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Volume 39, Number 8 | MARCH 18, 2013



A solid step in durum breeding AAC Raymore is the first solid-stemmed variety of amber durum to be registered in Canada BY SARAH WEIGUM


new durum variety raises the bar for Prairie farmers and makes life a lot more challenging for one of their common nemeses — sawflies. AAC Raymore, released by SeCan to all its member seed growers in February 2013, is an amber durum (CWAD) with similar yield, quality and agronomic traits to AC Strongfield, but with the added bonus of a solid stem, which makes it a far less hospitable host to sawfly than traditional hollow-stem varieties.

AAC RAYMORE AAC Raymore was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Danny Singh, along with fellow plant breeders who have been working on improving durum yield and agronomics for many years at the Swift Current, Sask., research station. Other solid-stem varieties have been developed in the past, but they either did not meet the quality specifications for CWAD or had agronomic weaknesses like poor straw strength. “In addition to protection against wheat stem sawfly, AAC Raymore has a competitive overall package for grain yield, protein and quality acceptable for CWAD,” says Singh “It is a large seeded cultivar and has good resistance to the majority of diseases, including stripe rust and common root rot.” Solid-stem varieties of wheat like AC Lillian have been available for several years, gaining popularity due to their sawfly tolerance, but AAC Raymore is the first solid-stem variety of CWAD to be registered in Canada. According to Scott Meers, insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, the solid stem reduces the sawfly population in two ways. “The solidness in the stem increases the mortality of the sawfly larvae and the sawfly that

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do manage to get through and cut the wheat actually lay fewer eggs the next year,” says Meers. A study quoted by Saskatchewan Agriculture in 2006 found larval mortality to be 28 per cent in hollow stems and about 67 per cent in solid stems.

SAWFLIES AND STEMS Sawflies, which are not true flies but actually relatives of bees, wasps and ants, typically favour the hot, dry climate that is characteristic of traditional durumgrowing areas, although they have been found in other areas of the Prairies as well. Female sawflies cut into stems of wheat and durum with a saw-like organ and lay their eggs there in June and July. When the larvae hatch they move through the stem, eventually cutting a groove around the edge of the stem near ground level. Wind or rain can knock over the weakened stem, making it difficult to pick the heads off the ground at harvest time. Sawfly larvae also contribute to yield loss. They feed on the nutrient-carrying phloem tissue inside the stem, leading to fewer or more shrivelled seeds per head. “In a hollow variety [the larvae] can get to the cells inside the stem that are very easy for the young sawfly to eat,” says Meers. “In the solid stem the eggs are laid right inside the stem and the young sawfly can’t get outside of the solid tissue.”


Danny Singh, AAFC plant breeder, in a plot of AAC Raymore durum.

SAWFLY RESISTANCE Jim Downey, SeCan’s research and development manager, is optimistic about the potential of this new variety to resist sawfly. “Raymore has an exceptionally solid stem. It expresses the pith to fill the stem from the ground to the head,” said Downey. In contrast, he said


DT818, now registered as AAC Raymore, next to a plot of AC Strongfield durum

In This Issue

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


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


Crop Advisor’s Casebook


Columns ........................... 28 Machinery & Shop ............ 34 Cattleman’s Corner .......... 40

Ascochyta in chickpeas MELANIE EPP PAGE 6

Spectruckular Special SCOTT GARVEY PAGE 34

FarmLife ............................ 45



MARCH 18, 2013

Wheat & Chaff STAMPEDE




hen our phone rang at 6:45, we knew who it would be before my husband picked it up. “Just as well,” I heard my husband say. “I wasn’t looking forward to going out there to move enough snow out of the lane so you could turn around in the yard.” It was too dangerous for our bus driver to be out on the roads. It was going to be another snow day.


“Oh look, Elmo, your size is on sale!”


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I’ll be glad to see the back of this winter. Not that I’m usually winter’s biggest fan, but this winter seems to have brought an unusual amount of stormy days, high winds and roads that are just plain unsafe. In early March, you didn’t see me in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan’s Soils and Crops workshop. My son was sad not to spend a day in Saskatoon with his grandparents while I learned about the latest agronomic research on and hoped for a chance to run into Grainews columnist Les Henry. In December, I was grateful that I had a free cancellation option on my Medicine Hat hotel room reservation. That month, you didn’t see me at the Farming Smarter Conference, where I was hoping to learn more about some of the new research Farmer Smarter will take into the field this summer. (Farming Smarter is an Albertabased research organization governed by a farmer board of directors. Learn more about it at In late January I was up at 5 a.m. for a day-long AgExpert course in Regina, worried that the 90-minute drive might take longer than usual due to questionable weather. I made it there safely, but I had a few tense moments on the highway and spent most of the trip muttering, “What am I doing outside when it’s -30 C?” In February I cancelled dinner with Weyburn friends, a trip to Regina to spend the day with a sick friend and more than one lunch date. I think this winter has been awful, considering the count of events missed and plans changed. It’s not just missing the events that makes winter days frustrating, it’s the hassle of changing plans and the feeling that you can never quite commit to something, because you might not be able to get to it. My husband says this winter just seems bad because last winter was “easy.” He may have a point.

It’s possible that this winter just seems especially difficult because we have such high expectations. For example, on “kindergarten days,” I expect a bus to pull into our yard and drive my son 25 miles to school and then home again. Every weekday, my neighbour expects to hop into her car and drive 30 miles to her job in town. This sort of behaviour would have been unheard of 50 years ago. Nobody in their right mind would have planned for that kind of commuting. My great aunt tells stories of being driven to the local school (just a couple of miles away) in a horse-drawn wagon. I’m willing to bet they had quite a few snow days. It was the early ’30s before Highway 13 (my route to Weyburn) was even gravelled, let alone paved to the point where I expect it to be a snow-free suface every day all winter so I can drive on it at 100 kilometres per hour (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) In 1947, I never would have tried to make plans to drive 430 km to Saskatoon and only stay two nights. New advances in vehicle safety and tire technology have turned a 30-mile drive from an occasional day-long ordeal into a twice-daily routine. These days, we fully expect to be able to get wherever we want to go, no matter what the weather’s doing. One morning this February I was at meeting in Regina. Most of the other people there were from rural Saskatchewan. One woman said, apologetically, “I didn’t come very far — I only live 60 miles from here.” Only in the Prairies would someone think driving 60 miles before 9 a.m. in the middle of winter was hardly worth mentioning. If you have the patience to take the long view, it’s quite amazing that we’re able to get where we’d like to go as often as we do. But maybe, like me, you don’t always have the patience to take the long view. I’ll admit it. I would have been a terrible pioneer.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM SNOW DAYS Here’s what I learned from this winter’s snow days. 1. “Sponge Bob Square Pants” is much funnier than you might think. (In case you don’t have a TV or a young child, this a cartoon about a yellow sponge that lives underwater, wears pants, has a pineapple for a house and works at a fast-food joint. That’s probably more than you want to know.) 2. All kinds of things can substitute for milk. I’ve used apple sauce, yogurt, butter, water and sour cream as a substitute for milk in recipes on those days when we couldn’t get to the store. Like most farmers, we have a basement filled with enough extra food to open our own dry goods store. But our pan-

try does not include milk. I know — there’s powdered milk, UHT milk, boxed soybean milk and probably 15 other milklike options I can’t find in Weyburn. But I just can’t bring myself to buy any of them. 3. Snow days are expensive. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you must not have Internet access. Sure, we save money on gas by not driving to town on days like today, but those savings don’t cancel out our bill for online shopping and iPad apps. 4. If you really need to be somewhere, don’t listen to the radio. If there’s any sign of winter weather, radio announcers will find a way to build up the hype until it’s a full-fledged blizzard in a skating rink. I’m not saying don’t be careful — check the highway hotline and call a friend at your destination — but sometimes you have to ignore the radio panic and get in the car. 5. If you’re stuck inside, remember it’s nice to be safe at home. As I write this, 150 Yorkton band students and their chaperones are waking up in the Morse, Sask., town hall — their bus hit the ditch and the town offered them a place to stay. Maybe some of the kids think it’s a fun adventure, but I doubt everyone’s loving it. 6. It’s hard to get motivated on a snow day. There’s no end to the work we could be doing in our house, shop, and home office. Maybe things are different at your house, but around here, once school’s been cancelled and we’ve decided we can’t go somewhere we’d planned to go, we spending most of the day wandering around the house, taking turns having naps. 7. I like my family. At least I’m stuck inside with people I don’t mind spending time with. 8. I’m very, very happy winter’s over. (Sure, see number 7, but enough is enough.)

A SPECTRUCKULAR ISSUE Grainews machinery editor Scott Garvey has a four-page spread on new trucks in the machinery section of this issue — this “spectruckular” starts on page 34. Whether or not you’re in the market for a new truck I’m sure you’ll find something interesting in his run-down of new offerings. We’ve also got a financial section on pages 22 to 27. We’ve included a review of a new book called The Wealthy Farmer, an article on leasing farm machinery, some tips for dealing with your banker and a few other articles along those lines that you could find helpful on your farm. For the past month, you’ve been seeing Grainews in your mailbox once a week. Now that we’re getting closer to spring seeding and you’re spending less time in the house, we’re slowing up our schedule. You’ll see the next Grainews in two weeks. I hope you find something you enjoy in this issue. Leeann

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Wheat & Chaff Farm safety

Crop production

It takes a farm to Manitoba clubroot raise a safety plan T


grew up working long hours on the farm, so I know that farm managers may cringe when I write that developing health and safety policies is a great way to show appreciation for your workers. Don’t stop reading. I have a point to make here. When it comes to health and safety policy statements, it’s a two way street. Employees need to know that they have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a safe manner, and employers have a responsibility to communicate their commitment to safety to those who work for them. If you don’t make an effort to see what’s behind door number two, you are creating a situation where hazards might go unreported, possibly out of fear on the part of the employee that feedback on safe work practices won’t be taken kindly. This could put everyone who works or lives on the farm at risk. So when developing safety policies, here’s what you need to do. Start with a general health and safety policy statement. This statement should outline your health and safety philosophy and the objectives of your safety plan. It should also state that you have made a commitment to preventing injuries and illnesses, and that workers are also responsible for their own the health and safety, as well as the

health and safety of anyone else that works on the farm. This should be supported by more specific operational policies, which cover standard operating practices, training requirements and records, emergency plans, first aid records and more. In working with farmers on policy development, I encourage them to keep it simple. If it isn’t simple, it won’t be implemented. Also, don’t over promise. Your health and safety policies need to be sustainable to be effective. Lastly, I come across the fear that employees might abuse the very policies put in place to protect them. If you make health and safety policy development a group activity, all you workers will be invested in its success. This will help weed out unreasonable claims while keeping everyone on the farm protected. While the task of developing policies and documentation might seem huge, there is a lot of overlap between farm safety plans and onfarm food safety and quality assurance programs, so where relevant, cross reference. For more information on health and safety policies or developing your own written health and safety plan, visit †

Carolyn Van Den Heuvel has spent the last year helping farmers implement the Canada FarmSafe Plan as a Canada FarmSafe Advisor for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA).

Weather Lore

Lions and lambs


fun, but not very reliable weather saying tells us: If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. It often happens that March begins cold and stormy and ends warm and balmy. People tend to think that nature, and life, always strives for a balance, which may have been why the adage was originally created. Another theory about the origin and meaning of this saying is that it’s astrological: At the beginning of March, the constellation Leo (the lion) is on the eastern horizon at sunset. By the end of the month, Aries (the ram) is on the western horizon. †

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

photo contest

GIVE US YOUR BEST SHOT These adorable children — Annie and Dawson — live at the Clear Spring Colony, near Kenaston, Saskatchewan. Annie and Dawson’s grandfather, Jack Kleinsasser, sent us this photo. Jack wrote, “They are cousins, going out on a stroll to help Grandpa Jack feed the geese.” I’m sure they’re a great help. Or, if they’re not much help, working with them probably makes the job a lot more entertaining! Jack also said, “If Dawson and Annie win the money it will be donated to the new Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.” What a kind thing to do. We’ll send the cheque for $25 right away. Thank you for sharing, Jack. If you’d like to see your photo on this page and receive $25, 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

esting has confirmed levels of clubroot capable of producing disease in two soil samples collected from Manitoba canola fields last year, provincial officials say. “It is significant in that we can no longer consider ourselves free of clubroot in Manitoba,” said Holly Derksen, a plant pathologist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ soils and crops branch at Carman, Man. The two samples were among six samples found to contain clubroot DNA that were collected as part of a survey of Manitoba canola fields last summer. Further testing was done under greenhouse conditions using highly susceptible plants. While the tests are considered positive cases of clubroot, with the spores capable of producing disease, Derksen noted the symptoms of disease were weak and probably wouldn’t show up in a canola field. “I think it is more of a warning,” she said. It’s now more important than ever that canola farmers acknowledge clubroot could be present in their fields and take steps to avoid spreading it around — or avoid allowing disease levels to build up to a point where serious infections surface. MAFRI warmed farmers attending the CanolaLAB event at Brandon, Man. to follow disease-prevention practices such as proper equipment sanitization — especially the removal of soil from farm equipment when moving from field to field. That also goes for any field services farmers have contracted with outside suppliers, Derksen said. The department also urges the use of disease-resistant varieties when growing canola, proper crop rotation and good weed management of alternate hosts, to decrease the likelihood of a soil-borne disease infesting a field. “These practices will also help prevent heavier infestations from developing within a field where a disease may already be

photo: leeann minogue

present at undetected levels,” the department said. Four out of the six soil samples taken from six unrelated fields that were confirmed through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to contain clubroot DNA, but did not produce disease symptoms, are considered “non-symptomatic fields of concern.” In 2011, two soil samples were identified as non-symptomatic fields of concern, but retesting in spring 2012 resulted in negative PCR results. All fields previously identified will be monitored, with additional soil samples tested in 2013, the department says. Within Canada, clubroot is established mainly in vegeta-

ble-producing regions of British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and turned up in canola in Quebec in 1997. Even after decades of largescale canola production in Western Canada, the disease did not hit Prairie canola until it first appeared in spots near Edmonton in 2003. Clubroot can cause premature crop ripening and economic losses due to reduced yield in host crops including canola. The spores are soil borne and long lasting, surviving in the soil for up to 20 years. Once the disease is established in a field, it requires long-term management solutions, MAFRI says. † Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.



MARCH 18, 2013


A SOLID STEP IN DURUM BREEDING that the Hard Red Spring wheat solid stem trait is not expressed as well. Cloudy or rainy weather at time of stem elongation can lead to less solid stems. Barry Reisner is a pedigreed seed grower near Limerick in southwest Saskatchewan. He splits his cereal acres between CWRS wheat and durum, including a seven-acre plot of AAC Raymore in 2012. “The vast majority of the stems were solid — not just partially solid but totally solid,” says Reisner of his 2012 crop.

growers in spring 2015. While the sawfly population is at a low point in the cycle following highs between 2001 and 2007, there is still a strong argument to be made for growing AAC Raymore now. “To me it looks like you could potentially grow Raymore as your main durum variety without any downside,” says Downey. Along with resistance to sawfly, AAC Raymore also boasted the highest protein of the durum varieties grown in the co-operative tests between 2008 and 2011. “We never really know until it gets out on farmers’ fields what the grade retention will be, and that’s a big deal in durum,” says Downey. “One of the things we really don’t

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


John Morriss


Leeann Minogue FIELD EDITOR





Shawna Gibson DESIGNER


Lynda Tityk

“Raymore has an exceptionally solid stem”


Heather Anderson PRESIDENT


— Jim Downey

In his experience growing solidstem wheat, it is unusual to have more than 50 per cent solid stems, which means it takes longer to control the sawfly population. “That’s why we’re interested in Raymore — because it could be more of an immediate cure for sawfly,” says Reisner. “I don’t know for sure, but I expect it will be.”

GROWING AAC RAYMORE Reisner and other SeCan members will be producing higher generation seed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons with certified seed available for commercial

know is how it will hold colour. Starchy kernels are kind of white. The hard vitreous colour that’s desirable should be achievable because of the high protein.” There is more durum research to be done. Downey describes the “holy grail” as a variety that combines a solid stem with midge tolerance and fusarium resistance. (AAC Raymore saw no improvement over the checks in fusarium head blight susceptibility.) Multiple resistances in one variety requires parent varieties that carry the different resistant genetics as agronomic and quality traits. “More crosses will be made in

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In a solid stem plant like AAC Raymore, sawfly eggs are laid inside the stem, and the young sawfly can’t get outside of the solid tissue. the future based off the platform of Raymore,” Downey sauys. “Solidstem may not become required trait for registration but it will be available for future varieties.” In Downey’s view, AAC Raymore demonstrates the importance of Canada’s public plant breeders. “Ag Canada has

said they want to get out of wheat finishing programs but the Swift Current site is a national treasure because of all the good work that has gone into developing good parents.” † Sarah Weigum grows pedigreed seed and writes in Three Hills, Alta. Follow her on Twitter @sweigum.



Arlene Bomback Phone: (204) 944-5765 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Email: Printed in Canada by Transcontinental LGM-Coronet Winnipeg, Man. GRAINEWS is published by Farm Business Communications, 1666 Dublin Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3H 0H1. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40069240.


