and that will be the price that the producer receives when he does fill the contract. While this likely seems unfair, essentially the grain company is just deferring the cost of the buy in on the contract to help the producer avoid having to actually cut a cheque for the amount that it costs the grain company to replace that grain. Understanding how processes like these work can go a long way towards maintaining a strong and healthy relationship between buyers and sellers in these situations. And, as we all know, in this business, good relationships are one of the keys to success on both sides. Until next time…
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Bayer is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Bayer products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Bayer’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. These products have been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from these products can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for these products. Excellence Through Stewardship ® is a registered trademark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® Technology contains genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate. LibertyLink® Technology contains genes that confer tolerance to glufosinate. Glyphosate will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Glufosinate will kill crops that are not tolerant to glufosinate. Bayer, Bayer Cross, BUTEO™, DEKALB and Design®, DEKALB ®, Roundup Ready® and TruFlex™ are trademarks of Bayer Group. Used under license. LibertyLink® is a registered trademark of BASF. Used under license. Bayer CropScience Inc. is a member of CropLife Canada. ©2021 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.
FERTILIZER | WITHHOLDING FERTILIZER LIKELY TO HURT YOUR YIELD
Withholding Fertilizer Likely to Hurt Your Yield By Jessika Guse
When times are tough, the first thing most people do is try to find a solution to whatever the problem may be. In farming, tough times are typically translated into a loss of revenue from the previous year with the solution being a reduction of farm inputs for the year ahead. At the current inflation rate of the price of fertilizer, and with no sign of the cost rescinding anytime soon, some may look at the way they dress the crop and as most call it, “sharpening their pencils,” to where they can cut back a bit. The increase in cost is being attributed to supply and demand along with geopolitical volatility and the fact that production hasn’t stopped, but the amount in storage has greatly dwindled. New Norway, Alta., farmer and agronomist Scott Keller can think back to times when he’s done both the cutback and the over-application. Both results surprised him. “I’ve seen a crop like our malt barley where we’ve been way too light on nitrogen, because we’re worried about protein,” says Keller. “The maltster that primarily sells to craft brewers doesn’t want protein over 11.5. So, we have to be cognizant of that where we’re under fertilizing our malt barley by at least 10 per cent. Last year was a good indication where we saw [the maltsters] cut our contracts back just before spring because of what happened with the stadiums being closed because of the pandemic, and so there was low, low demand for malt. And I mean, you already had your fertilizer bought, 16
“You’re always blown away by what a good year can do and you get higher than what you’d expect for yields and you go well, ‘how the heck did I grow that crop?” - Scott Keller and you had this land slated to go into barley … sure you could have put it into another crop, but you’re going, ‘well I’ll be growing it for feed, I guess.” Keller upped his nitrogen rates by 10 to 15 per cent and had an above average rainfall last year. He says it was some of his best barley in his farming career. Keller says his protein was still on the low side for that crop, so his initial reaction was a bit of shock as he thought the opposite would happen. On the other hand, he’s also over-applied in the spring due to having the goal every farmer has with gaining a higher yield. “You’re always blown away by what a good year can do and you get higher than what you’d expect for yields and you go well, ‘how the heck did I grow that crop?’ As you want to keep increasing your yield goals, you get to a point where you’ve
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FERTILIZER | WITHHOLDING FERTILIZER LIKELY TO HURT YOUR YIELD
“I think [there’s] rising costs, but there’s also rising prices out there and the decision on the level of fertility ... I think the big picture is that the price that you’re getting, and the anticipated yields, along with the costs all need to be considered.” - Guy Keeler put too much nitrogen on in the spring and it just causes you to grow straw and you deal with lodging and things like that.” With more than 10 years in a variable rate zone management plan, Keller recommends others to follow suit as now they’re just having to maintain soil. Though it’s easier said than done, he went on to say they’re at a point where they can maximize crop production so it’s worth the extra calculations.
Soil test first, questions second When you interview any agronomist, their first answer to almost any and every question is that you should start with a soil test to understand what kind of earth you’re dealing with. For Guy Keeler, the saying holds true when it comes to a farmer thinking about cutting back on their fertilizer application for the year. Keeler, a field scout and soil crop fertility planner with Western Ag for Northwest Saskatchewan explained that a simple soil test is the starting point for or determining what your optimum applied fertility should be. If a producer was looking to hold back on fertilizer, he put it simply: their yields would likely drop. Having more than 20 years in the agronomy business, Keeler says he had mixed reviews when it comes to people withholding the crop nutrient just to save a little in their pocketbook. “I think [there’s] rising costs, but there’s also rising prices out there and the decision on the level of fertility ... I think the big picture is that the price that you’re getting, and the anticipated yields, along with the costs all need to be considered,” explains Keeler. “There’s other costs that are, by and large, independent of the cost of the cost of fertilizer, and the amount of fertilizer that’s put on - those costs are all rising. If you cut back on fertilizer and sacrifice yield, then you put all of that other input money at risk as well, not just the fertilizer dollars.” 18
Aerial shot of a sprayer fertilizing the crop. Image courtesy Landon Friesen
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GROWING YOUR WORK OF ART
The visionary design of Proven® Seed shines through from every angle. Our leading-edge technology offers a whole new perspective on canola, cereals, corn, soybeans and forages. Whether you’re looking for high yields and performance from every seed across all acres, or specific herbicide systems and disease management, we know there’s a Proven Seed that fits your field. Only available at Nutrien Ag Solutions® retail. Visit ProvenSeed.ca to learn more.
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FERTILIZER | WITHHOLDING FERTILIZER LIKELY TO HURT YOUR YIELD
“When [farmers] make a decision to put down a certain amount of fertilizer, they make a decision to go with any other crop inputs, or buy equipment or buy land - all of the risks are kind of out on the table and considered along with the potential payoffs.” - Guy Keeler The risk factor being if you hold off for one year, you might end up having to pay even more for the loss in nutrients for the years to come. The risk, Keeler says, just isn’t worth it in the long run. “When [farmers] make a decision to put down a certain amount of fertilizer, they make a decision to go with any other crop inputs, or buy equipment or buy land - all of the risks are kind of out on the table and considered along with the potential payoffs,” he says. “So, I think when it comes to sharpening pencils, it’s about getting those decisions right and about every decision that’s made should be weighed, kind of in a cost–benefit, risk perspective and decide accordingly.”
