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Volume 40, Number 4 | FEBRUARY 11, 2014



Three good reasons to test seed lots now Don’t let last year’s problems become next year’s problems. Test your seed before it’s too late BY ANDREA HILDERMAN


he 2013 growing season is over, but it will linger well into the next growing season. Why? Because seed quality for next year’s crop is very dependent on conditions experienced in the previous year. The top three reasons to test seed are to know more about germination, vigour and disease levels. “2013 produced what looks like an average seed crop compared to the previous year,” says Holly Gelech, business development manager at BioVision Seed Labs in Edmonton. Gelech says that, generally speaking, farmers in Western Canada experienced an open fall with very little weathering and no frost damage to seed. “From what we’re seeing, germination looks very average, quite solid actually, but there are some problems farmers should be alert to,” she says. “Some farm saved seed is showing damage from pre-harvest application of glyphosate products. While this may not impact sprouting, per se, those seeds will produce abnormal seedlings. We never see this sort of damage with seed lots from seed growers who are focussed on seed quality, but often from commercial growers whose focus is generally commercial or end-use grain quality.” A second problem is that fusarium is impacting germination on cereal samples from Ontario to B.C.

“There is one big positive from 2013, and that is the improvement in soybean germination,” says Gelech. “In 2011 and 2012, it was hot and dry at harvest time and soybean suffered significant mechanical damage from harvesting and binning operations. In 2013, mechanical damage was lower and soybean germinations are much better.” Bruce Carriere, owner of Discovery Seed Labs in Saskatoon concurs. “Germination and vigour are substantially better than we saw in 2012,” he says. “Yes, there are some pockets that are poorer, like south of Highway No. 1 for durum seed that took a beating at harvest when it rained, but generally, it’s a better year.” Germination is generally most impacted by what happens at the end of the growth cycle. If harvest weather is cold and wet, or hot and dry or if there is frost there will be negative impacts on the ability of the seed to germinate. Prolonged cool periods at harvest can cause dormancy in seed. 2013 was mostly free from those sorts of problems.

TESTING SEED LOTS Seed should be tested twice. The first test should be in the fall-end of January timeframe. At that time, cereals should have a germination


Barley seed showing extensive fungal disease development.


In This Issue

Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240

Wheat & Chaff ..................


Features ............................


Crop Advisor’s Casebook


Columns ........................... 22 Machinery & Shop ............ 29 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 35

Wireless flow monitors LEE HART PAGE 20


FarmLife ............................ 39

Root rot in peas


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n the December issue of Grainews we ran a story by freelance writer Marianne Stamm about “harvest widows” — women coping with the strain of having their husbands out of the house for long hours, day after day during the harvest season. When Marianne submitted this story, I was excited. Everything in the article rang true for me, both in my own life and what I hear from my female friends who are married to farmers. Scheduling work, organizing child care, running the house, keeping up the yard — all of those things get complicated when you’re married to a farmer and it’s harvest time. I ran the story assuming that everyone who read it would nod to themselves, thinking, “It’s just like that at our place.” Or, better yet, “It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one!” Instead, I received this fax from C. Pike at Waseca: I can’t believe that farm women would complain about harvest time. Oh, if they have a bad-tempered husband who turns into a veritable terror at harvest, I could see it — but to complain because they are left to mow the lawn? Let us turn back the clock to harvest time when the women of the farms would have to feed a dozen hungry men, with no electric stove, no hot and cold water on tap, no refrigerator, no freezer, no microwave, no cell phone. Before the men arrived the husband would have chores to do, including getting the horses ready, but he or the older children would fill the wood box for the cookstove and bring in several pails of water from the well. In many homes, the wife milked the cows by hand, washed the cream separator, prepared breakfast, made school lunches, baked bread — and with feeding the crew and the family that meant baking every day, dig vegetables from the garden, make a dozen pies. Then in the afternoon the hardworking men required a tea break which meant tea, sandwiches cake. The men would go to their own homes at supper time, for they had chores and besides, horses couldn’t keep working like a machine. In this area a travelling crew with their own cook was rare. True that harvest on each farm couldn’t last more than a week at the most, unlike today when it can go on for weeks. On quite a few farms the wife drives the combine as well as provides the meals. Mind you, with today’s conveniences, the meals can be prepared and frozen ahead of time. I can’t understand how anyone can complain about the year’s income being brought in. Perhaps they should have married an accountant. One who would mow the lawn, of course. That’s me told. I considered rebutting with comments like, “expectations about driving children to activities have changed,” or “so many women have off-farm jobs these

Chris Raffard, director with the Manitoba Flax Growers Association, was staffing their booth at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon on Jan. 22. Chris is holding a brand new flax product: Chocolate-flavoured flax oil. That’s right! Chocolate. That got my attention. You can buy it online at

days,” but really, lounging in a lawn chair in the park while my son plays soccer is not quite as gruelling as baking bread daily in a wood-fired cookstove. And I wouldn’t be fooling anyone who knows me. The other day I caught myself complaining about our SUV because “there’s a weird buzzing noise when I have my iPod plugged into the stereo and then turn on the seat heater.” I would have been the world’s worst pioneer. There’s no doubt — things are easier now than they ever were. Both on the farm and in the house. C. Pike has a point. When someone invents time travel, I’ll be the first one in line to take short trips into other eras to see history being made. But if they offered me the option of permanently relocating to any time in the past, I’d have to say no. There is really no better time or place to be a woman — on a farm or not. In Victorian England, even a woman married to an accountant wouldn’t have it nearly as good as I have it now (remember poor Bob Cratchit’s wife from A Christmas Carol?) Our lot has been gradually improving over time. So I’ll concede to C. Pike that she is definitely right, and we should try to remember that our complaints are really not that serious. Being a woman on a farm back in the days of threshing machines and hand cow-milking would have been much more difficult than the life we live today. Even in the middle of September. But I’m willing to bet that While Mrs. Pike’s grandmother was kneading the fourth loaf of bread, her grandmother was sitting on a chair in the corner, mumbling something along the lines of, “You women today don’t appreciate how easy you’ve got it. You’re lucky to have all this flour to make bread. Back in the old

country, my mother had to fight tooth and nail with her brothers every day, just to get a bite of the last diseased potato.” Thanks for reading the article and sending in the great feedback, Mrs. Pike!

AWARENESS OR PANIC On Page 26 and 27 of this issue our new Grainews columnist Sarah Weigum has written about root rot in pea fields. After her description of the problem and her remarks about researchers looking at ways to overcome root rot in the wake of increasing reports of the disease, Sarah wrote something that caught my eye. “I hesitated to write this column,” she wrote. “I don’t want to spread undue alarm about pea diseases because there are still many benefits to this crop and they have been good to us and many other farmers for the 20-plus years we have been growing them.” This was a very good comment. At Grainews, we try to find a balance between providing information about how to recognize and deal with problems, and scaring farmers out of wanting to seed anything at all. Sara went on to say, “we need to talk about the reality of what we see in our field so the source of the problem can be correctly identified and treated.” We could all stop talking about clubroot in canola, but that wouldn’t make it go away, and it certainly wouldn’t encourage researchers and plant breeders to keep developing resistant varieties. So if, sometimes, it seems that there’s too much reporting about pests and disease, and not enough good news, that’s exactly why: We’re hoping the information we provide can make a real difference. Leeann

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Wheat & Chaff Farm safety

Save Your Back, Shovel Safely


ust imagine, in another few months you’ll be banishing your snow shovel from sight for at least six months (hopefully). But in the meantime, it’s not a bad idea to take a few minutes to brush up on your shovelling technique and make sure you’re not putting your body at risk of injury. Shovelling snow is hard work. In fact, it’s one of the most high-intensity exercises you can do using all of your major muscle groups. A shovel that weighs a couple of pounds (a kilogram or so), loaded with 10 pounds (about five kg) of snow every five seconds equates to moving a load of over 140 pounds (70 kg) per minute! After just 15 minutes of shovelling, that’s equates to more than a ton (1,000 kg) of snow! So shovelling isn’t for everyone. Be sure to check with your doctor before tackling snow. If you’ve had a heart attack, have a history of heart disease, have high blood pressure,

Weather Lore

Bubbles in coffee Bubbles rising on your coffee cup In fair weather you will sup. But if they break and burst apart Rainy (or snowy) weather soon will start. he bubbles on the surface of your coffee are full of trapped air. If the barometric pressure or air pressure around them is high they will pretty much remain as they are. On the other hand, if the barometric pressure has dropped, as it will before a shower or a snow storm, the pressure inside the bubbles will be greater than the pressure around them and they will burst. †

smoke or are diabetic, you might be wise to leave the shovelling to somebody else. But if you’re physically fit, here’s the drill. Do some warm-ups before your shovelling begins. Flexing and stretching exercises will loosen up the muscles and prepare them for the job ahead. Next, be sure you’re dressed to shovel. Put on several layers of warm, lightweight, hinderfree clothing that you feel comfortable wearing while moving around. Make sure your head, feet and hands are covered. If it is really cold, wear something over your mouth. And don’t shovel at all when the wind chill plunges at or beyond -40 C (great excuse)! When you’re ready to get ’er done, take it slow and steady. Shovelling is going to make you sweat, and, if you stop, you could get a chill. Push the snow rather than lift it. Use your legs to help you push. If you must throw the snow, take only as much snow as you can easily lift. Keeping

your feet wide apart, shift your weight to your rear foot for balance while keeping your load close to your body. Last but not least, turn your feet in the direction you’re throwing. Try not to twist at the waist. Throwing the snow over your shoulder or to the side is a no-no! And remember, the wetter the snow, the heavier it is. Chances are you probably aren’t going to buy a new shovel at this point in the season. However, if you can bear to think about next winter, look for one that is actually labeled a SNOW shovel. Any other kind of shovel will make the job much harder. Look for a snow shovel that’s light, a little over three pounds (about 1.5 kg), with a medium-sized blade or scoop. Otherwise your load will be too heavy, putting too much stress on your heart and back. The shaft should be long enough so that you don’t have to stoop to shovel. The grip should be made of plastic or wood — metal gets

You might be from the Prairies if...

Canadian Agriculture Safety Association — www.

Agronomy tips… from the field

Control fusarium from the ground up



Shirley Byers’ book “Never Sell Your Hen on a Rainy Day” explores over 100 weather rhymes and sayings. It is available from McNally Robinson at:

too cold. You might want to check out a shovel shaft bent to decrease the amount of forward back-bending required. There are no studies that specifically recommend the use of bent-shafted shovels, but many people find these shovels help to reduce back discomfort. Some of these shovels are also designed to push snow versus lift it. So choose the snow shovel that’s best for you. So now you know—there’s even science in shovelling snow. And you’ve been doing it all your life. Just make it part of your farm safety planning so you’ll be shovelling with the best of them for many more years to come! For more information on safe shovelling, go to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at http://www.ccohs. ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/snow_shovelling.html. †

You read the constitution and were surprised to find out that Ukranian is not an official language.

photo contest

GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT You’re going to have to take a good look at this photo to really see what’s going on. Then you’re going to have to look again to believe it. Yes, a coyote is climbing a tree. Just before Christmas (2013), Morris and Mildred Peddie were amazed to see a coyote climbing the apple tree behind the house. It was eating the apples from the branches. They believe the coyotes are starving due to a lack of mice and rabbits in the area. Morris and Mildred say there was a second coyote on the ground — eating the apples that fell. Morris and Mildred Peddie’s farm is near Arborfield, Saskatchewan. We’ll be mailing them a cheque for $25. Thanks for sharing this crazy photo! Send your best shot to Please send only one or two photos at a time and include your name and address, the names of anyone in the photo, where the photo was taken and a bit about what was going on that day. A little write-up about your farm is welcome, too. Please ensure that images are of high resolution (1 MB is preferred), and if the image includes a person, we need to be able to see their face clearly. Leeann

e can only hope that last year’s excellent growing conditions continue this year. But we do need to be aware that the conditions that are good for wheat can also favour fusarium. The best approach to fusarium head blight control is an integrated one. That means choosing good genetics with best-in-class seed care and ensuring well-timed foliar fungicide applications. The most important of these is good genetics. In recent field trials across numerous sites, I was impressed by the ability of moderately resistant wheat varieties (the highest level of genetic resistance currently available to withstand fusarium). Not perfect, but better than where we were a few years ago. Next, consider a seed treatment, particularly if you’re in a high-risk fusarium area. Given last year’s heavy fusarium pressure in some areas, there’s above-average likelihood that farmsaved seed could possess levels of the disease. Seed care products that protect against all strains of fusarium are a good idea for both farm-saved and certified seed. It is good practice to review the seed care product label to ensure that the diseases you are looking to control are listed for the product. The last component is a foliar fungicide spray. Timing is crucial, so be vigilant and apply according to the product label. In an integrated approach, fungicides should be your last line of defense, and not your only line of defense. † This agronomy tip is brought to you by Aaron Bouchard, agronomic service representative for Syngenta Canada Inc. Aaron, who farms in Saskatchewan, is a Certified Crop Adviser and a P.Ag.



FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Fusarium and seed



Top: BioVison Seed Lab will determine a seed treatment solution to mitigate against seedborne fungal diseases. The impact of treated (l) versus untreated (r) seed is shown in this photo. Left: Vigorous versus non-vigorous seedlings. Right: Symptoms of pre-seeding glyphosate damage on wheat seeds (top two rows of seeds) versus healthy seedlings (bottom two rows of seeds).


THREE GOOD REASONS TO TEST SEED LOTS NOW and cool-stress, or vigour, test. Depending on location, testing for fungal diseases should also be considered. A second round of testing is recommended closer to seeding. While germination testing this year indicates no major issues for 2014, a vigour test is still strongly recommended. Environmental stress is not accounted for by a germination test which means seed lots with equal germination but different vigours can lead to much different plant establishments. A vigour test indicates the potential for rapid, uniform emergence and development of normal seedlings under a wide range of field conditions. The standard vigour test used is the cool-stress test

where seed is germinated under cool conditions and evaluated. “It is not uncommon for a seed lot to have a good germination but poor vigour,” says Gelech. “This year, in fact, we are seeing exactly that regionally.” A disease test can range from just testing for Fusarium graminearum to a full fungal scan. “I recommend a full fungal scan which will identify all fusarium species as well as root rots,” says Gelech. “Root rots are important in that, like Fusarium spp., they can cause seedling blights which will negatively impact seedling development and stand establishment in the field.” Storage moulds will also be detected if they are present. BioVision Seed Labs will custom treat seed in the lab to determine if germination can be improved. “We cannot, of course, rem-


obin Morrall, retired University of Saskatchewan plant pathologist and currently with Discovery Seed Labs in Saskatoon, obtains data from three Saskatchewan seed labs annually and publishes his results in the Canadian Plant Disease Survey periodical. The labs that share data include Discovery Seed Labs, Prairie Diagnostic Seed Lab in Weyburn and Lendon Seeds Ltd. in Regina. “It was another very interesting year with a very large demand for fusarium testing,” says Morrall. “This is likely because of the issues encountered in 2010 and 2012.” Overall, Morrall found 5.8 per cent was the average (mean) percentage infection of cereal seeds with Fusarium spp. of all kinds and 2.2 per cent was the average (mean) percentage

infection of cereal seeds with F. graminearum. Looking at frequency within one of six groups ranging from zero to greater than 50 per cent infected kernels, Morrall found 23 per cent of wheat samples tested in the 5.25 to 10 per cent range, which he considers middle of the range. “This is where farmers need to start thinking about either treating the seed or acquiring better seed to plant with this spring,” he explains. Looking at higher infection rates, 13 per cent of wheat samples were in the 10.25 to 20 per cent infected range. “There are a significant number of samples in this range, and these seed lots may not suitable for planting.” Morrall goes on to note that there are pockets in Saskatchewan with high levels of fusarium infection, including the Melfort/Star City area


Lynda Tityk

013 was generally regarded as average for fusarium. In Manitoba, the last couple of years have seen dryer conditions and inoculum levels in the soil are reduced. The seed crop is also reflecting that reduction showing lower than average fusarium infection in 2013. There was a pocket in eastern Saskatchewan that has seen higher moisture levels recently and inoculum levels are quite high. It was somewhat better in 2013, but still higher than farmers are used to dealing with. In Central Alberta it was rare to see F. graminearum in past years, but now it is consistently present at low levels. Farmers should note that in Alberta under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act seed growers cannot legally sell seed that is infected with F. graminearum. Farmers also cannot legally seed a field with farm saved seed that is infected with F. graminearum, no matter what percentage. For more information, see Alberta’s F. graminearum Management Plan. Find it online at (search fusarium management). †


Andrea Hilderman


edy glyphosate damage or frost damage, but there may be some improvement in germination when seeds with fungal infections are treated with a seed treatment product,” explains Gelech. After the seed lot had been cleaned in preparation for seeding, Gelech recommends testing a second time. “This time I recommend farmers test again for germination so there are no surprises,” she says. “Kernel weight can also be determined at this time.” By knowing the 1,000-kernel weight, seeding rates can be calculated more accurately to ensure the targeted plant population is met. “Seed testing should be part of your overall cropping strategy, especially if you are using farm saved seed,” says Gelech. “It’s a small investment to make to ensure the success of next year’s crop.”

Disease survey

1 6 6 6 D U B L I N AV E N U E , WINNIPEG, MB R3H 0H1 w w w. g r a i n e w s . c a

Carriere at Discovery Seed Labs goes on to emphasise the importance of seed treatment coverage. “Ten or more years ago it wasn’t as important to get the kind of even coverage recommended today,” he explains. “Seed treatments were glycol based, and they penetrated the seed coat and attacked the disease even before seeding. Now, water-based seed treatments do not penetrate the seed coat and need to contact with the disease to control it. The disease is not controlled until it and the seed start to grow. If even a spot on the seed is not treated it provides an avenue for the disease to successfully grow and establish itself and inflict damage.” † Andrea Hilderman has her master’s degree in weed science and is a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists. She writes from Winnipeg, Man.

and down the eastern side of the province into Crop Districts 1 and 2. “These areas resembled what you might have expected to find in Manitoba,” he says. The situation for pulse crops is much better. “Of the 366 lentil samples the three labs in the survey tested, 351 or 96 per cent tested zero for ascochyta blight,” he explains. “And 88 per cent of samples tested zero for anthracnose. 65 per cent of samples had zero Botrytris or sclerotinia.” Decisions about using infected seed or treating seed depend on a farmers’ own economic situation and the availability of alternatives. Good quality seed with a seed treatment is the best insurance toward getting a crop off to the best possible start. Not all diseases can be effectively controlled with a seed treatment and the best strategy may be to find an alternative seed source. The sooner you know what you are dealing with, the more time you have to do something about it. † Andrea Hilderman

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Lynda Tityk


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Arlene Bomback Phone: (204) 944-5765 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Email: Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM-Coronet Winnipeg, Man. GRAINEWS is published by Farm Business Communications, 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0H1. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40069240. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Subscription prices: For Canadian farmers, $52.00 per year or $83.00 for 2 years (includes GST) or $104.00 for 3 years (includes GST). Man. residents add 8% PST to above prices. U.S: $43.00 per year (U.S. Funds). Outside Canada & U.S.: $79 per year. ISSN 0229-8090. Call 1-800-665-0502 for subscriptions. Fax (204) 954-1422 Canadian Postmaster: Send address changes and undeliverable copies (covers only) to PO Box 9800, Winnipeg, Man. R3C 3K7 U.S. Postmaster: Send address changes and undeliverable copies (covers only) to 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, Man. R3H 0H1 GRAINEWS is printed on recyclable paper with linseed oil-based inks. Published 18 times a year. SUBSCRIPTION INQUIRIES: C a l l t o l l f r e e 1-800-665-0502 U.S. subscribers call 1-204-944-5568 o r email:

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The editors and journalists who write, contribute and provide opinions to Grainews and Farm Business Communications attempt to provide accurate and useful opinions, information and analysis. However, the editors, journalists and Grainews and Farm Business Communications, cannot and do not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this publication and the editors as well as Grainews and Farm Business Communications assume no responsibility for any actions or decisions taken by any reader for this publication based on any and all information provided.

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Features Crop production

Crop rotations and soil science Some see soil as mere dirt. Soil scientists see a complex ecosystem affected by everything from crop rotations to fertilizer By Lisa Guenther


sing DNA technology, researchers are finding that microbial diversity in the sea is huge, said Dr. Marcia Monreal, soil microbiology scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. “But (their results) suggest the diversity in the soil is much larger.” Monreal explained that there is a food chain in the soil that includes bacteria plus other creatures such as fungi, nematodes and micro arthropods. “It’s a very dynamic system,” said Monreal. Plant roots discharge substances such as sugar, acid, polysaccharides and enzymes. Different plants release different materials into the soil, Monreal explained. These substances boost some populations over others. “But that doesn’t mean the other populations aren’t there. They just go dormant.” Monreal said some fungal spores, for example, can be dormant for 50 years before germinating. The plant root itself also affects soil ecosystems. “For example, legumes (roots) are soft and mushy and others have far more fibre. So with fibre you would be stimulating a different type of microbe, like fungi that could produce cellulose.”

seen clear results in how crop rotations affect specific soil species, with the exception of mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizal fungus grafts onto flax roots and scavenges nutrients and water for the plant. Plants such as canola and mustard don’t host mycorrhizae, and so planting flax the following year cuts the flax’s ability to take in nutrients. But preceding flax with a mycorrhiza host, such as wheat, barley or a legume, ensures there’s plenty of mycorrhiza for the flax to work with. Monreal said based on her experience, a crop can affect the soil ecosystem even after one year of a rotation. A consistent rotation may yield more long-term changes

that are slow to happen, as microbe Farmers need to know how crop populations change with time. rotations and other management One population will benefit practices, such as tillage and fertiand grow very quickly on its lizer application, affect soil popufavourite substrate, but then it lations, Monreal said. decays, Monreal explained. “There are many manage“And then another one takes the ment techniques. For example, opportunity, and the other takes in flax you may not need to the opportunity, and you end up apply phosphorus if previous with a very different population.” crop was properly fertilized.” If Because soils are complex eco- micorrhizal fungi are present, systems, studying one species in they will rummage through the isolation is ineffective. For exam- soil for phosphate. There seems ple, one year Monreal expected to to be little benefit to applysee more mycorrhizal activity in a ing phosphorus fertilizer to flax zero tillage field. But rain created unless soil is deficient. the perfect conditions for mites The soil ecosystem was a and other soil creatures that feed research focus in the 1980s and B:8.125” on mycorrhizae spores, reining in 1990s, Monreal said. “There was a T:8.125” mycorrhiza numbers. lot of work done and people were S:8.125”

trying to explain these things in a very rational, careful way.” Monreal said the John Innes Centre research is important and comments the scientists are on the right track. “Diversity in the soil could provide a lot of answers.” But Monreal said researchers are just scratching the surface in terms of understanding the soil ecosystem and its population dynamics. What’s needed next is for researchers to not only look at the details but also the broad picture, Monreal added. “It’s a very complex, interesting world. We haven’t been able to tackle it (just yet).” † Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews. Contact her at

U.K Research

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Recent research out of the United Kingdom gives us a glimpse into the soil ecosystem, and how agronomic practices affect it. Scientists with the John Innes Centre sampled soil from a Norfolkarea field. They then planted wheat, oats and peas in the field and took more samples after four weeks. “The soil around the roots was similar before and after growing wheat, but peas and oats reset the diversity of microbes,” said Dr. Philip Poole, in a media release from the John Innes Centre. The soil in the area where wheat was grown mostly contained bacteria. Oats and peas grown in the same area bumped up protozoa and nematode worm numbers. Peas grown alone increased fungi. Researchers also seeded an oat variety that doesn’t produce normal levels of avenacin, which protects roots from fungus. They thought there would be more fungi in the soil samples as a result. But the soil included a more diverse population of protozoa and other eukaryotes. Eukaryotes include plants, animals and fungi. Researchers at the John Innes Centre are also looking at how to develop cereals that form a relationship with the same bacteria that allow peas to fix nitrogen. “Small changes in plant genotype can have complex and unexpected effects on soil microbes surrounding the roots,” said Poole. Monreal and her colleagues have studied the effect of crop rotation on soil dwellers such as mycorrhiza and bacteria. By soil sampling a few centimeters from the roots, they have found microbial populations responding differently to crop rotations. But Monreal said they haven’t



FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Features FARM FINANCE Canadian interest rate 16

Overnight rate


10 year bond

Per cent

12 10 8 6 4 2 0






Canadian interest rate Overnight rate

10 year bond

Per cent

4 3 2 1 0 Jan-08 Sep-08 May-09 Jan-10 Sep-10 May-11 Jan-12 Sep-12 May-13

Canadian inflation 3% Core inflation

Headline inflation



0% May-2012

Choosing between a fixed or variable rate mortgage can be a tough call. Here’s what to look for when you make your decision BY ANDREA HILDERMAN



What’s ahead for interest rates






Top: The Canadian overnight rate has been declining for over a decade. The 10-year bond rate has been declining as well, but recently has started to creep up. The 10-year bond rate influences fixed rate interest rates. Middle: A closer look at how stable the overnight rate from the Bank of Canada has been since September 2010. Bottom: Canadian core inflation has hovered around one to 1-1/2 per cent with headline inflation rate showing the expected fluctuations on a monthly basis. The red dotted line indicates the Bank of Canada target inflation rate.