A new app from SharpeTech JAY PETERSON


Cory Bourdeaud’hui Phone: (204) 954-1414 Fax: (204) 944-5562 Email:

griplot is a neat little app that allows you to mark points on a virtual map and then calculate the acreage inside that plotted area. You can also measure the distance between these two points. These plots can then be emailed whoever might need this information. To start a new plot you can either search to a location or get the app to zoom in to your current location. You are then symbolized by a little blue pin on the map. There are three different types of map view to choose from in the setting box. The satellite view gives the detailed satellite imagery, the map view shows the

map in animated mode and the hybrid view shows most things in imagery but some things such as roads are animated. From there all you need to do is walk around the area you would like to plot or measure and drop boundary pins in the needed areas. There are also interest pins that can be dropped in case you want to make a note about something like a rock or a water run. You can take a picture and add it to any of these pin markers for future reference. All the necessary GPS information is also supplied for these points. You can use this app for agricultural purposes or just plotting out landscaping changes in your yard. This is a great app and I am definitely glad I can keep the measuring wheel on a stick in the closet from now on. Price: $0.99 † Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask.

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

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Nitrogen application in canary seed At a January meeting, canaryseed growers heard two sides of the nitrogen story BY MELANIE EPP


armers sitting through the presentations at the Canaryseed Development Commission’s afternoon session at Crop Production Week in Saskatoon in January may have left the hotel wondering just how much nitrogen to apply to their canaryseed crops this spring. During the course of the afternoon, a federal research scientist and a Saskatchewan agronomist presented two very different views on the effectiveness of nitrogen on canaryseed.

LIMITED NITROGEN RESPONSE Bill May, Agriculture and AgriFood Canada research scientist, told farmers that adding nitrogen doesn’t produce lower yields, nor does it increase yields. “Our findings, in general, are that canary seed does not respond strongly to applied nitrogen fertilizer in most situations,” says May. “Most situations would be on the typical black, dark brown soils that we test canaryseed on. Occasionally we get a significant response to nitrogen. We did last year at Swift Current.” The key word here is “response,” not yield. While the application rate was increased from 10 to 90 kilograms per hectare (about nine to 80 pounds per acre), the yield increase was minor. “The yields were low because they were only increased from 10 to 15 bushels. At Melfort, the yield actually went down as the nitrogen rate increased, which isn’t something we typically see, but it’s not impossible,” says May. In years that receive plenty of moisture throughout the growing season, fields that are low in organic matter will see a small nitrogen response. Otherwise, May feels that 30 kg/ha (27 lb./ ac.) is more than enough nitrogen. “I would actually rather guys put nitrogen on crops that are more responsive to nitrogen and not up the nitrogen rate in canaryseed,” he says. “You’d be better off putting a little extra nitrogen on canola because it will respond to it, whereas canary seed is not going to respond to that extra nitrogen very often. It’s not an economical response.” “There are better ways to spend your money,” he continues. “I would rather guys spend money on chloride in canaryseed than on nitrogen.” Farmer and Canaryseed Development Commission Board member Larry Frisky says his experience has been similar to May’s. “I do use fertilizers,” he says. “I’m stronger in using fertilizers like phosphate and potash, and less nitrogen, perhaps, than what my neighbours use. It appears that as soon as we fertilize a little heavier, the crop falls down, it doesn’t fill properly and we have lower yields.” Frisky relies on his soil tests for answers. If there are, say, 10 pounds of available nitrogen in the soil, he’ll add an additional 40 pounds of nitrogen for a total of 50 lbs. Likewise, depending on what his soil test says, he’ll add

20 to 25 pounds per acre of actual phosphate and about 20 pounds of potash. “Canary seed becomes a very reasonable crop to grow, and my experience is that it stands up well,” says Frisky. “I don’t get great big huge yields, but I get higher than the area average yield from this way of doing business. It works for me.”

ADDING MORE NITROGEN Pat Toner, a sales agronomist at Emerge Ag Solutions in Eston, Sask., also spoke at the January meeting. To n e r p r e f e r s a d i f f e r e n t approach with canaryseed. “Rather than speak to nitrogen specifically,” he says, “I like to speak

towards the whole issue with a balanced nutrition approach.” Over the course of the past three years Toner has submitted canaryseed and canaryseed straw for laboratory analysis and from that he’s developed a nutrient profile of both the harvested grain and the remaining trash. The objective of the project is to build a canaryseed crop uptake and crop removal chart. Similar charts are available for other commercially grown crops in the industry, but are not readily available for canary seed. Toner’s findings show that harvested canaryseed removes about a 1-1/2 pounds per bushel of nitrogen in the form of harvested grain. It also removes approximately .45 pounds of phosphorus (or a phos-

phate equivalent) and .14 pounds of potassium and sulfur. “Every crop needs nitrogen to live and to build its energy, and to just arbitrarily say ‘no nitrogen application’ is a bit risky, especially if you’re dealing in some stubble land that may have run out by a large crop in the year previous,” says Toner. “I’m trying to create an awareness that in growing a canaryseed crop we have to be assured that that crop will have two pounds of nitrogen available per bushel of the yield goal.” That nitrogen might already be in the soil, so farmers should see what their soil tests reveal. But don’t stop with nitrogen. Toner says you should look at your ammonium levels as well. “Bear

in mind that our organic matter releases nitrogen over the course of the growing season as well,” he says. “A lot of tests sometimes miss the ammonium aspect of the soil profile.” “One thing we did agree on was the benefits of chloride,” Toner says. “I think there are benefits to be had from a potassium chloride application — 24 pounds per acre of chloride or less.” Whatever your solution, one thing is clear: look to your soil test for answers. Your soil’s organic matter content — or lack thereof — will strongly affect the amount of nitrogen available to your crops. † Melanie Epp is a freelance writer who specializes in writing web copy for small businesses. She is based in Guelph, Ont., and can be found online at


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MARCH 18, 2013


Controlling ascochyta in chickpeas If you’re going to grow chickpeas, you’re going to need the right variety, good rotation practices, and, of course, a lot of fungicide BY MELANIE EPP


hile chickpea production in 2012 was higher than 2011, there’s no doubt that Prairie production has been held back by ascochyta. When left uncontrolled, Ascochyta rabiei has been responsible for yield losses as high as 70 per cent. Although plant breeders are working on new varieties with higher resistance, the disease still needs to be carefully managed. Ascochyta blight is a cropspecific, seed-borne disease that causes yield losses in chickpeas, lentils, and peas. The pathogen over-winters in crop residue or infected seed, and develops in early spring. It produces two different types of spores: conidia (asexual spores) and ascospores (sexual spores). Ascospores are airborne and have the ability to infect crops located miles away from the infected residue. Once the plant has been infected, symptoms, including disease lesions on pods, stems and leaflets, will begin to appear within four to six days. These symptoms can lead to devastating problems, including stem breakage and leaf death.

SCOUTING FOR ASCOCHYTA In chickpeas, ascochyta appears before the crop, as early as May. When scouting for ascochyta, the Government of Saskatchewan guide Scouting and Management of Ascochyta Blight in Chickpea recommends scouting in a W-shape or a large circular pattern, inspecting five to 10 sites. Be sure to check those fields that are either more vulnerable to disease or potential disease hot spots. Hot spots will be areas that are more heavily seeded areas, areas with excessive moisture, and sections that have been damaged by drought, herbicide injury or frost. Start scouting as soon as the seeds emerge (within two to three weeks of planting). During this critical period, you should scout every three to seven days. If weather conditions — frequent rain showers and humidity — are favourable for ascochyta, increase scouting frequency. Continue scouting until the pod filling stage. Early symptoms of ascochyta include small lesions the size of a pinhead. They occur on the leaflets and stems, and are light tan to dark brown in colour. The lesions will be embedded in the leaf and cannot be rubbed off.

MANAGING ASHOCHYTA There are three key parts to an ascochyta management strategy. 1. Fungicides: “Foliar fungicides are a very effective tool to manage ascochyta blight,” say Miller. Usually, multiple applications are required. Miller says, “Resistance to fungicides may develop as a result of the repeated use of fungicides belonging to the same chemistry family.”

Prairie production of chickpeas has been held back by ascochyta. Your best precaution against resistance, Miller says, is to “follow a rotation of products with different active ingredients and tankmix products from different fungicide groups where registered.” If conditions are wet, spray a preventative foliar fungicide at the seven to 10 node stage. If it’s dry, you can hold off a bit longer. But make sure that your first application is before flowering; protecting the flowers will conserve yield. Once the crop reaches the pod filling stage, Although a fungicide application at this point won’t affect yield, it can help to improve seed quality.

“We plan three to five applications of fungicide per year”

— Shawn Bourgeouis 2. Variety choice: In recent years, advancements in agronomic research and variety development have greatly reduced the impact of ascochyta blight in chickpeas. Ideally, choose a variety with no more than 10 per cent ascochyta infection. 3. Crop rotation is key: Since ascochyta blight only survives on the residue of specific crops, your first and most important line of defense in managing for the disease is crop rotation. Most farmers avoid planting chickpeas more than once every four years in the same field. For more information on ascochyta, Miller recommends the 2013 Saskatchewan Guide to Crop Protection.

CHICKPEAS IN ROTATION Ascochyta is an ongoing problem on Shawn Bourgeouis’ farm

» CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE 19456-02UP DAS_Simplicity 13.1667X9.indd 1

Because frequent fungicide applications are required, rotate fungicides to prevent resistance.

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Chickpeas for 2013 Saskatchewan’s chickpea acreage increased for 2012. Melanie Epp finds out why that happened BY MELANIE EPP


s most farmers know, Saskatchewan, represents more than 90 per cent of chickpea production in Canada, so what happens in Saskatchewan is usually a good indication of what’s going on across the country. Western Canada saw an increase in chickpea production in 2012, even though growers struggled with some familiar setbacks Overall, though, last year was a good year for chickpeas. Saskatchewan acreage increased from 104,000 acres in 2011 to 175,000 acres, while yields increased from about 1,600 to 1,800 pounds per acre.

2102 INCREASE Carl Potts, Saskatchewan Pulse Growers executive director says the increase in production this

year was driven primarily by strong prices in late 2011 and early 2012. In the last half of 2011, he says chickpea prices increased substantially. “And that held into early 2012, which when growers are making their planting decisions, they looked at some of those strong prices and reacted accordingly.” This year, acreage was up from previous years, too, but then fluctuations in acreage are the norm. “A previous three-year average is about 100,000 acres,” says Potts. “But chickpea area has ranged, if you look back at the past 10 or so years, it’s ranged a lot from 80,000 acres as a low back in 2008-09 up to more than 1.1 million in 200102.” Those fluctuations, says Potts, are primarily in response to two things. “One, prices really do drive what growers choose to grow, so those increases and decreases are the result of changes in prices,” he

says. “And when I talk about prices, I think it’s important to focus on relative prices — prices of chickpeas in relation to other crops.” The other factor is that, of all the pulses, chickpeas are one of the trickier crops to grow. They’re more susceptible to climate, and they’re less resistant to diseases than other crops. “I’ve talked to growers who had a very good chickpea crop, and then others, if they had too much moisture, didn’t have as good a chickpea crop and quality. We had a good, long harvest window in the fall that allowed growers to get off the crop in reasonably good quality as well, so that’s quite positive,” he continues.

CHICKPEA CHALLENGES Cory Ryland, assistant general manager at Canadian Exotic Grains in Eston, Sask., agrees. A grower and marketer of chickpeas,

he says that although there are always challenges with chickpeas, there wasn’t too much to complain about this year. “[It’s the] same issue as every year. With chickpeas, you just need to get that stress on it so it stops growing,” he says. “Every time it starts dying off and you get another rain, it starts greening up again. And with our short growing season, you run the risk of frost every year. It seems like the last few years we’ve been getting that frost. I mean, it’s not killing it. All it does is lock the green in, so that’s what you’re struggling with.” Colour sorting, he says, is an unwelcome added expense. “Usually, it’s late enough that three to five per cent, sometimes worse, depending on how far along the crop is. It’s also determined by how much rain we get. The more rain we get, the more it wants to grow, which means if you get an early frost on a wet year it’s going to be 50 per cent green locked in. When it gets that bad you’re almost just selling it for feed or seed,” says Ryland. This year, the frost didn’t arrive until September 17, which is about average for the region. “It wasn’t terrible. Our biggest problem out here is ascochyta. We spray probably five fungicide applications, sometimes six, just to keep the ascochyta away. And there’s where your expense is, because the cost of the chemical is quite expensive,” he says.

NEW VARIETIES Perhaps one of the reasons growers are returning to chickpeas is because they’ve seen a vast improvement when it comes to varieties. Dr. Bunyamin Tar’an, a chickpea breeder, says there are three qualities they’ve been working to improve: disease resistance (particularly to ascochyta blight), earlier maturation, and increased seed size.

» CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE near Woodrow, Sask., which is why he avoids growing chickpeas more than once every four years, as recommended. “Chickpeas remain a small part of our overall rotation due to the high production and market risk,” says Bourgeouis. “In the past, Saskatchewan and Alberta farmers have grossly increased production well beyond market demand, making it very difficult to sell the product. Because of this, many farmers have learned to exercise serious caution when including chickpeas in their rotation, in spite of occasionally strong prices.” “As a general rule, we plan three to five applications of fungicide per year, depending on weather conditions,” he

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Dr. Tar’an says that ascochyta blight is the number one disease for chickpeas globally, but breeders have been working to create newer, more resistant varieties. Improvements have been made on the maturity rate of chickpeas as well. “Because chickpeas are an inherently long-season crop, we breed for the shorter growing season crops and improvements for disease resistance to ascochyta, while at the same time maintaining quality of the seed,” he says. About 90 per cent of Canadian growers produce the kabuli variety of chickpea. “For kabuli,” says Dr. Tar’an, “size and colour are important qualities. The farmer gets a premium price for the larger size. The higher, the bigger the seed size, the more premium the farmer will get.” “Biologically, chickpeas are indeterminate,” says Dr. Tar’an. “And sometimes that’s a problem here because if the conditions are favourable, for example, if we have enough moisture and it’s still warm, the crop will really grow. At the end, the killing frost will just stop them. So what happens at the end is you have a mix of fully ripe seeds, plus the green immature seeds. Uneven maturity becomes a problem, and uneven seed quality. That’s the challenge we have with the crop.” Dr. Tar’an says that a long-term goal of breeders is to breed for even earlier maturation to avoid this late-season greening. So what possesses a farmer to risk early frost, possible disease and late-season greening? “You’re just going to deal with colour-sorting and greenness on a bad year,” says Ryland. “On a wet year, it’s all seed, and that’s when you lose out. There’s not too many of those.” “But on a good year,” he says, “Chickpeas pay more than any other crop out there.” † Melanie Epp is a freelance writer who specializes in writing web copy for small businesses. She is based in Guelph, Ont., and can be found online at

continues. “We try to alternate groups of fungicide with each successive treatment. Risk of ascochyta developing resistance to group 11 fungicides is apparently higher than the other fungicides, so we try to exercise caution with strobilurin dependence in our treatment rotation. This includes products like Vertisan, Quadris, Proline, Priaxor and Bravo.” For more information on how to manage ascochyta blight, please see the Government of Saskatchewan’s online resource, Scouting and Management of Ascochyta Blight in Chickpea . Find it by searching for “chickpea” at Melanie Epp is a freelance writer who specializes in writing web copy for small businesses. She is based in Guelph, Ont., and can be found online at

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MARCH 18, 2013

Features Soils

Controlling salt in the soil

What is a salt?

Les Henry says soil salinity is a water problem, not a soil problem. Find out how to cope with salt on your farm By Gord Leathers


arge parts of what are now the Canadian Prairies were once the beds of shallow seas. All that salt water gradually evaporated and left huge deposits of salt clays. Consequently, there are places where groundwater can dissolve those old salts and deliver them to the surface, making farming difficult or even impossible. Farmers who own land prone to salinity have to learn to cope with it. “The first thing we have to recognize is that soil salinity is not a soil problem,” explains farmer, Grainews columnist and retired University of Saskatchewan professor Les Henry.

“It’s a water problem, so we have to focus on water.” There are two reasons for this. First, groundwater can move from one place to another, gathering dissolved salts as it goes. Second, it’s about the water table — the measured distance from the surface of the ground down to the level where the oozing water saturates the soil. The closer the water table is to the surface, the more serious the potential problem.

bilities but most of our trouble is caused by magnesium sulfate.” In fact it’s the salts in the sulfate family that you usually find in Prairie water. Calcium sulfate (gypsum) and calcium carbonate (lime) are fairly common in Prairie subsoil but they’re relatively insoluble. Since they won’t dissolve easily into the groundwater they tend to stay where they are. On the other hand, chloride salts of sodium, calcium and magnesium are soluble and love to travel with the groundwater. Fortunately Salts in Prairie water they’re not common so they’re So what are the salts? Henry says, limited to a few small areas. It’s B:8.125” the sulfate salts that dominate the “In Western Canada, the major saline portions of the prairies. problem is magnesium sulfate. T:8.125” So we know it’s in the water There are others of various solu-


henever we think of salts we automatically think of table salt, something we see every day. We know what it looks like and we even know it by taste. It’s only one of a wide family of compounds that we call ionic compounds that come about when an acid meets a base. For example, if you introduce hydrochloric  acid  (common stomach acid) to lye (sodium hydroxide) the result is sodium chloride (table salt) and water. The sodium half of the molecule has a strong positive charge and is called the cation. On the other hand, the chloride is negative. Once the two are bolted together, the resulting sodium chloride molecule is neutral. This is a relatively simple example, but it illustrates the point. Farmers face a number of different salts, some chemically simple and some more complex. Another salt farmers know well is an isopropylammonium salt — an acid molecule bound to a salt for the purpose of packaging and handling. It’s more commonly known as glyphosate. Magnesium  sulfate,  also known as Epsom salts, are fairly common in bath salts and are used in a number of medical treatments. It’s also one of the most common salts found in prairie salt clays and, since it dissolves easily in water, it’s one of the most serious causes of soil salinity.

and we know it moves. The next question is: how does it get to the surface? Simply put, it’s carried there by the groundwater but not because a flowing spring brought it there. This is where the water table — that critical distance from the water table to the soil surface — becomes important. The closer it is to the surface, the greater the potential problem.