A farmer sprays his crop with fertilizer during sunrise. Image courtesy Landon Friesen
As mentioned, with any farm decision made, there’s a level of risk that farmers take on a daily basis. Keeler says, in hindsight, there will be times where a person wished they didn’t hold off or should have applied more, but with Mother Nature being one of the biggest factors to how the crop grows, farmers can’t know what their outcome would be until they take that initial risk. He notes in certain circumstances, backing off on fertilizer may not give you a penalty when it comes to yield; however, it’s likely to do with the type of soil conditions a farmer has as compared to the application of fertilizer itself. “Because maybe the soil isn’t particularly deficient in the particular type of fertilizer that’s being cut back on. If that’s the case, then no fertilizer is required or less fertilizer is required. So that’s where the soil test comes in to make sure we’ve got those initial conditions with crop fertility, all the macronutrients are known and that picture is kind of painted.” Keeler says only once the tests are complete, farmers can truly design their crop durability or optimize fertility around whatever the soil results bring up. Though there’s no silver bullet guideline on how this will look as soil types vary per region. “Even from an environmental perspective, a well-fed crop does a lot for the soil,” he explains, going on to say from a practical business standpoint, there is no ‘wiggle room’ when it comes to withholding a little or all fertilizer just to save a buck.
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COVER STORY | OPPORTUNITIES IN ADVERSITY
The Steeves purchased Kevin’s grandparents’ home quarter near Hoadley, Alta., in 2014. Since then, they have steadily grown their farm to a diverse rotation of wheat, barley, yellow peas, oats, canola and winter wheat and faba beans while custom seeding and spraying for others nearby. 22
OPPORTUNITIES IN ADVERSITY | COVER STORY
IN ADVERSITY Family values guide Alberta producers on and off the farm By Natalie Noble Photography By Dave Brunner At the turn of the century, nine-year-old Kevin Steeves sat at his desk in the fourth grade classroom at Bluffton School, planning his career. “That year I told my teacher I was going to go to Olds College and then come home to farm,” he says. What Mrs Boyes thought of this announcement we may never know. What matters is Kevin made good on his word. “Shortly after graduating from Olds College, I started renting some of her and her husband’s land. I still call her Mrs Boyes, too,” he says with a laugh. Today, Kevin and his wife Rosalie farm family land near his grandparents’ original homestead near Hoadley, Alta., while custom seeding and spraying for others nearby. With three children aged four and under, the couple also own and operate Renuu Production Optimization. The rapidly growing oil and gas company uses clean bio-tech and has already expanded throughout the province, spanning from the Grande Prairie area into Gull Lake, Sask., in a few short years. It’s a lot to manage, but the Steeves say it works because of their strong family foundation. “Family is top priority for us,” says Kevin. “Emotionally and geographically, we’re all pretty close together as neighbours. We thrive on integrity and our desire to help others, but we never forget family and we know that work will always be there.” It’s no surprise Kevin is where he is today given his roots. His grandma and grandpa Healy farm near Milo, Alta. “Grandpa Healy and my uncle on my mom’s side are all still involved in agriculture,” says Kevin. “My dad’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Steeves, bought the land I farm today about 70 years ago. Rosalie and I are raising the fourth generation as our kids grow up on this farm in the house my dad grew up in. I’ve got lots of mentorship and grounding on both sides of my family.”
As Kevin grew up, his parents farmed just down the road from his grandparents, moving closer to rent their land as the elder Steeves transitioned into retirement. In grade nine, adversity altered the course of Kevin’s life profoundly when it was discovered his mom had a brain tumour. “My brothers and I stepped in to take care of the farm along with my grandparents,” he says. “I was taking more of a leadership role at quite a young age thanks to incredible support from my dad and grandparents. I worked hard and started to make a few management decisions. It was the first major hurdle we went through as a family and it changed the trajectory of my life.” As neighbours and family stepped in to help out, Kevin was given the opportunity to take the reins and run with the farm that summer. His earlier commitment to return home after college to farming and family was set in stone. In 2011, Kevin followed his plan, earning his Agricultural Management diploma majoring in Production at Olds College. “It was a lot of fun and I made lifelong friends there,” he says. “The mentorship and friendship of the people and my classmates there were at least equally valuable to the education. I have this amazing network throughout Western Canada to bounce ideas off.” Soon after graduation, Kevin and Rosalie began dating in 2012. Given where her future was headed, Rosalie’s natural easygoing sense of adventure has served her well. “I have zero farming roots,” she says. “I was raised on an acreage near Pigeon Lake my whole life and neither of my parents farmed. When I started dating Kevin it was a complete learning curve.” That same year, Kevin purchased a tractor and drill to custom seed for farmers in the Hoadley area and contract operate with his dad. While he’d been renting farmland since high 23
COVER STORY | OPPORTUNITIES IN ADVERSITY
Hoadley farmers Kevin and Rosalie Steeves are raising the fourth generation of Steeves on the land his grandparents bought 70 years ago and the home his dad grew up in.
“Family is top priority for us. Emotionally and geographically, we’re all pretty close together as neighbours. We thrive on integrity and our desire to help others, but we never forget family and we know that work will always be there.” - Kevin Steeves
from seeding to spraying, trucking, and harvesting,” he says. “It’s mostly me running equipment and Rosalie is my support staff running for parts, bringing meals and keeping the kids fed. We’re also grateful that my parents, in-laws, and both our siblings help out when they can.”
school, in 2014 Kevin seized the opportunity to purchase his grandparents’ home quarter. Since then, he and Rosalie have steadily grown their farm, which now includes a diverse rotation of wheat, barley, yellow peas, oats, canola and winter wheat, occasionally adding faba beans. In 2017, he purchased a sprayer to add custom spraying to his contract offerings. That custom work has turned into longer term rental agreements as neighbours around the Steeves slow down and retire, a win-win for the community.
Throughout the time building up the farm, Kevin also worked as a Canadian field representative for an oil and gas optimization company based out of Oklahoma. “I helped grow that company until the oil crash in late 2014 to early 2015,” says Kevin. “Their product consisted of live microbes but they were categorized under the cost code line as chemical in the oil and gas industry. When companies start lowering their budgets, chemical is one of the first things they knock off. They’ll switch from a preventative program to a reactionary model in operating their wells. We started losing work and three years after the day I started, I was laid off as the company left Canadian operations.”
