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Volume 38, Number 6 | March 5, 2012



New pulse varieties for 2012 It’s time to get out the seed guide and start picking up your seed for 2012. Here’s a roundup of new pulse varieties BY PATTY MILLIGAN


he 2012 seed guides have been published and pulse producers can map out their acreage based on a wide range of options. According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s Varieties of Grain Crops 2012, the overall number of pulse varieties available to Canadian producers this year includes 46 field pea, 37 lentil, 17 dry bean, 11 faba bean, 10 chickpea and three soybean varieties. The names of several new varieties adorn 2012’s list. Ten new pulse crops were nationally registered by the CFIA between November 1, 2010 and November 1, 2011. Note that some of these varieties may not be commercially available to all farmers yet. New varieties tend to go through a predictable set of steps — a foundation year followed by a controlled release to select growers. Depending on how quickly the volume of seed multiplies, new varieties then become available to all growers. New pulse releases for 2012 include: • lentils: CDC Cherie, CDC Dazil, CDC Redcliff, CDC Ruby, CDC S8-1 • green peas: CDC Raezer • yellow peas: CDC Saffron, Earlystar

CDC Cherie lentils.

• black beans: CDC Superjet • faba beans: Tabasco While the German company NPZ has developed a new faba bean (Tabasco) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) a yellow pea (Earlystar), most pulse variety releases in Canada come from the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC), in partnership with the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) and their New Varieties Program. SPG provides the CDC’s Pulse Breeding Program with an average of $1.8 million per year to receive exclusive distribution rights to all pulse varieties developed at the CDC. The goal of the program, which has been in operation since 1997 and has released more than 84 varieties to Canadian farmers, is “to develop new and/or improved varieties of pulse crops to be made available to Saskatchewan pulse producers on a timely and cost-effective basis.” Alberta Pulse Growers (APG) also participates in the Variety Release Program. Saskatchewan growers are given priority when allocating seed, but APG pays to have access to the Breeder seed as well. Plant breeders work to develop varieties that combine of all kinds of ideal traits including colour, size, and shape of seed; resistance to diseases such as powdery mildew or ascochyta; seed coat


resistance to bleaching; seed coat durability; lodging tolerance; protein content; rate of maturation; and, perhaps most importantly, yield. As well, several pulse varieties have been bred in partnership with BASF to exhibit the Clearfield trait. Currently, there is a twoyear delay in that process. This gap allows scientists to determine which conventional varieties are most successful and then select them to breed the Clearfield trait into them. Meanwhile, producers who may prefer conventional varieties — such as organic growers — can still access the conventional seed.

CDC 2012 PULSE VARIETY RELEASES - HIGHLIGHTS According to Raelene Regier, commercial seed manager at Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, “There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on this year!” Here she walks us through the CDC varieties — some are brand new and not widely available, while some were released in the past couple of years and are now being made available to a broader number of growers. Yellow pea: SPG releases one new yellow pea variety per year. In 2011, breeder seed was released to Select Status seed growers for the



Raelene Regier, commercial seed manager with Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, crouches in front of a plot of CDC Raezer — a recently released pea variety that is named after her.

CDC Ruby lentils.

CDC Dazil lentils.

In This Issue

Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240

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


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


Crop Adviser’s Casebook


Columns ........................... 33 Machinery & Shop ............ 39 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 45

Chem company rebates, spring roundup GERALD PILGER


Staying safe: a special section on farm safety


FarmLife ............................ 49



MARCH 5, 2012

Wheat & Chaff Pre-seeding planning LEEANN MINOGUE

“He thought we were a slow-moving forest fire.”


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At Crow Lake Farm, we’re still finalizing our seeding plans. After the non-stop rain last spring, we’re a bit gun shy, afraid to make too many plans in case excess moisture keeps us out of the fields yet again. Last year, we had all kinds of seeding plans. But when the spring rain just didn’t stop, we had to move on to Plan B (which involved seeding four acres on the top of a hill, getting the tractor stuck, then retreating to the house to hope for an unseeded acreage payment). Most of our seed and chemical suppliers were flexible and sympathetic. It’s usually easier to return something you don’t need than scramble around to find something you want at the last minute when you’re already busy. This winter has been dry, and the warm weather in January and early February has probably given the fields a chance to dry up even more, so we’re hoping we can seed a few more acres this year than last year. Planning doesn’t always work its way to the top of the list. Some of our seed customers start booking their seed in the fall and pick it up early. But other farmers call as late as early May, then rush their seed straight out to the field. There are good reasons for waiting to plan. Jobs. Winter travel. Or, like us, watching the weather. But, like it or not, planning early is something that just makes sense.

PROGRAMS AND OFFERS If our seeding plans were finalized, it would be easier to take advantage of early-buying discounts on seed, and get in on chemical rebate programs that offer early-bird rewards. But even with our tentative (hopeful) plans, Gerald Pilger’s article in this issue will be helpful. Gerald has produced a roundup of all of the major chemical company’s rebate and programming offers (find it on page 10). You’ve likely seen most of these — if your farm mailbox is like ours, it’s overflowing with glossy ads in all shapes and sizes this time of year. But it’s always convenient to see everything in one place, in a low-pressure situation.

Find us on Twitter:


Lyndsey Smith is @grainewsgal Lee Hart is @hartattacks Scott Garvey is @machineryeditor Leeann Minogue is @grainmuse

Since pulses are a big part of Prairie farmers’ pre-seeding plans, the cover of this issue of Grainews features an article by Patty Milligan about new pulse varieties.

A lot of the information in Patty’s article came from the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. SPG funds pulse breeding in Saskatchewan and, in return, has distribution rights to all pulse varieties developed by the Crop Development Centre. They release new varieties through the Variety Release Program. The Crop Development Centre tries to breed new varieties with high yield and high quality that will excel in the Canadian Prairies. Dr. Bert Vandenberg, a lentil breeder at the Crop Development Centre and a member of the SPG board of directors, recently spoke at the SPG’s Pulse Days information meetings for pulse growers around Saskatchewan. I heard him at the Weyburn meeting. When it comes to lentil breeding, Vandenberg said, the trends are herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, and new technology. And they go to great lengths to do this. Vandenberg told the audience in Weyburn that they’re “very aggressive about introducing new germplasm from all over the world.” During the coffee break, he told me that he’d just returned from a trip to a breeding facility in Bangladesh, and showed me some photos of the lentil test plots. Prairie pulses are truly an international endeavour. Breeders not only need to know what traits will grow well here, they also need a good handle on what our customers around the world want to buy. For example, Vandenberg told the Weyburn audience that in a niche market in China, buyers will pay up to 50 per cent more for a smaller-size lentil that cooks faster. Because peas are a snack food in many Asian markets, buyers are finicky about the type and look of the peas they buy. Food trends change, agronomics improve, and Prairie farmers keep planting new varieties to keep up with the markets.

FARM SAFETY While pre-seeding planning is inevitable, planning for farm safety is generally something we have to make an effort to remind ourselves to do. Planning and practising farm safety is nowhere near the most glamorous part of farming. In fact, it can be pretty dull. But there’s really no alternative. It’s hard to run the combine if you’re in the hospital — or worse. Sure, it takes time to get all of your fire extinguishers checked, but speeding to the yard for a bucket of water once you’ve got a field fire isn’t more efficient, is it? March 11 to 17 is Canadian Agricultural Safety week. The Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s motto for the week is “Plan. Farm. Safety.” We’ve included a special safety sec-

tion on pages 12 to 15. (And don’t forget about the regular safety feature from the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association that appears in every issue on page 4.) When I asked what sort of safety articles she thought would make interesting features, freelance writer Shanyn Silinski came up with some useful ideas, including some suggestions I hadn’t thought of. One of her articles, “72 hours without services” is a great reminder for farm families to be prepared to survive for three days without services like power, gas and phones. We forget how reliant we are on these services. When my cellphone was dead for one day last month, I could barely do my job. (Heck, I could barely function.) And, because many farmers live in thinly populated, remote areas that aren’t always a top priority in a general emergency, being prepared is even more important for us. Before I moved to the farm, one spring about 11 years ago ice collected on the power lines. When the lines finally collapsed under the weight, the power was out at my husband’s farm for three days. After some experimenting with the generator, Brad learned that he could either plug in the satellite dish or the microwave (but not both at the same time). Needless to say, things were getting a bit dull for him by Day 3. But at least he had the generator, and plenty of frozen food in the freezer. It’s not hard to imagine this happening again. In fact, the power was out for a few hours during the Griffin Ladies Bonspiel this February. But it was natural ice anyway, so once the windows were opened, we could see enough to keep on curling with the lights out. And the power came on well before the start of the potluck dinner. I’m quite sure that Shanyn Silinski knows what to do if (when?) the power is off at her farm. And after you read her article and take note of her checklist, you will too. Shanyn has also written an article about keeping children safe on the farm. She describes the “Eyes on Safety” approach that she and her husband use on their Manitoba farm. Before anyone starts doing any farm work (like starting the auger), they make a point of looking around to make sure they can actually see everyone who might be in the area. Sometimes, they might have to take a walk to find someone, or send a text message to make sure everyone is in a safe place before they get going. This year, we’ll make a more conscientious effort to do this on our farm. With a busy fiveyear-old and seed customers driving in and out of the yard, we always try to think of safety. But it never hurts to make more of an effort. Leeann

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Wheat & Chaff Farm safety

How to work safely alone


ou’re a farmer. You often work alone and so do your family members and workers. Sometimes, you don’t see another soul all day and nobody even knows where you are. That’s just the way it is. But is it safe? You know the answer. Sure, the relative safety of your situation working alone does depend on the circumstance — the type of work you’re doing, the location and the consequences of an emergency or injury. As a general rule however, on the farm, you need to make certain somebody responsible knows where you and your workers are at all times. And you need to set up a reliable system of regular communication. First of all, consider the job you’re doing or assigning to a lone worker. What is its level of risk? Check for heights — confined spaces such as tanks, grain bins or culverts; power lines; hazardous substances or materials; hazardous

equipment such as chainsaws or firearms; or high-pressure materials. Make sure you or your workers have the skills and equipment to do the job safely, alone. Then establish a check-in procedure. If you can use cell phones, make sure you or your lone worker has one and that the battery is fully charged. If a cell phone won’t work in the area, set up some other system of two-ways or walkie talkies. If the communication systems are located in a vehicle, provide something to cover working away from the vehicle. If you have a smartphone and no coverage in the area in which you need to work alone, consider something like the SPOT Satellite system. Check it out at www.findmespot. ca/en/. But before you get all wound up in technology, do something really simple. Leave a written record of exactly where you’ll be, when you’ll

get there and when you’ll leave. Mark down how you’re getting to your job, which truck or quad you have. Make sure there are emergency equipment and adequate supplies available for the lone worker — in the vehicle and on the job. Develop an emergency action plan to follow if your lone employee does not check-in when he or she is supposed to. Now’s probably a good time to work out these safety procedures. They could be part of your overall farm safety plan. Your plan would outline the steps to ensure safety and good health for yourself, your family and your employees, working alone or not. For a plan template, download a free, comprehensive and straightforward guide at www.planfarmsafety. ca. Look for the Canada FarmSafe Plan. Now that’s a plan! † From the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association —

Grain markets

Ocean freight rates at record lows


oft ocean freight rates, which hit 25-year lows in early February, are helping cut into Canada’s grain freight disadvantage with some of its competitors, according to industry participants. The Baltic Dry Index, which is used as a guide for global shipping rates, is sitting at 715 points, up from a 25-year low of 647 points on Feb. 3. However, that’s still well below the 2011 high of 2,173 points in midOctober and the 2008 peak of 11,793 points. David Przednowek, manager of marine logistics with the Canadian Wheat Board, said the softening of ocean freight rates has been beneficial for Canadian grain shippers. Transporting grain from Canada to many global areas,

including Asia, takes more time, in comparison to moving it from Australia. However, softer shipping rates have narrowed the freight disadvantage, making it more competitive for Canadian grain distributors, he said. Trevor Lavender, president of the Summit Maritime Corp. in Montreal, said much of the dramatic downward trend seen in ocean freight values is due to the large supply of ships. A lack of seasonal demand, due to the Chinese new year holiday, has also weighed on freight rates recently. The short-term trend for freight markets will continue to see shipping supply far outstretch demand, Przednowek said. Dry bulk exports will increase three to five per cent this year, reflecting strong

demand for commodities by emerging markets, he said. However, despite increased exports to emerging markets, dry bulk demand will not be able to keep up with the 10-15 per cent increase of ships being introduced into the market, he said. Przednowek projects the influx of new ships will continue for the rest of this year into the first half of 2013, which will keep ocean freight costs low. However, Przednowek cautioned that there could be an uptrend in rates if China’s demand for ore and coal picks up. Increases in crude oil, which impact bunker fuel costs, also may impact freight rate values, he said. †


Try Savvy Farmer lite


n online service allowing Canada’s farmers to quickly look up treatment data for any treatable crop pest problem has brought a substantial chunk of its offerings out from behind the pay wall. Guelph-based The Savvy Farmer Inc. has announced the launch of Savvy Farmer lite, a free version of its Savvy Farmer software. The “lite” version will allow growers and ag pest control professionals access to data including: •  listings of all products that control any weed, insect or disease in any of over 750 Canadian-grown crops; •  access to those products’ labels “within seconds;” and •  photos of “over 1,000” pests, including weeds, insects, crop-eating wildlife and — in the forms of their symptoms — crop diseases. The new service “was created in response to farmers who want

quick and easy access to pest control information but do not feel they need the added features within the full Savvy Farmer paid software,” Savvy Farmer president Warren Libby said in a release. “While Savvy Farmer lite contains fewer features than the advanced version, we believe many farmers will find it an extremely convenient tool that they will refer to often.” Since the free service operates as a cloud-based application, its data can be updated every day Savvy Farmer receives information on new products and label expansions, the company said. “It’s a rare day that there isn’t new information to add to Savvy Farmer... and we work hard to be the most complete and current source of pest control information in Canada,” said Libby, the former president (1996-2001) of Syngenta Crop Protection Canada. Farmers and other users won’t

have to subscribe to Savvy Farmer lite, the company said, and will need only to go online to use the software “immediately and as often as you like.” The company will continue to offer more in-depth information through its subscription-based Savvy Farmer Advanced and Savvy Farmer Pro services. The subscriber-only services offer deeper information on treatments, as well as filters to customize treatments, and electronic record-keeping capability. Libby, now also president of research and development firm Wellington Agri-Business and consulting firm Evergreen BioCeuticals, launched the Savvy Farmer service in late 2010 in partnership with Syngenta’s former head of information systems, Sam Vurrabindi, now president of software development firm Enable InfoTech. †

Ethanol production

ND Ethanol plant set to close


rcher Daniels Midland will close a North Dakota ethanol plant near the Manitoba border, marking the first such closure for the agribusiness giant that last month announced the elimination of 1,000 jobs. The facility at Walhalla, N.D., about 30 km south of Winkler, Man., will permanently close in April, resulting in the loss of 61 jobs. ADM will supply its customers with ethanol and animal feed products from its six other ethanol plants in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota, company spokeswoman Jessie McKinney said. The North Dakota biofuel refinery is about eight km from the Canadian border and far away from the main corn-grow-

ing areas in the U.S. Midwest. It was the northernmost U.S. ethanol plant, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. “ADM determined that the Walhalla facility was not delivering sufficient returns because its geographic location and scale made it difficult to compete in the marketplace,” McKinney said. The plant has a 30 million-gallon (113.6 million-litre) per year capacity while ADM’s six other plants have a combined capacity of about 1.72 billion gallons, McKinney said. About 40 per cent of the U.S. corn crop is expected to be used this year in ethanol production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. †

photo contest


Gainer watches over fans

Makayla, Brianna and Jenessa Bakken are pleased to stand under the sunflower plant that Makayla had started from a seed from Girl Guides. The seedling was planted at Be-Lu Farms near Hamlin, Sask. With a little TLC provided by Grandpa, Bernard Gregoire, the sunflower grew to be nine feet tall. Thanks to Nicoel Bakken for sending this in. A cheque for $25 is on its way to your mailbox. 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



MARCH 5, 2012

Cover Stories Seed varieties tion year was 2010. CDC Tetris is an Espace-type pea with improved agronomics all around. Its blocky shape is popular for snack foods in Asia. CDC Dakota is a dunn pea; it has a greenish-tan coating that is highly desired in the Indian markets. Green lentil: Initially registered in 2009, lots of registered seed has become available for Clearfield varieties in each green lentil market class. These are CDC Imvincible (small), CDC Imigreen (medium), and CDC Impower (large). Breeder seed for an as-yetunnamed lentil 2881-15 has been released to Select Status seed growers this year. This extra-small green lentil constitutes a new market class. 2881-15 weighs in at 27 g for 1,000 seeds and Regier confirms that it is “much smaller than any varieties we’ve had before.” Red lentil: Regier says, “This year we’re seeing a lot of really highyielding conventional varieties of red lentils. There’s been quite a big jump, starting in 2009 with CDC Redbow and CDC Rosebud.” CDC Rosebud is the only extra small red lentil with a tan seed coat —


pulse varieties for 2012 yellow pea CDC Saffron, a highyielding yellow pea that Regier expects will be very popular. CDC Saffron follows on the coattails of its successful predecessors, CDC Hornet and CDC Treasure, but it comes in a “slightly better agronomic package” and provides a really big jump in yields. Green pea: Growers can check out CDC Raezer, a variety named by the University of Saskatchewan’s Dr. Tom Warkentin after Regier herself. CDC Raezer was released last year to Select Status seed growers. Regier believes this green pea will replace CDC Striker — a 2002 release that has become one of the most popular green pea varieties. CDC Raezer has been bred for high yield as well as for powdery mildew resistance. CDC varieties of green peas from smaller market classes will be available this year. CDC Pluto is a smallseeded green pea whose founda-

known as a Northfield type. “This is very exciting,” Regier explains, “because the only supplier of that type is Australia. Canadian producers can now get into that new market which includes countries such as Pakistan.” Foundation and registered seed are available for CDC Dazil, a small red lentil with Clearfield traits. It’s also quite high yielding especially for a red lentil. Regier sees CDC Dazil as a possible replacement for a CDC Maxim, which is currently the most popular red lentil in Canada. Because CDC Maxim is so popular, seed growers were concerned that there’d be a shortage of pedigreed seed, but a fresh supply of breeder seed will be entering the system this year. Regier estimates that red lentil crops will see a big jump in yields because of those two varieties. Chickpea: One of the most important recent chickpea releases is CDC Orion in 2010. This kabuli chickpea is notable for its 10 millimetre size. It’s the largest chickpea available and for chickpeas, size does matter. For 2012 SPG has


released two specialty chickpeas: CDC Jade, a green desi chickpea, and CDC Ebony, a black desi chickpea, both for small markets. The rights to produce these chickpeas had been tendered out in the past but since the original agreement has expired, both of these specialty chickpeas will be released broadly in 2012. Faba bean: SPG is excited to release breeder seed for a zerotannin (white-flowered) faba bean this year. Not only is it their first faba bean variety, it’s also unique in its very small seed size. At 350 g per 1,000 seeds, it is 100 g smaller than any other faba bean. This makes production much less complicated because farmers won’t need specialized equipment to grow it. Bean (narrow rod): For the first time since 1999, SPG is releasing two bean varieties through the Variety Release Program. During the past 13 years, the rights to develop bean varieties had been tendered out to private companies. The new varieties include a navy bean (1190M-13) and a pink bean (2171-2). Breeder seed for both is available in 2012.

Seed guides For more detailed information about SPG variety releases please consult the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers website at For a comprehensive listing of all pulse variety releases by all breeding institutions, consult the newly updated seed guides: in Manitoba at, in Saskatchewan at or in Alberta at † Patty Milligan writes from Bon Accord, Alta.

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EXTENDED OUTLOOK FOR THE PRAIRIES Weather Forecast for the period of March 11 to April 7, 2012

Southern Alberta

Peace River Region

March 11 - 17 Windy at times with temperatures freezing by night and thawing by day. Sunny, but look for scattered rain or snow on 2 or 3 days this week.

March 11 - 17 Sunny, but look for scattered rain or snow on 2 or 3 days this week. Very cold, occasional snow. March 18 - 24 Temperatures oscillate from above zero to freezing. Windy at times. Sunny skies, but occasional rain or snow on 2 days.

March 25 - 31 Variable temperatures with some highs in the double digits. Sunshine alternates with some rain or snow.

April 1 - 7 Pleasant weather with seasonal to mild temperatures, but cooler outbreaks bring heavier rain or snow on 2 or 3 occasions.

18.6 mms

March 11 - 17 Seasonal to occasionally cool. Windy at times. Sunshine alternates with scattered snow or rain.

March 18 - 24 Temperatures vary from above zero to freezing. Sunny skies, but rain or snow on a couple of occasions.

March 25 - 31 Blustery winds result in variable temperatures. Sunshine alternates with heavier rain or snow/frost.

-12 / 0 Grande Prairie


April 1 - 7 Pleasant with mild temperatures, but cooler outbreaks bring heavier rain or snow on 2 or 3 occasions.

March 18 - 24 Expect changeable temperatures under windy conditions. Mostly sunny, but look for rain or snow on 2 or 3 days this week.

March 18 - 24 Look for variable weather this week as mild, dry days exchange with rain or snow. Chance of heavy precipitation in a few localities.

March 25 - 31 Seasonal but a few mild spells send temperatures into the teens. Sunny, but heavier rain or snow in places.

March 25 - 31 Generally fair apart from a couple of unsettled days with intermittent rain or snow, possibly heavy. Often windy. Cooler and snowy in north.

April 1 - 7 Changeable with temperatures varying from cool to very mild. Sunny skies alternate with rain. A risk of heavy snow in a few localities.

April 1 - 7 Expect changeable skies and variable temperatures as mild, dry days alternate with rain or snow. Chance of heavy precipitation in places.

-11 / 0 Edmonton

-7 / 4 Jasper

15.7 mms


-8 / 4

21.5 mms

-12 / -2 North Battleford -11 / 1 Red Deer 16.5 mms

-15 / -2 Prince Albert 18.2 mms

-16 / -4 The Pas

16.0 mms

-14/ -3 Yorkton

Precipitation Outlook For March

23.6 mms

17.3 mms

-12 / -2 Saskatoon

-14 / -2 Dauphin


-16 / -3 -13 / -2 25.6 mms 25.7 mms -11 / 0 Gimli Regina -11 / -1 Moose Jaw 22.6 mms 16.5 mms Swift 18.1 mms -12 / -1 14.7 mms -7 / 5 -13 / -2 Current Portage -12 / -2 -11 / -1 Medicine Hat Brandon 26.3 mms Winnipeg 19.5 mms Weyburn 20.5 mms cms Lethbridge 16.019mms 23.1 mms 16.8 mms -11 / -1 NEAR 26.0 mms 26 cms -7 / 5 NORMAL Estevan Melita -14 / -1


-8 / 3 Calgary

19.9 mms

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Precipitation Forecast 17.0 mms

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

Manitoba March 11 - 17 Fluctuating temperatures along with some thawing. Sunshine dominates, but look for snow or rain on 2 or 3 occasions.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

25.0 mms

Much Above Normal Below Much above normal normal below normal normal

Temperatures are normals for March 15th averaged over 30 years. Precipitation (water equivalent) normals for March in mms. ©2012 WeatherTec Services Inc.

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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.

MARCH 5, 2012 /



Choosing the right forage seed If you’re seeding down a new field, Kevin Elmy has some tips about forage seed varieties for you to consider BY KEVIN ELMY


ows eat grass and grass is grass, right? If the blend you used before worked, so you might as well just keep using it. Or is there something better? Annual crops are tested for yield and maturity, averaged over many sites and years. You can talk to neighbours to see how their varieties worked, and changing varieties is easy. Forages on the other hand, do not get the same level of respect or testing. As well, species are rarely seeded on their own. Most forages are seeded in a blend, are usually sown on tougher soils and managed in different ways on different farms. The number of forage varieties and species outnumber cereal and oilseed crops, so picking a new blend can be daunting.

LEGUMES For legumes, alfalfa reigns supreme and is the cornerstone of most forage blends. It is easy to establish and seed, we know how to manage it, and animals eat it with little problem. However, bloat is a concern, as is the amount of moisture, phosphorus and potassium it can remove from soil. Some other species worth considering are sainfoin, cicer milk vetch, birds foot trefoil and the clovers. Sainfoin is a short-lived, non-bloat legume that’s easy to establish and suitable for hay or pasture. The negative is it is a large seed and needs relatively high seeding rates to establish a good stand. Yields are about 90 per cent of alfalfa, but with higher palatability. Cicer milk vetch is a longlived, non-bloat legume. It also can

be used for hay or pasture, but is slow to establish, normally taking two to three years. It can be hard to bale when established because heavy crops will lodge. Animals will be slow to start eating it due to its high tannin levels, but it retains leaves into the fall longer than alfalfa which makes it an excellent choice for stockpile grazing. Birds foot trefoil is a small-seeded, non-bloat legume that will readily seed itself out in moist conditions. It is easy to establish and is used predominately for pastures. Clovers are a whole ball of worms. Yellow, red, and white species are used in the Prairies. Yellow is a biennial used for hay, red is used as pasture or silage in moist areas, and white is used more for grazing or reclamation. They

brome, but the latter regrows faster. Meadow brome will put up a seed head for the first three to four years, and then turns vegetative, making it difficult to cut and cure. Smooth brome will turn sod bound and choke out other species, whereas meadow brome will stay in a blend longer. There are now brome hybrids that are varying degrees of intermediates between smooth and meadow bromes. Find out if the variety is more like meadow or smooth. Meadow brome is hairier than smooth and tends to be the problem in seeding blends. Wheatgrasses constitute the most diverse and variable group of grasses. Crested wheatgrass is the best known, but has a drawback of taking over a stand if not managed properly. It is a high seed producer, has early maturity,

The number of forage varieties and species outnumber cereal and oilseed crops, so picking a new blend can be daunting are prone to bloat and can be hard to cure for hay. There are some feeding concerns around some varieties under some conditions. They do a great job of fixing nitrogen and improving soil in a short period of time.