Moving it to the surface Water is drawn to the surface through a process called capillarity — the same process plants use to move water from the roots to the


» continued on next page

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Most of our crop species don’t tolerate soil salts particularly well. This is because salt interferes with the plant’s uptake of water. Water is precious in a dry environment and a plant that can’t get water is a dead plant. Saline groundwater messes with the “water potential” of the environment. Simply put, water likes to move to where the salts are. If the water is pure and it’s sitting next to a plant cell with “solutes” dissolved in it, that water wants to move to where the solutes are. The “water potential” is greater in the cell so the water crosses the cell wall and moves in. If the water in the surrounding soil has more solutes than the cell, the water potential is the other way and it moves out of the cell and into the soil. The cell dies. Oddly enough, magnesium sulfate may also be used as a fertilizer on land that’s deficient in either magnesium or sulfur and it may also be used with crops that are big users of these elements such as potatoes or tomatoes. Still, too much of a good thing is toxic. †


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Features » CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE leaves. Water can move through microscopic pores, some of which are almost small enough that the individual molecules have to line up and move single file. The combination of surface tension (cohesion between water molecules) and adhesive forces between the water and the surrounding pore material actually causes the water to move upward against gravity. The water takes the salt along for the ride, but when they reach the surface, they part company. The water evaporates into the air and leaves the salt on the ground where it can form a crust. Generally, if the water table is within two meters of the soil surface the capillary action on the water will bring it all the way to the surface. “So soil salinity is caused by a high water table, near the surface and close enough that suction lift can bring it up to the surface concentrating the salts there.” Henry explained. “You need to have evaporation greater then precipitation so groundwater movement is required to maintain that water table during the dry periods.” What keeps that capillary action from working is a ready supply of fresh water coming from the other direction, forcing it the other way. Any form of precipitation, either rain or spring snowmelt, helps to maintain a better quality of soil moisture. As fresh water percolates into the soil it forces the more saline groundwater lower in the profile.

As long as the upper levels of the soil have fresh water, crops will use it quite happily. But if it’s not replenished the salt-rich water from lower down will be drawn to the surface. The crops will take on a bluish tinge and fail. This has been going on since the last glaciers retreated. That is the other dimension we have to consider with moving groundwater: time. “To think about salinity you have to think like a geologist and you have to think in four dimensions.” Henry said. “You’ve got ‘how wide,’ and ‘how broad’ and ‘how deep’ and ‘how long.’ Salinity is the net water movement at the soil surface over ten thousand years.” So it’s a combination of geology and groundwater movement. There’s nothing new about this, it’s been going on since the last ice age ended.

CONTROLLING SALINITY The next question is, “What can we do about it?” Can we control soil salinity? The answer is an unqualified maybe. These groundwater systems can be fairly complex so controlling soil salinity can be costly and risky. The best hope for reversing salinity is in areas where it’s a recent phenomena or where it may be seen to fluctuate. The first thing to do is a detailed investigation of the local water quality in nearby wells. It helps to check local soil maps to see what they might tell you. The next phase, if it’s worth the

cost, is to drill into the ground to determine the basic geology and it’s capacity to carry water. At this point either piezometers or a water table well can be installed to monitor the water table and see when it’s nearest the surface. Or

and I can put one of those in in about 20 minutes.” If you install slotted pipe the level of the water inside will be the actual level of the water table. If the pipe isn’t slotted the level of the water inside the pipe will

“Reclaiming saline soils is draining plus leeching” — Les Henry

Henry says you can get a rough idea of that on the cheap. “You need a Dutch auger with two extensions.” he says. “You go to the local hardware store and buy 10 feet of thin PVC pipe that they use for central vac, you put a plug on the bottom and you put it in the ground. I’m 72 years old

indicate the “piezometric head,” — the level maintained by the groundwater pressure. The next step is reclamation. “Reclaiming saline soils is draining plus leeching. Drainage or leeching alone won’t do it, so do the two of them together.” Henry suggests. “If it’s calcium and mag-

nesium salts, you drain it and leech it, as simple as that. It’s very easily reclaimed. If you have saline sodium salts then you may need to add gypsum and then drain and leech, but for most of the situation that we have all you need to do is drain them and leech them and they reclaim very quickly.” There are two other possibilities. Some native plants cope with salt better than crops so it may even be best to seed to grassland and use the land for grazing. “The best way to manage saline soils is to sell it in the winter time.” Henry laughs. On a more serious note, he says, “To understand soil salinity you must understand the ground water movement and there’s no spray or spread solution. If you’ve got a serious problem the only thing you can do is to plant it down.” † Gord Leathers is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, photographer and musician. Find him online at


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MARCH 18, 2013





fter the May long weekend last year I received a call from Rob, who farms 3,000 acres of wheat, peas, canola and hay on his operation near Arrowwood, Alta. I had scouted Rob’s canola field the previous week. At that time, emergence and germination looked great and the plants appeared to be healthy, so his call was a surprise. Rob had been away over the weekend and when he returned to check his field he discovered big bald patches where there had previously been healthy canola plants. “What’s going on?” Rob asked me. “How can the field look so good one day and then suddenly have huge areas missing the next? We didn’t notice anything suspicious when we scouted.”

Meghan Desjardins “I’ll be out there right away,” I said. Rob hadn’t been exaggerating. Where healthy plants had once been growing, there were now bare patches of various sizes throughout the field. The field had been irrigated and was very flat, so it was

easy to see that the locations of the patches appeared to be random; however, the patches increased in frequency along the edges of the field that bordered hay fields and in areas where more volunteer hay was growing within the canola field. “What could possibly damage my canola this quickly and completely remove the plants?” asked a puzzled Rob. In as little as three days, nothing remained in the affected areas except for bare soil. I knew it had to be something that struck after emergence and gave very little warning. The plants growing outside of the patches were perfectly healthy; meanwhile, next to a thriving area of plants would be a six-foot patch of nothing. We ruled out machinery malfunction and fertilizer application error because there was no consistency in the appearance


n the early days of July, I received a phone call from John, a farmer with 3,000 acres of wheat and canola near Wadena, Sask. John had sprayed his five canola fields with glyphosate in early June, but within two weeks he noticed that some weeds were still thriving and many were beginning to grow back. “It doesn’t appear that my herbicide worked, but I have no idea why,” John explained to me. At John’s farm, I could see the weeds were indeed com-

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and one winner will be drawn for a chance to win a Grainews cap and a one-year subscription to the magazine. The best answer, along with the reasoning which solved the mystery, will appear in the next Crop Advisor’s Solution. † Meghan Desjardins is a sales agronomist for Richardson Pioneer Ltd. in Carseland, Alta.



of the patches in the field or the plants’ symptoms. It also wasn’t a seeding issue because the plants had emerged well and those left standing were healthy — not chlorotic or sickly. Within the patches there were the odd plants lying on top of the soil surface with their bases cut off, almost as if something had cut them down with an axe. As I dug along the seed row, I found more stubs of plants that had been destroyed just below or at the soil surface. With this evidence, I felt fairly confident I could determine what was causing the bare patches in Rob’s field. What is causing random bare patches to show up in Rob’s canola field? Send your diagnosis to Grainews, Box 9800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3K7; email or fax 204-944-5416 c/o Crop Advisor’s Casebook. Best suggestions will be pooled

ing back to life — in some instances, the older leaves of the weeds had been killed off but the plants were still doing well. Apparently, the glyphosate had not translocated within the weeds. After eliminating tank mixing error, incorrect water usage, sprayer malfunction and chemical failure as the cause of the problem, we checked the quality of the water John uses for pesticide application. Test results indicated John’s water was hard! The calcium and magnesium salts in hard water bind tightly to the glyphosate mol-

ecules, stopping those molecules from binding to the active sites within the plant, hindering the ability of the glyphosate to kill the weeds. By the time we determined the source of the problem, it was too late in the season to re-spray the canola fields. The weeds, no doubt, would outcompete the canola plants and have a negative impact on yield. However, determining that poor quality water was to blame for the herbicide failure wasn’t all bad news because this problem is easily managed. Adding ammonium sul-

phate to the tank mix, for example, will ensure herbicide efficacy because it preferentially binds to the glyphosate molecules before the calcium and magnesium. The ammonium-glyphosate complex then binds to the active sites within the plant, eventually killing it. There are several other products on the market that work the same way as ammonium sulphate. However, with ammomium sulphate, much lower volumes of product are required, making them a more convenient option. Ammonium sulphate has been shown to boost glypho-

sate’s efficacy in targeting larger weeds as well as increasing its rate of killing those weeds when used on summerfallow. Water quality is an important aspect of herbicide application and should not be overlooked. In addition, there are other factors affecting water quality such as pH levels and the presence of organic matter that should be monitored. Farmers would be wise to evaluate water quality regularly and, if necessary, consider adding a treatment to avoid tying up herbicides. † a



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MARCH 18, 2013 /


Features Climate change

Climate change and crop impacts In this second part of a three-part series, Angela Lovell looks at how a changing climate could change yields and growing conditions By Angela Lovell


ost plants respond positively to elevated carbon dioxide (CO2)  concentrations and low levels of warming, but higher levels of warming often negatively affect growth and yields, says a 2009 report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP). As CO2 levels rise, the positive effect on plant growth is likely to be soon overtaken by the impact of other climate change factors such as temperature increases, altered precipitation patterns and extreme weather events. “The benefits of CO2 at the global scale will eventually be outweighed by the harm from climate change induced by CO2 and other greenhouse gases,” say Lobell and Gourdji in the GCRP program. “There is considerable debate about exactly when net impacts will become negative. A likely scenario in the near-term is that warming will slow global yield growth by about 1-1/2 per cent per decade, while CO2 increases will raise yields by roughly the same amount. Past mid century, it is likely that CO2 benefits will diminish and climate effects will be larger. It is plausible that the net effects of warming and CO2 could result in a yield decrease up to three per cent, or an increase up to two per cent per decade, depending on rates of temperature and CO2 change and the responsiveness of crop yields. Warmer temperatures can benefit some crops in some areas. For example, growing ranges for corn and soybeans could expand. But for other crops, such as smallgrained cereals like wheat, faster plant growth under warmer conditions may mean reduced grain yields. The grain-filling period shortens as temperature rises, giving less time for plants to mature and produce grain. “Analysis of crop responses suggests that even moderate increases in temperature will decrease yields of corn, wheat, sorghum, bean, rice, cotton, and peanut crops,” says the GCRP report. Canola, oats and barley also have relatively low optimal temperature thresholds — it’s expected that yields of these crops would decline under hotter, dryer conditions. And warming, scientists say, seems to be increasing the risk of plant damage from frost. “Mild winters and warm, early springs, which are beginning to occur more frequently as climate warms, induce premature plant development and blooming, resulting in exposure of vulnerable young plants and plant tissues to subsequent late-season frosts,” says the GCRP report.

larger. In some cases, however, this will also reduce nitrogen and protein levels, making some crops and forages in pastures and rangelands less nutritious for humans or animals and even pests. Pests will need to eat more of a crop to obtain the nutrition they need. Most scientists agree that increased  p recipitation  w ill accompany climate change, and that this will be especially true on the Canadian Prairies as the trend towards violent summer storms accompanied by heavy downpours increases. Water is not just needed for plant growth, but also for plant cooling to prevent heat stress, which again

can have a negative impact on yield and seed production. As water becomes scarce, more farmers will irrigate, until water becomes a serious limiting factor.

Weeds and Pests Weeds benefit more than crops from higher temperatures and CO2 concentrations. Scientists are studying some general patterns of vegetation change, which are already beginning to occur. Their research seems to support what every farmer instinctively knows: weeds and invasive species are adapted to survive. They have traits, such as prolific seed production and

faster growth rates, which allow them to respond better to change. Herbicide and other pesticide use and costs are likely to go up as the climate warms and CO2 levels rise. The hunt will be on for new products, because research has also shown that glyphosate loses its efficiency against weeds that are grown at the CO2 levels predicted to occur under climate change. High temperatures are also known to reduce the effectiveness of pesticides such as pyrethroids. Insects and diseases will thrive under warming conditions. Some of the pests and disease pathogens, which are now limited by their ability to overwinter in frigid Canadian

soils, will be able to survive and proliferate quickly with milder winters and longer growing seasons. Hot, humid conditions will contribute to disease development and spread, forcing farmers to incur additional costs and risk environmental degradation through the use of more insecticides and fungicides. For more information, “The influence of climate change on global productivity” by David B. Lobell and Sharon M. Gourdji of Stanford University is online at, just search “Lobell” to access a free pdf. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist living and working in Manitoba. Find her online at

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Features FARM FUEL


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onathan McClelland mana g e s We s t N o v a A g r o Commodities (WNAC), a community-owned grain elevator. For the past four years, WNAC has been working on the concept of using over-mature hay for fuel. “We’re using a model of going directly from producers to the endconsumers,” explained McClelland, adding, “The production, processing and use of hay-based fuel is intended to be mainly within a 30 to 40 km radius of WNAC. There are several benefits to using over-mature hay for fuel, McClelland says. “It allows local farms to make good quality hay when the weather is good and the hay is at its peak quality. Later, in the summer and fall, the same equipment can be used to harvest poorer quality hay as a new cash crop.”

Canada, we manage the harvest by mowing the crop, typically in mid-October, leaving it, and then baling it the next spring. We leave it so it can be harvested and stored in a reliable state without moisture (i.e. risk of rot), and about 90 percent of the chemicals in the grass are leached out (bringing it to a similar chemical composition as wood pellets, which are very low in chlorine and potassium [alkaline-forming compounds that can cause combustion problems]). “Also, you need not apply potassium or phosphorus, with grass nutrients going back into the fields.” Sampson says this method has not yet be tested in Western Canada, “and, with strong Prairie winds, there is a lot more wind row movement. Sampson says, “Grass stems have outstanding fibre properties for fibre application and the rest of the grass can be used for thermal



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SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS Roger Sampson, the Executive Director of REAP (Resource Efficient Agriculture Production) Canada, has been on the forefront of sustainability solutions for the agricultural sector since his agency started in the mid-1980s. Sampson recalled, “In 1991, we were concerned about the farm production surplus crisis, realizing we had to find non-food markets.” This led REAP to consider ways of growing crops for energy and fibre uses, which uncovered the potential uses of native warm season grasses, like switchgrass and other perennials. “This is an ideal way to capture solar energy on marginal farmlands and convert it into biomass,” explained Sampson. Seeking the best way to get the biomass to market, make farmers money, and bring new economic activity, REAP turned its attention to fibre and energy markets. Sampson says switchgrass is a very productive species in the southern Canadian Prairies and Eastern Canada. “In eastern

applications, like fuel pellets for heating or even livestock feeding. We need to fractionate them and find the best value for particular grass parts. With current fibre prices, stems are highly valuable in fibre-related markets and leaves would be most valuable for livestock feed markets and, secondly, for rural markets without much access to natural gas.” According to the REAP website, of the North American farmland (i.e. 932 and 168 million acres in the U.S. and Canada, respectively), they estimate 150 million acres can be dedicated to energy farming without palpably affecting North America’s food supply. REAP envisions a total production capacity of 424 million and 55 million tonnes being achieved by growing grasses on 130 million acres in the U.S. and 23.4 million acres in Canada. The most promising regions REAP sees for developing a grass pellet fuel industry are those where hay production costs are low and heating costs are high (due to long winters and high fuel costs). Based on hay prices, land costs, relative winter heat costs, and warm season grass performance data in North America, some of the best opportunities exist in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Soybean success

Saskatchewan Accumulated Corn Heat Units Average CHUs for Silage Production

As soybean production expands into new areas, try these six strategies BY ANDREA HILDERMAN


lthough soybeans have been grown in Manitoba for a number of years now, Saskatchewan farmers are just starting to access varieties that are suitable for their areas. As with all new cropping options, nothing is ever as simple as “do as I do.” There is significant research underway to find and test the best varieties as well as best practices.

SOYBEANS ON SOYBEANS Brian Elliot is a Certified Crop Adviser, an agronomist with over 15 years of experience with soybeans and District Sales Manager with Northstar Genetics. We asked him about some common misconceptions as well as advice for success in Saskatchewan in particular. “Proper rotations are always important considerations growers should practise for all cropping options,” he explained. “Soybeans have been and are being grown back-to-back, but that is definitely not a recommended practise.” There is a misconception potentially that growing soybeans back-to-back could help build-up rhizobia in the soil — the all-important bacteria that help the soybeans fix nitrogen in the soil. Elliot has two things to say on that subject. “The rhizobia are not native to our soils, so while there may be some potential build-up in the soil year over year, there is a definite need to inoculate every year,” he says. “This is not an optional practise. In fact, we strongly advise double inoculation every year for soybeans. The success of this crop is determined in large part by having enough rhizobia in the soil to start nodulating and fixing nitrogen from the soil as soon as possible in the plants life.” The other aspect of the possible misconception of rhizobia build-up in the soil by growing back-to-back soybeans is that because rhizobia are not native to our soils, their populations are negatively impacted in adverse weather conditions of extreme drought or water-logging as well as cold or overly hot soils. Because there is no way to measure the rhizobia populations, not their vigour, soybean inoculation is a requirement for success.

