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Volume 38, Number 13 | JULY/AUGUST 2012



Timing critical for fall herbicide application Choosing the right application window for pre- and post-harvest weed control can be a guessing game. Follow this guide to fall application timing and cool-weather spraying BY ANGELA LOVELL


s fall progresses, postharvest herbicide application becomes a bit trickier. Effectiveness will be influenced by factors such as temperature, target weeds, the amount of frost damage and the products being used. Timing is critical. “One of the primary challenges with a post-harvest herbicide application is whether you are going to have enough time for regrowth after harvest,” says Clark Brenzil, provincial weed specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. This is especially crucial when dealing with perennial weeds. “You want to make sure you have four to six weeks after harvest of open weather with warm growing conditions for that plant to get enough growth on it so you have a target again for application and before you get a killing frost.”

PERENNIAL WEEDS Perennials weeds such as quackgrass and foxtail barley are best controlled pre-harvest in early fall when they are still actively growing. But they can be controlled post harvest as long as there is enough regrowth to make the product effective.

“When herbicide is applied on perennial plants in the fall it goes into the root system along with the food material that is being transferred for storage by the plants for the winter, so it is a much more effective way of controlling weeds than applying it in the spring,” says Nasir Shaikh, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ provincial weed specialist. Weeds such as Canada thistle can provide more of a challenge because they generally have poor regrowth after harvest. Dandelions, on the other hand, may grow more actively in cool fall conditions than in hot, dry weather. The odds of having good plant tissue remaining that is warm and pliable enough for the herbicide to be effective drops dramatically past the end of September. “If you are doing perennial weed control with glyphosate or any Group 2s you want to apply the product by the first week of October, and that’s only if conditions are still reasonably warm at that time,” says Brenzil. Hitting this small window of opportunity becomes harder the further north you go, where harvests can be late and frosts early. This is why Brenzil recommends that farmers in northern areas focus more on pre-harvest rather than post-harvest applications for perennial weed control.


It can be challenging to control Canada thistle late in the season, as they generally have poor regrowth after harvest. Consistently dry, warm and sunny days both before and after application are needed, especially with herbicides such as glyphosate or Group 2s, to allow the maximum amount of product to move within the plants to the target. “Leaves are often not the target,” says Brenzil. “The leaves are just the receptor. The target is the buds and growing points that the plant is laying down for winter for growth next spring.”

Under cooler conditions, particularly in the case of glyphosate, active ingredients can get bound up in the leaves, which will give good die off in the top growth but poor long-term weed control. “Biological activity basically stops once you get below 4 or 5 C, so if you have evening temperatures that are dipping down below that and your daytime peaks are less than about 15 C then you probably should not be spraying,” says Brenzil.

In This Issue

Publications Mail Agreement Number 40069240

FROST TOLERANCE Quickly changing weather conditions can affect the ability of weeds to acclimatize to colder conditions and tolerate a frost. “If it’s really warm and then all of a sudden you get minus two or minus three nights you can get more damage to the plant than if temperatures make a gradual ongoing procession down to reasonably cold overnight condi-


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


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


Columns ........................... 10 Best of Grainews ............. 16 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 25 Machinery & Shop ............ 30

Variable rate herbicide application T:10.25” LISA GUENTHER PAGE 7




MF production returns to the U.S.


FarmLife ............................ 36 Crop Advisor’s Casebook



Visit us online for Demonstration Strip Trial (DST) results at ItPaystoSpray or 1 888-283-6847 or contact your Bayer CropScience representative. Always read and follow label directions. Prosaro® is a registered trademark of Bayer. Bayer CropScience is a member of CropLife Canada.






If you happen to drive by our farm in southeast Saskatchewan this summer, you might wonder what sort of landscaping experiment we’re trying on the grass south of the house. Last month, after my husband filled his sprayer with water from the dugout on the edge of the yard, he accidentally drove by the house with the booms on, spraying a 40- by 10-foot patch of our front lawn with Roundup. I’m guessing that this hardly ever happens to city people.


“You’ve got bigger fish to fry. I only owe you for a used pickup and a pen of steers.”


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Brad has passed the custom applicator’s course. And he’s very, very careful with his sprayer. Partly because that’s just the kind of guy he is. Partly because farm chemicals are dangerous and so expensive. And also because a lot of our farming neighbours are organic. But, as he puts it: “I just forgot to hit the switch.” When he ran out of spray in the field, he shut the pump off but forgot to turn off the booms. After he filled up at the dugout in the back of the yard, he turned the pump on again as he drove past the house, heading to the field. And… well, that’s where things went downhill. So now we have a brown patch on the front lawn. It may seem that I’m picking on my husband here, but I’m not, really. Because I know he’s far from the only Prairie farmer to have this type of accident. One of the neighbours noticed our lawn when she dropped in last weekend. She told me something similar had happened on their farm a few years ago. Her son meant to spray for dandelions. He had good intentions, but he was a was little mixed up about what exactly was in the tank. “He killed off the whole lawn,” she said. “It took a good three years to come back.” Another farm wife told me her story over Twitter. “My husband took his CAA (Certified Crop Advisor) course and burned our lawn with 100 times too much fertilizer. It was super green… then dead.” A farmer from the next town over stopped in for coffee and noticed the lawn. He wasn’t in any position to mock. This spring, he’d taken some chemicals to the lake to get rid of some weeds on his lot. I’m sure you don’t know any farmers who would do this, but rather than buy the more expensive (per ounce) specialized lawn formula, he mixed up his own using farm chemical. But he must have missed a decimal when he did the math. There wasn’t a blade of grass left on his lot. He claims the chemical

even curled the edges of the leaves on the trees. “Before I went to the lake, my wife told me to do the neighbour’s lawn too, if I had any spray left over,” he said. “Thank God I didn’t.” Farmers are experienced, knowledgeable and careful. But these things happen. Really, it’s surprising that mishaps like this don’t happen more often. Every spring there are about three weeks when 47 things happen at the same time. The weeds need spraying. The trees need cultivating. Dandelions are popping up all over the yard. The kids have a soccer tournament. We need to pick up seven loads of fertilizer. The grass is so shaggy and long, it looks like we’ve abandoned the place. We have to plant the garden right now or nothing will have time to grow and we’ll have to drive all the way to the city to find a zucchini in September. And — oh yeah. Seeding. It’s a busy time of year. Under that much pressure, who can say they’d never forget to hit one switch?

THE UP SIDE The brown patch on our lawn hasn’t been all downside. In fact, it’s mostly such good news that you might want to try it at home. Here’s the top six reasons that I smile whenever that dead grass catches my eye. 6. There are definitely no dandelions on the brown part of the lawn. We’ve been fighting a losing battle with these yellow demons. Finally, a point for our side. The yellow-flowered survivors on the rest of the lawn can consider this a warning. 5. This is so obvious I almost left it off the list, but of course nobody likes mowing. Like most farmers, we have acres of lawn, so this brown patch barely makes a dent, but I’m pleased with anything that means less mowing. If I ever learn how to run the sprayer, I might do the whole yard another year. 4. In comparison, this brown patch makes the rest of the lawn look incredibly lush and green. It’s amazing, really. And this method is much cheaper and faster than using lawn fertilizer and watering. 3. The sprayer accident took place on our own property, and didn’t cause problems for any of the neighbours. (Except for the ones who get neck cramps while they’re driving by slowly, straining and staring to figure out what exactly we’re doing with the lawn. But I’m almost sure they’re not going to win a court case with that complaint.) 2. My husband has shown an amazing level of optimism in the face of adversity. Nearly every day when he walks by the brown path he stops to say something like, “Boy, I can sure see the green shoots starting to come back today.” Or even, “Getting rid of this old grass and putting in some new seed

is a great way to revitalize the lawn.” 1. If my husband and I were playing Monopoly, this brown patch of lawn would be my “get out of jail free” card. I’m not always the world’s most attentive driver. I’ve been known to start the combine moving forward into the canola without revving up the engine all the way. I have probably had more trouble than most people when it comes to backing up grain trucks. (Or, as I like to call it, hands-on experience.) This harvest, when whatever problem I’m going to cause takes place — haystacks in the canola swaths? Close calls with the grain cart while unloading onthe-go? — I can just point at the lawn before there’s any yelling.

FARM SAFETY AND HARVEST If you think this column proves that I don’t understand the importance of farm safety and you’re about to write a letter saying that farm accidents are no laughing matter, please put your pen down. Of course I know that. The brown patch on our lawn is a glaring reminder that accidents can — and do — happen any time. We’ll be extra vigilant during the 2012 harvest and I hope you will too. Kids, dogs and personal safety are all more important than bins of wheat. Our crops look fine so far. We’re hoping our biggest problem will be getting all the canola swathed as quickly as we’d like. At the Swift Current research station field day on July 12, Chris Holzapfel from 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 (IHARF) demonstrated the research project underway to determine which hybrid canola varieties are best suited to straight cutting. This method would save us a lot of time on the swather, so it would be great if we could make it work on our farm. You can look forward to reading about the results of the IHARF project in Grainews this winter.

IN THIS ISSUE In case you haven’t taken time to get out your scissors and clip them all, we’ve devoted a few pages of this issue to some of the most popular Grainews articles from the past year. There’s new material, too. We have a few stories about weed control by Angela Lovell and Lisa Guenther. In the machinery section, Scott Garvey brings home some tales from his trip to the Massey Ferguson plant in Jackson, Minnesota (about 250 kilometres southwest of Minneapolis). With hail insurance claims up this year, I’m sure lots of you will be interested in turning to page 6, where Mark Bratrud shares the experience he had with a claim on his farm last summer. Happy reading and happy harvest, † Leeann



Wheat & Chaff FARM SAFETY

Reaping the benefits of a safe harvest


s temperatures begin to take on a chill at night and the tips of trees start showing the faintest sign of gold and orange, we all know that the better part of summer is waning. As a grain farmer, you need to begin thinking about harvest preparations. What are your harvest plans? Are you going to be taking on extra hands to bring in your crops or do you expect to hire a contractor to get the job done for you? You know that harvest is a time crunch, so now is a good time to stop for a second and think about the safety implications of those extra workers. If you are hiring extra work-

ers, are they new to your farm? Are they familiar with your equipment? If they have worked on your farm before have you purchased any new equipment since they last stepped foot on your operation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, and even if you didn’t, consider reviewing safe equipment handling procedures with them. Agricultural machinery accounts for 70 per cent of farm fatalities in Canada, particularly rollovers, runovers and entanglements. So make time to review standard operating procedures with all your workers. Every time you provide them with training, keep records.

Your workers need to understand and sign off on the fact that practising safe procedures is a condition of their employment. When they start working, make sure to keep an eye on things to assess their competence for yourself, regardless of what they’ve told you. Make sure they know that your “tractor door” is always open if they have any questions or concerns about the safety of a task they are carrying out for you. If they don’t ask, and if you don’t tell, your workers could be making dangerous mistakes or taking risky shortcuts that could put themselves and your farm in jeopardy.



employers and contractors alike to offer Workers’ Compensation coverage. If Workers’ Compensation is not required, make sure they have some form of disability insurance. This will protect everyone in the event of an injury. Before you fire up your tractor this fall, make managing your health and safety business risks a priority for your business, your workers, and your family so you can reap a safe, productive, incident-free harvest season. Have questions about safety? Email CASA at † From the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association —


Syngenta’s Quilt expanded

wo key diseases have been added to Syngenta’s Quilt fungicide label: crown rust in oats and Mycosphaerella blight in field peas. “The ability for growers to now use Quilt to control these two damaging diseases is a welcome option,” says Eric Phillips, asset lead, fungicides and insecticides for Syngenta Canada Inc. “Additionally, since Quilt can be applied to a wide number of cereal and pulse crops, it is a very flexible fungicide for growers to have on their farm.” Quilt is a broad-spectrum, preventative fungicide that

If you are hiring contractors this isn’t a safety-get-out-of-jailfree card. Have you reviewed your health and safety expectations with them? Have you gone over the hazards that exist on your farm? Has your contractor discussed any risks his work might bring to anyone on the farm? Make sure to have these discussions before any work begins. And don’t forget that, just like you, your contractor needs to follow health and safety legislation in your province. They need to adhere to health and safety standards as well as highway transport standards. Some provinces require

boasts both systemic and curative properties due to its two active ingredients, azoxystrobin (Group 3) and propiconazole (Group 11). The fungicide label expansion now includes control of crown rust which is caused by the fungus Puccinia coronata avenae. Crown rust reduces oat yields and causes thin kernels with low test weight, which can result in reduced milling quality. Loss due to this disease can reach 100 per cent if the infection is early, the variety is susceptible, and if the weather conditions are favourable for

the development and spread of fungal spores. Mycosphaerella blight (Mycosphaerella pinodes) in field peas is a disease that progresses from the bottom of the plant to the top, and is often most severe at the lower part of the canopy. When the disease takes hold, the stem lesions weaken the stem and contribute to lodging. In severe cases, these lesions girdle the plant, which causes premature senescence of the field pea plants. †


GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT Tracey Mazurak sent in this photo. Tracey and her husband moved to Alberta from B.C. two years ago. They lived in a town house for a while, but soon found a farm family looking for someone to do some caretaking on their farm near Edmonton. Tracey says, “We came out here to meet with these people a bit over a year ago, and have been here ever since! We couldn’t be happier living in the country. If it hadn’t been for this place and the Pasnak family, I’m not sure we would have survived in Alberta.” In this photo, Tracey’s husband Brad is showing off the Pasnak’s sunflowers. According to Tracey, “Walter and Carrie Pasnak are wonderful farmers and can make anything grow!” We’re sending a cheque for $25 to Tracey and Brad. To get yours, 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

redHOT LEASE Limited time offer on select items at participating Co-op retails only. On approved credit. Visit your local Co-op Agro Centre for details.

Bayer plans to buy AgraQuest


ayer CropScience announced has signed an agreement to purchase AgraQuest, Inc. AgraQuest, headquartered in Davis, California, is a global supplier of biological pest management solutions based on natural microorganisms. This acquisition will enable Bayer CropScience to build a leading technology platform for green products and to strengthen its strategically important fruits and vegetables business, while also opening new opportunities in other crops and markets. The acquisition is subject to approval by the relevant authorities. “The growing fruits and veg-

etables market, which today accounts for more than 25 percent of our sales, is of strategic importance for us,” said Sandra Peterson, CEO of Bayer CropScience, sending a strong signal to the market. “We are the first in our industry to offer farmers a truly comprehensive range of integrated crop solutions based on seeds, traits and combined chemical crop protection and biological control.” AgraQuest’s research and development pipeline will help Bayer CropScience build a broad-based technology platform to bring a new generation of innovative products to the market. †




Cover Stories WEED CONTROL to germinate and grow after the first fall frost, so an application as late into the fall as possible is usually the most effective. Work done at the Scott Research Farm at Saskatoon in the early 1990’s found that annual weed control applications made during the last two weeks of September were not as effective as applications made in mid- to late October. “I always advise farmers doing their annual weed control to wait until after Thanksgiving because that seems to be a key time to control winter annuals,” says Brenzil. “If they apply between Thanksgiving and freeze-up, as long as the booms aren’t freezing, they will have good results.” The exception to that rule may be dandelions. Research from the University of Saskatchewan has shown that a post-harvest application gives better and longer-lasting control than a pre-seed application for dandelions. September applications, before the plants went dormant, were more effective than October applications. Many of the weeds that can be successfully targeted with a winter annual application are members of the mustard family such as stinkweed, shepherd’s purse and flixweed, but not all winter annual weeds will be controlled well at this time. Narrow-leaved hawk’s beard, for example, is not well controlled by a fall application of 2,4-D because the product cannot move within the plant’s system sufficiently well to provide effective control. This is a weed better targeted in the spring. Straight phenoxy herbicides, such as 2,4-D, are effective if applied post-harvest, without the need to mix glyphosate, but if you want to tank mix, include something that will give good grass


TIMING CRITICAL FOR FALL HERBICIDE APPLICATION tions,” says Brenzil. “You can have minus 10 degrees under conditions like that and plants like Canada thistle will be fine if temperatures warm back up again.” Assessing the amount of leaf damage that has been done by a frost is also important. Frost stresses the plant and causes it to shut down — hampering the ability of the chemical to be taken up by the plant. In the case of glyphosate, Monsanto recommends that no more than 40 per cent of the original leaf tissue should be lost before application in order to get adequate control. Check plants a couple of days after a frost. Keep an eye out for browning caused by acute frost damage, but also for leaves that are green but feel brittle when handled. “These leaves are not going to be good targets,” says Brenzil. “So you basically can count that as frost damage when you are trying to do your assessment.” If plants are still green with little damage, wait about three days after the frost to give the plants time to start growing again before applying any chemical. If the plants are brown to black and very damaged, it may be best to wait until new growth emerges.

WINTER ANNUALS Winter annual weeds can be controlled quite effectively in the fall, because the plants are young, small and more susceptible to the herbicide. Again, timing is the key factor in getting the best results. Winter annuals may continue

control for winter annual grasses such as downy bromegrass, says Brenzil, and pay attention to the recommended guidelines for temperatures at application. Post-harvest rates need only be about half the rate used in an in-crop application for annual weeds. Saskatchewan’s Guide to Crop Protection recommends 0.28 litres per acre for 2,4-D, or around four to six ounces of active ingredients per acre. It’s also important to keep in mind what’s going in the ground next year. “What you are doing with that fall application this year is a reference for next year, so you have to consider what you are growing next year,” says Brenzil. For example, a field treated with 2,4-D in the fall will not be a good choice for oilseeds like flax or canola the following year, because they will be sensitive to herbicide residue. Cereals are the best choice following a fall application. One crop that is slightly more tolerant than oilseeds in this situation is peas, so where a cereal crop isn’t a viable choice, farmers could use peas as an alternative crop for the year following fall herbicide application. If a fall application just doesn’t work out for whatever reason, winter annuals can also be controlled in the spring with a preseed burn down.

SPRAYING CONSIDERATIONS Spray drift tends to be lower during cooler weather because there is less evaporation, says Tom Wolf, a research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Saskatoon Research Centre. “Applicators will have a bit more freedom to use finer sprays if that’s important to them, but there are no droplet sizes that

are less affected by the cooler weather in terms of efficacy,” he adds. Farmers should also be aware that, because fall days are shorter and there is less solar heating, there is a much shorter window during which temperature inversions can be avoided. Temperature inversions are a reverse of normal, daytime temperature profiles, where air temperature cools as it rises and thermal turbulence mixes the air, allowing for rapid dispersal of spray drift. At night, especially when no clouds are present, the temperature profile can become inverted, meaning that temperatures rise with elevation, causing poor mixing of the air and making the spray cloud more concentrated, so it will not readily disperse. Spraying at night or near dusk or dawn is not recommended when conditions are favourable for overnight temperature inversions. Any spray drift may take a long time to dissipate in the morning, although strong sunshine will help speed up the process.

DOUBLING UP Is it possible to control both winter annual and perennial weeds with one pass in the fall? Probably not. Winter annuals may be present at the time you are controlling perennials, but they may still germinate after perennial weeds need to be controlled. Similarly, spraying late for winter annuals means spraying past the time that the chemical will be effective on the perennials. So walk your fields and decide which weeds are most important to control. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

EXTENDED OUTLOOK FOR THE PRAIRIES Weather Forecast for the period of July 29 to August 25, 2012

Southern Alberta

Peace River Region



July 29 - August 4 Pleasant overall, aside from a couple of hotter days with heavier thunderstorms.

July 29 - August 4 Pleasant overall, aside from a couple of hotter days with heavier thunderstorms.

July 29 - August 4 Pleasant overall, apart from passing heavy thunderstorms at a few localities.

July 29 - August 4 Variable temperatures. Sunny aside from scattered showers or thunderstorms.

August 5 - 11 Sunny and warm, although showers or thunderstorms occur on two or three occasions.

August 5 - 11 Sunny and warm, although showers or thunderstorms occur on two or three occasions.

August 5 - 11 Warm and mostly sunny. Scattered shower or thunderstorm activity on two days.

August 5 - 11 Isolated thunderstorms on a couple of days, otherwise sunny and seasonal. Cooler conditions in northern areas.

August 12 - 18 Slight cooling brings some shower activity, otherwise conditions will be sunny and seasonable.

August 12 - 18 Slight cooling brings some shower activity, otherwise conditions will be sunny and seasonable.

August 12 - 18 Sunny skies and seasonal conditions, but some cooling brings a few showers or thunderstorms.

August 12 - 18 Sunny, but slightly cooler air brings a few showers or thundershowers.

August 19 - 25 Sunny on most days with isolated showers or thunderstorms. Seasonal to warm at times, but frost patches at higher levels.

August 19 - 25 Sunny on most days with isolated showers or thunderstorms. Seasonal to warm at times.

August 19 - 25 Sunny skies and seasonal temperatures, but expect a few cooler nights. Scattered shower or thunderstorm activity on two days.

8 / 21 Grande Prairie 61.8 mms

Precipitation Forecast 8 / 22 Edmonton

9 / 23 Prince Albert

67.0 mms

10 / 24 North Battleford

7 / 22 Jasper

49.3 mms

50.6 mms

7 / 22

51.3 mms


9 / 23 Calgary

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

August 19 - 25 In spite of cooler nights, highs often reach the 20s under sunshine. Scattered showers or thunderstorms at a few localities.

48.7 mms

8 / 22 Red Deer 64.8 mms BELOW NORMAL

11 / 27 Medicine Hat cms Lethbridge 30.619mms 42.9 mms 26 cms 10 / 25

10 / 24 Saskatoon 36.8 mms

11 / 22 The Pas 57.5 mms


58.6 mms


10 / 24 Yorkton

10 / 24 Dauphin

12 / 23 11 / 26 57.5 mms 63.3 mms 11 / 26 Gimli Regina 10 / 24 Moose Jaw 40.0 mms 79.8 mms Swift 34.8 mms 12 / 25 10 / 25 Current Portage 12 / 25 11 / 26 Brandon 78.8 mms Winnipeg 38.2 mms Weyburn 69.3 mms 75.3 mms 47.4 mms 11 / 26 Estevan Melita 10 / 26 53.2 mms

81.2 mms

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

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

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Dandelions: the next big cash crop? Farmers may one day want to park their sprayers and actively cultivate their dandelions thanks to some new research in the natural rubber and health industries. The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centre (OARDC) at Ohio State University is leading research into the development of a natural rubber product derived from the highgrade latex produced by roots of the Russian dandelion Taraxacum kok-saghyz a native species from Kazakhstan. OARDC is partnering with huge industry players like Bridgestone, Cooper Tire & Rubber and Ford Motor Company to develop technology that could produce natural rubber for large tires, such as those used in airplanes and tractors, as well as for smaller rubber products like floor mats, cup holders and interior trim. The Russian dandelion’s roots can contain 15 per cent or more of the sticky latex substance. OARDC engineers are working on ways to extract it on a commercially viable basis, while its crop scientists are developing seeds that are genetically engineered for North American growing conditions and which put their energy into producing more latex rather than flowers. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Windsor in Ontario have filed an application with Health Canada to test dandelion tea on cancer patients, following the discovery that extract from dandelion roots killed cancer cells in laboratory tests. The tea has proven effective for some patients. A recent CBC story featured 72-year old John DiCarlo, whose leukemia went into remission after four months of drinking dandelion tea. He has been cancer free for three years. More research is planned — the dandelion tea doesn’t work for all patients or all cancers and doctors emphasize that cancer patients should consult with their doctor before trying dandelion tea as it could interfere with regular cancer treatments. It appears that the dandelion, one of the most persistent invasive species in North America, may have some value after all. †

Post-harvest dandelion control Fall applications can provide good return on herbicide investment BY ANGELA LOVELL


s any farmer knows, the ubiquitous dandelion is a tough weed to get rid of, thanks to an over-wintering tap root and the 2,500 seeds each plant can produce every year, allowing them to spread quickly. The move to conservation tillage and direct seeding has helped create ideal conditions for dandelions, which dislike soil disturbance. The good news is that dandelion seeds germinate the same year they are produced, so if you can control seedlings you can significantly reduce dandelion populations.