GRASSES Bromes have traditionally been the workhorse of the grasses. Smooth brome is the “hay” type, and meadow is the “pasture” type, although both are used in other modes. Smooth brome has a stronger creeping root than meadow


and with proper management, can be a very productive grass for both hay and pasture. Intermediate wheatgrass is a good hay species that matches very well with alfalfa. It is a bunch grass that will not choke out alfalfa in a blend. It is fairly tall with good carbohydrate levels, which makes it very palatable. Slender wheatgrass is a short-lived bunch grass that is easy to establish and is relatively salt tolerant. It is used more for a hay, but has some grazing potential. Western and Northern wheatgrasses work very well for grazing as they cure well on the

stem in the fall, retaining palatability and nutrients. Both are native species and sensitive to over grazing. They are both creeping rooting, drought and frost tolerant. Pubescent wheatgrass is also available, but rarely used due to the price (however, the price is falling). It’s similar to Intermediate wheatgrass, both bunchgrasses, with Pubescent being more drought tolerant and better to graze. Orchardgrass is a bunchgrass species that is overlooked because of winter hardiness issues, needing about four inches (10 cm) of stubble to overwinter properly. The energy stores are above ground at the base of the plant. In grazing scenarios, animals will preferentially graze orchardgrass if given the chance. Drought resistance is it’s other weakness, along with its fast regrowth for hay. Under good fertility and adequate moisture, it will really produce, and is easy to establish and is small seeded. Fescues are a short grass family used, as a rule, predominantly for grazing. Tall fescue is a rugged, stiff leaved species that has good drought and salinity tolerance. It is small seeded and mixes well in blends. It’s good for fall grazing, as the stiff leaves will stand through the snow. Creeping red fescue is used in lawns because it is a soft leafed creeping root species. It is good for ground cover and takes traffic well. The negatives are that it will choke out other species and it takes a fair amount of nutrients and water. Timothy is a small seeded species that tolerates a fair amount of water. It is a fine stemmed bunch grass that is very palatable, and usually used in blends. Pure stands would be two to three pounds, so a blend with 0.1 to 0.5 pounds is adequate. Hay and pasture situations work well. There are other grass and legume families not covered here with potential for hay, pasture, or ground cover. Find out the growth pattern of the species, how they mix, tolerate haying or grazing, longevity and palatability of the species. Having a different blend on the farm is good for risk management and increases biodiversity on the farm. Plus it might help boost your production. † Kevin Elmy operates Friendly Acres Seed Farm, along with his wife, Christina, and parents, Robert and Verene, near Saltcoats, Sask. Contact him at 306-744-2779 or visit



1000 Large-scale plots

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In 2011, over 1000 large-scale “Proving Ground” plots were grown across Western Canada under real-world growing conditions and farming practices. Our goal is to give you “advice wellgrounded” on the right Pioneer® brand seed product for every acre you grow. All purchases are subject to the terms of labelling and purchase documents. ®, TM, SM Trademarks and service marks licensed to Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited. © 2011 PHL. PR2246 CPS

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MARCH 5, 2012

Features Pre-seeding planning

Test before you use carryover seed If you didn’t seed as many acres as you hoped to last spring, at least there’s a bright side. Last’s year’s seed is still in the bin. Just make sure it’s still good By Leeann Minogue


ith  so  many unseeded acres last spring, many farmers have  carryover seed left in the bin. But before you plant any, it’s best to test. That was the message from Barry Little in a December presentation to the Manitoba Agronomists Conference entitled 2011 Carryover Seed — be aware. In fact, it may be a good idea to test all of your seed this year, said Little, head of client services at 20/20 seed labs in Nisku, Alta. “In Alberta, we probably had the worse seed quality in 25 years,” he told conference attendees. Bonnie Ernst has also found that some seed coming in for tests this year is “not that great.”

Sampling for seed tests “Even if you tested it last year, you should retest,” said Ernst, owner/ operator of Prairie Diagnostic Seed Lab Inc. at Weyburn, Sask. Germination and vigour tests are standard now, and farmers should also test for disease. When it comes to disease, Little said, “If the seed lot was okay at the time of storage last spring, it’s probably still okay.” But humidity can cause disease to multiply, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Because test results are only

as good as your sample, Little has three tips: 1.  Take multiple primary samples to ensure your lot is well represented. 2.  Keep a duplicate sample. Your sample could get lost in the mail or on the bus, or you may want to re-test it later. 3.  Make sure your seed is properly packaged. Pulses are especially susceptible to shipping damage. Ernst said she’s seen several moist samples. When this happens, she asks her customers if the sample came from the space right by the bin door. “If it’s been sitting in the bin and there’s moisture, that’s where the moisture’s getting in,” she said. Retesting a more representative sample, collected well away from the door, often reveals that everything is just fine.

Vigour Testing Vigour testing has become more common over the past decade. Now, Ernst said, “not many farmers don’t get them.” While there are federal standards for germination tests, companies can develop their own vigour tests. However, Ernst said she believes most testing companies have similar methodologies. In Western Canada, these are usually cold-stress tests.

“They’re designed to simulate spring planting conditions in Western Canada,” said Little. Germination tests are done at 20 C, but farmers rarely seed into ground that warm. A vigour test will provide a more realistic look at your seed’s potential performance. As a rule of thumb, you should look for vigour test results “within 10 percentage points of your germination results,” said Little. Vigour test results are typically lower than those for germination because instead of measuring every seed that germinates, in vigour tests “we only count the large, vigorous seedlings,” said Ernst. Ernst said she has found that seed with high germination generally tends to have high vigour. But if germination is mediocre, vigour tests tend to be more variable. If you believe your seed may not be exactly top-notch, it’s even more important to get those tests before seeding.

Glyphosate accumulates in the plant and can later activate in the seed. While the seed may still germinate, the chemical will stop it from growing. Frost: Little said, “Frost has a continuous degrading effect on seed quality.” For example, seed that shows five per cent damage from frost in October could decline to 50 per cent damage by March. Different crops have different levels of susceptibilities to frost. Oats are most susceptible while wheat, although not immune, is most resistant. Seed Treatments: Many farmers

had treated seed ready to plant last spring. “Most seed treatments, when properly applied, will not cause deterioration in seed quality,” Little said. Today’s water-based treatments lend themselves better to longer-term storage than older types. Overall, Little and Ernst both said most of the carryover seed is likely to be just fine. However, the cost of testing is so small compared to the cost of planting a bad batch of seed that testing just makes sense. † Leeann Minogue is the acting editor of Grainews

Testing Issues There are several other specific testing issues that may come up. Glyphosate: Little said he still sees chemically damaged seed coming in for tests. “Anything that has been sprayed with preharvest glyphosate and is not 110 per cent dry will have a problem with mechanical damage.”

photos: bonnie ernst

Seed sample with green and white mould. This mould is usually associated with high moisture in the seed, which could be caused by storage problems or heating in the bin.

Lentil seedlings with chemical damage due to pre-harvest spray. Notice how the chemical damages the root systems.

When seed in the bin gets too high in moisture, the seed will rot and the germination tests will look like this.


MYTH To grow the highest yielding canola I may have to live with an increased risk of Group 1 resistant weeds.

Genuity® Roundup Ready® systems are the most effective solution for keeping Group 1 resistance at bay, while providing a win rate of 55% over InVigor® hybrids in our 2011 FACT™ Trials*. Don’t compromise. Get all the yield potential plus the best solution for controlling Group 1 resistant weeds. Group 1 resistant weeds are a real and current threat for growers, with 1 out of every 3 fields in Western Canada having Group 1 resistant wild oats. Using herbicides like Liberty® 150 (Glufosinate), which are often tank-mixed with Group 1 herbicides like Centurion® (Clethodim), may contribute to Group 1 resistance.

Leave the myths behind. See your local retailer for details, or go to

*Source: 2011 Monsanto FACT trials. Genuity Roundup Ready represented by 73-75 RR; InVigor® by L150.

Individual results may vary, and performance may vary from location to location and from year to year. This result may not be an indicator of results you may obtain as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible. Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through StewardshipSM (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through StewardshipSM is a service mark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Genuity®, Genuity and Design®, Roundup Ready®, Roundup WeatherMAX®, and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC, Monsanto Canada, Inc. licensee. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. ©2011 Monsanto Canada, Inc.

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MARCH 5, 2012





erplexed by the low plant density of the canola stand in two of his fields, John, who farms 3,000 acres of peas, wheat and canola northwest of Saskatoon, asked me to visit his operation. He wanted some answers. It was the first week of June, and most of the 1,200 acres of canola John had planted that spring were progressing well. “There’s a problem with seedling emergence in two fields,” he said. “All of my other fields of canola have emerged fine.” The plant stands of the affected fields were thin, and this low plant density was prevalent throughout the fields — except in low-lying areas. On average, the plant density was six plants per square foot, and it seemed thinner on the hillsides and hilltops than in the low-lying areas. There were many possible reasons for this poor crop stand, such as damage from frost or insects, poor germination or vigour, or incorrect seeding depth.

H o w e v e r, a l l o f t h e s e possibilities were quickly ruled out. There had not been a frost after the date the crop was sown, and we found no evidence to support cutworm activity, such as chewed stems or the presence of the insects when we dug in the ground. All of the canola seed used to sow John’s fields was from the same lot, so poor germination and vigour were also not causing the problem. When I checked the seed rows, I also noticed the seed had germinated, eliminating seeding depth as one of the possible causes of the damage. The soil texture was sandy loam with low soil moisture content at the time of seeding. Because it had not rained from the time the seeds were sown until that first week of June, soil moisture content had remained low through the germination period. I thought it was worth exploring John’s fertilizer rates. He told me soil tests had indicated marginal amounts of sulphur in these fields, a problem he thought he’d addressed by adjusting his ferti-



oncerned about one of his malt barley fields, Jim — a Saskatoonarea farmer — asked me to visit his farm. It was the third week of June, and until that point Jim’s crop had progressed normally, despite the heavy rain that had fallen on his fields that spring. Now, quite unexpectedly, some of the plants were showing signs of stress. Many plants in Jim’s field appeared stunted in growth, with yellowing lower leaves and brown, discoloured crowns. These unhealthy plants were located randomly throughout the field, sometimes within the same seed row as healthy plants. Close by, Jim had planted another field with malt

barley, and it was producing normal, healthy plants. Half of the affected field had been seeded on oat stubble and the other half on yellow mustard stubble. The soil of both halves of the field was composed of wet, sandy loam, but it was moister and had a higher frequency of stressed plants, especially where its moisture level was highest, on the side seeded on oat stubble. However, the stressed plants were not exclusive to the moister parts of the field, but could be found in the drier areas as well. I thought excess moisture was one factor contributing to the crop’s stress, but not the only one. After eliminating chemical damage and nutrient deficiency as possible sources of the problem, a closer inspection of the unhealthy plants helped reveal

Dale Zimmer lizer application rate. “I increased the amount of seed-placed fertilizer blend on these two fields,” said John. He had thought he was simply correcting a mineral nutrient deficiency, but he’d actually walked into a complex set of factors that ultimately injured his crop. What is causing the low plant density in two of John’s canola fields? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3K7; email leeann.

On average, the plant density was six plants per square foot, and it seemed thinner on the hillsides and hilltops than in the lowlying areas. or fax 204-944-5416 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 one-year subscription to the magazine. The

answer, along with the reasoning which solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor’s Solution File. † Dale Zimmer is an area marketing representative at Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Saskatoon, Sask.

CROP ADVISER’S SOLUTION what was causing the stress on Jim’s crop. The plants were pale green to yellow in colour, and the lowest internodes were pink to brown. The root development of these plants was stunted. Laboratory analysis confirmed the plants had been infected with the fungal species fusarium. The plants were exhibiting symptoms of root and crown rot. The fusarium pathogen is found in other cereal crops, including wheat and oats. The lab report noted that this might explain why the incidence of infected plants seeded on oat stubble was higher than that seeded on mustard stubble. In addition, the moist conditions provided an environment conducive for fungal pathogens to enter the plants at the crowns from sources above ground.

Soil-borne fungi can survive for a number of years. These fungi contribute to root and crown rot, explaining why the barley plants seeded on mustard stubble were also infected with fusarium — oats had been planted in this field in 2009, prior to mustard in 2010. Finally, we examined Jim’s seed lot to determine whether it had become infected with fusarium or any other pathogens associated with root rot. Tests revealed that the seed lot was infected with fusarium and Cochliobolus sativus. Poor seed quality was one of the largest contributing factors to Jim’s unhealthy plant stand. “I don’t understand why that other field is completely healthy,” I said to Jim. “That’s easy — I used two different seed lots!” he replied.

Jim had started seeding his barley fields with new, certified seed, but he’d run out and switched to the infected seed lot. This seed lot had been tested for germination but not for disease. I recommended that Jim test his seed lot for disease in the future, and that he only plant seed within acceptable levels of seed-borne disease. To avoid repeating this scenario, I also advised Jim to use a crop rotation that would eliminate seeding cereals into cereal stubble, and to use a seed treatment to protect seedlings from infection. Seed quality testing for germination, vigour and disease is an integral part of growing a quality crop. A great crop starts with high-quality seed. † Dan Miller is an area marketing representative at Richardson Pioneer Ltd. at Saskatoon, Sask.

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MARCH 5, 2012 /


Features Pre-seeding planning

Use kernel weight to set rates Using 1,000 kernel weight results in more accurate seeding rates By Harry Siemens


o calculate an accurate seeding rate, it helps to know the weight of 1,000 kernels of seed, the germination rate and estimated seedling mortality. “That is what farmers are after,” says Walter Enns, agronomy manager, Keystone Groups, Cargill Ltd. “When farmers try to optimize their yields on the farm it all starts with their desired plant population. To get that, we have to get the right seeding rates, and getting the right seeding rates comes down to your 1,000 kernel weight.” Counting 1,000 kernels, then driving to the nearest scale for an accurate weight would make seeding more accurate (or, even counting 100 kernels and multiplying the weight by 10). But few farmers take the time. Shaun Haney of RealAgriculture. com and a seed grower from Picture Butte, Alta., says precision in seeding is important. Seeding on a bushel per acre basis just doesn’t cut it anymore. “The variability in seed weight from year to year is something that could seriously affect a farmer’s bottom line, especially in climates that vary so much from year to year,” says Haney.

a small amount for seedling mortality. “For example, under normal conditions, expect approximately 95 per cent germination. However, if planting in unfavourable conditions, like cold, wet soil, expect approximately 90 to 93 per cent germination, as three to five per cent of the viable seed will not produce a plant,” says the website. “Calculate that and it spits out what your seeding rate should be,” Enns says. “I think it’s fairly straightforward, but I do want to say it is a deeper conversation farmers need to have with an agronomist.” While not to put a damper on this method, it concerns Enns if farmers simply use the 1,000 kernel weight without knowing all the ramifications. “I can run examples where that

seeding rate is suddenly three pounds to the acre or run examples where that is seven pounds to the acre,” he says. “That might not be the right fit for the farmer considering his equipment and environmental conditions and other external factors.” Enns thinks more farmers are adapting to this method in cereals, and encourages farmers to visit the MAFRI website to check out the formula and other information (at, type “seeding rate” in the search box).

Canola seeding rates Enns says canola plants don’t fit the theory as well as other crops. While canola seed companies

include the 1,000 kernel weight on some of their seed bags, Enns cautions farmers to get help on this one. First, looking at the numbers, it could vary between 3.2 grams to 5.6 grams for a 1,000 kernel weight. “Suddenly my germination could be 90 per cent and seed survival could be as low 50 per cent of that,” says Kehler.

The real world Ken Panchuk, provincial soil specialist with the Crops Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture tells Shaun Haney in a recent interview that farmers should consult the manufacturer’s seed chart on their air seeder. “Some of the new air seeders

have seed counters in the tubes, while the new trend is precision metering systems on the air seeders,” says Panchuk. So why aren’t farmers shifting to this 1,000 kernel weight system? Panchuk says part of the reason is that it’s very difficult to predict field mortality and weather conditions. “With the cooler, wetter springs of the last few years, it’s even more difficult to predict seed mortality, and farmers are more reluctant to go with the 1,000 kernel weight because you still have the unknown field mortality that you have to adjust for,” says Panchuk. † Harry Siemens is a farm journalist, freelance writer, speaker, broadcaster living in Winkler, Man. Find him at, or 204-325-5215



1,000 kernel weight Walter Enns says getting the right seeding rates comes down to the 1,000 kernel weight and if he knows that number, it’s easier to calculate a more accurate seeding rate. Accuracy is key when using the 1,000 kernel rate for wheat, barley, oats, corn, or soybeans. When it comes to canola, Enns says, “You have to remember the elasticity of that plant. If you have the perfect amount of seed in the ground, then you have a plant every square foot, you have the potential of getting a very good crop because of how elastic or how good that plant is at compensating.” What if there’s 50 per cent plant mortality rate due to various reasons, poor soil conditions, cool growing season and the like, and flee beetle activity, he asks. Many seed companies include the 1,000 kernel rates right on the bags and have for many years. Even canola seed companies are placing the 1,000 kernel rates right on the bags, he says.

The calculation For accurate seeding rates, farmers first need to determine the desired plant population, for example ten plants per square foot. Multiply that by the 1,000 kernel weight (in grams). Then, divide that number by the expected seed survival rate (a percentage), and, finally, divide the resulting number by ten. The desired plant population will vary by crop. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) recommends measuring the 1,000 kernel weight by counting out 1,000 seeds of grain and weighing the sample in grams. Seed weights vary between varieties, fields, crop types and from year to year. The expected seed survival rate is the expected germination rate, less



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For more information, please contact our Customer Resource Centre at 1-87-SYNGENTA (1-877-964-3682) or visit Always read and follow label directions. Cruiser Maxx® Cereals, Vigor Trigger®, the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. © 2012 Syngenta Canada Inc.

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MARCH 5, 2012


2012 rebate and reward programs Chemical companies offer all kinds of rebate programs and purchase offers. Now you can find all the information in one place BY GERALD PILGER


his year, chemical companies are continuing to move away from rebate programs in favour of early purchase offers, but most are offering some type of reward to encourage farmers to use their products. Here is a list of programs available to farmers as of Jan. 20, 2012. Some of the early purchase offers will have already expired by the time you read this, but keep them in mind for next fall in case these programs are again offered for the 2013 crop year.

ARYSTA LIFESCIENCE Arysta LifeScience had an early purchase offer for Everest 2.0. Farmers who purchased an Everest 2.0 SmartBoy (10 specially packaged jugs of Everest 2.0) prior to January 31 received an instant discount of $1,200 per SmartBoy.

BASF The BASF 2011 GrowForward Rewards program has undergone some changes and been renamed BASF AgSolutions Rewards. Changes in this year’s program include up to five per cent savings opportunities with Heat and Ares herbicides; five per cent savings on Twinline fungicide, and ten per cent savings on Caramba fungicide. The list of qualifying products has also been greatly expanded. In order to qualify for the program, a farmer must purchase a minimum 300 acres of any one or combined total of: Banvel II, Charter RTU, Equinox, Gemini,

Gladiator, Heat, Lance, Pursuit, FlaxMax DLX, Basagran, Basagran Forte, DyVel, DyVel DSP, and Clearfield Production System seed. Seed purchases are worth double the acres, so a 150 acre seed purchase will qualify you for the AgSolutions savings. The total acreage of qualifying purchases will determine the saving percentage you are eligible for on purchases of Heat, Solo, Odyssey brands, Viper, Solo, Tensile, Absolute, Altitude FX, Ares, and Basagran Forte. Rebates start at two per cent for 300 acres of qualifying purchases and increase in increments to five per cent if you have 7,500 acres or more of qualifying purchases. Each acre of product on which you earned a rebate further qualifies you to four acres of savings on fungicides. The savings rates are five per cent on Twinline, ten per cent on Caramba, 15 per cent on Headline, and 20 per cent savings on Lance fungicides. BASF has also refined their Seed Treatment and DyVel offer. A purchase of a minimum 300 acres of any Clearfield crop and/ or BASF fungicide qualifies farmers to receive $1 per acre off all purchases of BASF fungicides, DyVel and DyVel DSp used on their farm.

For all BASF rewards, products must be purchased between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012. Farmers must have submitted a signed consent form (available through retailers) by November 30, 2012 in order to receive a rebate. Further information is available by calling BASF AgSolutions at 1-877-371-2273.

BAYER CROPSCIENCE Bayer CropScience is continuing the BayerValue program for 2012. This program provides a rebate to farmers based on the mix of Bayer CropScience products purchased and the total value of the purchases. There are three saving levels. Farmers qualify for the first level by purchasing $10,000 or more of Bayer CropScience products. The second level requires a purchase of $40,000 or more, and the top level requires a purchase of $75,000 or more. The rebate rates have increased for 2012. Under the Rewards segment, farmers who qualify for a reward will receive a rebate of three, four or five per cent on purchases of 160 acres or more of Tundra. Qualified farmers using 160 acres of Velocity

m3 or Varro, or using Prosaro or Folicur EW are eligible for six, eight, or 10 per cent rebates on these products. Qualified farmers will save 12, 16, or 20 per cent on Infinity purchases. Farmers who purchase at least $10,000 worth of Bayer CropScience products or purchase 300 acres of InVigor seed also qualify for $1 per acre savings on Raxil, Trilex AL Decis, and Sevin XLR purchases. All Bayer CropScience products purchased between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012 qualify for savings. There is also an Early Booking component in the BayerValue Program. Farmers who book a minimum 300 acres of InVigor seed prior to January 31, 2011 will earn an additional three per cent off Velocity m3, Varro, and Tundra purchases, five per cent more off on Prosaro and Folicur EW, and 25 per cent off Proline purchases. Bayer CropScience has also announced a Cereal Winter Sale that reduces the price of Velocity m3, Tundra, Varro, Buctril M, Thumper, and Puma Advance by five per cent if purchased by March 9, 2012. New for 2012 is the Strong Start Savings program. A farmer can save an additional $1 on

Raxil WW seed treatment purchases with matching acres of either Folicur EW fungicide or Prosaro fungicide. Farmers who participated in the 2011 BayerValue programs are automatically re-enrolled for 2012. New farmers can contact the Bayer CropScience Rebate Fulfillment Interaction Center at 1-888-283-6847 before May 1 to register for rewards.

DOW AGROSCIENCES Dow AgroSciences is continuing to offer the Dividends program it introduced last year. Rewards are calculated as a dollar per acre type payment. The actual amount per acre is dependent on the mix of products a farmer uses. Dow AgroSciences products have been categorized into four groups. The first group of cereal grass products includes Tandem, Simplicity, and Liquid Achieve, and a farmer must use a minimum 320 of any one or combination of these three herbicides to qualify for a rebate. New for 2012 is the addition of 320 acres of Nexera as a qualifying purchase. Once qualified, a farmer can earn a rebate by matching those qualifying acres with purchases




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Features of a Dow AgroSciences cereal broadleaf product (the second group of products) and/or a canola and special crop product (the third group). In the 2012 program, Tandem will automatically qualify for the $1 per acre reward without requiring matching acres from other categories. Another change is Liquid Achieve will no longer be eligible for a rebate, but can still be used as a builder to qualify other products for a reward. Dow AgroSciences glyphosate products constitute the fourth group category and, if purchased, will increase any reward the farmer has qualified for. The company is also continuing the Bulk Up component of the Dividends program. Purchases of bulk packaged Tandem, Simplicity, Liquid Achieve or PrePass before February 20 will increase the reward by up to $1.50 an acre. Rebates also increase with bulk package purchases of Attain XC, OcTTain, Frontline XL, or Stellar, Prestige XC made before April 20. A farmer participating in both components of Dividends could save up to $5.50 an acre on Dow AgroSciences purchases. A Dividends calculator can be found at which will help farmers estimate their rebate under this new program. Farmers who have not previously completed an offer form giving Dow AgroSciences permission to collect the information needed for calculating the rebate must do so before November 30. Further

information is available from the Dow AgroSciences Solutions Center at 1-800-667-3852.

DUPONT After a successful launch in 2011, DuPont, is again offering the DuPont Crop Protection FarmCare Connect Grower Program in 2012. This program is being offered in partnership with Pioneer Hi-Bred and enables farmers to save up to 22 per cent when they purchase

rebate of four per cent, and a total purchase of $50,000 would qualify for a rebate of eight per cent. The rebate percentage grows incrementally to a maximum 12 per cent for farmers purchasing $100,000 or more of Pioneer canola seed and DuPont crop protection products. New for 2012, farmers can boost their rebates up to 22 per cent with the Matching Acre Bonus. Farmers purchasing 320 acres of qualifying DuPont herbicides, such as DuPont Assure

Most companies are offering some type of reward to encourage farmers to use their products Pioneer brand canola seed and select DuPont crop protection products. To qualify, farmers must purchase a minimum of 14 bags (140 acres) of eligible Pioneer brand canola seed between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012 and purchase DuPont crop protection products between November 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012. The combined purchases of Pioneer canola seed and DuPont crop protection products determine the farmer’s rebate level within FarmCare Connect. The more a farmer purchases, the higher the rebate level applied. For example, a total purchase of $6,000 entitles the farmer to a

II herbicide and Express brand herbicides can receive additional savings on select cereal herbicides including DuPont Barricade, DuPont PrecisionPac and DuPont Harmony brands. To sign up for FarmCare Connect, see your local Pioneer or DuPont sales representative or participating independent or Co-op retailer. For more information call 1-800-667-3925 or visit

MANA MANA has a corporate philosophy of “Fair Price-Brand Results” and as such it doesn’t offer rebate or reward programs.