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nterest rates have been trending down over the last decade in Canada. The Bank of Canada overnight rate, which directly impacts variable interest rates, has not seen any increase since September 2010, meaning variable interest rates have remained stable at very low levels. The Government of Canada 10-year bond rate, which influences fixed rates or longer-term mortgage rates, has increased 90 basis points since March 2013. “It’s starting to creep up now,” says James Bryan, strategy and agricultural economic analyst with Farm Credit Canada in Regina. “However, I think it’ll be towards the end of 2014 before we see any interest rate hike, per se, from the Bank of Canada.” The Canadian economy is not performing up to expectations yet and inflation has remained around one per cent for much of 2014. “The Bank of Canada will likely not make any changes to the overnight rate, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see fixed rates start to creep up as the 10-year bond rate increases.” The Bank directly influences variable interest rates with its overnight rate, however, it does not directly influence or control longterm interest and mortgage rates.

For farmers, this means the variable interest rate should remain stable through much of 2014. “If a farmer is worried about increases to interest rates, he should look at moving at least some money into fixed rate products,” says Bryan. “How much will depend on every individual’s appetite for risk and their desire to manage interest rate risk. I would advise producers to ensure you can pay two to three per cent more than you are paying in interest now.” The interest rate story has been very exceptional since 2009. Over the next five years, interest rates are likely to be higher than over the last three years. “The economy is likely to be doing better,” says Bryan. “That said, it is very difficult to predict where interest rates will be any further than 12 months out. Inflation is the key. Inflation is generally regarded as unlikely to go up quickly which would push interest rates up too.”

INFLATION The broadest measure of inflation is called headline inflation. This represents the price of a “shopping basket” the average person might buy every month and is the rate the Bank of Canada officially targets for its monetary policies. Core inflation is calculated by removing the most vola-

tile components of the consumer bundle of goods, things like fuel and food costs. Core inflation focuses on the more stable components of inflation, making it easier to identify trends and to evaluate if monetary policies are having the desired effect. The Bank of Canada and the federal government have a formal agreement that sets out a target of two per cent for the annual rate of increase in the consumer price index (inflation).

Keep tabs on the overnight rate Last October the Bank of Canada surprised financial markets when it removed its so-called “tightening bias.” What this means, essentially, is the Bank no longer included this sentence in its policy statement: “Over time, as the normalization of these conditions unfolds, a gradual normalization of policy interest rates can also be expected, consistent with achieving the two per cent inflation target.” Along with that, the Bank lowered its growth targets for 2013-15. The Bank was really saying that it has lowered its optimism for economic growth over the next couple of years, and that it didn’t think inflation will increase soon either. The November 2013 inflation rate stood at 0.9 per cent. Average inflation since 1915 to the present is 3.21 per cent. Over the next year, farmers should keep tabs on the overnight rate from the Bank of Canada, inflation and the 10-year bond rate and determine the strategy that best manages their interest rate risk. † Andrea Hilderman has her master’s degree in weed science and is a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists. She writes from Winnipeg, Man.



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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


New crops and climates drive crop insurance changes Soybean coverage is expanded in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta adds more weather stations to monitor corn heat units and Manitoba curbs winter wheat re-seeding benefits BY ANGELA LOVELL


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s anyone who has ever bought insurance knows, it’s an exercise in “pay and pray” — that is, pray that you won’t need it. Crop insurance is certainly no different but, as climates change and localized weather patterns become predictably more unpredictable, few farmers these days can afford to be without it. T h a t ’s c e r t a i n l y t r u e i n Manitoba, where over 90 per cent of farmers participate in Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) crop insurance programs. The participation rate is high in the other Prairie provinces too. In Saskatchewan the benchmark measure is insured acres, which in 2013 was 27 million acres or around 77 per cent of the total seeded acres in the province. In Alberta, around 76 per cent of eligible annual crop acres are insured each year. Most crop insurance programs are federal programs delivered by provincial insurance agencies and cost-shared by federal and provincial governments. Consequently the programs are fundamentally the same in each province, although there are some regional variations.


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Crop insurance programs are constantly re-evaluated and redesigned to meet the changing realities of production in each province and to be reflective of markets. “We work with industry and producer associations to determine what changes are required to our programs,” says Jeff Morrow, vicepresident of Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC). “We have a good relationship with our industry associations.” A big change in some provinces, especially Manitoba, has been the rapid spread in the last couple of years of crops like corn and soybeans into areas that traditionally couldn’t grow them. With earlier maturating, shorter season varieties being rapidly introduced and grown on more acres, new crop insurance programs for corn and soybeans have been introduced in Manitoba and expanded in Saskatchewan. “For a number of years producers outside of the traditional corn and soybean areas have been asking for insurance because they wanted to

try these crops and were reluctant to do so without any type of protection,” says David Van Deynze, MASC manager of claim services. “Over time we’ve developed insurance test areas to allow producers and ourselves to get some experience with how these crops perform in what used to be considered fringe growing areas. This year is a record year for soybeans in Manitoba, and more and more producers have been trying these crops well beyond the traditional areas.” As of 2013 Manitoba producers are able to purchase insurance on corn and soybeans grown outside of traditional growing areas. “It has provided producers with at least some level of coverage in the event of crop failure,” says Van Deynze. “Prior to this year, if they were going to grow those crops they were doing it without any kind of insurance protection at all.” Saskatchewan introduced coverage for soybeans in the southeast corner of the province in 2010 but this year the coverage area increased, and more than half the province is now insurable for soybeans. SCIC also expanded its Corn Heat Unit program in 2013 to allow for coverage across a larger area, reflecting where farmers are growing corn in the province. As a result SCIC reports an increase of over 100,000 acres of insured corn and soybeans in 2013. In Alberta the jury is still out in terms of whether new soybean varieties will mature early enough for Alberta growing conditions, and expansion of soybean acres is slower than in the other two Prairie provinces, but Agriculture Financial Service Corporation (AFSC), which delivers crop insurance in Alberta, is keeping a close eye on developments in this area. “Soybeans haven’t taken off in Alberta like they have in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but we are working closely with the Alberta Pulse Growers so that when they do become a viable crop, we will have a program in place for them,” says Chris Dyck, senior manager of research and corporate data management at AFSC. Alberta has also expanded the number of the weather stations available for its corn heat unit programs. “There are shorter season varieties of corn coming out all the time, and the area where corn is being grown is definitely expanding, so we’ve expanded our area as well,” says Dyck. “I think we’ll probably see some new products coming in the next couple of years.”

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /

Features Farm management

Changes at Saskatchewan Crop Insurance SCIC improves coverage with increased covered yields, expanded areas for soybeans and new weather stations By Angela Lovell


askatchewan  Crop Insurance  Corporation (SCIC) introduced yield trending in 2009 to ensure its crop insurance programs provide coverage that reflect today’s increased  yields.  With  yield trending, farmers’ insured yields have been increased for canola, identity preserved canola, winter wheat and fall rye. In 2013, yield trending was used to increase insured yields for Hard Red Spring wheat, Hard White Spring wheat and oats. “Our analysis shows that technological and agronomic advances in these crops are outpacing what our yield methodology is, so we’ve introduced yield

Insuring winter wheat Keeping crop insurance programs in line with production realities is reflected in the changes to Manitoba’s winter wheat program. The indemnity available for re-seeding winter wheat has been reduced in Manitoba this fall to 25 per cent of coverage from the previous 75 per cent if the crop fails before June 20 of next year. As an example, in the past a farmer insuring his winter wheat at the level of $200 an acre could get $150 re-seeding benefit if the crop failed before June 20, but would now only get $50 an acre. Van Deynze says the changes are more reflective of what actually happens in reality if a winter wheat crop fails. “If a producer planted winter wheat in the fall and had a crop failure first thing in the spring they were eligible for potentially 75 per cent of the coverage, which from our perspective created a bit of moral hazard,” says Van Deynze. “In some cases producers were willing to work down their winter wheat a little sooner than we thought they should because getting 75 per cent coverage, and planting canola on May 10 is a pretty attractive proposition for producers because they really don’t lose any yield when they plant canola at that time. Reducing the coverage to 25 per cent, if they have a winter wheat failure early in the spring, should cover seed and input costs from the previous fall. We believe it will still adequately cover producers and not be such a drain on the program.” Crop insurance premiums and coverage levels fluctuate to try and reflect changing market realities and predicting future markets can be a challenge but is essential to provide a good program for farmers that will cover them for production losses at fair market value, says Van Deynze. “Every year we try and predict what the market will be so we have to set our prices in January based on what we predict prices will be fall of that year, so we use whatever market indicators we have to help us set that price,” says Van Deynze. “Our programs are designed to try and be reactive to what the markets are doing.” † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at www.

trending for those crops to make sure we’re current with what’s happening under today’s agricultural practices,” says Jeff Morrow, vice-president of SCIC. “New” crops like soybeans and corn also feature prominently in changes made by SCIC. Although Saskatchewan’s increase in soybean acres hasn’t been as dramatic as Manitoba’s, interest in soybeans has grown and insurance coverage has followed suit, so that growers in over 50 per cent of the province are now able to insure soybeans. Saskatchewan has also added more weather stations for its Corn Heat Unit Program. “For this crop we don’t have a specific yield loss program, but we do have a

weather based program that is determined by heat units at each weather station,” says Morrow. The Corn Heat Unit Program provides coverage for years when there is a lack of corn heat units. This year, four weather stations were added at Swift Current, Estevan, Yorkton and Virden, Manitoba. In 2012, 55 per cent of Saskatchewan’s corn acres were insurable. With these changes insurable corn acres in the province increased to 95 per cent. “We have expanded where that program is available to acknowledge that corn is being tried in different areas of the province because of the varietal improvements that have made it suitable for Saskatchewan’s growing conditions.”

An Establishment Benefit covers a situation when a crop is seeded but fails to adequately establish by June 20, and this year SCIC increased the benefit for identity-preserved canola to $60 per acre from $50, and for field peas to $40 per acre up from $35 the year before. These values are determined by seed costs, says Morrow. “We undertook a crop insurance review in 2008 where we committed to annually review the seed cost that producers incur to establish crops and we want our insurance programs to keep pace with those costs,” he says. Yield on pasture is difficult to measure, or to insure. For that reason Saskatchewan has developed weather-based insurance called the

Forage Rainfall Insurance Program (FRIP), which is also based on information from weather stations. FRIP is available for native and tame pastureland and provides protection against poor pasture productivity as a result of below average precipitation. Like all of SCIC’s insurance programs, FRIP premiums are cost-shared. Producers pay 40 per cent and the federal and provincial governments pay the other 60 per cent. On average, from 70 to 77 per cent of eligible seeded acres in Saskatchewan are insured annually. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Private crop insurance can compete Saskatchewan-based Global Ag Risk Solutions is offering Prairie farmers a private option to insure their production costs BY ANGELA LOVELL


ow do you like the sound of crop insurance that guarantees a gross margin on your production, covers you when prices tank, provides something that the bank will lend against and gives you the kind of confidence that lets you sleep through the worst thunderstorm of the season? Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But Production Cost Insurance from Global Ag Risk Solutions (GARS) in Moose Jaw has been designed to do all of the above. It’s the first private crop insurance program of its kind anywhere, and isn’t unique in the things that it covers; there are other government subsidized crop insurance programs which cover similar things. What is unique is that it covers them all at the same time in one insurance product, says Grant Kosior, CEO and co-founder of GARS. “It’s gross margin insurance,” says Kosior. Gross margin is basically revenue (determined in this case by yield x price) minus production expenses (fertilizer, seed and chemicals). “Other crop insurance is only covering one variable, such as production or yield, there are still other variables that can happen like the price of the commodity going down or the expenses that you use to grow the commodity going up,” says Kosior. “We cover all three of those variables, which means we guarantee the gross margin revenue.”

COMPETING WITH SUBSIDIES The GARS insurance product was launched about 2-1/2 years ago and interest is growing fast. That’s because it’s a simple, win-win product says Kosior. “There’s an actual contract between the farmer and the insurance company,” he says. “It allows them to know that they are going to be covered regardless of the inputs that they put in the ground and they also know that they are going to get paid on a timely basis.” To date the company has taken on around $450 million of liability. Interestingly, one


of the biggest challenges is persuading farmers that anyone can compete with a government subsidized insurance product, something that does currently present a barrier for the development of private agricultural insurance products. “If the provincial and federal governments combined have 60 per cent premium subsidies on the provincial/federal insurance programs and the premium cost is $37.50 an acre, the cost to the farmer is just $15,” says Kosior. “In that case there’s $22.50 an acre of subsidy, so is that a barrier for companies wanting to offer insurance to farmers in Canada? Of course.” Despite the initial scepticism, GARS is managing to persuade more and more farmers that they can compete with those programs and remain cost effective. “The cost of our insurance is about the same cost as hail insurance, but hail insurance is covering one peril and we’re covering almost all the perils because we are covering the guaranteed margin,” says Kosior. GARS insurance puts a floor of revenue underneath the farm, says Kosior and is a reason that banks are willing to lend against it. He gives an example: “Let’s say you had a 30 bushel per acre crop and the farm had a yield guarantee of 30 bu./ ac., so it doesn’t trigger a crop insurance claim. If it was a 30 bu./ac. canola crop at $12/bu., you would have $360/ac. in revenue and if the fertilizer, seed and chemical inputs were $200/ ac., that would leave $160/ac. gross margin. What happens if the price of canola drops from $12 to $6? Now the revenue is $180/ac., you still have $200/ac. expenses, so there is a -$20/ac. gross margin. The bank would look at that and say, if we took your crop insurance as collateral, it didn’t pay out in that situation and you still lost money. “Now, take GARS insurance and say you decide to go for a revenue guarantee of $100/ac. — that’s the gross margin you choose to insure. If you have $200/ac. expenses and end up with only $180/ac. revenue you are still guaranteed to receive $120/ac. because we are covering the expenses, the price

risk and ultimately the gross margin. That’s why the banks will lend against it.” (In this example, the customer would get a payment to cover his loss of $10/ac., plus another $100/ ac. for a total insurance payment large enough to provide him a gross margin of $100/ac., as insured.) Another reason GARS is popular is its timely payouts, which have long been a sore

contract your production, but there’s costs and risks to that,” says Kosior. “Certainly no farmers that I have ever met pre-prices 100 per cent of their production. There’s too much risk in the trade going upside down and them losing money on it.” As an example, Kosior explains, if a farmer forward contracted 30 bu./ac. of production at $10 a bushel and he only grew 20 bu./ac., he has to go

“Our product gives them the confidence to use the inputs they need.” — Grant Kosior

spot for farmers dealing with many government programs, such as AgriStability. “In 2011 when we had an extraordinarily wet spring in southeastern Saskatchewan, a lot of our farms were getting their 2011 AgriStability payment this summer,” says Kosior. “If you are a farmer sitting across the desk from your banker and you say ‘Well I’m fine, I’ve got an AgriStability cheque coming,’ the banker will probably say, ‘No, you’re not fine because we can’t count that as an asset on your financial statement. It isn’t an account receivable payable to you within 12 months.’ It could 12, 24 or 30 months before you receive payment.” GARS guarantees that a person in a claimable position, who submits the correct documentation, will have 60 per cent of their payment by seeding time the following spring and the balance before seeding is completed.

A HEDGE AGAINST PRICE DIPS Price risk insurance isn’t generally available for most farmers across the Prairies; instead they have had to either forward contract or dabble in the commodities market to try and insure against price declines. “The only price insurance available is if you buy puts and calls on the commodities market or if you forward

into the marketplace and buy that extra 10 bu./ac. to meet his delivery obligation. In the meantime, the price may rise. “What happens if the price has gone from $10/bu. to $12/bu.? He’s $2/bu. upside down on 10 bu./ac. so that’s a loss of $20/ ac.,” he says. “We cover that because it’s like gravity; forward contract losses or gains show up in your revenue number. Revenue minus expenses equals your gross margin, and so if there is a loss on that forward contract, indirectly we cover that as well.” Production Cost Insurance provides an additional risk management tool for farmers, says Kosior but it’s not for everyone. A farm must provide its last five years of financial statements and meet certain eligibility criteria based around the management ability of the producer. “We are insuring their management ability to produce a gross margin,” says Kosior. “The No. 1 largest factor in a farm being profitable is management, and when you see the financial statements you can determine the best managers. That said, almost everybody qualifies for our products, but they may not qualify at the highest levels and their premiums might be different than somebody else, depending on what the financial information tells us.” Kosior says GARS is not an


alternative to government insurance programs, but a complement to them. “We are supporters of government programs because we believe that this isn’t an us versus them kind of insurance product,” says Kosior. “Our job is to teach farmers what products react and where and how to best allocate their resources to them.”

MAKING GOOD DECISIONS Kosior estimates that a farmer probably makes between 70 to 90 risk management decisions about his or her farm every year. Insurance is about making sure that they make the right decisions and are covered for things beyond their control. “All of those management decisions will factor into their bottom line but you can make most of those decisions perfectly and Mother Nature can still deliver you a nasty one,” says Kosior. “But when farmers have confidence they will alter their behaviour and they will farm perfectly. As prices go down, they will start cutting back on inputs; I’ve seen that. But when you start cutting back on inputs it’s a very slippery slope. Our product gives them the confidence to use the inputs they need because if there is a wreck and Mother Nature does deliver them that curveball we are there to backstop them.” GARS’ insurance product may not be the only one on the market for much longer if governments follow through on their commitments to move away from agricultural income support programs, says Kosior. “It might be led by the United States which has a 62 per cent premium subsidy. They are in the midst of changing their Farm Bill and when that changes over the next three or four years, other nations around the world will also lower their subsidies,” he says. “I do believe that when subsidies start to become less prevalent that there will be room for the private insurers. And I think we are already proving that.” † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Changes to Alberta crop insurance Alberta offers hail insurance, adds weather stations and re-evaluates coverage for faba bean growers BY ANGELA LOVELL


lberta farmers are probably more used to hail than farmers in any other province, but this year was worse than usual, with overall claims up by 25 per cent over average according to the Canadian Crop Hail Association. It’s little wonder that hail insurance is a program that has one of the largest participation rates by Alberta producers, says Chris Dyck, senior manager of research and corporate data m a n a g e m e n t w i t h A l b e r t a ’s Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC). The subsidized hail endorsement program is an add-on to crop insurance, so farmers only have the option to purchase it if they also purchase crop insurance on their crops. Farmers who don’t participate in crop insurance can purchase unsubsidized hail insurance. Premiums for the unsubsidized hail insurance program are higher, but, says Dyck, given the extreme risk of hail in many areas of Alberta, farmers will often use it to top up their hail insurance if they are looking at bumper crops. “If a producer buys crop insurance with a hail endorsement and it looks like he is going to have a great crop and prices are really good, he may want to further protect that crop and his return by purchasing additional hail insurance,” says Dyck. Alberta offers a number of area-based programs, an example of which is the pasture insurance program, which bases benefits paid on weather rather than pro-

duction. “If spring soil moisture and rainfall during the growing season fall below a certain percentage of what is normal the producer will start getting paid and the lower it drops the more he gets paid,” says Dyck. A similar program also covers silage and green feed. Alberta is continually adding weather stations for its weather-based insurance programs, which allows AFSC to provide coverage to more areas of the province for more crops. It added 20 weather stations last year and by the end of 2013 will have another 12 for a total of 238 across the province. “We are working closely with

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development to increase the number of weather stations and that’s good news for producers

stations that were available for the Corn Heat Unit program because shorter season varieties of corn are expanding the areas where it can be grown.” AFSC works collaboratively with different producer groups like the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission to make sure its programs keep up with new cropping practices and developments. “We recently worked with the Pulse Growers to re-evaluate our faba bean normal yields because that crop seems to be gaining because the closer they are to a more interest in Alberta,” says weather station the more likely Dyck. “We would take what we it is to reflect the conditions consider to be a normal yield on their farm,” says Dyck. “We and give the producer an option T:8.125” have also expanded the weather to insure at 50, 60, 70 or 80

“Insurance levels were re-assessed and increased.” — Chris Dyck

per cent of that normal yield. We wanted to make sure our program was reflective of the yield guys are getting now with today’s varieties and management practices. As a result the insurance levels were re-assessed and increased.” Dyck predicts there will probably be some more new pulse programs coming down the pipe if earlier maturing varieties of soybeans prove themselves to be a good fit for non-traditional soybean growing areas across the province. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at




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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Manitoba Crop Insurance changes There have been several changes to Manitoba’s 2013 crop insurance program BY ANGELA LOVELL


y far the biggest change to 2013 crop insurance programs in Manitoba has been the introduction of insurance for soybean acres, which are expanding rapidly into non-traditional growing areas, thanks to newly introduced, early maturing varieties. Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) set up insurance test areas to assess how crops like corn and soybeans were performing in non-traditional growing areas before extending insurance programs to cover them. The only difference in the insurance program for these new growing areas is a lower yield target, says David Van Deynze, MASC manager of claim services. “It’s basically the same type of insurance program but coverage is set at a lower level because we set yield targets for different parts of the province, and obviously the yield target for these insurance test areas is lower than it would be in the traditional growing areas like the southeastern part of Manitoba,” he says.