FALL APPLICATION Fall herbicide application is a valuable tool for dandelion con-

trol because spring or early summer spraying often misses the timing of dandelion seed germination — generally late June to early July. Perennial plants that over-wintered from the previous year will be killed but this season’s seedlings have yet to emerge. It’s also hard to penetrate the crop canopy with an in-crop application to get down to these low growing weeds. In the fall, after harvest, both perennial dandelion plants and seedlings are present, so both can be controlled effectively. And, with the crop removed, the dandelions are more accessible for the herbicide to do its work. Because dandelions are low growing plants, swathing and combining doesn’t remove much of the plants’ biomass, so there is lots of green, healthy plant tissue to absorb the herbicide.

FALL FROSTS Dandelion plants must be actively growing to ensure that herbicide control is effective. Frost will effectively shut down the plants’ metabolism — slowing down or preventing the active ingredients from being taken up by the plant and moving into the roots. If the roots are not destroyed, these perennials will simply come back again the following season. Work at the Scott Research Farm near Saskatoon has shown that herbicide applications made during late September are more effective than those in late October. Once a killing frost arrives a herbicide application will be uneconomic and ineffective.

University of Saskatchewan research has found that a litre of glyphosate applied in the fall is equivalent to a litre and a half applied in the spring. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ web site recommends a formulation of at least 1.5 litres of glyphosate per acre for dandelion control. Other options include topping up the glyphosate with 2, 4-D or Express or using a non-glyphosate approach such as Amitrol. When spraying for dandelions, read the herbicide label carefully. Only use registered tank-mixes and apply at the proper application rates. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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Angela Lovell



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12-07-17 1:43 PM





Understanding hail insurance After a bad experience last year, Mark and Bobbie Bratrud have developed four new guidelines for buying insurance on their farm BY MARK BRATRUD


ail insurance is an important piece of the risk management puzzle on most farms. We generally insure the crop we have, meaning that we calculate the value of the crop that is coming and insure that amount. Thankfully we generally don’t collect hail insurance. But 2011 brought us the hail insurance claim from hell. By fumbling through the complicated system of hail insurance claims, we learned more last year than we had in the last decade. The lessons we came away with will change the way we purchase hail insurance coverage.

Company B adjusted one field of red lentils at six per cent damaged — Company A had called that field 70 per cent damaged. We had harvested the field, leaving representative check areas, and in the best areas of the field our lentils ran only seven bushels per acre. We were quite confused as to how these two companies could have such different assessments. The adjuster that came out for Company B admitted that he did not have much experience with lentils. We refused to sign off on his adjustment and about a week later the head adjuster for this company came out to take a look at our field. By this time, five weeks following the storm, much of the evidence of losses had disappeared, making the adjustment more difficult. Company B now adjusted at 29 per cent damage, but the adjuster said he would offer us 40 per cent damage to get us to sign off on the claim. I watched him pretend to count the number of lentils on the ground in comparison to the lentils still on the plant. When we asked him to count out loud so we could follow his process, he couldn’t. It was very clear that he was guessing, and just trying to settle the claim. We discussed the 40 per cent damage he was offering, as well as the fact that Company A had adjusted the same field at 70 per cent. The difference in the two adjustments worked out to $17,000. The head adjuster from Company B told us that there wasn’t much of a crop in the field anyway and that we should take the settlement, since if it went to the next stage, the umpire stage, we would be sure to lose.


COMPETITION First, let’s talk about competition. We try to buy insurance from multiple companies. This helps to mitigate our risk, as much as the hail insurance adjusters deny this. Last year, the hail adjusters assessing storm damage on our farm were definitely taking the impact on their companies into consideration. Companies will deny this but in at least three instances, adjusters working for large line companies mentioned the cost to their company, and the fact that this was a large claim. Last year we purchased hail insurance from two different companies, but carried a larger portion of the policy with one company. Our agent suggested purchasing largely from one company, as many of the companies that they deal with are actually owned by one umbrella company. This surprised us, as they appear to be separate companies competing for business. When the smoke cleared, we had insured our canola and lentil acres at $50 per acre with Company A and $300 per acre with Company B. In Weyburn, last year was a difficult spring to say the least. We worked very hard to get 50 per cent of our crop in the ground — most was sown between the end of May and the first week of June. On July 29, a hail storm did damage to approximately 75 per cent of our farm. We immediately sent in our claim, estimating damage at moderate to heavy. On August 6, another hail storm basically finished up what was left after the first storm. At the time of the second storm our lentils were about one week away from swathing, and some of our barley was hit hard as well. Company A came out to adjust the damage about 10 days after the storm. They adjusted the canola at 25 to 30 per cent, the barley at 50 to 90 per cent, and the lentils at 30 to 70 per cent damage, depending on the field. Company B came out 30 days after the storm (within one day of how long their contract specifies that they can delay.) Company B adjusted the canola, which was swathed by then, similarly to Company A, but their assessment of our lentils was very different (we hadn’t insured the barley with Company B).

Find out as much as you can about how crops are adjusted before you find yourself in a claim position. from the Hail Insurance Council, an organization sponsored by all of the hail insurance companies in Western Canada. This is when we really had our eyes opened to this self-regulated system. All of the rules and procedures from this point onward were tilted in the hail insurance companies favour. After each party has appointed someone to represent them, those two adjusters go out to the field and look at the crop and try to negotiate a settlement. If they can’t agree, an umpire is appointed out of the selfregulated pool of adjusters.

We decided to make a case of our field and fight for a true and reasonable adjustment By then frustration and stubbornness were setting in and we decided to go to the umpire stage. We knew that we were likely in an Agristability claim position, and that any payment from the hail insurance would just be deducted from that. So we decided to make a case of our field and fight for a true and reasonable adjustment. We didn’t agree with how the damage was calculated, and couldn’t understand how two companies using the same procedures could be that far apart. We started to prepare for the umpire stage. We learned that both the hail insurance company and the farmer have to appoint a “hail adjuster” to act on their behalf from this point on. A farmer cannot represent himself, which seemed absolutely ridiculous to us, as who else knows or understands the field as well as we do? The appointed “hail adjuster” that is, appointed for both sides, is to be

We chose an agrologist and successful farmer to represent us. We made a strong case for this, feeling that an agrologist would be able to make a better case, as the protocol the adjusters were using was flawed, especially as the time from the storm increased. Our representative and the hail company representative went to the field to assess the damage. This was now six weeks after the storm Our representative said they clearly not trying to find a true level of loss. Our representative was finding a 30 to 40 per cent loss, depending on which part of the field he was in, while the other side was finding losses in the teens. It became very obvious where this was going… to the umpire stage. One week later, seven full weeks after the storm, the umpire and both representatives went out to the field. By this time you can hardly tell what was on the field,

let alone compare the amount of seeds lying on the ground to those on the plant (of which most have shattered and been lost). Any evidence that was present immediately after the storm had slowly disappeared, making this truly unfair.

THE UMPIRE PROCESS All three, the umpire and both representatives, go to the field to come up with a level of loss. The representative who chooses a number closest to the level of loss that the umpire comes up with wins; the settlement is based on the winning representative’s number. In our case, the hail insurance representative came up with a 22 per cent loss, our representative came up with 34 per cent loss, and the umpire came up with 22.5 per cent. So, the decision went to the hail insurance company and we were forced to settle at 22 per cent — 18 per cent less than Company B had offered earlier and 48 per cent less Company A had settled at six weeks earlier. No doubt some will say we should have taken the 40 per cent loss offer. Our answer to this is that we spend between $40 and 60,000 on hail insurance premiums every year to protect us against loss, not give us the right to negotiate settlements. The lessons we learned have changed how we look at hail insurance. We’ve come up with the following guidelines for our farm. 1. Hold no more than 30 per cent of your policy with one entity. Not with one company. Make sure the companies you choose are not affiliated with each other. For example Palliser Insurance Company Ltd. owns many companies, like Henderson Hail and Butler Buyers. These companies appear to be separate companies

competing against each other for your business. 2. After a storm occurs, push the hail company to send out adjusters in a timely manner. Most contracts have a time limit of 30 days. For crops like lentils with a growing season that could be as short as 90 to 100 days, this could mean not assessing damage for a third of the growing season. The longer adjustment is left, the higher the chance of the evidence disappearing, leaving more grayness in the process. 3. Find out as much as you can about how crops are adjusted. Adjusters have a manual and a protocol to follow, but farmers are not privy to this information! Follow your adjuster around in the fields to learn how they are counting, to determine if you are getting a fair adjustment. Lentils, for example, are a “guess,” as we were told by an adjuster that was unrelated to this claim. Looking back, we may have considered insuring the barley that was seeded in the field beside our lentils a little heavier, and not insured the lentils at all. 4. When it comes to the appeal process, just hope that you don’t get there. In most cases, the process is tilted in the insurer’s favour simply because of the timing and length of the process. The odds are definitely stacked against the farmer and it would be nearly impossible to come out ahead. This is not intended to be a rant about our negative experience, but to raise awareness for other farmers. Know and understand what you’re buying. Read your contract and make sure that you understand that the appeal process does not allow for third party intervention, and is completely self-regulated by the hail companies. † Mark Bratrud farms with his wife Bobbie near Weyburn, Sask. They also run Bratrud Ag Advisory Services (




Variable rate herbicide application It’s not the best fit for every situation, but variable rate herbicide application could lower your chemical bills BY LISA GUENTHER


y F a e c h n e r, e x e c u tive director of the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA), says variable rate herbicide application can offer several benefits. Faechner has studied variable rate herbicide application, and ARECA runs projects looking at on-farm precision agriculture research. Variable rate herbicide is ideal when weeds are patchy, rather than evenly distributed throughout a field, Faechner explains. Farmers or custom operators can apply herbicide where it’s needed, and reduce or eliminate application where weeds are thin or non-existent. Successful variable rate application hinges on effective scouting, according to Faechner. “You rely on that information as the basis of which you’re going to apply your products. In my mind that has to be done well so that you can identify where things are happening in the field… After that you’ve got the technology, and you’ve got people who are fairly competent in terms of the actual application, and so usually that stuff works fairly well,” says Faechner. There are environmental and agronomic benefits to variable rate technology. Because herbicides are only applied where they’re needed, farmers tend to use less. More targeted herbicide application may help lower the risk of herbicide resistance. And of course, using less herbicide leaves more money in farmers’ pockets. “You’re able to get more bang for your buck in the sense that you don’t need to maybe apply as high a dose and then you get just as effective a response in terms of weed control,” says Faechner.

VARIABLE RATE CHALLENGES Variable rate application does come with challenges. Along with proper scouting (which may include aerial or satellite images and walking the field), adjusting application rates can be tricky. Faechner explains that different weeds respond differently to herbicides, depending on the conditions. Chemical companies generally set label rates high enough to guarantee the product will work under all conditions. With good growing conditions, certain weeds may be susceptible to lower rates. But sometimes herbicides may not control weeds as expected at lower rates. While some farmers have the knowledge and interest to scout, formulate application rates, and create field maps to control the application rates, many hire agronomists. “I think certainly it’s become more sophisticated, but people recognize it’s fairly specialized and you need to engage people that have those skills and knowledge. Actually, I think that’s a really positive development for the industry as well,” says Faechner.

NOT FOR EVERY SITUATION There are situations where variable rate application isn’t the best fit. Lush growth can add up to not

only more weeds, but more uniform weed growth across the field, negating many of the benefits of variable rate application. Farmers who have just purchased or rented new land may not have a strong historical knowledge of the land. “So then I think people are more inclined to basically do a uniform rate across the field, and that’s only because they want to mitigate some of their risk,” Faechner says. Faechner has several suggestions for farmers who want to compare results of conventional spraying to variable rate applications. He recommends running test strips alternating between uniform and variable rate application — within the same field, if possible. Half the strips

should be variable rate applications, and the other half uniform application. Farmers should flag the strips, or mark them with GPS. After spraying, farmers can compare the weed numbers and the herbicide’s effect on remaining weeds in the alternating strips. For simpler, direct comparisons of results, keep on-farm research simple by only testing one new technology or product at a time in each field. “Otherwise you can’t figure it out because if you’ve done a number of things there, who knows if it’s a consequence of some other sprays that were put on perhaps, or different timings of when you went out there,” Faechner says.

Faechner says there seems to be a strong interest in not only public research, but also on-farm research. Farmers want information relevant to their local conditions, he explains. “And quite honestly, I think that’s really empowering. If people can do some of that work themselves, and understandably there’s a cost for that, but what that does is it allows them to make important decisions with their own information that they’ve been able to generate. I think that’s where the industry’s headed.” Farmers can download a free manual on variable rate herbicide and other precision ag technologies by registering with ARECA at


An example of a variable rate herbicide application map. † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist at Livelong, Sask. Find her online at www.

“I’m really excited about what the future is in agriculture as a whole. I think more than ever it’s got to be run with a business plan and a sharp pencil.” – Doug Seland, Alberta


It’s time to tell the real story Canadian agriculture is a modern, vibrant and diverse industry, filled with forward-thinking people who love what they do. But for our industry to reach its full potential this has to be better understood by the general public and, most importantly, by our industry itself. The story of Canadian agriculture is one of success, promise, challenge and determination. And the greatest storytellers are the 2.2 million Canadians who live it every day. Be proud. Champion our industry.

Share your story, hear others and learn more at 06/12-18723-2E B

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12-06-04 10:23 AM





CWB makes a good start out of the gate The CWB program will no doubt need some adjustments over the coming months and years, but farmers like what they see so far BY LEE HART


he new CWB may not be perfect, but Western Canadian farmers contacted for this Farmer Panel generally like what they see in the agency that becomes one more grain marketing company in a new open marketplace on August 1, 2012. As one farmer pointed out, the change that has taken place over the past year was an end to the wheat and barley marketing monopoly held by the Canadian Wheat Board for 70 years — it wasn’t the end of the Board. As of mid-July, farmers in this panel had not committed or prebooked any of their crops with the new CWB — although all said “not yet” — and any delay was not due to fears about the effectiveness of the board to market the crop, but more about each farm’s marketing program. All said CWB contracts and pooling programs would be seriously considered in the coming weeks. Some farmers noted they had wheat and barley back in rotation for the first time in several years. Panel members from the drier/hot regions of southeast Manitoba, across long-time water

logged fields of Saskatchewan, to the usually dry southern Alberta, all report decent to above average looking crops at this time of year. Combines might be rolling in some parts of Manitoba by late July or early August — a couple of weeks ahead of normal. Mother Nature needed to produce some timely rains, and hold the hail, but all things being equal prospects for harvest were looking good. Here is what this Farmer Panel had to say about the role of the new CWB in their 2012-13 marketing plans:

KENDALL HEISE ISABELLA, MAN. Kendall Heise thought there might actually be more confusion in the transition from a wheat and barley marketing monopoly to an open market system, but in his view it has all gone fairly smoothly. “In the midst of the transition I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out, but really I have been pleasantly surprised,” says Heise, who crops about 2,300 acres at Isabella, north of Virden, Man. “There are lots of contracting opportunities out there — the Board has their own


contracts — so I think it has gone quite well. We will have to see how the whole process works as we get into fall and winter. The proof will be in the pudding — but at this point, I am impressed at how well it has gone.” Heise says he didn’t have any real issues with the old Canadian Wheat Board, but he does like the idea of having marketing choice. “At one point I was afraid the Board might not survive into the new system, but I am glad it has,” he says. “And the CWB should have good support as 50 per cent of farmers favored the monopoly, so many of the contracts and the pooling system they favored are still there.” Heise is producing feed wheat (contracted for ethanol production), winter wheat, hard red spring wheat (for seed), canola, flax and fall rye this year. He has already done some contracting with the flax, canola, rye, and feed wheat and will look at contracting more of his crop in the coming weeks. “I have been a bit uncertain about the markets, but with this really strong weather market in the U.S., I don’t want to sit on my hands too long,” he says. “So I will be looking at my options over the next couple weeks.”

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He says although growing conditions were getting a bit dry as of July 12, generally crops in his area looked “amazing… I don’t think there is a poor crop in the area. The winter wheat and fall rye is already beginning to turn so I expect harvest will get underway by end of July or early August.”

ART ENNS MORRIS, MAN. Art Enns says he expects there will be a “learning curve” as the new open-market CWB goes into full operation in August. Enns who farms in the Red River Valley, near Morris, Man. says he feels farmers and grain companies are adapting well to the new open market player. “Producers as well as grain companies are learning the new system and it may take a couple years to sort out the details,” he says. “We have the changes to the CWB — the open market — and we have the prospect of prices rising to at or near record levels with the U.S. weather market, so there are a few new issues both farmers and grain companies are dealing with.” Enns, who has wheat back in rotation for the first time in


several years, says what has surprised him in the lead up to the open market, is the interest from U.S. grain companies. “Where we farm we are only about 20 miles north of the border with North Dakota, and there are a lot of livestock operations in this area, and a lot of corn and soybean meal being hauled in from the U.S.,” he says. “Trucks are coming here loaded and they are looking for loads to haul back. “I have been surprised by the number of U.S. companies looking to buy grain in this area, provided it meets their specs. So I think dealing with that is another issue, and another learning curve for producers. And it brings in more competition for this grain which our companies will have to respond to.” Enns is growing hard red spring wheat, some oats, and a good-sized soybean and canola crop this year. He hasn’t contracted any wheat to the CWB yet, but says he will consider their program. While the CWB may be a bit late in negotiating handling agreements with established grain companies, he realizes “these are huge agreements and world business takes times — it is not unusual.”


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Features For his own operation, he hasn’t forward priced wheat, as he is waiting to learn both the quantity and quality of his crop. “It is hard to do a lot of preselling until you know what you have for protein and grade,” he says. “And I don’t think the grain companies are sure what do either. Some are basing their prices on No. 1, 13.5 per cent protein wheat, and others are basing it on No. 2, 12.5 per cent protein. With price differences in grades and proteins, wheat is different to market than say oats or canola or other commodities. Depending on the year price premiums for protein can be quite narrow or they can be 50 or 60 cents a bushel which is significant.” Overall he says the new open market system with the CWB is positive and it will take time for all players to learn how the system works. “But I think both farmers are grain companies are working together to make it work,” he says.

MARCEL VAN STAVEREN GRIFFIN, SASK. While Marcel van Staveren, is glad to have the open market choice in 2012 he is not sure if he will use CWB services this year as he sorts out the best cereals for the rotation on his southern Saskatchewan farm. Van Staveren, who along with family members crops about 14,000 acres near Griffin, says traditionally he has had good success in producing high quality

durum. But in the last few years, despite high quality durum, the market is paying more for hard red spring wheat. “We have good success with durum,” he says. “Traditionally our yields are never less and usually better than average. Myself, like a lot of growers remember a few years ago when durum through the Canadian Wheat Board was selling for $13 a bushel. But it appears now, as global markets change that spring wheat is producing a better return. So perhaps we should be looking grow these mid-grade wheats, that produce higher yields, for a better return.” Van Staveren doesn’t like to pre-price durum until he knows the quality of the crop. “It is much like malt barley, you need the proper quality,” he says. “And for a number of reasons, whether it be ergot or whatever, you are never really sure of what you have until it is in the bin. So I have been cautious to forward price for that reason.” After a disastrous year in 2011, when he was only able to seed about two per cent of his land due to excessive moisture, he is glad to see an exceptional crop growing in 2012. His rotation this year includes, durum, canola, his firstever soybean crop, flax, and some winter wheat. He has pre-priced about 40 per cent of his canola crop, and about 50 per cent of the winter wheat has been contracted to an ethanol plant. With soybeans looking exceptional this year, and durum prices lagging behind, he may be adjust-

ing his rotation to grow more soybeans or even other pulse crops such as peas and lentils.

BRIAN OTTO WARNER, ALTA. Southern Alberta farmer, Brian Otto, a long-time advocate of an open market, says he is pleased to see the new CWB develop a good network of delivery points for farmers delivering grain to the board, and he expects more will come. “They have agreements with Viterra and Cargill and several other companies now (mid July) which gives farmers good access to the CWB,” says Otto, who farms at Warner, south of Lethbridge. “And I think that is a very key thing in attracting farmers to use the CWB — having someplace relatively close to deliver your grain. “And I have to give credit to Ian White (CWB president) and his staff for developing a business model that works for farmers.” Otto is also pleased to see the CWB had recently increased its initial payments for farmers using its pooling account, to reflect the changing market. “This is a very good thing as they are responsive to the market, which is something I felt the monopoly should have been doing too,” says Otto. “The CWB has a variety of marketing programs and contracts as well as pooling, and I think it shows they are listening to and responding to farmers needs — they are on the right track.” Otto says he hasn’t used any of the CWB contracts yet, but

will seriously consider it in his marketing program. “I have done some forward pricing already, which is something I have done for years,” he says. “I haven’t used the CWB to date and that’s mainly because when I did my pricing the CWB didn’t have its programs in place. But I will be looking at their marketing options. “I am certainly not opposed to using the CWB. If they can offer an attractive price that is competitive I will use their services. I will deal with any one if it is a good business decision for my farm.” Otto says the structure of the new CWB is what he anticipated, but expects more changes will come. “I think what we see now is a very good starting point, but no body gets anything perfect the first time out,” he says. “I think as we move forward in this open market there will be some adjustments to their programs as they change to meet the needs of farmers as well as their customers, but it is a good start.”

RICHARD NORDSTROM VIKING, ALTA. Retired farmer Richard Nordstrom says he hopes one of the indirect benefits of the new open market is an incentive to get more farmers growing wheat and barley and get back to proper crop rotations. “There is an awful lot of canola out there, and I am just concerned there could be a real disaster coming for canola as farmers push these rotations,” says Nordstrom, who now rents his farm near Viking, east of

Edmonton, to a couple of progressive young farmers. “I know the boys who rent here have barley back in the rotation this year, and I think we need to see more grains as a good economic option to bring proper crop rotations back.” Nordstrom who has long been involved with industry associations, such as the Western Barley Growers and still is a member of the Western Grains Standards Committee, gives Ian White, CWB president, credit for persevering during a difficult transition period. “I was really nervous there for a while as I looked at the fight that the other side (monopoly supporters) were putting up and they were really hindering the transition process,” he says. “I have to give Ian White credit for his patience during that whole process, as an ordinary guy might have left due to the frustration. But now we are starting to see an open market system that is allowing farms to run the way they should be run. And I believe even the long time monopoly supporters are seeing there can be an open market system that works for them too. “And critics and the media didn’t help the process either because they kept saying it was the end of the Canadian Wheat Board. Well this whole process was about the end of the monopoly system, it wasn’t about the end of the Board.” † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

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Columns Guarding Wealth

Crisis Olympics

Caution and patience are likely to be the winning strategies as the European financial crisis unfolds By Andrew Allentuck


ow is the winter of our discontent,”   wrote William Shakespeare in Richard III. Make it summer and the line is a perfect description of the dilemma facing every investor. Canada’s S&P/TSX Composite Index dropped seven per cent between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2012. The American S&P 500 did a lot better in the period, up four per cent for the first half of the year. In the lingo of the markets, valuations are becoming more attractive as stock prices plunge. The problem, as they say, is that you can get hurt trying to catch a falling knife. In Canada, bank shares are under pressure. Commodities are hurt by the slowdown in China’s manufacturing output. Energy prices are down because Variety reclassification – [6”] of dropping Chinese demand for coal and the huge resource flow by tapping uncon2012created Western Producer

ventional oils via fracking, The continuing employment gap in the U.S., eight per cent officially and twice that if one counts discouraged workers no longer seeking jobs, doesn’t help. Canadian retailers are feeling contractionary pressures and the condo markets in Vancouver and Toronto have inflated to the bursting point. And then there is the heart of the matter — the Euro crisis.