MONSANTO Monsanto has a number of new programs for farmers planting DeKalb brand seed in 2012. First there was an early order cash discount of seven per cent off for purchases prior to November 23, 2011 and four per cent off for purchases prior to January 25, 2012. Farmers who purchase Dekalb Seed at full suggested retail price between September 1, 2011 and June 15, 2012 with the AgriCard credit card will have all interest charges waived from the time of purchase until October 31, 2012. Farmers who have to reseed any canola crop due to adverse environmental conditions between April 1, 2012 and the local crop insurance deadline for reseeding will receive a re-seed discount of $100 per 22.7 kilogram bag if they re-seed to a Dekalb brand canola. Farmers who purchase 73-45RR canola are eligible for a $0.40 per acre discount on Roundup WeatherMAX for matching acres of 73-45RR. Farmers purchasing canola or corn seed and a minimum of 1,200 pounds of ESN Smart Fertilizer for each bag of seed purchased from retailers selling both seed and ESN fertilizer may also be eligible for an additional early purchase discounts on the seed. The discount under this program for canola purchased before December 31, 2011 is $7 per bag or if purchased before March 31, 2012 is $4 per bag. Corn discounts are $5 per bag if purchased before December 31 and $2 per bag if bought before March 31.


million acres

Full details of these Monsanto programs are available at your local Dekalb brand retailer.

NUFARM Nufarm was the first company to move to a “no program” philosophy and doesn’t offer rebates or bundle products. It does offer sales on individual products from time to time, through retailers.

SYNGENTA Syngenta is continuing the Syngenta Partner Program for 2012. As in past years, purchasing qualifying Syngenta products made you eligible for savings on most Syngenta products. However, in 2012, the minimum purchase of qualifying products has been reduced. Now farmers can qualify for savings with a combined minimum of just 160 acres of any of the following products: Axial, Traxos, Horizon NG, Broadband, Sierra, and/or Axial iPak or by purchasing a combined minimum of 960 acres of Pulsar and/or Target or by purchasing 160 acres of WR859 CL wheat. Rebates are calculated by totalling the purchases of the above products plus purchases of most other Syngenta seed care products, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and non-selective herbicides. A total purchase value of $10,000 earns a farmer a three per cent rebate and this increases incrementally up to a nine per cent savings for purchases of $150,000 plus. Helix Xtra, Traxion, and most Syngenta seed are not eligible for savings but purchases of these can be used as builder products to increase the rebate. Syngenta is also offering the Pre-Seed Bonus program again. Farmers applying Touchdown Total or Traxion can save $1 per acre on matching acres of ApronMaxx, Dividend XL, or CruiserMaxx seed care products by qualifying for the Partner Program and purchasing a minimum of $10,000 in Partner Program qualifying products. Farmers who participated in the 2011 partner program are registered for 2012. Farmers who did not receive a rebate in 2011 should call the Syngenta Customer Resource Center at 1-877-964-3682 to register.

UAP UAP and their retailers keep it simple with competitive net pricing to the farmer. No hassles and no rebate forms to forget to send in. †

and countIng.

Gerald Pilger farms at Ohaton, Alta.


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MARCH 5, 2012


3 steps to being a good farm guest As farmers we assume we know all about farm safety. But different farms have different safety rules and needs. Here’s how to be a good farm guest when you’re visiting or helping, and some tips for welcoming visitors to your farm


f you’re like most farmers, you like to help out when you visit friend or neighbour’s farm. Helping is great, and often truly appreciated. It can also be dangerous and potentially deadly. If you’re helping, being a good farm guest requires setting aside what you know of your own farm and listening to your host’s instructions. Grain farming is not the same as beef farming, that one is a “no brainer.” But have you thought about the differences between moving beef and dairy cattle? Riding horses and feedlot horses? What about farms with specific handling practices like low stress? Even if you have a livestock operation you don’t likely handle your animals the same way as your friend. Even your handling equipment may be different. Beef farming friends who are helping at harvest need to keep in mind the same equipment safety rules that they employ during haying or silage season. All equipment has different safety requirements. If you’re going to be a good farm guest and want to help out, remember three things: communicate, confirm and continue. Communicate: Ask what is going to be done. Make sure to share what you are able to do. Communicate about what is being done, and who you’re working with. Ensure you are comfortable with the plan, and let your host know if you’re not. Confirm: Personal experience has gotten me in the habit of asking guests who wish to help move livestock or even fix fence to confirm what we are each going to be doing. I need to know that they’ll be where I expect them to be, for their safety and mine. On our farm we have an “eyes on safety” rule — the person heading up the animal work or operating the equipment does not start until they have visually confirmed that everyone is where they need to be. Continue: Farming operations are time sensitive, whether it be harvesting, doctoring animals or even moving equipment. There is, however, a maxim worth remembering: fast is slow, slow is fast. Doing what needs to be done at a safe speed is the fastest way to get it done. It takes much longer to redo a job than to do it right the first time.

moves or does any work until they confirm that the children are where they’re supposed to be. Children are curious, fast and small. This makes them difficult to see until they are in the middle of a dangerous situation. Quick tips for visitor safety: • Safety first for you and your guests. • Know where your first aid kits are. • Visually confirm everyone is safely in position before starting work. • Communicate what you want to do, what could happen, and Plan B.

• Continue to get the work done. • Keep the children safely away from where you are working. • Ensure everyone is wearing the correct gear. • Put the phones on vibrate or mute — you may think your ringtone rocks but the livestock won’t. Remember, “safety first”. No one wants a fun farm visit to end in tragedy. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog online at

NOTES FOR A GOOD HOST Make sure at least one person who is familiar with your farm is with your guests at all times. This is not the time to test their knowledge. It may seem silly to have to remind someone to watch out for the back feet of a cow or keep away from a moving auger, but it’s also safe. Working visits with children are full of potential for fun, great photos and danger. Regardless of their age, visiting children (and your own children) need to be supervised by an adult who’s away from the work. As a parent, I know that in the excitement of playing with friends, my own son can forget our safety rules. Have a safe play area designated and a responsible adult supervising the children. Make sure no one


If you’re not used to livestock, or your neighbour’s way of handling livestock, helping out a friend can be dangerous.

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MARCH 5, 2012 /



9 ways to make your farm fire safe Fires happen. Make sure you’re ready to protect your family, your livestock and your yard if the worst case scenario happens to you BY SHANYN SILINSKI


ow fire ready is your farm? A google search for “farm fire preparedness” will turn up at least 3 million hits. There are many publications and websites. But how many farmers actually put that information to use? Here are some very basic things you can do to ensure that you’re ready for the worst.

FIELD AND FARMYARD Your fields can be a huge fuel source for a fire. You know this if you burn stubble. Dried grass, brush and stubble, even stand-

ing ripe crops, are vulnerable to fires. When you stand in your farmyard and look out at the fields, ask yourself, if there was a fire, where would you plough a fire break? Do your fields come right up to the windbreak in your yard? Do you have a dugout or pond to pump water from? Have you noticed what seasons bring the strongest and driest winds? A farmyard can be a fire trap or it can be defended. Planning ahead and placing resources correctly can make all the difference. 1. Test your ability to hook up the tractor and discer. How quickly could you do it safely? Can you create a fire break around your yard, or

is that area cluttered with old equipment? Are the gates wide enough? 2. Start up your pump and hose and test it. A pump that won’t fire and a hose with holes or cracks is more useless than no pump or hose. If you don’t have them, you’re not counting on them. If you have them and they don’t work, you’ll waste valuable time fooling around with them. 3. Make an evacuation plan for your farmyard. Know who will stay to keep things wet and plough fire breaks and who will leave to safety. Know where you will go, and make sure you have an alternate route to get there in case the regular way is blocked by fire or smoke.

Knowing what to do while the fire is small is critical in keeping it under control. At no time should you risk your own health or safety. Equipment and even animals can be replaced, and crops re-grown. Your family will not skip mourning you because you died saving the new tractor.

BARN AND LIVESTOCK Livestock are very vulnerable to injury and death in fires. Their housing is fraught with danger as it’s filled with both fuel and ignition sources. It is also very difficult to remove animals from many modern farm buildings. Most farmyards with multiple animal

arley. Barley and wheat growers trust their grass weed control to safe, flexible Liquid Achieve. It’s dependable and reliable. For effective grass control that is gentle on your crop. Trust Liquid Achieve. Bulk up deadline extended to March 20th, 2012. Accomplish more. Call the Solutions Center at 1.800.667.3852 or visit

buildings are not designed with emergency evacuation or animal containment in mind. 4. Make a plan and share it. You need to plan how you’ll take care of your animals in the event of a farm fire threat. Barn fires are as different as the varied barn designs you see everywhere. Each has a strong point and a number of weaknesses. You know your barn well. But if you aren’t there, who will know what to do? You may have a top notch fire plan, but have you shared it with your local fire department, or your neighbours? Their lives could depend upon it. 5. Think about what your animals will do. There is no set way that livestock react in a fire, but there are some common reactions. “Fight or flight” is one description, and animals will sometimes do these one right after the other. They will run away from danger that they cannot fight, but fire fire is not truly seen as a danger to most domestic animals. The fire fighters, the outside noise, lights and sounds of human panic are understood as danger. Their instinct to go to a “safe place” is strong and, tragically, that safe place is the burning barn you are trying to save them from. Knowing how to prepare your horse barn, with fire halters and proper strategies for calming moving animals, can save their lives and yours. 6. Make your barn fire safe. What can we do? Better alarms, fire walls, reducing fuel load and ignition sources. Make sure your barn can be “shut off” in sections so a fire can’t control the entire facility. 7. Don’t forget about open range livestock. These animals face tragically different fire dangers. Wildland fires will push animals to higher ground or against fences that they cannot see. They may become entangled in partially burnt fences. After extremely fast moving grass fires, I’ve seen cattle with their legs burnt, but no soot on their faces. Given a chance, some horses and cattle can instinctively find safety, but this is not a strategy you can count on. Fences, natural barriers and factors such as noise, wind, water bombers and smoke can disorient, confuse and panic animals back into the fire they were fleeing. 8. Keep yourself safe. Never allow someone into a burning building to save an animal. This instinct is strong but also deadly. People can be overcome quickly with smoke and require rescue themselves. 9. Provide care after the fire. With people and animals, smoke inhalation is very often the cause of death in a fire. Toxic smoke suffocates many long before the fire reaches them. Animals “rescued” from smoke often require treatment, and sometimes euthanasia, due to smoke damage. Planning ahead can reduce losses, but until we can eliminate fires from our farms we won’t eliminate the deadly impact they can have on our farms and communities. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog online at

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MARCH 5, 2012

Features Farm safety

72 hours without services We all know that bad weather or other emergencies can mean the loss of power, phone and other services. Make sure you’re ready to keep your family and farm safe By Shanyn Silinski


anadians are advised to be able to survive without  municipal services for up to 72 hours in an emergency. For rural and farming residents, outages could last much longer. Is your farm prepared for 72 hours without power, gas, phone, emergency services or even cellphone and Internet? Preparing a house in town for a 72-hour break is an enormous task; preparing a farm can seem monumental. You may think you’re prepared, and you could be, but when was the last time you checked? Or practiced? The Canadian government has a website:, but resources like this are no use if you don’t use them. If you’re like a farmer I know whose excuse is, “I’m too busy farming,” you’re putting yourself, your family and farm at huge risk.

coming from the south can give you a day’s warning if you look at the U.S. radar, but only hours if you rely solely on Canadian forecasts. Even children can learn first aid and CPR. Find a certified local trainer and get your whole family trained. Make sure you have everyone’s medication on hand — allergy medication and needs for chronic medical conditions. Make sure your pets can be crated and handled if you need to evacuate with them. Always have your vehicles fueled up and in working order. Even a quad or tractor can be a life saver, but not if they don’t run.

Animal welfare Canada has federal and provincial laws and regulations regarding the care and welfare of all animals. In essence they state that you cannot knowingly leave an animal to suffer and die. That includes evacuating or abandoning your property and leaving animals behind without food, water and shelter in safety. Of course, most of you wouldn’t knowingly cause harm to your animals. Have you planned for their care in a 72-hour or longer situation? How will you provide water, feed and shelter? Ventilation in confinement housing is a big concern. Most producers with intensive or

high population operations have redundant systems with multiple back-ups. But how long can you rely on your back-up system? Was it designed for six, 12, 24 or more hours? When did you last test it? Animal caregivers need to be aware of conditions like freezing rain that can adversely impact the animals in their care. For range animals, freezing rain can be deadly. Can you provide shelter and ice removal? What about footing in an ice storm for cattle? Creating trails to get stranded range cattle to feed may require some literal leg work on your part. Maybe you could make a temporary shelter from bales. Or move the animals

to a treed shelter and still provide feed and water. How would you deal with injuries? Weather extremes and the loss of municipal services are realities. Our preparation is what will make the difference on our farm, to our family and to our community. If the power went out right now, and a storm blew in, would you be ready? Right now? If you don’t know, maybe now, while the lights are on, would be a good time to start. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog online at

One farm’s story We have beef cattle, horses, companion animals and a small child. We live in a rural area which can have, at times, limited road access. We choose to live here, so we have to take responsibility and plan for times when we won’t have municipal services. Our check list includes: •  Food, water, medications and animal care supplies •  Generators and fuel •  Pump and hose •  Well maintained equipment •  Fire extinguishers •  Supplementary water supplies for livestock •  Shelter and feed for animals •  Supplementary heating •  Alternative cooking tools (solid fuel stove, propane and wood pellet barbeque) •  Food that does not require freezing or refrigeration •  Extra medications and first aid kits •  Animal health kits •  Leashes and crates •  Halters and ropes •  Weather radio •  Emergency power source for phones and other electronics The most important thing we have, however, is a plan we practice. We know what to do in a severe summer storm, we know what to do in a deep freeze with no power and we know where to put our livestock in a drifting blizzard. We time each other, we practice and we communicate. We also understand that sometimes one of us may be alone to take care of things when the unexpected happens.

Family Safety The safety of your family comes first. Making sure you have safe places in case of a storm and that you can start the generator and know first aid is key. We subscribe to weather alerts on our smart phones. We watch both U.S. and Canadian radar maps for storms. A storm


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MARCH 5, 2012 /


Features Farm safety

Keep kids safe on the farm It’s wonderful to have children on the farm, but it’s also dangerous. Try Shanyn Silinski’s “eyes on safety” method to keep your family safe By Shanyn Silinski

Children and livestock Animals can be as curious as children, and although there are many cute stories, photos and movies, children and animals are a potentially deadly combination. Do your best not to have your children around when working with your livestock. To many prey animals such as cattle and horses, the size and speed of a child mimics the movements of predators like coyotes. When you have calves and foals, the dams are going to be much more protective of their

offspring. A peripheral view of a smaller fast moving “something” may result in a kick or a head butt from a cow or a horse. They won’t stop to see if it’s a child or a coyote. Do not ask children to watch gates, operate handling equipment or hold medications. They don’t have the physical strength or the mental concentration to do adult work. Even an older teen can become distracted.

Equipment Safety Equipment safety is much more than tractors and augers. It can be about the tools in your farm shop,

the truck or the handling system you use for grain or livestock. If you are farm safe (and you all are, right?) then you know that farm equipment is scaled for adult use. It is designed for adults to operate safely when they follow the safety guidelines. No farm equipment is designed for children. The small size of children can lead them to crawl or climb into unsafe places. Ladders and maintenance doors are a source of endless wonder for children. Teach your children that they cannot play in or around equipment. They should not play with tools and handling equipment. Stationary equipment and

moving equipment have different concerns for farming parents. Sometimes if you have to move a tractor or a truck the safest thing is for your child to be with you. But how safe are they? Standing behind the seat of the tractor can lead to a child leaning against a window that may pop open. A child in Manitoba recently fell out of a tractor window and narrowly missed being run over by the implement her dad was towing. A combine parked in a shop for an oil change seems pretty safe. Except for the bucket of oil, which a child can easily fall into and drown. Even farm chemicals can be deadly to children because of the size of exposure they are able to handle.

Eyes on Safety

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’m a rancher, raising cows and riding horses. My husband manages a crop-based farm. We are also parents. Our first and most important job is keeping our son safe. Each year in Canada an average of 115 people are killed and another 1,500 are hospitalized due to farm-related incidents. From 1990 to 2005, 217 children aged 14 or younger were killed on Canadian farms. Approximately 45 per cent were under the age of five. Working on a farm is a full time job, and so is being a parent. The

two do not have to be incompatible but doing both takes planning.

“Eyes on Safety” is a basic program we use on our farm. It is not (yet) been formally written up nor marketed. It is a simple rule — no adult proceeds with farm work until they can put their eyes on the other people in their immediate area. Adults and children. The rule is simple: if I can’t see you and I’m the one starting the animal work or operating the equipment we don’t start. When working with livestock we don’t start moving them until we have visually confirmed that everyone who is supposed to be working with the animals is in place and anyone who isn’t is safely accounted for elsewhere. Sometimes this “visual” check requires a walk to find everyone, or even a text message. When working on equipment, the person running the machinery doesn’t start an engine or engage a PTO until they visually confirm the location of the people in the yard. We also require that if someone is going to be working on a piece of equipment in the field that they take the keys out and keep them on their person — a “lock out.” No one wants to be head first in a plugged haybine and hear the tractor start up. Children make farming more challenging but also more rewarding. This is our chance to share our Make time together something worth remembering for the love and the laughter, not the heartache and tears. And keep in mind: the same rules we engage with young children are also the ones we use when working on farms with the elderly or those in poor health. They may know what they’re doing on a farm, but their age and health require us to watch out for them. There are many great resources on the Internet for farm safety and great programs for families and their children. Use your rainy days and evenings to do some research and make sure your farm is a place where dreams can be grown. † Shanyn Silinski is a writer, speaker, rancher, mom and advocate, currently working as the national coordinator for the Animal Emergency Working Group. Find her blog online at



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he belief that spraying at higher wind speeds causes more drift damage has prompted many farmers to spray at night, when wind speeds tend to be lighter. Although nights are often calmer, more damage can occur as spray drift is affected by temperature inversion, a process that has the potential to occur almost every night.

Normally, air near the ground is warmer than the air above, since the sun’s heat warms the ground. On a sunny day, air near the ground rises and expands. Air parcels fall and rise freely — this vertical mixing is called thermal turbulence and it is very effective at mixing air.

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Although the wind usually goes down when it starts to get dark, an AAFC research scientist cautions against spraying at night, as temperature inversions can increase drift

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At night, especially clear, cloudless nights, this situation is inverted. The ground cools quickly, and air near the ground becomes cooler. Since air is a poor conductor of heat, air at a higher level remains warmer than the air nearer the ground. This warmer layer of air acts like a lid, preventing the cooler air nearer the ground from mixing with the air above. As a result, the air is not well mixed. Under normal daytime condiBY DAN PIRARO

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tions, spray drift will be rapidly dispersed through thermal turbulence. Under nighttime conditions with a temperature inversion, spray drift will not disperse and the spray cloud will be more concentrated and potent. All summer nights have the potential for an inversion, but less so under cloudy and windy conditions. Inversions do not occur during the day, although some very heavy crop canopies can create a small inversion layer due to water evaporation.

INVERSION AND DISPERSION “Under nighttime conditions, if there is an inversion, you have no dispersion of the spray. In fact you have concentration of the spray cloud,” says Thomas Wolf, Research Scientist at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC) Saskatoon. “Eventually this spray cloud will move downhill, potentially over large distances, but it will stay concentrated and highly potent. And in that case, if you do hit a sensitive area you will have the potential to create very serious damage.” Inevitably there are many other factors which contribute to spray drift reduction, and probably the most important one is the operator. “In order to make the correct decisions you’ve got to have an operator who understands all the variables,” says Wolf. Farmers should have a good handle on the capabilities of their sprayer, whether they can adjust their boom height, the importance of low drift nozzles and the relationship between travel speed, nozzle pressure and spray quality. They also need to know what chemical they are spraying and its potential impact upon different types of plants and organisms and what their neighbours are growing that might be affected. They need to know the potential for environmental damage, particularly if there are sensitive ecological areas nearby. But they also need to understand the atmosphere and what conditions lead to good dispersion and bad dispersion, says Wolf. “It can get even more complicated because during the day thermal turbulence, and its beneficial impact on dispersion, is suppressed by cloudy conditions,” says Wolf. “At night the inversion can also be suppressed by cloudy conditions and by wind. So the most important part of the sprayer is the person who can understand these things and make the right decisions.” † Angela Lovell Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

The complete solution. Grassy and broadleaf, wheat and barley, no tank mixing. For more information, please visit or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Tundra™ is a trademark of Bayer. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.




MARCH 5, 2012

Features Crop protection

7 strategies to prevent clubroot

If you don’t already have clubroot in your fields, do what you can to prevent it. Here are 7 proactive steps By John Mayko


he following clubroot prevention  strategies have been adapted from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agri-Facts: Clubroot Disease of Canola and Mustard, March 2011. 1.  Use long rotations — do not grow canola more frequently than once every four years in the same field. Although this practice will not prevent the introduction of clubroot to clean fields, it will restrict clubroot and other canola disease development within the field and probably avert a severe infestation. 2.  Planting clubroot-resistant varieties on fields with no history of the disease can be useful when clubroot is present nearby. This strategy relies on using the genetic resistance to greatly reduce disease development or establishment if clubroot is inadvertently introduced to the field. 3.  Practice good sanitation to restrict the movement of possibly contaminated material (this approach will help reduce the spread of other diseases, weeds and insects too). The resting spores are most likely to spread via contaminated soil and infected canola plant parts. Farmers should follow the practice of cleaning soil and crop debris from field equipment before entering or leaving all fields. The equipment cleaning procedure involves knocking or scraping off soil lumps and sweeping off loose soil. For risk-averse producers, the following additional cleaning steps may provide some extra benefit, but involve considerably more work and expense: •  after removing soil lumps, wash off equipment with a power washer, preferably with hot water or steam; and, •  finish by misting equipment with weak disinfectant (one to two per cent household bleach solution) 4.  Use direct seeding and other soil conservation practices to reduce erosion. Resting spores move readily in soil transported by wind or water erosion and overland flow. 5.  Scout canola fields regularly and carefully. Identify causes of wilting, stunting, yellowing and premature ripening — do not assume anything! (The Canola Council of Canada has posted a video with more information about identifying clubroot online at 6.  Avoid the use of straw bales and manure from infested or suspicious areas. Clubroot spores are reported to survive through the digestive tracts of livestock. 7.  Avoid common untreated seed (including canola, cereals and pulses). Earth-tag on seed from infested fields could introduce resting spores to clean fields. Certain seed treatment fungicides

may control spores on contaminated seed, but this observation needs further research to confirm.

If you already have clubroot Once you have the clubroot in your fields, control is considerably more difficult than prevention, but the following control strategies are encouraged. Commercial varieties with club-

root resistance are currently available from most seed companies, and are reported to provide high levels of clubroot control in clubrootinfested fields. However, because the source of resistance in most varieties is currently provided by a single gene, that clubroot resistance is not expected to be durable (meaning it will break down over time). Therefore, farmers should

» continued on page 19


Scout canola fields regularly to identify clubroot.





Y A D Y M or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Features Crop protection

Understanding clubroot Clubroot can cause yield losses up to 100 per cent under severe disease pressure. Learning more about your enemy can help you control it By John Mayko


B:17.4” T:17.4” S:17.4”

lubroot is a relatively new disease that has affected parts of the canola growing area of Western Canada. In canola, it was initially found in a couple of fields in the St. Albert area of Alberta in 2003, but since then it has spread to many municipalities in central Alberta surrounding Edmonton, a couple of municipalities in southern Alberta, one in eastern Alberta near Lloydminster as well as a couple of municipalities in north central Saskatchewan.

means that on higher pH soils, it will be slower to develop into major infestations.

Resting spores The reason clubroot is so serious is that its resting spores are long lived (up to 20 years) with a typical half-life of about four years. This means that, once the disease is established in a field, major infestations can take a long time to allow disease inoculum to reach manageable levels. Because the resting spores are soil borne, the disease typically spreads through soil movement.

John Mayko is a senior agri-coach with Agri-Trend Agrology and offers agri-coaching services in the Mundare, Alta., area where he also farms with his family


7 strategies to prevent clubroot

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not rely solely on clubroot resistance to manage this disease once it is established in a field. Extended  rotations  can extend the usefulness of genetic resistance. In slightly infested fields,  susceptible  crops  — including canola, mustard, kale, and cole crops — should not be grown for at least four years and at least seven years in severely infested fields. Because the clubroot spores are suspected to survive up to 20 years, these long rotations are necessary to reduce the levels of viable spores. Within other crops in rotation, ensure that susceptible weeds such as stinkweed, wild mustard, shepherd’s purse and volunteer canola are controlled. Otherwise, these weeds will act as a bridge to continue to maintain and increase the levels of spores in the soil. Keep contaminated soil and infected crop debris from being transported from infested fields by sanitizing equipment and personnel and practicing soil conservation measures. When infested fields are wet, try to avoid field work wherever practical because more mud will stick to equipment. Reduced tillage or direct seeding will also help in fighting a clubroot infestation by reducing movement of contaminated soil within a field and between fields. Other potential control strategies such as fungicides and liming to raise soil pH have been tried but are currently uneconomic or too inconsistent to be used in canola. T:10”


diseases, the effect on yield varies depending on when the plants are infected and the severity of infection. Yield losses can range up to nearly 100 per cent under severe disease pressure. The disease does well under conditions of good moisture, warm soils and lower soil pH. Because soil moisture is a main driver, clay soils and poorly drained soils such as solonetzic soils are prime candidates for the development and spread of the disease. Although soil pH is a factor in the speed of increase of the disease, it does not mean that the disease will not develop on higher pH soils. It just



Clubroot is a soil borne disease that causes swollen galls to appear on the roots. This cuts off the supply of water and nutrients to the plant, causing premature ripening and death of the plant. It affects many cruciferous crops such as canola, mustard, cabbage, broccoli, radishes and turnips as well as cruciferous weeds such as wild mustard, stinkweed, shepherd’s purse and volunteer canola. Yield losses are typically estimated to be 50 per cent of the percentage of affected plants, similar to estimated losses from sclerotinia. However, just like other

Clubroot surveys conducted in Alberta indicate that almost all new cases of the disease are found near the field entrance, which means that soil movement on equipment is a principal carrier of the disease. Other methods of spread include water and wind erosion that move soil from field to field and within fields as well as tillage which can spread infections from patches to throughout a field. In theory, any method of soil movement can move the disease, including animals and hunters, but the relative risk is directly proportional to the amount of soil moved. To make sure that clubroot does not take a major chunk out of your profits, try as much as possible to not have clubroot establish on your fields. If you do get it, do as much as possible to keep the disease at manageable levels. †

Scouting strategy Although clubroot is a serious disease in canola, there are a number of prevention and control strategies that are effective in reducing its spread and severity. A vigorous scouting strategy is invaluable in finding the disease in your fields. Be “outstanding in your fields” to make sure clubroot and other factors don’t take a big chunk out of your canola profits. †


John Mayko is a senior agri-coach with Agri-Trend Agrology and offers agri-coaching services in the Mundare, Alta., area where he also farms with his family



MARCH 5, 2012

Features WEATHER

The Forecast on WeatherFarm The CWB’s WeatherFarm forecasting network has become a thriving operation. But there are changes in its future


s every farmer knows, weather is generally the biggest plan changer. The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) recognized this and began working on a program where farmers could access realtime live weather conditions specific to their location. In 2007, the CWB launched a weather network project with industry partners, Bayer Crop Science and Richardson International, and Earth Networks — a global meteorological company. What began as a grass-roots initiative for western Canadian farmers is now a thriving operation. WeatherFarm Manager, Guy Ash, describes how the program started with just a few weather stations that he installed on farms from the back of his vehicle. Now there are over 1,000 weather stations across the Prairies: 850 on farms, at grain elevators, and agri-retail outlets through the WeatherFarm program, plus over 200 Environment Canada and provincial government stations. WeatherFarm has been on-line since 2009 (www.WeatherFarm. com) and provides free weather and agronomic information to over 11,000 registered users. Weather stations are available to farmers through the WeatherFarm program at an affordable price. This includes the weather station, installation, maintenance and repairs, and a five-year warranty. Stations are provided and maintained through Earth Networks — a private U.S. tech company with the largest weather network worldwide. Data from weather stations is collected, analyzed, and then delivered online through WeatherFarm’s desktop and mobile application.