Despite his full plate, Kevin prefers to take on as much work as a 24-hour day will allow. “Typically, I’m doing most everything 24
While Kevin likes to think of himself as a John Deere guy, he laughs and says he runs a “mixed operation” when it comes to machinery, which includes a New Holland combine, a John Deere sprayer and ConservaPak drill and a Massey Ferguson tractor. “We’ve always used what’s most economical for us at the time. We’re not stuck to one breed of equipment around here.” All the Steeves’ commodities are sold through line companies besides some barley used as silage for Kevin’s parents’ purebred Charolais cattle and sold to a few neighbours.
OPPORTUNITIES IN ADVERSITY | COVER STORY
Farming family land, custom seeding and spraying, running and operating Renuu Production Optimization, Kevin and Rosalie Steeves have three children under five. The young couple manage everything thanks to family support and their Christian faith. “We work together in our marriage, on the farm and in the business. We’re two strong minds who meet as partners in everything we do,” says Kevin.
Although out of work, he wasn’t out of optimism. Kevin quickly devised a plan. “I had seen what these microbes could do, so I asked the supplier if I could start my own company using this product. They had no problem with that and agreed to sell it to me,” he says. “In the span of less than 30 days I’d been laid off, started my new company and Rosalie and I got married. I was 23 and that was the beginning of our hectic life.” Most Prairie dwellers have a general understanding of the oilfield and are connected to someone who’s worked in the industry in one form or another. However, the optimization service Kevin provides is a cutting-edge technology that will likely see others soon follow. “We use micro-organisms to break down wax, scale and asphaltenes, inhibit corrosion and knock out H2S on oil and gas wells throughout Western Canada,” explains Kevin. “These micro-organisms take the place of conventional chemical programs most oil companies are using. This technology is typically more economically viable for our customers and more environmentally safe for operators and landowners. As the energy sector, its stakeholders and the general public all shift to prioritizing green and clean environmental solutions, niche products like this will become more mainstream.” As Kevin and Rosalie ventured into the business, they originally came up with the name Clean N Green Buggers - a literal summary of what the business provided. “We were just keeping our heads above water,” says Kevin. “Oil prices were still ugly, so work was up and down. Then we hit a stagnant stage.”
Knowing they had a winning product, but perhaps not the right outward approach, they enlisted a marketing agency, which helped them rebrand as Renuu by 2018. “The new name and brand captured what we were trying to do, what the company meant to us, and we hit the ground running,” says Kevin. “Since then, we’ve seen exponential growth. This was another huge pivot for us.” Three years later, Renuu’s daily sales match pre-rebrand monthly numbers. “We made it through the slowdown and the COVID-related challenges that slowed the oil patch,” says Kevin. “We’re stable in our relationships with the companies we work for and we were able to continue to grow through these hardships.” Serving oil and gas companies from smaller “mom-and-pop” operations to large corporations, Renuu’s technology optimizes production on gas and oil wells and they’re venturing into heavy oil. “We’ve done it all under all sorts of different production methods whether it’s plunger lift, free flowing, pump jacks, we work on any well that exists,” says Kevin. Renuu operates with just Kevin and Rosalie at the helm. “We definitely could use at least one or two more people, but I’m a little stubborn on hiring staff so I make this work fit into my day,” says Kevin. “I’m just waiting to ensure things go well in our move into Saskatchewan and then we’ll be hiring a handful of staff over there, too.” 25
COVER STORY | OPPORTUNITIES IN ADVERSITY
What’s the hold up? It’s the memory of Kevin’s layoff back in 2015. “I’m still leery of having someone else’s family put their trust in us and letting them down if I don’t have enough work for them. I’ve been through that.” As quickly as the business is expanding and given Renuu’s status as one of the only providers using microbes in the industry, they’re well positioned for growth. It’s likely Kevin will see the stability he seeks to bring on help sooner than later. “We have some opportunities to take our business overseas and we’ll see where those go,” says Kevin. “Our goal is to scale up to where each of us can take on more of a management role and we can experience our kids growing up. That’s a big goal of mine getting to where I don’t have to be away from home so much.” Despite Rosalie’s anticipation for more “Kevin time” with the family, she appreciates the value in their temporary sacrifice. “It means so much to us when we hear the customers Kevin works hands-on with in the fields telling other companies about him,” says Rosalie. “Kevin truly has a reputation for honesty. He has a real desire to help these companies out. He’s not in it just to make money. He really is passionate about what the microbes can do for the companies we work with. To hear our customers telling this to other companies is huge for us and speaks volumes about Kevin and the microbes.” At just 30 years old, how does this couple make it all work? If you ask them, it’s all about the help and support from their families and their Christian faith. But an outsider’s perspective also sees a couple who are, beyond anything, the most incredibly supportive partners with matching values towards that prioritize family. “We work together in our marriage, on the farm and in the business,” says Kevin. “We’re two strong minds who meet as partners in everything we do. I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve come through all of this stronger than we’ve ever been.” That strength is going to come in handy with their growing family. You’d think the Steeves are maxed out with everything on the go, but they continue to be present in their community and family. Kevin never misses a routine appointment to donate blood. Rosalie is passionate about brain cancer research since recently losing her father to the disease. Together, they support their local 4-H club and they’re devoted advocates of mental health, especially post-partum depression.
The Steeves started up their oil and gas service company after Kevin was unexpectedly laid off when the company he worked for left Canadian operations. “In the span of less than 30 days I’d been laid off, started my new company and Rosalie and I got married. I was 23 and that was the beginning of our hectic life,” he says. 26
On top of it all, this young and busy couple thrive on an adventure. “We still believe in Sunday drives and the thrill of spontaneity,” says Kevin. “In our early days, we once ended up in Texas. Today, we pack lunches for the kids and drive to Nordegg, the Icefields, wherever the road takes us. I’ll ask Rosie if she’s up for it, she’ll say, ‘yep, okay,’ and off we go. We’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family and we’re sure having fun,” he says with a smile.
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BUSINESS POST-MORTEM | HINDSIGHT’S 20/20
Hindsight’s 20/20 Looking back during the business post-mortem for better farm planning moving forward By Natalie Noble
As the cost of farming across the Prairies continues to rise, creating strong annual farm plans is increasingly important. Experts say an essential planning piece involves looking back, a.k.a. the post-mortem analysis. “In most cases, the cost of farming has doubled from where it was even a decade ago,” says Dave Sullivan, chief operating officer with Global Ag Risk Solutions (GARS). “The best determinant in what’s going to happen next year is what’s happened in your past [and] the reality of what it’s costing you to run your farm.” While farmers can get bogged down in seasonal work, it’s increasingly important to prioritize the annual review. “It’s really important to do the post-mortem as close to harvest’s wrap as we can,” says Peter Manness, farm management consultant with MNP. “What happened relative to what we expected? If they’re waiting for their financial statements, they’ll be well into next year before they see the results and they’ll miss that post-mortem opportunity altogether.”