WEATHER RELATED INSURANCE Hail damage has always been a reality across the Prairies and seems to have been increasing in incidence and severity over recent years. Hail insurance coverage in Manitoba has increased to keep pace with the higher value of commodity prices. “It’s essential to keep hail insurance coverage on par with the value of crops,” says Van Deynze. “Commodity prices have increased significantly over the last few years, so we thought it was time for us to react to that because producers have a lot more at stake now than they used to, and should be able to buy higher hail insurance coverage.” Manitoba producers now have the option to purchase $120, $160 or $200 per acre coverage for most of traditional crops. More than a few crop insurance issues were pushed to the forefront by the extremely wet conditions of 2011, and that has resulted in changes to a number of programs over the last couple of years. For 2013 it prompted removal of insurance for aerial seeding. “Historically some producers have tried aerial seeding with mixed success, and we felt it was too high of a risk for us to insure as a normal practice because this program is shared by all producers in Manitoba,” says Van Deynze. “We do have an insurance program for acres that are too wet to seed, so producers in that situation can apply for coverage through that program.”

forage types on an individual basis, and Basic Hay Insurance, which insures against production losses on a whole-farm basis at a lower cost. Other options include a Harvest Flood Option for coarse hay should a farmer be unable to harvest this hay type due to excess moisture, and an Enhanced Quality Option for alfalfa hay producers based on an individualized relative feed value. Participants in either the Select Hay Insurance or Basic Hay Insurance program automatically receive the Forage Restoration Benefit and Hay Disaster Benefit at no extra cost. The Forage Restoration Benefit provides compensation for producers to reseed established tame hay fields that are lost due to excess moisture. The new Hay Disaster Benefit provides a program participant who experienced a production shortfall with additional compensation to purchase replacement hay. This benefit is triggered when there is a severe forage crop loss at the provincial level. Existing features such as Forage Establishment Insurance and Pasture Insurance continue to be available to producers through Manitoba’s AgriInsurance program. Pasture Days Insurance is a pilot program that covers farmers who have to move their cattle to alternate pasture or begin feeding cattle earlier than normal because of floods or droughts. Over the past few years the pilot program has only been offered to three producers in each of the 19 areas where MASC has an office. “While it was useful for us to work out the bugs of the program, it wasn’t that useful for us to figure out what the true demand is for the program,” says Van Deynze. The program was opened up this year to anyone interested in two prominent cattle producing areas to try and better assess demand for a Pasture Days Insurance program. Insurance for open pollinated silage corn is another new program for 2013. “Prior to this year if a producer grew open pollinated corn the only type of insurance he or she could purchase through us was basically a grain yield type of insurance,” says Van Deynze. “But we found that a number of producers were growing open pollinated corn with the intent of putting the whole plants, stalks and all into a silage pile. So we decided to

allow them to insure it as a silage corn if that was the intended use that they had for it.”

WINTER WHEAT CHANGES Manitoba grows a large percentage of the western Canadian winter wheat crop, and Van Deynze says that the insura-

per cent, for winter wheat crops seeded this fall that fail before June 20 of next year. This change is to better reflect the production practices of winter wheat growers, who often re-seed and successfully grow a cash crop, such as canola, after terminating a failed winter wheat crop. The reduced indemnity now dis-

“In Manitoba our level of participation is excellent.” — David Van Deynze

bility of CDC Falcon will not be affected by its classification change from the winter wheat to the Canada Western General Purpose class on August 1, 2014. What has changed is that the indemnity available for reseeding winter wheat has been reduced to 25 per cent, from 75

courages the practice of ploughing under winter wheat crops too early in the season, and is designed to adequately cover only the lost seed and inputs costs of the fall seeded crop. There are a few changes to sign up deadlines for some programs, especially for enhanced options

like excess moisture coverage, which must now be purchased by November 30 instead of March 31. “Producers would look out their window in March and say, I have three feet of snow in my fields, I had better go and buy excess moisture insurance,” says Van Deynze. “We moved that deadline back to November 30 to encourage producers to look at the program and decide whether it’s of value to them, regardless of the conditions they see out their window on a given day.” Over 90 per cent of Manitoba farmers participate in MASC crop insurance programs. “In Manitoba our level of participation is excellent,” says Van Deynze. “Farming is such a big business now that there is just too much risk to bear alone if producers are unfortunate enough to suffer a crop failure.” † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Creative farm financing For farmers searching for a new way to finance the rising costs of farm inputs, Input Capital’s new model may be worth a look BY ANDREA HILDERMAN


he Saskatchewan-based company Input Capital is the world’s first to offer commodity streaming to farmers who want to finance new and growing operations, or achieve production goals or yield potential. Streaming financing is not a totally new concept. It is more often seen in the mining industry where production is capital intensive, and it can be hard to find upfront financing to develop new opportunities. In the mining industry, much of the financing is required before a raw commodity can be processed into the final product (such as natural gas, or gold or silver), and sold. For mining companies, sources of operating capital can be hard to find and interest rates can be very high.

Streaming financing addresses these challenges for the mining industry: companies lend capital in exchange for the right to purchase some portion of the mine’s output at a predetermined price for the life of the mine. Now Input Capital is providing this service for farm operations.

INPUT CAPITAL Input Capital grew out of another Saskatchewan company that was recently in the news. Assiniboia Farmland Limited Partnership (AFLP) sold its farmland portfolio to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, a large institutional Canadian investor, on January 10, 2014. Because AFLP acquired farmland and rented it to farmers to operate, it attracted a lot of young farmers. “These

were not young in the sense most Canadians would consider young,” says Gord Nystuen, vicepresident of market development for Input Capital. “These were under 45-year-old farmers who saw the opportunity to expand their farming operations. We realized it was easy enough to get land to rent and equipment to lease, but it was not easy to get the financing or working capital to operate the farm to its full potential.” From these observations, a pilot project was tested in 2009 to see if there was a way to provide working capital that would benefit farmers as well as the financing company and its investors. “That pilot led to the creation of Input Capital a year ago,” says Nystuen. “We found a way to access financing from public

investors in a framework that would work for the farmer at the one end, and the investor at the other by permitting the investor to exit if they wanted to without interrupting the farm business.”

WORKING CAPITAL Input Capital provides working capital to farm operations, as a replacement for bank financing or input supplier financing. “When farms have sufficient cash on the balance sheet, farm managers can make business decisions that will improve margins,” says Nystuen. “If inputs are purchased with cash, farmers can get better prices. For example, if cash is available in August or September to buy nitrogen, substantial discounts can be realized versus buying later in the fall or in the spring. Another example would be discounts for early cash purchases of canola seed. Additionally, a farmer will have better access to premium varieties the earlier he can buy.” It’s when farm operations have insufficient cash reserves that trade-offs have to be made, like having to sell grain to pay bills as opposed to marketing with a deliberate strategy. Nystuen says another advantage shows up when farmers are planning and budgeting. “If there is a very tight ratio of working capital to farm size, the working capital gets allocated across all acres versus formulating a strategy to optimize returns.” An example Nystuen uses is that rather than capitalize on good wheat and canola prices and use more fertilizer, a farmer facing a cash crunch will put on only enough nitrogen to grow a decent crop. “The grower tends to budget from a scarcity of working capital, as opposed to looking at crop potential based on his analysis of the markets, prices and weather. And these two approaches result in very different outcomes.” Input Capital requires its clients to work with a consulting agrologist. “This is our way of ensuring the farm and the working capital we supply is put to the best possible use,” BY DAN PIRARO

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explains Nystuen. “We don’t hand over the cash and walk away; rather, we are invested in optimizing the operation.” “The contract we devised creates a vehicle for us to provide the upfront working capital without taking an ownership position in real estate or assets,” explains Nystuen. “Farmers told us clearly that that was not how they wanted to partner with us. So, we invest for a share of the production, a specified number of tonnes of canola over a specified number of years.” This differs from a term loan in that in a streaming arrangement, the streaming partner, in this case Input Capital, takes on the commodity price risk each year. Farmers are committed to deliver a specific number of tonnes, not a specific dollar value of product. Investors, not farmers, stand to gain if commodity prices rise, or lose if commodity prices fall. “If we can sell at higher prices, our investors do better,” explains Nystuen. “And if we can’t or we do worse, then their returns are lower.

“We want to become a partner.” — Gord Nystuen

INPUT CAPITAL’S CLIENTS Input Capital takes on prospective clients only after extensive discussions. “We meet with growers, conduct a financial assessment to ensure the farm is viable, the right equipment is available to farm, the business strategy is in place and the farmland assets are sufficient for the tenure of the contract,” says Nystuen. “This is far more than checking your credit score. We want to become a partner. The success of our business depends on the success of our relationship with the farmer.” Input Capital has raised $65 million from investors and has canola-streaming contracts in place with growers for a six-year period. It had contracts with 10 producing farms in 2013, its first year or operation. Input Capital has three seasoned farmers working on business development. “These guys are long-term farmers themselves, all very capable and successful. For the most part, they’ve lived this story — starting with limited resources and struggling in those first years to build up their operations. When they sit down at the kitchen table with a prospective client, they know exactly what it’s like to be on the other side of that table.” Learn more about Input Capital at † Andrea Hilderman has her master’s degree in weed science and is a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists. She writes from Winnipeg, Man.



FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Features Crop production

Crop Advisor’s casebook



t was shortly after the 2013 fall harvest when I received a call from Dave, who grows wheat near Chipman, Alta. Dave told me he was concerned about some abnormal areas in his wheat field, where the crop ended up being about a foot shorter than the plants in the rest of field. “The head size, though, was very similar — it was the straw itself that was short,” Dave said, adding that the taller crop matured faster and was a much brighter yellow than the shorter crop. The symptoms, he said, had started showing up six to eight weeks into the growing season. I paid Dave a visit to have a look at the field where the wheat had been harvested. I could clearly see some differences in colour as well as size, such as thinner stalks, in the stubble in the affected patches, which were large and still held some water even though they weren’t located in the low parts of the field. I went over the field history with Dave, who said he thought a nutrient deficiency or chemical carryover might be responsible. “It was sludged four years ago and is slated to be sludged again in the fall,” Dave said, referring to the practice of using raw manure to fertilize a field. I noted that there could be acidity or nutrient issues associated with this.

Liz Simpson, regional sales agronomist with Richardson Pioneer Ltd.

Casebook winner


his issue’s Casebook winner is Peter Z. Hofer — farm manager from Dinsmore Colony in Saskatchewan. Peter, we’ll be renewing your subscription for a year, and sending you a hat. Thanks for reading and entering! †

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Crop Advisor’s Solution WHITE MOULD THE CULPRIT

Dave was concerned about some abnormal areas in his wheat field, where the crop ended up being about a foot shorter than the plants in the rest of field. The field was also seeded into wheat in 2012, but due to very poor germination Dave had used a burn-off chemical to kill the field off and start fresh, which meant that traces of the chemical could still be present in the soil. I could see that a soil problem was the most likely culprit in Dave’s wheat field, but more data was needed to determine exactly what kind of problem. Testing the soil in the affected and unaffected areas separately provided the answer. If you think you know what’s

behind Dave’s patchy wheat, send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, Man., R3C 3K7; email or fax 204-944-95416 c/o Crop Advisor’s Casebook. Best suggestions will be pooled and one winner will be drawn for a chance to win a Grainews cap and a oneyear subscription to the magazine. The answer, along with reasoning that solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor’s Solution File. † Liz Simpson is a regional sales agronomist with Richardson Pioneer Ltd. at Nampa, Alta.

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ack in late August I received a call from Ross, a wheat and canola farmer with a 2,500-acre spread in Shoal Lake, Man., who was growing soybeans for the first time. Ross said he’d noticed some of the plants in his 50-acre soybean test field were dying off early, and he needed help finding out why. Ross thought a tissue test might shed some light on exactly what was happening. I paid Ross a visit to have a look for myself, and I could see many patches within the soybean field where the crop was clearly struggling. Ross informed me whole plants had appeared to die off beginning in early August. Many of surviving plants had parts with browning leaves, there were signs of wilting, and I noticed some small white lesions on numerous leaves and stems. By the looks of the crop, Ross said he thought a nutrient deficiency might be to blame. However, that was ruled out when I was informed the results of soil tests performed in the spring showed good fertilization. Ross also said the crop had experienced excellent germination. The previous crop he had grown in the field, glyphosate-tolerant canola, had been sprayed with the same glyphosate he’d treated the soybeans with, which helped to rule out residue issues in the soil. However, I did notice some of the canola was still standing from the previous crop — which was my first clue as to the real source of the trouble. Scouting soybeans was new for me, so I had to pull out my books and make some phone calls. In the process, I learned that canola and soybeans can both be affected by sclerotinia stem rot, commonly known as white mould, caused by a soilborne fungus called Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. The fungus spends most of its life cycle in the soil as hard-walled resting structures called sclerotia, which are resil-

ient to adverse conditions and can survive in soil or on plant tissue for years. Sclerotia develop within or on diseased plant tissue and are returned to the soil with crop residue. A common result of infection is the formation of white mould on plants. Plant parts above the affected area will often turn yellow, wilt and eventually die off. When I learned this, my mind flashed back to Ross’s field full of wilting soybean plants, and I remembered that he’d told me his soybeans had been seeded directly into canola stubble. Could there be a link? I visited Ross again and we went back out into his soybean field. I cut open some soybean stems from the affected plants and, sure enough, found sclerotia in the plant stems, which indicated white mould had been present in the previous canola crop. The sclerotia appeared as small dark pods inside the stem. Sadly, not much could be done at this point, and Ross would end up with a yield loss of about 25 per cent for the affected crop, compared to healthier areas of the field. Ross said he might try soybeans again in the future, but I suggested he put it on cereal stubble and consider a foliar fungicide at flowering for suppression of white mould. Unfortunately, due to a prolonged flowering period, sclerotinia is much more difficult to control in soybeans than in canola. In addition, I advised Ross to watch crop rotations — soybeans following canola can be problematic due to sclerotinia stem rot having negative effects on both crops. I also asked Ross to consider increasing his row spacing and cutting 10,000 to 20,000 seeds from his current seeding rate of 230,000 seeds per acre, which would help impede fungal growth by increasing air flow and reducing soil moisture within the crop canopy. † Craig Ramsey is a sales agronomist with Richardson Pioneer Ltd. at Shoal Lake, Man.

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Features SEEDING

Saving your seed While there are many benefits to using certified seed, not all farmers plan to buy it. Here are some tips for farmers saving seed BY REBECA KUROPATWA


sing certified seed allows farmers to focus on growing and provides quality seed with potentially new marketing opportunities for the crop, risk management, and access to new varieties, says Lorena Pahl, general manager of the Alberta Seed Growers’ Association. “Certified seed captures the full benefits of a plant breeding program — not just the first chance to get a new variety, but getting the best of that variety every year,” says Pahl. “The stringent conditions under which certified seed is produced gives extra assurance of quality, purity, and pedigree.” That said, not all farmers are going to buy certified seed every year. If this is you, here are some suggestions for making the most from your own seed.

STILL WANT TO SAVE SEED? When farmers save production off the field where certified seed was formerly planted to use as seed for their own use, they should be diligent on how that seed is handled. For starters, ensure volunteers from previous crop use are controlled through proper crop rotation and weed management. Due diligence on sampling procedures, combine clean out, and proper storage will help ensure quality farm-saved seed. Risk management practises should include testing your seed for germination, vigour, fusarium graminearum and other pertinent diseases in your area before it’s planted in the spring. If low-quality seed is the limiting factor on your farm, no matter how much herbicide, fungicide, or fertilizer is applied, that potential is lost. Whether you are using your own farm-saved seed or purchasing certified seed, ensure you know what varieties are growing in your fields.

over-dry the seed, as it may, again, affect germination). This is a relatively easy task on the Prairies, unless a farmer intends to keep the seed over the summer. While the seed is exposed to air, it may gain or lose water according to the surrounding air’s relative humidity. At 50 per cent atmospheric relative humidity, the balance moisture content is about 12 per cent for wheat and rye seeds, about 11 per cent for barley, and about 10.5 per cent for oats. When the balance moisture content of a small grain seed is

exposed to 70 per cent relative humidity, it will be at 15 per cent which is too high for safe storage. At 90 per cent atmospheric relative humidity, the seed moisture content of several small grain crops goes up to 20 to 23 per cent. Under these conditions, viability and vigour are quickly lost. The temperature and relative humidity of the space where seed is stored is especially important for summer storage, although these factors are largely out of farmers’ control. However, farmers can choose a storage space where the temperature and humidity are as


This crop is a field of KS2 pedigreed wheat grown near Carmangay, Alta. low as possible during the time that the seed will be stored. Although small grain seed is usually stored over the winter months in the Canadian Prairies, there is still the risk of infestation and damage from insects, rodents, mould, or moisture leak. No matter how you store seed — in a bin, gravity wagon, piled on a concrete floor or in grain bags —

ensure the storage space has been cleaned of any old grain that could harbour storage insect pests. Commercial labs offer seed testing services for farmers wanting to grow their own seed. Have your seed tested for germination, purity, vigour before planting. † Rebeca Kuropata is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

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Although using certified seed is one of the best ways to ensure quality, harvesting and replanting seeds from good looking grain fields stands is a regular practice on many farms. Regardless of how good a seed cleaning job the combine did in the field, the amount of weed seed content left in the crop seed, and whether it will be drilled or broadcast, a grower should have it cleaned. Extra care should be taken with weed seed infested cereals, particularly if the seed came from another farm or location altogether. The collected seed should be dried carefully (to 10 to 12 per cent seed moisture content) soon after harvesting. Ensure the seed temperature does not exceed 32 C, as that may have an affect on germination (ensuring not to 21572_03A FCC_Robert_8.125x10.indd 1

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Features International farming

Harvest in Victoria, Australia While Canadian Prairie farmers were out in the cold, shovelling snow, Kim Neilsen has been running his combine Down Under By Kim Neilsen


ere in Australia we seed in the fall to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, reliable rain and good soil moisture to germinate crops and mature them for harvest before the inevitable hot and dry summer. It has been eight months since we seeded our crop of oats and we are content to see them in the bin now with a yield above our expectations. The crop didn’t have a good start. The fall season happens gradually like in Canada; the air feels crisper, the leaves on the few trees that are deciduous begin to change colour although the temperatures are still warm and overnight frosts are not in the forecast. As fall or SEC_KIND13_T_GN.qxd 12/30/13 autumn arrives so do more fre-

quent rains, welcomed by the dry soil profile from a hot summer. Autumn Break is a rainfall event that is sufficient to get a crop started and is what farmers look for to kick off the seeding of grain crops, typically around the end of April or marked by the Anzac Holiday.

This year In 2013 the Autumn Break was nowhere in sight on Anzac Day. With time ticking, many farmers gambled — seeding in the “dry” to get over the many acres before winter set in with cooler soil temperatures. The summer had been unusually dry with very little to no rain for months. Here in Dunkeld we hardly had more than five mm of summer 2:50 PM Page 1 rain from December to April. A

few millimetres did fall towards the end of April and we decided to go ahead with seeding May 3 with just enough moisture to germinate. This is risky as without subsequent rain, a sudden heat wave could dry out the struggling seedlings. More rain did finally come and by the end of May the crop was off to a reasonable start. We had hoped for earlier rains for another reason, to give a bit of green-up for a pre-seed glyphosate application for control of annual and perennial weeds. This did not happen, so the crop had a mix of volunteers of previous barley and wheat crops, some annual rye grass and some perennial grasses although expectations of annual broadleaf weeds was not met. The rains continued into June, July and August and made up for

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the dry start to the year. We in fact got so much rain that the north ends of the farm became quite waterlogged with the oats suffering. We had applied a bit of mono ammonium phosphate (MAP) as a starter fertilizer to the tune of 70 pounds per acre — not unlike the Canadian practice, but the Australian MAP is 10N-21P-0K as opposed to 11-51-0. The average annual rainfall for this area of Victoria is 613 mm. By year-end we managed to get to 580 mm explaining the waterlogging scenario. During spring the ground became so soft that no herbicide application was possible by ground equipment. This is normally how additional nitrogen is applied in a liquid urea form. Spring can come with a vengeance and September proved that with days in the high 20s and an average monthly temperature record in recent times. The annual crops advanced from the heat and moisture very quickly into heading and by the time the ground firmed up enough to support a pass by the high clearance sprayer the oats were in the soft dough stage, too late for a cost effective response to extra nitrogen. Needless to say with only seven pounds of nitrogen and 14 pounds of phosphorus applied, we were nervously awaiting how the crop might turn out. O c t o b e r,   N o v e m b e r   a n d December were cool and brought frequent rains. Our farm sits on the Victorian Volcanic Plains, the third largest plains of this nature in

the world, known for its rich soils. Would there be enough soil nutrients to give a satisfactory yield? Farmers are wrapping up the harvest as Christmas nears most years, but not this year. As I write this in mid-January many wheat crops are still standing.

The harvest It was New Years Eve as we got stated on the oats. The big surprise was the yield: nearly five tonnes per hectare, as the Aussies like to measure it, or for us Canadians,137 bushels per acre. The crop was a milling variety called Echidna, a very stout crop at the highest perhaps three feet. There was no sign of lodging and it was a treat to thresh with the aging Class Dominator 203. Despite a shift into cropping our Western District of Victoria is still known for its sheep production. Nearby Hamilton is often referred to as the wool capital of the world. Rather than going the milling route for our oats they are now dispersed around the country side as sheep feed during the ensuing hot dry summer balancing the diet of dry standing feed. We were content to peddle the oats locally at $200/ tonne or $2.90 per bushel, which was $20 more than the milling price. All in all it was a good first year of cropping some oats in the southern hemisphere. † Kim Juul Nielsen, retired Manager of Agricultural Services, Clearwater County, Alberta is a wintertime farmer on Alcheringa Pastoral, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia and summertime grazier of 4-Clover Ranch, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Labour shortage hits hard With large farming operations and a tight labour market, foreign workers are becoming common on Saskatchewan farms BY ELISE THOMSEN


s the average size of farms in Saskatchewan has grown, more and more farmers are bringing in outside help. Some are looking as far as other countries. “We’re always looking for help that is capable,” said Deana Mainil of her and her husband, Dale’s, farm. The Mainils have about five staff year round, but that number increases to 15 during busy times such as seeding and harvesting and when the Mainils can’t find the staff locally, they look even further. “Dale and Davin (their son) are constantly Skyping and looking for good employees,” said Mainil. The Mainils use a program called the International Rural Exchange which helps match young agricultural workers in other nations with farmers looking for staff. In the last three years, they’ve hired staff from the Philippines, the Ukraine, Denmark, India, Switzerland and South Africa and eastern provinces when possible. “We joke around here about this being the UN,” said Mainil with a chuckle. She said she has heard people complaining about those who bring in foreign workers when there are Canadians looking for work, but Mainil said, in their experience, not many of those unemployed Canadians are willing to move and live in Saskatchewan or able to do the work. “We need the labour, so what are you going to do?”

are becoming more common on Saskatchewan farms. His brother-in-law, Daryl Maurer, has hired a man from Australia. Paslawski said bringing in foreign workers can be a good solution but it can have its own problems also. “There can be some language and some safety barriers,” said Paslawski, who said some of the workers are not familiar with Occupational Health and Safety Standards. He also said cultural discrepancies may need to be overcome and that there is lots of paperwork involved to bring workers into the country.

The language barrier is John Wilgenbusch’s biggest concern with hiring abroad, but he is still looking to hire some of his first foreign farm workers, especially those from other Englishspeaking countries. “I can’t get anybody around here,” said Wilgenbusch. “We’re looking all the time and we’re looking for them anyplace we can find them.”He said part of the problem is the need for good, competent workers, especially with technological advances in the agriculture industry. “I can’t just put any fool in there that doesn’t know what

he’s doing,” said Wilgenbusch, but said he would be happy to teach a young, ambitious worker. Most of the farm labourers he has seen are retired farmers themselves. M a i n i l , Wi l g e n b u s c h a n d Paslawski attribute the need for foreign workers in the agriculture industry to the oil boom in Saskatchewan. “Wages haven’t kept pace with the oil industry and lots of guys don’t want to work in agriculture,” said Paslawski who also works in the oil industry. “We can’t compare to the oil field and what they can pay,”

said Mainil. “A lot of young kids will see the money and go to that.” Wilgenbusch said he would love to hire locally, but can’t compete with the oilfield wages, which often start around $30 an hour, about double what the starting wage a brand new farm labourer would make. He also thinks a lot of people are looking for nine to five style work and that is incompatible with the agriculture industry. This article originally ran in the “Weyburn Review.” It is reprinted here with permission. † Elise Thomsen writes for the “Weyburn Review.”