WEATHERFARM USERS The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) has been a provincial partner and advocate of WeatherFarm from the beginning. They compared the data received from the WeatherFarm stations and their traditional weather providers (including the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation) and felt WeatherFarm was worth investing in. Aj Thakker, Director of Communications at APAS, is impressed with the system. “It’s solid and secure and the data is accurate. When there are any problems, the people at Earth Networks are there to help solve it,” he says. Shawn Bourgeois of All Canadian Grain Inc., and an APAS director, receives live “second by second” accounts of weather from the WeatherFarm stations in his region through the WeatherBug app on his iPhone. “This is very helpful during our spraying season when conditions change frequently,” he says. “In the past, when planning to spray near susceptible or organic crops, finding the ideal time to spray would often take a long time due to simply not knowing weather conditions at the field. A producer can now see live wind, temperature, and precipitation data often at several points in the region to help give a better

sense of whether conditions are changing or not. When we need to spray five, ten or 15 miles away, it becomes extremely useful, especially when wind conditions are light and variable.” Along with detailed local weather information, WeatherFarm provides farm management information to enhance agricultural practices. “WeatherFarm is the smartest thing I’ve seen,” says Thakker. “It takes environmental data and layers it with agronomic information for people to make it relevant to them. The ones who are using it completely get it.” As the program and partners expands, it becomes a “network of networks.”

WEATHERFARM’S FUTURE With the CWB’s single desk coming to an end, there is concern about the future of WeatherFarm. According to Ash, the WeatherFarm team is currently assessing the project and evaluating the possibility of passing on the torch. “There are parties expressing interest in taking over WeatherFarm,” Ash says. Thakker hopes that the prospective company has a strong agricultural base. In a press release from November, 2011, Earth Networks

states that it will not only continue the WeatherFarm program, but plans to expand its service across Canada with more stations and more layers of weather information including lightning detection. “With the help of our partners, we expect the weather network will continue to expand throughout Western Canada,” Ash says. This is reassuring for those who have purchased a weather station. For those considering a station on their farm, Ash recommends they look at where other stations are already located in their region. If there are several stations in close proximity then it may not be necessary to have one. Many agricultural-related businesses have a weather station, and most recently, APAS has been encouraging rural municipalities in Saskatchewan to come on board with a weather station that will link to a new website:

OTHER SOURCES OF WEATHER INFORMATION WeatherFarm is still a relatively new program that is continuing to grow and develop. Not all farmers are aware of it; others know about it but access weather through Environment Canada, The Weather Network (Farmzone), WorldWeather,

It’s a


or perhaps Weather Underground. Some farmers pay companies such as Agri-Trend to provide weather and agronomic information specific to their needs. WeatherFarm is unique in that it provides weather data directly from the farm and in real-time unlike the other sources of information. “WeatherFarm provides detailed granularity for both geographic and time sensitive onfarm management decisions,” says Ash. (Granularity is the amount of weather data available over a geographic area and through time — the WeatherFarm network has many weather stations over the geographic region and updates every 2.5 seconds.) Most farmers agree that the more information you have about the weather, the better. But with too many sites, you spend unnecessary time researching and may end up with information that is not specific enough to your area and your operations. Bourgeois says, “many producers use two or three weather apps to help get a sense of future weather. Perhaps, in time, we will need only one.” Whether WeatherFarm becomes the “one” is still to be forecasted. † Sharon Elliott is a member of the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada. She is a freelance writer living in Weyburn, Sask.

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6 tips for straight combining canola Straight combining canola would save a lot of time during a busy season. New research could help you decide if it could work for you BY BOBBIE BRATRUD


ost Western Canadian farmers consider swathing canola to be the tried and true harvest management strategy. But straight combining could allow farmers to reduce a field operation and gain extra yield from producing larger seed size nurtured by a fully matured plant. Straight combining canola can be risky because of shatter losses if timing is not optimal. And we were all taught that swathing was the way to go in terms of canola production, but research work is now providing farmers with some interesting information. I recently attended the Indian H e a d A g r i c u l t u r a l R e s e a rc h Foundation’s (IHARF) annual Soil and Crop Management Seminar and heard about their work in the area of straight combining canola. Chris Holzapfel, IHARF research manager, has spearheaded some projects to determine if straight combining canola is a viable option, as well as how different management practices might minimize shatter loss.

IHARF RESEARCH The studies were completed from 2009 to 2011 at four loca-

tions across Saskatchewan (IFARF, the Wheatland Conservation Area Inc. at Swift Current, the Western Applied Research Corporation at Scott, and the Northeast Agricultural Research Foundation in Melfort). Straight combining canola was compared to swathing in terms of overall yield production, as well as measuring shattering losses. It seems that management and the ability to straight cut your canola in a timely manner has the largest impact in reducing shattering losses. A variety of different management techniques and products were evaluated to help give information to farmers on the best strategies to straight combine their canola successfully. There were varying results in terms of yield comparisons in the small plot research. Some site years, the swathed canola outyielded the straight cut canola while other years the opposite was true. Other showed no statistical difference in yield between the two approaches. The site years that showed a reduced yield with straight cutting also showed increase shatter losses, making it seem that shattering was directly responsible for the reduction in yield. Researchers mentioned that in most of those years, they were unable to straight com-

bine at the proper time, extending the amount of time the crop was left out in the field. As expected the longer the crop was left out in the field past optimal harvest time, the higher the risk, and the larger the losses. Seed loss was measured as high as 27 per cent when the canola was left standing for two to three weeks past the optimal harvest time. Field-size trials were completed at Indian Head, Sask., in 2010 and 2011 to build upon the information gathered from the four sites. These trials looked at the application of a variety of pod sealants, applied both with and without glyphosate on straight combined canola compared to swathed canola. The field size research showed very similar results to all of the small plot trials.

POD SEALANTS There are a variety of pod sealant products available which are designed to reduce pod shatter. The aim of these products is to make shatter-prone crops, like canola, more suited to straight combining. The studies compared the effects of Pod Ceal DC, Pod-Stik, and Desikote Max on shatter losses compared to an untreated check. The research showed no statistical advantage in yield for any of these three prod-

ucts. There was also no statistical benefit to any of the pod sealants in terms of seed loss at harvest time or two to three weeks later.

VARIETAL DIFFERENCES For the projects completed in 2009 to 2010, five different canola varieties, including a juncea type (thought to be more shatter resistant) were compared. In the work completed, 5440 LL appeared to have the least amount of pod drop and shatter loss of these varieties, both at harvest as well as two to three weeks later. More work is continuing to help evaluate the fit of different varieties to straight cutting. Twelve new commercially available varieties were looked at in 2011, and will continue to be compared in 2012.

EFFECT OF GLYPHOSATE Studies to look at the effect of spraying a pre-harvest glyphosate application on harvest management are still in the early stages and need to be looked at further. However, the preliminary work is promising and of great interest to Holzapfel. In past work, the glyphosate was applied with the pod sealant, but for future research he is planning to apply it by itself

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and aim for spray timing to be similar to when you would swath. Holzapfel believes that the glyphosate application will help even out the difference in maturity throughout the field. Not having to wait for the green patches in the field to dry down naturally could mean that straight combining up to a week earlier. This could be a very important way to help manage the harvest and reduce the amount of time the crop is left standing.

EQUIPMENT CONSIDERATIONS Wheatland Conservation Area Inc. at Swift Current, Sask. completed a project from 2005-07 looking at the effects of header losses and yields with various header types. The header types that were compared were a rigid header, a draper header, a stripper header, and a BISO extension. Researchers found that losses from the stripper header were far higher than the other header types, so they removed it from the study in 2006. There was a slight advantage to the draper header over the rigid header, but the best results came from the BISO extension. The BISO extension showed the lowest header losses as well as the highest yields, 17 per cent higher than the rigid header. Here are six tips that could help you successfully straight combine canola: 1. Plan to seed a variety that has shown to be more shatter resistant. 2. Aim to have a good plant population — don’t scrimp on your seeding rate. Less shattering occurrs if your crop is dense with intermingling branches to minimize shattering due to the wind. 3. Pre-harvest glyphosate application (on non Roundup Ready canola) can help to even out your crop, accelerating harvest and minimizing the risk of being caught not being able to combine at the optimal time. 4. Carefully consider whether you should look at pod sealants as they haven’t proved to be cost effective throughout this research — a yield benefit was only seen 13 per cent of the time. 5. Only plan to straight cut a manageable number of acres. Being able to straight cut the canola at the proper time is critical to being able to realize yields similar to swathing. Excessive delays or inclament weather (heavy snow) can have a drastic effect on shatter loss and yield. 6. If you’re planning to put straight combining canola into practice on your farm, it may be worth investing in header extensions to minimize header loss. While straight cut combining canola is a new practice to most farmers, information provided by IHARF and the other contributing locations, aided by funding from Sask Canola, is of interest. IHARF’s new findings, along with the future work they’re planning, can help to reduce farmer’s risk and help farmers make better management decisions. † Bobbie Bratrud farms with her husband Mark near Weyburn, Sask. They also run Bratrud Ag Advisory Services (



MARCH 5, 2012

Features Spraying

Travel slower to reduce spray drift An AAFC research scientist recommends reducing spray drift by travelling slower. That doesn’t mean you have to lose productivity by Angela Lovell.


wo of the most effective but overlooked ways to reduce spray drift, says Thomas Wolf, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Saskatoon Research Centre, are to reduce the travel speed of the sprayer and use a lower boom height.

Slowing down Although the industry is going to faster self-propelled sprayers and farmers argue that spraying faster means increased

productivity, it might be more efficient to slow down. “There are certain fundamental things that occur at fast travel speeds that you can’t easily undo,” says Wolf. “Spray leaves the spray pattern more readily in a strong headwind and then it’s gone. You can’t prevent that, except by going slower or using a coarser spray. There are limits to using coarser sprays — at some point, the sprays become so coarse that pesticide performance suffers.” Generally a lower travel speed and lower boom height significantly reduces the potential for spray drift. Faster


Drive faster

Fill faster

Spray wider

800 gal.

800 gal.

800 gal.

800 gal.







12 m.p.h.

18 m.p.h.

12 m.p.h.

12 m.p.h.

Fill speed

50 gal./minute

50 gal./minute

300 gal./minute

50 gal./minute

Acres covered

84 acres/hour

110 acres/hour

110 acres/hour

111 acres/hour


Adapted from a chart in Thomas Wolf’s presentation.

travel speeds cause increased air shear on the spray sheet which increases its breakup and produces a finer spray which is

more prone to drift. The spray stays aloft longer at faster speeds because it is swept back due to wind resistance. Higher boom

“...and lower the boom on weeds!”

heights are usually required at higher travel speeds due to uneven terrain. Maintaining lower boom height allows spraying during windier conditions, which means keeping going at maybe 20 kilometres per hour wind speeds instead of quitting at 15 km/h, which is a productivity gain in itself, says Wolf. “We don’t want to encourage spraying under very windy conditions,” says Wolf. “For any given application, we saw more spray going into the atmosphere under windier conditions, and we want to avoid that. But we wanted to show how well a coarser spray would perform, compared to spraying under less wind. And the answer was that we had quite a bit less drift from a low boom with a low drift nozzle (coarse spray quality) at relatively high winds speeds than from a higher boom height at low wind speeds with a conventional nozzle (medium spray quality). The drift of the first option is much less. The damage potential downwind is much less. So why not do it?” Orienting the spray forward or backward can allow boom height to be reduced as long as the nozzle to target distance is maintained at the minimum recommended for the direction it is pointing. For low drift sprays, boom height should ensure 100 per cent overlap.

Increase efficiency There are new tools coming on the market to help increase efficiency when filling up the sprayer tank. John Deere offers the Load Command system on its new 4930 Self-Propelled Sprayer, which is a new fast fill option, which the company claims will load the 1,200 gallon tank in three minutes. “If we assume that a farmer manages to fill up significantly faster, his productivity gain is about the same as it would have been if he had gone 50 per cent faster but not decreased his fill time,” says Wolf. Another option that would be as productive as travelling faster, with less spray drift, is to increase the width of your booms. The table estimates acres per hour that a farmer could potentially spray. Driving faster may not always be the best solution. †

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Ask your retailer, call 1-800-667-3925 or visit As with all crop protection products, read and follow label instructions carefully. The DuPont Oval Logo, DuPont™, The miracles of science™, Barricade® and Solumax® are registered trademarks or trademarks of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. E. I. du Pont Canada Company is a licensee. Member of CropLife Canada. © Copyright 2012 E. I. du Pont Canada Company. All rights reserved.

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MARCH 5, 2012

Features Farm Management

The value of conducting strip trials Strip trials are a good way to evaluate new practices. Here’s some good protocol By Garry Ropchan


An aerial picture of a plot from several years ago — a trial consisting of an evaluation of nine varieties replicated three times for a total of 27 strips. Walking through the plot at ground level, you would never believe it was not T:8.125” totally uniform and even.

aking changes on the farm can be costly and risky. How do you get the maximum return for minimum risk? Simply put: You have to evaluate it to see if it works. At the Central Peace Conservation Society, we’ve been conducting unbiased trials since 1988. I often tell farmers that good, bad or otherwise, the results of our trials are simply what they are. Companies frequently set up trials and insist on having total control over how the trial is conducted. If a company is expecting you to buy their products and cannot provide evaluation

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Single strip trials I’m amazed how many farmers think you can do a trial by seeding these 80 acres this way, those 80 acres that way and just weighing a single strip at the border. While this is a whole lot easier than doing things the proper way with replicated trials, can you have any confidence in the results of a strip trial? No. I suspect most farmers don’t understand how soil variability in a field affects results. Until yield mapping and yield monitors came along, most would have never believed how much yield could vary within a field. I only first began to understand when one of my favourite mentors, Garry Coy, a regional soils specialist with Alberta Agriculture and avid pilot, used to take me flying with him. Flying over fields, especially my test plots, was an eye-opening experience. If have such an opportunity, you should definitely take it. It will be immediately clear how plant growth and consequently soils vary across a field. Variability is the single biggest issue in field trials. If soils within the field, how do you know at harvest time if the differences in yield are due to treatment differences or are the result of inherent soil variability? You can’t answer that question if all you’ve have done is a strip trial. By Dan Piraro

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MARCH 5, 2012 /



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Two veterans of agricultural research work in the Peace Region: CPCS research coordinator Garry Ropchan and his weigh wagon.

FIELD TRIALS — PROTOCOL When farmers tell me they’re doing field trials, I like to ask a couple of questions. “Did you calibrate your yield monitor?” “Well no,” they’ll answer. “But we’re just looking for relative differences so if the yield monitor’s not calibrated, it’s not very important”. That might be okay. My next question is, “Did you take a sub-sample?” The farmer often looks confused at this point. “Did you collect a representative sample from the combine or cart taken when unloading?” The answer is typically, “Why would I do that?” When we use a yield monitor or the scale on a cart we have the gross weight. This needs to be adjusted for moisture and dockage to give us the true net yield. Many farmers would be surprised at how the moisture or dockage content from a set of samples can vary. I also like to get the per cent protein and per cent green seed (depending on the crop) along with grade and bushel weight. These factors are often important when performing an economic analysis on the trial. I collect sub-samples from my plots and place them into plastic zip-lock bags, evacuating the air and sealing them to preserve the moisture content. During the plot harvest season I periodically take the samples, marked with only a number, to my local elevator. While it seems minor, this is actually the most important part of the process. Later I input the date into an Excel spreadsheet and further analyze it by conducting a statistical analysis of the results. (Many programs are available. I use one called Costat.)

VARIABILITY There’s not a lot of value in looking at trial results if there’s only been one strip trial, rather

than several replications. Each individual replication can have results that are very different that what you might see from one strip. Moisture and dockage can also vary — this only becomes apparent when you’re able to look at several replications. It comes down to a simple point: Do you want to be making management changes on your farm based on the results of a single strip trial? Or do you want to have confidence that when you make a management choice, it’s the right one? For me, it comes down to this: If you just want to make farmers aware of the name of a new crop variety or new herbicide, a strip trial is fine. But if you want to provide empirical data — things such as differences in yield, protein, green seed, maturity and so forth — the trial has to be replicated. When you’re attending an industry meeting and they start to flash numerical data of any type on the screen, put your hand up and ask, “Is this data from a strip trial or a replicated trial?” If it’s not from a replicated trial, then it would be just as accurate to roll a dice and rank the treatments that way. If you go to this kind of meeting, I hope the meal is good, the door prizes expensive, and it doesn’t cost you anything to attend. But don’t despair. Help is available. In Alberta we are lucky to have a number of agricultural research groups that can help you set up properly designed trials that will give you solid, trustworthy results. If you don’t know who a group in your area, contact the provincial umbrella organization, ARECA (Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta) at 780-416-6046 and someone will steer you in the right direction. † Garry Ropchan is research coordinator for the Central Peace Conservation Society and along with his son Aidan, operates a grain farm near Grimshaw, Alta. Contact him at

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MARCH 5, 2012


Careers in agriculture You don’t need to know how to drive a tractor to have a career in agriculture BY ANGELA LOVELL


griculture is an industry that offers many diverse career opportunities both on and off the farm. Increasingly, agricultural employers, especially those in agri-business, are recruiting right off university and college campuses to try and snap up the tightening supply of qualified candidates. “Many of our students, whether it is for summer or permanent employment, are hired by the beginning of the academic year,” says Neil French, co-ordinator of agricultural management programs at Olds College, Alberta. “Recruiters are coming earlier and

earlier and the recruiting is much more aggressive than it’s ever been, which is good news for our students and for agriculture.” Employers are more aggressively recruiting for a reason. “In some areas, like for example agronomists, there’s a high demand,” says Erika Osmundson at “On the trade side, for things like welders, mechanics, applicators and so on, there aren’t necessarily new jobs but there is a lack of people being trained to fill them.” New opportunities are emerging all the time as both technology and social trends have an influence upon agriculture. Agroecology is a fairly new program at the University of Manitoba

(U of M), and although numbers of graduates are few at the moment, they have no problem in finding jobs.

the Faculty of Agriculture & Food Sciences at the U of M. “The intersection of production, environmental sustain-

In general, students taking agronomy or agri-business programs are virtually guaranteed a job with mainstream companies “I think we are seeing more interest in holistic approaches to agriculture,” says Merv Pritchard, associate dean of

ability and food safety are new areas where we are seeing more opportunities opening up for our students.”


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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved a new liquid nutrient seed treatment for use on wheat, oats, barley and corn. Awaken ST is manufactured by Loveland Products and available from UAP Canada Inc. as part of its Nutritionals portfolio of products. Awaken ST is a patented, seed-applied nutrient that includes 6-0-1 and 5% zinc plus boron, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum. “Awaken ST puts nutrients where a germinating plant needs them – on the seed,” says Eric Gregory, Western Product Manager with UAP Canada Inc. “It’s a unique, nutrient-based product that helps develop a larger, more extensive root system, quicker emergence and greater plant biomass for improved plant health and vigour. All of this supports the goals of progressive growers in pursuit of maximum yield and return on their crop inputs investment.” In independent research and CFIA registration trials, Awaken ST increased stand establishment, biomass and yield. Research conducted in 2009 at North Dakota State University on hard red spring wheat showed a significant


30 Days after Emergence Awaken ST pushes root hair development and increases plant biomass.

increase in plant emergence and an 8 percent yield increase when compared to untreated seed. Gregory explains that the patented zinc ammonium acetate compound found in Awaken ST is the key driver behind both the plant and soil effects of the product. In the plant, zinc boosts auxin production, which promotes cell division and increased lateral root growth. “Improved lateral root growth means more root hairs. In terms of nutrient and water uptake we know that root hairs do all the heavy lifting,” says Gregory.

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70 Plants/2 ft row


60 55 50 45 40

65 60 55 50 45

Awaken ST Source: Dr. Joel Ranson NDSU 2009


The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has added a Bachelor of Science degree in Renewable Resource Management (RRM) and has introduced more practical and inquiry based learning into its curriculum to try and give students a head start when it comes to finding employment. “We are trying to help our students obtain actual skills in the field, so for example, in our agronomy field school they perform basic crop scouting,” says Karen Hughes, student services co-ordinator at the U of S College of Agriculture & Bioresources. “In agri-business one class is working in teams with industry to develop marketing and business plans. In the RRM program students do a final project with an industry partner that integrates all their areas of study.” Olds College in Alberta is developing a two-year diploma in agricultural management with a bio-processing and distribution specialization. “We are developing this additional stream because we feel there are good opportunities in the value-added side of agricultural production,” says Tanya McDonald, dean of the School of Agriculture.


Awaken ST


Research at the University of Wales showed that the zinc complex found in Awaken ST stimulates 44 percent more auxin production in the plant than other forms of zinc. Zinc and the other micronutrients in Awaken ST are also essential in the photosynthetic process of the plant to help maximize growth and yield. Ammonium acetate acts as a soil extraction agent releasing nutrients that are tied up in the soil. Together, the zinc ammonium acetate complex provides increased plant growth and improved nutrient uptake from the soil, ultimately providing improved plant health and vigour.

applied with traditional seed treating equipment, and is a seed safe, low dust-off formulation. “We know there aren’t any mixing issues with Rancona® Apex, and the other popular seed treatments all look very good, too,” says Gregory. Proposed mixtures should be evaluated in a jar test before full scale use. Awaken ST is packaged in 2 x 9.46 litre jugs per case with one case treating approximately 180 bushels of wheat seed.