Historical and annual reporting Proper reviewing and planning are unique to every farm. 28
“Using your own farm’s data in terms of yield, costs to seed and grow the crop, your plan is probably going to look something like one of your previous years,” says Sullivan. “Looking at the gross margin and actual profitability of every single crop in every field, there are no surprises in farming if we actually look back long enough.” This means post-mortem analysis and next year’s plans should align with the farm’s financial statements and historical financial reporting using similar units and metrics for each comparison. For example, many farmers use debt payments to track and examine their equipment costs, versus using depreciation or amortization. “It might match your immediate cash flow but does not reconcile to your income statement or show the true cost of operations,” says Manness. “Everything you’re using in your planning should tie back to something historically.” Reviewing last year’s performance involves two perspectives: an accrual/crop year basis including all the pre-purchased expenses and deferred grain checks to understand the single year’s crop profitability; and by cash basis, or how the farmer plans to cash flow the farm. “The cash position becomes a main driver in what a farmer can achieve.
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BUSINESS POST-MORTEM | HINDSIGHT’S 20/20
If they’re having to sell grain at bad times because they don’t have enough cash to pay the bills versus waiting for the market, this impacts the farm in a big way,” says Sullivan. While big data isn’t a necessity, keeping timely records is. “If all the invoices are paid and then filed away until after harvest without any internal tracking, that’s going to be a challenge,” says Manness. “Especially when it comes to identifying any trends happening in your expense categories if you don’t know until the year is over.” Much of this data is already available through accounting and financial statements for compliance if the farm is incorporated. Yield information is also collected and submitted yearly to crop insurance providers. “If you don’t have the records yourself, turn to your accountant and crop insurance provider and look over the last 10, 20 years,” says Sullivan. “All this information is foundational.” Personal draws and capital budgeting should also be factored in. Farmers typically have a list in their heads on what needs to be replaced or upgraded next. Having open discussions is more helpful than saying “we aren’t buying anything,” and then consistently missing the mark. “We’re big proponents of working capital and ensuring you’re utilizing the equity in your business to decouple your marketing decisions from your cash flow decisions,” says Manness. Listening to what that working capital is saying about the farm year over year is important. “It is the canary in the coalmine on your farm business in terms of what’s coming down the road,” says Manness. “In 2021 we’re likely to have some drought conditions and potentially reduced inventory. Maybe it’s worth more, but that’ll be the first thing we look at in the post-harvest reviews: what is our working capital? That will tell us if cash flow problems are coming down the road.” Farmers should also pay attention to any surprises within their accrued financial statement and ask questions.
Crops, inventory & marketing A good post-mortem examines the farm’s crop-by-crop budget each year, working in the actual unit they sell in rather than per acre numbers. Each crop’s performance should also be weighed against others grown in relation to expectations. A farmer may be downplaying wheat in their rotation because they underestimate its earning potential. “We’ve seen cases where a post-mortem shows wheat to be their most profitable crop [for three years in a row over other underperforming crops],” says Manness. Unfortunately, overestimating a crop’s profitability is also common. “We see this show up when farms have 12 crops in their crop plan. A good rotation probably only needs four, but 30
BUSINESS POST-MORTEM | HINDSIGHT’S 20/20 some people want to bet on every horse,” says Sullivan. “There’s all that extra complexity in terms of marketing and agronomy, but no additional profitability. Too often, farmers aren’t spending the time looking at how the actual profitability breaks down across each crop they’re growing.” Inventory management issues may also be exposed. Manness suggests having an accrued statement done including the calendar year’s inventory and tracking sales versus expected revenue. “You’re basing your plans and your cash flow based on what you think you have in the bin. If you don’t have what you thought in there, from a marketing and a volume perspective it can throw off your revenue metrics per acre,” he says. There can be good surprises too. “What was your marketing plan for your canola?” asks Sullivan. “You might have gotten lucky with the prices up as high as they’ve gone if you had any left to sell. Judging yourself based on your own management ability, is the price you’re receiving based on a plan or luck and cashflow?”
Machinery and other expenses Machinery expenses, primarily depreciation, are commonly missed and often underestimated in the yearly review. “It’s not just what it costs for that machine, it’s what it costs to trade up to the next one,” says Sullivan. “The spread between your used machine and the one you’re upgrading to is widening every year.” Costly repair bills also play a big role, especially for small farms where one engine repair might throw out the entire year’s
profitability versus a large farm with costs spread over more acres. “Big surprise expenses often occur in unplanned maintenance, repairs, or upgrading machines when you weren’t planning on it,” says Sullivan. “These situations are something we should have been thinking of as a likely scenario on the farm.” The post-mortem can also reveal miscalculations in expected cost trends. For example, 2020 was a decent year for most Prairie farmers, but higher than expected repair costs surprised many. “It was related to carryover from 2019. Many farmers had been through two years of tough harvests prior,” says Manness. “But fuel costs in turn were lower with an easier harvest in 2020.” Farmers should examine changes to productive units on the farm such as increased acres, checking if they realized expected efficiencies and/or identifying unexpected higher capital needs as a result. Strong farm planning and review routines require written plans and open communication. “It should be shared with the rest of the family, hired help, the agronomist, banker, accountant and the insurance provider,” says Sullivan. “Everyone needs to be on the same page and understand what the plan is for the farm from an agronomic, a timing, a management, and a marketing perspective. Farming has traditionally been a private business, but the most successful farms we work with share their plans openly so we can effectively execute rather than react.”
Mental health isn’t something we talk about. to ignore It’s time to start changing the way we talk about farmers and farming. To recognize that just like anyone else, sometimes we might need a little help dealing with issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. That’s why the Do More Agriculture Foundation is here, ready to provide access to mental health resources like counselling, training and education, tailored specifically to the needs of Canadian farmers and their families.