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“We can’t compare to the oil field.” — Deana Mainil

Statistics Canada reports that in the five years from 2006 to 2011, the average farm in Canada increased in size by nearly seven per cent, but in Saskatchewan, the average farm increased in size by 15.1 per cent. That was the largest increase in the country and for the first time, StatsCan collected statistics on paid labour in the agriculture industry in 2011. More than one third of farms, 34 per cent, reported using paid labour in their operations, and that number has likely grown.

GOOD VALUE “A good, competent worker can combine a half section of canola in one day,” said Dale Paslawski, who farms near Cedoux, and speaks with farmers all over southeastern Saskatchewan. “That’s $100,000 worth of canola.” “Some farmers are looking at bringing guys in from Mexico,” said Paslawski and added that Australian workers

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Wheat protein down, values up On average protein values are generally a little lower this year. Farmers with a mix of protein in their bins may have marketing options BY JULIENNE ISAACS


ast year’s hot, dry summer resulted in plentiful protein in wheat across the Canadian prairies. This year, the picture has been different: a cool stretch in the middle of the summer, coupled with more moisture, meant that prairie producers have seen large yields and low protein, generally speaking, across the board. As a result, says David Simonot, manager of pooling strategy and planning with CWB, “we’ve seen a bit less protein this year and the values have gone up to least double to what they were last year, in terms of export response, but historically speaking it’s not that high-level.” Last year, says Simonot, the grade was 90 per cent for ones and twos, and the proteins averaged at about 13.8 per cent. “There was ample protein last year and buyers didn’t have to pay up at all, because if they got the average it was 13.5 or better,” he says. “This year, it’s still a pretty good grade pattern, probably about 70 per cent for ones and twos, and the protein is much lower, at about 12.8 or 12.9, less than 13 per cent, which is in the bottom 10 of protein results.”

“We’ve seen a bit less protein this year.” — David Simonot

This is partly due to the fact that yield and protein are inversely related, says Simonot, and this year the yields have been huge. Whereas last year everything was being traded at 13.5 or higher, he says, “This year’s crop is predominately being sold as 13 per cent protein and 12.5 per cent — those would be the biggest volume grades.” In the country, where farmers are working with elevators, this year’s levels have shown a lot more variability than past years. Trent Rude, director of merchandising for Viterra, says that it is difficult to compare protein levels across the Prairie provinces due to the large variances from province to province. “On average the protein content in CWRS wheat is approximately one per cent lower than last year’s CWRS,” he says. The quality of the wheat protein appears to be decent, according to Simonot, with good milling and baking qualities. Premiums, on the whole, have been higher than last year but not remarkable in the larger picture. “We’re not seeing very large premiums, but compared to historical levels I’d say they’re below average at most,” says Simonot. “There’s a lot of 13 and enough 13.5 for those buyers who want it that it’s available. There are some buyers

who want 14 and 14.5, but those are few and far between, and that’s hard to find this year.” Farmers with a mix of proteins will have options in terms of marketing, he says. If next year proves to be a high-protein year, producers who store low-protein grain over the winter may find it pays off to hold some in reserve. But as always, there’s no clear prescription.

FEED WHEAT Jim Beusekom, president of Lethbridge, Alta.-based Marketplace Commodities, an independently owned and operated merchandis-

ing company, says that this year has been an extremely unusual one for the feed market. Marketplace Commodities trades feed commodities in Western Canada, including feed barley, corn and wheat, and imports feed ingredients. Last year, the company was buying number one milling wheat and selling it as feed. This year, they’ve had more than the usual number of options. “We’ve got a situation this year where we’ve got soft wheat, CPS wheat and hard red spring available,” says Beusekom. “So we’ve got these going into the feed market all at various levels this year, which is quite unusual. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen this before.”

Soft wheat is “rather homeless” on the Prairies this year, he says, as the ethanol plants are relatively full and either have enough purchased already or can purchase at will at a reasonable price. Soft wheat is low in protein and high-energy, suitable for the cattle market rather than the poultry and hog markets. Red wheat is also available, although this year the export market has been aggressive on CPS red wheat and the company has had a hard time buying CPS red wheats for the feed market, says Beusekom. Hard Red Spring wheat, which because of its higher protein levels is

only available to the feed market when it’s downgraded for quality issues, has been available this year as well. “We’re dealing with grade issues on Hard Red Spring such as ergot, which make it unattractive as export, but even as feed the ergot contamination makes it hard to trade even at a discount, or it has to be cleaned first to be used as feed,” he says. As a result of so many variances in protein levels and grades, the company has had to adapt to the various grades of feed wheat, says Beusekom. † Julienne Isaacs is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at julienne.


Keller Farms is the largest irrigated farm in Canada. Globally, our products feed millions; locally, our business helps employ thousands. Syngenta is a huge part of my operation. The research they do around the world helps us to keep growing here. Mark Keller, owner/farmer, Keller & Sons Farming Ltd., Carberry, MB

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Protein quality versus quantity There is more to wheat protein than just one number BY REBECA KUROPATWA


hile often people think of protein in terms of numbers and premiums, quality and protein balance may be more important. Dr. Rex Newkirk, vice-president of research and innovation with the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), has recently been looking at protein quality and strength. Canada has a reputation for producing the high quality, high protein spring wheat that certain markets require. “In Japan and many Asian countries, they are looking for 13.5 per cent protein wheat

(which is quite high), as they’re looking for Canadian wheat to offset what they’d find domestically (as they have a lower protein),” said Newkirk. “By mixing the two, they’re able to achieve a balance.” Although, this year, the protein content went down by one percent, the functionality (quality) of the protein is good. “Last year all the wheat was very high protein, so they really didn’t need to pay a premium,” said Newkirk. “This year there’s a reduced amount of protein out there, so the higher protein will likely sell at a premium. I think this will be determined year by year. “This year, there are some pretty

strong advantages of high protein wheat that’s a little harder to sort out. So, there will be a premium on it this year. “Next year, if our protein average goes up again, the premiums will probably disappear.” Often, the assumption is that the higher the protein the better the flour will perform (that is, producing bigger loaves, better crusts and other positive traits). “We’re saying that with our high quality protein, that’s not necessarily the case,” said Newkirk. “We can get some very good quality product, but at a lower protein. But most millers and bakers in this world still hold to the notion that higher

protein means higher loaf volume, higher quality.”

GROWING HIGH PROTEIN In general, it is a good idea to maximize on fertilizer. There are certain varieties that yield higher protein than others. But most varieties will achieve higher protein content with additional fertilizer, as long as they have enough moisture to absorb it. If there is a year without the needed level of moisture, it could result in very high protein content but quite low yield — a scenario where the wheat is likely damaged from over-fertilization. How much to fertilize is a

challenging decision for farmers, but, typically, the rule of thumb is to applying more. In one situation, Newkirk recalled a farmer who was able to put extra fertilizer through his irrigation system (sometimes referred to as “fertigation”) and chose a very high protein level of wheat by doing the fertigation, without risking damage. “Another thing that’s worth practicing that there’s certainly been enough affirmative press and publications on is using fungicides to increase protein content,” said Newkirk. “There are certainly a lot of people using fungicides, so that could be part of a strategy to increase protein content.”

HIGHER QUALITY PROTEIN According to Newkirk, some customers demand higher quality protein. “The challenge is we don’t have rapid tests for it as of yet, and so for farmers to take their crop into the elevator and say they I’d like a premium for higher quality, it isn’t an option.” Although this can be measured in a lab, it takes time and is costly. Due to this, we are not yet in a situation where a premium will be paid for it.

Some customers demand higher quality protein The exceptions to this are companies that contract farmers for a specific variety to meet a particular need they have, using a premium to entice producers to sign a contract. Newkirk is hopeful an increasing number of companies will contract directly with farmers. “Companies select varieties and locations based on their experience of the quality and we do testing for them,” he said. “Hopefully someday, we’ll also see some more cost effective JOB ID: 6306 1C tests being offered.” DATE: FEB 4,buyers 2014 The premiums pay farmers are based on what they need CLIENT: SYNGENTA CANADA to meet specific orders. So, premiPROJECT: ROI AD they – MK have in ums depend on what stock. If they do not have enough PUBLICATION: GRAIN NEWS of what they need in stock, then they may have JEFF to pay more to DESIGNER: ANTON get it. ( ) MECHANICAL ( ) PDF/X “In years like this one, when we have a lower protein getFINAL SIZE: 17.4" Xaverage, 10" ting a premium for whatever high UCR: 240% protein there is out there becomes possible, CLIENT especially with recurring SERVICE customers. “If youPROOFREADING have a little over-supply of low protein, sometimes they ART DIRECTION have to bring in a little higher price forPRODUCTION high protein, just to bring what’s in there to the usable level — allowing farmers to get a little more premium on this wheat.” † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man. 14-01-15 3:54 PM



FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Listen to your air seeder This wireless flow monitoring system uses small microphones to tell you when something isn’t right BY LEE HART


rent Duczek of Grayson, Sask. and Caleb Wierenga of Neerlandia, Alta. both agree that silence is not golden when it comes time to seeding the crop, but both have become big believers in an acoustic-based flow monitoring system using sound — or the lack of it — on their air drills that quickly tells them when something isn’t running right. The two grain, oilseed and pulse crop producers are among the early users of the Intelligent Agricultural Solutions (IAS) wireless blockage and flow monitoring system. Relatively simple to install on just about any air seeding system using dry products (seed and fertilizer), the IAS system relies on sound through the manifold and the individual hoses of the air seeder to alert the operator if there is a blockage or even a slow down in the flow of seed or fertilizer. Small microphones or “stethoscopes” installed on each run of the air seeding hoses send messages wirelessly through a WiFi network to an iPad in the tractor cab, immediately telling the operator where there is some blockage or slow down and in which numbered hose. If the microphone doesn’t hear the sound of seed or fertilizer moving, or even detects a reduced flow it sends a signal.

DID THE JOB “I am just really impressed at how well it works,” says Caleb Wierenga who farms with family north of Edmonton. He installed one system on a 64-foot Seed Hawk air drill in 2013 and has outfitted a second 52-foot drill with the flow monitoring system for the 2014 seeding season. “It not only told me when there was a blockage in the hoses, but it even alerted me to the fact that one tower (manifold) was delivering 20 per cent less seed than the targeted seeding rate. It looked like everything was working, but you can’t see 20 per cent less flow with the naked eye. The monitor told us the flow was reduced by 20 per cent and sure enough, we took the manifold apart and there was a blockage.” Trent Duczek, by coincidence also installed the IAS wireless flow monitor on a 60-foot Seed Hawk drill in 2013 to seed canola, wheat, canary seed, and peas on his farm just south of Melville, Sask. “It is just a very consistent flow monitoring system that alerts you any time there is a blocked run and even lets you know if the fan speed is too low in one section,” says Duczek. Even when seeding on a side hill, the flow monitor has a plus or minus indicator system that advises Duczek if there is a reduced flow of seed and

fertilizer through the runs on the upslope and heavier flow through the runs on the down slope. Both farmers had become frustrated with the original flow monitoring systems on their seeding systems that used optical sensors to measure the flow of seed and fertilizer. “It was a hardwired system and it was just very hit and miss,” says Duczek. “You couldn’t trust it.” Wierenga’s comments were similar. “The system we had used was an electronic eye on each hose and really it worked terrible,” he says. “It would give me all these false positives and then when the crop emerged there would be these blank seed rows in the field.”

SEVERAL BLOCKAGE CAUSES Any number of factors can affect seed and fertilizer flow, say the farmers. Equipment failure, high humidity, muddy field conditions which blocks openers, and fertilizer clumps are among the leading causes. “It never seemed to fail,” says Wierenga. “I’d refill the seed tank, check to make sure all the runs are working and then I’d only go a short distance and something would plug, so you need to be able to monitor it closely.” Intelligent Agricultural Solutions based in Fargo, North Dakota launched the wireless blockage and flow monitor system in 2011, says Bobby Volesky, product manager. “Every seeding system manufacturer either has their own flow monitoring system or uses and after-market product,” he says. “And they all operate with optical eyes or infrared sensors. And they are all wired systems. Whether you have 40 or 120 hoses or more you are faced with this complex wiring system.” Other than the main IAS power cable, all information is transmitted wirelessly through an on-board WiFi system from the sensors to the iPad in the tractor cab. Volesky says no added cellular service is needed, the system is self-contained and can transmit up to 270 feet which should even accommodate seeding systems with towbetween carts.

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EASY TO INSTALL The monitoring system is delivered as a kit. “I have never been as impressed with an after market kit as I was with this one,” says Wierenga. “It has absolutely everything you need (except the iPad), comes with easy instructions that cover every scenario… it is complete.” Duczek says he installed 95 per cent of the system himself, but had Saskatchewan sales rep Zane Zolinski of Saskatoon come by the farm to make a final check that everything was working properly. Wierenga 22076-01BULK DAS_Stellar 13.167X9.indd 1

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /




Left: This is the image that appears on the iPad screen inside the tractor cab, showing the operator each of the manifolds. This particular example shows that the five, six, and seven tubes on the No. 2 manifold are blocked. Right: These elbow-shaped fittings at the top of the manifold hold the IAS sensors which “listen” for the flow of seed and fertilizer.

says he just followed instructions and everything worked as planned. Both farmers say on the 60-plus foot systems, brackets, power cable, manifold sensor boards and microphones in each hose can be installed in less than a day. IAS can supply the iPad as well, but Volesky says they encourage farmers to buy their own. Once they have the iPad, producers download the IAS app and are ready to use the monitoring system. The small microphones have to be installed in each seed and fertilizer tube as it leaves the manifold on the air seeding system. As seed leaves the manifold and enters the sensor it impacts a stainless steel membrane, causing a small pulse of sound. Those pulses are transferred through a tube to the ECU (electronic control unit) board, which converts all the analog audio pulses into digital signals and transmits them wirelessly to the iPad. The IAS iPad app displays the system status at a glance and detects a blockage anywhere in the system. The flow monitor also displays total flow levels and flow variance from manifold to manifold. There is also

an option for the operator to use multiple product types and rates through dual-shooting or midrow banders. Volesky says the flow monitor works with all airseeding systems equipped with hoses ranging from 7/8 to 1-1/2 inch diameter. Cost wise, both Duczek and Wierenga say the system isn’t cheap, although price competitive. “It may have cost a bit more than other systems, but the fact that actually works is worth a lot,” says Duczek. Volesky says with dealers and distributors in Canada, the flow monitoring system costs about $500 per tower (or manifold) for each ECU board and each sensor for each opener costs $80. For a smaller 40 foot drill with four towers the system would cost about $6,000 and for a larger air seeding system with 80 openers and more the cost will be about $10,000 and up depending on the size of the drill. For more information on the IAS wireless flow monitor visit the company website at www. † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

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Hats? Check. Pens? Check. Bags? Don’t mind if I do. Toothpick dispenser? We rated this CWB give-away the most unexpected promotional item at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon in January. † Leeann Minogue



FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Farmland prices and net farm income Record high land prices are still making the news in Saskatchewan. Will things be different this time?

WHERE ARE WE GOING? Where are we now and where is it headed? I was able to get net farm income data for Saskatchewan from 1971 to 2012 (Figure 3). In 2003 Saskatchewan net farm income (NFI) was actually negative and in 2004 and 2005 was close to zero. But the recent NFI pales in comparison to the mid-70s boom. We could all pretend an astronomical 2013 NFI by taking the 38.8 million tonnes of grain and multiplying it by 2012 prices but we now know that is not going to happen. Those with crop priced well in advance will do very well. Land prices now are nowhere near the 1982 peak. We all remember the few high numbers that come home from an auction sale or other source. But, many sales are much less than that. In 1982 the average per acre price was $413 in 1982 dollars. At that time Regina heavy clay in my home area (Milden/Rosetown) was selling for $1,000/ac. in 1980s dollars. When 2013 numbers come in we may

50-year reunion


his year marked the 50th anniversary of Les Henry’s graduation with his B.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan. Les attended the reunion in Saskatoon on January 10, and has shared this photo. A surprising number of these proud graduates from 1964 still have their original Agro jackets! Back Row, Left to Right: Terry Anderson, Vic Rondeau, Grant Griffin, Bob Dyck, Harvey Heavin, Al Blair, Jim Bole, Tom Burwell, Gary Broker, Brian Duck. Middle Row: Bob Evenson, Brian Fowler, Bill Afseth, Neil Jorgenson, George Gerber, Gary Howland, Harold Rostad, Bob Schuler, Roger Moore, Gerald Girodat, Larry White, Gerald Douglas, Cecil Forsberg, Howard Ball. Front Row: Ron Johnson, Norm Hemstad, Don Connick, Ken Brice, Carman Berg, Les Henry, Gordon Bonnor, Bob Lockwood, Helgi Goodman, Tom Lowes, Dennis Zackrisson. Leeann Minogue PHOTO: STEVE VOTH, F-11, SASKATOON, SASK.

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres, Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.

2013 $$$ PER ACRE

Fig 1. SASKATCHEWAN FARMLAND PRICES 2013 $$$ PER ACRE 1,050 1,000 950 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015




offee shops and bars have been buzzing for a couple of years now with new record highs for farmland prices and cash rents. This is what you hear: “Farmland is a superb investment and we must get in on the action. Farmland will continue to increase in value — they aren’t making any more of it you know. And, what about those billions of mouths we must feed? Our products will only go up and up in price so we can afford to pay whatever it takes. For those who like to dig out the wretched past — this time is different, don’t you know.” Several years ago, I dug out historic land and wheat prices for Saskatchewan. I have had requests to update those graphs. So here they are, updated to 2013 dollars. This data is for Saskatchewan only, because that is the data I can access easily. I’ve used wheat because the data goes back so far and there is a uniform data set over time. 2012 is the last year of available data. Saskatchewan data goes back to 1926. From then until 1940 there was a steady decline in land values. 1960 was the start of significant fertilizer use and reduction in summerfallow. The fertilizer gave big wheat yield increases. The late 60s saw a spike in land values. But there was no sale for the extra wheat. In 1970 the Government of Canada paid farmers to summerfallow land two years in a row. LIFT (Lower Inventories for Tomorrow) was the flawed government program. Land prices declined. The record high wheat price of $29/bu. (converted to 2013 dollars) occurred in 1917, and wheat prices have been in general decline ever since. High wheat prices during the First World War went to paying farm establishment costs and build-

see a provincial average of $800 or $900/ac. average in my home area. Regina heavy clay is now selling for about double that. Some of the outside money does not see why Saskatchewan land prices should be so low. Some say Saskatchewan land is the same as land in Manitoba and Alberta, and ask why it’s such a “bargain.” But, Saskatchewan land is not the same land. We got the lion’s share of the dry Palliser Triangle — Manitoba has none of this, and Alberta irrigates much of its dry area. A couple of years ago I heard Moe Russell give a keynote address at the Farm Forum Event in Saskatoon hosted by Agri-Trend. Moe is an Iowa farm boy who consults in ag business. He has huge experience. He showed a graph of U.S. net farm income from about 1910 to the present, but converted to constant dollars. The correlation to Saskatchewan wheat prices was phenomenal. Moe Russell said there have been only a few times when U.S. farmers have made serious coin: the First World War, the Second World War, the 1970s (the Vietnam War) and now. Last month I asked him when “now” would be over. His answer, “now.” In closing, I’ll mention a recent newspaper article. Guess what folks — federal bureaucrats working with our good old Canada Pension Plan are acting just like the doctors and lawyers of the 1970s. They are jumping on the bandwagon after the band stopped playing. They have bought $128 million worth of Saskatchewan farmland. Anyone want to guess what it will be worth in 10 years? There you have it. Who knows what the future will hold, but history does have a way of repeating itself. Hang on — the ride could get very bumpy. †

25 20 15 10 5 0 1915 1920 1925 1930 1935 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010



ing mansions. Who needed more land when you could make a killing on what you had? I was raised in a house built in 1917 with the $29/bu. wheat price. It was 2-1/2 stories, with hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, electric lights and central heating with hot water registers in every room. High wheat prices in the Second World War went to paying off depression debt. In 1973 wheat prices skyrocketed in one year and declined for the next four years followed by a second “blip” in 1980. Meanwhile, land prices carried on like a rocket and peaked in a giant bubble in 1982. In the 1970s, Saskatchewan farmland could not be purchased by non-residents so outside money cannot be blamed. Resident doctors and lawyers did try to jump on the bandwagon but many bought at the peak and took a bath. High interest rates were a significant factor in the crash of land prices in the 1980s and it took 15 years for the downdraft to wither.

5 4 3 2 1 0 1970










Fig 1. Saskatchewan farmland prices 1926-2012 (in 2013 dollars). Fig 2. Saskatchewan wheat prices from 1916-2010 (in 2013 dollars). Fig 3. Saskatchewan net farm income 1971-2012 (in 2013 dollars).

Data sources


and price data mainly comes from Saskatchewan Agriculture. Find it online at agriculture_statistics. Data used to convert dollars to 2013 values comes from the Bank of Canada. There is an inflation calculator online at: http:// †

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Watching the trends Understanding changing trends can be the key to doing well in the stock market. Here are Andy Sirski’s trend predictions ANDY SIRSKI


ne of my children told me the other day that no billionaire he could find made his billions with stocks. They all did it with a business or with some rare speculative decision that turned out well. While I wanted to be well off, I didn’t think I had to be a billionaire. I had several goals in life. One was to have a healthy family and I am blessed with one. Another was to help farmers learn things that are important to them. And finally, to be well off. One thing I wish I had learned sooner is the importance of trends What follows are my opinions.

REAL ESTATE Farmland and houses have been a good place to put money most of the time since I started shaving. I don’t think farmland in Canada, especially Western Canada has topped out, but then I don’t make the rules. Chinese money has been buying farmland. The genetic potential of the crops you grow is improving year by year and so are the systems that help you plant, nurture, harvest and sell crops. Plus, a lot more farmers understand the concept of critical mass and they can add more acres to their farm at higher and higher prices and still make things work. I don’t think those trends will change unless interest rates jump a lot.

trucks. In North America the fleet of cars on the streets and highways is still quite old and will need to be replaced. In the short term, I suspect recent snowstorms, hurricanes and floods will take a bunch of older cars off the road and they will need to be replaced. Plus, newer vehicles burn less fuel and are not going up in price. I think parts makers have a good future. I missed Magna at $40 a share but I did buy Martinrea (MRE) at just over $8 while it’s going through some court case that will get resolved eventually. Linamar (LNR) is a decent parts maker too. Some claim the new car trend will last until 2020.

ALUMINUM The aluminum industry ran into grief a few years ago when there were too many mills making it and the number of cars and airplanes being built dropped. Some mills have been shut down or cut back so the supply has dropped. When I look at the number of airplanes Boeing and other big builders are going to build, I think they will use a lot of aluminum. Ford has announced that it’s F150 trucks will have a lot of aluminum, which will cut 700 lbs. off the weight of the truck — again a new demand. I think I will buy shares in Alcoa (AA) at $11 to $12. The book value is just under $12.