Easy to use Awaken ST is available in a convenient, easy flowing, clear liquid. It may be applied on its own, blended or applied sequentially with traditional fungicide and/or insecticide seed treatments. It can be

Source: Dr. Joel Ranson NDSU 2009

Awaken ST is a registered trademark of Loveland Products Inc. and Rancona is a trademark of Chemtura Canada Co/Cie. UAP Canada is a member of CropLife Canada. 02.12 12009

For various reasons some jobs, like grain merchandiser and hog barn manager, are harder to fill than others. Declining interest in the livestock field by both students entering educational programs and graduates entering the workforce has been a general trend over the last few years. While there are new and interesting opportunities opening up in the area of biotechnology, there is a shortage of Masters and PhD graduates in the pure sciences related to plant breeding at the molecular level, says Laura Lazo, job placement and co-operative education co-ordinator with the U of M. Masters in science level students that can also bring a background in farming is desirable for many large multinational employers, she adds. In some cases, full time jobs are difficult because they are in remote locations and require candidates to relocate. So mobility is another factor that can



MARCH 5, 2012 /



Jobs in primary agriculture There are ample job opportunities in the agri-business sector, but a career in primary agricultural production shouldn’t be overlooked BY ANGELA LOVELL


hen people think of jobs in primary agriculture they often think of farm labourers and mechanics. But many related fields that are essential to farm operations aren’t as universally connected, such as veterinarian or truck driver, says Jade Reeve, a project manager with Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC). Reeve is working on a project called Agricultural Career Pathways. This project follows on from the Identifying On Farm Occupations project, which CAHRC completed last year. It was a Canada-wide project surveying five focus groups, comprised of farm operations across 10 primary production types. Its goal was to identify the many farm occupations that exist in primary agriculture and the skills and knowledge they require. What the project discovered was that, as farm sizes increase, so do the depth and scope of on farm occupations and the skills required to perform them. An occupational matrix was produced which plots those skills and knowledge requirements across the different production groups and in varying degrees from entry level through to CEO level. Across the different commodity types there were certain


CAREERS IN AGRICULTURE give job candidates a definite competitive advantage, says Lazo. “I am told by the employers that if a candidate is mobile and willing to relocate he or she

occupations that were consistent and interchangeable to all. General farm workers with some entry level knowledge and lead hands with some supervisory experience, as well as farm managers were positions that most farm employers are looking for. The project also demonstrated that the skills are sought by agribusiness are the same skills that farm operators are looking for in their employees. Technological and managerial skills top the list. To be an owner/operator of modern a farm operation requires considerable managerial skills, and it is not universally recognised that management is a very important component of an agricultural producer’s job,” says Debra Hauer, project manager who worked closely on the Identifying On Farm Occupations Project at CAHRC. Soft skills are just as important as technical knowledge to farm employers, who are finding challenges in recruiting staff, as traditional sources of farm employees, like family, neighbours and community members disappear. “A lot of those surveyed said that it really didn’t matter what the skills were as long as the people had the right attitude, that they were interested in the farm and willing to learn,” says Hauer. “It’s increasingly difficult to find people outside of the community with the interest and aptitude and some basic skills who want to come to the farm operation.” will often beat out the competition,” she says. In general, students taking agronomy or agri-business programs are virtually guaranteed a job with mainstream companies, though there are fewer opportunities for those interested in institutions such as banks and government, says Lazo. That’s not to say that anyone choosing to enter the world of agri-business or other ag-related fields can write their own ticket. First they need to make sure they

It’s also not easy for farmers to actively recruit employees. They don’t have the same resources or reach as agri-businesses and aren’t always able to access the labour market as successfully. Similarly, students and others considering agricultural careers are often missing the message about opportunities that exist in production farming. CAHRC is hoping to bridge that gap with its Agricultural Career Pathways project, that will take the information from the Identifying On Farm Occupations study and develop an interactive online tool that will bring together all the resources that prospective farm employees need to prepare for and access jobs in primary agriculture, including information about the scope and type of positions that are out there, the skills and training they require and where to get it. Even if their ultimate goal is to get an education and return to the farm, some young people find they may have to wait to farm full time, because of their family’s succession plan or other reasons. In these cases it’s a good idea to choose courses that give them more flexible options for off-farm employment in the meantime, says Erika Osmundson of AgCareers. com. “We encourage students, even if they want to go back

and farm, that they at least go in for a skilled trade certificate so that they have got some different qualifications to bring back to their farming operation and additional qualifications if they were ever to need to go and find additional employment,” she says. Other young farmers are thinking more entrepreneurially, thanks to some educational programs that equip them to identify additional self-employment opportunities. “If you want to excel quickly then you have to think outside of the box because if you are doing what everyone else is doing you are not going to have an advantage,” says Nick Boundy, a young farmer who isn’t just talking the talk. Boundy, graduated from the Agribusiness Diploma Program at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba in 2010, originally intended to seek an off-farm job in agronomy to help keep him on the family farm near Boissevain. But a compulsory project, which required him to research and write a comprehensive business plan for an ag-related enterprise of his choice, presented him with another idea. After graduation Boundy decided to start a mobile seed cleaning business similar to the one upon which his project had been based. As it turned out his industry mentor for the business plan, Laurie Clarke, was ready to retire

from the business and sold it to Boundy, who had not only a ready-made customer base but also a sound understanding, thanks to the business plan exercise, of how the business operated and its potential. The University of Manitoba’s two-year diploma program also attracts many students who want to farm, but a lot of them end up in agri-business, often in the sales and service areas, at least as an adjunct career, says Michele Rogalsky, director of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences. But it’s not just farm youth that are interested in farming for themselves. Farming is also attracting a growing group of mid-life professionals looking at a lifestyle change, says Rogalsky. “We are seeing more individuals looking to have a smaller operation where they could farm in semi-retirement or even just start farming on a small scale. They are often interested in organic production or smaller livestock.” It seems that opportunities in or associated with primary agriculture are as diverse as the environmental, social and economic issues that shape it.For more information on the Identifying On Farm Occupations report and matrix go to: labour-employment/identifyingfarm-occupations. †

have the skills and knowledge that their prospective employers want. Increasingly those include so-called “soft” skills, like communications, problem solving and team skills. “Although the industry wants students to have an extended education, in most situations, they are also focusing on things like a person’s ability to communicate, his or her ability to multi-task and interact with a team,” says Osmundson. Interpersonal and problem solving skills, are hugely important to employers, says Lazo, both in regard to customer service and the workplace environment. “Most employers now recognize that the human relationships within the workplace are very important to productivity,” she says. “They see an increase in their profits, because by improving the way we relate to each other we work better.”

University and college programs in agriculture continue to evolve along with the industry. Most degree programs maintain majors in different disciplines like finance or business and marketing to allow for eventual specialization, but Olds College now requires all first year students to take the same program, which includes courses in production, finance, plants, animals, mechanics, marketing, accounting and business management. “We want all our students to come out of here with a broad, comprehensive education,” says French. Professionalism and good business skills remain at the top of the list for many employers. And most colleges and universities place strong emphasis on these things in many of their programs. “Most universities throughout North America and Europe are

developing courses around professionalism,” says Lazo. As farms get larger and private consulting companies increasingly take over and expand upon the roles that used to be served by government extension services, jobs and responsibilities are increasingly connected in ways that make communication and management capabilities increasingly important. So, while employment prospects look good for the agricultural sector of the future, those who enter it will need a broader range of knowledge and skills than ever before. Note: Laura Lazo is trying to develop programs customized to meet the needs of the agricultural industry and invites input at †


Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at www.

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MARCH 5, 2012

Features Oat production

Naked oats undress the market Naked oats are a unique variety, developed in Canada, which offer distinct advantages when it comes to handling, processing and marketing By Angela Lovell



2:24 PM


Page 1

Scott Sigvaldason in his field of oats.

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C Gehl is the only truly naked (or bald) oat currently available in Canada, and should not be confused with other hulless oat varieties, which still have fine hairs (trichomes) that can cause skin, respiratory and eye irritation during harvesting, handling and processing. AC Gehl does not require dehulling and sorting as do traditional oats, making it excellent for the food processing industry. It also has much less bulk than regular oats as the hulls, which detach during the harvesting operation, remain in the field, which helps lower transportation and storage costs for growers and processors. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists, led by Dr. Vern Burrows, developed AC Gehl over a 15-year period, which began with a painstaking assessment of over 20,000 oat seeds from all over the world, only one of which had the desirable bald trait that the team was looking for. “This is a fantastic example of why we need to fund public breeding programs,” says Scott Sigvaldason, the Arborg-area farmer who spearheaded the registration and commercialization of AC Gehl. “A private company would never have developed something like this because there was no established market for it. Without public breeding programs coming up with some of this baseline research I think there are a lot of things would never see the light of day.” Sigvaldason began growing naked oats in 2005, when he was searching for fresh hulless oat seed to replace his aging seed By Dan Piraro


stock. He realised during the first harvest of this new, naked oat variety that he had something very unique. He’d been told by Dave Gehl of AAFC’s Indian Head research facility, who had provided him the naked oat seed to try, that it was a completely hairless variety. Having spent years growing hulless varieties and developing systems to process them to a standardized format, Sigvaldason was sceptical that AC Gehl would not still require the same processing to remove irritating trichomes. He decided to give the variety the acid test right off the combine. “As I got to the end of the last swath I jumped off the combine and ran to the back and opened my shirt up while the combine was still blowing out the last of the oats,” says Sigvaldason. “I didn’t want to tear my skin off, so I knew right then that I had something special.” Six years on, Sigvaldason is trying to make these naked oats, which he markets under the brand Cavenu Nuda, a household name. Through his appearances on TV (including an episode of Dragon’s Den in 2009), radio interviews and various articles in many national newspapers, he has managed to build up distribution from coast to coast. Another exciting development for Cavena Nuda is that Prairie Co-op stores will soon be carrying it. The quintessential Prairie grocery chain, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., will be stocking Cavena Nuda in its 45 largest stores, but any Co-op store can bring it in anywhere in the west, making it available in most rural communities across Western Canada. He is also getting a lot of interest from the food service industry, with major hotel chain chefs increasingly demanding the product, which was also served to world leaders at the G-20 Summit in Toronto in summer 2010. He is currently developing a cooked, frozen version in association with the Food Development Centre at Portage la Prairie, which would be used by hospitals and health other care facilities. Cavenu Nuda is also known as “Rice of the Prairies.” It cooks essentially in much the same way as brown rice does and is highly versatile and nutritious. Naked oats have twice the protein, 10 times the fibre and five times the iron of white rice. With high levels of beta

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Features glucan and anti-oxidants, it can help lower cholesterol. Naked oats also have a low glycemic index, making them excellent for diabetics, and are registered as gluten-free. The market potential for the product is tremendous, says Sigvaldason, whose aim is to displace white rice in people’s diets and turn Canada into a “rice” exporting nation. “What we do is we grow and process oats but we sell ‘rice,’” he says. “Anybody that eats rice in the world could be eating this instead. So that’s the market, it’s worldwide. It’s a rice replacement product but it also can be used in applications that rice never could.” The high protein level and gluten-free status are things that make growing naked oats a little more challenging for farmers. Under the terms of the contract, growers have to insure that naked oats are grown on clean fields. “It has to be grown on a field that has gone at least three years without any wheat, rye, barley or any gluten-containing grain,” says Sigvaldason. “There’s a lot of wheat in the soil just waiting for the right day to wake up and that’s just a fact.” He says that many farmers choose to grow it on land that is being broken after being in alfalfa or pasture for a number of years. “That kind of land is usually very clean,” he says. “Or it can be grown after soybeans, corn, canola, those are fine. Oats are even fine, it’s easy to separate regular oats from naked oats, but it’s very difficult to separate wheat.” Even after taking these precautions, Sigvaldson still loses on, average, 40 to 50 per cent of the oat kernels after cleaning to remove any trace of wheat or other cereals that have persisted in the seed bank of the field. Comparative trials of hulless and naked oats varieties are ongoing at test plots across Manitoba at Arborg, Warren, Beausejour, Melita and Roblin. Data from the 2009 growing season shows that hulless oat varieties generally yield 20 to 25 per cent less than hulled varieties, largely because the lack of hulls reduce weights. Sigvaldason says that they average 3,000 to 3,600 lbs. per acre with naked oats, and cautions farmers to remember that the grain is much heavier (20 to 25 per cent) than regular oats due to the reduction in bulk from the hulls. “Many guys harvesting it for the first time are thinking, this is oats, I am supposed to be overflowing every round, but it’s like harvesting a 50 to 60 bushel wheat crop” he says. “But don’t fill the truck too full or you’ll get stuck in the field.” The protein level must also be between 16 and 18 per cent, which means that naked oats have to be fertilized in much the same way as wheat. “We like that high protein so it’s got to be treated like you are trying to grow high protein No. 1 wheat,” says Sigvaldason. “And that’s from fertility to harvest. You don’t leave it as the last thing to take off the field, you treat it like that’s your most valuable crop. Although it weathers reasonably well, it’s the top grade stuff that we need. And there’s premiums paid for that.” Another recommendation for

producers at harvest time is that, since there is no hull to protect the oat kernel of the naked oat, they should adjust threshing cylinder speeds and concaves to try and prevent damage.

Sigvaldason’s own experience bears out these findings. “A lot of guys will skimp on the fertility for oats because they don’t want it to lodge,” he says. “This doesn’t lodge.”

As I got to the end of the last swath I jumped off the combine and ran to the back and opened my shirt up while the combine was still blowing out the last of the oats Some producers have been reluctant to fertilize more heavily because of the fear of lodging, which is a problem in regular, hulled oats. But trials underway in Manitoba have shown that lodging is not as much of a problem with hulless or naked oats, and

Sigvaldason also employs minimal use of inputs to try and produce as natural a product as possible. Although he still uses herbicides, he prefers that they not be used after the six inch growth stage so that there is no residue. He also finds that herbi-

cides are not generally necessary after this stage. “You have to grow it on clean land anyway and if you feed it properly it’s aggressive and it really spreads quickly and outcompetes the weeds,” he says. Fungicides, says Sigvaldason, are neither desirable nor necessary. “You are just wasting your money with fungicide, you don’t need to use them,” he says. Naked oats have proven to be highly disease resistant, especially to rust. “In 2009 I was growing a seed plot and there were puddles where it had drowned out and right on the edge of the water there was quack grass covered in rust, and it even had some ergot in the heads,” says Sigvaldason. “Right beside that was the naked oats, with big wide leaves like a corn plant and no rust all the way up the stem and the leaves were completely clean.” For the time being Sigvaldason is concentrating on getting

Cavena Nuda into retail stores and building up the name to become better known. It’s crucial to keep developing the market, he says, so that production growth can keep pace and retain the integrity of the brand and ensure that it will always be a premium product for farmers to grow. “We have to grow the market first,” he says. “If a bunch of people started growing it all at once, before we have grown a market, we would end up flooding the market with a bunch of stuff that had no saleability and the quality would be all over the place,” he says. “That would end up being a complete disaster and we wouldn’t have this premium market that we could sell into all over the world.” For more info on Cavena Nuda, go to the website at www. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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MARCH 5, 2012


Using GPS technology to reduce waste and minimize stress

The Elias family doesn’t drive on a field without using GPS technology. They’ve embraced new technology purely for the sake of making more money BY HARRY SIEMENS


hen John Elias embraced GPS technology in early 2000 on their farm near Morden, Manitoba, it was a decision, John did not take lightly. Today his two sons, Jonathan (32) and Tim (21), embrace this technology along with their father and apply it to every aspect of farming their 3,400 acres of corn, canola, soybeans, wheat and barley. An auto steer unit directs every implement on that farm including the fall tillage cultivator, planters, sprayer, fertilizer applicator, combine and scraper. In 2005, John said in an interview that incorporating the GPS technology and various systems takes commitment, time, and field-testing. “The technology hasn’t always been ready,” said Elias. It wasn’t so much the machinery applications that held up the process, but the software development and, of course, occasionally losing the signal at the most inopportune time. Today there are fewer signal disruptions, but even once a year is too much says John. Those things didn’t stop them then and don’t stop them today. The Elias family uses most of what’s out there to make them better managers and save them money.

TEST STRIPS Agronomists often suggest leaving test strips or even using test plots to determine whether certain practices work for that farmer. In 2005, Elias said using auto steer and yield mapping on the combine and variable planting on sunflower planter helps him test the difference in yields between 22,000 plants per acre compared to 19,000 plants — just to see if more plants would yield more. “The pass with the combine would record exactly on that same spot whether it had yielded more or not and compare it with the seeding map to see whether it helped or not,” he says.

By doing these yield comparison checks, Elias knows wheat has a different fertility pattern than barley. What’s true for barley isn’t necessarily true for wheat. Once he knows that, he can make the changes necessary to compensate. “We also like to experiment with different chemicals and different fertilizers and do them diagonally to give us the test results,” he says. “When you combine, you don’t have to think in terms of test plots. We’re doing it every pass. We don’t have to leave test strips. We can do it on the field, driving through with the combine and the yield monitor tells us the changes from one test to another.” People sometimes question Elias on the accuracy of the yield monitor and mapping program. It really doesn’t matter to him whether it’s out ten percent either way. He’s comparing one part of the field to another part using the same combine. “We’re comparing that field with that type of grain and we have that same type of grain on this field,” he said. “We don’t change the settings on those combines mapping from one field to another. When you hold those two together, the same things occur.” He uses it as a management tool. At the end of the day, what he weighs and sells, concerns him the most.

SPRAYER BOOM SECTIONS John says the most recent benefit for their farm is John Deere’s Swath Control Pro which according to the company website turns implement or sprayer boom sections on and off, based on GPS Swath Control Pro Headland control. “We really appreciate the swath pro turning sprayer booms on and off to prevent overlap,” says John. “The booms at the end turn off or when there is a wedge, it turns off. This is very convenient at the end of the field and it turns off and on at exactly the right time. The sprayer doesn’t


Tim, John, and Jonathan Elias of Morden, MB farm together as a father - sons team, 3,400 acres of corn, canola, soybeans, wheat and barley using the GPS system to improve their bottom line. leave any marks of where it overlapped or where it didn’t spray.” Tim says the cut back on misses and overlaps saves stress on the plants and cuts back on chemical use. What they like most is the unit sets to about a tenth of a second ahead of time when it is to turn

The Elias family uses most of what’s out there to make them better managers and save them money on or off. “That is accuracy and we really like that,” John says. They like this system so much they have five receivers so they don’t have to switch from the combine to the scraper tractor during busy times. Jonathan describes how the header on the only records when the combine is harvesting, and turns off when the combine is turning on the headland or taking a swath that’s not the full width of the header. “It gives more accurate yield prediction,” says Tim.

He says the same thing happens when planting on their tenrow planter, preventing double planting. “Double planting just gives straw if you plant twice down the same row,” adds Jonathan. “When you start the field and you come to the middle, maybe four rows left to plant. Instead of emptying boxes, those four rows not needing to plant shut off.” Tim appreciates this technology very much. “It allows us to run longer hours, reduces waste in both the spraying and the seeding because of much less overlap,” he says. “If you overlap on seeding you put more dollars into seed with less value returned.”

FERTILIZER The Elias farm also saves on custom application fees and gets at least twice the use of their High-boy sprayer to apply their fertilizer by using fivehole nozzles. “We use the same sprayer for fertilizing as we do for applying pesticides so we have that overlap control and don’t double fertilize,” says Jonathan. Another application, impossible without auto steer, is to harvest lodged canola and get a perfect divide each pass. “We go wide on the field, leave

a whole pass with the lodging and it divides nicely,” he says. “You leave one pass, or swath, one way, come back the other way without having to divide.” Tim says that is a bonus of the auto steer on the combine, not new technology, just another application of the same technology.

AUTO STEER Since Jonathan is older than Tim, he grew up using the steering wheel. Not so for Tim, who used it just enough to know what it means to not have auto steer. John says it’s funny in a sense — initially, if the signal lapsed while Tim was cultivating in the fall, he’d stop the tractor. “He’s learned enough now, if he loses signal, he can continue to cultivate,” he adds. When asked whether the system, especially the yield monitor helps them make cropping decisions, John says the yield monitor helps make varietal decisions. It shows them whether they want to keep using the same variety or not. “Some crops, you can see it with a glance where it is good and where it isn’t. Other crops you can’t,” he says. † Harry Siemens is a farm journalist, freelance writer, speaker, and broadcaster living in Winkler, Man. Read his blog at www. or contact him at harry@ or 204-325-5215

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Unwinding a farm corporation Tax laws and personal benefits are complicated. Good financial planning can help you make the most of what you have BY ANDREW ALLENTUCK


rank, now 62, and his wife, who we’ll call Elora, bought their southern Manitoba farm 32 years ago. By the time Frank’s brother Bob joined the operation 20 years ago, Frank and Elora had 1,280 ares of personally owned land. Frank and Bob incorporated the farm in 1981, bought 640 more acres of land and expanded their cattle herd. Frank will retire this year, taking his Canada Pension Plan benefits early and earning an additional $15,000 doing some seasonal work for a neighbouring farmer before fully retiring at 65. Bob will continue to farm full time for the next seven years and will be full owner of the farm corporation. Don Forbes, a farm financial planner with Don Forbes & Associates/ Armstrong & Quaile Ltd. of Carberry, Man., worked with Frank and Elora to complete the winding up of their farming assets and the division of the farm corporation’s assets. At the end of 2011, the brothers agreed that the farm had net equity of $1 million. From that, the restructuring could begin. Bob doesn’t want to borrow money to buy Frank’s share of the corporation. The corporation has $300,000 in cash, so for the next seven years, Bob can rent any land that Frank and Elora don’t sell. In retirement, Frank and Elora want to be able to maintain their modest spending of $42,000 per year ($3,500 per month) on their living expenses, plus another $12,000 per year for travel. And, they want $300,for new house. What to do? Start by selling 320 acres of the jointly owned farm land for $600,000 ($1,875 per acre), said Forbes. The property will be eligible for the Qualified Farmland Capital Gains Tax exemption, so the proceeds will be tax-free. An Alternative Minimum Tax payment will be required in 2011, but it can be used as a tax credit on the income tax due on a $300,000 dividend payment from the corporation in 2012 for construction of a new house, said Forbes. When Frank sells his 50 per cent interest in the corporation, he will receive a $300,000 cash payout designated for mutual fund investments. It will include a $196,000 non-taxable return of capital and the corporation’s capital gain. Then the balance of the cash payment will be a taxable dividend that will attract a bill of about $65,000. But if Frank uses his $40,000 of RRSP space, the bill will be cut to $45,000. Then the balance of the corporation’s holding will be 160 acres of land that can be sold to Frank and Elora for $200,000, said Forbes Assuming that Frank comes out of these transactions with about $225,000 — depending on the RRSP rollover — to spend or invest, he can put $60,000 into a cash reserve in a so-called high rate savings account, $20,000 into his TFSA, $20,000 into Elora’s TFSA, $40,400 into Elora’s RRSP with the tax credit going to Frank and the balance of $85,000 invested in a non-registered account. By adding to their RRSPs, Frank

and Elora will generate a base for future income. In 2012, these RRSP investments will generate handsome refunds, because Frank will be in a 51 per cent tax bracket. Frank and Elora will each qualify for a $2,000 annual tax credit on pension income. RRIF payouts qualify. Then the balances will be taxed at a 26 per cent rate so that, when each partner is 65, Frank can get $400 per month for 20 years from $67,000 invested and Elora $400 for 25 years from $88,000 invested at six per cent. If each partner makes maximum contributions to portfolios, then Frank and Elora would have $276,000 in assets by age 75. They will pay tax on distributions from

all portfolios, but surplus funds can be rolled into TFSAs to a limit of $5,000 per year plus any unused space. If the couple takes $3,500 per month from their accounts growing at six per cent per year their money will last forever. There will be as much as $500,000 in their combined TFSA accounts, while the sale of additional acres of land could wring still more money out of the farm. Frank can count on 2012 retirement income of $2,293 per month consisting of $543 from CPP (after an approximately 5.5 per cent reduction for each year before age 65 he starts benefits), $500 from rental of farmland, and $1,250

per month from off-farm work. For more money to cover living expenses of $3,500 per month, Frank and Elora can take money from their off-farm investments. In 2014, when Frank is 65, he will get $543 from CPP, $540 per month from Old Age Security and $500 from farm rental for total pension income of $1,583 per month. He can add investment income of $400 to bring the total to $1,983. In another five years, Elora will be 65 and can draw $540 from OAS and $400 per month from her investments. The family total, $2,923, will be less than estimated living expenses but can be covered with money from nonregistered investments.

Forbes suggets that funds from the corporate unwinding be invested as follows: 40 per cent to a balanced growth and income fund, 40 per cent to a Canadian dividend fund, and 20 per cent to a global growth fund. If interest rates were to rise dramatically, or if the global economy were to go into a tailspin, then of course this 40/40/20 balance would need to be revised. In retirement, Frank and Elora might find time to study capital markets. It’s a fascinating field with the ability to generate financial rewards. † Andrew Allentuck’s latest book, “When Can I Retire? Planning Your Financial Life After Work” was published in 2011

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MARCH 5, 2012


Quality colustrum To give young livestock the best start in life, farmers need to ensure they’re provided with the best quality colostrum DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


t’s crucial to provide the highest quality colostrum to young livestock.

THE ROLE OF COLUSTRUM The first step is understanding colostrum’s role in the life of a baby animal.

Colostrum is produced for the first 24 hours after birth and is gradually replaced by milk. It is special because it contains three types of immunoglobulins — IgG, IgM, and IgA. Each of these has a specific role in the immune system. The primary role of IgG is to identify and help destroy invading pathogens. IgG can move out of the bloodstream and into other areas of the body where it helps identify pathogens. The principal role of IgM is to identify and destroy bacteria that have entered the blood. IgA attaches to the membranes that line many organs, such as

the intestine, and prevents pathogens from attaching and causing disease. Colostrum packs more nutrition per ounce than milk and it is also higher in fat, which helps to prevent chilling and gives the baby a boost. Colostrum also contains growth factors, which help promote gut growth and differentiation, especially during the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. It’s important to remember that the young’s ability to absorb the immunoglobulins in colostrum decreases greatly after the first hour of life, and after 24 hours, the abil-

ity to use the colostrum is nearly nonexistent. Veterinarians say if colostrum is not fed in an adequate amount within the first 12 hours, it’s unlikely that enough antibodies will be absorbed to provide adequate immunity. Without this absorption the young will not have any passive immunity. In order for the dam to have the highest amount of immunoglobulins, giving the young the highest possible passive immunity for clostridial diseases which include tetanus and blackleg, we administer Covexin 8 as per the package instructions. At this time we also use booster vitamins according to veterinarian’s instructions for the region. Our veterinarians have recommended dosing the dams with E-AD (produced by Vetoquinol) along with the eight-way vaccine. It takes at least four weeks for the vitamin E to make its way through the body to the liver and back into the bloodstream, thereby boosting the content of the

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colostrum. We also administer Dystocel to the young at birth as per veterinarian’s instructions.

FEEDING COLOSTRUM The easiest way to make sure young animals receive enough high quality colostrum is to have healthy, well-fed and vaccinated dams. These dams generally produce strong young that birth easily and quickly suck. A quick way to check if they have eaten is to verify that the wax plugs have been removed from the dam’s teats. Sometimes they fool us by sucking their tongues next to the teat so it looks like they are nursing but aren’t. Then there are the times that a doe or ewe has triplets or more in a litter. We try to feed these ones as much colostrum as they like, along with what their dam produces, just to be sure they get enough. On our farm, we save colostrum from our own stock for these emergencies. We were told to save it from mature females because they will have the highest amounts of antibodies per ounce. We have also been counselled not to use cow colostrum on our lambs as it can cause a rare condition called hemolytic anemia. It results in sudden death at seven to 12 days of age and is irreversible. The other consideration is that, because cow colostrum has 20 to 40 per cent fewer nutrients than ewe colostrum, we would have to feed approximately one-third more volume. Since we milk both cows and goats it is easy for us to use the goat colostrum for our lambs and kids, and the cow’s for our calves. We do this instead of using the commercial freeze-dried versions. There are many formulas to calculate the quantity of colostrum lambs and kids need, but we have adopted the method of feeding the youngster as much as it wants until it drops off the nipple. The basic rule for goats and lambs is 15 per cent of their body weight every four hours.