SIX STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS 1. Know your heat unit area: There are maps available like the graphic shown from Saskatchewan Agriculture that show, essentially, corn heat units (CHU). Temperature is the primary limiting factor to soybean production, this this is a crucial starting point for any grower. 2. Review suitable varieties: Local trial data should be reviewed for heat units, day length sensitivity and maturity. Soybean varieties vary in their day length sensitivity,which is why local information is recommended. According to Northstar

Genetics ( varieties with high daylight sensitivity will reach maturity without necessarily getting the ideal heat units and this adds to their success in non-traditional areas. Soybean genetics for Western Canada have improved over the last 15 years. In the past, there were few varieties below 2450 CHU, now varieties are available in the 2300 to 2400 CHU range. There are ranges of maturity within heat unit classes as well, early-, mid- and long-season types. Elliot recommends growers balance maturity classes to offset the risk of early frost with higher yield potential from the later maturing types. Soybeans are now being grown from the Manitoba border to Weyburn, with a lot of success in the Regina area to the southeast corner of the province. “There are some guys dabbling in soybeans as far west as Swift Current and in the Kindersley area too,” says Elliot. “We don’t have a lot of history in these areas yet, so it’s hard to say will soybeans work every year or not. This is the experimentation that is being done on-farm.” 3. Rotation: “I always advise to plant soybeans following a cereal of some sort,” says Elliot. “This helps avoid a lot of disease issues like root rot or sclerotina and things like nematode cysts.” Planting soybeans after canola, peas or lentils is not recommended, even though the soil will likely be warmer earlier as a result of less debris or trash. 4. Soil temperature and seeding depth: “This one is easy,” says Elliot. “Do not seed soybeans into soil less than 10 C.” Vigor and “pop-up” will be negatively affected. Soybeans should be seeded into moisture, but never any deeper than 1.5 inches. “Soybeans are very sensitive to depth of seeding,” explains Elliot. 5. Seed treatments: “This is key,” says Elliot. “I can’t emphasise this enough. Double inoculate soybeans for success.” Ideally, use a liquid inoculant on the seed as well as some sort of granualar or liquid in-row at seeding. Soybeans will use up to 200 pounds of nitrogen by maturity. With adequate rhizobia in the soil right at seeding, the crop will be compromised. Seed should also be treated for disease as there is ample opportunity for infections otherwise. 6. Handling: “This might seem obvious,” says Elliot, “but it’s not always taken into consideration. Handle the seed as gently as possible. Simply put, cracked seeds will not germinate.” There are other considerations for growing soybeans that growers need to be aware of including their need for late season moisture, but if they take care of the six points above, they are well on their way toward a successful experience with soybeans. † Andrea Hilderman has her master’s degree in weed science and is a member of the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists. She writes from Winnipeg, Man.

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MARCH 18, 2013

Features Seeding

Elements of a good seeding plan What crops should farmers be seeding this year? That depends. Besides prices, there are lots of agronomic factors to consider By Chris Zemlack


t’s the time of year when farmers are making their seeding decisions, which means we marketing advisors are receiving plenty of questions from them about what they should consider growing. The short answer — it depends — can be frustrating for farmers, especially those who are essentially asking us to tell them which crops are most likely to maximize their profits. Having a good sense of market fundamentals and the long-term outlook is definitely important, and a good starting point for drafting a seeding plan. But the reality

is that 10 farmers using the same metrics are probably going to come up with 10 different plans, because the approach to a good plan tends to incorporate a number of factors unique to each farm. Making a budget is a good place to start, and a major part of that process is to figure out the farm’s fixed and variable costs. For many people this is the hardest step. Many farmers think they have a good grasp of their costs and see the process of putting them down in one place as unnecessary (not to mention boring). But doing it can be a revelation about the profitability (or lack thereof) of a farm’s typical planting decisions.

Cost accounting also allows farmers to look at the estimated prices for various crops and, combined with average yield expectations, start playing around with break-even values and potential profitability of each crop. From there, a logical next step is to consider circumstances specific to the farm (or the farmer) that might influence planting choices. There are many issues to consider.

Crop Rotation One factor to consider are the limitations of the farm’s rotation. A strong set of financial indications that you should plant more

canola may be irrelevant if canola is already pushed to the maximum in your rotation or you like to maintain a diversity of crops to manage risk.

How’s your risk tolerance Your tolerance for risk should play an important role in the crop planning process. How much risk can you stomach in the pursuit of higher returns? Are you willing to plant large acres to speciality crops without locking in on a contract, based on speculation of higher prices after harvest? Or do you prefer to trade the potential of lower returns for the

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relative predictability of futures or deferred delivery contracts? The case of green peas this year provides a good example. Prices are riding high at the moment because 2012 production has lagged behind high demand. Many farmers are probably wishing they had grown more last year, and are considering putting more acres to peas in 2013. But will prices remain high next fall, or will the increased acreage going to peas bring prices back down? Green peas are a smaller market that can be very volatile. Or how about the choice to grow soybeans in a region in which crop insurance won’t cover them? This is a decision many Saskatchewan farmers are facing as they become tempted to plant a crop that has been so strong on the market.

Do you have the right equipment Another factor in planning the year’s crop, particularly if new crops are being considered, is whether you have the right equipment. Are you tempted to plant corn or soy for the first time in a serious way? Both have been performing so strongly that farmers in Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan are giving the idea some serious thought. Both crops, and particularly corn, require specialized equipment though. The high cost of buying it new can be prohibitive for growers who want to start out with a trial on a quarter section. The bottom line: figure out your equipment needs, and their cost, before planting season begins.

Will you have marketing opportunities nearby?

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The profitability of a given crop can differ based on how far you are from buyers of the crop. Many farmers fail to consider extra shipping costs for their farm and instead only focus on the high price a crop is expected to fetch. Barley provides a good example. The potential profitability of a crop grown for malt will depend on the specifics of the contract, if you sign one ahead of time. If you’ll be expected to pay the cost of shipping, how far away is the buyer? And if your crop fails to meet the standards of the maltsters, is your farm close to livestock operations or other buyers of feed barley? Excessive shipping costs can quickly eat up margins that already may be fairly slim. Approaching a seeding plan this way, by considering as many factors as possible before making planting decisions, farmers can avoid the trap of assuming that a crop’s predicted performance at market will translate to profits for the farm. This is why you should be encouraged by a marketing advisor who answers “it depends” when you ask what will be profitable to plant. It means they understand that it all comes down to a farm’s specific situation, and don’t just want to tell you what you want to hear. † Chris is a grain marketing advisor with FarmLink Marketing Solutions. You can contact Chris at

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Using smart plant behaviour Knowing how plants forage for food could help farmers place fertilizer more efficiently and allow researchers to breed more successful crops BY LISA GUENTHER


iologists have long known about fairly complex animal behaviour, like risk assessment. But complex plant behaviour — like foraging for food or recognizing friends and foes — seems more like science fiction than science. However, plants may behave with more purpose than we have been giving them credit for. Dr. James (JC) Cahill is an experimental plant ecologist at the University of Alberta. Cahill says plant biologists have focused on short-term responses to stimuli, but animal biologists have studied both shortterm responses and the deeper questions around why animals behave the way they do. Understanding plant behaviour may help the agriculture industry harness a plant’s natural potential to feed and protect itself, increasing yields, says Cahill. “Nobody’s tried to do this. There’s great genetic variation sitting out there for breeders. There are great potential direct changes in agronomic practices to enhance some of these behaviours.”

PLANT DEFENSE Plants can defend themselves against insects by releasing chemicals. For example, wheat breeders have developed midgetolerant wheat varieties that produce phenolic acid when attacked. The wheat midges basically starve to death after biting the kernel. Other plants issue a chemical SOS to attract insects that will prey on the insects eating the plant. But fluctuating insect populations complicate a plant’s defence strategy. Insect defences require resources, so “many species will mount a defence only when there’s a proven threat of being consumed,” says Cahill. Cahill says some plants will also work with neighbours to trigger a collapse in the insect population. Researchers defoliated an alder tree and studied leaf damage in surrounding alders. Cahill says there was no pattern in leaf damage before the alder was defoliated. “But once that first tree was damaged, all of a sudden, other trees near the damaged tree didn’t get damaged. The trees far away did,” Cahill says. A beetle, which feeds and lays its eggs on the trees, was unable to lay eggs on trees near the defoliation. “This is communication. The plants were somehow telling their neighbours that there’s a threat and those neighbours (were) now inducing their defences even though they hadn’t yet been attacked.”

KNOWING YOUR NEIGHBOURS As any farmer knows, bugs aren’t the only pests plants have to fend off. Weeds compete with plants for sunlight, water and nutrients. Some plants growing in shade respond by growing tall and

thin, while plants with abundant light grow short and fat. But growing taller sacrifices resources in other areas, such as seed production, so it makes sense for plants to only grow as tall as needed.

Understanding how roots find nutrients would lead to better fertilizer placement Cahill says whether or not a plant can detect its neighbours has agricultural implications. “That’s going to influence how a crop interacts with weed species. And whether it lets itself… get overtopped.” Plants can win the weed battle through suppression, avoidance, or tolerance. Herbicides and planting systems use suppression to fight weeds. “But we often forget there are two other ways to deal with these pests. You can win through avoidance and tolerance, not just suppression.” Cahill says in theory weeds should only be a problem if they are suppressing yield or affecting the crop’s purity. Crops may be able to avoid competition with weeds by sending their roots to weed-free parts of the soil.

“And this is important, because when we talk about different fertilization placement plans — banding, near the seed, far from the seed — those are foraging issues.” Understanding how roots find nutrients would lead to better fertilizer placement, and less fertilizer wasted or used by weeds, Cahill says. Grasses don’t tend to concentrate their roots in nutrient patches, says Cahill. Canola roots, on the other hand, zoom in on nutrient-rich patches. Roots hosting micorrhizae grow much more slowly towards nutrient patches than micorrhizae-free roots. Cahill’s research with yarrow shows that some roots stick to nutrient-rich patches. “What this means is that if your nutrients are right near the plant, that root system is not going to expand. Your roots are going to be right near the base of the plant. That’s efficient, but it may also make it susceptible to lodging.” Cahill and his colleagues published a paper in the journal Science showing velvetleaf, a weed affecting soybeans and corn, integrates information about nutrient placement and competitors. When grown alone, the weed sent out many lateral roots, whether nutrients were spread evenly or concentrated in patches. If velvetleaf had neighbours, it would compete by sending roots to nutrient-rich patches. But when

nutrients were spread evenly and the plant had neighbours, lateral root growth stopped. “Does that have agricultural implications? Yeah, because that means if you’re putting any nutrients where those roots aren’t, they’re wasted. The only things that will get them are weeds. So not understanding how a plant sees the soil environment likely leads to lost money.” Some plants can even identify their kin, and will treat their relatives differently than neighbouring strangers, Cahill says. Ontario researchers studied searockets, an annual found in dunes, to see whether it modified its root growth based on neighbours. Searockets planted near strangers grew many more roots than searockets growing next to kin. “These plants were enhancing competition with strangers and minimizing it with kin,” says Cahill. Researchers don’t yet know which species acknowledge kin and which don’t. Cahill’s research has shown that while some plants won’t compete with kin when nutrients are plentiful, if nutrients are scarce, family ties don’t tone down competition. But improving kin recognition in crops might bump yields, Cahill says.

CROP RESEARCH PLANNED So far Cahill’s research hasn’t included crops. He says it made

more sense to start in a simple lab system before researching complex agricultural systems. “It doesn’t really matter what plant species we start with. We just need to understand what plants are capable of. And once we understand the basic functions of plants, we can then begin to move into a more applied context.” Cahill hopes to expand his research into crops in the next five years or so. He’s now talking with colleagues in the University of Alberta’s agricultural school about collaborating. Cahill is flexible in terms of which crops he’ll study. But canola is an obvious choice because it’s widely grown and because it doesn’t host micorrhizae. No micorrhizae means the plant relies entirely on its roots to secure nutrients, making root activity particularly important. Though the idea of plants recognizing and reacting to kin, competitors, and pests may seem weird to us, Cahill says these processes exist. “And if we ignore it because it’s an idea we’re uncomfortable with, we’ve probably lost some yield potential.” For more information about Cahill’s research, visit hocking. cahill_lab. † Lisa Guenther is a field editor with Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. Contact her at Lisa.

FORAGING AFFECTS NUTRIENT UPTAKE Cahill’s main expertise is foraging in plants. He says plant biologists have focused on what plants do once they have food, but they haven’t studied how plants actually find food.

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Notice to Farmers

Monsanto Company is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Monsanto products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Monsanto’s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. This product has been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Excellence Through Stewardship. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Roundup Ready® crops contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides. Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Genuity and Design®, Genuity Icons, Genuity®, Roundup Ready®, and Roundup® are trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. Used under license.

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MARCH 18, 2013

Features Farm management

Evolving Environmental Farm Plans Environmental Farm Plan programming is different in very province By Julienne Isaacs


n Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a voluntary process where a farmer self-identifies potential environmental risks and benefits on his or her farm, and creates a plan to mitigate those risks. Patrick Girard, senior media relations officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says two of the agri-environmental projects funded from 2003-04 to 2007-08 were the Environmental Farm Planning and National Farm Stewardship Programs. Girard says the initial objective of the National Farm Stewardship Program was to increase the adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) across the coun-

try through cost-shared incentives. “The program was successful, with the adoption of over 57,000 EFPs and 43,000 BMPs,” says Girard. Like most farm programs, EFPs have evolved over time. Under the Growing Forward framework, responsibility shifted from the federal government to provincial and territorial governments. “Under Growing Forward,” says Girard, these programs “remained a successful area of cost-shared effort among federal/provincial/territorial partners, with an additional 20,000 new and updated EFPs, as well as an additional 22,000 BMPs as of September 2010.” Under Growing Forward 2, which will be implemented this April, EFPs may change again.

Provincial differences EFPs vary slightly by province, but the general process is the same everywhere. Any interested Canadian farmer must participate in a workshop and complete a workbook identifying areas of environmental risk and potential improvement on his or her operation, then submit the plan for approval prior to achieving certification. Provinces are responsible for design and delivery of workbooks and training materials. In Saskatchewan, for instance, the workbook is similar to the Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario workbooks. However, according to Tamara WeirShields, executive director of the Provincial Council of Agriculture Diversification and Development

Boards, the workbook was “retrofitted” to Saskatchewan farming practices in 2004, and is updated on a regular basis. Weir-Shields says that even before Farm Stewardship funding became accessible, the program generated interest in the province. “In the first little while the Farm Stewardship funding wasn’t set up yet but we had quite a few participants willing to go through the EFP regardless,” she says. “Once the program was put in place the number went up.” The number of completed BMPs in Saskatchewan since 2009 is 9,050; $27,300,000 in cost-shared funding has been used to reimburse farmers for those BMPs, according to Weir-Shields. In Manitoba, the EFP program

is administered by the AgriEnvironment Knowledge Centre within Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives, with the assistance of Keystone Agriculture Producers. Since the program began in 2004, Over 5,900 farmers have completed EFP certificates, assessing over 9.3 million acres of agricultural land, according to Laura Grzenda, a landscape stewardship specialist with the Centre. In 2010 a chapter was added to the EFP program that focuses on sustainability in potato production specifically. In order to qualify for a processing contract in Manitoba, potato producers must hold an EFP Statement of Completion certificate.

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In Alberta, EFPs have a strong history, according to Perry Phillips, program co-ordinator of the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan. “Over 12,000 farmers have been involved in the process and many of these have updated their farm plans, although we don’t have anything in place that requires them to do so,” says Phillips. “Certainly, access to funding programs has kept EFP popular for the last several years but there are far more sustainable drivers for EFP now as industry looks for a tool/process to meet the emerging needs around environmental stewardship assurance initiatives.” Alberta’s EFP, which is run by Alberta Agriculture and supported by federal funding, is constantly evolving. According to Phillips, the Alberta workbook has recently undergone an extensive review, and an online “WebBook” will be launched in the coming months. Phillips sees drawbacks in an overly customized approach to EFPs across Canada. “The sectors that see the benefits of EFP also see value in the entire industry rallying around it as a ‘standard,’” he says. “We don’t need differentiation between sectors in terms of stewardship, we need a universal approach. The organizations that I talk with about EFP say there needs to be provincial alignment and that EFP should not evolve in a way that it will be used to differentiate between provinces — or sectors.” However, this isn’t a simple task, says Phillips. “While there is plenty of common ground here, there are also many differences between provinces (and sectors) in terms of stewardship priorities.” Exactly how EFP programs will play out under Growing Forward 2 remains to be seen, although environmental stewardship initiatives are high on the federal priority list, according to Girard. “The new five-year agreement includes investments in strategic initiatives of over $3 billion for innovation, competitiveness and market development, including a 50 per cent increase in government’s cost-shared initiatives, with increased opportunity for provinces and territories to invest in environmental initiatives, among other areas,” he says. † Julienne Isaacs is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Reading soil sample results If you’ve taken a soil sample, you might as well get the most from the report


oil sample reports provide the actual nutrient level information from the field in crop plan creation. You can take your own samples and analyze your own report, or hire someone to take the samples and review the results.

THE SAMPLE If you’re taking your own samples, here are a few tips: Test annually. Nutrient levels change according to crop yields and fertilizer application. The soil sample is the account balance. Use GPS to mark where the samples are taken so that future sampling is based on those same points within the field or the zone. Make sure you get an accurate representation of the field. Consider using electro conductivity, yield maps, satellite imagery, vegetative index or topography to identify different management zones in the fields. Using soil sample information, you can manage those zones separately within the field boundary Look at sample analysis from both a zero to six-inch depth and the six- to 24-inch depth. Subsoil information from the lower depth will provide good soil quality indicators.