CANADIAN DOLLAR I will be the first to admit I don’t know which way currencies are going to go. But I see some signs. The cost of pulling energy out of the ground is dropping. That will or should reduce the U.S. import/ export deficit. A higher U.S. dollar likely means the price of gold and silver could have a lid on it — maybe not down here at $1,250 but maybe at $1,400 an ounce. The Canadian economy is more or less okay, but if the price of oil drops the economies in Saskatchewan and Alberta will slow. Ontario and Quebec have big debts; their governments will need to pay more to borrow and might be forced to spend less. That can lead to a weaker economy. That could lead to a lower Canadian dollar while the U.S. dollar strengthens. When Canada was signing the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. in 1988, Canada more or less manipulated the Canadian dollar

to $0.88 to the U.S. dollar, saying it was about production parity. I don’t know if much has changed. I don’t know if the Canadian dollar will drop to $0.88 again, but it sure could go lower from here. A lower Canadian dollar would be good for canola and oil prices and other exports, but it would also boost the cost of bringing in technology and equipment, holding back Canadian productivity improvements. In the meantime, I am starting to buy shares in Cameco as it starts up Cigar Lake. I own pharmaceutical Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY) shares, and sell calls on them, and I own First Majestic as my backbone resource stock. If it looks like any one of them is going to fall off a cliff, out they go. † Andy is mostly retired. He plays with his granddaughters, travels a bit, gardens in summer and manages his family’s portfolio. Andy also publishes and electronic newsletter called StocksTalk where he explains what he does in detail and how things worked out. To read StocksTalk free for a month, email

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NATURAL GAS AND OIL New technology has dropped the cost of finding and bringing natural gas to market. Cheap natural gas is going to bring many jobs back to North America. Years ago, there was fear that the world would run out of oil. Now, new technology has enabled the world to find huge new oil supplies. Deep sea drilling is expensive, risky and not easy, but it is possible. I don’t think the price of oil is going to collapse but I don’t think it’s going to go up much either. There might be spikes in the price now and then due to political or weather related events but I suspect that very soon the supply of oil will not be controlled by OPEC or any one country. At least not for long. This has some implications. First, the U.S. has had an import/export deficit for years because the country was importing expensive oil. But as more and more oil comes from North America, less is imported. That’s shrinking the import/export deficit, which could raise the value of the U.S. dollar, which could be bad for the price of gold. The price of oil is not likely to go up much except maybe due to seasonal, weather or political events.

CARS AND TRUCKS The middle class in China and India is growing and with that comes new demand for cars and

Visit or contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682). Always read and follow label directions. Axial ®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are registered trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2014 Syngenta.

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2014-01-08 4:18 PM



FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Using cyclical markets In his last column, Brian Wittal explained some of the reasons behind market cycles. Now learn more about how you can use them

HOLD OR SELL IN A DOWNTURN? Should you hold your grain until the next uptrend and sell it for a profit then? You could be looking at holding grain for two to four years, depending on where the cycle is. Can you afford to hold the grain for that long? Will you need to build bins to replace this lost storage for future crops? What are your costs for storage and interest? Can you keep the grain in good condition for an extended period of time without having to re-handle it? Remember these charts show you the cyclical pattern, two up, two down, two sideways. They do not guarantee how high or low the markets may go during the up or down leg of the cycle, so holding grain can be real risky if during the downtrend the markets fall twice as far as they recover in the up leg. You could sit on grain for four years and end up pricing it for less than what you could have right at the start. Would it make sense to buy grain at the low end of the cycle and hold it to sell later? Again you need to answer some questions before you decide to go down this road. What costs will you have to incur? Do you need to build storage facilities? Do you have the cash to buy and hold for two to four years? What are your storage and interest charges going to be? Can you recover all those costs when you resell?

CANOLA PRICES: ICE Canola - Nearby Futures





C$ per tonne


nce you know that markets are cyclical, how can you use that information to better market your grain? The barley and canola charts here were graciously supplied to me by my friend, senior market analyst Greg Kostal. They show this two year up, down, sideways pattern that I described in my February 3 column fairly clearly. Following cyclical patterns can help you better understand where the markets may be headed both short term (six to12 months) and long term (one to four years). This will allow you to make better decisions as to when to price your grains and what kinds of pricing strategies to use. If markets look to be heading into an uptrend you will most likely want to hold off on pricing for as long as possible to maximize profits. That is not always possible — cash flow needs and marketing opportunities may require you to sell grain at various times. When you need to sell grain in an uptrend, you may want to look at using call options as a strategy to keep you in the markets to try to take advantage of the cyclical trend. If the cyclical pattern is pointing toward or is in a downtrend you can make better decisions about pricing your grains sooner than later. If you want to price your next year’s crop before the markets fall too far (because the down cycle is followed by a sideways cycle) you will need to decide how much you are willing to physically sell and then how much you are willing to price protect using put

CATTLE HERDS Here is a question I have had from a few producers: If the cyclical pattern shows barley headed lower and then sideways for the next two to four years, should I increase my cattle herd, or get back into cattle? I have a few comments and questions: • What kind of expenses will you be facing if you buy or expand your cattle herd? • Do you need to upgrade facilities and/or equipment? Can the potential returns pay for these? • Can you make more money putting your feed grains through your cattle than you can by selling it into the current feed market? • Will your cash flow requirements allow you to feed your grains instead of selling them for cash? • Will you have to run on your operating line of credit if you aren’t selling grain? What are those costs and can you recoup them by selling the cattle? • If you hold back heifers to build your herd and feed them your grain instead of selling the animals and grain into the market, can you live with a reduced cash flow for one or two years as you build your herd? • Where are the cattle prices in regards to cyclical patterns? What is the long-term outlook (one to four years)? • What is the plan for two to four years down the road when grain cycle patterns change and start to head higher and/or cattle prices head lower? Do you reduce herd size or continue to feed higher priced grains? These are questions that each individual producer needs to answer, as each situation is different. You don’t want to make these kinds of decisions based on just




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BARLEY PRICES: Spot 1 CW Feed Barley Cash - Lethbridge


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C$ per tonne


options or futures contracts to set a floor price for yourself. By understanding cyclical trends you can make smarter decisions about whether or not you should spend money to purchase futures or options contracts, and if they will show you a positive return.

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200 150 100 50 Aug-93 Aug-96 Aug-99 Aug-02 Aug-05 Aug-08 Aug-11 Aug-14


historical cyclical market charts, but this information can give you some good insight as to what to possibly expect from the markets, so you can discuss and plan for various scenarios and have contingency plans in place, just in case! Charts and cyclical information can help you make better marketing decisions. They give you historical information that shows a pattern or trend that can help you determine where the markets may be headed,

which is far better than following the coffee shop analyst’s recommendations. The more information you have the better your decisions will be. Smart marketing makes you feel good, it lets you sleep at night and it makes you look good to your neighbours! † Brian Wittal has 30 years of grain industry experience, and currently offers market planning and marketing advice to farmers through his company Pro Com Marketing Ltd. (


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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Columns Can’t take the farm from the boy

The middle view on GMO crops Fresh from the city, Toban Dyck looks at GMOs as a farmer Toban Dyck


don’t know enough about the issue to strip it down to its bones. Few do, it seems. But I do understand what sides, polarities, and knee-jerk reactions are. I’ve lived among those who equate genetically modifying anything to murder — murder committed by someone who hates the earth and loves Monsanto. These people walk among us, and, guess what? They are smart, rational human beings. But they have natural enemies. The coffee-shop farmers and ag-industry shills who pigeonhole GMO naysayers as hippies, idiots, or — the other pejorative — city folk. Hilarious. All of it. And, wrong, on both sides. Needed background and a confession: I’ve already committed a fallacy in this article. Perhaps two, but let’s focus on the most obvious one. The straw man fallacy is a sly move where the person attempting to make a point falsely represents opposing arguments, making them weaker than they really are. I did this. Apologies. Brilliant articles have been written in favour of GMO products and crops. And equally smart arguments have been made in opposition. It’s a good fallacy to keep in mind when you’re listening to politicians, watching commercials, or in throes of heated debate. And watch for it during your next conversation about GMOs. If I have an agenda here, it’s to champion the middle. The answer to the issue is caution, and it exists somewhere in the middle. So, let’s wallow in the grey for a little while. This is the place where, “I’m not sure,” has the gravity I think it deserves on the issue of GMOs. There is nothing about sitting “genetics”  and  “modification” next to each other that isn’t terrifying. It’s tampering, and that is a scary word. Can we agree on that? Let’s move on.

The debate I put the question of GMOs to a group of colleagues, and got many responses, some of them thoughtful, some of them reading like undergrad essays. Here’s what Respondent No. 1 said: “There’s no scientific basis for opposition, and we live in a world where plenty of people still haven’t got enough to eat. Given these two facts, I can’t see a good reason not to allow GMOs.” This responder is right about the food deficit. A reported two billion people are hungry on this planet, according to a 2014 article appearing in Forbes, which went on to say, that the world’s population is expected to rise from the current seven billion to nine billion by 2050. Current food production and practices, the article claimed, will not be enough to meet this need. We grow food on our farm — wheat and soybeans. Our production includes GMOs, and it does so unceremoniously. The hoe drill wasn’t ready for the field. We had to untarp it, grease all the zerks, and make sure the proper seeding rates were set. The seed was already bought, and it was bought with absolutely no ceremony. I don’t yet make the

decisions, but from my perspective, the choice to grow Roundup Ready soybeans was made without malice to the earth or a deliberate attempt to side with Monsanto in a public debate. I think it would have been difficult for our farm to find soybean seed that wasn’t Roundup Ready. It’s what’s available. Farmers are not planting these seeds with a maniacal smirk. I seeded this year, handling the bright blue soybean seed that was not only genetically modified but also covered in inoculant. I put in long days in spring doing so. While on the field, I did not think about the good work I was doing meeting a looming or present food deficit, the policy complexities surrounding GMOs, nor the fact that I was

unwittingly consenting to the modification of genetics. I was just seeding, and my mind was bent towards ensuring the seed was flowing at the appropriate rate into the ground. We sprayed the beans with Roundup three times before harvest. They looked great, yielded really well, and are now the congested market’s problem. It angers farmers and frustrates me to read articles painting my ag colleagues and me as cold, Machiavellian,  calloused.  And these are the pieces that make it to the coffee shops. We’re not a thoughtless bunch. The very same farmers planting these genetically modified crops have real thoughts on the issue. “It’s a young science,” said a farmer sitting at The Oasis in

Winkler, Man., for his daily 7:00 a.m. coffee. “I think we should be planting these crops, but we should also be wary of the fact that the long-term effects of these modifications on humans may yet reveal something negative.” Seedless watermelon and other practices  closely  representing plant eugenics have been around for a while. That science is not young, but Roundup resistance is. In 1996, Roundup resistant soybeans hit the market. In 1997, Monsanto  introduced  similar modifications to cotton and canoloa. And, in 1998, corn. “I’m not convinced about the dangers of GMO-related health threats... because science,” said Responder No. 2. “However, I am concerned about multi-nationals

owning patent rights to seed, which pushes all potential farmers to bigbusiness models. I also have issues with public subsidy of big-business food production and its subsequent devaluation of food in the market. I think this is directly related to why we can’t open/keep a grocery downtown with margins for small businesses being so slim. Then access becomes a problem, then our neighbourhoods are built around large food distribution.” This is an important perspective for us farmers to consider, wresting their minds from the farm to further down the chain: The pockets of density that actually consume the products we grow. We need to proceed. But we need to proceed with caution. This agnostic position on GMOs capitalizes on the conversation started by those with a strong no, and those with strong yes. And the conversation is very important. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Getting to the root of the rot Late season root rot is creeping into pea fields. Sarah Weigum investigates the symptoms, and the situation SARAH WEIGUM


t sounds a bit dramatic, but the late season root rot that is creeping into Prairie producers’ pea fields feels like a betrayal. Besides being a profitable to grow, peas seemed like the “right thing to do.” I tend to feel smug when I hear of clubroot in a distant county, because I assume growers pushed canola rotations. But it stings when I hear about farm-

ers trying to avoid nasty canola and cereal disease being hit with a yield-devastating and (at this point) untreatable case of root rot. Planting peas and other pulses lengthens crop rotation from a short cereal-canola cycle and with their nitrogen-fixing capabilities, they are touted as an environmentally-friendly. Like most farmers who grow peas, we typically plant peas one in every four years. While we have not seen noticeable root rot in our fields yet, others have, even when following a recommended crop rotation. Prompted by increasing reports of the root rot, researchers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and

Manitoba are taking a hard look at this disease and possible ways to overcome it.

ROOT ROT SYMPTOMS Above ground root rot symptoms can include patches or large areas of yellowed and stunted plants with decaying leaves. Below ground roots will be thin, poorly nodulated and discoloured, often with a reddish streak inside the main tap root. While seed treatment may provide some control for early season root rots that effect seedling emergence, late season cases of root rot show up after the efficacy period of treatments.

Two years ago my neighbour, Greg, had a pea field that performed poorly. Unaware of root rot, he suspected chemical residue was the culprit, but a review of the chemicals used on that field did not reveal any obvious cause of the damage. Last year, he sowed the adjacent field to peas. It was almost completely affected and he only harvested about 21 bushels per acre. “Up until the six-node stage the crop was looking really good,” he explained. “It was looking okay until it flowered and then it went south from there.” Greg and his brother have been growing peas about one in every four years for the last 20 years. They consider


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peas to be one of their most profitable crops, but after two years of severe losses Greg said they planned to quit growing peas. However, last fall he realized he had a bin of leftover treated seed, so he’s going to take his chances in 2014 on a piece of ground that hasn’t had peas on it for six years. Greg’s field was one of 145 that was surveyed in 2013 in a research project funded by the Alberta Pulse Growers and the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund. Dr. Syama Chatterton, crop pathologist at AAFC in Lethbridge, along with Dr. Michael Harding and Robyne Bowness of Alberta Agriculture, conducted an Alberta-wide survey for the presence of root rot in pea fields. Ninety-eight per cent of the fields visited showed symptoms of root rot, and yet clearly, 98 per cent of pea growers in Alberta did not experience the loss that my neighbour did. Overall, the disease severity in the province was three on a scale of severity from one to seven (seven being completely decayed). The ubiquity of the disease combined with the range of severity suggests that while the root rot-causing pathogens are native to Prairie soils, they are found at different levels and may be exacerbated by different environmental conditions. This year, for example, the Vegreville area saw high disease severity, but as Dr. Chatterton said, that can change from year to year. “When you get higher than normal precipitation at the beginning of the growing season that tends to be when the root rots are more severe.” In each field the surveyors randomly selected 10 sites where they examined a one metre section of the row, counting the plants that showed above ground signs of root rot. After that five to 10 roots were dug up at each sampling site, then taken back to the lab where they were washed and rated on the seven-point scale. Any roots with a rating of four to five were kept and the pathogens on each root were isolated and identified to help the researchers discover which strains caused the root rot. I asked Dr. Chatterton if the soil could be fumigated to kill the pathogens, but she said this would not only be too expensive, it would also kill the beneficial microbes. One goal of the field pea survey (which will continue for three more years) is to develop a field indexing system where a producer would be able to take a soil sample from a previously affected field to a lab which would test it for the root rot pathogens and let him know if it is safe to plant peas in that field again.



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In an email, Dr. Debra McLaren, crop production pathologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Brandon, wrote that, “the development of root rot resistant cultivars is generally recommended as the best method for the control of these root diseases.” There is no easy work-around for plant breeders and pathologists,

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Columns however, as root rot is caused by various strains of three major pathogens: Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. Further complicating matters is the indication that the pathogen composition in the soil may change depending on the environment. As Dr. Chatterton pointed out, research in other crops shows that some pathogens are higher in dry years, while others are more prevalent in wet years. In 2013 AAFC scientists, with support from Manitoba Pulse Growers, ran field trials with about 60 pea varieties grown in that province to assess their reaction to Fusarium solani, Fusarium avenaceum and Rhizoctonia solani. Included in the trials were Carman peas, a variety previously identified as having moderate resistance to these pathogens, and as two varieties known to be susceptible. These trials will continue until 2017.


ON OUR FARM We are still selling a large volume of peas to our seed customers, although we are concerned that demand may drop if growers find root rot affecting their yields. We are definitely keeping our eyes open for signs of the disease on our farm. Since root rot pathogens are soilborne, I think twice about doing custom work with my own equipment or having custom operators on my land. One extension specialist said not to worry, since root rot pathogens are likely already in my soil. Another said to follow the same equipment hygiene practices as I would to avoid transferring clubroot. One suggestion was to go into fields with known root rot problems last, but I wonder how practical this is in crunch times. I had hoped that introducing fababeans to our crop rotation would relieve some of the rotation pressure, but unfortunately, they are likely susceptible to most of the same root rot pathogens as peas. “Fababean root system is a little more robust so it could outgrow the pathogen whereas the pea root and more shallow not as robust,” said Dr. Chatterton. So while fabas might not take the yield hit from late season root rot, they might not give the soil any more of a break from the pathogen build up than a crop of peas would. Dr. Chatterton describes the root rot pathogens as, “weak and opportunistic” so she said the best control against the disease is “to maintain cultural practices that will give your peas a good steady growth rate,” avoid soil compaction, choose well-drained fields, avoid over-fertilizing and any mechanical damage to roots and stems. I hesitated to write this column. I don’t want to spread undue alarm about pea diseases because there are still many benefits to this crop and they have been good to us and many other farmers for the 20-plus years we have been growing them. However, we need to talk about the reality of what we see in our field so the source of the problem can be correctly identified and treated. The history of agriculture shows that we have learned to overcome other, once-devastating crop diseases. I am optimistic that the research of our scientists into cultural and chemical controls, as well as the development of resistant cultivars, will lead to results that diligent farmers can implement. † Sarah Weigum grows pedigreed seed and writes in Three Hills, Alta. Follow her on Twitter: @sweigum.




Top: These pea roots shown on the left are healthy, but the ones on the right are browning due to root rot. Bottom left: Root rot is causing yellowing in these pea plants. Bottom right: The red vascular streaking you can see in this photo is a symptom of root root.


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FEBRUARY 11, 2014


Stock risks after year of gains After a good run in the stock market, investors have decisions to make BY ANDREW ALLENTUCK


t is a dilemma unique to the times, specifically to January and February 2014. After a remarkable run from 2011 or, for that matter, from the beginning of the recovery in March, 2009, stock markets in Canada, the U.S. and in much of the world are breaking through former highs. The broad U.S. market measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite was up 38.3 per cent for calendar 2013 in Canadian dollar terms. Take off eight per cent for the currency gain and the index did a remarkable 29 per cent leap. That’s on top of 13.5 per cent in Canadian dollar terms for 2012 with no significant currency appreciation. The combination of the two years is 42.5 per cent. It doesn’t get much better than that. Now the question is whether the U.S. stock market, which is the bellwether for the world’s equity markets, can do it in the remainder of 2014. In early 2013, faced with low fixed income returns from bonds, GICs and savings accounts that barely matched inflation, stock dividends and potential capital gains looked good, so investors piled into equities, driving up their prices. What they were really doing was paying ever more for expected

profits. In market terms, the p/e ratio of price to earnings rose from about 21 in early 2013 to 25 in January 2014. That gain has created a dangerous place to be. The U.S. stock market’s multiple of expected earnings is well above the historical average of about 17 times next year’s expected earnings. Paradoxically, while investors have been willing to pay a great deal more for expected profits, those profits have been falling. Corporate profits in the U.S. were up by US$39.2 billion for 90 days ended September 30, 2013 compared with $US66.8 billion in the second quarter ended June 30. Worse, third quarter, 2013 profits from sales in the U.S., which means American consumer-driven sales for the most part, were just a third of what they were in the second quarter. It is part of everyone’s instinctive sense to avoid paying too much for anything. Those who buy into the stock market now, whether the U.S. market or the Canadian market, which is a tail usually wagged by the American dog, need to know that when the S&P 500 Composite goes over 25, losses follow.

IN CANADA Canada’s situation is different and, unfortunately, worse than

that in the U.S. The American economic recovery from early 2009 to late 2013 was driven by households. Americans paid off their mortgage and credit card debts, liquidated overpriced housing through foreclosure, cleaned out credit pyramids and thereby dropped household debt as a fraction of gross domestic product from 95 per cent to about 78 per cent. Meanwhile, Canadian household debt as a fraction of GDP rose from 82 per cent or so in 2009 to about 98 per cent in late 2013. The implication: Canadian GDP growth is likely to be lower than that in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015. Canadian household spending is likely to be flat. Our consumers are tapped out. Canadian corporate profits will lag those in the U.S. and those in the U.S. may not be anything to celebrate. What to do? Canadian investors are between a rock and a hard place. Fixed income returns continue to be repressed by the Bank of Canada, which is even less likely than the U.S. Federal Reserve Board to permit interest rates to rise in 2014. Yet bonds, which make promises of paying definite amounts of interest and returning their capital at specific dates, are something you can bet on. Government of Canada

bonds with terms of five years pay just 1.74 per cent per year to maturity, but you can roll them as they mature and ride up rising interest rates to what will eventually be about 2.5 per cent for five years and 3.5 per cent for 10 years. You can also buy investment grade corporate bonds and pick up a couple of per cent yield to maturity with very little default risk. Currently, the 10-year Government of Canada bond yields 2.55 per cent per year to maturity. A Bell Canada 15-year bond due in 2029 offers 4.77 per cent per year to maturity. That’s a locked in return if you buy the bond and it is not far from a five per cent return on BCE Inc. dividends, though bond interest has no dividend tax credit for a sweetener nor any prospect of rising BCE Inc. stock dividends are likely to rise in future. The argument for buying high quality bonds rests on the low Canadian inflation rate. If inflation in Canada holds at one per cent and you can obtain a 1.55 per cent return over inflation on the federal 10-year bond or 3.77 per cent over inflation on the BCE bond, you will not lose. Moreover, the present real yield on senior fixed income securities is in the general range of what 10-year federal bonds have generated since

the end of the Second World War. If prices stagnate or even drop slightly, it would boost the real return of government bonds and high grade corporate bonds. This argument does not hold for high yield debt, often called junk bonds. Bonds rated below investment grade tend to be stock in different clothes. These lower quality bonds are priced on their companies’ income statements. When the companies earn more, their junk rises in price. When times are tough and profits decline, their junk bonds follow suit. In a climate of slowly rising corporate profits with the risk of deflation, high yield bonds carry relatively high risk. Putting a lot of money into actual bonds is a surrender to low prospects for stocks. If you do decide to put money into bonds, you must get the real thing. Reversion to cash, which is the life preserver if interest rates shoot up, only works with an actual bond. Bond funds can carry accrued gains or losses forever. Bond gains will look even better if mild deflation breaks out. The present inflation rate, barely one per cent, could erode and fall if consumers run down their purchasing power. The deleveraging process going on worldwide is cutting inflation rates. When prices are falling, bond returns gain purchasing power. As long as stock markets are overpriced, conservative investments in actual bonds make sense. † Andrew Allentuck’s latest book, “When Can I Retire? Planning Your Financial Life After Work,” was published in 2011 by Penguin Canada.

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Brandon distributor imports U.K. subsoilers The Sumo brand of subsoilers, which are built in the U.K. may soon see manufacturing in North America BY LISA GUENTHER


n the past couple of years, farmers in some regions have found a need to address soil compaction in their fields. Some have now added a subsoiler to their equipment fleet to do that. Seeing an increased demand for subsoilers, Hepson Equipment of Brandon, Manitoba, now imports the Sumo brand, which originates in the U.K. “The big advantage to the machine is that it will penetrate up to 22 inches, leaves no lumps behind it due to the roller, and also just makes the ground a lot looser,” says Sid Patterson, owner of Hepson Equipment. “We’ve sold quite a number of units, and as a result we’ve now decided to go with Dutch Industries, who’s going to manufacture it in Canada under licence to Sumo.” Hepson Equipment will be the Canadian Sumo distributor, while Dutch Industries will distribute the brand in the U.S.