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Saving your own colostrum is easy. First, if possible, pick your quietest dams and ones that have been on your farm since birth. We milk for the house, so whenever a Jersey or goat freshens, we let the young eat their fill, then we steal the extra. I strain it through a tea strainer to remove all foreign matter and then freeze it. We store goat colostrum in smaller water bottles or make it into ice cubes, which we store in freezer bags. IOur neighbor told us to freeze the bottles on their sides so the cream settles along the full side of the bottle. Colostrum can be stored in a freezer for a year without it degrading. It should be defrosted and warmed in warm water (38 C) or at room temperature because rapid thawing will denature and reduce the active availability of Ig in the colostrum. Microwaving can cause hot spots, which will kill the antibodies and decrease the benefits. Knowing how vitally important colostrum it is to the survival of the newly born, we made the choice on our farm to save our own. There are many commercial colostrum replacers on the market, but we have no personal experience with them. We believe it is worth a little extra effort to save our own. † Debbie Chikousky farms with her family at Narcisse, Man. Visitors are always welcome. Contact Debbie at

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MARCH 5, 2012


Professional agriculture Times are changing. Professional agrologists are hanging out shingles and selling advice for a living. Les Henry thinks this is a good thing LES HENRY


his article is a prelude to a series dealing with precision agriculture. It might be a bit boring and bureaucratic and you may wonder about the relevance but please take 10 seconds to scan before turning the page. A funny thing for an agro to do — but let us start off with the profession of engineering. Even before I can remember, and that is

long ago, almost all Professional Engineers (P. Eng.) were employed in the public sector. Governments, cities etc. all had their own staff of engineers. The Broadway Bridge in Saskatoon was built in the 1930s by engineers from the University of Saskatchewan. In the 1960s, I can remember colleagues talking about getting work done by Underwood and McClelland Engineering Company. They were one of the first to form an engineering company to work for individual clients — cities, towns, governments or large corporations. Now almost all engineering is done that way. Underwood and McClelland became UMA for

many years then UMA-AECOM and now AEOCM.

THE P.AG. The agricultural equivalent of the P. Eng is P.Ag. (Professional Agrologist). The eligibility requirement is a university degree in agriculture or the equivalent. In Saskatchewan the whole business is managed by the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (SIA) under the authority of the The Agrologists Act, 1994 of the Government of Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan, the SIA also recognizes an Agricultural Technologist (AT), and the requirement is a Diploma in Agriculture.

Both P.Ag. and A.T. members must keep current by attending professional development activities and reading the literature. When I became a member of SIA in the 1960s almost all P.Ags were employed by the public sector or by large agriculture companies that needed a P.Ag on staff. In fact, one of the main reasons the SIA was formed was to insure that provincial agricultural representatives would not be political appointees.

PROFESSIONAL AGROLOGISTS There have always been P.Ags associated with companies that have a product to sell you. I have

had very positive experiences in dealing with such professionals. But, the idea of a P.Ag putting out a shingle and making an “honest living” by fee for service was unknown. In the last decade or so that has all changed. There are now many individual agrologists doing crop planning or scouting and soil management for farmers on a fee for service basis. There are also some smaller firms of a few agrologists and there are a few very large firms that offer a wide range of cropping, marketing, livestock management and GPS services. The GPS service per se is not an agrologist function but the application of it to crop production definitely is. It has been a great pleasure for this old fossil to see former students flying on their own wing or becoming part of a larger organization that exists to further the objectives of farmers. General recommendations are just that and having a P.Ag. take the blizzard of new ideas and products that come out and apply them to your specific situation can be nothing but a good thing. And many of these have no product to sell —all they’re selling is their professional service.


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About 15 years ago the designation CCA (Certified Crop Advisor) appeared. The concept came from the U.S. originally and was conceived by industry — particularly the fertilizer industry. To become a CCA, candidates must write regional and international exams and attend ongoing update sessions. The Potash and Phosphate Institute (now the International Plant Nutrient Institute, IPNI) was a major force in the CCA concept. I have always had huge respect for the staff at IPNI www. They are professionals dedicated to applying the science to the practice. They publish “Better Crops with Plant Food” which I regularly read. (The last issue is a real winner — check it out online.) After I retired from the University of Saskatchewan I did many CCA courses for Westco Fertilizers with John Harapiak (who we lost last year) and Norm Flore. I have long held the opinion that any additional training that can be provided for retail folks is a positive and am a strong supporter of the CCA program. So, what is the relevance of all this? As precision agriculture becomes common practice, be sure to check out the professional credentials of those providing you with the advice. † 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, SK, S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book post-haste

MARCH 5, 2012 /



Five ways to survive a land value correction Is a correction in land values imminent? That was the question on the top of Landon DeBuble’s mind last week ANDREW DERUYCK



ebuble runs a midsized grain farm and is fortunate enough to have his son and daughter-in-law returning to the operation. The farm will need to generate more revenue, and Landon is thinking of expanding. In the last five years crop margins have been good and local land values reflect this reality. Landon purchased his last piece of land five years ago for $1,500 an acre, and hardly slept a wink for 18 months! Now he’s looking at prices of $2,500 an acre and is worried that if he doesn’t jump at the opportunity, it will be $3,000 before he knows it. Landon called us to analyze his operation and look at whether the farm can afford to purchase additional land in order to accommodate the next generation. He fears we’re seeing a land price bubble and is worried it’s about to burst.


find financial institutions aggressively trying to lend money.

THREATS TO LAND VALUATIONS On the other side of the land evaluation issue, three things are going to threaten current land valuations. The first is the margin from the crop produced. As margins decrease, the money available for land payment, rent, and future growth will become limited. The second factor is that affordability of land is being propped up by strong liquidity and record low interest rates. The third factor is strong demand. But guess how demand

will be impacted by lower margins and decreased affordability. Unfortunately, a drop in land values doesn’t affect land to be purchased but also land that is already owned. Price decreases erase equity from a farm’s balance sheet overnight. Any time equity is erased, so are options. In many operations, lenders rely heavily on land equity in making a loan. So in times of reduced equity, low production margins, and higher interest rates, everyone’s hands are tied and assets often must be sold. This, in turn, increases the supply of land on the market and a downward spiral begins. Anyone who was around in the 1980s has seen this movie. It can happen and if you don’t believe us, look in the history books!

WHAT TO DO? So what can Landon do to mitigate the potential risk when buying land at a time like this? Lock in interest rates on any debt that is expected to be around for any period of time. The interest rate may be higher but it may prove to be cheap in the long run. Strive to be as efficient as possible. In times of difficulty, lenders will have a easier time working with you if you have a low operating expense ratio. Maintain strong liquidity. This will allow the operation to withstand short periods of lower margins without jeopardizing cash flow. Structure payments so they are sustainable and within the

long-term carrying capacity of the farm. Enrol in crop insurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, and other government risk-management programs because they will also help bridge the gap when margins are reduced. The bottom line is we may or may not experience a correction in land values. It is rare in agriculture, but it does happen. So understand your risk and focus on things you have control over. † Andrew DeRuyck and Mark Sloane manage two farming operations in southern Manitoba and are partners in Right Choice Management Consulting. With over 25 years of cumulative experience, they offer support in farm management, financial management, strategic planning and mediation services. They can be reached at andrewd@ and or 204825-7392 and 204-825-8443

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Our discussion began with why land values have risen so quickly and factors affecting the market. When we look at who’s investing in land right now, it gives us some insight into why values are so high. First, there are large farm operations aggressively seeking further growth.

The bottom line is we may or may not experience a correction in land values Second, there are investment companies actively seeking to invest huge capital amounts in farmland ownership. Word in the international investment community is that Canada is a politically stable country with a thriving agriculture industry and solid banking system — in other words, it is a safe place to park your money during a time of huge financial insecurity. Thirdly, we have high-equity farm operations that made big profits in the last few years and are looking to reinvest them in land. Finally, we have some young farmers that have really big risk appetites and have yet to experience poor margins. When you look at that list and the fact that interest rates are at all-time lows, it’s not surprising to

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MARCH 5, 2012


Pension reform and tax tips Changes to Canada’s pension rules have many Canadians worried. Andy Sirski says there’s still time to save your finances ANDY SIRSKI


s you’ve likely heard, Prime Minister Steven Harper has been musing about adjusting Canadian pension rules. Those doggone baby boomers are at it again. First they crowded the school system, then the housing system, then wouldn’t retire (keeping young folks out of jobs) and now by golly, when they do retire, they’ll endanger the Canadian pension system, especially Old Age Security.

OLD AGE SECURITY Most Canadians who reach the age of 65 receive an OAS payment of $540 per month. That payment is adjusted for inflation and if your income is over $68,000 per year, there’s a 15 per cent surtax on the money. For the well off, OAS can’t be put towards things such as vacations, but for some, this money is used to buy food and or pay the rent. One idea being floated is to push back the age for OAS payments to 67 from 65. Let’s see… $540 times 12 months times two years comes to $12,960. Let’s adjust for inflation a bit and maybe the total is $13,500.

What can Canadians do to prevent this? They could yell and scream at their MPs, but the federal government has to collect money from someone to pay for Old Age Security. I think the prime minister and his colleagues blew an opportunity to introduce the idea of delaying pay day to seniors. I think the government should have said, “Hey folks, we started the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) four years ago to help you plan for your retirement.” With a TFSA, you, your spouse or any Canadian over age 18 can contribute up to $5,000 a year and all of the investment gains are tax free. Since the plan is cumulative and has been around for four years, a person could now have $20,000 of his or her own money in the TFSA. We have readers who have grown the money very nicely. I put $5,000 into my TFSA and bought shares in a company called Consolidated Thompson (CLM). The fund grew to $11,000 and change. I gave back a couple grand last year because I bought shares in Copper Mountain Mining (CUM) which fell. But I’m still up 60 per cent or so, and my wife’s TFSA is up 30 per cent. My point is this: Most Canadians have time to contribute to their TFSA. When they turn 65 and don’t collect the Old Age Security, they can take out over $6,000 a year and enjoy some tax-free money that will not attract any claw back. But suppose a person doesn’t

have $5,000 to put into a TFSA every year? If the OAS deferral is five years off, then a person needs to save $2,700 a year for the next five years to make up for the pension cheques that will not come. If the deferral is 10 years away, then a person would need to save $1,350 a year to have $13,500 sitting in an account when they turn 65. (Inflation may mean you have to save a bit more.) The baby boomers I know certainly can save $1,000 or $2,000 a year if they put their mind to it. Too bad the prime minister’s spin doctors didn’t figure how to say all this. Now the opposition parties are doing their job (I guess) and scaring a bunch of seniors about how they might have to switch from beans, baloney and noodles to low-grade dog food.

TFSAS AND FARMERS Come next fall many farmers can manage their taxes one more way by using the TFSA. Let’s assume you have $22,000 in the TFSA and the money makes you another $1,000 so you have $23,000 in the account by December 2012. Let’s also assume you are in a taxable position. So, you could take the $23,000 out of the TFSA, tax free, and buy some tax deductible items for your farm while, at the same time, deferring $23,000 of farm income into 2013.

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Come January 2013 you cash out the deferred income and replace the money into the TFSA. When you take money out of a TFSA you can replace it in the next tax year. And if your wife has a TFSA you can double these numbers. I’d suggest you go to your main calendar and write down on November 30 to check out this strategy.

FEBRUARY OFTEN A BAD MONTH FOR STOCKS True to form, many stocks are sliding as February moves along. One statistic I’ve heard was most stocks dropped in February every year for the past 10 years. I see no reason why this won’t be year number 11. What am I doing about it? First I’m holding more cash. I sold all of our Microsoft shares early in 2012 because I was afraid the Canadian dollar was going to go up against the U.S. dollar and that has happened. I’m also selling calls in the money, below the price of the day. That gives me some downside protection in case the shares do drop. In January, as I explained a couple articles ago, I owned a lot of silver shares (stock symbol FR) and sold calls into July at my cost. The premium on those stocks was around $2.50 per share for six months. At a cost of $18 that comes out to 13.8 per cent for half a year. When I subtract the premium of $2.50 from my cost of $18 it means my true paper cost has dropped to $15.50 which is lots of downside protection. And if the shares do go up and get sold, my total price will be $20.50 which is good money. This is another way I tried to get ahead of the bad month of February — just collect lots of cash ahead of time.

SILVER STANDARD RESOURCES I also started buying shares in another silver company, Silver Standard Resources (SSO). This is an operating silver company with a nice mine in Argentina. Last fall, the company’s mill broke down so the company didn’t mine any silver for 11 weeks. That kicked the earnings down and the price of shares dropped from $35 to around $16. In January, the company had the mill up and running so the earnings report should have some good news. If you know the cattle business, there is a term called compensatory gain. It goes like this: if steers have good genetic potential but are on poor pasture, they will gain at a below average rate. However, as soon as you put them on good feed, those same steers will grow at an above average rate. This is compensatory gain. In my opinion, SSO will have compensatory gain. It was an operating mine, got shut down due to mechanical problems that are fixed, and so can be back in production without the usual start-up problems that often face new start ups. I bought 2,000 shares at $17.32 and sold a call for February and collected 90 cents — you can see how the option buyers like this stock. That brought me a net of 58 cents or 3.4 per cent for a month. That, by the way, is two times the old age pension cheque and then some. I suspect I will be buying more shares in this company. This stock could be a good growing steer later this year or a nice milk cow that brings in good cash flow month after month. † Andy is mostly retired. He writes from his home in Winnipeg, plays with granddaughters and manages his portfolio. Andy also writes a newsletter called StocksTalk where he tells readers what he does with his stocks and why. If you want to read StocksTalk free for a month send an email to, or call Andy at 204-453-4489

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MARCH 5, 2012 /



How to extend battery life Maintaining a full charge in a vehicle battery during storage periods will help keep it working reliably for several years SCOTT GARVEY


oosting a dead battery in a truck or tractor and allowing the alternator to restore its charge could shorten its life. In fact, some battery information sources suggest doing that just 10 times will kill a standard vehicle-starting battery. (Deepcycle batteries, however, are a little different.) Taking steps to keep your battery’s voltage up and prevent it from fully discharging can extend its life. When farm trucks or selfpropelled machines are put into storage for winter — or any extended period — their batteries will slowly begin to discharge, even without parasitic drain from the machine’s electrical system. A battery will typically lose one per cent or more of its charge per day through natural self discharge caused by a chemical reaction inside the cells. During winter storage that causes another risk: freezing.

FREEZING BATTERIES The electrolyte in a fullycharged battery consists primarily of sulphuric acid, which is resistant to freezing except at very low temperatures. In a fully-discharged battery, however, the electrolyte has a high

as lethal. If the charger doesn’t cut out when full charge is restored, which seems to happen far too often, it will permanently damage the battery. If you use AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) or gel-cell batteries rather than standard wet, leadacid types, they have special recharging requirements and an older battery charger could damage them or fail to recharge them properly.

SMART CHARGERS There is a better alternative to the typical trickle charger in almost every farm shop. The “smart chargers” that have hit the market in the last few years are well suited for long-term maintenance charging. They will safely recharge and keep batteries in a fully-charged condition if you go away and forget about them — although manufacturers still recommend that charging batteries be checked at least weekly to ensure nothing has gone wrong. Smart chargers are also generally compatible with AGM or gel-cell batteries and they can also be used on ATV or lawn tractor batteries when set to a lower output. Most popular smart chargers are even capable of reconditioning some sulfated batteries — if they’re not too far gone. But if you test a 12-volt battery that reads nine volts or less when not under load, it’s probably nothing more than dead weight. Just replace it.


This “smart charger” is designed to be left attached to vehicle batteries and prevent them from discharging during long storage periods. It can also be used as an ordinary charger. Because smart chargers use a different method of restoring voltage, they may be able to recondition a sulfated battery. voltage rating, usually around 0.1 age sensitive electronic systems volts more. That small amount, — at least, so their manufacturers however, won’t cause the electro- claim. lyte to begin gassing off and keeps Some smart chargers are the battery topped up. waterproof and vibration resistWith some newer vehicles, ant, so they can be permanently you may need to disconnect the installed on a vehicle and just battery before using an ordinary plugged in like a block heater charger in order to protect the when the machine is parked high-tech electronic circuitry. in storage. If you prefer to put TW 4 inch - 6 x 6.625 -_AGI 12-02-16 3:31 PM Page 1 But smart chargers won’t dam- all your equipment batteries

together inside the farm shop for the winter, some models can handle a bank of several different batteries at the same time. A smart charger capable of handling one battery at a time can run you $80 to $130. There are several on the market. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at scott.garvey@fbcpublishing. com

A battery will typically lose one per cent or more of its charge per day through natural self discharge pure-water content allowing it to freeze in much less severe conditions. At just -7 C, electrolyte in a fully discharged battery could freeze. Compare that to about -67 C when at 100 per cent charge. When a battery is discharged, lead from its plates and sulfur from the electrolyte combine to form lead sulfate on the plates inside the cells. If it’s left in that state, the sulfate becomes dense and hard. It then cannot be converted back to its normal state through charging. This inhibits the normal chemical reaction required to produce electricity and can gradually reduce a battery’s ability to take a charge or deliver voltage, eventually rendering it unusable. When that happens, the battery is said to be “sulphated.” Taking batteries out of vehicles during winter storage and putting them somewhere where they can’t freeze and can be frequently recharged will prevent these problems. But that involves some work. And just hooking them up to an economy trickle charger could be just

The primary difference between ordinary trickle chargers and the newer smart, maintenance chargers is the way they increase battery voltage. Smart chargers are microprocesor controlled and use a four-stage process to bring batteries up to 100 per cent charge. After restoring full voltage, smart chargers continue providing a small current that is slightly higher than a battery’s fully-charged BY DAN PIRARO


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MARCH 5, 2012

Machinery & Shop NEW TECHNOLOGY

Electric drive is on the horizon

Standardized electric drive systems for farm implements are on the verge of hitting the market in force BY SCOTT GARVEY



At Agritechnica, Jetter Mobile Applications showed the prototype highvoltage, tractor-to-implement connection that will likely become the industry standard.

n 2007, John Deere introduced two special 7030E Premium Series tractors at the Agritechnica machinery show in Hanover Germany. These tractors could produce high-voltage electricity to drive implement systems instead of relying on PTO or hydraulics. They were the first commercially available farm tractors from a major manufacturer to

offer that feature. Their onboard generators also fed plug outlets capable of running power tools and other devices. But they didn’t seem to woo many buyers. I asked Rory Day, editor of Classic Tractor magazine in England, about the popularity of the 7030E Premiums. His response was he hadn’t seen one or heard a thing about them after their official launch, and he doesn’t know of any owned by

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U.K. farmers. He keeps a pretty close eye on the tractor market there, so if hasn’t seen one, they must be ultra rare. That’s no surprise, though. Electric-drive technology is still cutting edge and it takes a while for companies to introduce implements capable of making use of it. Up until now there has been one major impediment to its wider introduction: there was no standardization around the technology. The work to create those standards, however, is currently underway. “The first objective is to create a common adapter right now between the tractor and implement,” says Ken Edwards, spokesperson for AEF, the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation. That group is responsible for evaluating and establishing the engineering standards for electrical components used on farm equipment. “At AEF, we’re trying to standardize plug-and-play connections.” The universal tractor-to-implement connection and overall system specifications will be available soon. “It’s not inconceivable that it (standardized electric drive) could be marketable within 12 months,” he adds. Once standards are in place, manufacturers can begin introducing new products and

Electric drive is set to emerge as an important new component on tractors and implements be confident their design won’t suddenly be incompatible with what the marketplace demands. “I think at Agritechnica 2013 all the big manufacturers will have at least one machine to show with electric drive,” says Michael Feider of Jetter Mobile Applications. His electronics company showed an example of what the standard high-voltage, tractorto-implement connection will probably look like during the last Agritechnica in November. “AGCO and Deere have already agreed on a standard plug,” he adds. That was the design on display at his company’s exhibit. Acceptance by the major manufacturers will have a lot of influence on the final design selected by AEF’s working group, which is made up of engineers from those and other companies.

JOHN DEERE 6210RE John Deere appears confident it knows how the electric-drive stand-

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Machinery & Shop ardization efforts will come out, and it’s getting a jump on the market. At the 2011 Agritechnica, it introduced a next-generation, market-ready tractor with high-voltage drive. The new 6210RE was displayed at the show with an electrically-powered, mounted fertilizer spreader. The tractor will be available to European customers in May 2012. “John Deere has built on the success of the ‘E-Premium’ (tractors)”, reads the company’s European brochure. “This revolutionary technology allows electrically-driven attachments to be operated in a way that combines the benefits and high efficiency of a PTO with the infinitely variable, direct controllability of hydraulic drive.” The 6210RE is capable of providing 20 kW of power to implements. And like the earlier 7030E Premium models, it has 230- and 400-volt AC outlets. European countries use those voltage ratings rather than our 110 and 220 AC standard.

There seems to be no doubt electric drive is set to emerge as an important new component on tractors and implements. In the closing press release from AEF’s July 2011 meeting where engineers discussed the future of the technology, the group summed things up this way: “Overall, the agricultural machinery industry expressed their willingness to adopt electrical power drives in order to improve their existing systems. While there is still a great number of questions that need answers with regard to technical implementation and standardization, the event gave the sense that there is a clear trend towards future applications of electrical power drives.” All of this means equipment design in the very near future is bound to be a little different than it is now. “I think the look and feel of machinery will change.” says Feider. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

John Deere’s 6210RE tractor, which offers a second-generation, high-voltage electric drive, will be available to European farmers in May 2012.

EFFICIENCY AND ENVIRONMENT Edwards says he expects the exact industry specifications for high-voltage drive will be at or below 750 volts and 200 amps. But why go to all this trouble? We already have common hydraulic systems that can provide flexible remote power. In a nutshell, the answer is efficiency. Hydraulic systems are power hogs; they suck up a lot of an engine’s usable horsepower, which reduces the amount it can supply to the tractor’s drawbar. “You might have 98 per cent efficiency on an electric motor,” explains Edwards. “You’d have much lower efficiency on a hydraulic motor.” Deere’s press release introducing the 6210RE claims using the tractor’s energy-efficient, high-voltage power rather than hydraulic drive can reduce fuel consumption. Using electricity allows manufacturers to get a little greener, environmentally speaking. By relying less on hydraulic systems, there is a reduced need for hydraulic fluid, which requires petroleum resources to create. And much of it eventually gets spilled into the environment through day-to-day farming operations. Electricity, of course, is much different. “Everyone wants clean power, and electricity is clean,” says Edwards. But electricity isn’t without its drawbacks, either. The use of such high voltage systems requires that engineers take a cautious approach to design in order to ensure operator and service technician safety. “Whenever you have a lot of electrical components, one of the first things you look at is the risk to the end user,” Edwards adds. “Safety is a big issue for us.” Aside from the need for added safety measures, there are engineering constraints. An electric motor must be much bigger to do the work of a comparable hydraulic drive. “For what you can get out of a small hydraulic pack, you need a much larger electric motor,” says Edwards. Eventually, though, research efforts are bound to change that. “There are a number of universities working at the front edge of high voltage,” he adds.



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MARCH 5, 2012

Machinery & Shop CLASS PROJECT

Project F-250, part four Scott Garvey keeps plugging away on his F-250. In this issue, the pickup has some rust spots that need to be dealt with before it gets any more paint BY SCOTT GARVEY


ll the paint in the world won’t make a vehicle look any better if it’s applied over metal that is flaking away due to corrosion. Project F-250 has rust holes around three of the wheel wells, so tackling that problem is next on the list. There are several companies that sell replacement fenders for trucks at a pretty reasonable price. Because Project F-250 had rusted sections on both front fenders, the easiest option would have been to call one

of those suppliers and get new ones. But the object here is to keep costs down, even if it means spending extra time in the shop. So the worst rust spots will get cut out and we’ll use metal from a scrap fender left over from another project to make weld-in patches. Cutting sheet metal is pretty easy, and there are a variety of tools you can use to do it. On this project we used an air powered, rotary cut-off tool. After sanding the area down to bare metal so it was possible to get an accurate look at how extensive the rust was, the area to be cut

out was marked off using masking tape as a cutting guide. You could also use a “Sharpie” felt marker; they work well, too. Make sure to cut all the way back to good clean steel, otherwise you’ll find it impossible to weld the patch in alongside thin, rusty metal. On the right front fender we could have cut out a larger section of the panel, because there were other rusty segments nearby; but they weren’t too bad; so we chose to treat them with rust inhibitor, instead. That also saved us some time. Using the removed, rusty sections

as templates, their shape was traced onto other pieces of good metal and replacement patches were cut out using the same air tool. We’re going to butt weld the patches in, so the new pieces will have to fit perfectly, without any gaps. If you use this method, it’s better to initially leave the patch a little large and gradually trim it to fit. Where you have gaps of 1/16 of an inch or more, you’ll find it pretty hard to butt weld sheet metal. An easier way to weld in a replacement piece is to use an overlapping joint. Just leave about a quarter inch of extra material on all sides of the

patch and fit it in behind the hole in the truck fender. Getting it in between a double-sided panel will involve a little fiddling, but it’s possible. Drilling holes through the panel and the patch will allow you to old it in place with sheet metal screws while you weld it. You can then remove the screws and weld the holes closed. To weld sheet metal, the simplest method is to make a series of tacks all around the joint. Do this until the patch is completely attached and all the tacks have formed together into one continuous weld. Using short weld-

The bottom of the fender behind the front tire has rust problems. There is a hole right through the panel. Fenders on the other side of the truck have rusty sections, too.


The trim was removed exposing the rusted area, which was cut out using a small, rotary cut-off tool. A larger piece could have been taken out of the panel, because there was more rust nearby. But these other rusty areas were treated with an inhibitor, instead. That saved time and should keep the problem under control for a couple of years.


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But don’t take it from us, ask one of your neighbours. A replacement patch was cut out of another scrap fender and trimmed to fit exactly in the opening.