THE REPORT Once you get your report results, there are several things to consider. Soil sample reports may include the lab’s recommendations. This is good place to start, but local knowledge and field experience can make recommendations more accurate for your field. Consider the “low”, “medium” and “high” rating for each nutrient as an indication of levels, rather than an absolute number. Think of it as eyeing the levels on a measuring stick, rather than worrying about exactly how many litres of oil are in the tank. The soil test report will include quantity and quality values. Quantity values measure nutrients in the soil that are available to the plant. Quality values are indicators of the ability of the soil to provide those nutrients to the plants. Very high or excess nutrient values can cause problems with other nutrient availability in the soil. We look at is the sodium and sulphur levels in the subsoil. High levels are a good indication of a solonetzic sub soil. The field will have a hardpan that may require deep ripping and or lime application to improve the soil quality and crop yields. When I get soil sample results, I check to see if the numbers follow the same trends as other fields in the area. If there are regional similarities, I want to see if the trends are similar. Typically pH, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al) will be at similar levels throughout in an area. This indicates that the soil parent material and the natural makeup of the soil are alike. Understand the lab’s calculations. For example, cation exchange capacity gives an indication of the

soil’s ability to hold nutrients, water and organic matter. I like to see the Percent Base Saturations on the soil test report and check percentages of the cations potassium (K), Mg, Ca, hydrogen (H), and sodium (Na). There are limitations to creating the ideal ratio of cations: specific product availability, application equipment and guaranteed economic return. Consider ratios. For example, the K:Mg ratio calculation on the soil test helps you understand potassium availability. If the K:Mg ratio is out of range, availability of either nutrient may be affected. It is worthwhile testing micronutrients regularly as a guideline, so you know what to test for when you’re doing tissue analysis. Having

ents to fields that need them most and are likely to provide the greatest response. When I go through soil sample reports with farmers, I like to look at all of the fields together. I place the test report values in spreadsheet columns, then look at average values for each column. We look at the highest and lowest 20 per cent of the fields, to see if anything interesting explains differences in the field productivity. It’s helpful to also have past yield information.

the lab indicate the range for the micros is important. For some micronutrients, we are looking at a very small amount. The difference between deficient and sufficient can be one or two parts per million. Crop response to micronutrients can be crop specific — certain crop show higher responses to micronutrient applications. A good level for one micronutrient on a certain crop might be too low for optimum crop potential. When looking at micronutrients it is also important to also understand the relation of nutrients to each other. Sometimes a high level of one nutrient will affect the availability of another, leaving the plant with limited availability. Consider addressing micronutri-

AGRONOMISTS There can be benefits to working with an agronomist. Someone with experience who sees a lot of samples can help you appreciate the

differences in values and the relevance of your own information. The agronomist should be very familiar with the specific technique of the lab that has done the analysis — each lab presents soil results in a slightly different way. It is very common for two different labs to give different reports for samples taken from the same field. Two agronomists may make two different recommendations when looking at the same soil test report. Each agronomist will have their own philosophy when making recommendations, and should be able to explain the theory behind the recommendations. † Jason Casselman is a partner and agronomist with Dunvegan Ag Solutions Inc. (www. at Rycroft, Alta.

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MARCH 18, 2013


Twitter gets real More and more farmers like Jeff Barlow are learning how to get faster, sharper agronomic answers from social media. Here’s how BY RALPH PEARCE


t first glance, the list of today’s social media sites looks like a collection of spelling mistakes. It’s grown way beyond Twitter and YouTube, and now the list stretches to 100 and beyond. You might have heard of Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube, but what about Plaxo, Bebo, Hi5, IRC, FMyLife and Tumblr? Facebook and Twitter may still be the popstars of the social media universe, but they’re hardly alone. More and more options are out there, and individuals around the world are exploiting them. But what about Canadian farmers? More especially, what about Canadian farmers who want to know what that weed is in their corn, or how to diagnose that disease in their wheat, or how to kill that insect in their soybeans? It turns out farmers have a real incentive to learn more about social media, because it can help you save your most valuable commodity — your time. That’s why Twitter is growing in membership, usage and value among farmers, as well as among agronomists, input suppliers and extension personnel. Generally, Facebook is seen as the more “social” of the social media, with a broader approach almost like mainstream media. Its agricultural reach however is limited to specific users — or “friends.”

along with his father, Earl, the ability to do all of that without losing time is a huge plus. Barlow, for example, used to start his day listening to Ontario government agronomist Peter Johnson’s Crop Line 15-minute telephone updates. Now he spends that 15 minutes checking his latest tweets. Why? In the first place, Johnson like many other agronomists, is tweeting more and more of his information, so Barlow can get his daily Johnson fix at a glance. Plus, he can instantly re-tweet and get even more information on critical issues. Barlow also follows David Hooker from the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph, as well as farmer-economist Philip Shaw from Dresden, Ont. From the former, he can get research updates, as well as timely and valuable production information. From the latter, Barlow looks for a lot of re-tweets, including international news and other items of interest, many of them farm related. “There’s also a lot of information about marketing, and some of that might be a farmer in the States somewhere, saying, ‘My basis just went up 20 cents,’” explains Barlow, adding that it

might spark a similar tweet from a farmer closer to home, say in Michigan. “I’m thinking, if the basis went up in these areas that aren’t very far from home, maybe that could affect our basis, and if I have to sell wheat, maybe I should hold off another week to see if that’s a trend that’s moving.”

SHARING INFORMATION Robert Larmer also looks to Twitter as a time saver. A Facebook subscriber since 2003, Larmer is a forage specialist with DuPont-

Larmer uses Twitter to share his own insights plus materials from Pioneer, as well as to keep in touch with ag developments. But the benefit goes further than that, he says, because if you’ve got more questions, you can get in touch. “Social media have changed the way that people want to absorb their news,” Larmer says. “They don’t just want to be given the information, they want to be able to interact with the information that they’re given.” Asked if it can be used to help make production-related manage-

“Is age a barrier to people using it? Absolutely not” — Robert Larmer

Pioneer amd has been using Twitter for about a year, which he finds is better value both for time-use efficiency and for the information he can glean from it. “It’s much easier to go on when you have a couple of minutes, check quickly, and get back off,” Larmer says.

ment decisions, Andrew Campbell gives Twitter an enthusiastic thumbs up. Campbell is a trained journalist and host at FreshAir Media ( He’s also a dairy farmer and partner in the family-run operation near Appin, Ont. Campbell also supports Twitter

USING TWITTER ON THE FARM Twitter on the other hand provides more of the speed and connectedness that farmers favour, and as long as you’re willing to learn how to navigate it, Twitter may have much more potential for meeting your needs. Jeff Barlow, a corn and soybean grower from the Binbrook, Ont. area in the Niagara region, has been a Twitter user for about 18 months, ever since he purchased an iPhone. With Twitter, Barlow says he can access information he needs to help his operation, whether it’s a production-related issue or one relating to marketing. For Barlow, who manages 4,500 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat

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as a quick and easy entry point to a wealth of information, which is perfect for farmers whether they are in their office, in the combine or standing in the middle of the field. There’s less waste, both in time taken and in sharing messages. “Twitter is more accessible for people but one of the benefits is that you have no time to ramble,” Campbell says. In other words, for him, one of the common complaints about Twitter is actually a positive. “On Twitter, you have a limit for how much you can write before it’ll just cut you off. That’s one of the biggest reasons so many people have adopted it. You can quickly scroll through good information, because you’ve decided what information you want to receive, and it’s two sentences at most, and then you close it and go on with your day.” What Campbell likes even more is that much of the information has been vetted in real-life situations. One example relates to a barn renovation he’s working on, including the need for more storage for feed. “I’d heard about these bags for silage corn before — I’d never seen it other than driving by, so

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Features The drawbacks


Ontario farmer Jeff Barlow has been using Twitter for 18 months. I didn’t know how they worked,” says Campbell. “I posed the question: ‘Does anybody bag corn silage, and what do you think?’ I received dozens of responses, from tips on what to do and what not to do, to the majority of people saying, ‘Yes, we’ve done it,’ or, ‘Yes, the neighbour’s done it, and they liked it.’”

Getting started The good news is that getting started on Twitter is easier than many may think, although you should also know there’s a learning curve, say

Barlow, Larmer and Campbell. You’ll get better with practice. “Tweet things that people want to read, things that are of value to other people because that’s what’s going to get you followers,” says Barlow. “That’s what leads people to follow you and that’s how you get the message out more broadly.” On Twitter, it’s easy to sign up, at which point it’s up to the individual to determine what types of information they want to access or share. Some farmers want news and production tips while others are in it for directions on marketing or management decisions.

“Like anything, it also helps if you have someone that you can ask questions to,” says Campbell, who blogs on his website and also conducts workshops on how to use social media. He recently helped his father sign on to Twitter, including entering his email address, a user name and password. “Then it’s just a case of showing him that there’s a box to search, and if you want to follow a person, you hit the ‘follow’ button, if you want to reply to a person, you hit the ‘reply’ button. It’s not that difficult and day by day, if you use it regularly,

you’ll get into the habit of just how it works.” Also, don’t be afraid that you’ve left it too late, so you’re too old for social media. Pioneer’s Larmer looked at the ages of people who follow him and those he follows, and the range runs from 15 to 65 years and older. So, although usage of social media might be higher among the young, there isn’t a brick wall anywhere. Says Larmer: “Are you more likely to see a younger farmer on Twitter or social media? Yes. Is age a barrier to people using it? Absolutely not.”

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For farm users — and for nonfarmers too — there’s a growing unease about links between the Internet and advertising, and it’s just as much of a concern on social media. But it’s a cold truth: the days of ad-free web pages are virtually over. Besides, the bigger fear may be spam. “There is a little bit of spam now, where there used to be not much,” says Barlow. “A farmer can try to sell a combine or to buy a plow and find a neighbour who has one. But that’s how Facebook started out, and it’s turned into this advertising phenomenon and I believe Twitter will turn into the same thing.” Larmer is a little more optimistic about the future of advertising on Twitter, noting that some links are already starting to appear but not at an overwhelming frequency. “They show up every time you go on, the fourth or fifth tweet down in your feed will be one that a company has paid to put there,” Larmer says. “We’re starting to see that but it’s not at the point where it really bothers me yet. But if there’s one of those every other tweet, then it’s going to.” The “forever” threat Of course the other downside to social media is its longevity. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or one of the other platforms, a comment or insult can’t be “unsaid.” Social media postings are very hard if not impossible to retract. They can be edited but there is no telling how many people might see the original before it can be revised or pulled altogether. “You do have to be careful with what’s said, because once it’s posted, it’s forever retrievable, so something has to be considered as potentially hazardous if released to the public,” says Barlow, who usually asks himself a couple of questions before posting. “Is it really worth it? Are there possible repercussions?” Larmer adds his voice to the chorus on “pondering before posting.” Tweeters need to think about what they’re going to tweet beforehand, he says. One wrong statement and the damage could be lasting. “You have to be prepared that you’re sending it out to your best friends, but you could be sending it out to your enemies,” says Larmer. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there. If you make a mistake the first time, chances are someone’s got it saved.” † Ralph Pearce is a production editor for “Country Guide” magazine.

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MARCH 18, 2013

Features Soil management

Beneficial bacteria for wheat and barley Bacteria sometimes have a bad reputation, but its not always deserved

By Rebeca Kuropatwa


This bare patch was caused by root rot fungi.

photos: patricia okubara

Dr. Patricia Okubara studies root diseases, and is investigating the possibilities of introducing beneficial bacteria into the soil.

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he bacteria living in your soil and depending on wheat and barley roots to survive may be lending the plants a helping hand in return. Scientists are looking into the possibility that the bacteria can biologically control root-rot fungi — a pest that causes crop yield losses of 10 to 30 per cent each year in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. These beneficial bacteria are known as Pseudomonas. There are 11 strains of this bacteria that hinder the growth of Pythium and Rhizoctonia fungi, fungi known to cause diseases in wheat and barley. These diseases are hard to control. There are no resistant wheat or barley varieties, fungicides aren’t effective and control with rotations is challenging due to the pathogens’ broad plant-host range.

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Pseudomonas bacteria secrete enzymes and biochemicals that keep fungal rivals at bay. Some strains can trigger immune-system response in plants. Other bacteria make hormone-like matter that stimulate root and shoot growth in host plants. Dr. Patricia Okubara, a scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Washington, is researching plant defense responses to pathogens, pathogen diagnostics, and control of soilborne pathogens of wheat and barley. Basically, she says, “I study root disease problems of wheat.” Okubara has been surveying the root-rot pathogens Rhizoctonia and Pythium. Pseudomonas may be one answer to controlling these fungal diseases “Commercial potential of the new strains of Pseudomonas is being examined in collaboration with Dr. Christopher Taylor at Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohia, and scientists at a small U.S. agro-products company,” said Okubara. She is unaware of any Canadian research being done on cereal root-rot pathogens. “Certain strains of bacteria can directly benefit the plant if they produce growth-promoting plant hormones that stimulate root or shoot growth,” Okubara says. Plants can reap these benefits even without the presence of a pathogen. This won’t be simple. “Control of soilborne pathogens by introduced biocontrol bacteria — bacteria added as a seed treatment or in fertilizer — in large-acreage production systems is expected to be difficult to achieve.” Difficult, but not impossible. She says, “There are cases of naturally occurring biological control of soilborne pathogens in the field through a process called disease suppression. In these cases, beneficial microbes that antagonize or suppress the pathogen arise naturally, control the pathogen, and increase crop health and yield. “But enhancing the efficacy of introduced biocontrol strains, not necessarily native to the soil into which they’re being introduced, is still in its infancy. † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Features Farm management

FCC spreads the word about agriculture Find out the story behind that “Ag More Than Ever” plastic wrap on the bale you’ve been driving by all winter By Rebeca Kuropatwa


f you’ve been to a farm show this winter you’ve seen the “Agriculture More Than Ever” promotion. You probably have a tote bag. Or maybe you’ve spent the winter driving by a bale wrapped with an “Ag More Than Ever” logo. Farm Credit Canada (FCC) is behind this campaign to spread the word that there is a real positive story behind agriculture in Canada.

The premise Lyndon Carlson, senior vicepresident of marketing at FCC, says the premise behind this campaign is that “the general public’s image of agriculture is disconnected from what agriculture really is today.” “The story of agriculture today is positive, progressive, and true — that farmers are great stewards of the land, they care about the environment, about sustainable practices, are modern, good business people, and have adopted technology whenever possible to improve their business,” said Carlson. FCC is a federal financial crown organization, and Canada’s largest provider of financial services to agriculture, agri-business, and agrifood. FCC lends money to farmers and finances agri-business operators and the agri-food industry. It is also Canada’s leading developer of agricultural software. According to Carlson, the Agriculture More Than Ever program “is designed for us to give back valuable tools to our customers, not having it be a profitcentre for us.

The campaign The Agriculture More Than Ever campaign was launched about a year ago with some public speaking events, and then launched it more formally in June 2012 with a media release supported by print and digital promotion, and public speaking. FCC has a campaign website at which has many fans, Facebook “likes,” Twitter followers, and people posting positive stories about the industry. About two years ago, FCC learned that the industry is very optimistic, by surveying Canadian farmers and finding that 80 per cent of farmers

this research in a couple more years — after we’ve had some opportunity to run this campaign for a while — and see if we’ve been able to positively move the public perception of agriculture.” FCC has asked others to become partners in this campaign. So far, over 130 parties who have signed on as campaign partners, and Carlson is signing new partnership agreements daily. “These partners are industry associations, private sector companies, and public sector organizations — a real good assembly of all sides of the industry coming together,” said Carlson. These partners are purchasing promotional material from the website (like

flags, banners, printed material, and/window posters) and working the campaign into conversations. “We hope what farmers will get from this campaign is respect in the industry for all the things we’re doing right and all the promise of the industry’s future,” said Carlson. “We hope to also create some excitement in the industry about all the things we have ahead of us. There will always be challenges in agriculture — varying commodity prices, input prices, and weather events — but, at the end of the day, it’s a great career with a promising future.” † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.