Left: The Sumo subsoiler penetrates up to 22 inches, addressing soil compaction. It also leaves no lumps behind. Right: This three-point hitch mounted, five-leg Sumo subsoiler was on display at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina this past June.

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Hepson had a three-point hitch mounted, five-leg machine on display at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina in June. Patterson says they planned to have a three, four, five and, hopefully, a sevenleg, three-point hitch implement available soon as well. “A three-point hitch machine is a lot more cost-efficient than what the pull-type is, and does a very, very good job,” he says. “Probably the biggest problem we have in the western part of the country is the fact that we do not have a lot of tractors that have over 200 horsepower with a three-point hitch. Patterson says the subsoilers require a tractor capable of supplying about 50 horsepower shank. “And then when we go to the full-cut machines, we have at present a nine-leg machine and a seven-leg machine. And in the future we will have an 11-leg machine.” The Sumo brand doesn’t use shear pins. “They have nitrogen accumulators on all the legs. And that allows the leg to trip and reset,” says Patterson. Farmers can set the trip pressure according to land type. In heavy land, pressure might be set as high as 2,000 pounds, while in light land, that could drop to 800 pounds. Patterson has had several phone calls from farmers who are happy with the Sumo. He says customers in all three Prairie provinces have used it for everything from eliminating wheel ruts to drying out wet fields to improving alkali patches. “People are seeing improvements where they didn’t expect to see improvements.” † Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews. Contact him at

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Machinery & Shop PROJECT CJ3A

How to remove a broken stud Welding a nut onto a broken stud in the front axle of the old Jeep made it possible to easily turn it out BY SCOTT GARVEY


reaking a stud off in a housing is likely one of the most frustrating things that can happen in the farm workshop. When we took the front axle apart during our ongoing old Jeep restoration, Project CJ3A, we found a previous repair effort left a broken stud at the bottom king pin bearing support in the front axle knuckle. We don’t know why the stud originally broke. But judging from the torque required to remove the other three in the assembly, a good guess is someone had a large bowl of Wheaties in the morning and used his excess energy to grossly over-torque them all when installing a replacement bearing. That snapped off the stud. The broken stud was simply left as it was ever since. Hardly a quality repair, but we’re finding the old Jeep had a lot of poor quality repair work done to it over the decades. Before we could reassemble the overhauled axle, the broken stud needed to come out. Here’s how we removed it. Because we didn’t know why the stud originally broke, we assumed the worst, which is that it could be rusted and stuck in place, although it didn’t look to be in bad shape. So we applied penetrating fluid from both ends several times over the course of a week to get maximum effect, hopefully loosening and lubricating the broken piece.

Fortunately, a couple of threads on the broken stud were protruding from the housing, which meant we could get a nut onto it by almost one full turn. Using a MIG welder, we tack welded the nut to the top of the stud. Getting a nut welded onto the broken piece made it unnecessary to drill the stud and use an “easy out.” A MIG welder works much better than a Stick welder for this job. It’s easy just to insert the gun tip into the nut to get into good position to make the weld. Be sure to just use short tacks to do this job. You want enough penetration to firmly attach the nut to the stud, but you don’t want to generate too much heat, burning through the stud and welding everything to the housing. That would require a trip to a machine shop or make it necessary to replace the housing entirely. After the weld had cooled, we put a wrench on the nut and gently applied some torque. The broken stud easily turned out. The stud was oily along its full length, which meant the penetrating oil had fully worked its way through. And there was no sign of excess rust, which supported our suspicion that the stud was likely broken by too much torque during installation. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at Scott.


We found a stud broken off in the steering knuckle during disassembly of the old Jeep’s front axle. After threading on a nut, we tack welded it onto the protruding portion of the stud with a MIG welder and gently turned the broken stud out with a wrench. The stud came out easily. Note the threads of the stud are oily from several applications of penetrating fluid to help the stud turn freely.

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Machinery & Shop TILLAGE

Till-N-Plant implement offers benefits to western growers A strip-tilling implement provides advantages in areas with short growing seasons BY SCOTT GARVEY



This demonstration model of a Till-N-Plant strip-till implement from Schlagel was put to work during Tri Star Farm Service’s field day near Liberty, Saskatchewan. It leaves black strips that warm the soil earlier in the spring and are wide enough for twin-row corn planting.

ust as corn production gains popularity with western farmers, this year’s delayed spring seeding season left some varieties without enough heat units to reach maturity. But one equipment manufacturer, U.S.-based Schlagel Manufacturing, believes their TillN-Plant, Series Two, strip-tilling

implement might have helped prevent that by effectively extending the growing season. “One of the advantages of strip till is you create a black spot that will warm up quicker in the spring,” said Dave Zimmerer, Schlagel’s sales manager, during a field demonstration of the Till-N-Plant in September near Liberty, Saskatchewan. “Plus when you leave a spot that’s bare (not

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worked), when you get moisture it goes from where you’re not planting the crop into where you are.” That migration of moisture to the plant rows occurs because the Till-N-Plant is also equipped with a deep ripper shank in each row to break up compaction. It creates a zone of less-dense soil that moisture from rain or snow melt can more easily infiltrate, compared to what exists in the unworked areas between the rows. “So you can save from eight to 10 inches of moisture a year that you’d normally lose,” he added. “The water infiltration rate of the soil increases dramatically with strip till, because it gives the water a place to go in. The big advantage here is where you are moisture challenged strip till can make the difference between a crop and no crop.” Incorporating de-compaction capabilities into the Till-N-Plant minimizes the number of passes that might be required over the field, leaving strips of bare, lose soil that is ready for planting in the spring. “When you’re doing strip till, you want to go over it once and be done,” he said. “You can break up compaction with it, because you can go 17 inches deep. We also put those wavy coulters on there to help break up the clods. If you just use a ripper and do something else you put that compaction layer back in (with another field pass). We don’t want to drive where our strips are. The big coulter in the front cuts the residue. The spiders on there move the residue. We want to create a spot that’s from eight to 12 inches wide where there’s no trash.” Zimmerer explained that the Tilland-Plant can also be used to band fertilizer during the field pass at any depth below the seed row. “You can till from four to 17 inches deep,” he said. “At the same time, we’re going to put fertilizer directly below where we’re planting. You can use liquid, dry, anhydrous or any two of the three at the same time. You’re in control of how deep you want that fertilizer to go. For producers choosing to use twin-row planters, the strips left by the Schlagel implement are wide enough to accomodate that as well. “This is one of the few strip till machines that tills a spot wide enough, and deep enough, to support the twin row,” he added. “We can go down to 20-inch row (spacings) and up to 24 rows. We can tailor machines to meet farmers needs.” Pulling one of these implements will require some serious horsepower, though. “Because there is such a wide range of soils (and needed working depths), it’s going to vary from 15 clear up to 30 horsepower per row,” said Zimmerer. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Machinery & Shop Tillage

The profit in strip till There is increasing interest in strip till. When considering it for your farm, think about profit and conservation, not just yield By Todd Botterill


trip till is becoming a common practice through much of the U.S. corn belt, especially in Highly Erodable Land (or HEL ground) areas where the U.S. National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has strict guidelines against working the full width of the seedbed. Many wonder if this practice can be transferred to Western Canada, especially with the growth of row crops such as corn and soybeans. Research groups have done a great job of testing strip till in plots, but we often make the mistake of looking for a higher yield to promote using the practice. In the U.S. strip till yields are typically compared to no-till yields, with strip till typically having higher yields for crops like corn. When strip till is compared to a conventional tillage practice, more common for us in our corn growing areas, there usually isn’t a large yield difference between the two. The strip till advantage is in higher profits and better soil conservation.

To realize why you have to look at profit instead of yield, you need to understand strip tillage. A strip till bar is a unit that creates a conventionally tilled strip, about eight to 10 inches wide, leaving the rest of the seedbed untouched. Originally, strip till bars were designed to create a black strip with a one- to two-inch berm, to speed up seedbed warming and drying in the spring. Eventually farmers began banding their fertilizer into the strips at the same time. This created a one-pass primary tillage-seedbed prep-fertilizer placement pass. In one pass they were able to do what took three passes before in a conventional tillage system. If you have what is essentially a conventionally tilled strip for the plant to grow in, to expect it to yield more than a field that is completely conventionally tilled is asking a lot. It has the same potential advantages of compaction removal, in-row fertilizer banding and a seedbed that will warm and dry quicker than straight no-till, just like a conventional tillage system can offer heat hungry crops like corn. With

the unworked strips between the rows you have the ability to reduce wind and water erosion problems of conventional tillage. And it is all done in one pass. Many farmers who have switched their row crops to strip tillage have discovered as much as a 50 per cent reduction in fuel costs and machinery costs. If you can combine a conventional tillage system into a onepass operation, it seems like strip tillage is a no brainer right? Well, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. If you decide to go to a strip tillage system it’s important to commit to it. This seems simple enough if you’re going to invest in equipment, but in the heat of a late harvest it’s going to be hard to make sure someone is out there making the strips. Getting the right fall conditions to make strips has been an issue for us in some years. Dry conditions can mean a rough strip with large lumps in heavier soil types. Wet conditions can cause issues with row units. Those that switched to strip tillage have come to terms with the fact that they may have to

Todd Botterill says strip till can offer lower fuel and equipment costs. have someone making strips while others are harvesting, if the soil conditions are right. If you are building the strips early in the fall with warm soil temperatures it may make it less advantageous to use anhydrous ammonia — you may have to look at liquid nitrogen or granular fertilizers instead. If you’re having soil condition issues for strip till, you may be having the same issues with conventional tillage tools. Some farmers do make their strips in the spring, as opposed to fall. In areas with drier spring conditions, making the strips right in front of the planter (sometimes with the planter directly behind the strip till bar) can help create a nice seedbed while still cutting

down on erosion risks. However, for those of you looking for the maximum benefit of earlier seedbed drying and warming, a fall pass would work best. Strip till can offer you a one-pass system to get a conventionally tilled seed bed with a dramatic reduction in erosion problems. It can offer you a dramatic reduction in fuel and overall equipment costs. You just have to decide if you have the infrastructure in place in your operation to make strip building a priority in the fall. † Todd Botterill has been in the farm machinery business since 1994, In 2009 he took over the family business, which now wholesales tillage implements across Western Canada for several different companies. He currently lives in the original family farmyard. Contact him at

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Machinery & Shop TILLAGE

How to use a deep ripper

What to look for


f you’re considering the purchase of a deep ripper implement to remove compaction in your fields, there are a few basic differences to keep in mind. First, there are a couple of basic shank shapes on the market. The curved shape on the front of some shanks reduces their draft load, making them easier to pull. But they are more likely to pull up soil from lower depths and mix the soil horizon. That could be a problem in some fields where the layer of topsoil is very shallow, say product reps. Straight shanks have no curve, only a slight upward tilt that helps lift and fracture compaction layers. They are less likely to cause mixing of the soil horizon, but they require more horsepower to pull.

Second, there are two basic types of shank release mechanisms: shear pin and automatic reset, which determines how a shank releases when it hits a large rock. Implements with shear pin mechanisms may have lower purchase costs, but are not ideal for rocky conditions, requiring frequent stops to replace broken bolts. Hydraulic- or spring-release ashanks prevent that problem by automatically resetting after hitting an obstruction, just as on any other tillage tool. Opting for an implement equipped to deep band compaction-ameliorating inputs like calcium or gypsum along with other crop nutrients while it rips may be money well spent, according to some agronomists. † Scott Garvey


Left: The curved shape on the front of shanks on some implements makes them a little easier to pull, but they can bring up deep soil and cause mixing of the soil horizon. Right: The straight but slightly upward tilt on these shanks makes them more horsepower hungry, but they are less likely to mix soils from different depths.

De-compacting as part of an overall strategy BY SCOTT GARVEY


here are all kinds of tools to consider when doing homework to determine which fields are candidates (for deep ripping) and which aren’t,” said Elston Solberg, director of agronomics at Agri-Trend. He was talking about soil compaction at a field day event sponsored by Tri Star Farm Services of Emerald Park, Saskatchewan, in October. Standing in that field near Liberty, Saskatchewan, Solberg described the process producers need to consider before going ahead and deep ripping. De-compacting fields should be just one part of an overall strategy of fertility and soil improvement, he explained. “The first thing a farmer needs to do if he’s thinking about this is get soil surveys for his farm area,” he added. “That will help him identify if this is feasible.” Those soil surveys can be downloaded online for free. (Google CANSIS to find them). “You’re going to find in those reports some fields are just too rocky (for deep ripping),” he explained. “The other tool we have in our arsenal is what we call Power Zone, which has to do with identifying which fields will respond most rapidly to whatever needs to be dealt with. And in many fields one of the main issues can often be compaction.”

Finding exactly where compaction layers are is the next step. Using a penetrometer is an easy way to find them, and it’s a relatively inexpensive tool to buy. They typically cost somewhere around $200. Digging a small pit down a couple of feet and running a jackknife through the exposed soil profile will also make it clear where compaction layers are, although that involves a little time and elbow grease. “This (deep ripping) isn’t cheap to do,” said Solberg. “The biggest bang for the buck involves doing your homework, finding out where the compaction layers are. Target the fields that need it. Target where the opener goes by finding the compaction layer that’s causing the most grief. And while you’re at it, look at adding nutrients or additives that will allow that fracture zone to stay open for as long as possible.” Determining what those additives should be requires getting a soil test, first. “For this field, calcium is what’s required, but not lime,” he said. “Elemental sulfur will also add some benefits.” Some other nutrients could also be deep banded during the pass, which could help future crops develop deeper root systems. “If you put the opener in the right spot, get a good fracturing in a dry fall and you get the right nutrients in the fracture zone, you’ll get some root systems growing into that fracture zone next year. With a big crop, that zone could stay open for years and years and years,” he said.

Tillage at the correct depth is key to success. The shanks of a deep ripper should only be put down as deep as is necessary to remove the compaction layer. Just because an implement can go down as far as 20 inches or so, doesn’t mean it should be used that way all the time — or ever. After finding the layers you want to remove, the shank depth should be set no more than an inch or two below it. Going too deep could cause more problems than it solves, and it wastes fuel by increasing the draft load put on the tractor, which will already be significant. Deep ripping is best done in the fall, but should only be tried when conditions are right. That means the soil must be relatively dry. If the field is wet, the shank will create a smear layer and not effectively deal with the problem. “If it’s wet in the fall when you did it and you don’t put nutrients down there to keep it open, it (the compaction zone) could weld back together within a year or two,” said Solberg. “The people that have success with these machines (deep rippers) first try it on a couple of fields,” he continued. “They see something is happening and they try it on a few more. Before they know it, they’re ripping their fields a second and third time. And they’re doing it at different depths for different purposes, because virtually every field in Western Canada has two manmade compaction layers. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at


Top: A deep ripper can remove compaction layers in fields. But there is some homework to be done before jumping in the tractor and dropping the shanks. Bottom left: Elston Solberg stands in a test pit dug to find compaction layers during a field day sponsored by Tri Star Farm Service. After digging a small pit (not necessarily this large) in a field, farmers can run a small knife through the profile to see if there are dense compaction layers. Bottom right: Selecting a deep ripper like this one that is equipped to place nutrients and compaction-ameliorating substances like gypsum will help keep soil fractures open longer.

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /


Cattleman’s Corner livestock management

Handling system easy on cattle and people BY LEE HART


raeme Finn has come up with a low-manpower  cattle-sorting system that allows him to sort about 200 head in an hour, is easy on the livestock, and perhaps equally importantly brings harmony to the processing day workforce. Anchored around a partial wagon-wheel layout, the sorting system enables one person to stand in the “hub” of the layout and sort cattle into five to six different holding areas as cattle naturally mill around the circular sorting pen. Once sorted, cattle from each pen can exit through a double “S” alley, can be held in a squeeze if further processing is needed, exit toward a loading chute, or head back out to pasture as required. “It works like a charm,” says Finn, who raises cattle near Crossfield, Alberta, along with his wife Heather and in-laws Don and Trudy Evans. “It makes for a very easy system — cattle flow nicely which reduces their stress, and it is easy on people too. Let’s just say it brings harmony to the sorting process.” Based on handling facilities Finn saw in his home country of Australia, the system needs only one person standing in the central sorting pen to run the gates (in this layout) into six different holding areas. People are needed in other areas to keep cattle pushed toward the sorting pen, or on the other end keep cattle moving through the exit alley back to the field or to a waiting cattle liner, but one person can handle the sorting. Finn

says when they are sorting and processing at the same time, they usually have four people at different stations, but if they are just sorting it can be handled nicely by two people — one bringing cattle up and one running the gates.

TIME TO UPGRADE “We just had an old square wooden corral setup that was starting to rot,” says Evans. “So it was time to make a change in our handling facilities. Graeme had this idea for the wagon wheel setup and we figured it was worth a try. We wanted something that two people could manage. “And this seemed liked the simplest way to do it. It wasn’t necessarily cheap, but we decided to bite the bullet and build it. And so far I am very pleased, it works extremely well. Cattle flow through it very well, and it is much easier on everyone.” Evans estimates it cost about $20,000 for all materials including steel rod, steel posts and half-inch wire cable needed to make the perimeter fence, as well as interior pens, alleyway and loading chute. But it is well built and he figures they probably won’t need to build another.

DESIGN FEATURES Completed in 2012, the overall layout of the cattle handling system is 120 feet wide and about 140 feet long. This particular setup is designed for a 200-head cow-calf herd but can easily be adjusted to match herd size.

The pink highlighted line in the diagram shows a typical cattle flow. Cow-calf pairs are brought into the receiving pen from pasture in the top left corner of the diagram. From there a group is moved into the forcing pen. Finn says it works for the person operating the sorting hub to also bring cattle in from the forcing pen. Once a small group is in the sorting pen (28-foot diameter), cattle are guided to mill around clockwise and the sorter can then open 12-foot wide gates to separate cows from calves, or separate heifers from steers as needed. Once that bunch is sorted another group is brought in from the forcing pen to the sorting pen. Once everything is sorted into their respective pens, then each group can be moved through the double “S” alley for further processing, if needed. On pregcheck day for example, Finn says cows are brought down the double “S” alley, and pregchecked at the squeeze. From the squeeze, bred cows exit to the left and head back out to pasture, while open cows exit toward the loading chute area to the right for shipping. If they are just sorting steers for shipping, for example, they can be moved directly from one of the sorted pens, through the sorting hub to the loading chute area.

SYSTEM MATERIALS All posts for the cattle handling system are made from 2 7/8 inch steel drill stem, set on eight-foot spacing. Most of the perimeter fence of the

photo: lee hart

This overview shot of the Finn/Evans handling system shows an empty receiving pen on left (in front of the horse). The small group of black cattle (about centre) are in the forcing pen. To the right and in background are cattle that have been sorted. The blue/grey gate panels in the centre to the right of “S” tub, encircle the sorting pen hub. As sorted cattle move through the double “S” alley they can be processed through the squeeze, exit to the left back to pasture, or exit right to the loading chute area where the truck and trailer are parked.

Above is a diagram of the layout of the Finn/Evans Cattle Handling System near Crossfield, Alta. The pink highlighted line is an example of typical cattle flow through the set up. cattle handling system uses seven strands of one-half inch steel cable attached to the steel posts. Interior dividers (or in areas of higher cattle pressure) the pens are made of steel posts with five rails of 1-1/2 inch circular steel tubing welded to the posts. The whole set up also has a cap rail made of 2-3/8 inch steel tubing. The exterior fence and pen dividing panels are 5-1/2 feet tall. The sorting pen is 28 feet in diameter with seven gates, all 12 feet wide with six bars. The pieshaped pens on the spokes of the wheel are all 46 feet deep. Finn says they could be lengthened to accommodate a larger herd. The double “S” alley makes for easy cattle flow toward the squeeze. In the squeeze area and along the loading chute they’ve attached strips of rubber draper material to the rails to act as a curtain so cattle aren’t distracted by activity outside the alley and chute.

The loading chute area opens with a 12-foot wide gate and then narrows to 50 inches, and then again to 36 inches to help funnel cattle toward the loading ramp. The loading chute ramp is set on a 30° angle, so as cattle walk down the chute they aren’t looking directly into the black opening of a cattle liner. Finn, who designed and built the cattle handling system himself, says he is pleased with the ease of how cattle flow through the pens and chutes. He says it is hard on animals as well as on people when cattle balk or the corral set up it self is awkward or fails. “What we have is a good solid system, conducive to cattle behaviour and flow and it just takes so much of the work out of sorting and processing cattle,” he says. † Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

industry feedback

Survey seeks info on wildlife impact


hether you have had livestock losses, forage or fence damage or not, Alberta Beef Producers (APB) would like to hear from producers about the impact of wildlife on their cattle operations. APB, working with the Miistakis Institute is conducting a survey about the costs of wildlife to beef operations in Alberta. And that includes everything from animal or feed loss, property damage or loss, and the costs of damage prevention and producer management activities dealing with wildlife. The survey will be active from February 5 to March 5, 2014. It can be accessed at To make the survey relevant the APB and Miistakis need to hear from about 2,000 beef producers. It’s estimated to take about 10 min-

utes to complete online. Hard copies of the survey are also available by contacting the ABP office by email at or by calling 403-275-4400. Survey results will help the industry better understand the economic impacts of wildlife provincially and on a regional scale. This study will help fill knowledge gaps about costs producers assume and describe the situation from the beef producers’ perspective. Miistakis will also review scientific reports and other studies on this issue and do an analysis of compensation covered by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Financial Services Corporation. In a release Alberta Beef Producers says it intends to use the results to help create an environment between producers and others that:

•  Recognizes producers as stewards of the land, who bear significant costs supporting wildlife. •  Fosters a co-operative approach to wildlife management. •  Recognizes producers’ knowledge of reasonable levels of local wildlife populations. •  Develops fair and sensible methods for measuring losses to wildlife. •  Acknowledges the uneven distribution of wildlife costs among producers and throughout society. •  Pursues creative mechanisms such as Ecological Goods and Services programs for financing stewardship and realistic loss compensation. Affiliated with Mount Royal University in Calgary, the Miistakis Institute is an independent, nonprofit  charitable  organization. Miistakis has seven research areas:

photo: file

Alberta beef producers are being urged to complete a survey describing if their farms and ranches have been impacted by any type of wildlife. citizen science for conservation, wildlife management, transportation ecology, sustainable landscapes and communities, ecosystem services, market-based instruments and

GIS for conservation. The Miistakis Institute was founded in 1995 and currently has a staff of seven people. More can be found about Miistakis at †



FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Cattleman’s Corner calf MANAGEMENT

Bonding tips for reluctant mothers BY HEATHER SMITH THOMAS


ometimes a heifer is confused or indifferent toward her newborn calf. She may continue to lie there and doesn’t get up to lick the calf, and when she does she seems surprised to see this strange new wiggling creature behind her. She may walk away, ignoring it, or kick the calf when it gets up and staggers toward her. Some heifers attack the calf if it tries to get up. If you had to pull a heifer’s calf, this may disrupt the normal bonding process. If you take a newborn cold calf to the barn to warm and dry it before the mother has a chance to lick it, this may also disrupt bonding. “One technique that helps facilitate proper maternal response is smearing birth fluids across the muzzle and tongue of the dam following an assisted delivery,” says Joe Stookey, a researcher with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “This seems to jump-start the maternal response,” he says. “Simply pulling the newborn to the front of the mother may not be sufficient stimulus to trigger maternal behaviour, especially for some first-calf heifers. Pouring feed onto a newborn calf may also entice some reluctant mothers to

approach the calf and eventually come in contact with birth fluids as they eat the feed. Any attractant that can stimulate the cow to lick the calf would be useful.” If a heifer is not interested in her calf, help him nurse. The act of nursing (which triggers release of oxytocin — the hormone that stimulates uterine contractions and milk let-down) makes a cow or heifer feel more motherly. You may have to restrain the cow (at least the first time) for the nursing, so she won’t run off or kick the calf. Oxytocin is associated with maternal behaviour. “If you can stimulate milk let-down a few times by assisting the calf in nursing, the hormone comes on board and improves maternal behaviour,” says Stookey. “Oxytocin can switch off the heifer’s aggression, reluctance or fear, and turn it into interest and mothering.” These hormones can completely change a heifer’s attitude.