European bonds The  Mediterranean  trio  of Spain, Italy and Greece have issued sovereign bonds that they cannot afford to pay or redeem. Spanish bond interest rates hover over seven per cent, Italian rates over six per cent and Greek rates, which are fictions given that nobody is trading the bonds, are at an incredible 42 per cent. The breakdown of European credit markets would be just a distant foreign problem were it not for

the fact that the bonds are held by European banks in such huge amounts that default will wipe out their capital and drive them into bankruptcy. European leaders have already arranged a default in all but name for Greece. Holders of Greek bonds denominated in Euros lost about 70 per cent of their money in what is called a “cramdown” in which the monetary authorities told holders to take the bad deal or get nothing. They took the deal and Europe avoided a formal default. Greece represents three per cent of the European economy measured by its gross domestic product (GDP) divided by Europe’s GDP. If Spain, with 50 per cent unemployment of workers under age 25, were to be unable to pay its Euro-denominated national bonds, the monetary authorities would be hard pressed to pull off a Greek hat trick. German voters have convinced chancellor Angela Merkel that


Attention: Grain producers

Reminder of upcoming variety reclassification Effective August 1, 2013, the following wheat varieties will move from the Canada Western Red Winter class to the Canada Western General Purpose class: CDC Kestrel  CDC Clair CDC Harrier  CDC Raptor CDC Falcon, currently a CWRW variety, will move to the CWGP class on August 1, 2014. Working together, we all play a part in maintaining Canada’s grain quality.

For more information, contact the Canadian Grain Commission: 1-800-853-6705 or 204-983-2770 TTY : 1-866-317-4289 Stay informed. Check the variety designation lists on the Canadian Grain Commission’s web site.

it would be unfair for them to pay the bills of less productive, leisure-loving Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese and Greeks. Never mind that subsidizing those countries’ currencies makes it possible for German companies to export products that would otherwise  be  unaffordable in Madrid, Milan, Lisbon and Athens. Fairness is not the same thing as efficiency, but that is the fulcrum of the debate about what will happen to the Euro. If the Germans don’t support it, then the 17 nations using the Euro will have to go back to their own pesetas and lira, drachmas, francs and marks. A currency is only useful if people accept it. Just inflating money by running the printing presses would not work. That’s why it’s so hard to make this crisis go away. European monetary authorities are labouring to pump up banks’ holdings of cash and credits with ever more elaborate systems of reserve lending by solvent countries to insolvent ones. Meanwhile, depositors, terrified that the Euro might be abandoned, have been rushing to swap Euros for bonds from Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. The result: as bond prices have risen, the yields on these bonds have fallen. U.S. 10-year Treasury bonds now pay 1.51 per cent, Canada 10s 1.68 per cent, and U.K. 10s 1.58 per cent. Meanwhile, inflation in the U.S. is running at 2.8 per cent, in Canada at 2.3 per cent, and 2.3 per cent in the U.K. By parking money in good currencies and accepting returns less than the respective rates of inflation, investors are moving to the sidelines, ready to repurchase new lira and drachmas if they are ever issued. They will be bargain priced compared to dollars and deutsche marks. That the U.S. is massively in hock and really unable to pay its national debt is beside the point. In the psychology of the market, the U.S. Treasury is the best looking horse in the glue factory. Holding money in marks and dollars is a short term loser, however. If the best deal you can get in a German, Canadian or American government bond is 1.75 per cent, then, after inflation running at 2.4 per cent or so in Canada and the U.S., a loss is certain. Yet there are many stocks with solid and rising dividend yields in the three to five per cent range — Canada’s chartered banks, BCE Inc. and other telcos and utilities and many more, but a couple of hard days on the market can drop stock prices by at least that much. All eyes are on the Euro. Europe will only solve its problems when the alternative, not solving them, looks imminently catastrophic. The optimists in this scenario say that catastrophe is just around the corner. The pessimists say it will take months or years for the really bad news to force change.

Currency changes If we apply a magnifying glass to the woebegone economies of Spain and Greece, Italy and Portugal, we see countries that can’t afford what amounts to monetary Amex gold cards. They do not sell enough goods to pay their bills. If they were not glued to the Euro, they could

revert to national currencies. Those currencies would collapse in value and, presto, the prices of Spanish and other exports in U.S. dollars and the Euros of surviving prosperous nations would tumble. You could buy fancy Italian shoes for a fraction of the hundreds of dollars or Euros they cost today. But — and there is a but — the massive loans and bonds issued by Spain and Italy might be repayable in collapsed currencies. Banks holding loans or expecting payment from Italian and Spanish borrowers would have to write off billions in loans and possibly trillions in derivatives. Banks that have not offset this risk could wind up with a sack of lira or heaps of pesetas would have to take charges against their capital. European banks that have loaned 50 times their capital would be wiped out by a two per cent write-off of bad loans. (Canadian banks have much lower capital ratios — about 12 to one, allowing an eight per cent total loss on loans before they are insolvent.) Now comes even more uncertainty. If a loan to a German bank were made to its London branch, would it be paid in pounds after the Euro collapses? What if the Euro loan were done through a London office of a Swiss bank operating in France? Lawyers could sort this out, though it might take months or years of litigation. In the meantime, what would bank assets be worth? This situation has become so serious that the total value of all European bank common stock is now worth less than the value of the shares of Canada’s six major chartered banks.  Switzerland’s central bank is pressuring Credit Suisse, one of the biggest banks in that country and a behemoth in world banking, to suspend its dividend in order to beef up capital. This is why European banks won’t lend to one another, won’t provide credits to businesses, and why European credit markets have frozen. Collapsing businesses and rising unemployment are the consequence.

What you can do Markets dance to different drummers. Unless the world economy heads  into  a  perfect  storm  in which all global commerce ends, an event not even the gloomiest forecasters predict, there are gains to be made in long bonds and oversold stocks. Buy bonds for insurance and stocks for gains. Nibble at bargains where they appear, but keep spare cash on the sidelines. Finally, keep the faith. In the last 100 years, global capital markets have survived two world wars, the Great Depression, numerous flops in 1997 and 1998 in the global derivatives markets, the dot com meltdown in 2000, the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy, and the 2008 liquidity crisis. The world will survive the collapse of the Euro, should it happen. In the present financial crisis Olympics, there will be winners. Most likely, they will be the cautious investors who have neither sold at bad prices nor bought far from the bottom. In this crisis, patience is a profitable strategy. † Andrew Allentuck’s latest book, “When Can I Retire? Planning Your Financial Life After Work,” was published by Penguin Canada in 2011.




OLET R V E H C 2012



9.1L/100 km highway and 13.7 L/100 km city ratings. 2012 Chevrolet Silverado, equipped with available VortecTM 5.3L V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, fuel consumption ratings based on GM testing in accordance with approved Transport Canada test methods. Competitive fuel consumption ratings based on 2011 Large Pickup segment and Natural Resources Canada’s 2011 Fuel Consumption Guide. Your actual fuel consumption may vary. Excludes hybrids and other GM models. 2Maximum trailer weight ratings are calculated assuming a base vehicle, except for any option(s) necessary to achieve the rating, plus driver. The weight of other optional equipment, passengers and cargo will reduce the maximum trailer weight your vehicle can tow. See your Chevrolet dealer for additional details. 3Based on 2012 Large Pickup segment. Excludes other GM models.







The epiphany City slicker Toban Dyck grew up in rural Manitoba, but it’s been a long time since he’s actually lived there. Now he and his wife are moving home to give farming a shot TOBAN DYCK


perating a riding m o w e r, n o m a t t e r how many horses under the hood, does not elevate me to alpha-male status, but on that sunny day, it came close. Sitting on the red mower, proud after having completed the task of cutting my parents’

relatively vast lawn, I texted my wife: “Let’s move to the farm.” “Hell no!” BBM was unexpectedly fast, in this exchange. This being the response I expected, no harm done, but I sat on the mower a little while longer, looking east across the prairies; not a cloud in the sky.

FARM-RAISED When I was a young child, farming was my world. I had a model replica of the only tractor my dad has ever purchased brand new. This tractor carried the weight of

being the primary tractor for the acreage that was the basement rug; a lot of work for one tractor. But play time was the winter months. I joined my dad in the tractor, combine and whatever other machine he had to operate, as often as possible (I would often sleep under the passenger seat of the highway tractor he used to haul hogs to Winnipeg). But, when I got older, I left my hometown of Winkler to pursue a career in writing — separating myself from the typical farmer and alpha male. (In fact, one of the first questions my dad asked me when

I expressed interesting in farming was, “What about all those times you didn’t even want to change the oil in our car?” I don’t remember how I explained to him that I would be good with machines now, but that’s for another time.) I’ve reported for CBC, the National Post, a variety of dailies and weeklies, and ended up as managing editor of a great publication housed in an old brick building in downtown Toronto. Successful by any measure. But, what made me yearn for the West was living — and making it, mind you — in the big city.

A Message to Western Grain Farmers As of August 1, 2012, you can now choose how to market your crops. Whether through the CWB or on the open market, you can decide what is best for your farming operations.

My wife and I lived in a great apartment near Queen and Bathurst, with the best landlords possible — an elderly Portuguese couple who frequently cooked us pizza. The National Post office was a drive, but the Toronto Standard was a lovely, 10-minute walk from our second-story pad.

LET’S FARM I was in Winkler, and my wife was in Toronto when she received my “let’s farm” text. The farmers among you must be laughing by now. I know how to write, but, just wait and see, I can get my hands dirty, too! We’ve all fled things for various reasons. I left my hometown, hunting for experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get. I got them. But there are only so many wine/ scotch tastings and rooftop parties can one attend before the awe is over and what remains of substance is not as significant as once hoped. Really, life is the simple things: family, work you can defend and an outdoor fire pit. I am, like many writers, narcissistic, but in the lucid moments between bylines, it’s clear that farming is a good life. The farm in question is beautiful, mostly crops and about 1,200 acres in size. It is a farm where my wife and I will have to set up a yard from scratch, educate ourselves on farm life and farming (I will have to learn to change oil) and find a way to peel back the Toronto to make room for Winkler. Taking over the family farm as a 32-year-old journalist will not be easy, but I intend to write about it every step of the way. Oh yeah, still sitting on the mower, the smell of freshlymowed lawn tickling the poetic in me, my wife responds: “Let’s do it. I’m ready for life in the country, as long as I can have a goat.” We’ll see about the goat. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email



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The salt patrol Les Henry shares the story of the College of Agriculture’s “salt patrol,” an important part of extension service in the 1980s LES HENRY


ovember 1, 2012 marks 100 years since the University of Saskatchewan took in its first class of agriculture students. This old scribe has been at the U of S — as student, professor and professor emeritus — for 52 of those 100 years. A significant milestone for me was the “Salt Patrol” of the 1980s.

BEFORE THE “SALT PATROL” In the 1970s, soil salinity was perceived as a huge problem — about to consume our farmland and put us out of business. My job was half extension so I was on the firing line at farm meetings. One of those meetings was at Moose Jaw with a large crowd in attendance. Johnny Hanson, the very capable Ag Rep, organized a full day program because of the severity of the problem. We all went out and spilled our guts with all we knew at the time, which wasn’t much. Near the end of the day a question period was called. A very sincere young farmer stood up and said, “You told us what we already knew in language we could not understand and took all day to do it.” The sad fact was that he was dead right. One thing I always liked about farm meetings — there was no need to read between the lines. Farmer reaction drove my agenda.

ATTACKING THE PROBLEM On the drive home from that meeting I resolved to attack the problem. The literature had already been reviewed and it was obvious that a different approach was necessary. We just did not have a good handle on the fundamental causes. There were hints in the literature that perhaps deeper geology was involved. It took 18 months to convince

the powers that be, but funding was found to mobilize a “salt patrol” to go to individual farms, determine the specific cause of the problem and suggest solutions. We did our homework before

any field visit. Old air photos, soil maps, geology maps and water well records were compiled. The best source of information on individual quarter sections was the Municipal Assessment. At that

time it was based on detailed soil examination and it was subject to an exam by the farmer. If the Assessor missed any salinity the farmer could appeal the assessment and have the salinity recognized. At the site, we used an auger rig capable of drilling 43-foot holes. For deeper drilling we used contract water well drillers. Water well drillers are much like farmers — smart, hard working and determined to deliver the goods no matter what. I have huge respect for drillers and they served us in spades. We had a lab trailer so we could do soil and water analysis on the spot. We also pioneered the use of

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The salt patrol days of the 1980s were a major highlight of the time this old fossil spent at the U of S. What a thrill it was to go out to farm meetings and wallpaper the town hall with soil and groundwater information. And, to finally have a credible answer to the question, “Where does the salinity come from?”

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Investing the proceeds of farm sales What follows is the personal opinion of a farmer, soils professor, consultant and author with no financial credentials, so treat it as such. There were many auction sales this spring. Farmers who waited many years for the opportunity finally sold most or all of their land. Those who are long enough in the tooth know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity — they’ve taken the money (big bucks, in most cases) and are laughing all the way to the bank. Some farmers do considerable off-farm investing, but for

those of you with a huge windfall and no investing experience — be very careful. Former Grainews editor Andy Sirski has many years of experience in this area and has helped many to learn the ropes. Anyone considering investing their windfall on their own would be well advised to contact Andy. Other farmers will look for a financial advisor. Most advice is to stick with one single advisor who knows all of your assets. I disagree. If you have two or more advisors you may get two or more opinions. When I get conflicting advice from different

advisors, my retort is “one of you is wrong,” and so I mostly listen to me. The first thing to know about an advisor is “How do they get paid?” Sales commissions, trailing commissions and “back end loads” are common. The fee structure is usually hidden. Many advise a “buy and hold” strategy. We see nice graphs showing the good net results of “buy and hold” from 2009 to 2012 with many ups and downs along the way. If you’re presented with that, ask them to back the same funds up to 2007 and show you the result.

the EM38 meter to make soil salinity measurements as we walked the field. EM38 meters are just now becoming available to make EM maps of fields to aid in farm management, particularly precision farming. The first site, near Saskatoon, was easy. The auger solved it quickly. Gravel from a nearby pit extended underground to cause a small problem on adjacent land. The solution? Sell the gravel. The whole farm was not being consumed and other apparent salinity problems were actually eroded knolls. The second site, at Shaunavon, was tougher. Our 43-foot holes showed precisely nothing. We engaged Earl Christiansen, geologist par excellance. He said we had the wrong equipment and wrong approach. He engaged Campbell Brothers Drilling from Swift Current. The answer lay at 53 feet — the depth of the Shaunavon Aquifer which had head (pressure) very near surface and was the cause of the problem. The answer? Plant the saline spots to grass and carry on farming the good land. The rest, as they say, is history. We went on to analyze dozens of sites all over Saskatchewan. In the majority of cases, the answer lay deep.

Don’t be afraid to sit on a bundle of cash for a while — it won’t rot and our Canadian banks seem to be on sound footing. Sure, inflation eats away at cash slowly but surely, but not nearly as fast as an investment gone sour. My advice is simple — proceed slowly and talk to many folks before making any big leap, and never turn the whole bundle over to the care of any one individual or firm. Most important: be careful and always keep some powder dry. Les Henry

SALINE AHEAD The lessons learned in the 1980s are about to repeat themselves in the next few years. We have gone through a period of very wet years with a few years of big snow accumulations. The end result has been a “supercharging” of the aquifers that cause much of the salinity. When the wet years are here we do not see the salts — they are dissolved and not visible. But when (not if, but when) the dry years come back, look out. White patches with no growth will spread like wildfire and many young folk will once again say “salinity is putting us out of business.” But, it is just Mother Nature doing her thing — normal climate cycles. The ultimate solution to salinity is drainage and leaching, seldom practical in our environment. The best advice for seriously saline land is still “sell it in the wintertime.” † J.L. (Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for Grainews readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres, Saskatoon, Sask. S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.




Columns OFF FARM

Manage risk while following opportunities The stock market is risky, but there are ways to manage risk and make money too ANDY SIRSKI


made a crop inspection tour from Winnipeg to Vegerville, Alta. in the middle of June. At that time, there were a lot of puddles in the fields on both sides of the road for hundreds of miles. With the hot weather since, I hear there are lots of good crops coming. I hope they get into your bins safe and sound. The drought in the U.S. Midwest is driving up prices. Some say this drought is as bad as 1988. I remember that year well. I drove the U.S. Midwest that summer, and in the last half of July the corn was white, short and definitely lacking rain. Corn needs about half an inch of rain a day, or two to three inches a week as it starts to tassel. With no rain in the U.S. Midwest, famers in Western Canada may have a powerful combination of good crops and good prices this year.

PORTFOLIO My stocks enjoyed a good start to 2012, but then dropped as we went into summer. “Sell in May and go away” worked this year, as it does about two thirds of the time. Except this year the better timing was “sell in April,” and for our silver stocks, the right time to sell was at the end of February. I often joke that I don’t care

what month it is, or who says what about when stocks will go up or down. All that matters to me is what my stocks are doing. Most of my silver stocks peaked on February 28, and so did silver and gold. I don’t want to get into “woulda, shoulda, coulda” but as each year goes by I’m seeing more and more proof of several things that should help us manage risk and perhaps make money whether stocks are going up or down.

WHEN TO SELL When the daily price crosses the 10-day moving average (dma) going down, it’s time to sell. Anyone who doesn’t like that sell signal could look at selling when the 10 dma crosses the 30 dma going down. That takes a little longer, but several times in the past few years either sell signal would have done investors well. For example, at the end of February, 2012, the price of Silver Wheaton (SLW) was $38. The shares had made a double bottom at about $28 in October and late December and went up $10 in the next two months. The first sell signal was around $36 around February 20. The next one was at the end of February when the price was $38. The third sell signal was around March 10, when the price was $36 and the 10 dma crossed the 30 dma going down. In case anyone was worried about missing out on that last $2, the shares dropped $15 to $23. On

a drop like that, two bucks doesn’t really mean much. Most years the price of silver bottoms in June, or within a couple of weeks on either side. But in the past year, the price of silver hit a low of $26 around the third week of September, late December and again in late June. SLW dropped in step with the price of silver to around $28 in early October, late December and a lower low of $23 in May. Anyone who sold when the sell signals were talking has had lots of time to buy that silver stock back for a lot less than the selling price.

SILVER STOCKS SLW is not a silver mining company. It lends money to up-and-

When the sell signals spoke in late February and March, instead of selling the shares I could have sold a call for June with a strike price of $28. At that time, the premium was about $10.50 per share. In other words, by selling a call at what is called “deep in the money” at $28, I would have been almost totally protected as SLW share prices dropped. Why would I choose $28? Because at that time $28 looked like the support price. As it turned out, share prices did drop below $28, but they didn’t stay down long. I didn’t do it but selling calls with a June strike price of $28 per share would have been a good move. I live and learn. I now own 2,500 shares of SLW. I only sold calls on 500

I’ve learned how to buy naked calls, since they would likely go up a lot faster, percentage wise, than shares coming mines and takes silver back in payment at around $4.25 an ounce. Then they smelt the silver and sell it. The company has 24 employees and approximately 17 deals where it collects payment in silver. SLW prices are volatile, so I had to figure out how to buy it right. If you buy at the right time, you can do several things to make money with a stock.

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of these, at a strike price of $28 per share, just to stay in practice. I haven’t sold calls on the rest because I expect SLW share prices to rise through the summer. There are several ways to protect a portfolio that includes volatile stocks (and these days, most stocks are volatile). I also could have bought puts on SLW. Buying puts costs money, but the price of puts goes up as share prices drop, so that would have bought protection too. First Majestic (FR) is another example of a stock where selling calls to lower volatility would make sense. FR is a true silver mine. It, too, will likely be okay if we buy it at the right time. I didn’t sell my FR shares as prices dropped. Instead, I paid around $18 for most of my shares, then sold a call for July at a strike price of $18 per share and collected between $2.50 to $2.90 per share in premiums. I bought most of those back for 35 cents, then sold calls back again at a strike price of $18 per share for October. By selling calls, I dropped my paper cost of FR from over $18 per share to around $15.


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By the end of 2012, Russia is going to stop selling its warhead uranium. Japan is slowly starting up its nuclear reactors. A bunch of new reactors are being built or planned. Over time, I expect the price of uranium to go up. I might buy Cameco (CCO) shares. So far I have bought a few thousand shares of Uranium One (UUU), a Canadian based uranium mining company. I paid $2.92 for the first few thousand shares, then sold calls for July with a strike price of $3, collecting $0.40 per share, so my paper cost is around $2.50 per share. When share prices fell to $2.52, I bought another 2,000 shares. I could sell calls for January with a strike price of $2.50 or $3 and make good money. I’m also watching Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC), a start-up uranium mine in Texas, but I don’t own shares at this time.

NATURAL GAS I don’t own any natural gas stocks, but if I was to buy I’d buy shares in Tourmaline (TOU) or BonaVista (BNP). After some thought, I bought shares in Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ), and I’ve been buying more as shares have dropped from $36 to $27 per share. I think my average cost is around $32, and I have sold some calls. Note that I say I bought shares as the price dropped. I try not to make a habit of averaging down unless I know the stock well. So I started out by buying 200 or 300 shares and then bought more as the price dropped. I like CNQ — it has done a decent job of managing through fires, break downs and fluctuating oil prices. I could have picked Suncor (SU) just as well. Natural gas is getting a lot of attention as a fuel for transport trucks, ferries and so on. Some feel natural gas engines are fine for stationary use but not on highways. Westport Transport (WPT) is designing systems that would let truck engines burn natural gas. The company has deals with motor makers but its share prices have been quite volatile. I lost a few thousand dollars on WPT as share prices dropped from $46 to $26. Now prices are $37.

COAL The price of coal dropped, so I bought 1,000 shares of Arch Coal (ACI) at $7 just to keep my foot in the door. The price dropped to under $6 and lately has been around $7. About six billion tonnes of coal is used in the world so the coal industry is not going away. Although the U.S. government wants to convert coal fired generators into natural gas, but the world (including the U.S.) keeps on using coal.

NAKED PUTS In August the U.S. will hold the Jackson Hole Conference. If Ben Bernanke is to announce a new round of easy money, he likely has to do so before or around that convention. That’s what he did in 2010. This year, any later would put him a little too close to the political arena. In case a new round of easy money is announced, I’ve learned how to buy naked calls, since they would likely go up a lot faster, percentage wise, than shares. I also could sell naked puts on gold and silver stocks we do not own. Selling naked puts and buying naked calls are just two parts of the strategy of using options to make money. The first step is to buy shares right. Then, be in season with these volatile resource stocks. The next step is to learn how to make money with all this knowledge and last but not least is not to be too greedy and sell at a good time. Selling near the top when the daily price crosses the 10 dma often is a good thing to do. We might miss out on some extra gains, but we might also not give back profits. † Andy is mostly retired. Besides gardening, grandchildren and traveling with his wife Pat, Andy publishes a newsletter called StocksTalk where he tells what he does with his investments, win or lose. You can read it free for a month by emailing or type into Google.




Grain marketing in 2012 and beyond This summer marks the start of major changes to western Canadian grain marketing. Get ready to make the most of new market conditions BRIAN WITTAL


n 50 years will 2012 be remembered as the year that forever changed the grain marketing industry for the better? Or the worse? Wi l l t h e G r a i n M a r k e t i n g Freedoms Act taking the Monopoly powers away from the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) on July 31, 2012, and the imminent take over of Viterra by a multinational marketing company, Glencore, be remembered as beneficial to western Canadian farmers or not? That is for time and historians to determine. What has changed? What will change? And how will you need to change to adapt?