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Now more than ever? According to Carlson, there are three jobs waiting for every University of Guelph graduate. Carlson says, “Agriculture has never mattered more to Canada and the world, with fewer and fewer countries that will be able to, in the long run, be large food exporters — and we’re one of them.” With this opportunity, Carlson says, comes responsibility. “We need to attract people and investment, so we need to be sure the general public has confidence in the industry.” Part of FCC’s goal in promoting good news about agriculture is to increase the number of students studying agriculture in post-secondary information. “There are lots of jobs, and not only as primary producers,” Carlson says. “There are also jobs in sales, finance, science, processing, manufacturing, and all the industries that support the overall ag industry.” As well as convincing people to take jobs in the ag sector, FCC is hoping its campaign will attract investors to the industry, and convince taxpayers to buy-in to government expenditures on agriculture. “People need to know that agriculture is critical to the Canadian economy, so when government chooses to make an investment in it, it’s seen as a wise choice.”

believed their farms would be better off in five years then it was at the time of the survey. Those same farmers, almost 77 per cent of them, felt their farm was already better off today than it was five years previous. “But, when we surveyed the general public, asking the same questions and then gave them multiple choice options (as they aren’t part of the industry), surprisingly, the most popular answer choice was the least optimistic,” said Carlson. “We learned the general public assumed farmers aren’t optimistic about the future. “So, we have this as a benchmark of where we were two years ago and now hope to maybe redo

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MARCH 18, 2013


How to be a wealthy farmer

In his latest book, author Bruno Wiskel says, “no crops, no cattle, no problem” BY LEE HART


hat is your farmland worth? Alberta farmer, entrepreneur, and author Bruno Wiskel says in his new book The Wealthy Farmer that Canadian farmers may be sitting on a gold mine and not even know it. Wiskel has just published his sixth book, The Wealthy Farmer — The Complete Guide to Investing in Agricultural Land, an easy-to-read 150 page review of farmland investment ideas and opportunities. It provides advice on how to get the most out of your farmland. In many cases you don’t even have to own any livestock or grow a crop. Wiskel, who operates a diversified market garden and farm woodlot at Colinton, about 120 km north of Edmonton, says in the early 1980s he gave up the fame and fortune that comes with being a geologist to go farming. With a keen wit and good sense of humor sprinkled through a book tackling what could be a relatively dry topic, Wiskel in his own words says he “has combined 32 years of grain growing, cattle wrangling, sheep shearing, hog handling, fish frying, goat herding, fruit producing, tree planting, board sawing and vegetable raising know-how into a series of publications that show precisely how other agriculturally minded people can make more money and have more fun in their farming operations.”

dend stocks, savings accounts and real estate. There is another section on the Business of Farming that looks at “death and taxes and how to avoid both.” This section includes chapters for the beginning farmer, and looks at other revenue sources such as communication towers, oil and gas production, gravel, mineral rights, peat moss, pipelines, seismic, power lines and timber harvest. He also describes opportunities for leasing land and renting farm buildings. There is an interesting photo of a typical prairie farmstead with a house, barn, out buildings and grain bins — a total of at least 20 individual structures — with a caption that reads “Every single building and granary in this farmyard is rented out to a different person.” The chap-

ter makes the point you don’t have to have cattle or be growing crops to make money from the farm. In another section of the book, “Dividends Squared: Personal Use of the Assets,” he talks about the value of rural living. There is a chapter on “Building a Lake at the Cabin” — note the placement of those words. He also talks about “creating your own provincial park” and designing and landscaping an energy efficient home. The book presents the reader with a wide range of options to consider. “Currently the most money to be made form a piece of land is by growing crops or raising livestock,” writes Wiskel. “But, it is possible to make a five to 10 per cent return on your agricultural land investment without actually needing to

get your hands dirty by receiving money for non-farm uses or renting the land and buildings out.” The contents of the book aren’t just musings that came to him as he sat on the dock by his fishpond. He credits the advice of his brother, a business executive who he describes as a “financial wizard when it comes to managing farmland assets.” He also consulted a wide range of experts including economists, municipal assessment experts, accountants and a lawyer specializing in agricultural law. The Wealthy Farmer retails for $19.95. For more information or to order a copy visit the author’s website at † Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at

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LOTS OF IDEAS The Wealthy Farmer isn’t a detailed “how to” book explaining the nuances of farmland investment, but it raises the reader awareness of dozens of investment and money-making opportunities that in many respects represent fruit waiting to picked. Tax breaks are just one example, he says. “The more I researched, the more I realized that every level of government in every province wants to encourage people to stay on the farm by giving them tax incentives to do so,” he writes. “Although the main purpose of this book is to increase the awareness that investing in agricultural land is a sound financial vehicle, it is also meant as an introduction to “the joy of farming” as a pleasurable way of life,” Wiskel writes. He says he is not on a campaign to encourage people to quit their day jobs and go farming but “there are a number of reasons to consider agriculture as a hobby, career or part of an active retirement,” says Wiskel. “Probably the two best reasons are that farmland is a great investment and rural living can’t be beat.” And if you are just looking at farmland as an investment he says, “There are a whole whack of other non-agricultural uses of land that require no intellectual or financial input at all. In fact some of the land that is least suited to agriculture can be the most productive in terms of profit per acre, especially in the three prairie provinces.” The book is divided into more than 30 short chapters that look at farmland as an investment, comparing it to traditional investments and reviewing equity stocks, divi-

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MARCH 18, 2013 /



Equipment: leasing versus buying Leasing equipment is becoming more common. Find out if it’s right for you TOBAN DYCK


here has been a longstanding stigma around leasing that suggests that leasing is shameful. Some believe that leasing is something someone does when they can’t afford to own. In that old-fashioned view, to own, to possess a piece of farm equipment is a source of honour and a show of a fiscally responsible operation. These adages, however old, are losing steam. However, leasing equipment is gaining ground as an option for farmers, bucking old trends and calling into question long-standing stigmas. “There are farmers in the area who are leasing; it’s getting a lot more common,” Wendell Ewert, partner and accountant at BDO Canada, said. Ewert’s firm, nested amid the agricultural hotbed of southern Manitoba, offers financial advise and tax help to many farmers in the area.

Any discussion surrounding leasing versus buying is naturally framed in their respective tax incentives or drawbacks.

MAKING THE CHOICE “Each individual has to assess their equipment decisions on their own merits. One of the biggest costs in farming is pretension,” business management specialist Ted Nibourg said in an FCC article. “In my experience, and I’ve been at this a number of years, there’s probably more prosperity in older but well-maintained equipment than there is in a bunch of shiny paint. I like to say that farmers have to farm for themselves and not their neighbours.” For some farmers, ownership, in agriculture and nearly every other facet of life, is a prize, a badge of honour. Nibourg’s point about farmers needing to farm for themselves and be less concerned with the gloss of their machinery illustrates an advantage specific to owning. Other heralded pros to ownership include the ability to: • claim operating expenses; • claim the interest on your loans as a business expense;

• claim depreciation on the equipment; and, • build equity. There are also advantages to leasing. Mainly, they allow farmers to preserve their business’s working capital, which is important, as manufacturers continue to produce larger, more-expensive machinery. Typically, leases last around the five-year mark and can be tailored

Leasing equipment can benefit a farm in the throes of expansion or growth trajectory, freeing up capital to invest in assets such as land or storage. The famer is then able to risks minimal short-term capital on brand new, reliable machinery. Manufactures like John Deere and CaseIH have their own inhouse finance houses and can compete with bank rates on

“Generally, leasing doesn’t show up as an asset or a liability” — Wendall Ewert

to the unique equipment needs of each farmer; flexibility on rate and time. The equipment remains the property of the dealership and a buy-out is offered to the farmer after the lease run is over. A slight departure, but worth mentioning is that some farmers, mostly in colony-like or large-scale operations, have a special relationship with equipment dealers whereby a flat fee is paid and machinery is provided each year.

loans, leases, and other financing options. In some cases, lease rates may be lower on a straight per-year payment than financing through a bank or equipment company. For farms looking to invest heavily in other assets, leasing has the attractive advantage of not showing up on the business balance sheet. “Generally, leasing doesn’t show up as an asset or a liability,” Ewert

said. “It’s off-balance sheet financing. If I buy a $100K tractor, I show a $100K asset and $100K debt. If you’ve got debt covenants, that could be a problem.” Many farmers are leveraged and want to avoid the pitfalls of being over-leveraged and for them, leasing is a viable option. Navigating the tax implications for any farm asset can be a challenge, but generally when leasing 100 per cent of the lease expenses can be written off against the farm’s income. If you buy the machine, write offs may be limited to an annual capital-cost allowance on a declining balance. To say one decision is better than the other would be unfair and blind to the variety of specialized options farmers have when acquiring new or used machinery. There is a lot of information online and in print that will further help with the decision making process. But, if you are in the market, be sure to get a cost-benefit and cash flow analyses from your accountant and weigh all the options, tradition and stigmas aside. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email


Do better with your banker Just because interest rates are low doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t negotiate for the lowest rates. Try these tips BY LEEANN MINOGUE


eep in mind, banks are not in the busin e s s o f c h a r i t y, ” Stephen Foerster told a room filled with about 35 farmers. Foerster is a professor of finance at Richard Ivey School of Business, and this is Grower University. The people in the room were leading farmers from across Canada. They travelled to London, Ontario to take part in a three-day educational seminar, the tenth annual Grower University offered by Syngenta Canada. “

In this session, “Leveraging Yo u r F i n a n c i a l s , ” F o e r s t e r explained what bankers are looking for when they decide whether or not to give farmers a loan. Foerster pointed out three factors: 1. External factors. These are external factors that farmers can’t control — things like international markets, commodity prices, exchanges rates and economic outlooks. 2. Internal factors. These factors are internal to your farm — your farm’s strategy, and your ability to manage your specific risk. 3. Your financial analysis. This is where Foerster got into the

math. He had the class crunching financial numbers and even doing some algebra. Foerster says, ”Overall, the banks are looking for strong financial health. They’re looking for a plan. That you know where it is you want to go.”

TIPS FROM THE FARM The farmers in the class had some tips of their own to share with the group when it came to dealing with bankers: “Don’t be afraid to change banks,” one farmer offered. “Our rates have dropped a quar-

ter of a per cent each time we’ve switched.” Several farmers agreed that it’s always important to at least ask your banker for a lower rate. One said that, on his farm, when they want to borrow money for a major purchase they put out a tender and ask several local banks to reply with rates and terms. One farmer told the class that his focus is not only to negotiate for a low rate, but also to convince the banker to take a minimum amount of collateral to secure the loan. Foerster reminded the class that when you go looking for a loan,

your banker always has more information than you. In fact, she’s probably seen the financial statements belonging to several of your competitors (your neighbours). While this isn’t always encouraging, it does mean that your banker is a good source of information if you’re looking for industry benchmarks to compare against your farm’s financial ratios. At the end of the session, Foerster offered one last tip. “Keep your banker informed, whether it’s good news or bad news. Nobody likes surprises.” † Leeann Minogue is the editor of Grainews.

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MARCH 18, 2013

Features Farm financials

Machinery investments In these times of rising machinery prices, analyze your farm’s investment By Rebeca Kuropatwa


hen considering whether or not it pays to buy new equipment, James Fehr, vice-president, commercial financial services, agri-business and Agassiz market at RBC, said “You need to assess what income the equipment generates verses the expense of operating it.” When it comes to deciding whether or not to buy new machinery, Fehr says, “These decisions are very specific to operations and need to be made with farmers’ financial records in mind.” “The key principle to consider is ‘does the equipment pay for itself, or will you need to add from other operations to pay for it?’ If you need other income sources to pay for the equipment, is that sustainable for your operation?”

Non-traditional factors There are non-traditional factors today’s farmers should consider when making such decisions. Production  Decisions: “Production-related  decisions to purchase equipment happen when the new piece is able to provide variable rate application (seed, fertilizer, etc.), or when it can provide key data like yield monitoring, which may provide financial returns in saving inputs,” said Fehr. Staffing:  Many farmers have a hard time finding staff, especially at peak times. Fehr says, new technology doesn’t just allow you to use fewer staff, but when you add GPS and auto-steer, can allow staff to perform at a higher level due to less fatigue. Fuel  efficiencies:  With the high cost of fuel, Fehr says, “Fuel efficiencies are a more important factor of operations today than in the past.” Purchase savings:  Farmers can sometimes access discounts from machinery dealerships when they purchase more than one piece of equipment in a short time frame.

“A farm manager will want to be equipped to successfully complete farming operations in a timely manner; but care needs to be taken that the farm not be over equipped. It’s a real balancing act.”

Doing the math Shultz suggested it is helpful to look at this formula: “Current equipment investment (market value) per acre divided by gross revenue per acre.” That is, the market value of your machinery divided by your total sales for the year. “Alberta Agriculture indicated in that province the average ratio from 1998 to 2011 was 1.69.

Ted Nibourg of Albert Agriculture suggested a grain farm with a ratio over two and a livestock operation ratio over one may be a concern.” Rather than just looking at last years sales, Schultz suggests taking some time to estimate your farm’s gross revenue: “When calculating the gross revenue per acre, it’s good to anticipate future prices, calculating according to what could be expected in good market and growing conditions, then what could be expected in poor markets and growing conditions, and then pick a level that you’re comfortable with.” Don’t forget to add a dose of realism. “Experience tells us

prices fluctuate drastically and the investment will also need to survive the low price and production scenario.” What if the formula says you’re over-invested?  “Alternatives would be to rent more land to spread out those costs or to consider selling or downsizing underused equipment. If a piece of equipment is underused, it might be able to be replaced by renting or sharing it with a neighbour or family member or by getting the operation custom done.” Another way of controlling equipment overhead investment per acre is to purchase good used equipment as opposed to brand new equipment, conveyed Shultz, cautioning “but that can lead

to higher repair costs and some downtime at crucial times. “Capital  Cost  Allowance [depreciation] on equipment is a tax saving, but, in my opinion, the decision to purchase the equipment needs to be for business reasons. It could easily lead to being over equipped if the primary driving decision factor is minimizing tax.” Shultz  anticipates  that “machinery will continue to be a major investment. Technology will continue to increase the functionality and efficiency of machines and the trend will also continue, as it has in the past, toward larger equipment.” † Rebeca Kuropatwa is a professional writer in Winnipeg, Man.

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Making the decision Overall, determining factors for equipment buying, according to Fehr, should include “cost of purchase, resale value, cost of operation, staffing equipment, and technological advances of the existing versus new equipment. “From a business perspective, equipment is owned/leased as a means to an end, and therefore has a net return on the investment.” Kelvin Shultz of Wheatland Accounting Services Ltd. at Fillmore, Sask., would “cautiously say investment in machinery often pays for itself.” “It’s very important to ensure equipment investment pays for itself,” said Shultz. “The capital required to be invested in farm machinery now is a very substantial portion of the total farm overhead capital. “After land, equipment would normally be the second highest, and, in some cases, the highest investment category on a modern farm.

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MARCH 18, 2013 /


Features Farm management

The rules, according to Kohl Adviser and speaker Dave Kohl has come up with several management rules by Shirley Byers


ave Kohl lives by the rules — the rules of farm  management he’s been creating and collecting for more than 30 years. An adviser and speaker for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Kohl is also a university professor and a farmer. He lives in Virginia where he owns and operates a dairy farm and value added business, making and selling milk and ice cream. “I have lived many of these rules,” he said. “Interacting with both large and small farm operators and doing seminars you kind of get a feel for the lay of the land. Some are researched, some are anecdotal.”

1. Time management

2. Should I buy the farm?

Time management is a factor in the lives of farmers who may also be juggling an off farm job, community commitments and children’s activities. Kohl has a rule for that. “I find that if you also have full time employment it’s very, very difficult to put in more than a thousand hours a year on the farm or ranch business,” he said. If you exceed that amount it will usually be to the detriment of your job, the farm, your family life or your personal life. “Overall, it’s difficult to put more than 3,000 to 3,500 hours total per year into your off-farm job and the farm,” he said.

Buying the farm is a big dream for a lot of folks. Before you take that step, says Kohl, make sure your total debt payments will not exceed 35 per cent of your total net income. For example, say you or you and your spouse are bringing in $100,000 per year from your farm and off-farm income. You wouldn’t want your annual debt to be more than $35,000. “Once you go above that amount you start putting a lot of stress on your financials and then the lifestyle farm becomes a ball and chain.”

eight out of 10 years... your hobby’s costing you a lot of money.”

4. Watch the numbers Learn and remember the 5-5-3 and 10-10-6 rules. Before committing capital to expansion or diversification, Kohl recommends farmers “shock-test” an opportunity by reducing projected cash flow by five per cent, inflating expenses by five per cent and assuming interest rates will rise by three per cent. If it still flies, go for it! Double the shock to 10-10-6 if risk warrants.

3. The eight out of 10 rule

5. The five to seven year rule

“If you find that your part time farm is not making you money

If farm debt must be restructured more frequently than every

five to seven years, it’s time to take a second look. More frequent restructuring affects cash flow, capability to expand as well as retirement and succession plans.

6. The Michael Jordan Rule Too many people are in too much credit card debt. It is so important to learn to manage credit cards. If you understand how they work you’re in a better position to keep them from working against you. Kohl uses a rule he calls the Michael Jordan rule to emphasize this point. If you use a credit card to make a $2,000 purchase and if you make minimum payments at 18 per cent interest it will take you 23 three years (Michael Jordan’s number was 23) to pay the balance. On the other hand if you take that same minimum payment amount and invest it in a mutual fund, 23 years later you will have accumulated nearly $40,000.

7. The 80-60-40 rule Particularly when you’re in a part time or lifestyle farm situation you must be very goal driven not only financially but also as regards time management. Eighty per cent of all North Americans have no goals, said Kohl. Sixteen per cent have goals but keep them in their minds. Only four percent actually write them down. But, the four per cent who write their goals down will earn nine times as much in their lifetime. Working with farm families he will ask a husband and wife to write out their family, business and personal goals separately and bring them to him together. About 80 percent of the time the goals match but in the remaining twenty percent theyJOB willID:differ. “I tend to find that real success5353-L ful part time farms are very goal DATE: oriented, focused onMAR where they’re 18, APR 1 going,” he said. CLIENT: SYNGENTA CANADA

8. Always be prepared PROJECT:

BRANDafter AD 2013Mickey Cow 7, AXIAL named Mantle whose number was PUBLICATION: seven doesn’t live on the Kohl GRAINEWS farm any more. She doesn’t live DESIGNER: anywhere any more because she CB was the inspiration for the Cow 7 rule. ( ) MECHANICAL ( ) PDF/X Cow 7 was a heifer with her FINAL SIZE: 17.4” X 10” first calf who tackled Kohl. Luckily Webster, Kohl’s dog arrived in UCR: 280% the nick of time to save the day. CLIENT SERVICE Webster distracted the angry young cowPROOFREADING enabling his master to scramble to a safe place. ART DIRECTION “On a farm you’re often isolated, dealing with machinery or PRODUCTION livestock,” he said. “There’s almost a 60 to 70 per cent change you‘ll be disabled. And that’s why disability insurance is imperative for risk management.“ So, does the rule man have a favourite rule? No. “It takes balance in each one of those areas,” he said. “They’re all equally important. You can’t do one without the other.” Editor’s note: this article originally ran in “Small Farm Canada.” It is reprinted here with permission. †

Shirley Byers is a freelance writer based in Saskatchewan. 13-02-20 1:50 PM



MARCH 18, 2013


Looking at a weather market This commodity outlook from Rayglen Commodities may help you decide what to put in the ground this spring BY JACKIE MACLEOD


“14 day forecast for the U.S. Midwest looks hot with not much chance of rain!” earing these words this spring as a Canadian grower will likely lift your spirits, even though it means the drought is extending for wheat, corn and soybean farmers in the U.S. It is too bad that others have to come upon hardship in our industry before we can truly excel, but that is the way it is and probably the way it will always be.