LIVESTOCK HEALTH | BIG PRICES, BIG DECISIONS
Big Prices, Big Decisions Feedlot owners face hardships from drought By Alexis Kienlen
The drought has had an impact on Alberta’s feedlot industry and the rations feedlot owners will be feeding to cattle this fall and winter. The feeding industry will likely run into additional challenges due to the drought, because more cattle are being dispersed, and there will be fewer calves available in the future. But currently, feed is the biggest issue. “Barley production in Western Canada is down drastically from a year ago,” says Jacob Bueckert of Driland Freeders in Warner, Alta. Due to poor crop as a result of the drought and heat stress, wheat and barley prices in Western Canada have soared. To compensate, the feeding industry is importing lots of corn from the United States. “Mostly what we’ve been able to do is buy U.S. corn and railroad it in from the Dakotas. We’re going to get U.S. corn coming in starting in November. Right now, we’re feeding barley and wheat,” says Bueckert.
down quite substantially in price. “It looks like we will continue to feed them at higher levels than last year throughout this winter. Between corn, and corn DDGs, we’ll be able to make up some of the downfall of barley.” Driland Feeders is no stranger to feeding corn, and has done so at least three times over the last 10 years. “When we start in November, we will have a certain percentage of our ration in corn all the way to July 2022. We were able to price it and lock in it, and have an idea of what that cost is going to be. We process it very similarly to barley or wheat, so that part doesn’t change a whole lot for us,” he says. Adam Schreck, a nutritionist with Feedlot Management Services, in Okotoks, Alta., says the entire Albertan feedlot sector will be feeding more corn. “Everybody that I’ve talked to has said, ‘we haven’t fed this much corn since 2002,’” he says.
But at the end of November, Driland Feeders will shift to corn and corn dried distillers grain (corn DDGs).
It’s not just southern Alberta, either. Feedlot owners as far north as Edmonton, Alta., are also sourcing corn as a feedstuff.
“A year ago, there were cheaper fuel prices and less demand for fuel, so ethanol production was down substantially,” says Bueckert.
“It’s pretty unusual to see corn fed that far north,” says Schreck.
Corn DDGs were quite pricy last year, but now they have come 34
Feedlot owners are choosing to make that choice, because there isn’t the right volume of barley, and it is cost prohibitive
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Lyle Adams of 6A Cattle Company at Picture Butte, Alta., says it has been a challenge to get grain to his feedlot and although he does not prefer corn in rations, barley prices are simply too high. Image courtesy Lyle Adams
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“I don’t know where all the people have gone or went. In our operation, we’re feeding fewer cattle because we don’t have the labour. Labour is very, very short and I’m not sure what the answer is.”- Adam Schreck
if animals have above-average nitrate levels there are risks of suffication caused by oxygen binding in blood, often evidenced by brown coloured blood. Nitrates can also cause abortions to occur in cows.
to feed it right now. Wheat prices are also very high. At the time of writing, barley was regularly priced at more than $8.00/bu and wheat was also selling well above average.
There are a couple of key factors feedlot owners should think about when they are feeding corn, says Schreck. Corn contains less protein than wheat or barley.
“The implications for health are not going to be anything negative,” says Schreck.
“Cattle need additional protein supplementation when they are fed corn. There are some other things in terms of handling it that are a little different than barley. Corn tends to get beat up a little by the time it makes it this far north, so it has more fine particles in it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it comes somewhat processed already. It’s definitely not as clean a grain as barley. That’s just due to the length of the haul. It gets touched so many times by the time it gets up here.”
The cow sector is a little different than the feedlot sector. “In the cow sector, there will be more worries about high nitrate feeds, due to the drought and the adverse growing conditions we’ve seen,” he says. Some farmers have already tested their feed and found high levels of nitrates due to drought and climatic conditions that suppressed crop growth. Schreck says
Schreck says feedlot owners may choose to feed corn, but it is still usually at a much smaller scale in northern and central Alberta. “Folks that are closer to corn country and parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they will be feeding corn when we are feeding barley rations in Alberta. But this year, just about everybody we work with or talk to is going to have some portion of corn,” he says.
LIVESTOCK HEALTH | BIG PRICES, BIG DECISIONS
“The cost of grain, if you compare where we were last year at this time, it’s $100 more to feed an animal and about $150 to $200 more to finish an animal. That’s a huge increase in cost.” he says. - Ryan Kasko However, corn is still easier to feed than wheat. “It’s actually a little bit safer, just because it doesn’t digest as quickly as other grains.” Schreck says there will also be a lack of roughage available this year, as there are less silage supplies because of the drought. “Some areas that had corn under irrigation, like Picture Butte, those yields are very good,” he says. “But generally speaking, most places are going to have less silage around and due to low yields of crops, we’re going to have less straw as well. Roughage supplies are not very good across the area.” This will limit the amount of backgrounding feedlots will be able to do, he says. Ryan Kasko of Kasko Cattle Company in Coaldale, Alta., says he thinks feeders will be feeding more DDGs and corn this year. “The cost of grain, if you compare where we were last year at this time, it’s $100 more to feed an animal and about $150 to $200 more to finish an animal. That’s a huge increase in cost,” he says. One challenge is that many feed mills are not set up to process corn. “Switching from barley to corn is a pretty easy transition, but whenever we switch our grain, we do it gradually. Cattle like to have consistency,” says Kasko. He says it’s a good idea to consult with a nutritionist when making dietary changes in a feedlot. Lyle Adams of 6A Cattle Company at Picture Butte, Alta., says that his biggest challenge right now is the logistics of getting the grain to his operation. “That is the toughest thing my wife and I are having to deal with right now. We are switching to some corn for sure,” he says. “I don’t typically like to feed corn as I don’t think the cattle perform as well on corn as they do on barley. We are still going to keep some barley in the rations. Our hopes and 36
our dreams are that with all the U.S. corn coming up here, I hope it puts enough pressure on the barley sector that the price will drop to where corn is coming up. I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” he says. Adams worries about a rail strike or storm that could keep corn from coming up from the United States, as well. He said feeding corn makes sense financially and that’s the primary reason why he has chosen to do it this year. “Between the nutrient levels between barley and corn, our cattle do better on barley for sure,” he says. Similar to certain feed shortages, Adams is also concerned about the lack of labour in the industry. “I don’t know where all the people have gone or went. In our operation, we’re feeding fewer cattle because we don’t have the labour. Labour is very, very short and I’m not sure what the answer is,” he says.
DEFINING “ADEQUATE RAINFALL” FOR HERBICIDE | THOSE WILY WEEDS
Defining “Adequate Rainfall” for Herbicide Herbicide carryover is a potential risk every year, which is why a majority of herbicides labels have recropping recommendations. Those crop rotation restrictions are developed based on the persistence of the herbicide and the sensitivity of various crops to plant-available herbicide residues. While many herbicides rapidly degrade to levels that have no perceived impact on future crops under “normal conditions” there are multiple factors that can extend the timeline. Tammy Jones B.Sc., P.Ag Tammy Jones completed her B.Sc. in crop protection at the University of Manitoba. She has more than 15 years of experience in the crops industry in Manitoba and Alberta, with a focus on agronomy. Tammy lives near Carman, Man., and spends her time scouting for weeds and working with cattle at the family farm in Napinka.