WHAT HAS CHANGED We are forging ahead into an open market environment, which means less government rules, regulations and subsidies. This should allow for the open market to work properly. Look out dairy, chicken and egg marketing boards, you will be targeted next if the government proceeds with and becomes part of the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Let’s step back in time a little, to when the Crow Rate was still in effect. This was federal legislation guaranteeing Canadian farmers cheap freight rates to ship grain to export markets for as long as the railroads operated. Ultimately these cheap rates were negotiated away for a meager lump sum payment to farmers. A revenue cap agreement was put into place instead, to allow the railroads to capture more of their true costs of freighting grain to port. How quickly they forgot the value of all of the lands given to them by the federal government in exchange for building the railroad across Canada in the first place. A smaller yet equally important farmer right was the right to ship grain in producer cars. Federal legislation allowing this still exists, but over the past 40 years the railways have closed down numerous miles of track and delisted 100s if not 1000s of producer car loading sites across Western Canada. For most farmers, the closest site may be 100s of miles from their farm. Many sites that still exist have a minimum car spot requirement that most individual farmers can’t meet. Does the right to load producer cars really still exist?

WHAT WILL CHANGE? This is my crystal ball. In an open market, I see rail freight cost escalating as the railways push to have the revenue cap removed on grains. The railways will argue that that open market should be allowed to determine freight costs. Does this really work when there

are only two players in the game? They will no doubt promise better service to grain companies as a condition of removing the cap, and the increased freight costs will be passed on to grain producers. As of August 1, 2012, the CWB will no longer have monopoly marketing rights on all classes of wheats and malting barley in Western Canada. For the CWB to continue to exist, it will have to buy and sell grain in a competitive environment, competing against all other grain handlers in Western Canada, while not owning any handling facilities or port terminals. The CWB now has agreements

in place with at least six different grain companies including Cargill and Viterra. These companies will handle grain that the CWB buys and sells. This is good for farmers across the Western Prairies as it means the CWB will be one more choice — a choice that provides options such as pool pricing. The takeover of Viterra by Glencore was no doubt expedited by the looming Grain Marketing Freedoms Act. Glencore is one of the world’s largest commodity marketing companies, and it sees opportunity for business expansion and profitability in Western Canada’s new open market environment. This may be great for

the agriculture industry and its profitability, but will it be good for western Canadian grain farmers’ profitability? Let’s hope so. One of the spin off concerns in the Viterra deal is the sale of the majority of Viterra’s Agro facilities to Agrium. This will give Agrium control of the majority share of Western Canada’s fertilizer and retail business sector. Again this is great for the agriculture industry but what about farmers? This is a long way from the grain co-ops that still existed in the 1990’s where profits (if any) were shared among all members who did business with the co-op. Today’s business model is about

increasing shareholder profits by reducing costs, improving efficiencies, becoming larger to reduce competition and buying raw products cheaper.

PROFITS ON YOUR FARM The moral of this column is that the success of your farm is totally in your hands. No one else will be looking out for your bottom line. Are you ready to enter into this new open market environment? To be successful you need to become more aware of what markets are available, how they work and how you can use them to your advantage. That is what I’ll discuss in this column over the next few issues. † Brian Wittal is a Saskatchewan raised farm boy who has spent the past 32 years in the Alberta Grain Industry. He started Pro Com Marketing Ltd in 2006 with a focus on helping grain producers better understand the markets and advise them on how to market their grains more profitably. Contact Brian at bfwittal@

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Best of Grainews

Three uses for forage radish Looking for a way to combat hardpan? A grazing opportunity? Increased soil fertility? Consider tillage radish as an option for your farm


hen Columbus left the safety and comfort of his home to find the New World, people thought he was crazy; everyone knew the world was flat. Instead of finding India, Columbus found North America. Not what he was looking for, but a remarkable discovery. What does Columbus have to do with agriculture? Products that were developed for one market can be a remarkable solution for a different problem. Tillage radish is one of those products. In 2001 Steve Groff and Dr. Ray Weil from the University of Maryland started developing tillage radish as a cover crop to improve soil health, break up soil hardpans and control weeds. After years of experimenting, fine tuning, and local agronomic development, Cover Crop Solutions now markets tillage radish as a wonder plant with many uses, widely adapted to different climates.

COVER CROPS A cover crop is planted to cover the soil. This practice can manage soil fertility and quality, control pests, create a disease and insect break, control erosion and nutrient loss and provide a grazing opportunity. Cover crops are not common in Western Canada but are used indirectly. Greenfeed crops, annuals used for grazing and green manure crops can be referred to as cover crops. In most cases cover crops are a monoculture, or sometimes two or three crops mixed together. These work, but a true cover crop is made up of multiple species grown together to get the best effect. Multi-species mixes will include both monocot and dicot (grass and broadleaf) species. Of the broadleaf types, most mixes will try to include pulses and, warm season and cool season types. The idea is to mimic nature by creating diversity in the stand. This diversity ensures that different parts of the soil will be used, that the stand will be made up of plants that grow to different heights at differ-

ent times under different conditions, and that there are a variety of effects on the soil. Pulses will fix some nitrogen, cereals add fibre, and brassicas will scavenge nutrients. But most of these species’ roots tend to colonize only the top six inches of the soil. Enter the tillage radish.

TILLAGE RADISH Of all the forage radish line, tillage radish has been selected based on top growth and a straight root that produces good loosening action deep into the soil. Oilseed radishes produce roots similar to canola. The tillage radish produces a “super carrot” type of root, driving down two to four feet and creating root pressure measured at 290 psi. Aggressive top growth allows the plant to smother the ground and choke out weeds. Tillage radish can be seeded almost at any time after June 20. Seeding after the summer solstice allows the plant to produce more root mass and more vegetative mass. (Corn responds the same way when seeded later than normal for grain production.) For root growth, researchers recommend allowing 40 to 60 days of growth before a killing frost, three consecutive nights of -8 C. One common concern is seeding into cover crop residue. Because cover crop species should be picked based on compatibility to spring breakdown, most species are well rotted by spring. Tillage radish leaves are mostly basal with high moisture and high protein, leaving a tight carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. This results in a quick rot in the spring. The roots will dry up, and the root channels left by the rotting tubers will have the appearance of a major gopher infestation. These channels will reduce compaction and allow the soil to warm up quicker. Cover Crop Solutions’ research has shown significant nitrogen and phosphate accumulation in the root of tillage radish. This is released to the next year’s crop as it rots. Next year’s soil will have a lower pH and nutrients will be released slowly, resulting in higher yields.

The tillage radish produces a “super carrot” type of root, driving down two to four feet and creating root pressure measured at 290 psi.

HARDPAN Once it’s growing, the tillage radish will drive its root down. If it encounters a hardpan, it will send out root hairs. When a root hair finds a crack, it will develop into a root, cracking the hardpan open. Since the Prairies have seen well above average moisture and not much soil frost, there is a lot of hardpan in the soils, limiting crop development and moisture infiltration. Tillage and seeding operations will accelerate hardpan development. If the goal is to break up hardpan with a pure stand of tillage radish, researchers recommend using seven to 10 pounds of seed per acre. Higher seeding rates are used on heavy soils with good moisture. The goal is to produce lots of small roots to break up as much of the hardpan as possible. For grazing, a mixture of species is a must. Tillage radish has high feed values, and is high in protein. It’s best to mix in 50

to 60 per cent grass, along with pulses and potentially other brassica species, rates depending on plans for next year’s crop and the animals grazing the mix. On our farm we saw production of nine to 17 wet tonnes per acre from our tillage radish, seeded at four to 10 pounds per acre on August 1. Root production ranged from five to nine wet tonnes per acre (97,000 to 157,000 roots per acre). We also had a trial where we broadcast seeded Tillage radish into our standing corn crop after we had a plugged run. We broadcast with a hand-held lawn seeder with no incorporation. The plants covered the ground by freeze-up. Grazing showed fantastic results, and the cows thanked me for doing it!

YIELD INCREASE Research in the U.S. has shown significant yield increases in the years following radish. All published yield reports (from the

U.S.) show a five to 12 bushel per acre increase in winter wheat yields when seeded with two to three pounds of tillage radish; a 10 per cent yield bump in soybeans after tillage radish; and, an 11 per cent increase for corn. Lots of places aerial broadcast tillage radish into five to six foot corn. Farmer testimonials seem to support yield increases even under drought conditions. Tillage radish has potential for grazing, soil improvement, nutrient recovery, weed control, grazing, and erosion control. There is also a human consumption market. Overall, Tillage radish is a management tool with potential for both grain and livestock producers. On our farm, we’ll continue to trial innovative ways to use Tillage radish, helping to improve the soil, increase plant health, and net us more dollars while we reduce our risk and input costs. † 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

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Best of Grainews

Calculating your farm’s rate of return Knowing your farm’s rate or return on equity and assets is helpful in determining when to re-invest in the farm BY EARL SMITH


year ago, for this same Farm Finance issue of Grainews, I wrote an article encouraging grain farmers to update their net worth statement as soon as possible after harvest with current grain inventory, payables, receivables and so on. The idea is to get a clear snapshot of your financial position early and do a few simple financial ratio calculations in advance of heading into the planning and tax seasons of the year. Of course, you still need to do an updated net worth statement at December 31 (or at your designated year-end) for your lender and for accrual adjustments, but preparing a draft statement early in the fall is an excellent management strategy to help you stay on top of your farm’s financial position. I again encourage you to do that work on your net worth statement now (check www. for back issues if you need some help). In this article I will deal with another approach to determining how your farm business is performing financially and that is calculating the return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE) of the farm. I find the rate of return numbers very interesting as they are easily compared to other industries and to opportunities other than the farm where you could invest your money such as a savings account, GICs, stock markets or other business investments. Given the current financial turmoil in the world and low rates of return to many investments, we intuitively know that it’s not too hard these days for the rates of return to farming to be better, but that has not always been the case. As business managers considering future investment and re-investment in their farm businesses, I think farmers could benefit from knowing their own rate of return performance.

In any business, returns can be attributed to both the money invested in the business by the owners and the work that is “invested” in but not paid for by the business. That explains the theory of subtracting unpaid family labour in the formula but I seriously hope that in your farm business you are paying a reasonable amount to yourself and your family and that expense is already in your Net Income calculation. As an example, using this formula (see above right), a $200,000 net income for a farm with $2.5 million equity would represent a ROE of eight per cent. For com-


PRELIMINARY CALCULATIONS In order to calculate these rates of returns you need to do a couple of other calculations first: the “Value of Production” and “Net Income.” These can be calculated from your year-end accounting statements or accountant-prepared statements for any year or from your farm accounting records now for the current year (assuming they are up-to-date). To do these calculations now you also need to have your net worth statement updated, as mentioned above, with current inventories, payables and receivables as well as an estimate of any direct costs (expenses) expected between now and your year end. To keep things simpler here I am going to assume the farm is a straight grain operation. Many will recognize that the VoP calculation (at right) is simply getting to an accrual based gross income number as the yearover-year change in inventory and accounts receivable can each be either a positive or negative number and are the accrual adjustments to cash income.

parison purposes, I referred to David Kohl’s benchmarks for a farm’s ROE. These are: over seven per cent is good (green light), four per cent to seven per cent is cautionary (yellow light) and under four per cent is cause for concern (red light). In the ROA formula above, interest is added back to net income as it is considered the return to your lenders money in the farm and therefore part of the return on assets. Using the same example as above, if the farm’s net income plus interest was $290,000 and the value of the assets was $4 million, the ROA would be 6.4 per cent. Kohl’s benchmarks for ROA are: greater than five per cent is

considered good/green, one to five per cent is cautionary/yellow and under one per cent is cause for concern/red.

PUTTING THE RATIOS TO WORK I mentioned above that one way to use your rates of return figures, especially ROE is for comparison to other investment opportunities. Another is to compare the farm to itself in other years by charting the trend of ROE and ROA over a number of years, analyzing that trend and trying to explain any change in the trend or years that deviate from the trend line. Another interesting insight from these return calculations is to compare the ROA you are achieving

to the interest rate on borrowed money available to your farm. If your return on assets is higher than the borrowing rate it should theoretically mean you could borrow to acquire additional assets and, assuming you maintain the same ROA, achieve a return above the cost of the borrowed money. The caution of course is that this is only an interesting insight and not enough analysis to make a borrowing decision on. A final word of caution: these rates of return calculations, and many other common financial ratios for that matter, are very dependent on the value you place on the assets on your net worth statement. I hope you can get some time this winter to warm up your calculator and crunch some of these numbers for your farm. † Earl Smith is vice-president and co-founder of groPartners Inc., a western Canadian farm and land management company. Contact Earl at 403-586-2504 or earlsmith@gropartners. com with questions or comments.

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Best of Grainews

5 tips for growing soybeans in a cool climate With new varieties for areas with shorter growing seasons, lots of farmers are considering soybeans for the first time in 2012. Brad Eggum has some production tips you can use BY BRAD EGGUM


estern Canadian farmers have always had a keen interest in growing new crops. Pulses and oilseeds were few and far between 30 years ago where I farm in southeast Saskatchewan. Since then farmers have actively participated as new crops have been tested and refined to meet our environment and slowly worked into our mainstream rotations. Today pulses and oilseeds are the main drivers of wealth on most Prairie farms. This could be why soybeans are catching the eye of so

many farmers. An oilseed crop that grows like a pulse should be very intriguing in its own right. Add to this the fact that soybeans are relatively simple to grow, harbour few diseases, drop-dead bulletproof for shattering and rarely have grading issues, and their allure grows. “Where in the world you can grow soybeans, you grow soybeans!” I’m not sure where I first read this quote, maybe 20 years ago, but it intrigued me immensely. Of course the perception has always been that north of the 49th parallel is not a place in the world to grow this crop — that we don’t produce enough heat to nurture a

tropical plant to maturity. So why have soybeans become more popular through southern Manitoba over the past decade, and why are they now pushing boundaries into Saskatchewan, Alberta and northern Manitoba? Varieties? Partially! Just as important are the agronomic practices behind these varieties — practices which will enhance success in areas with fewer heat units, or into zero till soils, which tend to be cooler. It’s been said to me that “If you want to fail at growing soybeans in Saskatchewan, just head down to Iowa and learn how to grow them.” This is not

a slight against anyone involved in the production and agronomy of soybeans in Iowa. It simply alludes to the fact that there is lots of time and heat to mature the crop in that region, luxuries we don’t have here. We have to tweak the process to mature our crop in the allotted time. Presently, the earliest-maturing Roundup Ready soybean varieties fall into a range of 2350 to 2450 Crop Heat Units (CHUs). For many of us, this range of CHU accumulation is outside our normal window. However, these early varieties all have a varying degree of photo or daylight

sensitivity. Finding the varieties with the most heightened photo sensitivities is very important. These varieties will still mature when less than ideal CHUs are provided from the environment. Frankly, trial and error has been the method of choice to establish this trait. This trait is an important factor behind the respectable yields and maturity we’re seeing from certain varieties of soybeans in years when their needs for CHUs are not fully achieved. Once the selection of the cultivar is established, several other practices will enhance maturity and ultimately yields.


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We began growing soybeans three seasons ago in 2009 under the guidance of Ron Gendzelevich and Shawn Rempel of Quarry Seed and have been supplying seed and agronomic advice to other producers over the past two seasons. To date, every acre we’ve fostered has been grown with a complete and uncompromised input package. We’ve had what we consider admirable success as well as some disappointment. The beauty in this has been being able to diagnose what went wrong with the disappointing yields, knowing they received the same inputs as the higher yielding fields. This has provided me with confidence in the recommendations I offer.

1. PLANT INTO WARM SOIL The number one absolute wrong thing to do is to plant a soybean seed into cold soil. Period. Everything else I will relate will enhance yield and maturity, but cold soils are a game stopper before you’re out of the gate. Soybeans like warmth. In soils below 8 C these seeds will do little more than take in moisture and rot. The plants that do make it through the cold shock will be slow growing off the start. They will also have a tendency to set their bottom pods closer to the ground. When placed in soils 10 C and warming, soybeans are the strongest plants out of the ground I have ever witnessed. Our zero- till stubbles are generally cooler, longer in the spring. Avoid heavy trash-covered stubbles or consider a heavy harrow to partially blacken the field. Deep seeding will also tend to put the seed into cooler temps. An inch at most should be enough depth. Watch the weather. If you have the proper soil temperature but there’s a cold front on the way, wait! You will be better off. Later-seeded soybeans have a propensity for catching up on maturity. Every week later they are seeded will generally only add two to three days to their maturity.

2. USE AN INOCULANT Inoculation is the next most important production factor for soybeans. Soybean rhizobia are a unique strain of bacteria and are not in any way native to our soil. Combine this with the fact that soybeans need to produce



Best of Grainews vast amounts of nitrogen in their life cycle and it becomes imperative we supply them with the necessary tools to get their work accomplished. A soybean plant will consume in the neighbourhood of six pounds of actual nitrogen per bushel of yield. The best way to enable this is through high rates of granular inoculants on virgin soils. I also recommend liquid on the seed to start the process early in the plant’s life. My personal trials have shown a seven- to 10-bushel yield bump from the use of a granular and liquid in combination versus using liquid alone.

3. PLANT ON SOYBEAN STUBBLE Generally, your best crop will come from this practice. This will give you a dark, warm stubble to seed into. However, the greatest benefit is the carryover of rhizobia from the previous season. Benefits from applying generous amounts of inoculant are still profoundly beneficial, however not nearly so distinct as on the virgin ground, proving that some bacteria will overwinter in our frozen soils. One caution when considering cutting inoculant rates when expecting carryover bacteria in the soil is that any flooding may cause the bacteria in these areas to die off, leaving the area similar to virgin soil. The only disease which jumps to mind as a threat would be sclerotinia. My understanding is that soybeans, while being carriers of the disease, generally do not see huge yield reductions. My concern would be more for another broadleaf crop (such as canola) later in the rotation. Over time other disease issues may emerge, for now we seem to have a hall pass.

4. USE HIGH SEEDING RATES Seeding rates are also a factor to consider. In general, it is felt that any plant seeded at a higher intensity will be hastened in maturity. Soybeans are no different. Along with speeding maturity you will also coax the plant to extend the distance between nodes, which will bring the bottom pods a greater distance from the soil. Wider row spacing will also tend to have this effect. My jury is still out, however, on row spacing, as generally in my area we are trying to conserve moisture. Closing the canopy quicker may outweigh the perceived benefit of wider rows. Every agronomic decision we make regarding soybeans has to be viewed from the perspective of how will this affect maturity. Soybeans are a very elastic plant, meaning they can stack plant mass and yield on to compensate for low seeding rates or emergence issues. Unfortunately for us, some years we will not have the luxury of time to allow the plant to perform this task. Higher targeted plant populations are maturity insurance.

5. USE A FUNGICIDE Another critical ingredient, especially on cool years, is the use of Cruiser Maxx Beans. I hesitate to mention products by name, however, the vigour enhancement in this product is very real and very important when trying to shave days off the back end. Data from the Valley Soybean Expo in Manitoba, consolidated over the past seven years, clearly shows a reduction in days to maturity on

a consistent basis and enhanced in cooler years when soybeans are treated with Cruiser. Of course as a minor side benefit, the complete protection of a duel fungicide/ insecticide seed treatment is along for the ride.

THE FUTURE OF SOYBEANS The future of soybean varieties will be the Roundup Ready 2 (R2Y) gene and the varieties carrying this trait. The promise from Monsanto has been that the R2Y gene will enhance the varieties it’s inserted into with certain traits. Namely, a more robust and aggressive plant, pods which have better clearance from the soil and more beans per pod. All leading, of course, to better and more consistent yields. Some producers and industry participants have voiced scepticism as to the whether the genetic improvements are sound, or (more cynically) a way for Monsanto to keep patent rights in place.

From what I have seen this past season, what has been promised from Monsanto is being realized in the final product. The R2Y varieties in general stand out in plots when grown beside the RR1 varieties, from larger, more vigorous looking plants to definitely adding more seeds per pod on average. The proof is in the pudding and the Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Trials (MCVET) definitely prove that there are some improved genetics in the offing. I am personally very excited to see the interest in soybean production displayed throughout Western Canada. I’m sure the breeders, and Monsanto, will hear the message that the market is ripe for more earlier-maturing varieties to enhance the area in which we can be successful growing this crop. We are looking forward. † Brad Eggum operates Eggum Seed Sales from the family farm at Halbrite in southeast Sask. They have established Saskatchewan’s first bulk soybean distribution system. Contact him at 306-861-7048 or

Brad Eggum, in his 2011 soybean crop, near Halbrite, Sask. This crop of TH27005RR soybeans yielded, on average, 32 bushels per acre.

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Best of Grainews

The value of micronutrient seed dressings Micronutrient seed dressings are relatively new in Western Canada. Retailers generally don’t claim that these products will increase yield, but they may add value for some farmers BY LISA GUENTHER


icronutrient seed dressings, already well established in the U.S., are starting to appear on our side of the border. Unlike traditional seed treatments designed to combat plant disease, seed dressings are claimed to boost returns — if not necessarily yields — by promoting better emergence and seedling vigour. One product has received official CFIA registration. Other products have been reviewed through independent trials in Saskatchewan, but with inconclusive results. Making claims for benefits of micronutrient fertilizer is something of a grey area under Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations. If the micronutrients are part of a product containing less than 24 per cent nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium, then registration is required. Only one micronutrient product, Loveland’s Awaken ST, distributed in Canada by UAP, has received CFIA registration. Awaken ST is a seed-applied nutrient, with a micronutrient package including five per cent zinc plus boron, copper, iron, manganese and molybdenum. “It’s not for the faint of heart to actually pursue a registration for these types of things,” says Eric Gregory, product manager with UAP. Gregory says it took two years of western Canadian trials plus two years of review to register Awaken ST. The product is registered to


IHARF’s research plots during the growing season. improve root development, speed emergence, and improve biomass production in cereals. Trial data showed the seed treated with Awaken ST had an increase of five plants per row foot over untreated seed in 12 separate fields. Though Awaken ST isn’t registered for yield, UAP’s trials did show yield increases. One trial in North Dakota showed a yield bump of nine bushels per acre, though Gregory says that result isn’t typical. Western Canadian trials have shown on average a five per cent yield increase over check, about a 2.5-bushel increase on a 50 bushel wheat crop.

IHARF TESTS Tw o o t h e r m i c r o n u t r i e n t seed dressings have been tested by the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation (IHARF) in Saskatchewan. In 2010 and 2011,

IHARF evaluated two micronutrient seed dressings — Omex’s Primer Zn on spring wheat and canola, and Omex’s Primer Pulse on lentils and field peas. Crop establishment and yield were evaluated at plots seeded at Canora, Scott, Swift Current and Indian Head. The sites offered different soil conditions, ranging from coarse loam to heavy clays. Both 2010 and 2011 were wetter than normal, and in 2011 seeding was delayed until the end of May in Swift Current and early June in Canora. Temperatures were cooler than normal at most sites in May, and crops at most sites were moisture stressed. IHARF research manager Chris Holzapfel said there were few differences between treated and untreated plots. “When we did see an effect, they were pretty few and far between and inconsistent. I would probably

say it was almost as common to see a slight negative impact on plant emergence as it was to see a positive impact on plant emergence.” Holzapfel said Primer Zn did initially benefit spring wheat and canola emergence in Scott in 2011, but overall, yields were similar, regardless of the treatment. Four composite soil samples were taken at each site each year and analyzed for macro- and micronutrients. Zinc was marginal at all the sites except for Scott. Though none of the sites had a severe micronutrient shortage, Holzapfel doubts that there was enough nutrient in the primers to make a difference in nutrient-deficient soils.

RESEARCH CONCERNS Abdel El Hadrami, Omex’s research and development director, said he has concerns with the IHARF study. He would have liked to see more in-depth soil testing, as Omex uses soil-testing results to suggest products. “If the soil tests show a shortage of manganese, we are not going to recommend the Primer Zn, for example,” Hadrami said. He said late seeding at some of the sites affected the results, as the products are meant to be used when soil temperatures are below 5 C, when phosphorus and zinc aren’t normally available to the seed. He points to the positive early emergence results in Scott in 2011 as evidence, as seeding conditions were particularly cool and wet at that site. Hadrami also criticized the data collection and analysis in the study. Plant counts weren’t done in Canora in 2011. In 2010, measurements were done too late to capture emergence at three of the sites. Seeding rates differed between sites, but Hadrami said the different seeding rates weren’t accounted for properly when looking at the emergence rate. Holzapfel counters that the results were the same, regardless of how the data was presented. In a written response to the study, Omex said that it did not provide its products to IHARF, and that the study may have used an older version of their products.