DIFFICULT CASES Some cases are more difficult. Sometimes a heifer is stubborn about accepting her new calf or may viciously attacks it. You may need to keep her from injuring or killing her calf. If she’s in a barn or pen she may slam him into the wall or fence. She may

Coming Events FutureFare 2014 IN JUNE Free registration is now open for the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency’s (ALMA) FutureFare to be held this year at the Edmonton Marriott at River Cree Resort June 16 and 17. Although the final agenda is yet to be released the theme of the event is, “Feeding the Demand.” With a focus on consumer demands, topics will include animal and food safety, sustainable production practices and livestock and meat research. More information is available on their website at: WOMEN IN AG LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE The first Woman in Ag leadership conference is planned for Calgary April 28 and 29, at the Deerfoot Inn & Casino, 1000, 11500-35 Street SE, Calgary. This is a conference for women in agriculture and for those who want to achieve their goals in life. Do you need to review and realign your goals in both your work and your personal life? Do you want to learn how to work more effectively with people of different generations? Do you struggle with balancing your work and home life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, organizers say this is the conference to attend. Visit the conference website at: www.advancingwomenconference. ca to view the list of speakers and to register. Or for more information call 403-686-8407. A block of rooms have been reserved at the Deerfoot Inn until early February at a rate of $169 per night plus taxes. To book a hotel room, phone 403-236-7529 or 1-877-2365225. The group code: GKYIRIS.

be very interested in her calf; her instincts tell her this is something very important and she must deal with him, but she’s not sure how. She smells him and starts bellowing and rooting him around — butting him with her head if he moves or tries to get up. She may knock him down when he tries to stand. She’s on the fight, ready to protect this new calf from anything and everything, but she’s confused and focuses all that aggression toward it. Usually if you stay out of sight and monitor the situation, the heifer figures it out. The best clue she’s on her way to becoming a good mother is if she furiously licks the calf and moos at him even as she knocks him around. She just needs more time to transmit a motherly attitude in the right direction to encourage him to nurse instead of rooting him around. By contrast, if a heifer is NOT licking her calf, and merely knocking him around, you’ll have to intervene. If she ignores him except when he moves — charges at him and starts knocking him into a fence or wall — you’ll have to rescue the calf. The heifer needs to be restrained so she can’t hurt the calf (or you), as you help the calf nurse. Sometimes after the calf nurses, the aggressive heifer simmers down

photo: heather smith thomas

It may be necessary to put a heifer in a headlock and then guide the calf to the udder for nursing to really get the bonding hormones to kick in. and starts to mother him, but it may take several supervised nursings (with the calf safe in a pennedoff area between nursings so she can’t hurt him) until she changes her mind. You can usually make any heifer raise her calf, but it may take up to two to three supervised nursings, and hobbles on the heifer. If a cow won’t mother her calf, you may be able to kick-start her protective instincts and change

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841.

Good sale results wrap up Crowfoot Ranch


hile southern Alberta rancher Dallas Jensen is probably holidaying in Israel at this point, he doesn’t have to worry about feeding Angus cattle this winter after dispersing the purebred herd on the 100-year-old family farm last fall. Citing it was “time for a change, and time to do some things we want to do,” Jensen and wife Sandy along with partners Chris and Jen Jensen staged a two-day Crowfoot Ranch sale near Standard, east of Calgary in late November to disperse more than 600 head of purebred Red and Black Angus cows, calves and breeding bulls. Day 1 highlights of some of the top Red herd sires — Red Crowfoot Moonshine 8081U sired by Crowfoot 6004S sold for $46,000 to Genex Cooperative Inc. Canada/U.S. and Ole Farms, Athabasca, Alta and Crowfoot 0102X sired by Red Crowfoot Moonshine 8081U also sold for $42,000 to Ole Farms, Athabasca, Alta. On the female side Crowfoot Erica 6028S sired by Crowfoot Max 1743L sold for $10,500 to Dennis Bjelland and Nathan Jensen, Iddlesleigh, Alta. along with 222A, Red Crowfoot Allstar 3259A sold for $16,750 to Cutbank Cattle Co, Three Hills, Alta.

JUNE BEEF FIELDAY The Western Beef Development Centre Annual Field Day will be held June 24, 2014 at the Termuende Research Ranch in Lanigan, Sask. Visit the centre website for details:

JULY ILC CONFERENCE The annual International Livestock Congress Beef 2014 will be held on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 in Calgary at the Deerfoot Inn & Casino. The conference is a great opportunity for industry members to network with industry experts and stakeholders as well as hear expert speakers discuss global beef industry issues. This year’s conference will focus on the opportunities of marketing the whole carcass local and globally. Program details will be available in early 2014. And while in Calgary catch the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show! Visit for all of the detailed information. For more ILC information and/or sponsorship inquiries you can contact or call 403-686-8407.

her mind by bringing a dog into the pen. The urge to protect a calf from predators is so strong that this will often get a cow excited and upset about the dog. She will think about the calf and want to protect him. This may help her develop an interest in the calf and she’ll start to mother it. †

Gone, but not forgotten... some of the cows sold during the Crowfoot Ranch herd dispersal.

With the auction managed by Brent Carey and Ryan Dorran here are some of the average sale results from Day 1: Red Angus and Black Red Gene carriers average: 64 Red Angus cows and bull calves $6,512. 14 Black Angus Red gene carriers and bull calves $4,211. 50 Red Angus cows and heifer calves $5,182. 25 Black Angus Red gene carriers and heifer calves $4,397. 23 Red Angus and Black Angus Red gene carrier cows $2,896. 66 Red Angus and Black Angus red gene carrier bred yearlings $3,271. Red Angus heifer calves $2,000. 9 Red Angus & Black Angus red gene carrier bull calves $3,539. 4 Red Angus herd sires $23,500. 12 semen lots grossed $5,650. Moving into the Black cattle on Day 2, a couple of the sale highlights included: Black Angus cows and bull calves — Crowfoot Rev Rose sired by Crowfoot Joker 6172S sold for $9,000 to Edie Creek Angus, Douglas, Man., while Crowfoot Equation 385A sired by Crowfoot Equation 5793R sold for $14,000 to McCutcheon Farms, Athabasca, Alta. And Crowfoot Pearl 8006U sired by Crowfoot Joker 6172S sold for $9,000 to Poplar Meadows, Houston, B.C., while 400A Crowfoot Equation 3077A sired by Crowfoot Equation 5793R sold for $8,000 to McCutcheon Farms, Athabasca, Alta. Averages for the Black Angus cattle tallied: 93 Black Angus cows and bull calves averaged $5,390. 91 Black Angus cows and heifer calves averaged $4,346. 22 Black Angus cows averaged $2,850. 84 Black Angus bred yearlings $2,666. 6 Black Angus heifer calves $1,383. 1 Black Angus bull calf $1,300. 6 Black Angus herd sires $4,267.


a new generation of vbp

New environmental stewardship, biosecurity and animal care modules to be added Canadian beef producers are taking a new step to sustainability in their industry. With more customers asking for more assurances of sustainable production practices, the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program is growing. It will anchor a new generation of beef production. Ag Canada Growing Forward 2 AgriMarketing funds will help add three new VBP modules — environmental stewardship, biosecurity and animal care. This suite of modules established on a common platform will help meet marketplace and societal expectations. Canadian beef producers understand the importance of producing food in a sustainable manner. They’ve helped Canada build a reputation for wholesomeness, says Terry Grajczyk, national manager for VBP. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association continues to look at ways producers can secure further recognition and reward for credible production practices. “A national suite of VBP modules will provide proof of practices and help differentiate Canadian beef,” says Grajczyk. “It will promote acceptable beef production practices and demonstrate Canada’s beef industry commitment to responsible production. That will help define Canada’s beef story with positive benefits that can match or exceed competing countries.” Industry drives development

Producers will no doubt have questions about what all of this means for them and their industry, says Grajczyk. These new developments will occur in a way that ensures the founding principles of VBP are protected and enhanced, she says. That includes being practical, voluntary, credible and designed to fit an ISO-based management system. Each of the three new modules will be developed following a specific frame-

VBP is looking to add options with on-farm practicality in the forefront. work and development approach. Those steps include: • Risk analysis with stakeholders and producers. • Communication with key stakeholders. • Finalization of producer-oriented chapters for each module. • Producer education materials and support. • Third-party conformance assessment option via on-farm pilots. • Full implementation plan for approval by CCA and provincial members. Finally, implementation of modules will be staggered. As with the current

VBP, it will be designed nationally but implemented provincially by industry.

ronmental farm plans and other materials will be used wherever appropriate.”

Building on success

Other sectors following suit

Identifying practical, industry sanctioned practices to manage production factors at the farm level is important. Some markets are identifying elements such as animal care and environmental stewardship as important to customers. Biosecurity is important to maintain the health of each individual herd and ultimately, for the industry as a whole. “This project will incorporate a risk assessment approach to identify key practices, education and awareness tools,” says Grajczyk. “Existing materials such as the national biosecurity standard, envi-

The beef industry is not alone in making these changes, says Grajczyk. Other livestock sectors are already taking similar steps to address societal expectations. This will assist the beef industry to also do this in a feasible, staged approach. “We work with the dairy sector because we both raise cattle to produce food. And we participate in various national and international developments to ensure we are on track. Thanks to federal government support, we can work with partners to provide options for the industry,” she says.


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For more information, talk to your veterinarian or call our technical service at 1-866-683-7838.

Merck Animal Health, operating in Canada as Intervet Canada Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA. MERCK is a trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA. Copyright © 2011 Intervet International B.V., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA. All rights reserved.

REV-XS Grain News QSHere.indd 1

13-06-13 16:26



FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Cattleman’s Corner BEEF MANAGEMENT

An appreciation for cow herd depreciation BY SEAN MCGRATH


enerally, one of the largest costs in any average cow-calf operation is cow herd depreciation, although it is often overlooked. Depreciation means the value of an asset goes down as you use it. In other words, as something wears out it has less potential future use. A good example is a baler. I see lots of balers for sale for about $20,000 less than new price once they have about 10,000 bales on them. The cost of that depreciation is about $2 per bale. This does not include operating costs or repairs. Depreciation is sometimes called the cost of ownership. Accountants and tax rules often get involved in depreciation, making things slightly less straightforward, but basically as you use something, it becomes worth less.

COWS ARE COMPLEX Cow depreciation is actually more complex than our baler example and that may be part of the reason many of us don’t fully appreciate the importance of it to our operations. One of the confounding factors is that a cow herd consists of numerous cows all at varying stages of depreciation

(as opposed to one or a few balers). Another confounding factor is that cows don’t all depreciate at the same rate. A third factor is that unlike our baler, the cost of depreciation for a cow can change rapidly and on a regular basis. The average age of the cow herd defines an average depreciation rate, but we know certain ages of cattle are much more likely to fall out of the herd than others. For example, first-calf heifers that are breeding back have a big job since they are still growing, raising their first calf and must get bred in a timely fashion. As well, older cows may struggle to keep up in production with younger cows in the herd. Cows depreciate at varying rates. A first-calver that meets an unfortunate accident may be fully depreciated with $0 salvage value at age two. A 14-year-old cow, sold for cull price, becomes fully depreciated to the operation but her sale value today may actually be higher than her purchase value back in 2003. This creates a real conundrum for mathematicians. A good working definition I like is: “Annual cow herd depreciation equals the cost of replacement females, minus the value of cull animals.” This value works pretty well as long as the herd size remains fairly

constant and if you are raising your own replacements you are aware of your costs.

DEPRECIATION MANAGEMENT I view depreciation as an insidious cost since it is not a cash cost and can easily remain hidden. There are a few things we can do to reduce the cost of depreciation to an operation. 1. Increase cow longevity 2. Reduce early replacements 3. Reduce replacement costs 4. Increase cull price 5. Invest in appreciating assets Increasing cow longevity is an obvious way to reduce depreciation. If an average cow makes it to age five and we can move that to age six, then we have one more year to spread our costs over. There are many factors that play into this but a couple of the big ones are having cows with productivity that fits their environment and properly managing body condition scores. Closely related to this is managing our high-fallout groups (firstand second calvers) a bit more carefully. This could include management tools such as using calving ease sires on young cows to reduce post-partum intervals and give more opportunity for breed back.

Since depreciation is a function of cost versus salvage value, another useful tool is to reduce the cost of replacements. This one requires knowing your costs and determining if it is cheaper to buy replacements or to raise them. Another often overlooked option is to purchase second- or thirdcalving cows, rather than replacement heifers. In many cases these cows can be purchased at a discount to replacement heifers and may have a significantly lower fallout rate in the cow herd. The ability to increase cull prices also plays into reducing depreciation costs. There are many different ways to do this, such as using seasonal marketing trends, but other solutions include selling cull cows as hamburger or other valueadded products. This is an avenue we have taken with our first-calf heifers with good results. In combination, reducing replacement cost and increasing cull price can work very well, particularly if your operation is set up with excess forage and can handle somewhat rapid changes in inventory. There have been too many times over the last few years where bred cows could be purchased at a price lower (sometimes much lower) than the cull price six months or a year later. There are

opportunities if you are positioned to take advantage of them, and work within a somewhat cyclical industry.

COWS CAN APPRECIATE One final and perhaps extreme possibility is to invest in livestock whose value is appreciating. One of the big differences between cows and that baler is that cows have a period in their life where they appreciate in value and then start to depreciate. Every cow starts as a calf and subsequently a feeder aged animal. These animals will increase in value over time as they gain weight. This is very different than our baler that only declines in value once in our possession. Some operations choose to shift the mix towards more appreciating cattle types (stockers, grassers) and away from cows, which are depreciating. There are many factors to consider when assessing depreciation in a cow herd, but it is worth keeping your eye on it as it is one of the biggest hidden costs in the business. † Sean McGrath is a rancher and consultant from Vermilion, Alta. He can be reached at or (780) 8539673. For additional information visit www.

The Dairy Corner

Phosphorus can be too much of a good thing Following recommendations can save $3,700 a year in feed costs for a 100-head dairy herd PETER VITTI


aybe it started when an infertile cow was seen licking and then eating dirt in a field? Eating dirt was often associated with a phosphorus deficiency in cattle and somewhere along the line, phosphorus became associated as “a health and breeder mineral.” Consequently, feeding phosphorus to dairy cows, over and above their essential phosphorus requirement for maintenance, reproduction and milk production became the mainstay of dairy ration balancing. It is now known much of this excess phosphorus ends up in the cows’ manure and can become a direct pollution threat to clean groundwater. Fortunately, sound dairy research advocates lower phosphorus levels in diets for dry and lactating dairy cows, making it more environmentally friendly while saving money. Just how over-formulation of phosphorus in dairy diets really got started is anybody’s guess. Severe phosphorus deficiencies have caused “pica,” which is exhibited by cows’ abnormal licking dirt or chewing wood, bones, and rocks.

In less-extreme cases, failure to meet a lactating cow’s true phosphorus requirement is more likely associated with a subtle reduction in dry matter intake, followed by lower fibre digestibility and lower microbial protein synthesis by the rumen bugs. Unseen to the naked eye, a lack of phosphorus may cause a loss of energy metabolism at the cellular level. All good, but largely unsubstantiated reasons to ensure phosphorus requirements are met in lactating dairy cattle. In contrast, the National Research Council recommends dairy diets have a maximum phosphorus level for all dairy cattle of 0.42 per cent, with average levels of 0.32-0.36 per cent for optimum reproduction and milk performance; and in a 2:1 ration with dietary calcium. This advice is about a 25 per cent reduction of the old phosphorus values found in more traditional dairy diets today. The above NRC phosphorus requirements are based on three major scientific facts: 1. Reducing phosphorus to what the cow actually needs does not change a cow’s milk or reproductive performance, reports Larry Satter of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, after reviewing three decades of research. He found phosphorus levels higher than current NRC recommendations did not improve reproductive performance in dairy

cattle. Other studies showed similar results affecting milk production. 2. About 70 per cent of phosphorus is excreted in the cow’s manure (one per cent lost in urine and 29 per cent secreted in milk). A linear relationship exists between the amount of phosphorus fed over the above requirements and the amount dairy cows’ excrete. It was shown in one university study lactating dairy cows consuming 0.40 per cent, 0.45 per cent and 0.60 per cent dietary phosphorus on a dry matter basis will excrete 18 kg, 21 kg, and 32 kg of phosphorus per year, respectively. 3. Dairy cows are more efficient in conserving phosphorus by minimizing excretion in the manure, when phosphorus levels, closer to the cows’ NRC phosphorus requirements, are fed. Such straightforward phosphorus nutrition in dairy cows is complemented by the underlying knowledge that about 50 to 70 per cent of total phosphorus in common forages and other dairy feedstuffs are bound as phytate phosphorus. This phosphorus is largely biologically unavailable to most single-stomach or monogastric animals (re: swine), but not so with ruminants/dairy cows. That’s because active rumen microorganisms have the unique ability to break down phytate phos-

An illustration of similar diets formulating dairy premixes of different levels of P are as follows (P values of feedstuffs in parentheses): Feedstuff

83 g diet

110 g diet

Barley silage (0.20 per cent)

20 kg

20 kg

Alfalfa hay (0.25 per cent)

5 kg

5 kg

Barley (0.35 per cent)

7 kg

7 kg

Soybean meal (0.66 per cent

1 kg

1 kg

Corn Dist grains (0.83 per cent)

1.5 kg

1.5 kg

Dairy premix (5 per cent P)

0.25 kg


Dairy premix (16 per cent P)


0.25 kg

Vegetable oil (0 per cent)

0.5 kg

0.5 kg

Total DMI

23.0 kg

23.0 kg

phorus and release up to 99 per cent of held organic P to the host dairy cow. In a similar fashion, inorganic rock sources of phosphorus (re: includes mono-ammonium phosphate, dicalcium phosphate, and defluorinated phosphorus) has about 95 per cent of bioavailable phosphorus. Producers should be able to take advantage of dairy cow (and rumen bug) phosphorus (P) nutrition/ digestion by first taking her respective phosphorus requirement and matching it with organic as well as inorganic phosphorus containing dairy feeds. For example: An early-lactation high milk producing dairy cow needs a maximum of 0.36 per cent P in her diet (re: NRC) and assuming her dry matter intake is 23 kg; she needs a total 83 grams of dietary P compared to a traditional diet containing 0.48 per cent P and thus 110 grams of P. An illustration of similar diets formulating dairy premixes of different levels of P are as follows (P values of feedstuffs in parentheses): One of the best tangible benefits of choosing the low-phosphorus dairy premix versus the more traditionally P-formulated

premix in that this sample diet would more closely match the established NRC (2001) phosphorus requirements, resulting in a significant cost saving. By reducing the amount of phosphorus by 27 grams fed to each cow translates into 128.5 grams of dicalcium phosphate (21 per cent phosphorus) that does not need to be formulated into the dairy premix or total dairy diet. Since dicalcium phosphate costs about $800/mt, that translates to saving about $3,700 for a 100-milking cow dairy. Therefore, assuming it costs about $7/head/day to feed an average cow on the milkline that’s a savings of about 1.5 per cent of the lactation cows’ total grocery bill. Supplying needed as opposed to surplus phosphorus not only saves money but also reduces the amount of phosphorus excreted in dairy cow manure, reducing the risk of phosphorus contamination of fresh water. In the end, it also might be a good idea that ground-licking dairy cattle eat this low-phosphorus dirt! † Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at

FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Finding a life mate Choosing one is a big deal and not many farmers want to talk about it mixed baseball. He had made a conscious decision to get out and socialize at least once a week. Being intentional for this young farmer has paid off! Finding and choosing a mate is a really big deal, and not many farmers want to talk that openly about it. My question, “How attractive are you?” You’ll spend lots of money on researching equipment, or crop inputs, but what time, energy and focus are you spending on making yourself a great person to be committed to? Ponder my list : 1. Love and appreciation. Do you know what your love language is? Do you need verbal affirmation, gifts, time, acts of service, or meaningful touch? Gary Chapman calls these the five love languages. 2. Listens and shares. We all need space to talk, and feel like we are listened to. Would you consider personal counselling to improve your communication skills? Do you know your core passions and values? I have an online values indicator that I can set you up with for a small fee. Knowing what you value ensures that you are connected to another person with compatible values. 3. Cherishes the specialness of the relationship and celebrates.



ver a decade ago I received a wedding invitation from a grateful reader. He had been wondering about how to find a wife, and he read my article on matchmakers. It worked. He wanted to share his joy as a farmer in finding a life mate. There was a family farm case where the 25-year-old son was single, and his future choice of a life partner would have a great impact on the farm business team. The discussion around this human resource issue was lively as it was suggested that a single guy is not going to “troll the high school hallways” looking for a spouse. Often when I meet with young leading-edge farmers they want to know more about my matchmaking friend, Diane Mowbray. Diane professionally matches farmers to spouses. Contact her at 204-343-2475. One fellow was pleased that he had met someone by getting out more to golf, curl and play

People don’t like to be taken for granted. Take time to celebrate special occasions. 4. Balances work and family time, and knows how to have fun. It doesn’t surprise me that my friend found new love when

6. Collaborates on conflict issues with healthy family boundaries. Most 25-year-olds don’t want to be bugged about the fact that they aren’t married. The average age of marriage in Manitoba is 30. Can you talk

One fellow was pleased that he had met someone by getting out more to golf, curl and play mixed baseball he decided to have some fun with friends and get off the farm for a bit. Workaholics are lazy with relationships, and not very attractive! 5. Strong self-esteem. People who have strong self-awareness and like themselves are attractive to others. Read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, by Clifton and Buckingham to figure out your five strongest personality themes. It’s fun! Ken Keis of CRG also has some great self-esteem tools; go to Call me if you’d like to do an online personal styles assessment. My style is “influential.”

about tough or sensitive issues with good conflict skills? A farm family business team that knows how to handle disagreements is more attractive than a fighting, “toxic” family. 7. Business mindset — someone who manages well. Farming is a roller-coaster of challenges, and you better be prepared to work as a team, and stay for the ride, a long ride. How well does your date understand the farm business culture? 8. Lifelong learner. You are willing to grow, transition and change. You understand that the only person you can change is yourself.

Embrace what Marilee Adams, author of Change Your Questions Change Your Life, calls “the learner mindset” not “judger.” 9. Support system beyond the marriage. It is a great day when a married person realizes that not all their needs can be met by their spouse. We all need supportive connections beyond the couple relationship. How’s your faith? 10. Knows money doesn’t buy happiness, good relationships do bring joy. You can have extensive business plans and strategies, but it is less meaningful if you struggle with finding committed lifelong relationships. Finding a life mate can be a challenge if you think that living on a farm is not glamorous. There are lifestyle issues, but finding someone who shares the same heart for agriculture as you do may take some perseverance and determination. Check out and take the personality profile. (Parents can go to this site to buy gift certificates!) Commit to find ways to be an attractive life mate. Be intentional about solving your farm’s human resource problems. I’m looking forward to receiving more wedding invitations! Work on your “ideal mate list” as you wait. And if your life path is to be single, that is OK, too. † Elaine Froese farms near Boissevain with her husband Wes and married son Ian. Visit Her book, Farming’s In Law Factor, will be published this spring. Call 1-866-848-8311 to book Elaine’s expertise for your farm or association.