The term “weather market” is almost as prolific as the term “acreage war.” We’ve all heard of acreage wars — users of offsetting commodities will try to encourage acres of their crop of interest by putting a value on it that is relatively higher than its competitors. It’s not about absolute prices but about relative prices. We are going into a spring where we will hear of ratio comparisons from U.S. growers on corn versus bean prices like, “Bean prices need to be 2-1/2 times more than corn to get the acres.”



Western Canadian farmers will be doing the same math over the next month or so: lentils versus peas, or canola versus beans or barley versus wheat. Farmers’ net return predictions and comparisons over the next while will be affected by nothing greater than the weather in other growing regions of the world. When it comes to special crops, Drew Lerner recently stated in one of his reports that the moisture conditions are improving for the Indian rabi (spring) crop, which is nearly all planted now, with some early harvest just beginning. Pulse acres in India are around average this year so a good growing season will mean an increase in year over year production of pulses which could put pressure on Canadian lentils, peas and chickpeas. By the time growers in Western Canada get the drills out and ready to go this spring, the market will have a pretty good idea on the U.S. drought persistence and just how big the South American crop is. These will likely be the biggest influences on farmers’ last minute swing acres. Harvest and seeding conditions in other areas of the world could also have ideal or disastrous conditions, but they will not have such a large impact on us like the U.S. and South American conditions.




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Corn: Some might call the corn market a “made in the U.S. story.” The size of the U.S. corn crop, its exports and usage often tell the tale. Beans and especially wheat have multiple growing areas in the world, which helps to take pressure off U.S. production. This year corn has seen massive feed/residual use, but offsetting this is the fact that U.S. corn has witnessed its lowest export sales commitments since weekly reporting began in 1987. Another demand deflator has been the ethanol production numbers; ethanol production is at the lowest levels since U.S. ethanol statistics began. For prices to jump in corn above the early February levels it would appear gasoline demand will need to spike as all other demand has almost been curbed. With only an estimated 19.5 days of use, corn is extremely tight (compared with 2009-10 at 47.7 days, 2010-11 at 31.5 days and 2011-12 at 28.8 days).


Beans: February 1, 2013 saw 126 ships lined up at Brazilian ports to execute on delivery commitments for their new crop. That is pretty strong evidence that the world “needs” their crop. We all know there will be logistical challenges and some feel that buyers will come to the U.S. if that becomes a prolific problem, however, many world users have become disciplined and will hold out if they know that cheaper product is accessible within a few more days. U.S. bean commitments this year have been the third largest in history so they are tight with an estimated 16.1 days of use left (this compares to 2009-10 at 16.4 days, 2010-11 at 23.9 days and 2011-12 at 19.6 days). If the South American harvest is deemed to be disappointing it will lead to an acreage battle south of the border this spring, which in turn, will benefit Canadian farmers. Wheat: Although wheat can be grown on any arable acre of land in the world, most are putting their spotlight on the Northern Hemisphere crop size. The U.S. winter wheat conditions are at the worst since “the dust bowl” of the 30s and that is making many nervous. However even a crop that is 10 per cent smaller than last year will not bring milling wheat supply down if the corn crop is large enough to meet feed and ethanol demand. The small corn crop last year made wheat a cheaper option for lot of livestock producers and ethanol plants and that demand won’t exist unless there is a significant shortage of corn. Production in the Black Sea region is expected to rise this year, the EU27 is in excellent shape at the moment, and India has recently become a much bigger player in the world wheat market. India has been a hot topic for a couple years now as their wheat production has exploded since 2005 and supplies are at colossal levels. Yes, Indian wheat is not the best quality but at a $30 to $50/mt discount, not everyone cares. So to answer the question, yes, we are in a weather market, but weather markets are not made in and of themselves; the supply and demand balance needs to be affected to truly bring it to the forefront.

GLOBAL CONDITIONS The ebb and flow of the market will continue as it always does,

Jackie MacLeod demand will pick up in some areas but fall in others. Supply is always being affected in some way in the world; it’s a big place. Just think about how much production changes within 100 miles of your own farm in most years. Key industries like ethanol will not be as important in the future as other more efficient energy producing systems work their way into the grid, but maybe the world population will gobble that production up? Supply and demand changes almost as often as the weather but the current weather market we are in should continue into at least early spring. What happens in a few key areas is going to be the driver of prices going forward (everything else being even). We can never anticipate the macro global conditions that can/ will affect our commodity prices like civil war, export bans, monetary stimulus, and just how many beans China actually has locked away. These are things (along with many others) that we cannot control, truly anticipate or monitor. However, we can watch the weather and there are some great people out there that are doing just that. Personally keeping an eye on what is going on around the world in key production areas and paying attention to what is actually happening in those key areas is something we can all do. At the end of the day no matter how well we strategize or anticipate, Mother Nature will have the final play and the final say. † Jackie MacLeod is a grain broker for Rayglen Commodities Inc in Saskatoon. She can be reached at, 1-800-RAYGLEN or 306-242-9100.

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Becoming an AgExpert It can take a lot of time to make the most of FCC’s Field Manager Pro, software, but Jay Peterson thinks it will be worth the time you spend JAY PETERSON


oing into another crop year is always a new and exciting venture. With the advent of all the new technology out there, farmers are not only looking for ways to record what they are doing in season but able to also project what they want to do — both agronomical and financially. One of the most in depth and developed programs you can use in this area is Ag Expert Field Manager Pro software released by FCC management software. Field Manager Pro is a standalone planning and operational recording program that is coupled with AgExpert Analyst — probably the most used agricultural accounting software in Western Canada. Field Manager Pro can even go as far to work with satellite imagery of your fields. (This option comes with the Field Manager 360 program) This gives the added bonus of having an interface that most people are used to seeing, and also provides the ability to transfer information that’s common to both programs back and forth, lowering the numbers of entries that need to be made.

the AgExpert Analyst software. If you’ve been using AgExpert, the learning curve for the Field Manager software should be less than starting fresh. One thing that is good for farmers that may not be the most computer savvy is the simplicity of the menus. Field Manager fits all the different things it can do into four menus. This works well if you’re like me and like to constantly open consoles and menus, change something and then move on. The report console is a huge part of Field Manager. Anything that is input or tracked by Field Manager can then be compiled and shown in a report form. Even CanadaGAP and insurance reports can be run using this program. It is always nice to be able to make paper copies of your records in a clean format to use yourself or (if you’re renting) to show land owners so they can see your progress through the crop year.

FEATURES Field Manager has some really nice features — from the financial planner to the fertilizer usage and the registered pesticide list. A feature I use all the time is the financial farm plan section. With this you can easily manipulate variables to plan for the upcoming

a great feature, as fertilizer is one of the most essential yet most expensive inputs. It’s great to be able to track fertilizer use accurately. Another feature I find really useful is the inventory tracking aspects of this software. You can track the inventory from bin all the way through to the sale. It’s great to get a call for product and know exactly what’s in each bin — that saves you the need to physically look outside. You just have to look at the Field Manager inventory to know how much you have left to move or market.

THE DOWNSIDE With any software there are always some downfalls. Nothing can ever be designed perfectly. The biggest downfall, I think, is the lack of mobile options for the software. The suggested handheld is the Motorola EDA. I also think though that one of the new HTC phones also runs the Windows mobile operating system needed for the mobile version of Field Manager but I’m not sure how compatible it is. In today’s world I don’t think this is enough options. Farmers are not thrilled to have to choose a specific phone or PDA to make their software mobile. If it was compatible with Apple or RIM

At times, Field Manager’s complexity can make it too labour intensive. Using the program to its full capacity can seem like a daunting task. The biggest challenge can be making sure to record everything accurately in the field and then transferring it to the desktop program. It’s is very easy to forget to mark something down or put down all the exact details at the time. This can happen when the same product changes in price during the year. When looking at how much time it takes to set up this program and input data, I just try to think of all the useful information and recording that will come from the work.

As you can see Field Manager can be a great operational tool for your operation. Though there are some things to watch out for, if used properly in can not only be used for an operations recording tool it can also be used as a financial planner for the upcoming year and a financial benchmarking tool as well. Even though at times it can seem to be lots of work to track and record in the end this is a program that can pay for itself and make you more aware of what’s happening in your operation, financially and operationally. † Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask.

Feel the


1. THE PRICE When dealing with this type of software purchase there are a few things to look at to make sure that you are happy with it in the long run. The first thing I personally always look at when buying software is the price. This way I can get a feel for if the product will fill the value I am looking for. Field Manager is priced at $499. This may seem like a lot of money, but it is very competitive for business software. Any sort of professional business suite is going to be around this price and most likely also be license restricted to only one computer as well. An example of this is Microsoft Office Professional is around $470 for a single license. If you feel you’re going to extensively use this program even on a desktop alone it could be of great value to you.

2. THE INTERFACE Field Manager has a nice clean interface that is very similar to


Knowing your breakeven cost before the crop is even grown allows you to take advantage of contracts all year round crop year — not only your inputs, but your marketing plan as well. It is always beneficial to be able to see where you are spending the majority of your inputs. From there you can use these numbers to create a market plan based on these assumptions. This makes it easier for you to forward market against your assumed cost for the next year. Knowing your breakeven cost before the crop is even grown allows you to take advantage of contracts all year round. A newer feature in the Field Manager 12 version is the fertilizer rates and total nutrients applied per acre. This updated format makes it easier to track different types of fertilizer used and how much was applied in pounds per acre. This as

products it would greatly open up the options. More people could use it in the field without having to transfer the information twice. Another smaller issue is that when new updates come out, your old data needs to be upgraded to the new format. The problem with this is that, at any time you take your data with you or even transfer it to a new computer, the data may not be usable, or it can be corrupted easily. If you don’t keep multiple backups on different sources you can lose your farm record data. I suggest keeping multiple copies of any important information on different pieces of physical storage in different locations. I will even keep a couple of copies of really important data offsite.

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MARCH 18, 2013


Trends, questions, covered calls and spreads In this column Andy Sirski talks about some current energy trends, and how these trends will impact his stock portfolio ANDY SIRSKI


ome interesting enery trends are developing in North America and around the world.

URANIUM First, recall some issues ago I wrote an article on thorium and how that might reduce demand for uranium. The supply of uranium to the world was supposed to drop by the end of 2013 because Russia will

stop selling nuclear warhead uranium to the U.S. Russia has been supplying about 16 per cent of the total world supply of uranium so if that supply stops, some think the price of uranium will go up. Is Russia going to keep selling that nuclear uranium to other countries? Russia is building nuclear reactors but likely not enough to use up all that uranium it’s not selling to the U S. I have not been able to get the answer yet — if you know, get in touch. The world’s uranium supply may not shrink. The U.S. uses something like five million pounds of uranium per year and has to import a lot of it. It just won’t be coming from Russia. .

In the meantime, Japan has slowed down the process to start up most of its reactors, so Japanese demand will not go up much. Russia might be trying to keep the price of uranium down for as long as it can which would make it tough on high cost producers and discourage new mines. This could take some of the glow off the future of the uranium and uranium stocks. I own 1,200 shares of Cameco (CCO) at a cost of around $20 per share.

OIL AND NATURAL GAS As you likely know, the U.S. wants to be more energy self sufficient in the years ahead. I don’t think that means it will have

enough oil but I think it would mean the U.S. would import a lot less oil from OPEC countries. In the meantime Canadian oil producers are figuring out how to get more oil to U.S. refineries. One way is by train. CN and CP are both getting their act together to move more oil into the U.S. as the industry waits for the U.S. to decide if it will allow a new pipeline into the country. A company is building a hub in southeastern Saskatchewan that will speed up the loading and hauling of oil from the Baaken pool. I also heard that same hub has a system for loading grain cars that could take a million tonnes of grain out of Canada to the U.S. If you know more about this project

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send me an email at sirski@mts. net or call me at 1-204-453-4489. In the meantime I also heard that oil producers plan to move oil by pipeline (and maybe train) to the east coast, where Irving has a refinery and a deep ocean port open year round. The plan would be to send oil to the east coast and load it onto tankers that would take the oil to unloading docks in Louisiana. Then the oil would go to refineries in Texas without having to wait for approval of the new pipeline. The idea seems to be to set up a three-way outlet for Canadian oil: trains, Canadian pipeline and hopefully a new pipeline some day. Unless there is some big disruption in oil production, to me this looks like the price of oil is not going to go up much and in fact it might have to come down. The only oil/gas stock I own is Bonavista Energy Corporation (BNP) at an average JOB ID: cost of under $14.50. The 4977-1G price dropped to under $13 since the company cut DATE: its dividend,FEB11, butMAR18, prices 2013 recently come back up almost a buck. CLIENT: Cutting the dividend helps the SYNGENTA CANADA company have more cash to work withPROJECT: but the lower dividend makes CRUISER MAXX VIBRANCE shares less attractive to investors. WHEAT ROCKET Still, six per cent yield is decent. Some of the assets BNP bought PUBLICATION: latelyGRAINEWS are supposed to be accretive (make money right away) and DESIGNER: combined with the lower dividend JEFF ANTON BNP might still work out. (




AsUCR: for 240% the trend in natural gas —I think price is going to stay CLIENTthe SERVICE low for a few years. Sure the new wellsPROOFREADING drop in production rapidly, fewerARTwells are being drilled and DIRECTION the supply of natgas in storage has PRODUCTION stopped going up. But developers have documented a lot of natural gas in the U.S. so we shouldn’t expect prices to go up much anytime soon. I think one risk for Canadian producers is that in a few years the U.S. will not need Canadian natural gas. I’m not sure our industry can develop new markets fast enough in that case. Cheap natural gas also poses a risk to some developers/producers. By accounting laws, if a publicly traded company finds that its supply of natural gas is worth less than it thought, the company will take what is called an impairment charge to reduce the cost on its books down to the lower market price. In the meantime China is buying natural gas properties. Someday we might be buying natural gas from a Chinese company that drills on Canadian dirt. I didn’t mean to scare you but hey, these things can happen.

SOLAR ENERGY Maybe I jumped the gun on this one but President Obama is talking solar and so is China so I bought 500 shares of First Solar (FSLR) for just under $34 a share. Then I sold a call on them for strike price $34 for September and picked up almost 16 per cent on the cost.

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13-01-22 3:29 PM

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Columns Guarding weath

Read the covenants before you invest Just like with any contact, before you sign a contract to buy a bond, make sure you read the fine print By Andrew Allentuck


onds are supposed to provide investors with a high level of security. Yet over time, the concept of making payments when payments are due has been compromised by investment bankers, who cleverly knit new kinds of bonds. The result is that if you buy shares in any company, one share is almost always the same as another. That is not true for bonds. One bond issue may be a senior credit backed by designated capital, perhaps an office building. Another may be a promise by a deadbeat company to

pay interest on the subordinate issue after everybody else has been paid.

Read the fine print There is a general rule to follow when buying bonds. It requires that you read the covenants for each bond issue. The covenants, really the rules for payment, can be had by asking an investment dealer for the offering documents. Or, if you prefer, or, if your investment dealer is amazed that anybody would ever ask to see the covenants, they can be found at www.sedar. com, the website for all Canadian securities documents. The American equivalent is

Government of Canada bonds have a covenant that can be expressed in one sentence: Holders will be paid a specific amount of money or, in the case of inflationlinked Real Return bonds, a precisely described amount of money on specific dates and the bond will be refunded at a specific date. There is nothing else to say or that can be said. Most sovereign bonds have this concept, though when you buy a U.S. Treasury bond you have to consider whether the Treasury, often caught in Thelma and Louise crisis when it is about to drive off the monetary cliff, will have the money to pay you when the time comes.

As bonds get riskier, their covenants grow longer and more complex. The basic question — Will interest and principal be paid on time? — has given rise to the credit rating industry, dominated by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Service, Fitch Ratings and Canada’s own DBRS, formerly known as the Dominion Bond Rating Service.