NUTRITIONAL IMBALANCE Micronutrient seed dressing promoters are careful not to oversell their products, rather tending to note their benefits for healthy emergence and in turn the health of the crop.

Jarrett Chambers, president of ATP, which is currently submitting a registration claim for its own micronutrient seed treatment, explains that micronutrients correct nutrient imbalances within the seeds rather than soil deficiencies. This nutritional imbalance is independent of environmental conditions, but when the seedling is under stress, there will be a greater response. Chambers says figuring out which essential nutrients are already being provided by the seed and soil, and which ones the farmer needs to invest in is key. Chambers has talked to farmers who are thinking about substituting agro-chemicals with seed nutrient dressings to control disease, but says they do not control disease and should never be used in lieu of fungicides. However, Chambers does see value in seed dressings. “Of all the things I’ve worked on, seed nutrient dressing is the one piece that I do that 90 per cent of the time, the growers says ‘I’m doing that again because I saw a value.’”

CONSIDERATIONS FOR FARMERS Farmers considering micronutrient seed dressings need to think about several things before choosing a product. Chambers suggests comprehensive seed testing, including a nutrient analysis. Currently there aren’t shared standards for nutrient analysis, he adds. ATP tests seeds for its clients. Chambers also recommends soil testing, as the effect of nutrientdeficient seed can be compounded by nutrient-deficient soil. Omex’s Hadrami says farmers should consider what was grown in previous years, and what’s going in the ground this year. UAP’s Gregory says if farmers are combining Awaken ST with a fungicide treatment, they will be doubling the amount of liquid with the seed. He recommends giving the seed time to dry before seeding. Though it’s inconvenient, Gregory also suggests leaving check strips so farmers know the product is working on their farm.

MORE RESEARCH IN THE WORKS Holzapfel says IHARF plans to expand research in 2012 to five seed dressing products, once again focusing on emergence and grain yield. Although Holzapfel says farmers should be cautious about purchasing micronutrient seed dressings, he hesitates to dismiss them entirely. “There are a lot of different products and nutrients. It does seem to be a legitimate product. It’s a fairly whole new class of fertilizer, but it is a fertilizer just the same. I wouldn’t call it foo-foo dust, but we just haven’t been able to demonstrate a benefit.” Chambers does think some in the industry are trying to make micronutrients into something they’re not. “We need to calm this down. We need to get this into reality. We need to understand the role of nutrition in crop production, or the role of nutrition in plant disease. It’s part of an integrated program and it’s one important wheel in a very complicated wheel of crop production.” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist at Livelong, Sask. Find her online at www.



Best of Grainews

Five characteristics of highly productive fields Better yields come from healthy soils. Of five main attributes of highly productive fields, four are a direct result of optimum soil health and not agronomic decisions. Here’s what you can do to build better soil BY JASON CASSELMAN


n an effort to find out why certain fields or areas of fields consistently produce higher yields I discovered that there are certain field characteristics which contribute to the ability to produce more yield. The characteristics of consistently high production areas are: elevated levels of soil biology; better water infiltration; lower bulk density; deeper topsoil depth; and, balanced fertility. The challenge is to implement a strategy to achieve these soil qualities on as much of the land base as possible.

ELEVATED LEVELS OF SOIL BIOLOGY Soil biology is what soil scientists refer to as the living organisms in the soil. These living organisms are part of the food web in the soil. To understand what the food web in the soil is, think of a web that is all connected together with each strand supported not by just one other strand but with multiple strands. Healthy soil organism functions depend on all the other organisms in the soil. This interconnected system is healthier and stronger when there is greater biological diversity. The question that farmers should ask themselves is how to increase this diversity and build higher levels of soil biology. Some soil biologists refer to the life in the soil as the “soil herd.” The “soil herd” is more likely to keep working for you when there are many different species of organisms to do the work of turning plant residue into plant -available nutrients. Soil organisms will also help break down some chemical residues and beneficial predator organisms that are working on your behalf to keep the pest population of diseases, insects and pathogens in check. Soil biology is increased when we maximize crop residues, rotate with different crops, and reduce the amount of tillage of the soil. The amount and type of crop residue that is returned back to the field will have an effect on the organisms. Some organisms will prefer root biomass from sod and other organisms will prefer pea stubble or cereal straw. Tillage incorporates plant residue into the soil and can stimulate some microbial activity in the short term but repeated tillage reduces the level of organic matter in the soil that supports the food web. There are agronomic and economic limitations to incorporating too many different crops into the crop plan but the opportunity is there when you want to try to elevate the levels of soil biology and provide a habitat for some of the organisms in the soil that may be missing.

BETTER WATER INFILTRATION Precipitation that runs off or ponds in the field does not provide much benefit to the crop. Fields that have good water infiltration rates will capture more

of the precipitation during the growing season and supply more of that moisture to the growing crop. Fields with poor water infiltration are more prone to erosion. Erosion is a loss of applied nutrients and farther downstream water quality issues. Fields that allow water to pond lose much of the water to evaporation which means it is not available to the crop. Fields that have poor water infiltration are prone to crusting and can cause problems with root growth during the growing season and crop emergence at establishment. Soil organisms do not flourish in soils that crust over. Crusted soil does not have the porosity to allow water and air to flow through. To see the differences in water infiltration rates in your fields you may want to do some infiltration rate testing. One method would involve taking a piece of three-inch plastic pipe about two feet long and standing it upright in the field and filling it with water from a two-gallon jug. The faster the water soaks into the ground from the pipe the better the water infiltration. By doing this test in different fields and in various crops you can see that soil with good residue cover or sod will have better water infiltration than bare soil or fields that always receive frequent tillage. Growing crops in the rotation that provide greater amounts of residue can help improve field water infiltration.

LOWER BULK DENSITY Bulk density is the measurement of how compacted the soil is. Some soil compaction is necessary for good seed-to-soil contact and germination, soil that is too loose allows water to evaporate too quickly. Fields with a high bulk density or compaction have restricted root growth, reduced soil organism habitat and water movement is limited in the soil. Compaction or high bulk density is caused by a number of farming practices; every time we drive a piece of equipment across the field we are increasing the bulk density in those tracks. A track made when the soil is wet causes easier compaction because the moisture in the soil has replaced the air pockets that cushion it, just squeezes the soil together and makes that track very hard. In areas that have received high amounts of rainfall prior to and during the growing season are in a situation where every equipment pass is going to contribute to areas of compaction in the field. Reducing field traffic or limiting it to designating traffic lanes can help greatly to prevent field soil compaction. Fields that have a lower bulk density produce higher yields than those with compaction zones.

file. Good, deep topsoil is the foundation for building better yields. To increase topsoil depth, generate higher levels of plant material returned to the field. We have been told that topsoil builds downward and not accumulated upward and that it takes thousands of years to build an inch of topsoil. What these scientists are talking about is the chemical weathering and mechanical breakdown of rock surfaces. The process of topsoil building that farmers can do involves an intensive management process that first starts with eliminating soil erosion practices and swings to an accumulation of material in the soil. Most of this accumulation of material is going to come from plant residue, animal manure and other biosolids. Consider practices that protect the topsoil that is already present. Treat topsoil as one of the most valuable assets in the farming operation. Evaluate the land and determine if there is anything that is causing soil erosion or loss of soil from the field and do what is necessary to eliminate that loss. Plant and maintain grassed waterways to prevent water erosion. Establish buffer strips along ditch banks and field borders. In areas of the field where topsoil is eroded or not as deep as other areas the water infiltration rate is limited and availability of water to the crop is reduced. Precipitation is subject to surface water run off. From what I have seen in the field those that have a topsoil depth greater than six inches have a greater chance of producing more yield than those fields with less than six inches. Especially in years of extreme low moisture and in years of higher levels of moisture.

BALANCED FERTILITY From looking at soil sample results over the last number of years and seeing what the yield


Compaction, like that from tire tracks made under wet conditions, breaks down soil structure, decreasing water infiltration and root penetration. history on these fields is, I have seen that fields with a generally higher level of fertility have a history of higher yields. Having too much of some nutrients and not enough of others in the soil limits the yield potential of the crop to the potential of the limiting nutrient. From the “Nutrient Uptake and Removal by Field Crops” chart from the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, we know the uptake requirements of nutrients for the crops that we are growing and if those nutrients aren’t there when the crop needs them the yield potential is limited. Fields with above-adequate fertility can take advantage of better growing conditions and are not as likely to have an accumulation of stresses combined with environmental factors. Look at fertilizer application as a long-term investment that pays dividends over many growing seasons. Higher-yielding fields do not suffer from micronutrient deficiencies during periods of environmental stress, they have more than adequate amounts of

Jason Casselman is a partner and agronomist with Dunvegan Ag Solutions Inc. (www. at Rycroft, Alta.

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DEEPER TOPSOIL DEPTH One indicator of crop yield potential is the depth of topsoil, or the A horizon of the soil pro-

these important nutrients required to grow the crop. Evaluate your own farm and the productivity of the fields and determine which factors are limiting yield potential and implement a strategy to improve the quality of the land. It may involve modification of cropping system with a greater variety of crops in the rotation, reducing the amount of tillage on fields and increasing the return of crop residues back to the field. Feed the soil with more green material from living crops. Soil test and bring up nutrient levels from adequate or sufficient to higher levels than just crop removal rates. Reduce field compaction by controlling field traffic or eliminating unnecessary passes with field equipment. Fields with higher levels of soil biology, better water infiltration, lower bulk density, deeper topsoil depth and balanced fertility will show a greater return on investment and build higher yields. † 306-463-4622 306-463-4622




Best of Grainews

Weather and nitrogen management How much nitrogen do you need to grow a crop? That depends on many variables, including the weather BY BRUNEL SABOURIN


ere’s a puzzle. Two farmers in southern Manitoba seeded on the same day last spring (around June 10), but applied different rates of nitrogen with their canola. One farmer applied 60 pounds per acre, based on crop insurance data and seeding dates. The second farmer figured there was potential for higher yields with the right weather, and applied a more common rate of 120 lbs./ ac. At the end of the season, both of these farmers had roughly 30 bushels per acre of canola in the bin and 20 lbs./ac. of residual nitrogen in the ground (at a 24-foot depth). Where did the second farmer’s nitrogen go?

With the price of nitrogen creeping up again, use efficiency is becoming more important. Unfortunately, so many variables affect nitrogen uptake that the optimal application rate is a moving target from year to year. Some of the factors I believe have a big influence on nitrogen use efficiency are moisture, crop staging and temperature. The first variable to consider is the amount of nitrogen required to grow the crop. These amounts vary by geographical area as well as from field to field, since nitrogen use relies heavily on water and many other factors like soil texture, topography, drainage and temperature. When we look at the optimal ranges in the chart adapted from the Canadian Fertilizer Institute we can see that requirements can vary substantially. As agronomists and farmers, we usually start with a base number of pounds of N per bushel, then fine tune that number for the local environment. A good agronomy team with local experience should have the tools required to help you figure out potential gains and losses. Once you know how much nitrogen you need to grow the crop, the next step is to see what’s already available. Soil tests are an excellent way to learn how much residual nitrogen is in the ground from previous seasons. Testing organic matter levels help us understand the nutrient supplying capacity of the soil. Complete soil tests can also give us a good idea of the nutrient and moisture holding capacity of soils and help estimate potential yields. It is important to note that high residual nitrogen levels can indicate a high degree of variability in a field. If a composite test comes up with levels of 60-80 lbs./ac. or more, there is a good


DENITRIFICAITON In this case, I believe denitrification was responsible for a significant portion of the loss. Simplified, denitrification occurs under anaerobic conditions. Soil microbes need oxygen to breathe. They can strip oxygen from nitrate molecules, leaving the nitrogen molecules in a form susceptible to atmospheric loss. In anaerobic conditions with a soil temperature of 5 C, two to four pounds of N can be lost every day. Last year in southern Manitoba, the season started wet and quickly turned dry, which was likely the biggest yield limiting factor. In southern Manitoba, our heavy clay soils had a three to four inch rainfall event at the end of June, when soil temperatures were already in the mid to high teens. At that point, the crop was barely three weeks old and unable to draw any significant amount of moisture from the ground.


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A southern Manitoba field last spring. Moisture availability can cause significant variability. possibility that some areas of the field are testing 20-30 lbs./ac. and other areas could be testing more than 100 lbs./ac. A strategy for these fields might be to zonetest based on topography, or use satellite imagery to determine if a variable rate nitrogen application would be a fit. If residual nitrogen levels are low (20-30 lbs./ac.), chances are slim that some areas of the field have significant residual N levels. However, a low-testing field does not mean there is no variability — in some areas the nitrogen may have gone into yield, while in other areas it may have been lost to the environment.

FERTILIZER TIMING Different crops require nitrogen at different times of the year. If we know when the plant needs nitrogen and how much, we can do a better job of having that nitrogen readily available. In many areas of the prairies, rainfall is most abundant early in the season. If we apply all the required nitrogen for the season upfront, it will be more susceptible to loss. If our fields are really prone to losses from leaching or denitrification, we may want to look at a slow release fertilizer or a split application to get us through the spring rains. If you’re considering a top-up treatment later in the season, it’s important to consider at what stage a crop sets its yield. Cereals generally set their yield early in the season. Using wheat as an example, the three- to six-leaf stage is when tiller numbers and head size are determined. This stage is critical in setting up for big yields. If the crop is stressed during this crucial period, yield may be capped at a lower level and additional fertilizer may not provide a benefit. If conditions have been very good, it might pay to add a little more and target a higher yield. Canola, on the other hand, has a very “elastic” yield. With


Nitrogen Uptake and Removal N Spring wheat (40 bu./ac.) Barley (80 bu./ac.) Oats (100 bu./ac.) Flax (24 bu./ac.) Canola (35 bu./ac.)





76 - 93

29 - 35

65 - 80

8 - 10


54 - 66

21 - 26

16 - 19



100 - 122

40 - 49

96 - 117

12 - 14


70 - 85

30 - 37

23 - 28



96 - 117

36 - 45

131 - 160

12 - 14


55 - 68

23 - 28

17 - 20



64 - 78

18 - 22

39 - 48

12 - 15


46 - 56

14 - 17

13 - 16



100 - 123

46 - 57

73 - 89

17 - 21


61 - 74

33 - 40

16 - 20

10 - 12

“Uptake” refers to the average total pounds per acre of nutrient taken up by the crop. “Removal” is the nutrient removed in the harvested portion of the crop. This chart is adapted from “Nutrient Uptake and Removal by Field Crops,” Canadian Fertilizer Institute, 1998. the right conditions and fertility it can make up some yield later in the season. Knowing this, even though the plants may go through a stress period, there can still be a good chance of a payback from additional fertilizer if losses are suspected.

MOISTURE AVAILABILITY Another crucial component of big yields is water. Too little moisture and the crop can’t take up any nutrients. Too much and the crops won’t access required n u t r i e n t s e i t h e r. M o i s t u r e availability will vary between different geographical regions, and also within a field. Within a field, yield variability is strongly influenced by topography. Ridges usually have less topsoil and a coarser soil texture. Rainfall either runs through ridges or runs off right away, often carrying valuable topsoil with it. On the other end of the scale are the bottoms that receive the rain and topsoil from the higher ground. Different areas of a field react differently to different weather environments. It’s important to address this variability by either fertilizing for the average or split-

ting a field into separate management zones.

FLEXIBLE APPLICATIONS So to pull everything together, we need to recognize that variability within most fields makes predicting exact yield and nitrogen requirements a big challenge. A lot of this variability is influenced by weather and out of our control. Applying all of our estimated nitrogen requirements up-front at seeding is risky if yield potential is reduced, or excess moisture makes the nitrogen unavailable to the crop. The more flexible we can be with nitrogen applications, the better we can match the requirements of the crop and minimize potential losses. Once a season in underway we usually have a better idea of a crop’s potential. If conditions are poor, we can minimize losses. If they are good we can raise our yield goals and add a little more nitrogen. The end result should be higher yields and better nutrient use efficiency. † Brunel Sabourin is a location agronomist with Cargill AgHorizons at Morris, Man. Contact him at 204-746-4743 or at



Features Harvest

Soybean Harvest Tips Many farmers have their first soybean crop in the ground this season. Here are five practical tips to make sure it all gets safely into the bin By Brad Eggum


oybean area continues to expand in Western Canada as farmers become more familiar with the agronomics of the crop and realize how hardy and low management soybeans can be. Because many farmers will be heading into the field to combine soybeans for the first time this fall, here are some tips to help you maximize harvest volumes.

1.  Keep it clean Most of the soybeans growing in Western Canada are Roundup Ready. This makes keeping the crop clean very convenient. I recommend exploiting this trait to the fullest. RR Soybeans are very resistant to glyphosate. Spray the rate you need to control your target weeds and do not hesitate to spray into the early reproductive phase if weed pressure is prominent. Your soybeans will dry down very nicely upon maturity — it would be a shame to have green weeds disrupt the ease of harvest.

2.  Watch for maturity Upon physiological maturity, leaves will begin to turn yellow and fall from the plant. This leaf drop will happen in the same order as flowering took place so you may need to inspect the canopy to see early signs. From the road, you’ll first notice a couple of small circles turning yellow, followed by more and larger areas leading to a rapid defoliation. At this point you should be 10 days to two weeks to harvest.

3. Don’t desiccate There really is no reason I can think of to desiccate a soybean plant. They are very indeterminate and until their last breath they are increasing yield. When the first leaf dries down and falls off, approximately 80 per cent of your yield will be set and safe from a frost. The crop will still be quite green. A frost at this time will stop development of the remaining pods and trim the yield. A desiccation will perform the same effect as the frost, so you may as well let the plant continue to develop naturally. Soybeans in general are very resistant to shattering and lodging. Inclement harvest weather has little effect on their final grade. This crop will wait for you at harvest. If you have another crop that is more susceptible to downgrading, don’t hesitate to leave your beans standing while you harvest the more vulnerable crop. One note of caution to this: under extreme drought conditions prior to and at harvest (as was prominent in Manitoba last season) shatter loss can become evident. This could be variety specific as well.

4. Choose the right equipment In preparation for harvest your land should be rolled to cre-

ate a level, stone-free surface. A good crop of soybeans can stand from mid-calf to above the waist depending on environment. They pod all the way to the top of the plant, and they start podding low. You will want to straight cut your soybeans. Period. When mature the plants drop their clothes, there is nothing left but sticks and pods. They do not knit together very well and you will be cutting them low, so picking them off the ground can be very difficult. The preferred header would

have a flexible platform, be it an auger or draper style. The addition of an air assisted reel is ideal. The air assist is most necessary in conjunction with a short crop in order to keep the cutter bar clean. Shatter loss on the knife can be dramatic if the plant material is allowed to build up over the knife. Four soybeans on the ground per square foot equals one bushel per acre, and don’t forget to count the beans in any pods you may have missed altogether. Cutting a short crop on an angle to the seeding direction may provide some help.

The new R2 varieties appear to have some improved pod height in  general  which  of  course makes managing the harvest much easier. However we have not seen enough of any of these varieties grown through varying conditions to exclaim “eureka” just yet.

5. Store them safely Soybeans are considered dry at 13 per cent moisture. They are still quite chewy at this moisture level and not nearly as abrasive as peas. The 20 per cent oil content makes

the difference. They will readily air dry, so starting at higher moisture levels is fine if you have the facilities. Once dry they are quite stable in storage. Be careful if you are bringing green material into the hopper (green pods, pieces of green canola or other weeds, etc.) This can cause hot spots in your bin. If you need to, you can thrash soybeans quite aggressively for commercial production. Splits and cracks within reason, are not discounted or considered dockage. I hope this article will help some new growers over some of the potential pitfalls of harvesting a new crop. As you harvest your soybeans, you may see several half tons sitting on the edge of your field this fall. Most of their drivers will be thinking, “Maybe I should be doing that.” † Brad Eggum operates Eggum Seed Sales from his family farm at Halbrite in southeast Sask. They have established Saskatchewan’s first bulk soybean distribution system. Contact him at 306-861-7048 or





Three ways to think about rotation planning The biggest challenge to rotation planning is finding the balance between short term profits and long term planning BY ROBERT KLEWCHUK


here was a joke that once made the rounds about farmers moving to a twocrop rotation: canola and snow. It’s funny, but it also highlights the challenge that all farmers face when it comes to crop rotation planning: how to keep chemical rotation and pest issues in check, but still make money? It’s not always an easy question to answer. The ideal four-year rotation, cereal-oilseed-cereal-

pulse, simply isn’t possible in all geographies, and the economics of some crops, canola in particular, can make the risky practice of tightening the rotation too attractive to resist. “It’s like playing a chess game,” says Kent McKay, agronomist and co-manager of Double Diamond Farm Supply in Boissevain, Man. He acknowledges that effective rotation planning can be frustrating, and that it’s difficult to forgo the profit motive in favour of the agronomic one occasionally, but the

payoff is worth it. “Good planning puts you in control, rather than having to put fires out afterward.” Here is some of his advice.

1. THINK LONG TERM; ACT SHORT TERM McKay sits down with customers every fall to look at the year ahead. “We get out the herbicide crop rotation spreadsheet and make plans for the growing season coming up.” But it’s not just one year at a time. “We discuss situations we

want to avoid, like if you do X this year, it forces you into that crop or herbicide next year. You have to look at what pitfalls to avoid.” He thinks that planning three to five years out is reasonable, but once the plans are made, revisit them every fall or winter to see what needs adjusting. Changes might include new varieties you want to try, commodity market indicators, new pest pressures or a need to incorporate newly acquired land into your plans. Think of your crop rotation plan

as a living document, says McKay. It’s meant to be altered.

2. HAVE A PLAN B “The economics of canola have been pretty appealing,” says McKay. That’s put a lot of pressure on farmers to seed it more often than conventional wisdom says they should. The risk is increased pest pressure from all sides — disease, weeds and insects. “I’m not saying people shouldn’t take those risks,” says McKay. “But you have to know how you’re going to manage the problems if they happen. So if you choose crops that are more risky from a rotational standpoint, having a Plan B is always a good idea — understand what your options are.” Of course, that applies to all rotational options, not just canola. If you planned a pulse crop, for example, but too much spring rain made timely seeding impossible, what’s your Plan B, and what are its implications for that field the following year?


Protect Your Investment

Chemical rotations are as important as crop rotations. The two go hand-in-hand, and while most farmers have a handle the concept of rotating herbicide groups to manage weed resistance, the matter of chemical rotation has a few more layers to consider. Residuals, for example. Herbicides with residual activity can be extremely useful if you want to control multiple and late-emerging weed flushes. But these products can have big cropping implications for the following year. Pulses, for example, have a limited number of herbicide options, and can usually follow a wheat crop just fine. But if the wheat crop has a resistant weed problem, grass or broadleaf, what do you do? The decision now becomes about where you will get the best use out of a Group 2, on the wheat or the lentils? If it’s the lentils, you need another plan for the wheat. The key is good record keeping. “A good example in our area is carryover in soybeans,” says McKay. “You need good records so that when those decisions have to be made, there’s some basis from which to make them.”


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Ultimately, a successful crop rotation plan finds the balance between making a profit today and protecting profit potential for tomorrow. In other words, choosing to put wheat on a field this year may not give you the same return on investment as canola, but it might make better sense in terms of what you need to put on that field in the future. McKay recounts the story of a customer who had a huge Group 1 resistant weed problem. “It had us absolutely beat,” he says. As attempt after attempt failed to solve the problem, they finally turned to using old products in new ways and eventually cleaned up the field, returning it to profitability. “The grower had to be really committed,” says McKay, adding that it took six years of strict discipline to recover the field, and six years of potentially reduced profit is a big price to pay for earlier rotational mistakes. † Robert Klewchuk, Technical Lead — Western Canada, Syngenta Canada Inc.