Two of the most important routes of degradation of herbicides involve soil microbes and hydrolysis, and both processes require soil moisture and warm temperatures. Since soil temperatures have not been excessively cool, the primary concern most years is soil moisture. Not only do the microbes need soil moisture to live, but the herbicide must also be in a soil solution in order to be available for microbial breakdown and hydrolysis. When there is a lack of soil moisture, the microbial activity decreases, and rather than degrading, the herbicide molecules will bind to clay and organic matter in the soil. Then, when soil moisture levels are replenished, herbicide molecules will re-enter the soil solution and may impact on any sensitive crops growing in the soil. The dry growing conditions in many areas in 2020 did result in some undesirable crop impacts in 2021. In addition, drought had a huge impact on this year’s crop production and those areas are likely to have some amount of herbicide hangover in 2022. Herbicide labels have recommendations based on measuring rainfall during the growing season, and minimum rainfall requirements do vary for different herbicides. Without delving into individual herbicide labels, risk assessment maps for herbicide carryover are generated. The question then becomes: what is the best measure of adequate rainfall? 1. Total Accumulation: The risk of detectable herbicide carryover increases as precipitation levels decrease. Extreme risk is typically when there is less than 75 mm of precipitation between early June and late August while normal risk is typically when precipitation levels exceed 150 mm of rain. Looking at individual herbicide labels, the minimum rainfall amounts do not correspond with these maps and growers need to be aware of that. The primary flaw of looking at total accumulation over the summer is that 150 millimetres, or six inches, of rain in a short time will not have the same impact on herbicide degradation as it would if the precipitation was in spaced out and in smaller amounts to sustain microbial populations and maintain good soil moisture in the top layer of the soil where the herbicide is primarily found. 37
THOSE WILY WEEDS | DEFINING “ADEQUATE RAINFALL” FOR HERBICIDE
2. First 60 days: Certain herbicides will adsorb strongly to soil if there are dry conditions following application. If the molecules are bound to the soil, they will not break down and the carryover risk increases. Not all herbicides bind strongly to the soil, so this assessment does not reflect all risks. 3. Monthly Accumulation: One risk assessment notice circulated in the fall of 2021 cited a requirement of receiving a minimum of 15 millimetres of rain in June, July or August regardless of total accumulated rainfall, in the brown soil zone, to ensure adequate herbicide breakdown. The minimum amount of rainfall does make sense for mitigating the risk of microbial populations decline and the soil profile being overly dry. 4. Soil Moisture Deficits: Precipitation is an easier measure than soil moisture, but when there are successive dry years, the concern is that the soil never fully replenishes to successfully degrade herbicide residues. There may be value in overlaying soil maps with precipitation and evapotranspiration (moisture loss) maps to more fully reflect where soil moisture deficits exist and risks are greatest. Soil moisture and temperature are the main drivers for herbicide breakdown, but other soil characteristics like soil pH and soil texture will influence the decomposition process and so field maps in the future could become quite complex. While this deep dive would be interesting, basic maps that highlight the highest level of risk are easiest to generate and most likely to minimize crop impact.
Clopyralid carryover impacting peas. Image courtesy Tammy Jones
There is always the question about whether an open fall will aid in herbicide degradation. Microbial activity decreases as temperatures cool. Temperatures between 20°C and 30°C are optimum for decomposition and below 10°C herbicide degradation slows to negligible levels. When making cropping decisions after a dry season, using conservative estimates on herbicide degradation will minimize undesirable crop impacts. After a year with less than normal summer rainfall, the risk maps generated help the agriculture community identify the areas of greatest risk of herbicide carryover, not specific to any herbicide or any field. With new herbicide groups and mixtures of active ingredients, it’s important to check the updated labels to ensure decisions are being made with the most current information. In addition, chemical companies provide guidance under unusually dry situations to ensure that risks are minimized through addition guidelines. These are a launch point for assessing the risk on an individual’s specific field based on field history and precipitation amounts (and timing to make the best cropping decisions). Cropping options may be limited but selecting a crop with the most potential for success is critical in these challenging years. 38
Clopyralid carryover impacting hemp. Image courtesy Tammy Jones
HOW TO READ A WATER QUALITY TEST RESULT | SPRAYING 101
How to Read a Water Quality Test Result Tom Wolf, PhD, P.Ag. Tom Wolf grew up on a grain farm in southern Manitoba. He obtained his BSA and M.Sc. (Plant Science) at the University of Manitoba and his PhD (Agronomy) at Ohio State University. Tom was a research scientist with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada for 17 years before forming AgriMetrix, an agricultural research company that he now operates in Saskatoon. He specializes in spray drift, pesticide efficacy, and sprayer tank cleanout, and conducts research and training on these topics throughout Canada. Tom sits on the Board of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association, is an active member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers and is a member and past president of the Canadian Weed Science Society.
With record drought in Western Canada this past summer, water levels are low in wells and dugouts. That can mean that the suitability for spraying may be affected. It’s advisable to get your water tested in a lab so you know the situation. Water test reports can be confusing, and the format changes from lab to lab.
Figure 1: An example of water test results conducted by a laboratory in Canada
SPRAYING 101 | HOW TO READ A WATER QUALITY TEST RESULT All water tests report a large number of properties and identify specific minerals and other solutes. It’s up to the reader to decipher which ones are important in spraying. Here is the order in which I look at the numbers. Conductivity: This property is expressed as micro Siemens per cm (µS/cm) and simply identifies how many ionic solutes are in a sample. It doesn’t differentiate between specific minerals or other molecules, and therefore has limited information. But it does tell us if there is a large or small issue with water quality. If conductivity is below 500 µS/cm, the water is probably good for spraying. If the value is around 1,000 to 2,000, further investigation is necessary. Some water samples return conductivity of more than 10,000 µS/cm, and it’s important to identify which salts cause that problem. The parameter Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is often listed in these reports. TDS is closely related to conductivity and adds little new information. Bicarbonate: Bicarbonate is HCO3 and its concentration is measured in milligrams per Litre (mg/L), which is the same as parts per million (ppm). Bicarbonate can antagonize Group 1 modes of action and the threshold of concern is 500 ppm.
concerned with pH between 6 and 8, and very rarely see it outside this range. I am not a fan of changing the pH of water unless it is required on the label for mixing, because pH affects pesticide solubility in different ways and compatibility is an ever-increasing concern as our tank mix complexity increases. Alkalinity: This property measures the water’s ability to buffer against pH changes. Although this property doesn’t affect pesticide performance, it is confusing because of its similarity to the word alkaline, which refers to a basic pH. In a pinch, conductivity, pH and hardness can be estimated using simple tools at home. Conductivity and pH meters are available for about $50 and work by simply inserting a probe into the water sample. The main issue is that most conductivity meters do not read above 1,000 to 2,000 µS/cm and may not have the range required for well waters. Water hardness probes aren’t cheap and most people would resort to strips available from home spa and pool shops. Although they give a quick visual, most strips can’t test above 500 ppm hardness and that may not be enough. The best bet remains a proper lab test.