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Machinery & Shop

After the new section was welded in, the weld was ground smooth and a thin coating of body filler was applied to smooth out any imperfections. A coat of grey primer was applied over top. Some of the other trim pieces on the fender have now been removed to allow for the next phase of the project. ing bursts rather than trying to run a continuous bead prevents burning through the thin metal, which is easily done. Go slow and work all around the joint rather than concentrate the welding in one area. That will minimize heat distortion, too. It’s best to practice your welding technique before tackling a project like this. You’ll need a MIG welder. An arc type just can’t do the job. A welding helmet with an auto-darkening lens will make things easier. For Project F-250, we used a small, 90 amp MIG welder loaded with 0.023 welding wire and an argoncarbon dioxide shielding gas mix, which is common for most MIG applications. The narrow gauge wire keeps the welding temperature low. Larger diameter wire burns hotter, which makes it easier to melt through the thin metal or create heat distortion in the panel. Once the patch was in, the weld was ground down until it was even with the surrounding material. A coat of fibreglass filler was applied over the entire patch area and sanded smooth to hide any minor imperfections. A coat of primer was sprayed over top of that. Now, the fender is fixed and ready for paint. For this phase of the project we had to buy a tin of fibreglass body filler and a rattle can of primer paint, both were bought at Canadian Tire. That amounted to less than $30. Of course, we melted a few feet of welding wire and used a little electricity, too. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

By Dan Piraro


photos: scott garvey

This F-250 is the subject of a multi-step, makeover project.



MARCH 5, 2012

Machinery & Shop Classic machinery — reader submission

Trooping the color Case combine A John Deere dealer in the United Kingdom photographed tractors in the core of London for its 2012 promotional calendar By Rory Day


ohn Deere dealer Farol has produced a 2012 calendar that features Deere’s new 7230R and 7280R tractors pictured alongside famous landmarks in London including Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, The Houses of Parliament, The Millennium Dome and many more. The calendars are available to purchase at £6.99 (about CDN $10) from any Farol depot, or they can be found on Farol’s store on eBay by searching for “London tractor calendar.” A video of the calendar photo shoot can also be found on YouTube. † Rory Day is the editor of “Classic Tractor Magazine”


One Manitoba farmer ended up with two old Case combines that had consecutive serial numbers By Art Ammeter

Editor’s note: It seems nearly every farmer and machinery collector has an interesting story to tell about one machine or another. A few weeks ago Art Ammeter wrote to us about a remarkable coincidence that his brother, Laurence, experienced with a pair of combines. Here’s what Art had to say. — Scott Garvey ome years ago, Laurence Ammeter, who farms near Petersfield, Manitoba, purchased a used J.I. Case 660 self-propelled combine at a farm auction near East Selkirk, Manitoba. Realizing that replacement parts might be difficult to find, he purchased a second 660 SP from Earl Ellis, a not-too-distant neighbour. An unremarkable occurrence, perhaps, until Ammeter compared dealer stickers and discovered that the initial purchase of both machines had been from Eagle Sales and Service in Selkirk, Manitoba, a dealership no longer in business. Further examination showed that the two 660s bore consecutive serial numbers. The 660 purchased at auction had a seven-digit serial number ending in 8007 while the Ellis combine carried the same first three digits followed by 8006. What are the odds against two combines of the same model, made by the same manufacturer, bearing


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consecutive serial numbers, and initially purchased from the same dealer, ending up on the same farm some forty years after rolling down the same assembly line at Racine, Wisconsin? Probably astronomical. The combine Ammeter bought at auction, 007 (shades of James Bond here), was kept running as long as possible by parts salvaged from 006, the remains of which were subsequently sold as scrap to Mandak Metal Processors of Selkirk, Manitoba. Then 007, its days as a field combine finally over yet still in runnable condition, was donated to the Manitoba Threshermen’s Museum at Austin, Manitoba. Today, 007 can be seen as an exhibit — an efficient, cleanthreshing, nimbly-maneuverable (though sadly underpowered) piece of harvesting history. † Art Ammeter


f you’d like to tell us about a special piece of equipment in your farm fleet, show us your restoration efforts or tell us why you think one of your machines has been a steady workhorse, send an email to Try to include a high-resolution photo. We may publish your story.

This J.I. Case 660 SP combine was one of two with consecutive serial numbers that ended up on the same farm, years after being built. It was eventually retired from service and replaced by the Massey-Ferguson 410 model behind it.


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MARCH 5, 2012 /


Cattleman’s Corner ANIMAL HEALTH

Caring for newborn calves BY ROY LEWIS

eef producers might need to use one or more of several common procedures to help newborn calves get off to a good start. Some things have changed over the years, whereas many others haven’t. The newborn calf is easy to handle (sometimes its possessive mother isn’t) and the calf is readily accessible, so it makes sense to perform management decisions when you have the chance. The most important point is to make sure the calf has adequate colostrum and I have dedicated whole articles to this topic. One to two litres within the first six hours of life is a necessity. Calves being fed Holstein colostrum will need twice that amount.

the back of the calf half-way down to reduce the risk of hitting the large sciatic nerve, which courses close to the hips. DO NOT, under any circumstances give the shots any where close to the hip area. Some producers will even supplement with human vitamin E capsules (two of the 400 IU strength) if this nutrient is deficient in your area. The vitamin E dose, which is in A,D,E or Se-E, is present in very small amounts as a preservative so is of no value to the calf. Consult with your veterinarian about any other supplements, which may be recommended for your specific geographic area. Also be aware that injectable selenium comes in a double-strength formulation, so watch your dosage.



Most producers routinely still give injections of vitamin A, D and selenium to the newborn. Most of Western Canada is somewhat deficient in selenium and very little of these nutrients spill over into the milk, so these injections give the calf a good start. Use as small a needle as you can get away with. A one-inch needle is preferable and selenium will flow through a 20-gauge needle, whereas with A and D a larger 18 gauge is needed. In larger calves the neck muscles can be used, but I find in smaller calves there is very little neck muscle and this is the only instance I recommend using the back leg muscles. To give the shot, come in from

Many producers are letting the polled bulls do the dehorning, but for those who aren’t dehorning should be mentioned. At birth there are two approaches — the paste or using an electric dehorner such as a Buddex. The horns grow from the cells right at the base of the horn in the hairline, so concentrate your efforts on this area. The Buddex dehorners are good, but require a second person to securely hold the calf. With paste you must separate cow and calf for a couple of hours so the caustic paste used on the horn bud doesn’t injure the udder as the calf nurses or rubs the cow. Again, concentrate on putting the paste on the circular area surrounding the horn bud. If there is


a lot of bleeding the paste has been applied too thickly. I always urge producers to stick with the same brand year after year to learn the most effective amount to apply. Brands vary in their strength and viscosity and it is only after one year that you can assess how effective your paste dehorning has been. A good paste job will have the calf almost looking polled later in life.

If you weigh your calves they weigh less at one day of age, and the navel is dry so handling at this time is preferable. Most producers do not treat the navel with anything as there are as many problems with navel infections on treated as well as untreated navels. Some concentrations of iodine are too strong, for instance, and burn and irritate the area. You would be wise to spend your labour elsewhere. If a real problem exists your veterinarian may recommend prophylactic antibiotics and examine other reasons why the navel area is becoming contaminated.

An easy way is to record the sequence for our calves during the main part of the calving season and register them all with the same birth date as the oldest one in the group. You are only cheating yourself out of one or two months of age, but this way the whole calf crop becomes conservatively age verified. With the tag brand our clinic carries, for example, you can even get them consecutively numbered when buying boxes of 500 tags. With dangle tags, the most effective numerical method I’ve seen is used by purebred producers where a letter indicates year of birth. The calves are then numerically numbered oldest to youngest. The cow’s number is then put above this. Different colours can represent ownership, per cent purebred, breed or sire group. Some even put the actual birth date on the back of the tag. The bottom line: time spent properly tagging goes a long way to helping your management down the line, and helps with marketing later on. The age-verification program will become an extremely important as we start exporting meat to other countries.



Tagging is another necessary step for identification. Since 2006, calves need both a dangle tag as well as a new RFID tag. If you use RFID tags in sequence it is not onerous then to get the calves entered into the CCIA database. This makes them eligible for age verification.

Castration of commercial bulls’ calves and substandard purebred calves is best done at birth, as this is the least stressful time. Most producers use castration rings. If done properly at one-day of age there are very few complications. Two points worth mentioning though — castrated calves will not grow nearly as


well as intact bulls so they should be implanted. This will give you at least a 10-to-one return on your investment. This has been proven time and time again. Producers must be extremely careful when ringing calves to ensure both testicles are trapped below the ring in the scrotum. If this cannot be accomplished, leave them intact so they can be castrated with a knife in the fall. We as veterinarians and feedlot owners see way too many “belly nuts” as we call them, where sloppy castration has left one or sometimes both testicles pushed up tight against the body when the scrotum was removed by a castration ring. And that means another unnecessary stress must be performed on these calves. Castration of these calves is five times as difficult because of the location of these testicles. If not done they of course look very staggy and will cause headaches in a pen of steers. Try and perform as many of these management procedures this spring on your calves. This saves management headaches later and makes your calves more marketable. Consult with your veterinarian as to any other management procedures to take advantage of at this time. The calves are in close proximity at this time and easy to handle. Just be ever mindful of over-possessive mothers. Every year we get one or two producers roughed up by these cows and it is not a pretty sight. Be careful! † Roy Lewis is a practicing large animal veterinarian at the Westlock Veterinary Center, north of Edmonton, AB. His main interests are bovine reproduction and herd health


Fight disease with trace minerals PETER VITTI


race minerals play a valuable, but almost invisible role in the well-being of beef cattle. They are essential for good animal health status when the immune system is activated by disease. Whether a single or combination product, trace minerals are needed for good immunity to improve vaccination take in cattle. University research has already proven once cattle meet their basic requirement for certain trace minerals, they have a better chance at good health. Of the several dietary minerals required by cattle, copper, iron, zinc and selenium are the metallic links to good immune function. It is thought within cattle immune systems, these four minerals play a pivotal role as “on” switches in specialized proteins (enzymes), which in turn are activated antioxidants which destroy dangerous “free radicals” produced during a normal immune response against disease. Without sufficient levels of these essential trace minerals in the body to activate protective enzymes, free radical compounds would simply be allowed to multiple. As a result, they would oxide and destroy vital

immune cells and thus could compromise or even shutdown the entire immune system. When cattle consume, absorb or retain lower amounts of these trace minerals compared to their NRC cattle requirements (established dietary levels of copper, iron, zinc and selenium sufficient to meet all body functions with a small available reserve), they slip from adequate mineral status into marginal deficiency, which first reduces immune activities. This initial compromise to health occurs well before a reduction in cattle reproductive performance, and before moving into a severe mineral-deficient state that finally produces observed clinical symptoms in cattle. When cattle immune systems are literally drained due to a reduction of mineral status, beef producers tend to observe a higher incidence of general viral and bacterial sickness of both cows and calves in their herd. This could include common respiratory and intestinal problems as well as a higher susceptibility to more infrequent disease ranging from coccidiosis to anaplasmosis. Regardless of type, once any disease establishes itself in an immune-compromised herd, there is often a greater than normal proportion of afflicted animals, which lends itself to greater morbidity and possibly greater mortality. It

also requires longer periods for these beef herds to recover from most disease challenges and to once again establish a clean bill of health. In order to avoid beef cattle moving into a marginal deficient state in the first place, it is imperative to put them on a sound trace mineral feeding program.

MINERAL SOURCES Commercial trace mineral supplements can be purchased by most producers in one form or another and incorporated into their beef feeding programs to prevent “classic” or primary mineral deficiencies. However, many detected mineral deficiencies are “secondary mineral deficiencies” caused by dietary factors that severely affect the specific mineral’s availability to the beef animal. For example, dietary copper can be bound by forage molybdenum, which renders the copper unavailable to the animal. Such deficiencies are solved by more specialized mineral-feeding programs which take into account essential trace minerals that are frequently tied up by dietary antagonists. Healthy cattle should achieve adequate trace mineral status by consuming respective available amounts of mineral supplements that take into account both types of mineral deficiencies; based

on recommendations, outlined by the NRC (National Research Council). Acceptable dietary levels in most diets are: copper (10 ppm, max. 100 ppm), iron (50 ppm, max. 500 ppm), zinc (50 ppm, max. 500 ppm), and selenium (0.3 ppm). Of these four elements, iron often is not necessarily supplemented in diets, because the amount of biologically available iron in most forages often exceeds the respective cattle requirement, making natural iron deficiencies quite rare. Aside from putting a well-formulated mineral (with or without added iron) in front of the cows, daily mineral intake is one of the biggest factors that determine whether cattle achieve their essential trace mineral requirements. Therefore, the general mineral intake recommendation is to feed cattle mineral, so each beef animal consumes between 56-112 grams (two to four ounces) of salt-free mineral per day. If salt makes up at least 25 per cent of mineral, adjust mineral intakes, accordingly.

CONSUMPTION VARIES It is normal for daily mineral consumption to vary among cows. Furthermore, when new mineral is placed, consumption is usually higher than expected, but after a few days should return within given limitations. In contrast, producers should be concerned

when mineral consumption falls outside of the recommended mineral intake guidelines (two to four ounces/head/day) for several weeks to a month. There are many options to correct a mineral consumption problem. It is a common practice to mix 1/3 salt with 2/3 commercial cattle minerals to either increase or decrease the amount of mineral cattle are consuming. In recent years, adding distillers’ dried grains or dried molasses at four to five per cent of the mineral has also become routine to stimulate mineral intake. In many cases, when mineral consumption is high, it is a good idea to review the rest of the cattle diet and insure an overall balanced ration is fed. Cattle that consume the proper amount of mineral with proper concentrations of available copper, iron, zinc and selenium allow these minerals to do their job, which leads to adequate immune function. As a result, cattle have better cellular and tissue integrity, greater antibody production and an immune complex that quickly responses to the invasion of disease. Unfortunately, we cannot see these microscopic benefits, yet we should see better production and economic rewards with a healthy herd. † Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at



MARCH 5, 2012

Keepers & Culls Ranching is a dirty, tiring business LEE HART


don’t get much chance to vaccinate cattle or do much else around the farm any more, so when I do I make a point of letting people know just so they don’t assume I am only a pretty face, who happens to be an incredible writer, too. Yes, I am back at my desk after a grueling afternoon of vaccinating about 250 cows at my brother-in-law’s ranch in southeastern B.C. My sister-in-law Susie had the easy job where she administered the Tasvax 8 product, and my wife and I co-ordinated efforts for the much more difficult task of administering Scour Bos. Even on a +2 or +3 C day that stuff is like molasses. Took forever to fill syringes and then my thumb got tired from pushing the plunger. Life is hell, but we got the job done. My nephew and niece, Matt and Andrea, looked after running the chute and headlock as

they lined up five at time in the chute. They also replaced the few dangle ear-tags that were missing, and trimmed ear hair so tags could be read. Brotherin-law Joe was in the back and kept the flow of cows coming into the corral. It all went smoothly really. Light breeze, but mostly a sunny, pleasant afternoon. It stayed nice and dry where we were along the chute, but it got a bit sloppy in the back part of the corral as the day warmed and cows contributed more to any manure that was there. Sloppy manure on ice — you can’t beat that combination to make you rethink how fast you should run across a pen. I have been on this gig a few times over the years, but it still surprises me how you can process 230 head without a fuss, but then you get down to the last 15 or 20 high-headed, dumb ones who use every ounce of their 1,300-pound body weight to avoid going down the alleyway toward the chute. They bunch up in a corner, and churn in circles like water going down a drain. And then there are one or two goofy ones who stop


Write, Email or Fax Contact Cattleman’s Corner with comments, ideas or suggestions for and on stories by mail, email, phone or fax. Phone Lee Hart at 403-592-1964 Fax to 403-288-3162 Email Write to CATTLEMAN’S CORNER, PO Box 71141 Silver Springs RPO, Calgary, Alta. T3B 5K2

dancing around and decide to challenge you. Do you want to be brave or practical? How fast can an old guy run on sloppy manure-covered ice? This bunch didn’t even respond to some very affirmative and unflattering language used by my brother-in-law. Finally, you get that one or two who are tired of turning in circles and they finally head for the alleyway and the rest follow. The ah-ha moment. Talk about slow learners. But the cows got processed. They will be disease free. Their calves will have no scours. All humans are in good shape with nothing broken or bruised. The biggest problem now after a great lasagna dinner is trying to stay alert to the end of some TV show that ends at 8 p.m. Lee Hart

TRACKING ALBERTA LAMBS Alberta’s lamb producers are answering the challenge to adapt their businesses to take advantage of growing demand for their product. Their numbers are up, which can be partly attributed to producers embracing technology that helps improve the management of their flock. “Alberta’s lamb industry makes up more than 17 per cent of Canada’s total flock size,and that number is continuing to grow,” says Margaret Cook, executive director of the Alberta Lamb Producers (ALP).

Here’s what I excel at…standing around while other people work. “We’re the only province in Canada that has seen a significant increase in flock size — we’re up 2.2 per cent in one year to a total flock of 183,000 animals. Part of that growth can be attributed to improved management practices and a willingness to lead the way in adopting advanced technology.” Over the past several years Alberta producers have been introducing radio frequency identification technologies, or RFID tags and programs, to their operations as part of the traceability initiative in the industry. The RFID tags will provide enhanced animal identification and movement; the RFID technology provides advantages for flock management and opportunities for higher returns for producers. The electronic tags and software provide a number of additional benefits for producers, including streamlining and making record-keeping more accurate, which can identify

superior breeding stock, pinpoint poor performers and help producers become more efficient with their labour use. They offer feedlot owners opportunities to improve productivity; tracking processes, and offer smaller producers new and different ways to use feedlots. Much of this information was gathered during the Alberta Lamb Traceability Pilot Project, a collaborative project with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development funded by Alberta Livestock & Meat Agency. The project reviewed and field-tested RFID technology systems to see which hardware, software, and system components would work best together for the Alberta sheep industry. In addition to tracking how the tags could benefit on-farm management, the research project took the tag information into Alberta’s lamb supply chain to see how it could be used throughout the sector. Other provinces in Canada and countries around the world are now studying the project’s findings. †


Prices stabilize as margins narrow JERRY KLASSEN MARKET UPDATE


ed cattle prices in Canada and the U.S. appear to have stabilized. Packers have been cutting back on weekly slaughter due to negative margins. Wholesale beef prices are struggling to move higher in line with the recent gains in fed cattle, but consumer demand is backing away at the higher levels. While ground beef prices continue to make new highs, middle and higher quality cuts of meat are actually selling at similar prices as last year this time. Western Canadian feeder cattle values continue to percolate higher, but feedlot margins are hovering near breakeven and many buyers are starting to think twice before paying historical high prices. The U.S. feeder market continues to lead the Canadian market higher. In past years, January price levels for feeder cattle tended to set the barometer for the rest of the year and the market may be starting to

stall out. The USDA January inventory report confirmed the lower calf crop and it doesn’t look like U.S. feeder supplies will increase until 2014. U.S. cattle on feed numbers have been running three to four per cent above last year, but keep in mind feedlots have been placing lighter cattle compared to normal. Placements of feeders 600 pounds and lower have exceeded year-ago levels throughout the fall due to the drought in the U.S. Southern Plains. Therefore, U.S. beef production will be down each quarter throughout 2012 with a sharp drop expected October through December. The cow slaughter has not significantly tapered off, resulting in lower average dressed weights but this is expected to change in the latter half of the year.

THIN RETAIL MARGINS Fed cattle in Texas traded in the range of $123 to $124 in early February, while Nebraska cattle sold at $187 to $198 on a dressed basis. Market-ready supplies remain rather snug, but

packers cannot pass on these higher prices to restaurant chains and grocery stores. In November 2011, choice beef reached a high of $196 but traded as low as $183 in mid-February. In March 2011, choice beef was trading near $186/cwt. Fed cattle are about 20 per cent higher than last year, but beef wholesale prices are actually lower. U.S. consumer disposable income is only about three per cent higher than year-ago levels, which confirms the cash strapped grocery buyer is feeling the effects of higher food prices. Unless we see higher wholesale values later in spring, it will be difficult for cattle prices to increase. Market ready supplies will increase in April and this could pressure the fed market. Restaurant spending tends to surge in March, which will enhance beef demand from a seasonal perspective, but it may not be enough to lift wholesale beef prices above year-ago levels. The Canadian slaughter pace has also eased due to the stronger Canadian dollar and weaker American wholesale beef market. Canadian basis levels

have been under pressure and western Canadian market ready supplies are actually similar to year ago levels. Alberta packers have been buying cattle in the range of $113 to $115, which is similar to prices in earlier in January. The Canadian fed market didn’t gain as much as U.S. prices earlier in winter, which has also tempered strength in the feeder complex.

FEEDERS STABILIZE Western Canadian feeder cattle prices have remained relatively flat in February after experiencing a sharp jump in November and December 2011. Angus-cross, light flesh steers averaging 880 pounds sold for $141 in central Alberta. Demand for lighter weight cattle remains firm as 528-pound steers touched $199/cwt in eastcentral Alberta. The steer/heifer spread remains relatively wide with heifers trading at a $15 to $20 discount to steers. The USDA reported fancy six-weight steers averaging 613 pounds sold for $186 in Wyoming in mid-

February. U.S. prices continue to trade premium to Western Canada but feeder cattle exports have not improved. All cattle and calves in the U.S. as of January 1, 2012 totaled 90.8 million head, down two per cent from 92.7 million head on January 1, 2011. This is the lowest January 1 inventory since 1952. About 39.1 million cows and heifers have calved, down two per cent from 40.0 million January 1, 2011. There is clearly a smaller breeding herd heading into 2012. I see a marginal decrease in total cattle inventory for January 1, 2013 as the U.S. inventory moves through a transition from contraction to expansion. The 2011 U.S. calf crop was estimated at 35.3 million head, down one per cent from 35.7 million head in 2010. This is the smallest calf crop since 34.9 million head in 1950. U.S. beef production will also be down in 2013 given the lower feeder cattle numbers. † Gerald Klassen analyzes cattle and hog markets in Winnipeg and also maintains an interest in the family feedlot in Southern Alberta. For comments or speaking engagements, he can be reached at or 204 287 8268

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MARCH 5, 2012

Cattleman’s Corner RANCHERS DIARY

Tire and computer problems hold up production Corral upgrade and road building projects completed during open winter HEATHER SMITH THOMAS



ast week the weather was cold (-18 C). We had to break ice in the creek waterholes for the cows. The two holes I’d been keeping open in Fozzy’s pen got so thick with ice we carried water in buckets for a couple of days until we got the holes chopped open again. Michael spent a few more days working on the road into the 160acre mountain pasture, until the backhoe got a flat front tire. He took the tire to town to be fixed. The next day he started working on the road again and one of the big rear tires developed a leak. He took it off and hauled it to town to have a boot put in so it would hold air long enough to drive the backhoe down off the mountain. We had to order a new tire. We had a 14th birthday party for Emily at Andrea’s new house last week. Andrea’s fragile skin (grafted) over one knee peeled off after a slight scrape a few days ago. She ended up with an infec-

tion and had to be on antibiotics again. Her grafted skin tears open very easily. In spite of her swollen, painful knee, she drove Emily to Sun Valley last Friday for her hockey tournament. The roads were bad, with new snow. It snowed four feet on the passes that night, so Andrea was glad she went the day before. Our little team played well in their four games Saturday and Sunday and won two, with Emily making several goals. Monday, Michael helped Lynn take the blade off our big tractor and put it on the smallest John Deere so we could clean the barn (something we’d planned to do much earlier than this!) We got the old straw cleaned out and then put the blade back on the big tractor, in case we have to plow snow this winter. We worked on several other projects while waiting for the new backhoe tire. Yesterday morning Lynn and Michael cut tin for several new headgates and got them installed in the ditch above the house. That afternoon they started digging postholes to rebuild the falling down second-day pens next to the calving barn. Lynn took a big straw bale to the cows in the field by Andrea’s house, and gave them a new tub of protein supplement.

They are still grazing that field and hillside; we haven’t started feeding them any hay. Today Rick helped work on the second-day pens, too, and Lynn used the tractor to pull the old netting upright, to hook it to the new posts. Then they put poles along the top. When it’s finished, these pens will be sturdier and than when built the first time.

FEBRUARY 4 Last week Michael and Rick worked several days digging postholes and setting new posts in the pens, and put the plywood back on the fence for windbreaks. The ground on the other side of the pens was too frozen to dig postholes, so Lynn and Michael created some “ovens” to thaw the spots for the holes. Lynn cut vent openings in several old metal protein tubs and we used those to contain a fire over each spot. The fires smolder all night. By morning the ground underneath each metal tub was fully thawed for digging the postholes. Last Friday Michael helped us vaccinate (pre-calving vaccines) and delouse the cows, vaccinate and delouse the bulls, and vaccinate, delouse and tag the yearling heifers, putting in their brisket tags. These tags work well as per-

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After a couple tire repairs on the backhoe, Michael finally got the road finished to the top pasture. manent identification; they stay in for the life of the cow and don’t pull out. Rick drove up the creek Saturday afternoon to get a load of firewood, and on his way home his pickup got stuck in the icy creek crossing about five miles above the ranch — just before dark. He started walking down the road and met a neighbour driving up to check coyote traps. The neighbour pulled Rick’s loaded pickup out of the creek and then got his own truck stuck in the snow. So Rick had to pull him out of the snowbank. Andrea and Lynn had just started up the creek in our pickup to check on Rick, since it was long after dark by that time. They stopped along the way to put chains on, when Rick and the neighbour came driving down. Monday morning we had a fierce blizzard, but it didn’t last. By afternoon it cleared off and Lynn took our flatbed trailer down to RJ Hoffman’s place and bought a load of big straw bales from him. We need some good straw for barn bedding, in case we need to use the barn when cows calve in April. These past few years April weather has been worse than January-February, with lots of snowstorms. Thursday Andrea drove to Idaho Falls with Charlie for his appointment with a child psychologist who works with autistic children. He will ensure that Charlie gets the help he needs from state programs that work with autistic kids. Weather was nasty on their drive home — with wind, snow and poor visibility. It took six hours to come home instead of three.

FEBRUARY 12 Last Sunday my computer had serious problems and I had to turn it off and couldn’t finish the articles I was writing. Lynn took it to town the next morning to Steve Dahl — a friend who repairs computers. It had several things wrong with it and they worked on it for more than a day.