Selecting for the top producers With goats, as with any class of livestock, it is important to know which animals have best genetic potential DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


rtificially rearing our goat kids this spring was the only way we could think of to kid our herd early enough to have the kids gone by fall and to determine which females were our highest-producing does. We don’t have the infrastructure for the does to raise their kids in the winter and after our smallscale experiment last year we had a suspicion part of our doe herd just wasn’t milking enough. Every farm has a different level of milk that is acceptable. The Canadian average for an adult dairy goat on a high-potency 16 per cent grain and alfalfa hay diet is two litres per day. Our personal guideline was one litre per day production for a first freshener and two litres per day for all other lactations. Our expectation for our does was to maintain or surpass this production on the milk stand for a projected 10-month lactation. We do not feed second-cut alfalfa hay or dairy ration so we expected less of our does but not a lot.



Considering we run a meat operation it was actually surprising how smoothly pail feeding more than 70 kids actually was. As each doe kidded the young ones were brought in the house and cleaned up, umbilical area iodined, fed as much colostrum as desired for the first 24 hours, and kept in an old crib. We lined the crib with cardboard, an old comforter and old sheets. This did increase our laundry load but it was the easiest way of keeping them warm and dry because we do not use heat lamps in our barn. It also made the transition easier for the does. They couldn’t hear the kids so most of them didn’t even look for them. Once the newborn kids were established and able to suck on the nipple pails — usually three days — they were moved to nursery pens in the barn and put on four feedings a day. What we learned with this part of the experiment was that we had a lot less stress than having the kids with the does outside. We lost none due to being laid on or bad weather. If any became ill, it was caught immediately which also lowered our death loss. Overall this method was a huge success and we would definitely do it again.

As the does kidded they were moved to the milking herd. This was a bit of a learning experience since most of our herd is managed for meat production. In fact we milked a 15-year-old cow this year that lost her calf and she was easier to convince to be a milk cow than some of these goats were. Some of the does never attained our milk production goal, while others started dropping off within weeks. It didn’t take long to establish why kids were not keeping up with weight gain past six weeks without creep feed. Out of 70 does only 50 made the first cull. The next cull came when the does went to pasture. Since our herd is expected to take their young to pasture and feed them, as a beef cow or ewe would, it was important to establish which ones started to dry off once pasture came. We have no interest in weaning our kids at three months as many meat goat people do. Thankfully milk supply remained stable on the does that made it through the first cull. At this point of the experiment we are confident the kids are all growing uniformly and have an


Hand rearing 70 goat kids sounds like a lot of work, but the process went surprisingly well, and helped in selecting the top does in the herd. acceptable weight gain of 10 pounds per month above their birth weight. Therefore, it was established our genetics are able to grow kids as long as the milk supply is constant which led us to purchasing a new buck. To add to our new experiences this spring was the introduction of a new registered Alpine buck from New Brunswick, that is a complete genetic outcross. We have never flown in livestock or purchased anything without being able to inspect it before delivery.

SHIPPING TIPS Here are a few tips for breeders planning to transport kids from a distance: • Don’t buy from anyone if you don’t have a way of sending a representative to inspect the animal before it comes to you. • Demand all vaccinations be done according to your herd program before the animal is delivered, and have the breeder provide documentation. • Don’t pay for the animal before you accept delivery. It is much easier to not pay for a dead animal than to get a refund. • Get all correspondence in writing. Verbal instructions and agreements are useless.

• Check flight schedules and prices so you know costs in advance. Our flight suddenly jumped $200 without notice because of the date we flew. • When picking up your animal make sure you bring along fresh water and hay. The animal has had a long ride. Administering a probiotic and vitamins upon pickup is also recommended. • If the animal hasn’t been vaccinated for shipping fever (pasteurella pneumonia) check with your veterinarian if antibiotics are required to protect the animal further once home. This experiment was admittedly a lot of hands-on work, but all of us agree it was worth it. Where exactly it will lead us is yet to be determined but for the economic stability of the farm and being able to responsibly sell high-quality does, it was needed. Our next adventure is to find an economically viable use of the excess milk when we finish weaning the kids. Soaps, lotions, feeding it to other livestock, spreading it on the fields as a calcium/enzyme amendment — the possibilities are endless. † Debbie Chikousky farms with her family at Narcisse, Man. Visitors are always welcome. Contact Debbie at debbie@


U.S. drought changing the cattle market Tough times for U.S. beef producers might bode well for Canadian cow/calf operations and feed grain growers JERRY KLASSEN MARKET UPDATE


he U.S. Midwest is undergoing one of the worst droughts on record, which is significantly changing the cattle market complex. Over the past two years, the cattle market has been encouraging expansion through record-high prices for feeder and fed cattle. However, we now find many producers liquidating high-quality cows and heifers due to high corn prices and poor pasture conditions. Extensive herd rebuilding will be delayed by one year and possibly two. In addition to the U.S. drought, the cattle complex continues to struggle with weak consumer spending and the extensive heat wave has also tempered beef demand. Fed cattle prices have been grinding lower throughout the summer due to softer demand and larger-than-expected beef production. U.S. feedlot operators are struggling with high

input costs and although feeder prices have deteriorated, values are still significantly higher than last year, especially for lightweight calves.

FED CATTLE Fed cattle were trading at $117/cwt in the U.S. Southern Plains in mid-July while Alberta packers were buying slaughter cattle in the range of $108/cwt to $111/cwt. U.S. cattle-on-feed numbers have been running two per cent above last year while Alberta and Saskatchewan feedlots are carrying similar numbers as in 2011. Carcass weights in Canada and the U.S. are sharply higher than year-ago levels, therefore beef production is coming in higher than earlier projections for the third quarter which will continue to weigh on the fed market. Beef production in the fourth quarter was expected to be down sharply from last year but with the larger placements in July and August, production will likely be very similar to 2011. Beef demand remains a large uncertainty moving forward. First, offshore beef exports will

be down from earlier projections given the recent sales pace. It now looks like U.S. beef exports will not be as large as last year, which is partly due to the stronger U.S. greenback.

GOOD FOR WESTERN CANADA The U.S. economic situation appears to have stagnated in the second quarter and latter half of 2012 will experience modest growth. During the first quarter of 2012, the U.S. added 226,000 jobs per month but only 75,000 jobs per month in the second quarter. Unemployment remains at 8.2 per cent, which is not a healthy signal. Consumer confidence has also deteriorated in summer and the does not look to improve in the fall. Disposable income is marginally higher than last year and has not outpaced inflation. Therefore, consumers have weaker spending power than they did a year ago which effects restaurant spending and higher end retail beef demand. Fed cattle prices in southern Alberta are expected to trade in the range of $105 to $113 in the third quarter and slowly percolate higher in the fourth

quarter to $110 to $116. Longer term, the strongest prices are expected in January through March when slaughter steers could peak at $120. April 2013 live cattle futures remain near historical highs; we have all seen how fast the market can change with a short period. The deferred futures are still factoring a lower beef production in the first quarter of 2013 but this will increase and weigh on the market due to larger placements in the summer months. Western Canadian feeder cattle prices have held up fairly well compared to the U.S. market. In southern Alberta in mid-July, 600- to 700-pound steers sold in the range of $160/wt to $170/cwt while 700- to 800-pound cattle steers sold from $143/cwt to $155/ cwt. Heifers were selling at a $10/ cwt to $12/cwt discount to steers. The USDA reported black mediumflesh steers weighing 665 pounds sold for $151 in Missouri; heifers weighing 700 pounds sold for $138. Alberta and Saskatchewan feedlots are paying a sharp premium over U.S. feedlots, which is a price anomaly and usually short term. The price discrepancy is due to record-high corn prices.

BARLEY PRICES STRONG Cash barley values in southern Alberta reached record highs of $285/mt in mid-July due to the historically tight carryout for the 2011-12 crop year. For 2012-13, we may see some pressure on the barley market during harvest, but cash prices will stay firm into the winter. Barley prices will likely be 15 per cent higher than last year which will weigh on the feeder market. Fed cattle prices will be similar to last year so the feeder market has to give way to the rising input costs. It is important to realize that world barley supplies are also below the five-year average and Canada will have a larger export program. Adverse growing conditions in the Black Sea region has caused world barley values to surge. The price structure may cause barley in Northern Alberta, central and northern Saskatchewan to move off the West Coast instead of to Alberta feedlots. Producers need to watch this closely because the world feed grain complex is extremely snug. During the spring of 2013, domestic barley prices in Alberta need to trade at a $20 to $30 premium to world values to cut off the export program. This is a major risk to the feeder market moving forward. † 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.




Cattleman’s Corner RANCHER’S DIARY

Many miles covered training horses and riders HEATHER SMITH THOMAS



ast week we put in one more weir, so all our ditches now have headgates and weirs for measuring water. The heifers got out again, so we put them in the little pasture by the house overnight, then put them with the cows and calves in the field below the lane. A few days later Lynn walked the fence in the swamp pasture and found where someone had cut the wires where the fence goes through the brush to make a trail for deer. The person who vandalized the fence also cut the wires on one of the gates. Andrea and I have been riding nearly every day to check gates and fences on the range and to put a lot of miles on April Sprout, the young mare we bought at the horse sale for Dani. We take turns riding her and our old dependables (Ed and Breezy). Sprout is interfering badly, however (hitting her right hind fetlock joint with her left hind foot), so we started using protective “boots” on her hind legs. These help; the bloody, raw area is starting to heal. Michael spent a few more days hauling rocks and finished the

surfacing on Andrea’s driveway behind her house. We had cold, windy weather, and a little rain, with snow in the high country. Rick went to cut wood and got his pickup stuck in 10 inches of new snow. Lynn and Andrea drove up there in our jeep and took him some chains and he was able to drive out. Yesterday we went to Emily’s 8th grade graduation ceremony. That afternoon when Lynn was irrigating in the field above the house he found the carcass of a freshly killed deer. This morning Andrea and Rick saw a young wolf travelling up through the field but didn’t have a chance to shoot at it. This afternoon we took Sammy and Dani for a ride, with Sam riding 26-year-old Veggie and Dani riding Sprout. I rode Rubbie for the first time since she injured her stifle joint a year ago, and she seems sound again (finally) on that hind leg. Maybe she will be sound enough for short rides this year.

JUNE 24 Andrea and I helped Alfonzo and Lowell move their cattle from the low range to the middle range pasture. Their friend Bob missed a bunch of cattle in the area below our 320-acre pasture, so Andrea and I moved them the next day. Two of Alfonzo’s cows had just calved (one calf was only about an hour old when we found him and his mother) so we left them

behind — and went back a few days later to move them. These past three weeks we’ve been riding nearly every day to put more miles and training on Sprout — checking (and shutting) gates and fixing water troughs, and fixing some fences that Alfonzo didn’t check. We put our cows and calves in our hill pasture above the house for a couple weeks. Granddaughter Heather is busy training several young horses for various clients. She also spent a couple days riding Gus (the nineyear-old gelding that bucked off the fence posts during our packing project to build fence last winter). Andrea and I rode with her the first day, and Dani rode with the three of us the second day, on Sprout. She was delighted to be able to ride with her older cousin. Michael and Carolyn went to several sales this month and bought some pairs, some pregnant cows, and a few yearlings. They paid reasonable prices at the Montana sales; that region has been dry this spring and short on grass, and some ranchers are cutting down their herds. We will loan Michael and Carolyn our two yearling bulls this summer to breed their cows. They will be using our upper place (the meadows, and the 320 and 160) for pasture. This past two weeks they’ve been rebuilding and adding to the little corral on the upper place, so they can brand and vaccinate the cattle, and Rick has been helping set posts.


Andrea, Dani and granddaughter Heather out riding the range and improving their horsemanship skills. Last week Rick and Andrea drove up into the 320 with her little Jeep and sawed out the down timber that was blocking the road. Rick also sawed out the brush along the fence in our swamp pasture so we could fix the fence where someone cut the wires. I put front shoes on Rubbie so I can continue to use her on short rides without her getting tenderfooted. Andrea and I took all the kids for a ride over the low range, with Dani on Sprout, Emily on Ed, Charlie on Breezy, and Sam on Veggie. We made several more rides these past few days, and they are all doing better with their horsemanship. Michael and Carolyn’s new cows are calving. One cow had twins and abandoned one of them. Michael found it the next morning, nearly dead, with its belly torn open by magpies that had been eating the navel cord. He brought the calf home, fed it colostrum by tube, gave it antibiotics and Banamine, and sewed up the belly. It’s doing much better now, and living in their basement until they fix a pen outside. Yesterday Michael put new front shoes on Sprout, and new hind shoes today. She is getting much better about having her feet handled.

JULY 10 Michael, Carolyn and kids got their cows and calves branded/vaccinated, and moved them to the 320-acre pasture. Michael, Lynn, Rick and Lynn worked for several days putting in a new water trough in the fenceline between the 320 and 160. We had an old water trough there for many years, but after the earthquake in the early 1980s, that spring went farther underground and there wasn’t much water for the trough. Lynn water-witched that loca-

tion and discovered that the water is now seven feet down, so Michael dug down to it with the backhoe. They put in a new springbox and water line, and a new trough — and now it’s running about two gallons per minute. A week ago Saturday young Heather, Andrea and I drove to Leadore and up Holly Creek to a cow camp to look at a mare for sale. She’s had several owners and her current owner had sent her to the range riders at the cow camp to put more training on her. She’s about seven years old and still very green. After the range riders realized how green she was (hasn’t been ridden), they knew they didn’t have time to work with her. The price was cheap ($400) and we decided to gamble on her — and I am hiring young Heather to start riding her. So now “Angel” (the name Dani gave the mare) is at Heather’s training corrals as a pupil for the next few weeks. Heather has been saddling and bridling her, ponying her out in the hills, and has ridden her a few times in the round corral, and so far the mare is doing very well. This past week Andrea and I took the kids on several rides. Then on Thursday we did a “picnic” ride six miles up into the mountains behind the ranch. Lynn and Rick met us up there with the food (in coolers) in the Jeep. This was a very special event, marking 12 years since Andrea’s burn injuries July 5, 2000 — and celebrating her survival and the fact she was able to go on with her life. We are grateful for being able to do this as a family, with three little grandkids that would never have been born if she’d perished in that fire. Our “picnic ride” was a fun and special day! † Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841.


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



Cattleman’s Corner ANIMAL HEALTH

New vaccine for cattle can benefit industry ROY LEWIS ANIMAL HEALTH


ith food safety always of top concern to the consumer there is increased awareness on the foodborne zoonotic (transmissible to humans) diseases such as salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli and a few years ago listeria. Every time there is a recall of meat or an increase in disease incidence from other sources such as water or contaminated vegetables it becomes a big media event. These events cause consumer confidence in our food supply to erode and the cost to our medical system also increases substantially. The psychological, emotional and mental strain to the families impacted also cannot be overstated. To reduce the cases or risk of these diseases from developing, there must be a collective effort for prevention down the entire path of food production and preparation. With the release of the new E. coli vaccine in Canada and other preventative measures there is an improved chance to greatly control this disease in the future. The new vaccine “Econiche” is a made-in-Canada vaccine and Canada is the first country in the world to have the vaccine available. Statistics tell us there are upwards of 100,000 human cases of E. coli poisoning in North America yearly. Of these an average of five per cent of people get the hemolytic urologic syndrome, which can cause kidney failure or death. This primarily affects children. The vaccine would be the most effective way to reduce the number of organisms present in cattle the primary shedder. We know that almost half of these human cases come from food sources other than meat.

trol of bacteria at the feedlot but vaccination provides the greatest reduction in fecal shedding. With the vaccine, you are hitting the problem at its very source before the bacteria numbers get too high.

MANAGEMENT OPTIONS If we examine other potential management changes at the feedlot now and in the future several points come to mind. A lot of potential contamination at the feedlot comes in the form of tag (manure caked on the animal’s hide) so any measure to minimize tag is a benefit. Woodchips, sawdust and straw for bedding are all used mainly because of availability. In our area woodchips seem to result in the lowest amount of tag but it is an area that must be studied further. Larger feedlots have a greater concentration of cattle and often more limited manpower resources on a

per-head basis for distributing bedding in pens. Climatic conditions vary greatly year-to-year making control difficult. One research group developed an innovative way to test for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in pens of cattle. It involves short sections of rope hung on the feed bunk. Curious cattle lick the ropes, and the ropes are then collected for culture. If E. coli O157:H7 is in the pen, it will show up on the ropes.

PACKER/CONSUMER LEVELS Further downstream through the packing plants towards final consumption of meat, several other preventive procedures work synergistically with vaccination. Packing plants already spend more than $5 per animal on procedures such as steam-treating carcasses and cleaning based on a strict HACCP plan. These measures help prevent contamination with

E. coli as well as other food source zoonotic diseases. The meat industry is looking at irradiation which is expensive and really only doable at very large plants. However, it makes sense in helping further insure the meat is safe when leaving the plant. The final responsibility for safe food lies directly with the consumer. It is your responsibility as a consumer to fully cook your meat regardless of type or source. Also washing the vegetables thoroughly and keeping food preparation area clean is good kitchen practice. Proper food handling should be the last thing you do before putting food in your mouth.

LOOKING AHEAD The future for E. coli vaccination is an ever evolving process and there are plenty of questions to be answered. Will cattle shows

and other exhibits make vaccination mandatory? Should petting zoos vaccinate and is the vaccination necessary on other species? Will monitoring identify specific feedlots with higher levels of bacteria that will be forced to implement vaccination? In the barbecue season when incidence rises, will a premium be paid for cattle identified through our national identification program as “Econiche” vaccinated? Will cattle with lots of tag need to be vaccinated? Will the government help supply the vaccination as a way to greatly reduce health care costs? For further information check out two very good websites: www. and for further referenced information. † Roy Lewis is a practising large-animal veterinarian at the Westlock Veterinary Center, north of Edmonton, Alta. His main interests are bovine reproduction and herd health.

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TREAT AT THE SOURCE If we further check the original source of contamination, cattle are singled out as the primary reservoir. Whether it is E. coli getting into water sources from manure runoff, vegetables being contaminated through irrigation water, or people exposed to cattle at fairs and other shows, minimizing the level at the source (cattle) will minimize these other routes of human infection as well. Prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 at the feedlot varies greatly over time with a definite increased risk in summer and fall. This also corresponds to the greatest usage of ground beef and the North American barbecue season. Vaccination would greatly complement other procedures down the food chain. The reduction of shedding by 60 per cent has a dramatic effect on control. High-level shedders in the feedlot are only three per cent of the population yet how do we identify them? They are as healthy as the rest of the cattle. Super shedders have been identified which have a million times the shedding magnitude and represent the greatest risk of contamination and prevalence of E. coli in the cattle population. The use of chlorinated water, bacteriophages or probiotics also complement con-

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Great year to visit southern Saskatchewan BOYD ANDERSON

SPRING, 2012


ere at then end of April it is time for to provide an update on how the past year has been in our area and with my family. This past year has been very good to us. Last year, we had good rainfall, an excellent growth of grass and a good crop except some that some farmers did not get all their acres seeded. The government came through and paid for some of the unseeded acres. Last year, we had the best grass and hay crop ever. During this winter and even now, much hay has been sold as far away as Texas. Cattle prices have moved up. We received over $1,200 per head for our steers off of grass at the yearling sale. The prices continued good through the summer, fall and this winter. The past winter was the best winter I have ever gone through. I sold my first livestock in 1937 and except for the war years, I have sold cattle or sheep every year since. At the present time, both Lloyd (here at home) and Ryan had an excellent winter and good calving results. The weather through April has been very good. The calves have been coming steadily along. Out of 144 calves born, Ryan told me he only lost one calf — one

killed by coyotes. Through most of my lifetime around cattle, we have always had coyotes around but I can hardly remember losing any calves to them. Everything has changed. Now, I am hearing of losses to the coyote. Hard to imagine, but we do know that very few coyotes have to be around and the wildlife such as gophers, mice and rabbits are fewer in number. Much farmland has changed hands around our area. Many sales of 10 to 20 sections have taken place and the national park has also been buying more ranchers as time goes on. The sales to the Grasslands National Park are all voluntary and most sales are made by retiring old families. The farmland and the ranches are bringing a good price in my opinion. Never did I think the land would have been sold out of the family. So far, my land has been held by family. Lloyd’s three boys have been going to university, two have graduated with degrees and the youngest still has one more year to go. All boys have land and cattle now and it seems they want to stay in Saskatchewan and be involved in agriculture as well as getting jobs. I have told them it does not take much effort to carry an education around. Every one of them can handle horses, cows and machinery very well. As for myself, because of my eyesight, I cannot work with the livestock and the machinery. I am living in the house that Lorene helped me to build. I get along fairly

well. I do most of my cooking and housework but I do have a lady in at least once a week to help out. I play lots of cards; whist, bridge and cribbage. I walk for exercise and I listen to the radio and the television. I have always been interested in markets, farming and ranching. I have not driven a vehicle now for more than six years. It is hard but I do find drivers. At the present time, I have 26 grandchildren and great grandchildren. They are scattered over much of the world. For instance, one boy works in London, England. Another one is in Korea and one in Denver, Colorado. Several are in British Columbia and Alberta. It is good to get a short call or a visit once in a while. Some of them like to travel. Even through the years when I was tied down to the ranch, I travelled when I could and I always wanted to see what was over the next hill.

MAY 6, 2012 The weather has been good to us again. We have had two inches of rain during the past two weeks. The countryside is just beautiful with green grass and healthy-looking hay fields. There has been some seeding done and I expect all farmers will get going after this last rain. We have never had a better calving season than this one. There has not been one bad storm during April. Lloyd keeps his two-year-old heifers in a small pasture and has had very little trouble. Over at the Big Muddy, Ryan had over 140 calves


Another good year for pasture and hay in southern Saskatchewan before he lost one from a heifer. This is just the best calving year I have ever had. In casual conversation, the high price of gas was discussed and it is high, about $5.25 per gallon. I am not doing the driving and so I do not think about the price so much. We have it handy here at Glentworth. We just drive to the pump and use a card to register the fill. Perhaps the western Prairie people are looking for a close-to-home holiday, so how about coming to southern Saskatchewan? I would like to put in a word for the south. Here is what we have to offer across the south along number 18 highway, starting at Maple Creek going east. You can start with the Cypress Hills, then drive on to Eastend and visit the dinosaur display. If you keep coming east you will come to the west block of the Grasslands National Park. Here besides the vast expansive area of native ranchlands, you will find a large herd of the American Bison (still buffalo to me). There are rattlesnakes, prairie dogs, eagle, deer, antelope and many other birds and animals. You can drive across the

well-known ranches of Walt Larson, Hugh Dixon, Francis Walker and the Gillespies plus many others. Stop at Mankota and visit and enjoy five drawings in the hotel. At the east block of the park, the area south of Fir Mountain, you will find Rock Creek Canyon, the Sinking Hill and the rough picturesque badlands. On a hot day, you can take off your shoes and socks and enjoy the water flowing over the gravel bottom of Rock Creek or you can go hiking in the badlands and find some dinosaur bones jutting out of some of the sides of the badlands. If you are looking for a swim, visit the Wood Mountain Regional Park where one of the finest swimming pools in Saskatchewan awaits for you there. I hope to see some of my readers during the summer and remember if you come, check out the big Muddy area and Coronach, Assiniboia and the park at Lafleche. All of them are worth a stopover. I am looking forward to meeting some of you somewhere along the trail. † Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.


Creep feed picks up where milk leaves off PETER VITTI


reep feeding calves on pasture has become popular among Prairie cow-calf producers over the last 10 years. For most, after calving, spring calves rely on milk for the next couple of months, but by midsummer some form of supplement feed is provided for the rest of the grazing season. From this point forward, cow milk production has slowed and supports only about half of a calf’s energy and protein needs. Likewise, calves might be actively grazing and eating lots of grass, but most plants are becoming increasingly mature and will often limit an opportunity for respectable calf growth. A well-balanced creep feed tends to bridge this gap, between the loss of natural milk production and once-lush pastures, and allows good overall performance, especially for calves, weaned and sold in the fall. It is also recognized that large-framed calves require more dietary energy and protein compared to small- and mediumframed animals. Creep feeding can help these larger calves achieve their full-genetic potential for exceptional growth.