Total Hardness (calculated): This is one of the important parameters. Hardness antagonizes glyphosate and Liberty, and also ties up surfactants which can result in problems with mixing and compatibility. Hardness is caused by five main cations, in order of importance these are iron (Fe++), magnesium (Mg++), calcium (Ca++), sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+). The Total Hardness, expressed as calcium carbonate (CaCO3) equivalent, is determined by taking the most common two cations, calcium and magnesium, and using this formula: 2.497*ppm Ca + 4.118*ppm Mg. Note that some tests report hardness in Grains per Gallon, in this case, multiply grains by 17.1 to get ppm. While this calculation usually gives an accurate prediction of hardness, you may need to have a look at iron and sodium as well. Iron is less common, but some well waters are high in sodium and this would not be captured in the Total Hardness parameter. A water test low in Total Hardness may be high in sodium, these are typically the samples with high conductivity. The threshold for Total Hardness depends on the herbicide, its rate, and the water volume. The most common quoted values are 350 ppm for the lower rates of glyphosate (1/2 L/ acre equivalent), and 700 ppm for the higher rates. Lower water volumes increase the concentration of herbicide thereby reducing the impact of water hardness. pH: This parameter is a bit overrated because it is later affected by the herbicide and adjuvant dissolved in it. I am usually not 40
Figure 2: Strips that test for Total Hardness are available from most home spa shops. They rarely go above 500 ppm.
Some water quality issues are not reported in a lab test. Turbidity caused by suspended soil particles can reduce the performance of glyphosate and diquat (Reglone). This problem is common in ponds, especially after runoff. If your water is questionable for spraying, there are three common choices: • Select a different well or dugout. • If bicarbonates or hardness are the problem, treat water with a conditioner such as Ammonium Sulphate (AMS), available in pure form as 21-0-0-24. • Use a municipal treated water source. Using good quality water lowers the likelihood of problems with mixing and overall performance and that pays significant dividends later.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR BANKER | FARMING YOUR MONEY
How to Talk to Your Banker There will be many producers will need to have an uncomfortable but necessary chat with their banker after the 2021 year. After 20-plus years of sitting in that chair, I have some tips that can hopefully make the discussion productive and less awkward.
Paul Kuntz Paul Kuntz is the owner of Wheatland Financial. He offers financial consulting and debt broker services. Kuntz is also an advisor with Global Ag Risk Solutions. He can be reached through wheatlandfinancial.ca.
Have the discussion early. Once you know that there will be problems, start the conversation. Let them know that there may be a cash shortage or perhaps a cash flow issue. Do not wait until the issues arise. Do not wait until you have to write a cheque for inputs that you cannot cover. Do not wait until the loan payments are past due. It is best if you are calling the banker rather than the banker calling you. Be as precise as you can. Do not tell the banker, “it is going to be bad.” The banking profession works with numbers that are very specific, so, try to be as specific as you can. Build spreadsheets to show what both the income and cash flow looks like. Have a specific number that represents the issue. It is much better to tell your banker that your cash shortage for the year is $300,000 rather than say, “it is bad.” Estimate when the issue will hit. Perhaps you have enough cash until the end of February. Tell the banker this. The bank deals with many disasters and they will need to prioritize the files. Certain clients will need immediate help and others can perhaps wait. Giving your banker a timeframe will show respect for what they are doing. Come with a plan. Although you do not know all the rules and policies that your bank has, you have a good idea how things work. If you need a large cash injection, it will need to come from a loan. That loan should be spread out over as long a period as possible to reduce cash outflow pressure going forward. That loan will need to be secured. Put together a bit of a recovery plan that you think might work for your farm. Have a positive outlook. There is no industry that believes in next year as much as agriculture (except maybe Toronto Maple Leafs fans). We are a positive bunch that knows we are only months away from another production cycle. 41
FARMING YOUR MONEY | HOW TO TALK TO YOUR BANKER Grain and livestock producers will have unique challenges. For grain farmers it will be a matter of overall income. Their expenses will be similar to their budget, but the income will be reduced. It will also come from different sources like insurance. Crop insurances (government and private) are quite quick and can have money for you shortly after harvest is done. AgriStability is slower to finalize but there are features of that program that provide you with an advance on the anticipated payout. You will need to determine which of these programs are paying and when you can receive that money. One expense that some grain farms will have this year would have never been budgeted for and that is contract buyouts. Based on the commodity markets and drought, there will be producers that need to pay a large sum to cancel a deferred delivery contract. This will add insult to injury. Not only did you suffer a production loss, you also cannot participate in the rising commodity prices, and on top of that you get a bill to buy out your contract. This is devastating but it is a reality that you will have to work through. Livestock producers may not see much of a change in their revenue stream, the issue will be securing pasture and winter feed. If these items are available, they will be at a premium. The analysis will entail how much will it cost to run the livestock for the year versus the revenue. If there is a shortfall, how is this made up? Do you want to borrow and add a loan payment to the mix? Can you cover it short-term? Will the government money be enough to get you through? These are the calculations that you should do prior to visiting the banker. This will help navigate through the crisis.