Lynn and I took another protein tub to the cows and checked on them; they are still grazing — thanks to mild weather and not much snow. We haven’t started feeding hay yet. My computer had more problems after we got it home, and Lynn had to take it back to town for more repairs. It has had some glitches when I turn it on, so Steve is refurbishing a used computer for me and will put my data in it. Rick helped Michael a few more days and they built several new pole panels for dividers in our second-day pens, and hung some metal gates. Now it’s all finished except for a few more metal gates we’ll need to buy. These pens will outlast us now, and will be handy for sorting as well as for pairs after calving. The old panels that were salvageable got hauled down along a stretch of bad fence toward the post pile pasture. We’ll use them to reinforce that fence. Andrea went to the hospital on Wednesday for a biopsy of her thyroid gland. One side of it has been small and hard for several years and the doctor wants to see what’s wrong. Hopefully we’ll have the results back this week. In the meantime, she took Emily to another hockey tournament Friday, at McCall (a long drive). They got through some mountain passes just ahead of a snow slide that closed the road. They plan to drive home a different way — the long way around — because it’s snowing again and there will probably be more snow slides. The new backhoe tire finally came, and Michael got the backhoe working again. He worked the past two days on the road into the 160-acre pasture and got the new section joined up with the old Jeep track (that goes on up to the 320-acre pasture) at the top of the first hill. Eventually we’ll create a new road on around the hill to an outcropping of shale rock that we may market someday for road surfacing. † Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841

MARCH 5, 2012 /



Clear, concise communication Recognize what personal filters you have and how you are using them ELAINE FROESE


laine, I am feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed with this farm transfer thing.” “How do I talk to the kids without emotions running wild?” “We do fine until we try to get a sit-down family meeting with an agenda, then no one is really honest with what is going on here.” Communication that is clear and concise, well understood and received by the listeners is the goal. During the winter months we might have more planning time to talk about the issues, the farm strategies and the dreams that drive us to grow our businesses and enjoy our families at the same time. My friend Randy Park has an amazing mind for dissecting the decision advancement process and challenging us about how we make decisions. His work with the definition of filters I think you might find helpful. Here’s Randy’s perspective: “Filters are the thinking filters that we each use automatically and often unconsciously when making decisions. They are formed from our beliefs, experiences, education, biases and assumptions. Filters are

very useful in blocking out extraneous information, and are very helpful in making quick decisions. But unless we are careful, they can block out important information, especially for situations we have never experienced before. We all have individual filters; as well, when we get together in any sort of group we form collective filters that can result in everyone thinking the same way. On the other hand, if you bring together people who have diverse experiences and education, their different filters can result in better decisions.” ( So, let’s be honest about the filters we carry as farmers. “As the main manager, I should be able to give leadership to this farm transfer process, but why do I feel so overwhelmed?” My guess is that you filter many things as problems to be solved with quick fixes. This is what I term the “Roundup” solution, things should change within 10 days, like Roundup and be gone. The process of business continuance is multi-layered with many types of plans overlapping, and the process is done when you die. Then it becomes an estate issue. “There’s too much drama on this farm. We yell, walk away and avoid conflicts at all costs.” Here you have a conflict avoidance filter. Take it off and see conflict as a great way to

get clear with people as long as you stay in the conversation, calmly, for as long as it takes to find reconciliation and resolution. If you tell me the ages of the fighters, I can make some educated guesses as to the “why” behind the drama. Those of us who have a family history of confrontation or collaboration to be direct about the issues have a filter that accepts heated talk as a good thing, not something to be avoided. Filters are formed by our beliefs. Do you have a model of forgiveness in your belief system that will help you embrace conflict and offer apology or make repairs to the communication tears in your farm team? “Morning is the best time to get the work done around here.” Really? Did you have a late night last night or a short one with cranky children and seeding hassles? Today’s young parents have different filters around the need for parental care by both spouses, and their day of work starts later than yours. They too are highly scheduled, but they don’t see the need to justify their choices to you as the farm boss. Their filter is based on family first, farm work second, within reason. The problem is that you haven’t tried to reason with them or check out the experiences of being an early worker on your farm, when others are just “waking up” at midday and are in gear late into the night. Are we allow-

Making memories — one stitch at a time

Woman creates realistic likenesses using cross-stitch


or town wives? Be honest. This one gets personal for folks whose farming children, the potential successors, are courting people with “fresh eyes” and different approaches to farm codes of conduct and our culture. Have you ever really sat down and thought through all the experiences you have as a farm kid that you take for granted? “Make sure the gate is securely closed.” “Get that gas cap on tight and don’t ever mix the fuels.” “Don’t cross an isolation strip with your combine header feeding grain.” “Empty the rain gauge after you document the amount.” “Don’t ever park this truck on the swath,” — and it goes on. All the things we expect other folks to know and understand about our farming systems, but we have never checked to see what biases or assumptions we have been making. In-laws on the farm team whether male or female, can be a wonderful asset to your communication process. They come with a different family style of conduct, another approach and attitude about conflict, and believe that change is good when we understand the “why” behind doing things differently. † Elaine Froese wants to hear your “in-law” success stories. Email her at or visit Facebook her at “farm family coach.” Call 1-866-848-8311 to book her for your fall 2012 events

Easy-to-build hen feeder BY STAN HARDER



enriette Schultz of Debden, Saskatchewan is a farmwife who enjoys doing crossstitch, providing her with an opportunity to create realistic cross-stitch portraits. Having learned the art in 2005, Schultz now creates projects that are picture perfect. She began cross-stitching with a kit and upon completion thought that there must be a better way to create these beautiful pieces of art without having to count the stitches. She then discovered cross-stitch portraits and computer software. The desired photograph is scanned and the installed computer software produces a symbol chart, indicating all the colours of floss required for the project, and a workable grid for the photo. The computer enables her to enlarge the picture to the desired size. Using 14-count Aida cloth (the open-weave material used for cross-stitch), Schultz draws out the grid onto the cloth using a washable marking pen. Because some pictures can require up to 100 different shades, it can be a challenge to organize all the required floss. Schultz categorizes her floss according to symbols and stores it on a floss organizer, and another organizer allows her to keep multiple threaded needles available while stitching.

ing people to be part of the team with different circadian rhythms and work styles? “We need to work smarter, not harder around here.” This might be an education filter where new technologies are employed to make the jobs easier, more timely and efficient. We certainly don’t want to go back to paper ledgers instead of computerized accounting. But we still all need to communicate and develop systems for keeping track of important papers, bills, tax receipts, etc. What habits (bad habits) are killing your communication system? We’ve use labelled cubbies in the kitchen to be a landing pile for documents of each family member, and coloured files for collecting faxes. As a coach I work hard to get families to buy a whiteboard for the shop or back office door to collect the agenda items and job lists for clear expectations of roles and responsibilities. A pencil and a paper are still a very cost-effective planning tool to communicate clearly, and not forget the important issues that need addressing. Emailing the minutes from the business meetings with the action plan of “who does what by when” keeps everyone on the team accountable to act and work smarter. Cleaning our bias filters may take a bit of hard work and honest reflection. Do you think farm girls make better spouses than the city

ens can be easily upset if things deviate from the expected norm, therefore they should never run out of feed once laying has begun. Taking this into account I built an efficient automatic feeder that is simple and inexpensive to construct. Dimensions are flexible, but the one I built is 27 inches wide, 24 inches high and one 2x4 in depth. Other materials needed are two pieces of 1x6 27 inches long, 3/8-inch plywood for backing and front, 2x4s to go around the outer edge and an old door hinge, plus nails. The objective is constant feed availability without overflow. I installed a 2x6 board angled 45 degrees at the base of the reservoir with the bottom an inch below the top line of the front-facing 2x4. This gives hens ample pecking room while feed is being gravity funnelled into the trough. No spillage, yet steady supply. The 2x4 lid is attached on one end with an old door hinge. The weight is sufficient to keep it closed. I separated the tank into two sections to accommodate more than one type of feed simultaneously. The photo shows an upper lip — the feeder may be attached to a wall and easily removed for cleaning. † Stan Harder writes from St. Brides, Alta.

Henriette Schultz displays a finished cross-stitch portrait. Modern technology has contributed to the success of Schultz’s projects and practically any image can be converted and made into a custom cross-stitch pattern. How about a cross-stitch picture of a favourite pet? Schultz uses long and short stitches to create a realistic likeness. She also completes projects of buildings and flowers and the attention to detail with the thousands of tiny stitches makes for a striking resemblance.

Schultz enjoys the total process from beginning to end and can’t wait to receive her completed piece of art back from the framer. The result is not just a picture but a family legacy, and a great gift for a wedding, anniversary, birthday or other special occasion. For more information phone Henriette Schultz at 306-7244731. † Vivian Nemish writes from Blaine Lake, Sask.



MARCH 5, 2012


Remember that free dental care we used to have in elementary school? I do. Oh, the nightmares… they still haunt me JANITA VAN DE VELDE


hen a chunk of my tooth fell out while chewing gum last week, I was reminded of the good old days, back when dental care was free. Yes, friends, free. If memory serves me correctly (which is a toss, at best…), once a year, a van would come ripping down the streets of Mariapolis, pardon me, the street of Mariapolis, and each student would take their turn being ushered into said van, where there would be a large chair accompanied by a dental student, expert, dropout, person grinning like a @#$%ing maniac from ear to ear, who would immediately jump-to and commence work on our teeth. I must admit, the first year the van came to town, we were all scrambling to get out of the classroom, drooling, begging to go first… we thought for sure it was just some random man in a van handing out candy. (Completely oblivious to, and sheltered from, the DANGER STRANGER campaign.) Needless to say, we learned our lesson for elbowing to be first in line; we ran screaming in the opposite direction next time we saw that van coming.

Now I understand the value of fiscal sanity and grabbing a deal when you see one, but really? Asking children to voluntarily jump into a stranger’s van to get their teeth pulled polished? I feel completely blessed to be living in a country with universal healthcare benefits, but people, there’s something wrong with this. I don’t even think the old leaders of the Communist bloc would have embraced the concept of the dental van. Recently, I stumbled across a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Fast Facts article written back in 2005, about the free dental care that used to be available for elementary schoolchildren. And I quote, “We need to prevent the cycle of crisis and emergency response by establishing a comprehensive preventive program that will address the dental needs of children, and drastically reduce the demand for surgery. We need to do this not only to prevent the pain and suffering caused by tooth decay and related diseases, but also to improve the overall health of our population and alleviate the pressures on health-care resources. Manitoba did at one time have just such a program. It started in the 1970s and survived into the 1990s.” End quote. Sounds like the program coincided with the mullet era. Sadly, to each good thing, an end. This article went

on to advocate the need for getting preventive dental care back in the schools. Being a proud survivor of both the mullet and free dental-care era, I respectfully disagree. What about the pain and suffering caused by visits to the dental van? I haven’t had a cavity since my first visit back in 1986. Quite frankly, there were

It was supposed to be a deterrent for the filth mongers who chose not to brush no teeth left to fill after that first visit; they got ’em all in a two-day spree. Can you say social experiment? I don’t recall being in any sort of pain prior to receiving all those fillings, so you can excuse me for saying I highly doubt my entire mouth had bad enough rot to warrant a full excavation. It’s no wonder my teeth are falling out in chunks; that old metal filling is finally starting to give way. The part I miss most about those dental vans? The little red pill. The dental person would slip you this red

pill upon entry into the van; it looked like candy so they didn’t have to ask twice for us to throw it in our mouth. We were told to suck on it, the red dye leaving a stain on our teeth to show where the plaque buildup was occurring. It was supposed to be a deterrent for the filth mongers who chose not to brush. Not to worry, the red dye lasted for only six days. (And I never exaggerate.) I’ll tell you this: it’s hard enough surviving childhood, never mind running around the playground wearing second-hand, snot-green polyester pants with a set of redstained, plaque-covered bucks to go with it. We looked like a pack of 10-year-old Merlot addicts. If kids think they have it tough today, they have no idea. Now all this had me recalling a recent shopping trip to Minot, North Dakota with my sister. A friend asked me to bring back this new mouthwash for kids (that wasn’t available yet in Canada)… apparently it turns plaque on the teeth blue, as a means to teach kids how to brush properly. (What’s with this plaque obsession? Although, I see the red dye has mercifully been abolished.) Needless to say, I agreed to be on the lookout. So my sister and I were cruising through the mall down in Minot, when I spot a pharmacy. I tell her to come in with me for a minute to look for this mouthwash. I’m wandering down one aisle, she another, when I spot this dude who totally looks like he works at the pharmacy. He’s wearing a nice green polo shirt, with some little emblem on the front which I presume to be the store logo. Did I mention I can’t see very well? He was talking to an elderly couple, and they


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all appeared to be slightly confused about something, talking in urgent whispers… so I waited for a break in the conversation, tapped him on the shoulder and politely asked: “Excuse me, sir… just curious if you’ve heard of that mouthwash you can use that turns the plaque on your teeth blue so you can learn how to brush better?” He shrieked, held his hand up to his mouth and gasped: “Oh my God! Why — do I need it? You could see my plaque from there? Aaaaaaaaaaaah! I’m so embarrassed.” The sound of a grown man shrieking is not something you want to hear very often. I managed to reply, “Er, no… that’s not what I meant.” And just as my eyes began to fill with tears (of organ-damaging laughter), they locked on the words written clear as day on his shirt — University of North Dakota. Apparently he didn’t work there. He was simply out with his grandparents, trying to enjoy the moment, when a psycho approached him, referencing plaque. Of course my sister had to witness all of this. She was rounding the bend into my aisle and saw it all go down. I looked up, begging her with my eyes NOT TO LAUGH, but it was too late. She was already in a mouthwide-open grimace, shaking with uncontrollable laughter, coloured purple from the strain and turning to walk away. I managed to squeak out a rather feeble, “I’m so sorry to bother you,” before taking all of two steps and dropping to my knees, in a weak attempt to collect myself while pretending to look at new and improved products for wart removal. I was beside myself. I could sense they were still staring at me, but I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to explain. The look on his face, along with his comments, had reduced me to a pile of waste. Tears were streaming down my face and I didn’t dare move for what must have been five minutes. I had to make sure they were gone before I escaped from the store. I may have even urinated, just a little. Moral of the story? There isn’t one, really. Thankfully Tommy Douglas’s strong advocacy for universal health care did not extend to dental van coverage; we’re blessed and we know it. And now our children have a better chance of keeping their teeth. As for the plaque-seeking mouthwash missile, last I checked, it’s now available here in Canada so there’s no need to harass our fair neighbours to the south. † 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. For more information, or to order her book, visit her website at Follow her blog at www.postcardsneverwritten. It’s her yet-to-be-rated material. Consider yourself warned

MARCH 5, 2012 /


Home Quarter Farm Life

Life on the farm goes way too fast Helping to plan our son’s wedding brought back memories of our own DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


ave you ever noticed how life speeds by on the farm? One day your children are terrifying you because they want to run under the cows’ bellies, the next they are half a foot taller than their dad and buying their first house. Our latest development has really been one of those moments. Our oldest son, 23, is engaged. I am still having a little trouble wrapping my head around the concept. Seriously, it isn’t that long ago I was holding him in the hospital telling him all the things a first-time mom does and now he is getting married. Then there is the added excitement of planning a winter wedding. They have decided on a January 2013 wedding date. This May, my husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary and my son’s fiancée is wondering what we’re planning. Thinking she might as well get educated about the life of a farmer I told her — nothing. Shocked silence followed. I went on to explain that wasn’t really true. We will have lots of “together time” for our anniversary. We are lambing in May, so I am pretty sure we will have lots of bonding time together with checking sheep and playing with lambs. It has been these kinds of exchanges that have really made me realize just how different our lives are, compared to families who don’t work, eat, sleep and well, do everything together. I am not complaining at all. I couldn’t and wouldn’t change our lives for anything. There is not another career path that allows you to eat three meals a day with your spouse and actually raise your own children. Watching this young couple plan their wedding has brought back a lot of memories. We keep telling them you just cannot micromanage your life, and to look at Mom and Dad as examples. I asked my husband if he had any idea when he married me where our life would take us. That got a resounding NO. Back then we lived in the city and we both worked there. My jobs were always temp. jobs but his was stable; then came children. The decision was then made to run away and build a business a.k.a. farm. Helping with the planning of our child’s wedding has brought all that back. We are trying to let them plan what they want, help to guide, and help them remember that the goal of the day is to stand up at the altar, and in front of God and family pledge their lives to one another. It is a powerful event to watch one of our children going through. It is also a huge challenge to keep the focus of wedding planning on marriage and their lives together and not just a one-day wonder. A few simple things we have found helpful are: • Have an open and honest conversation between the couple and parents, if they are helping financially, about what each other’s expectations are for the wedding. Some brides want big and expensive

events and grooms want simple and affordable. We are lucky that our couple totally agrees that they don’t want to begin life in debt and are planning accordingly. • Book the church/officiating person. Discuss with the officiating person at this time if the church has a dress code or any other rules that need to be addressed. Some will not allow strapless gowns, for example. This is better known before dress shopping. Others will not allow real flowers, only silk. Booking early makes for less stress. • If a social is going to be planned to cover wedding costs, don’t wait to book the venue. We found a hall that is all inclusive in their pricing, which makes budgeting much easier than when all the costs are separate. The best

deal for social tickets was at www. and they are delivered right to your mailbox, which is a real help for rural couples. • Decide on a wedding reception and venue. Finding a caterer can also be a challenge in a rural area because they are quickly booked up. So don’t wait. Once the church is booked, put a deposit on the wedding reception location. There are some hotels that have allinclusive banquet rooms where couples have the ceremony and the reception at the same place. • Start dress shopping early. Apparently, although there are many stores most of them stock much the same gowns, so the girls have been having a lot of trouble finding just the right dress. But they are having a lot of fun in the process.

Something I didn’t realize when we planned our wedding was that handling all these decisions is really a great learning tool for married life. These are obviously not lifeshattering decisions (although the couple might think so), but they do require two people to come to an agreement that makes both partners happy, and for the most part they involve money. Maybe it is just me, but that isn’t a whole lot different than the last time we bought a tractor. Different object but the same communication skills must be used. Our family is trying to be easy to get along with in the planning, so the only requirement we have given is that we need two hours between the ceremony and dinner to steal half the wedding party and go

home to milk and do chores. Again, important to teach that the farm will always have to be considered in every event in life when you’re marrying into a farming family. All joking aside, we are very much enjoying the process of our family growing up. It is a little hard, because with life being so busy on the farm, time just seems to be going too fast. But we have been blessed with more time with each other than most families ever have, so for that we are thankful. The next year should be full of fun with showers, shopping and most importantly, adding a new person to our family. We’re glad she is just as thrilled to be a country girl. † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba. Email her at

Take the FCC Farm Safety Quiz You’ve planned for safety, now it’s time for action. Put your safety plan in writing, share it with others and train your team so everyone learns how to work safe. Test your knowledge at and enter to win a safety kit. Canadian Agricultural Safety Week March 11 – 17

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MARCH 5, 2012

Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

Pears for the Prairies Variety selection is limited but there are some out there TED MESEYTON


oday, I’m writing about pear trees for the very first time, but first please read the following carefully. Here’s one more reminder. The tomato varieties I wrote about in my January 23, 2012 column are NOT free. They are for sale by Upper Canada Seeds in Toronto. Please do not write to them asking for free tomato seeds. If you wish to purchase some, view their tomato seed selection and price list at or write to the address provided on page 29 of said Grainews issue.

WHAT IS A GREEN THUMBER? Certainly drinking a pint of green beer on St. Patrick’s Day will not help acquire a pair of gardener’s green thumbs. Sometimes however, I’ve dipped my thumbs in a vegetable source of green food colouring to emphasize a point. Many gardeners and lovers of indoor and outside plants are whipper-snappers when it comes to rooting a young, fresh cutting or slip. Some merely stick the bottom end in a bit of water. Others dip the calloused end in a slight amount of rooting hormone powder and plant it in moist, soilless germinating mix under a clear plastic dome to maintain humidity… and then what? No surprise at all… it grows. Others have told me they buy a plant; take it home and in a few days or weeks it’s long gone. So let me ask… what is the secret to your green thumbs? Perhaps the secret lies in the way some folks communicate

with plants through expectations, experience, feelings, whispering, talking and positive and loving thoughts. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag when I say… I’m confident therein lies part of the secret for a powerful set of green thumbs. Maybe it’s in the genes too. But there are other reasons, so remember to let me know your secrets to acquiring a set of green thumbs. Incidentally, the cat was never in the bag anyway.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PEARS? There are more than 3,000 pear varieties native to Europe and Asia. Before tobacco was introduced in Europe, pear leaves were smoked. In China, edible Asian pears were cultivated way back in 1134 BC. Ancient Greeks ate pears as a natural remedy to counteract nausea. Pear trees have been grown here in North America since the early 1600s. Later, pears were sometimes referred to as butter fruit because the flesh was soft and buttery. Digestive health is critical for well-being and there’s a lot of fibre in pears that keeps food moving through the colon. A good percentage of pear fibre in combination with other fruits and vegetables is insoluble and this may help reduce the occurrence of colon polyps. Some doctors recommend pears for babies when they are weaned by their mothers and being introduced to baby food. This is because pears are a low-acid fruit and unlikely to cause digestion problems in little bellies. Allergy to pears is relatively rare. In both the ancient and modern carpentry world, pear wood is used to build furniture, musical instruments and wooden carvings. Kitchen utensils made from pear

wood excel because they impart neither colour nor odour to food and withstand frequent washings both by hand and through the dishwasher without splintering and warping. The same applies to a carpenter’s and architect’s rulers used for measuring.

A POETIC MOMENT The following few lines just came to mind: So come along gardeners, And listen to my tale, Travel with me won’t you, On the Prairie Pear Trail. Read on and get an eyeful Of varieties to know, There’s just a handful, Two or three that you can grow. They tolerate the wind, Including snow and cold, Introduce them to your orchard, Harvest pears of green and gold.

PEARS FOR THE PRAIRIES For Prairie orchardists, the selection of pear tree varieties is limited. Early Gold pear, a seedling of Ure pear, is an introduction by Wilbert Ronald of Jeffries Nurseries at Portage la Prairie. It demonstrates improved vigour, chlorosis resistance and has shown to have strong cold hardiness. Philip Ronald of nearby Riverbend Orchards tells me that “Early Gold pear has an attractive golden-yellow colour and is very good processed. Goldenyellow fruits are about three inches long by 1-1/2 inches wide; comparable in size to a small light bulb.” Ure pear is an introduction from Morden Research Station. Its exterior is a combo of green, yellow and a red blush when ripe, wider and a little shorter than Early Gold and ripens in mid-September. Both varieties named are rated for Zone 2 hardiness and that covers a vast area of the Prairies. Did I mention that both cultivars must be planted in close proximity to each other for proper cross-pollination and successful pear production? It can take up to five years’ growth down the road after planting pear trees to achieve a harvest. A trio of pears that are Prairie



It may resemble an apple somewhat, but this is a Ure pear. It has an attractive flushed-red cheek with yellowish-green skin, possesses good pear aroma and is quite sweet and juicy. Ure pear tree is a slow grower, but on the plus side, it has some fire blight resistance.


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, Manitoba R3H 0H1. Phone 1-800665-0502 or email susan@ Please remember we can no longer return photos or material. — Sue

From tree to plate, these golden fruits of Early Gold pear are definitely worth a try. They’re about three inches long by 1-1/2 inches wide and shaped like a small light bulb. Taste is similar to a sister pear named Ure, but Early Gold has an edge. It ripens toward the end of August. That’s about two weeks earlier than Ure. borderline for hardiness are Golden Spice, Luscious and Summer Crisp (all rated Zone 3b). If you can provide a microclimate growing spot, success with these can be attained, but they have doubtful hardiness in the colder stretches of Zone 3a. Also, they may not be as readily available at Prairie nurseries as are Early Gold and Ure pears.

SPACING PEAR TREES … and dealing with fire blight. The trend is a density of 6x6 metres. Spacing is quite important. When planted too close together, pear trees age rapidly and excess pruning will be required to maintain growth control. Unless you’re planting dwarf rootstock, allow for a pear tree to be about four metres in diameter at maturity. Ask your nurseryman about rootstock at time of purchase. At the extreme, make certain each pear tree cultivar is no more than 15 metres apart for pollination, otherwise fruit yield can be disappointing. This may come as a surprise, but bees are not particularly fond of pear blossoms. Commercial orchardists often bring in many hives of bees. The home pear grower will have best fruit set if a hive of bees is moved near pear trees, just at the start of blossom and not before. Planting instructions for pears are essentially the same as for apples, with one major exception. Pear trees are susceptible to fire blight bacterium which can be transmitted by insects and birds. This can be alleviated by taking extra care to ensure the amount of nitrogen available to pear trees is restricted to prevent rapid and lush growth. Succulent increase of foliage and limbs is to be avoided because too much growth, too quickly,

allows blight to settle in more readily. Also, the threat from winterkill is accelerated. Rigorous sanitation is essential and all suckers should be removed. Any infected branches must be cut out before fire blight bacteria spreads further. Using a pair of sharp pruning shears, cut off infected branches at least 15 cm (six inches) below the point of last visible wilt. After each cut, it’s mandatory that your cutting shears are dipped in a strong bleach solution such as one part bleach to four parts water to avoid transmitting the disease from one branch to the next. Fire blight spreads quickly during warm, humid weather so check trees daily if such conditions prevail. By the way, there are other plants that serve as hosts for fire blight and they include wild apples, hawthorns, saskatoons, mountain ash and cotoneaster hedges. All of these live in natural equilibrium with the fire blight bacteria and can easily pass it along to pear trees. Since they are less hardy than apples, pear trees require more time to harden off in fall. In spring, a light application of compost is adequate, but never use manure and remember — little or no nitrogen. Also, avoid allowing any surface appearance of clovers and legumes near pear trees. Overall, growth will not be as spectacular, but pear trees will likely live and produce a lot longer. † This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. A flower garden is like a welcoming miniature floral park. A vegetable garden and backyard home orchard are the source of food, sustenance and provisions. I look forward to wearing my straw hat soon and walking along the garden path with seed packets, a rake and hoe in hand. This year more than ever, a garden is essential. Respect it with care. Life is fragile. Handle with prayer. My email address is


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