FEED EFFICIENCY Regardless of frame size, most university field data agree that crept-fed nursing calves on a even a modest plane of nutrition can potentially maintain a daily bodyweight gain of about 1.8-2.5 lb/ head/day by which 30-60 lbs of this gain can be traced back to creep feeding. Nonetheless, any of this final creep-related weight is dependent upon calf intake of the feed and its feed efficiency; both of which are indirectly proportional to pasture quality. Of these two creep directives, feed efficiency of the ration (amount of feed converted into calf structure and lean bodyweight gain) appears as the main and sometimes elusive force behind overall calf performance generated during an entire summer or midsummer of creep feeding. For example, creep-feeding calves grazing fair to mediumquality pastures yields a creep-feed efficiency of about five to seven pounds of feed per pound of gain compared to creep rations provided on higher-quality tame pastures that often yields much lower creep-feed efficiency of about nine to 11 lbs per lb of gain. Although, many producers believe the best combination for calf growth is good pasture coupled with creep feeding during the summer, such programs must be profitable. Aside from some

extreme adverse circumstances (such as severe drought), where early weaning/drylot creep feeding might be a producer’s only salvation, for the rest of us, it is a good idea to pencil out the economic viability of creep feeding. In order to determine actual creep-feeding profitability, consider the following example that uses present estimates of feed and calf prices in order to compare strict feed efficiency and creepfeeding returns on a medium native-grass pasture (re: consider the last column to calculate your own situation): To calculate a net profit (loss) from creep feeding — that return per head due to creep feed (I col. 2) — understand it is based upon the “added average daily gain” as provided by the creep feed only, not overall or total growth including the performance due to calves grazing pasture. Such a total weaned value is calculated by adding this respective creep ADG to the approximation of growth provided by the pasture grasses. Once your own spreadsheet is completed and the return per head due to creep feed looks favourable, then you need to choose a commercial or home-made creep ration for calves. There are literarily hundreds of creep-feed formulations to add value of expected gain (F col. 2). A good commercial creep feed for growing spring calves should be

A worksheet to calculate creep-feeding returns is as follows*: No Creep (1)

Creep (2)

Your Calculations


Weaned calf weight (lb)





Expected body wt gain due to creep feed (lb)





Expected Creep feed used



*6.0 x B


Predicted calf price at weaning





Predicted calf value



A1 x D1 A2 x D2


Value of Expected gain



E1 – E2


Creep feed cost per lb





Total cost of creep feed





Return per head due to creep feed




* Feed conversion = 6.0

**Creep Feed costs = $375/mt

This spreadsheet has four elements: (1) predicted calf value, (2 & 3) feed conversion/feed intake, and (4) creep-feed costs. nutritious, palatable, and made up of medium- to high-quality feed ingredients (a.k.a. no low-quality feed screenings or non-protein nitrogen such as urea). A common list of desirable ingredients(from energy to protein feed sources) include: oats, corn, barley, wheat middlings, corn and/or wheat distillers’ grains, and soybean meal). A well-balanced creep ration should support a nutrient profile of about 65-70 per cent TDN (energy — largely dependent on pasture quality), 14-16 per cent

protein (also complementary to pasture quality) and the NRC recommendations for macro-, trace minerals and vitamins for growing calves. Fed at a target of three to four pounds per head per day, this suggested creep feed should support modest gains of 0.5 – 0.75 lb per head per day, aside from the performance derived from cow’s milk and pasture. † Peter Vitti is an independent livestock nutritionist and consultant based in Winnipeg. To reach him call 204-254-7497 or by email at


Cattleman’s Corner

Stewardship, food safety and animal care are business drivers on this farm Stewardship, food safety and animal care are business drivers on this farm


hey are a busy young couple. Melissa Hittinger is a large-animal veterinarian, husband Mike is an extension specialist, and they are parents to two busy young children. Together they also run a 100-cow beef operation at Clyde, just north of Edmonton, Alta. It’s a lifestyle and business choice. Both love farming and saw this as an opportunity to produce the product they wanted, in the way they wanted — based on verified production standards. Today Rafter 2M Farms produces “Locally raised natural meats.” The farm has completed an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and is registered with the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program. “We are open and proud of our practices in animal husbandry and environmental sus-

Alberta producers Melissa and Mike Hittinger want to explain practices to consumers, and use the environmental farm plan and VBP to demonstrate their commitment.

tainability,” they say on their website. “We provide products that have a known history from birth to plate. That way our customers know how their food was raised and what went into it.” Finding value

That vision seems straightforward enough when the herd was started with three heifers back in 1996. But they’ve learned some things as they have grown. Mike identifies some of the most important from a producer point of view. Differentiate yourself. “Margins are slim in commodity beef,” says Mike, “so we look for ways to add value.” Calves are backgrounded and sold directly to feedlots. Some are sold into value chains such as Heritage Angus Beef and some sold directly to consumers. Verified records are critical to those options. Market sustainability. “We state our production practices and values clearly on our website and people are welcome to check us out.” Find people who find value in what you are offering. “With any niche market, you can produce it but if you don’t find the people who find value in it, it won’t make you much money.” Build a reputation. “You get a reputation and your cattle get a reputation. We have had feedlots tell us they like our cattle because they don’t get sick. The extra things we do are particularly important when you are selling private treaty.”

Consumer trust

The common ground in programs such as EFP and VBP is consumer trust, says Melissa, who is also an on-farm food safety auditor for hog operations. Here are her observations. System backs trust. “Lots of people in the agriculture business say they do things, but how is a consumer to know? These programs provide proof of action and the ag industry will benefit as support grows.” Think integrated management. The worlds of food safety and environmental sustainability are often separated in education and production circles, and Melissa likes to bring them together in her work. “Nothing happens in a vacuum. You’re not just grazing cattle, you’re managing the environment.” Respect records. “Records aren’t just for the program, they’re for you. They make you a better manager. VBP is very easy to work with on the records side.” Connect with customers

“Once you understand your responsibility doesn’t end when a calf leaves the farm you’ve taken on a bigger view,” says Melissa. “EFP and VBP makes you better versed in talking to people,” adds Mike. “It sure helps to be able to say to customers, ‘Let me show you the processes that are followed — here’s how and here’s why.’”


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The Science of Healthier Animals 12-06-29 1:54 PM




Machinery & Shop NEW EQUIPMENT

MF tractor production returns to U.S. AGCO’s newly-expanded Jackson, MN, assembly plant is now home to mid-range Massey Ferguson and Challenger-brand tractor production PLANT EXPANSION SCOTT GARVEY



Production of Massey Ferguson tractors is gradually returning to North America, starting with the 8600 Series models. AGCO’s Jackson, Minnesota, assembly plant began building these tractors in December, after a recent 75,000 square-foot expansion.

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hen Massey Ferguson had its near-death experience in the late 1980s, the Detroit-area production facility that built the bulk of its North American tractor models was permanently closed. After that, MF tractor assembly was relegated to plants in Europe; and its combine business was splintered off and sold to Western Combines Corp, which began building and marketing MF combine designs under its own name. That left the pared-down MF brand with barely a toe-hold on the market in Canada and the U.S. Enter AGCO corporation. The then-fledgling equipment manufacturer purchased MF in 1994 and began the process of attempting to restore the brand to its former glory. During an interview in June, AGCO chairman and CEO, Martin Richenhagen, said he now thinks it’s possible to win back the same significant market share MF enjoyed during its heyday in the 1970s. “Yes, this is the idea,” he said with his trademark German accent. “When I think why did we lose it, this was when Massey Ferguson was owned by private equity. And they were really only milking the business. They didn’t invest in the factories anymore and they didn’t invest in the product.” But all that has changed. When he made those comments, Richenhagen and most of his senior North American executives were in the rural community of Jackson, Minnesota. They were there to cut the ribbon at the newly-created visitors centre attached to the assembly plant that since December has been home to production of large, row-crop MF and Challenger tractors bound for North American farms.

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The visitors centre isn’t the only recent improvement to the facility. A 75,000 square foot expansion completed in 2011 allowed for the addition of a third assembly line at the plant, and the company just added another 200 people to its workforce to handle the increased workload caused by adding production of those MF and Challenger row-crop models. At the same time, new manufacturing systems and a four-stage quality control process were installed on the tractor assembly line. The large, row-crop 8600 Series MF machines and their sister line of MT600 Challengers add to the MT700 and MT800 Challenger lines of rubber-belted tractors and articulated, four-wheel drive MT900s already being built at Jackson. RoGator and TerraGator sprayers are also assembled there. The 8600 Series tractors now rolling off that Minnesota assembly line are the first MF models to be built on this continent since the brand folded its North American manufacturing tent and confined tractor assembly to Europe a couple of decades ago. According to Bob Crain, AGCO’s senior vice-president and general manager for North America, bringing row-crop tractor production back to the U.S. from the Beauvais France factory is a sign the company is serious about being a contender in the U.S. and Canadian market. And it was done in response to input from the AGCO dealer network. “It started from a dealer panel meeting,” he said. “A former dealer told me, Crain, if you’re ever going to be serious with tractors in North America, you’re going to have to produce them here. And we took that to heart.” The Beauvais factory will continue to assemble the same model lines of tractors for the European market. But by building row-crop tractors bound for Canadian and U.S. customers at the Jackson plant, the company has shaved at least 30 days off the time it takes to put a machine on a dealer’s lot after an order is placed.

bly lines. Each one performs six to 12 operations, meaning employees need to know a variety of procedures. Two shifts of workers keep the assembly lines moving five days per week. Equipment currently produced at the plant includes the RoGator and TerraGator sprayer lines, MT900, MT800, MT700 and MT600 Series Challenger tractors along with the Massey Ferguson 8600 Series. The MT500 Challenger models and 7600 Series MF tractors will soon be added. Scott Garvey



Machinery & Shop Bringing production of midrange tractors back to North America has gone down well with dealers, but Richenhagen said those same dealers told AGCO management they would like to see all MF and Challenger-brand tractors built on home turf. And the company intends to make that happen. “They want us to localize the product completely,” Richenhagen  explained.  “And that’s what the plan is.” The Jackson plant will soon turn out the smaller 7600 Series MF and MT500 Challenger models as well, which means all MF and Challenger-brand tractors above 140 horsepower sold in North America will be built here. And there is already a plan in place to bring production of utitlity tractors to the U.S. “Sooner rather than later, we will be building small tractors here as well,” confirmed Crain.

Product development In the meantime, AGCO will also continue to develop new machines and technologies to enhance the standings of both brands. This year, the company is spending U.S. $350 million on research and development and as much again on new capital investments like the Jackson plant expansion. “If you know anything about product development, you don’t start seeing the goods until three or four years after you start spending the money,” said Crain. “What dealers are seeing right now is truly the tip of the iceberg. The best is yet to come in terms of products.” “We know that farmers are conservative,” added Richenhagen. “Before you get them back (as customers), they watch you very carefully. You will also see, it’s like a locomotion; once it gets traction, then it will be good. What we hear from experts and what external test results show is there has never been a better range of products for Massey Ferguson than today.” As AGCO goes forward in its attempt to recapture more of the North American farm machinery market, executives seem to have two major goals in mind: first, build locally. “We would like to have everything we sell in America produced in America,” said Richenhagen. “We’re getting there. This (Jackson plant expansion) is an important first step in that direction.” Second, regain the MF brand’s reputation for quality. “We want to be number one in perceived quality by 2014,” he continued. “Which isn’t an easy target because our competitors don’t stand still.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

By Dan Piraro


When production of the mid-range MF and Challenger tractors began in Jackson last December, the company decided it would build the cabs for these models in-house, rather than source them from a supplier. Similar tractors built in Beauvais France for the European market still outsource cab production.

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5/11/12 9:58 AM




Machinery & Shop

AGCO’s Jackson assembly plant opens new visitors centre “


eet your new baby in the delivery room, instead of the showroom,” was the tagline on posters displayed at AGCO’s Jackson, Minnesota, tractor assembly plant on June 6, 2012. That was the day chosen for the grand opening ceremony of the “Intivity Center” visitors facility attached to the assembly plant. The posters were meant to convey the idea that farmers could come to the factory and see their new tractor being built on the assembly line. And for anyone who does, the company has created the “Intivity Center” to enhance that experience. The Intivity Center is a museum-like facility at the plant designed to provide visitors with an understanding of the history behind the machines built there. The name is a blending of the words “innovation” and “productivity,” which the company believes are two key elements embodied in the products built at the Jackson plant. “We had a naming contest and got all kinds of solutions,” says Phil Jones, AGCO’s manager of creative services, North America. “But the name that fit best was the one that was most strategic. We wanted to positively position AGCO along the lines of innovation... innovation that makes farmers more productive. Innovation, productivity: Intivity Center.” As customers — or anyone else who wants to tour the plant — come out of the assembly area after watching tractors being built, they walk into the expansive, 17,000 square-foot Intivity Center, which is stuffed with displays chronicling

the history of Massey Ferguson and Challenger tractors along with RoGator and TerraGator sprayers. The centre documents the how and why behind key mechanical devlopments incorporated into those machines. Some of the displays are pretty innovative, such as the life-size talking image of Harry Ferguson. It automatically detects the presence of a someone standing nearby and sets Harry off explaining the features of his early MF tractors, like those on the restored model 35 beside him. “Within the Intivity Center, we celebrate innovation, past, present and future,” says Jones.

“We’ve been doing plant tours at our facilites for a number of years, but this is the first-ever visitors centre of this scale, and we think of it as a destination.” Tours are available free of charge to anyone Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reservations can be made online at http://jackson. The Intivity Center is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, except holidays. To see a video look at the Intivity Center and some behindthe-scenes interviews, go to our website, and click on the videos link. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at PHOTOS: SCOTT GARVEY

The 17,000 square-foot Intivity Center attached to the tractor and sprayer assembly plant in Jackson, Minnesota, houses displays that highlight innovations in equipment design, past and present.

The Intivity Center houses creative displays like this life-size talking image of Harry Ferguson, which senses the presence of an onlooker and sets off on a narrative about early Massey Ferguson tractors.

The evolution of tracked machines in agriculture and the story of how the belted Challenger tractors were developed is documented in this segment of the centre.

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Machinery & Shop KEEP IT GOING

Old AC gets a new lease on life This updated classic still works for a living


Paul Hofer bought this classic tractor at auction.

The re-powered Allis earns its keep planting and cultivating.



ost tractors built in 1949 are likely now more at home in a museum than a farm field, but not this classic Allis Chalmers G. It looks good enough to be a museum piece. But after getting a complete restoration and some updating, it now tends the very large garden plots on the Netley Hutterite Colony near Petersfield, Manitoba. “I bought it at an auction and put a Deutz diesel engine in,” says Paul Hofer. “It was a winter project. I don’t know how long it took me to do the whole job.”

It looks good enough to be a museum piece Sixty-three years after it rolled off the assembly line, the repowered Allis is once again doing what its unique chassis design was meant to do: tend row crops, like those in a vegetable garden. “We have 10 or 12 acres of garden,” adds Hofer. “We use it for planting and cultivating.” Are you restoring or still using an old machine or vehicle? Tell us about it. Send me an email that describes what you’ve been doing along with some highresolution pictures, and we may feature your machine in a future issue of Grainews. †

THIS IS NOT AN AD FOR ROCKY MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT. But it is an ad for everything we stand for. Things like honesty, integrity and helping you put food on your family’s table. But above all, it’s an ad to let you know that none of 7_GrainN_Generic.indd those things are going away because we’re calling ourselves Rocky Mountain Equipment. Because even if the name on the sign is changing, our values won’t.

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Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at




Rocky Mountain Equipment


June 18/2012 8.125" x 10"










Machinery & Shop NEW MACHINERY

Three new combines debut at CFPS Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina is well known for introducing new dry-land seeding equipment, but this year new combines made their Canadian debut there, too BY SCOTT GARVEY

of an early prototype version of this combine, which was called the Torum (the Russian word for bull). That machine morphed into the new, market-ready RT490, which was the centrepiece of Versatile’s display at the Regina show. “We’re very excited about it,” says Adam Reid, Versatile’s marketing manager. “It’s the first new combine to be introduced in North America in more than 10 years. We understand it’s going to be a challenging market, but we feel this combine stands up for what Versatile is known for in


t’s been a very long time since a new combine wore the Versatile brand name. At this year’s edition of Canada’s Farm Progress Show, Versatile’s management ended that prolonged absence and introduced their longawaited axial rotary machine.


AGCO has created a unique MF combine to display at farm shows. It’s wrapped in a stylized image of the Canadian flag. The intention is to acknowledge the Canadian heritage of the Massey Ferguson brand.

If you are a regular Grainews reader, you’ll likely remember seeing a photo we showed you last year

Crucial details connecting your combine to the market

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Grain Vac - Diesel Model

On-Farm Grain Storage

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terms of simplicity, durability and ease of service.” At the front, the RT490 uses MacDon-built headers to get crop into the feeder house. Instead of a typical feeder chain, engineers opted to use a series of four beaters to move material from the header up to the rotor. Each beater rotates slightly faster than the proceeding one, which helps even and thinout the crop mat as it feeds into the threshing mechanism. That helps improve overall combine capacity. Where the RT490 really stands out from the competition is with the unique design of its threshing mechanism. It uses a counterrotating concave that turns in the opposite direction of the rotor at about eight RPM. According to the company, that eliminates the “dead zone” above the rotor where no threshing occurs, something common to most other designs. The RT490’s configuration allows crop material to be threshed three times for each rotor revolution. In all, the combine has a total cleaning area of 5.2 square metres (8,155 square inches), and the sieves can be adjusted from the cab. The 340-bushel grain tank roof can be closed for transport or storage from the driver’s seat, and the unloading auger moves about three bushels per second, so it will empty the hopper in about two minutes. Under the hood, the RT490 has a Cummins QSX 11.9-litre diesel that uses a variable geometry turbocharger and delivers 490 horsepower. It’s connected to a threespeed hydrostatic transmission. A hydraulically-driven rear axle is available as an option. The combine, which is built by Versatile’s Russian parent company, Rostselmash, has undergone two years of field trials in North America in all crop types. “We brought over the first combines two years ago and did field testing in Canada,” explains Reid. “We did primarily cereal crops, and canola and lentils in Saskatchewan. Last year we did another trial with five combines and did virtually everything.” Reid says the company wanted to ensure the combine met the core priorities that Versatile used to build its original reputation: simplicity and ease of service and operation. “We were really impressed with how the combine operated,” he BY DAN PIRARO


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Machinery & Shop says. “But what impressed us even more was when we brought the combines in, we brought with them about $200,000 worth of parts. We unpacked them (parts), did an inventory and that was the last time we looked at them. We had five combines that did 3,000 acres and used virtually no (spare) parts... over two harvest seasons. We think that speaks to the build quality of the machine.” RT490s destined for the North American market will be built in Russia and shipped to Versatile’s Winnipeg plant for final assembly and pre-delivery inspections. Retail price is $389,000, not including a header.

AGCO AGCO launched its new 9500 Massey Ferguson combines in Kansas City, Missouri, last fall at a North American dealer convention, but AGCO’s appearance at the CFPS in Regina marked its public debut in western Canada. “The 9500 Series we introduced to our dealers last August and started production this spring,” says Kevin Cobb, product marketing manager for combines. The MF and its new sister line of Challenger 500C combines are essentially identical. About 65 per cent of their engineering has changed from what was available on the previous Series. “There are a lot of new features on these machines, including a new cleaning system that’s really improved us on performance in all types of crops, especially up here in grain crops in western Canada,” adds Cobb. These combines offer a threemodel line up in both brands. The smallest use a six-cylinder 8.4 litre SISU engine, the two larger models are powered by a relatively new, 9.8 litre, in-line seven-cylinder engine, which is positioned in-line with the axial rotor for maximum driveline efficiency. The 9.8 was created by adding one more cylinder to the 8.4-litre engine block, making for a large number of interchangeable parts between the two. These axial rotary machines use an H-frame, suspended concave design that helps prevent damage. “(It) allows not only easy change of the concaves but also protection from large objects or masses of material,” he explains. The Trident rotor is also new for the 2012 model year. It has a redesigned intake and segmented design for increased capacity. To make an impression at this year’s CPFS in Regina, AGCO chose to wrap an MF combine in a stylized version of the Canadian flag. “After the launch last season we wanted to do something special,” says Cobb. “Canada was the home of, originally, Massey-Harris, then Massey Ferguson. The self-propelled combine was developed and perfected by Massey-Harris, Massey Ferguson. We felt it was important to pay our respects to Canada not only for their contribution but the heritage of the brand.” Will farmers be able to buy a 9500 wrapped in the Canadian flag? It’s basically a decal wrap,” says Cobb. “We’ll do a couple of them for right now, but I’m all ears about the opportunity.” For another look at the Versatile, MF and Challenger combines, watch for a new video online under the “videos” link at www.grainews. ca or † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

The RT490 is the first new combine to wear the Versatile brand name in decades. Made by Versatile’s parent firm, Rostselmash, the machines have been in field trials in North America for the last two years.

The RT490 has a simple control array located on the right-side operator console.