The most important trait that you want to convey to your banker is confidence. Let your banker know that you understand the severity of the issue and that you can recover. Let your banker know that assisting your operation through this rough time will pay off in the end. If your farm has suffered a catastrophic loss that you feel is non-recoverable, or if you feel like giving up, seek some guidance. Reach out to someone who you trust that can offer either some advice or a sympathetic ear. Maybe that person is your banker. It might be your accountant, or maybe a neighbour. Call your local farm stress line to get help. Even if the situation is as bad as you think it is and this will end the operation, I guarantee you that talking about it will help. There may not be a solution that keeps you farming but you still need to move on. There will be other joys in your life. As dark as it might seem now, I promise you there are better days ahead, regardless of the damage that has occurred. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I watched farms disappear every year. I sat with farmers who cried in my office as they realized their farm was about to end. It was devastating to watch and go through this with producers that had become friends. I see these friends today and they have great lives. They have moved on to other ventures, some still in the world of agriculture. I do not want to minimize what any producer is going through after a year like this. But there is life after a devastating year in farming. It may not be what you imagined, but there is life. Take care of yourself and talk to someone you trust.
Most people seek help when they need it. Farmers go it alone.
shouldn’t be any different
It’s time to start changing the way we talk about farmers and farming. To recognize that just like anyone else, sometimes we might need a little help dealing with issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. That’s why the Do More Agriculture Foundation is here, ready to provide access to mental health resources like counselling, training and education, tailored specifically to the needs of Canadian farmers and their families.
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
SeedMaster 24 FOOT TOOLBAR WITH ULTRAPRO II metering It’s true that good things come in small packages, and the 24 Foot Toolbar with UltraPro II is no exception. This toolbar and on-frame tank are ideal for small acreages and ranches. In addition to its ability to fit into small spaces, this drill brings with it all of the benefits of a standard SeedMaster drill, including precise seed and fertilizer placement with minimal soil disturbance and the UltraPro II On-Frame Tank for the best in seed handling, germination and uniformity.
BASF BASF Canada has received registration from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency for Veltyma Fungicide. Veltyma contains the unique active ingredient Revysol which is the first and only Isopropanol-Azole, a chemistry discovered and developed by BASF, that provides broader, stronger and longer control against various diseases on multiple crops. Veltyma will be available for purchase in the 2022 growing season. Veltyma is registered for use on multiple crops including corn, potatoes, wheat and soybeans. It provides broad spectrum control against key leaf diseases in corn, including northern corn leaf blight, tar spot, common rust, eyespot and gray leaf spot, along with protection against key foliar diseases in potatoes, such as early blight, black dot and brown spot. In wheat, it provides control against septoria leaf blotch, leaf rust, stripe rust and tan spot. “We know that farmers need new and innovative solutions to manage issues today, while at the same time, addressing the challenges of tomorrow. We are thrilled to be able to bring Veltyma, with the new active ingredient Revysol, to Canadian growers,” says Trevor Latta, BASF Canada’s brand manager for corn, soybean and horticulture. Veltyma contains the active ingredients Pyraclostrobin (Group 11) and Mefentrifluconazole (Group 3) – also known as Revysol. Revysol’s molecular structure binds target enzymes more powerfully than other Group 3 products on the market, providing best-in-class performance on a broad spectrum of diseases, including some disease strains that have become resistant to other Group 3 fungicides. It also contains 44
Pyraclostrobin, which provides proven plant health benefits for increased growth efficiency, better management of minor stress, and greater yield potential. “Our testing has shown that Revysol binds to the target site up to 100 times more powerfully than conventional triazole fungicides, including where target site mutations have developed. This means that Revysol gives growers a highly effective tool to not only protect their crops, but to effectively manage resistances while increasing their yield in a sustainable way,” says Latta.
Getting good tax advice shouldn’t be a chore
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Ryan Kehrig, CPA, CA | 306.664.8347 | email@example.com
NEWS & INNOVATIONS
FLOKK Flokk is a system for beef herd management and traceability reporting that is currently under development. After initial testing at the Olds College Smart Farm, the Flokk herd management system is now working with producers throughout Alberta to complete field testing in preparation for general availability in 2022. The Flokk system includes a hand-held device with integrated RFID tag reader that is purpose built for stand alone, every day, all weather uses by cow-calf producers at their animals’ side. When the operator is ready, Flokk’s integrated cloud service forwards herd data to partners and regulators without additional effort. Integrated herd management software provides everything you need to maintain your herd records, collect vital animal information and complete Canadian traceability reporting.
Your herd’s current records are always with you in your Flokk, where you can view, and update them, instantly.
Baumalight Baumalight is developing new prototypes and model updates and the best way to test them is in the field. When you purchase one of our pre-production or prototype models, you will receive a deep discount. In return, they require product testing and for you to provide feedback on how the product is performing in your application. With this program, products do not receive labour warranty; however, they do come with a 1-year warranty on parts. Baumalight understands that this program is not for everyone, but our product testing discount program offers benefits to the right type of person and we look forward to providing full warranty versions in the future once all product testing has been completed. Currently, there are deep discounts on preproduction, excavator-mounted Feller Bunchers and tree saws. Feller Buncher Baumalight is working to design a new Feller Buncher for excavator model and welcome feedback in exchange for preproduction discounts. Their goal is to sell through dealers and then work with end-users to develop compact harvesting solutions for skidsteers and medium sized excavators. This Feller Buncher features a 52-inch cutting disc that can take up to 20-inch trees and is equipped with 18 Beaver cutting teeth. This model also has an accumulator arm is included to cut and 46
carry multiple smaller trees before discharging them to the pile. It has an electric-over-hydraulic system which operates efficiently on hydraulic flows as little as 25 gpm and a smaller model would work on lower flow yet. Only one set of remote hydraulics is required to operate all functions if you have an AUX electrical connection. Tree Saw This new tree saw model like the Feller Buncher is excavator mounted and has a 52-inch cutting disk, but unlike the more mature fix horizontal blade tree saw that we have build for a longer time has a rotating blade. This allows you to make horizontal as well as vertical cuts and also has a root rake to move around and clamp cut trees and branch against a thumb if you have one installed.
Remuda works year-round, building workshops, barns, cold storage, shelters, and homes that Western Canadian farm families will enjoy for generations. remudabuilding.com
Pre-order your Baumalight generator now for delivery in 8 weeks and get an 8% discount.
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firstname.lastname@example.org | BAUMALIGHT.COM Dale Howe 403-462-1975 | email@example.com MANUFACTURING A VARIETY OF ATTACHMENTS INCLUDING BRUSH MULCHERS | ROTARY BRUSH CUTTERS | STUMP GRINDERS | PTO GENERATORS AUGER DRIVES | TRENCHERS | DRAINAGE PLOWS | TREE SPADES | TREE SAWS & SHEARS BOOM MOWERS | TREE PULLERS | FELLER BUNCHERS | EXCAVATOR ADAPTERS | SCREW SPLITTERS