EXTENDED OUTLOOK FOR THE PRAIRIES Weather Forecast for the period of February 2 to March 1, 2014

Southern Alberta

Peace River Region

Feb. 2 - 8 Often bright and cold, but slight moderation in the south brings heavier snow and drifting on a couple of days.

Feb. 2 - 8 Bright and cold, but slight moderation in the south brings heavier snow and drifting on a couple of days. Continued very cold. Flurries.

Feb. 16 - 22 Often sunny, but snow falls on 2 or 3 days, chance heavy in places. Windy at times. Continuing cold in the north. Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 Cold overall, although some thawing occurs in the south. Often sunny but with snow, chance of rain in the south on 2 to 3 days.

20.5 mms

Feb. 9 - 15 Generally cold and fair, but minor thawing in the south brings some snow.

Feb. 16 - 22 Often sunny, but snow falls on 2 or 3 days, chance of heavy in places. Windy at times. A bit milder in the south, cold in the north.

Feb. 16 - 22 Variable weather. Milder southeasterlies bring minor thawing to the south, along with some heavier snow and drifting on a couple of days.

Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 Cold overall, although some thawing occurs. Often sunny but with snow, chance of rain on 2 to 3 days. Cold in north with occasional heavier snow.

Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 Temperatures on the cold side in spite of minor thawing in the south. Sunny skies alternate with heavier snow and drifting in the south. Chance of rain.

Manitoba Feb. 2 - 8 Bright skies and cold temperatures dominate on many days, but slightly milder air brings some snow and drifting around mid week. Feb. 9 - 15 Variable this week, as clear skies and cold temperatures exchange with slightly milder air and periodic snow along with some blowing snow. Feb. 16 - 22 Temperatures fluctuate with some highs near zero. Windy. Occasional heavier snow and blowing in the south. Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 Cold overall under bright skies but a couple of milder, blustery days bring some heavier snow and drifting snow to the south.

Precipitation Forecast -17 / -5 Edmonton 16.8 mms


-18 / -7 North Battleford

-12 / 0 Jasper

17.4 mms

-11 / 0

23.9 mms


-16 / -4 Red Deer 14.7 mms

-12 / -1 Calgary

Forecasts should be 80% accurate, but expect variations by a day or two because of changeable speed of weather systems.

Feb. 2 - 8 Often bright and cold, but slightly milder air brings some snow and blowing on a couple of occasions to the south. Settled with flurries and cold in the north.

Feb. 9 - 15 Seasonal to milder with some thawing in the south on a couple of days. Sunny, apart from snow and drifting on a few occasions. Cold and flurries in the north.

Feb. 9 - 15 Seasonal to milder with some thawing in the south on a couple of days. Sunny, apart from snow and drifting on a few occasions. Cold. Flurries.

-17 / -6 Grande Prairie


9.9 mms

-13 / -1 Medicine Hat 19mms cms Lethbridge 10.3 13.0 mms 26 cms -11 / 1

-23 / -12 The Pas

-23 / -9 Prince Albert

12.8 mms

-19 / -9 Saskatoon 12.9 mms

13.6 mms

15.4 mms


-21 / -9 Yorkton

-21 / -9 Dauphin

-22 / -11 -19 / -8 16.2 mms 16.1 mms Gimli -17 / -6 Regina -15 / -5 Moose Jaw 13.0 mms 20.8 mms Swift 14.7 mms -19 / -9 -21 / -9 Portage -21 / -8 Current -18 / -7 Brandon 19.6 mms Winnipeg 16.2 mms Weyburn 15.6 mms 14.8 mms 13.4 mms -17 / -7 Estevan Melita -21 / -8 14.8 mms

14.2 mms

Precipitation Outlook For February Much Above Normal Below Much above normal normal below normal normal

Temperatures are normals for February 15th averaged over 30 years. Precipitation (water equivalent) normals for Feb. in mms. ©2014 WeatherTec Services



FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Home Quarter Farm Life FROM THE FARM

What we do with whey DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


ur family likes to research new uses for what we produce on our farm. Over the years we have become very proficient at utilizing all the milk from our cows/goats (depending on the time of year) and we love experimenting with recipes. The one drawback to all this is that we can produce an incredible amount of whey and buttermilk. We enjoy Greek-style yogurt and lots of cheese in our cooking. According to Ricki Carroll’s Cheesemaking Made Easy one pound of hard cheese starts out as 10 pounds of milk (approximately one gallon), so the non-water elements of the milk are highly concentrated in cheese. The excitement over Greek-style yogurt has also produced a lot of whey for us. It takes about four ounces of milk to produce one ounce of yogurt. When making yogurt we set three

gallons of milk and reduce this to one gallon of finished product. While gazing at pails and pails of whey that our goats readily consume, I wondered about what really comes out in the whey, and if there was a better use for it than watering the livestock. Research told me that dumping it down the sink is not a good idea. Apparently whey has bacteria in it at high amounts that need oxygen to grow. They quickly unbalance septic systems and can cause a lot of trouble. The system can recover but I don’t want to find out just how much would be too much for ours to handle. Whey is nutritious, containing a large amount of water-soluble vitamins such as B and C that are contained in the milk. The fat-soluble ones are mostly left behind in the cheese. Whey also contains protein, calcium and a large amount of lactose, which is partially why many lactose-intolerant people can consume cheese. The casein protein is usually about four per cent in the whey, making cottage cheese an excellent source. So, the challenge was on to find ways to use at least some of

this very nutritious product for humans. I was a bit leery about the taste, but figured because some people buy the stuff (albeit in flavoured powdered form) how bad could it really be? • Drinking it straight up wasn’t too bad as long as it was well strained, and because whey is naturally slightly acidic, it makes a nice base for drinks such as lemonade. • Baking bread. We made amazing tender yeast breads substituting whey for the water in recipes. • Marinating or cooking tough meats. I was a little concerned the roast would taste cheesy but it did not. The meat was soaked in whey then drained and cooked slowly in fresh whey. When it was done, the liquid was added to the dogs’ dinner which they enjoyed. It definitely helped to pull blood from the meat also. • Store it in glass. Whey is acidic and therefore capable of leaching toxins from plastic. If its future use is for cleaning then that’s OK but if it is for eating it must be stored in glass. • Use it in recipes that call for buttermilk. • Use to water acid-loving

plants such as tomatoes. It is also very high in calcium which tomatoes like. • I used it to soak calcium deposits off the toilet until I learned it is bad for the septic system. Now I use it to soak milk stone off of milking pails. Amazing how clean and shiny the stainless steel pails are after soaking them overnight with whey. • Boil bones in it for soup. • Cook potatoes or other vegetables in it. After cooking, I drain the liquid into a pail and use that to water our laying hens. They seem to really enjoy the treat in winter. • Frozen cubes of whey added to a smoothie will add nutrition as well as making that yummy slushy texture. • There are recipes for cheese that can be made from whey such as ricotta and gjestost. • Use in homemade mayonnaise. With whey added, mayonnaise lasts longer in the fridge. • Probiotics are available in whey unless heated, making it a valuable addition to iced tea, etc. • Can be used in sauerkraut as a starter. Some people do not like this though, saying their ferments are mushy. We have only used whey from kefir for fermenting and quite enjoy it. • Although it is not good for

waterways or septic fields it is useful for compost piles and soil. Here’s our mayonnaise recipe using whey: 1 whole egg 1 egg yolk 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (other mustard would be fine too) 1-1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp. whey Generous pinch of sea salt 3/4 to 1 c. grape seed oil This recipe is easiest when using a blender. Put in egg and egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, whey and salt. Process until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add oil in a thin stream slowing to a drop at the end while the blender runs the whole time. When it stops taking the oil, the mayonnaise is finished. Let stay at room temperature, covered, for seven hours then refrigerate. This recipe makes not quite a pint of finished product and should be stored in glass. It is always encouraging to find a use for what other people look at as waste, and we now have a free way to increase our minerals and probiotics intake. With a little imagination the possibilities are endless. † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba.

Prairie landscape inspires artist BY EDNA MANNING


rom early childhood, Cindy Hoppe enjoyed a special relationship with her mother, Myrna Harris. Their appreciation of rural life and a mutual love of arts and crafts strengthened that bond and Cindy learned to draw, paint and sew doll clothes, often working alongside her mother. In her early teens, she

joined her mother in a painting class taught in the Landis, Saskatchewan area where the family farmed. “That helped accelerate my art,” Cindy said. “Mom immersed herself in whatever art or craft form that caught her attention. In the early 1970s, she became intrigued with pottery and we began attending craft shows which were just catching on at the time. While she was making beautiful pots,

I was creating pottery jewelry. It was exciting to be interacting with the public and selling our products,” she said. After high school, Cindy attended the University of Saskatchewan, working on a bachelor of fine arts degree, but she yearned for practical experience, not just lectures about art. In 1982 Cindy married and moved to her new home on the farm north of Biggar, Saskatchewan.



After about 10 years of a ‘pottery phase,’ Cindy’s mother decided to try something new and invested in a loom. “She just loved the weaving, though she didn’t want to deal with the yards of products she was turning out. I used my knitting and crocheting skills to turn her yardage into jackets. I had young children, so painting was out of the question for me at the time. “After four years of throwing the shuttle back and forth, Mother had enough. She enrolled in a felting class and her first felt piece, a jacket, got into the Dimensions Show with the Saskatchewan Craft Council the next year. That morphed into making landscapes out of felt, wrapping them around a canvas stretcher. The result was beautiful, tactile, hand-dyed landscapes for which she became famous. It was a joint trip to Toronto and the Haliburton Summer School of the Arts during the summer of 1997 that would set the stage for Cindy’s current career as a successful fibre artist. She purchased

several wool suits from a Salvation Army store in Haliburton and created jackets from recycled wool suiting. “Marsha Geddes, a clothing design instructor from Ryerson influenced my direction into recycling wool suits to create thoroughly integrated art pieces.” Back home, Cindy and her mother experimented at the dye pot and checked out second-hand stores for materials. In 2008, Cindy and her mother had a joint show at the Pacific Gallery in Saskatoon. It would be Myrna’s last show, as she passed away the following year. “She was my mentor and my model for so many years. I miss her enthusiasm,” said Cindy. Living in rural Saskatchewan, Cindy is continually inspired by the seasonal changes she observes on her daily walks. She’s also inspired by great photography of Prairie artists, by a beautiful piece of wool, or by what happens in the dye pot. For more information on Cindy Hoppe’s work, visit, call (306) 948-2947, or email † Edna Manning writes from Saskatoon, Sask.

February 27TH, 2014 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

BULLY’S GRANDSTAND 3 Floor, Exhibition Park Lethbridge, Alberta RD





*First 50 people registered will receive a complimentary pass to Ag Expo

For further information visit:

403-381-5118 Email: REGISTER ❯❯ Phone:

Cindy Hoppe with one of her pieces.


FEBRUARY 11, 2014 /



Life’s secrets, according to you… People of the world, tell me this — what’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received? Part One JANITA VAN DE VELDE


’ll never forget the day my dad sat me down when I was 16 years old… I was desperate to buy a car, and equally desperate to spend every last dime I had saved to purchase it. To me, the math was remarkably simple: more money = nicer vehicle = cool cat. According to my dad, the equation had a few more variables. His lesson in depreciating assets and delayed gratification went something like this: “You have $10,000 saved up. Good for you. You’ve made a choice to buy a vehicle… you can’t afford to buy new, so you’ll have to look at used ones. And even if you can afford to buy a new vehicle one day, don’t. It’s one of the quickest ways to lose money… repeat after me… depreciating asset. It’ll substantially decrease in value the moment you drive it off the lot. Let someone else lose that hardearned money. So you’re buying used — you now have two more choices. First you have to ask yourself this: What’s it worth to you? You can use all the money you have worked to save, and spend it on a car. In seven years from now, you’ll have two things: a car worth nothing, plus an empty savings account. Or, you can spend $5,000 on a vehicle, and leave the other $5,000 in your savings account. In seven years from now, you’ll have two things: a car worth nothing, plus almost $10,000 in your savings account. What’s it worth to you? If it’s just to get you between point A and point B, then the choice is easy. But if your worth is tied up in the wrong thing, then you’re likely going to make a bad decision. May I suggest you make the smart one.” Of course interest rates are noticeably different than they were in 1990 when my dad and I had this discussion. Back then, your money had the potential to almost double in seven or eight years, depending on the compounding and type of investment fund. But in theory, the lesson remains the same. Before you buy anything, always ask yourself this: “What’s it worth to you?” I have yet to purchase a brand new vehicle, and can safely say I never will. It’s not worth it to me, simply because our vehicles house three small, slovenly children and are often mistaken for transitory nuisance grounds (both the vehicles and the children). If you opened our van door on any given day, you’d likely have two distinct thoughts: (1) These people have scant

regard for personal property and (2) If thoroughly cleaned, we may stumble across the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. And hey, I don’t judge people who do buy new — rather, I’m quite grateful for your constitution. I thoroughly enjoy hopping into your brand new car with you… that smell is intoxicating. I’m not made of wood, am I? After all, smart cats still like to hang out with the cool cats.

Here forthwith, is the best financial advice you’ve ever received. Part One Beer at the liquor store is cheaper than buying it at the hotel. Take out life insurance at an early age. You want something? Save for it. Have good credit but don’t overextend.

To quote my mother when I got married: “It he wants to share your bed, he can share his bank account,” which is useful when you are the one staying home raising the kids. That, and every woman needs a credit card in her own name. Don’t spend more than you make. I’m still learning that one. Don’t worry about the money. Do your best at a job you enjoy and the money will follow. Stay in the black! If you can’t afford something, then don’t buy it! Save some money for a rainy day. If you can’t pay for it with cash, then ask yourself if you really need it. My dad and I went to pick up

an older gentleman at harvest time and I said, “Wow. How old is this guy?” My dad said, “He’s pushing 70, why?” I said, “It’s cool that he still wants to come out and combine with us!” and my dad said, “He still has a mortgage so he has to come out and combine for us. Even if he wants to, he doesn’t have a choice. Don’t ever let that happen to you.” This has stayed with me all these years, clear as day. † Janita Van de Velde grew up on a farm near Mariapolis, Man. She holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Manitoba, and has worked for a financial institution since graduating. She lives in Regina, Sask., with her husband Roddy and their children Jack, Isla and James. Her first novel, Postcards Never Written, was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Reader’s Choice Award and also listed by CBC as one of the top funny books in 2009. She donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of her book to World Vision to help those less fortunate. For more information, or to order her book, visit her website at

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FEBRUARY 11, 2014

Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

More information on dill Plus, where to buy cuke seeds and Ted shares some of your emails TED MESEYTON


o what’s on this agenda? An old catch-no-cold remedy — lots on dill — where to buy pickling cucumber seeds — emails and who knows what else? I’m not at the end ’til I get there.

EVERY GARDENER WORTH THEIR DILL PICKLE JUICE … has grown dill and made dills at one time or another. Now you may be wondering what more can I, Ted, possibly tell my Grainews readers about dill that you don’t already know? My answer: Read on and decide for yourself. Have you heard of dill pickle juice as a seasonal preventive against sniffles, colds and even flulike symptoms? As a kid I recall Mother taking a swig of the brine as part of her routine after all the dills had been eaten. I often wondered why. “Us kids” would shy away from anything that tasted as sour as pickle juice, but the reason was eventually revealed. An old travelling country doctor told many of his patients that he hadn’t had a cold or even the flu in over 30 years of practice because he daily consumed two tablespoons of cold dill pickle juice first thing each morning. Take it for what it’s worth. Call it an old wives’ tale, something for guys to ponder over at the coffee shop, just plain ol’ blarney, flattery, or smooth talking. The doc also indicated dill pickle juice was taken for digestive disturbances and even to treat a hangover from consuming too much rich food, alcohol or both. Remember — I tell you this as information and not as a prescription. There are no doctor credentials attached to my name but my jar is full of folk tales and wisdom.


LOVE HEARING FROM YOU Do you have a story about a farm or home-based business? How about some household management tips? Does someone in the family have a special-diet need? Share some of your meal ideas. Send them to FarmLife, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, Man. R3H 0H1. Phone 1-800665-0502 or email susan@ Please remember we can no longer return photos or material. † Sue Armstrong

DILL WEED AS SOME CALL IT … is actually a herb extensively used in making dill pickles. The most common are Mammoth dill (Anethum graveolens “Mammoth”) and Bouquet dill, a dwarf, compact type of the former. Is dill used for anything else? You can bet your “penny a pound” at the farmers’ market but are certain to pay a whole lot more. When in season fresh minced dill fern imparts a savoury taste to many dishes such as cold potato salad, perogy filling, beet soup and sauerkraut. The list goes on and on. Its benefits are endless, including a key to sustaining health. Dill brings great relief to anyone experiencing a buildup of abdominal gas and provides sustaining energy. It’s little known that dill was often placed at festivity and banquet tables so those who overindulged could benefit from its gas-relieving properties. Perhaps it’s a practice that’s well worth reinstating. That feathery fern-like stuff and the seed head umbels are full of compounds such as essential oils with flavonoids and numerous trace minerals that keep us on the path to well-being. These same oils lubricate and add stimulus to the intestines and encourage easy bowel movements. Often gas buildup and constipation are eased to the point of less reliance on laxatives. Are you among the many folks who long for better sleep? Those flavonoids and multiple vitamin B complex found in dill’s essential oils have a calming effect that stimulates hormones to provide a sedative effect and sounder sleep. Calcium found in dill is another sleep enhancer, but also safeguards bone health and bone mineral density. There are numerous folk remedies to curb a bout of hiccups and not surprisingly chomping on a few dill seeds or sipping on a cup of dill tea is among them. Some of the latest research information suggests that dill’s essential oils may play a role in prevention of and treating leukemia and other cancers. Dill is referred to as a chemo-protective food. The same term has also been applied to parsley. Centuries ago dill seeds were burned and the powdered residue was placed on battle wounds, sores and cuts to promote healing. Cooking with dill in recipes and eaten fresh in salads has shown to ease symptoms of arthritis and gout.

COUNTERTOP DILLS If this was late summer or early autumn I might say, “There’s no time to dilly-dally. It’s the last call to make ’em.” Cucumber season is months down the road but do buy your cuke seeds soon as many varieties sell out early. They’re not real dills if there’s no dill in the jar. The fresh fronds really do release a breath of freshness. This is a traditional, delicious and almost foolproof method. Use a wide-mouth four-litre glass jar (or imperial gallon size) sterilized in boiling water. Fill the cooled jar with fresh cucumbers that are well scrubbed clean.


Top: Exceptionally large Dukat dill seed heads grow atop highly decorative plants with lots of feathery foliage. Dill is one of the best herbs in the whole wide world to attract beneficial pollinating insects. Ted tells about health-promoting essential oils and other important nutrients found in dill. Bottom: Excelsior cuke is an outstanding pickling variety with full-season production. Plants are open and vigorous with good resistance to scab, powdery mildew and viruses. Certified organic seed is available from West Coast Seeds at Delta, B.C. Place largest cukes in the bottom and smallest at the top. For every 2-1/2 pounds of cukes bring the following ingredients to a boil: 1/4 cup white vinegar 1/4 cup kosher or pickling salt 10 cups water Disperse garlic cloves, dill seed and ferny fresh-picked dill fronds (as much as you dare) among cucumbers throughout each jar, then pour in prepared hot brine. Cover with several layers of clean cheesecloth or linen and fasten with a strong elastic band. After two days, place dills in the fridge. Within a week to 10 days the cukes will have transformed into dill pickles but many folks start nibbling long before that. Happy dilling.

CUKE SEEDS FOR MAKING DILLS Ever heard of a variety that begs to be pickled? “Corentine” is a burpless, seedless and crunchy French cuke that looks as much at home in the pickle jar as it does in a salad. Can you think of a better name than “Homemade Pickles” for smallsize sweet baby pickles? Then, at 13 cm (five inches) they become dill pickle shaped, a perfect size for Countertop Dills. “Excelsior” is another outstanding pickling variety. All three cukes named are available from West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., V4K 3N2; phone 1-888-804-8820; www. There’s an impressive list of pickling cuke types including Calypso, Cool Breeze, Jackson Classic, Matilde, National Pickling, Pioneer and Sassy to be had from Early’s Garden Centre, Saskatoon, Sask., S7J 0S5; phone 1-800-667-1159 or shop online at “Corentine” mentioned earlier and a productive dark-green variety called “Eureka” pickling cucumber are both available at W.H. Perron-Dominion Seed House, Georgetown, Ont., L7G 5L6; phone 1-800-784-3037;

NOW ON TO A TRIO OF EMAILS First — this one received in mid-December 2013: Hi Ted, Enjoy your columns very much. However, I must take issue with the cleaning of cast iron cookware. To wash a seasoned pan or pot with soap is like desecrating a shrine!!! After a good cleaning with salt (or sand if you’re camping), nothing more is needed except a rub with paper towel. Keep up the good work Ted. Dwayne Thompson Victoria, B.C. Ted says: Thanks Dwayne. Your tip is great for both the outdoors and the home kitchen. Campers: If you don’t already have cast iron cookware; get one or more pieces before camping season begins. Next email is from Beatrice who wrote just before Christmas: Hi, I’m having a problem with cats deciding to use my garage as a bathroom. Do you have any tips on anything I could spray or spread around to deter them? I keep the small door open so my dog can come in to sleep in her spot so it’s hard to keep the cats out. Thanks. My name is Beatrice Rosin and I live by Churchbridge, Sask. Ted says: You have to catch a cat in the act that you want to correct. Give it a swat with a rolled newspaper or squirt away from the cat’s face with water containing a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. At the same time speak to the cat and say NO — in a high-pitched voice. Remove the source of temptation until better habits are formed. If stray cats are visiting, it’s more of a challenge to apply aforesaid. What do Grainews readers have to say? If you have something that works to discourage cats from where you don’t want them, let’s hear about it. Hello to Edna at Pincher Creek. She writes: Restless legs and cramping of muscles in legs are two very different ailments. I have suffered with both but more so with restless legs. I thought for many years RL was caused by too much walking

on concrete floors and fatigue. I was prescribed medication which helped but not always. Then I discovered polyester sheets. I also discovered that I was fine after a warm bath and polyester sheets. But when I did not have a hot bath and went to bed — with the polyester sheets — I still had restless legs. I have since learned that if the skin feels cold on my legs, I will not be sleeping because of RL until they warm up. I now wrap my legs in a small polyester blanket — (baby’s blanket) which will quickly warm my legs. I do this even if I have a warm bath — and I wear socks to bed!! Vigorous rubbing of my legs when they are cold — usually done by my husband — helps also. I take no medication now and I can sleep reasonably well most nights. Another thought: Possibly restless legs is due to varicose veins and I have VV also which results in poor circulation. I would not like to sleep with corks and old stinky shoes under the bed. Not even perfumed soap bars. Unbelievable! Try a warm pillow under both legs for starters and poly sheets!!! Hope this helps the fellow sufferers. Edna Mackenzie Pincher Creek, Alberta Note from Ted: Edna would like the recipe for controlling moss on lawns from an earlier column. I’ll repeat it next Grainews issue.

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. Here’s an Irish proverb that’s familiar to every farmer and haymaker. There’s no need to fear the wind if your haystacks are tied down. Proverbs may be said to be the abridged versions of wisdom. My email address is


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