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Shed some stuff and share the story Make a list of all personal property wishes and share the history that goes with each item ELAINE FROESE


s I write this, we are in the final stages of seeding the crop. As you read this, I hope you are camping with family, or relaxing after a full day of haying or spraying. The busy season on the farm gets interrupted when someone is critically ill or dies suddenly. I am not trying to be morbid, just real. In July of 2011 we took my failing father for one last tour of his shop, farm and fields for his 85th birthday. Unknown to us, he would not be here for Christmas 2012, and we as a family are going through our years of “firsts” without Dad. Mom has been gone for 14 years. I have been sorting cherished possessions for the grandkids and siblings, and it strikes me that there are many things I am thankful that I did while my folks were still around. I am also not thrilled with some of the ways the non-titled articles were dealt with. I wish I could ask my parents to tell me about the gold cufflinks with my granddad’s initials. I never knew they existed until cleaning day came. As the family archivist and estate stuff holder, my home has too much in it. I started giving away Mom’s jewelry to my cousins who chose pieces that they liked. They also said it was an unexpected treat to get to pick something from my mom’s box that reminded them of her kindness to them as new brides. The things that are hardest to let go of are the mementos that

hold the story of a special trip. I have a paua shell in my bathroom that Dad brought home from New Zealand in the ’50s. It has more meaning to me now since I just visited New Zealand in December, after Dad died. I was also looking for a special Maori box of his, but it has been lost. What does this mean to you? Well, if you Google “Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate” you will find the University of Minnesota’s great resource for dealing with non-titled property. “Who gets personal property is an issue frequently ignored until a crisis occurs. Decisionmaking becomes challenging when people are grieving, selling the home they grew up in, and facing the increased d e p e n d e n c e o f a n e l d e r, ” says University of Minnesota Professor Marlene Stum. Your farm shed, shop or garage might be storing some of those personal items that don’t come with a title or deed (thus they are called non-titled items) to indicate whom officially owns them. I’ve heard folks talk about buying the home place “lock, stock and barrel” only to discover that siblings have been sneaking away wagon wheels, lanterns and other antiques. Toys, tools, jewelry, musical instruments, linens, needlework, furniture, dishes, pets, collectibles, books and sporting equipment are all examples of non-titled property that can be disputed. OK, who gets the dog? So what do you do? Professor Stum recommends making a list of your personal property wishes: • Share the story that goes with the item, and relay the family history. I just gave away

a rusty lantern with a glass in great condition. This made a garage sale hound very happy, and I let go of it, because I did not know its history. • Personal belongings hold sensitive feelings and memories. It is curious to me that both my son and nephew were keen to have Grandma’s candy dish. Don’t assume you know

• Make a list. With laptops, it is easy to take notes, minutes and have an emailed list to all parties for future reference. You might also want to take this one step further with the adult grandchildren. Your list of preferred destinations of possessions upon your departure from earth can be filed with your executor. I am still of the

Take digital photos of special items, and then give the items away for someone else to dust the memories attached to certain items. Ask! • Fair is defined differently by different folks. In the TV show “Storage Wars,” the buyer gets the contents of the storage container, and hopes to find treasure. When farm families start taking things out of a family home while the owner is in a personal-care home, or antiques start disappearing from the farm shed, there is lots of fuel for conflict. Oldest son gets this, or oldest daughter gets this… is not really a workable formula for 2012. To prevent family fights, it is best to talk about what you want to do with your possessions, and make a list of who gets what and when. • Ask each person in your family what is special to them, and ask them to explain why. The best practice is to have a family meeting and discuss what each heir is interested in and why. We did this with my father before he became ill. It was helpful to the executor to know what the other siblings were thinking and wanting.

opinion that gifts given by you with a warm hand, and the story of the gift are way more meaningful than gifts given by the cold hand of the estate. Be a trendsetter in your community and start downsizing your collectibles and shed stuff while you are mentally and physically able to make a difference in how you dispose of your possessions. Put unwanted items in a consignment auction sale. Use the proceeds to celebrate a special time with your family. • When there is conflict, use straws or draw names in order to take turns picking who gets what. One family used monopoly money to bid on items that were in dispute. I also know families who wanted very little in terms of “things” because they were rich in relationship with their parents. In that case, the local MCC thrift store got a lot of treasures to sell. • Take digital photos of special items, and then give the items away for someone else to dust. You will still have the

memory — no one can take that from you. Disposing of the contents of the farm is a long process, so start this summer. Call the steel guy and find out what a trailer load of dead augers and cultivator shovels might be worth. Our three trailers fetched $500 each awhile back. Think about being charitable. One family’s RV went to a camp and they received a charitable receipt. Feed the burn pile with junk that is no one’s treasure. Ask permission to give away things after you’ve consulted with all possible owners. I am still not popular for giving away a special fishing rod without permission! Have a spot for hazardous waste and things that need to go the refuse/landfill site, i.e. the dump! Our dump has a “free store” area where folks can scavenge for treasure. Make sure you come home from the dump with an empty pickup. Someone once said that clutter is energy constipation. I suppose there are a few farm sheds across the Prairies that are bulging with stuff. Think of the new energy you’ll have when you walk into the old barn, shop or garage to see things tidied up, and all the treasures passed on to those who will actually appreciate their value. Do the work of shedding your stuff. Celebrate a job well done with a day at the lake. H a p p y S u m m e r. H a p p y Family. Happy Memories. What a great legacy. † Elaine Froese is a mediator and certified coach who helps families have tough conversations to create change. She hopes for a great harvest on her farm near Boissevain, Manitoba. Book her for your fall events or inquire about volume book sales of Do the Tough Things Right for your agriculture producers. Visit www. or call 1-866-848-8311.

Leave baby wildlife in the wild If you encounter a young animal don’t assume it’s an orphan



hen it comes to newborn wildlife mother knows best, so people should never touch or move that newborn deer, elk or moose when encountered. People who find these newborns alone often mistakenly believe they have been abandoned, but usually they have only been left there temporarily by their mother, who will return. Intervening in these situations by “rescuing” the fawn or calf will usually do more harm than good. It is normal for mother deer, elk and other ungulates to leave their young alone for long periods, returning a few times a day to nurse and relying on the fawn’s lack of scent to protect them from potential predators. Returning deer that find humans or pets nearby may leave or can become aggres-

It is normal for mother deer, elk and other ungulates to leave their young alone for long periods sive in efforts to defend their offspring from the perceived threat. The mother will return if the young is left alone. Although these newborns may appear abandoned, it is rarely the case, and if they are removed they will be orphaned. While professional wildlife rehabilitation facilities in some provinces can successfully rear these newborns, there is no maternal care and their chances of survival are far less than if they had been raised by their wild parents. This is true not just for deer;

A young animal in the wild may appear to be abandoned but it probably isn’t. many mammals leave their young alone for long periods of time, only to return to feed them at regular intervals. So if you encounter a baby deer or calf, or other mammal in the wild, appreciate the experience, but don’t approach or intervene. Quick facts: If you find a fawn or calf that you

think may be orphaned, here’s what you should do: • If it is lying quietly, leave it alone and leave the area. Your presence will discourage the mother from returning. • Keep all children and pets away from the area. • If you think the fawn or calf is

not being cared for by its mother, return the next day to check. If it is in the exact same spot, it may be injured or orphaned. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible, but do not touch or move the animal. • Do not touch or feed the animal. †



Home Quarter Farm Life

Beekeeping 101 If you’re interested in keeping some bees, here’s some information to get you started BY TERRA WEAVER


am excited about beekeeping. This surprises those who knew me as a kid — terrified of bees, screaming and flapping my arms at the sight or sound of a bee approaching. I’ve learned that there are things to run screaming from — angry bulls, spiders and “scrapbooking,” but not bees. Canada produces over 31,000 tonnes of honey each year, making us the fifth-largest honey producer in the world. Alberta produces the highest total in Canada, with Saskatchewan having the highest yield per hive. My husband Ron and my farm is on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan — perfectly suited for a beehive! If you are interested in beekeeping, I encourage you to give it a try. There’s a lot to learn, and after only four weeks I am certainly not an expert, but I’ve found it to be a very interesting and rewarding journey so far.

The supers come disassembled, so we put them together and painted them with low-fume, latex outdoor paint. These supers sit on top of a hive bottom. It is assembled and covered in beeswax, so there’s no need to paint it. Frames hang inside of the supers, and we bought pre-made plastic ones. The bees will build honeycombs onto these frames, and inside of the combs they will manage their brood (bee eggs and larva), honey and pollen. Our supers each hold 10 frames. A feeder is required in early spring until the nectar starts to flow, and it hangs inside the hive, taking the place of one frame. The feeder holds one gallon of 50 per cent sugar water solution which the bees use as their food supply until more natural sources are available. The bees also need a pollen substitute until the flowers open up, so a pollen patty is placed on top of the frames inside the hive.

are working, a smoker to keep the bees calm and to slow their communication, and a bee suit to give a feeling of security until you are more comfortable working with your bees. The hive should be set up facing south in a sheltered area, and the bees require flowering plants within a three-km radius as well as a water source nearby. The bee yard needs to be protected from livestock or bears. With our site ready, we left to pick up our bees. Canada doesn’t have enough breeders to supply the spring bee demand, so they arrived from New Zealand. Makes you wonder what might be in the cargo area of your next flight doesn’t it?

They are sorted into 2.2-pound tubes, which is 6,000 to 10,000 bees per tube. We loaded ours into the jeep, and after ensuring that both ends of the tube were secure we began our three-hour journey in a car with 10,000 bees. What could go wrong? At the hive, we reviewed our procedure to be fully prepared when we released the bees, and we found the queen attached to a ribbon hanging inside the tube. She is in her own cage to allow the colony to get used to her before she is introduced. There’s a cork in the end of her cage that is removed and replaced with a mini marshmallow that the colony will eat in order to release her from her cage if they have accepted her. The remaining bees are then poured into the hive, half over the queen in her cage and the other half spread over the frames. Five days later it was time to check the hive. Initial inspection from the outside showed no activity and a few dead bees lying outside the entry. This didn’t seem

good, but when we opened the hive we found that the colony was alive and thriving. Combs were being built onto the frames and there were both honey and pollen being stored there; the queen had been released from her cage and eggs were present; the bees had found the feeder and it was ready to have more syrup added; the pollen patty had been used, evident by both pollen in the combs and the reduced patty size. What a relief! The weather was cool and rainy, and we have since learned that on days like this bees aren’t that different from the rest of us. They like to stay inside cleaning the house, eating and visiting. One month into beekeeping and it continues to run smoothly. We’ve removed the feeder and pollen patty; we’ve seen our bees at work in apple blossoms, dandelion and saskatoon flowers; juvenile bees are beginning to emerge. We’re looking forward to our first honey harvest! † Te r r a We a v e r w r i t e s f r o m n o r t h o f Lloydminster, Alta.

Canada produces over 31,000 tonnes of honey each year, making us the fifth-largest honey producer in the world Our hive equipment came from the Alberta Honey Producer’s Co-op in Spruce Grove, Alta. There we picked up our “supers” which are the boxes that the bees will live inside of. At least three supers are required to start a new hive. The bottom two are for brooding new bees, and the others will hold honey to be harvested in the fall.

Once the supers are sitting on the hive bottom and the frames are inside, it all needs to be covered with a hive cover and a lid. They come assembled and covered with wax and tin, so no need to paint. Extra things to have available are a hive tool for prying frames and supers apart, a brush for brushing bees away from where you

Nurse bees feeding bee larva.

Add some peppers to the BBQ They’re not only good for you but are also a quick idea to add to a meal BY JULIE GARDEN-ROBINSON NDSU EXTENSION SERVICE


s my family and I served ourselves grilled red and green peppers, summer squash, rice and chicken, I thought about our busy summer schedule, and the need for quick meal preparation. Our grilled dinner was a family effort, and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. My son and I cut the vegetables, my husband grilled the food, and I cooked some rice. My daughters set the table. “Mom, isn’t a red pepper a green pepper that has ripened? I remember our green peppers turned red last year,” my older daughter said as we continued eating. “Yes, that’s right. Red peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C, too,” I said. Bell peppers are mild-flavoured, highly nutritious foods that are available in various colours. We

commonly find green, red, orange and yellow peppers in stores, but purple, blue or brown varieties are grown, too. In fact, they all begin green and develop their colour as they ripen. Red bell peppers become sweeter as they mature. Some of the nutrients also become more concentrated as the peppers change colour. Red bell peppers have 11 times the amount of beta carotene as

green peppers, which is converted to vitamin A by our body, and helps keep our skin and eyes healthy, among its many functions. Red peppers are a vitamin C powerhouse. Vitamin C helps form a protein used to maintain healthy cartilage, skin and b l o o d v e s s e l s . Vi t a m i n C also has antioxidant effects, which may reduce our risk for cancer, heart disease

and arthritis. Vitamin C is not stored by our body, so we need daily sources of this nutrient. Add some peppers to your d i e t . Yo u c a n r a i s e p e p p e r plants in a container garden or traditional garden quite easily, or you can purchase them year round in the grocery store. When choosing peppers, look for firm ones that are heavy for their size. Skip the ones with bruises, cuts or soft areas, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Rinse them thoroughly under cool running water right before using. Although you can cut up a pepper in more than one way, this is my favourite method: After rinsing the pepper, cut a circle around the top edge of it. Pull the top off and remove the seeds. Look inside the pepper to see the white “ribs” and slice the pepper by following the ribs. Your pepper should be in several pieces now. Next, slice off

the white ribs and then proceed to cut into strips or pieces that suit your chosen recipe. You can try peppers in a variety of meals and snacks. They add colour and nutrition to salads, sandwiches, stir-fry, fajitas, salsa, hummus and omelets. Serve a plate of sliced veggies with your favourite veggie dip. You can stuff peppers with a meat and spiced rice mixture, then bake them for a delicious entree. Try grilling peppers. You may want to invest in a “slotted” grilling pan to help prevent the vegetable pieces from falling through the grates. Grilled peppers take on a smoky flavour, and the natural sugars caramelize with the high heat, which heightens their natural sweetness. † Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.




Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

Ted shares more emails

Many readers are taking the time to talk about their gardening tips TED MESEYTON


elcome everybody! The presses have rolled again and I’m still catching up with more focus on emails. You’re now reading the Singing Gardener page in the July/August Grainews issue. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the point of mid-summer. Where have the weeks and months gone? Reminds me of a sign I once saw along the T-Can. Highway that said: “Time flies and then eternity.”

THANK YOU READERS May I, Ted, say “thank you” to the numerous folks who wrote with a willingness to share their experience concerning earthworms. The subject has been covered quite well and here’s one final email in that connection. Back in late May, June Crone who lives southeast of Edmonton, about 90 miles from the Alta./Sask. border sent the following: “We were so infested with these worms, that if I managed to chisel a potato out of the hardpan, there were worms sticking out all over what dirt was left. We tried everything — heard about gypsum — went to our local fertilizer company and got two fivegallon pails of gypsum. It is calcium sulphate — similar to what drywall is made of. It is also a type of fertilizer. Pretty cheap! Broadcast it over my garden (which isn’t very big), in the flower beds and some on the lawn. Tilled it into my garden and planted it. When I dug my potatoes, very few worms. Next spring, did the same thing. Practically no worms. My soil is rich and soft, and a pleasure to work. One of the best lawns in town too! Hope this cheap solution is of some help. I know I was desperate when we tried this. Enjoy your column. June”

GLUTEN-FREE BREAD Let me briefly tell a story. Katy (not her real name) and


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

her husband (both now retired) owned and operated a family bakery. It was back in the days when people who had celiac and other digestive distress didn’t really understand what their problem was. Katy told me how customers came in and placed their orders for glutenfree bread. In a nutshell, Katy described how the loaves were made way back then — 25 or 30 years ago. “Ordinary bread dough was made in the usual way using white wheat flour. It went through its stages until it was what we called panned. The dough was next literally placed in a pail of lukewarm water and washed like a dishcloth and rinsed and washed and rinsed several times again until the water was clear. Then the dough was cut and weighed into onepound, four-ounce sizes and put in bread pans to proof, but it didn’t rise as high as other bread because a lot had been taken out of it. Then it was baked off.” Katy chuckled and I did also when she told me, “It was almost what you would call holey bread because it was quite coarse. The loaves had big holes and the tops were not smooth, but instead looked very rough with peaks and valleys. The loaves were not heavy but slices didn’t toast well because they wouldn’t colour brown. Customers called it gluten-free bread. It was only made by special order; not a regular bakery item.”

SPELT FLOUR Thanks to Bill Silversides for his email. He reminds us that spelt has gluten and gives us this food for thought: “Can you imagine gluten-free wheat flour? Spelt, kamut, triticale, rye are the same — if you take out the gluten there is nothing left. Spelt has bran throughout the kernel so is more a whole wheat flour when ground and sifted. Spelt is tolerated by a lot of people who are not celiac but are badly upset by wheat.” Also, thank you Bill for the vivid account of your home area. Sounds like a real outdoors beauty spot that beckons the hearty tourist. Here’s his description. “We live in Fernie, B.C. in the winter. The largest town in the Elk Valley — skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, logging, five nearby open-pit coal mines. Summers we spend at Rosen Lake — 50 km southwest in the Rocky Mountain trench. As the crow flies the two places are about 20 km apart but over a 1,800-metre mountain range. We grew up on farms in Sask. We are in a backwater where mail comes five days after everyone else has received theirs. The vegetable garden produces mostly leafy greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and tomatoes. Lots of dandelion and chickweed to add to the salads. There were 900 daffodils of 15 varieties in bloom at one time this spring. Have about 115 rose bushes. Later flowers are not quite as prolific. We fenced for deer, but wapiti and moose ignore electric fence. So far only one moose has


intruded. Cougar, black bear and grizzly wander by at will. My wife is a retired teacher. I retired from teaching, automotive mechanics and parts sales one after the other over the past 30 years.” You’re a good guy Bill and we appreciate having you as a Grainews subscriber. — Ted

USING SAWDUST IN THE GARDEN A Winnipeg gardener whom I shall call Albert sent the following email during mid-June. He opens by saying: “Greetings to the Singing Gardener. With this wet weather, gardening is boot season. I have used sawdust in the garden, as the soil is quite solid muck. The sawdust was from a lumberyard site and was not chips. It was thinly applied during the mid-spring season and rototilled into the soil. Did not use anything else with the sawdust and no fertilizer. Have been gardening many years. It was the family means for produce for the winter. I have not noticed a decline in the nitrogen level in the difference of green colouration in the growth of the vegetables. However, by the second year using sawdust — the root crops were more straight (carrots and parsnips) and round shape (beets and potatoes) — as the soil becomes looser in fashion. By the fourth year the sawdust has become very well mixed into the garden soil. Re: tomato seedlings. With putting out tomato transplants, I have found preparation is fixing the problems before they occur. Blossom end rot is an important disease that spoils a lot of the fruits. A method that I have used, to prevent/control this disease is via transplanting method: — dig a hole for the tomato seedling — add powdered milk (use skim milk/no name) reduces the cost — cover with some soil — place transplant into hole — add soil to remaining hole and around the tomato. Experiment in powdered skim milk amounts — used various degrees of a teaspoon of powdered milk with each tomato transplant such as — 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, one full teaspoon. Blossom end rot was less of an issue with this cal-

Spectacular lilies are in season and capture the moment. Be aware that red lily leaf beetles are out and about. (See four such beetles on hand in photo.) They have a voracious appetite for devouring lilies and are making inroads as they advance westward through parts of Manitoba. The grubs are ugly looking, black, moist blobs and carry excrement on their backs. Some controls include hand picking the adults and squishing them between fingers or dropping in soapy water, spraying lilies with Safer’s Neem oil foliar leaf spray, dusting foliage and soil surface at base of plants with rotenone powder or diatomaceous earth. Adult beetles overwinter in soil near the base of lily plants. cium source. With higher amounts, results that I found — 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon gave similar results (no disease was visible) — anything more, appeared to have no further effect. I hope that this works for your garden. Thank you.” (name withheld by request) Note from Ted: Keep the above information in mind when planting next year’s tomato crop. However, even now you can still sprinkle a teaspoonful of dry powdered skim milk on soil surface around each tomato plant, work it under and then water it in.

WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN PRINT … whether you’re youthful, a senior or somewhere in between? It seems mostly the million-dollar stories make the big headlines in the mass media whether they are disasters, crime, punishment and so on. To tell you the truth… I like what I call the good news two-bit, half-dollar and silver dollar stories that touch and speak to a person’s heart. How about you? If you’ve

got such a story, especially as it pertains to gardening and farming experiences and are motivated to share with our family of Grainews readers, then send it along to me.

SCHOOL IS OUT … and all the kids have passed. After thinking back to my school days and younger years I came up with the following: Twenty-six letters is what I get, When I repeat the alphabet, I start with A and end with Zed, ’Cause that is what the teacher said. Each told me that I’d pass the grade, Then get a job, someday be paid, Thank you teacher, thank you Mom, That’s when my schoolin’ first begun. † This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I appreciate your visit and thanks for joining me again on the Grainews Garden Path. I hope you’ve had time to pick peas, dig carrots, cut grass, prune roses, go fishing and read books. Sometimes things get tough for folks. If they do, always keep in mind that faith doesn’t get you around trouble… It gets you through it. Attitude is everything. Hope you’ve had the grandest day with more grand days to follow in your future. My email address is

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onditions couldn’t have been better when James, a Manitoba farmer, seeded his soybean field at the end of May last year. However, despite warm weather, timely rains and optimal soil conditions, three weeks after planting James noticed seedling emergence in that field was sporadic. Meanwhile, his neighbour’s soybean crop — planted at the same time in an adjacent field, and under similar conditions — was flourishing. “Compared to my neighbour’s, my soybean field looks off,” James told me. “Maybe I set my air seeder wrong, giving me this poor germination, or my seed was from a bad lot,” he suggested. Why would two fields planted at the same time under similar and optimal conditions be noticeably different in their development, I wondered. The answer to that riddle lay southeast of Winnipeg on James’ farm, where he produces 2,700 acres of wheat, oats, canola and soybeans. In general, the condition of the germinated soybean plants was good. However, plant emergence was spotty with no discernible pattern across the field, resulting in belowaverage population density. James had planted uncertified seed, and his concern that a bad lot was the source

Dan Friesen

Seedling emergence was sporadic.

of the poor germination rate was valid. A germination test is essential when using uncertified seed, I explained. A trip to the neighbouring farm confirmed that James’ neighbour had planted certified seed. Although the spotty seedling emergence in James’ field could have been a result of poor seed quality, I thought it was necessary to eliminate any other sources that might be compounding the low germination rate. The settings on James’ air seeder were correct, and I also eliminated disease and poor nodulation as possible causes of the decreased germination rate in that field because a seed treatment and an inoculant had been applied at planting. However, herbicide residue could be a candidate, I thought. Herbicide carryover could have hindered seedling emergence.



ack, a Manitoba farmer, called me the first week of July last year after he suspected his neighbour had damaged his winter wheat plants when he sprayed the volunteer winter wheat field adjacent to Jack’s crop. “I’m sure whatever he sprayed is killing my crop,” said Jack, who farms 4,500 acres of spring and winter wheat, canola and flax near Killarney. Jack’s crop was showing signs of damage in random patches near the boundary with his neighbour’s field — the plant population was thin, the plants were stunted, and the leaves were exhibiting yellow to white lines of chlorotic streaking running parallel to the veins. Jack’s neighbour had let his

volunteer winter wheat field go to yield due to the wet conditions during the past fall and spring. As we walked through his neighbour’s field, we discovered his plants were also suffering from the same symptoms. When we approached Jack’s neighbour about the possibility of spray drift damage, his neighbour showed us records that indicated a fungicide not known to cause damage to wheat had been applied to the field. The wind was also blowing in the wrong direction for the damage to be a result of spray drift. It may not have been drift causing the problems in Jack’s field, but the wind had played a part in the crop’s damage. After con-

“What did you plant last year in this field?” I asked James, thinking I’d probably found another source of damage. “I planted oats the year before, but the herbicide I sprayed doesn’t harm soybeans,” he said, quickly putting paid to that theory! We scraped back the soil covering the seed row to examine the seeds — I wanted to compare the ones that had germinated with the ones that had not. It didn’t take long for me to discover another factor behind the poor germination rate in James’ soybean field. I asked him to explain the circumstances surrounding the seeding of this field once again, and one detail jumped out at me. “The short-term forecast was for rain while we were planting, so we were augering the

MIGHTY PESTS sidering the excessive moisture of the previous fall and the past spring, the patch-like occurrence of the damage, the stunted plant growth and yellow leaf streaking, I suspected that the wind had carried microscopic wheat curl mites from Jack’s neighbour’s volunteer winter wheat crop, where they had overwintered, to Jack’s own newly-emerged seeded winter wheat crop. The volunteer wheat crop had created a green bridge for the mites, which carry and transmit the virus responsible for wheat streak mosaic disease. Mites can only survive on living host plants, preferring wheat. The disease is predominantly spread by mites carried on wind currents to

soybean seed as quickly as possible to finish the field,” he said. “I think I’ve solved another part to the riddle of this field’s erratic emergence,” I said. In addition to poor seed quality, what is the other reason for the erratic emergence of James’ soybean crop? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, Man., R3C 3K7; email 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. † Dan Friesen is a sales agronomist for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Starbuck, Man.

neighbouring plants and fields; however, the virus can also be spread by leaf rubbing. The virus also requires living host plants to survive and multiply. Tissue tests of affected plants taken from Jack’s field confirmed the presence of wheat streak mosaic virus. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for wheat streak mosaic. However, certain practices have virtually eliminated the presence of the disease in farmers’ fields. For example, spraying a pre-seed burn-off or tillage prior to seeding winter wheat dramatically lowers infection rates. Small areas of infected plants may occur at times, but these areas are often limited to a few plants and generally go unnoticed. Regular scouting can help farmers catch the problem early enough to mitigate plant damage.

Rotating oilseed and cereal crops helps limit the life cycle of the wheat curl mite. However, when adding any new crop to a rotation, farmers must investigate the pros and cons of growing that crop. Finally, giving thought to what is happening in neighbouring fields could also limit exposure to infection and ultimately profit loss from crop damage. At harvest, the areas of Jack’s field infected with wheat streak mosaic yielded 30 bushels per acre less than the unaffected areas. His neighbour suffered a loss of approximately 20 bushels per acre on the smaller-yielding volunteer crop. However, because neither field was completely infected these losses were considered minimal. † Bill Manning is an area marketing representative for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Killarney, Man.


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