Bond analysis Bond analysis draws fine financial minds. It is not the guesswork of stock price forecasting. Rather, it is detailed legal, economic and accounting work. Yet the industry is criticized for the fundamental flaw in

its structure. The fat fees bond raters earn are paid by the companies whose bonds they rate. That is a profound underlying conflict of interest that each rating company denies. But the U.S. Department of Justice isn’t buying the denials. In the U.S., on February 4 of this year, Justice filed civil fraud charges against Standard & Poor’s, accusing the firm of inflating the ratings of mortgage investments and setting them up for a collapse when the financial crisis began in 2008. A dozen states have joined the action, the first major prosecution of

» continued on page 30


Gold and silver As I write on February 28, 2013, the price of gold has dropped 20 bucks to $1,575. This should not be a surprise — U.S. labour statistics come out on March 1 and most months the price of gold and silver gets smacked down the week those statistics come out. I bought 1,000 shares of Yamana Gold (YRI). I owned YRI a few years back at around $12 and sold lots of calls on them. Now the company has started to pay a dividend and has good mining future so I bought some shares. The price of gold has dropped since and so has YRI by half a buck or so. As for my main silver shares, First Majestic Silver Corp. (FR), a lot of them are in accounts where we have collected $5 worth of premiums from selling covered calls for the past 13 months while the shares have dropped a buck. I can sell a call on the other shares and pick up a buck or more any time but I have missed out on some cash by being slow. The prices for FR and Silver Wheaton Corp. (SLW) are coming down to summer time lows, which could be a disaster or an opportunity. For now I will wait and watch. If we buy gold or silver coins, the big question is “Can we sell them at a decent price?” I checked with one coin dealer and he said they would buy coins sold by FR at silver market prices. †

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I did that just before earnings were announced. Maybe I shouldn’t do that. Earnings came out good but the outlook came out bad so the shares dropped to under $26 and may still be dropping. My cost is around $28. I bought FSLR because I wanted to get closer to the solar business, but maybe I should have bought just 100 shares. Solar stocks and in particular FSLR are getting mixed publicity. One analyst figures down is the only way while others figure the shares have potential.

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MARCH 18, 2013


READ THE COVENANTS BEFORE YOU INVEST the industry. The problem is embedded in statistical models used by the industry to assess the mortgages, which were packed into synthetic bonds. Here we need to return to the nature of a debt. A mortgage, like a bond, is a promise to pay. The mortgage is backed by real estate. If the mortgage were issued to dubious borrowers nicknamed NINJAs for “no income, no job, no other assets,” as they were in the years leading up to the 2008 mortgage crisis, they would probably be walkaways, that is, backed by abandoned properties whose owners, under U.S. federal law, could just shut the door and leave with nothing but a bad credit rating. Under American law, creditors could seize or sue, but not both.

In Canada, our creditors can seize properties whose owners are in arrears and sue for any remaining debt, which is at least part of the reason our home loan abandonment rate is about onethird of one per cent compared to the U.S. dereliction rate that averaged 30 per cent in parts of Florida, Nevada and California. Crummy loans that major lenders should have known were unlikely to get to the finish line fully paid were dissected into payments due at consecutive dates. The principal was then further dissected into the early repayment risk (there is no penalty for prepayment in the U.S.) and residual risk. An all of these pieces were then glued into new bonds, thus the name synthetic, and sent to the raters for their opinions. The raters went to work with statistical models based on the concept that even if all eggs eventually rot, they won’t all do it at the same time nor all

in the same basket. So bond payments from Vermont were blended with other payments due from Alaska and Nevada and so on. The packages were then turned into tiers, usually 36 of them, so that the top tiers got paid first and the second tiers got paid after the first, and the

Read the fine print in the covenants third after the second and so on. The top tiers got AAA ratings because, of course, even if the structures were built on garbage, any money that came in did go to the top tier. What the raters did not count on was that mortgage fraud was systematic in the U.S. with almost anybody able to qualify

for home loans on the theory that even if the borrower did not pay, there was still solid brick and mortar behind the loan. The mortgages, duly packaged and with what were often 200-page filing documents filled with denials of recourse (the covenants), were sold by lenders to investment banks. Investment banks then peddled them as structured finance products to pension funds and individual investors. In order to keep the prices of the packaged mortgages high, in spite of admissions in the covenants that the innards of the mortgages might be rotten, the rating agencies used ever more esoteric ratings models. The lowest levels of the structured mortgages were, because of the designs, unlikely ever to be paid. So the investment bankers took these bottom rung tranches, called “toxic waste” in the industry, and rebuilt them into new mortgage ladders with


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the top tiers getting paid first and the middle tiers after the top one and so on. And from the toxic levels of those, new thirdround structures were built. The U.S. Department of Justice case turns on the rating system and common sense. The structured finance industry said that you can indeed make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. S&P evidently knew it was in a troubled market. Emails published in the New York Times on February 5 quote an S&P executive as saying, “this market is a wildly spinning top which is going to end badly.”

CANADA’S CRISIS Canada had its own version of the subprime crisis in another field of structured finance called Asset Backed Commercial Paper (ABCP). In the mid-2000’s, investment banks figured out a way to make loans with very little risk of non-payment. Just as mortgages were turned into assets that could be sold as stocks or bonds, through ABCP general car loans and even MasterCard receivables could be securitized and sold to the public. ABCP became a $32-billion market, but when the U.S. subprime crisis brought every structured product into question, investors began to ask for their money back. The problem was that big investors like the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec had a lot of money in ABCP. The Caisse’s stake was $12.6 billion, for example. One can presume that Caisse’s own investment staff read the weasel words in the covenants. The language became vital, for the packages of credit card receivables and auto loans and mortgages were supposed to have liquidity provided by chartered banks. If an investor wanted his money back, the bank would provide it. That, at least, was the idea. The Canadian ABCP market, part of the global system, required banks in the deals to provide money to pay back holders in the event of a “general market disruption.” When the subprime crisis hit and the banks were called on the pony up money to nervous ABCP holders, they balked. The banks, which included global giants like Deutsche Bank and HSBC, said the disruption was not “general.” Lawyers went to work and made a killing. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which had ruled that banks did not have to provide liquidity for paper that they had not issued, protected bank shareholders and the banking system. The big credit raters like S&P and Moody’s which had said that the vagueness of liquidity provisions prevented them from giving any ratings at all, came away with their integrity intact. Only DBRS, which had rated the Canadian ABCP, had to answer for its work. In the end, individual holders of ABCP got paid. The lesson for any bond investor is to read the fine print in the covenants, believe what it says, and don’t invest in anything incomprehensible or doubtful. † Andrew Allentuck is author of “Bonds for Canadians: How to Build Wealth and Lower Risk in Your Portfolio,” published by John Wiley & Sons in 2007.

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Earthworm survey results

Survey results are in. We’re seeing more and more earthworms in the Prairies than we saw before, and we sure don’t like them in our gardens LES HENRY


n the October 22, 2012 issue of Grainews we talked about earthworms and the impact our current farming system has had in developing viable populations in farm fields. It had been my observations that earthworms were rare in farm fields with our old farming system of fallow and mainly cereal crops with little fertilizer. The change to continuous cropping, zero or minimum till, crop rotations with legumes and generous fertilizer use has changed all that. The October issue included a short survey form and a request for input from readers with their experience and observations with earthworms. Sincere thanks to the 23 readers who responded in spades — four from Manitoba, 13 from Saskatchewan and six from Alberta. The locations ranged from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fairview in the Peace River Country of Alberta, so all soil zones were included. A special thanks to the gardeners who made it very plain that earthworms are not all good.

SURVEY SUMMARY Many of the responses echoed what I had already concluded. Respondents saw few earthworms in the old half and half wheat/ fallow days but they see lots now. The most common rotation includes cereals, oilseeds and pulses but even rotations without legumes still observe viable populations of earthworms. It’s not all good news: Beware, gardeners! When I penned the first column our fearless editor Leeann asked if it is all good news. “Are there any negatives?” I did recall Soil Science Professors at University of Saskatchewan — in my student days — discussing ways to get rid of earthworms in their city gardens. They said the worms made the soil hard and “ruined” the garden. Wow, was that an understate-

ment. Many gardeners have a big hate on for earthworms and would like to know how to get rid of them. There were two responses from Saskatchewan and one each from Alberta and Manitoba. John Morriss, Winnipeg-based

Earthworms are a menace in many gardens associate publisher and editorial director of Grainews said, “Are the worms helping or hurting the organic content? Is their presence simply the result of the increased organic matter from zero or minimum till attracting an invasive species?… Don’t get me started on the night crawlers in my other lawn in Winnipeg. It’s literally hard to walk on it because of the castings on the surface.” Sandra Wasyiciw of the Peace River Country said, “… 100 per cent of the women of this area would strongly disagree that earthworms do anything other than destroy the soil. If I dug a spade full of soil in my garden I would turn up a five-inch ball of hard soil that looks like Swiss cheese.” Evelyn Johnson of Spiritwood, Sask., agreed with that. “All the organic material has been removed by the earthworms and all that remains is hard clay lumps that look like Swiss cheese.” I owned a quarter section of land at Spiritwood for 30 years so phoned Evelyn and we had a good visit. Allan Baker of Mantario, Sask. (near Kindersley), wrote: “In 1960 I broke up an old hog yard. A wonderful garden — could even walk in it after a rain. My brother brought some earthworms from town. After a few more years, no more garden, just hard chunks… They’ve moved half a mile into crop land. Don’t seem to cause harm. There’s less humus — not so thick.” Darlene McWilliam of Blackie Alberta reported seeing earthworms in 30+ year continuous crop zero/minimum till but also had this to say, “… earthworms eat organic matter and leave the

ground crumbly. Only good for fish bait. I wish I had none.”

EARTHWORMS AND ANHYDROUS AMMONIA In the October 22, 2012 article I said, “When anydrous ammonia first came out in the 1970s naysayers said the NH3 would kill the worms. ‘What worms,’ said I at that time. On my Dundurn farm, anhydrous ammonia is my main form of nitrogen, applied three years out of four (not on peas). So, obviously anhydrous is not hurting the worms.” J e f f E l d e r o f Wa w a n e s a , Manitoba, quit using NH3 10 years ago and thinks earthworm numbers have improved in that time. Editor Leeann forwarded an Internet exchange between a Wisconsin farmer and one in Alberta. The fellow from Wisconson made the following comment online. “... as for using NH3, your earthworm population will return and your soil will respond over the next three to five years, it takes time.” The Albertan responded, “funny you should say that! The earthworms in Alberta must be hardier than the ones you guys have because after 40 years of NH3 in our operation we still have lots of them.” I contacted an earthworm specialist in U.S. who was very surprised to find that NH3 did not kill earthworms. Anydrous ammonia is not a fumigation. The gas is adsorbed in a fairly tight ball of “light bulb” shape and does not permeate the whole soil — only a small fraction. So, it makes sense to me that earthworms would survive anhydrous.

EARTHWORMS AND FLAX “Flax is like ice cream to earthworms.” That is a quote from Ernie Hall of Wynyard, Sask. Frank and Alex Russell of Lethbridge agree. Jill Capperton, formerly of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lethbridge also concluded that flax and canola were two favourite foods of earthworms. It seems that the flax part should be of interest to flax growers that have struggled with

Farmers are finding eathworm populations in areas that once had none. tough flax straw for years.

REMEMBER THE BASICS In the October article I talked about three groups of earthworms: 1. Surface feeders. This type feeds on the soil surface on leaves and other plant materials. They are found in places like under fallen trees, etc. Their casts (feces) form part of the surface soil. 2. Deep drillers. These produce single burrows from the soil surface to depths of two metres or more. They consume surface litter and mix it with soil and can bring subsoil to near surface. Lumbricus terrestris is a deep driller. 3 . To p s o i l d w e l l e r s . T h e s e worms work in the topsoil (at about six inches depth) and produce roughly horizontal burrows. They live off surface litter and mix it with soil. I suspect we have few or none of the surface feeders, that deep drillers dominate gardens and that topsoil dwellers dominate our field soils.

CONCLUSIONS There are many more excellent responses that I could quote

— but based on the 23 responses I conclude the following: 1. After 20+ years of continuous cropping, crop rotation and zero/min till — we now have a viable population of earthworms over millions of acres that previously had few or none. Perhaps they are mostly topsoil dwellers. 2. It is not all good news. Earthworms are a menace in many gardens. 3. Some respondents wondered if there is such a thing as too many earthworms. 4. We have no good answer for many of the questions about earthworms. It is my hope that with the great help from readers I may be able to encourage some keen young scientist to take on the topic and answer our questions. Thanks to readers who took time to write — I am greatly impressed with the information provided. † 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.

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MARCH 18, 2013


Winter on the farm

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Toban and his wife have survived their first winter back on the farm. In fact, they even enjoyed it TOBAN DYCK


fixed the tractor the other day. The bolt the PTO lever pivots on snapped, a diagnosis I came to after dismantling most of the console. Feeling the lever go limp was one of those “oh shoot” moments where my previous, city-dweller self would have parked the tractor and called someone, assuming there was no way on this Earth I could possibly be the one to figure out what the problem is and then fix it. The farm has changed me. It’s been seven months since we moved back to Manitoba from Ontario. We miss a lot of things from what seems now like our past life. But, we’re also now able to take stock of the things we’ve come to love about life on the farm and in the country, in general.

I fixed the tractor the other day WINTER The farm has helped me appreciate winter (my wife has always loved winter). A friend currently enjoying the warmth of Mexico emailed me asking if the winter months on the farm were starting to feel long and lonely. Short answer: no. This winter has been amazing and farm life is the reason. Usually winters are all about chips and movies. This one, however, I built an ice rink, a cross-country ski groomer and brewed a couple batches of beer with a neighbour. Turns out, contrary to my earlier entries, I am a person who fixes and builds things and enjoys doing so.

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I’ve also gained an appreciation and respect for business. I used to loathe the word “business.” I associated it with all that was wrong in the world; greed, exploitation and wonton consumerism. Thank you, liberal education. I knew little of it — business, that is — and had little interest in learning about it. This has changed. And, again, life on the farm is to blame. Long hours on the field only matter if smart hours are spent in the office. There is a complex network behind the food on your table.

THERE ARE THINGS WE MISS We miss being able to walk 100 metres out our door for roti (Indian flatbread). There are decent restaurants in town but the selection is scant if craving Indian, Portuguese or Korean. Of course, the flip side is that when we lived in Toronto we had all sorts of choice, but we rarely ate together due to conflicting schedules. I prefer a mediocre restaurant with a dinner partner than a five-star alone. If only these small, farming communities could support a better food culture. Exercise isn’t a natural part of our day, like it was in the city, especially now in winter. I tried the treadmill for a couple days, but the routine didn’t take. Going for a walk, a run or even a stroll on the farm is a deliberate act, one that sometimes loses to, say, doing nothing. We could walk to town, but that trek would come very close to a pilgrimage requiring survival gear (it’s only a couple of miles). I used to walk everywhere. And so did my wife. In Toronto, my work was a 10-minute walk from home, and my wife’s walk was about 20 minutes. In the evening we would walk some more, often to the harbour and loop back. I miss the exercise. Community, like its practiced here in the country, is something we haven’t experienced for decades. In these winter months, and especially after a storm, the surrounding yards unite, everyone texting or calling each other making sure they are able to leave their yards for work. It’s a warm feeling, knowing that if your snow blower breaks down others have your back. In Toronto and in Winnipeg, this was not the case. I would not have knocked on my Toronto neighbour’s door for a couple of eggs or milk. But the most surprising change and gain for me (possibly us, though I can’t speak for my wife), has been how farm life has teased out my inner farmer and country boy. I didn’t think I was able to do much of the tasks commonly associated with farmers when I moved back. The farm has changed me. † Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Marketing contracts If Brian Wittal was designing the perfect delivery contract, farmers would have firm delivery guarantees BY BRIAN WITTAL


s it just me, or was there more marketing information and update seminars than usual this past winter? I think there has been. I know I have attended more than usual and have been called on to talk at more than I have in the past couple of years. There have been courses and seminars being offered by the federal and provincial governments, grain companies, and private or independent market consulting companies. This is a sign of the ever changing world of grain marketing that is evolving in Western Canada. Last fall I signed up for the CWB’s email update — something I would advise everyone to do if you have anything to do with marketing grain. The CWB will automatically send you an email update whenever there is something of interest or relevance to marketing grain through the CWB. It is another source of free information. I just received an email from the CWB announcing the lineup of contracts it will offer for the upcoming 2013-14 crop year. This was included in the email. “Two types of pools are offered, each with three different pooling periods. The

annual pool, early delivery pool and winter pool will operate similarly to the 2012-13 programs. “In addition, CWB’s innovative futures choice pooling program has expanded to include the futures choice annual pool, futures choice early delivery pool and futures choice winter pool. The futures choice pools now include canola and more wheat classes. A production contract for two-row malting barley will also be available.” You can find more information about these options on the CWB website, or call the CWB if you have questions.

GRAIN COMPANY OFFERINGS All other grain companies have information on their own websites about the different contracts they offer. Some are more complex than others but that complexity may offer you better value or more security. This is good news for all grain farmers as it means more pricing options available for you to choose from. But it also means more homework and research to try to understand what each of these contracts offers you for pricing flexibility and what risks may be involved.

Since the removal of the monopoly powers from the Canadian Wheat Board last year we have seen myriad companies come out with their versions of grain marketing contracts to offer to farmers. Each company has a little different version of what a production contract or a cash or deferred or a futures and or options contract looks like. You need to decipher which ones will work the best for your farm business. No doubt these contracts are going to continue to change and evolve as grain companies and farmers adjust to this new marketing environment and get more knowledgeable as to how the markets and the various contracts can work for them.

GUARANTEED DELIVERY DATES I have been trying to come up with the perfect grain marketing contract from the farmers’ perspective and then from the grain companies’ perspective to see if there is some common ground where we can have the best for both sides, because buyers need sellers and visa versa! So what would be on farmers’ wish list for the perfect grain marketing contract?

Number one on the list would be a guaranteed delivery period that you can rely on, so you can make plans to deliver your grain and get your money before bills are due and don’t get charged interest. Grain companies normally offer a standard 30-day delivery period on most contracts. Some grains will differ, for example with malt barley you may get a three-month delivery window. But in the contract the company has the right to delay, flex or change the delivery period at their discretion. These 30- or 90-day timelines can be worked with as far as managing cash flow, as long as you are able to deliver within those timelines. What happens if your delivery period is pushed back another 30 days due to congestion in the system? You still have bills to pay and now you are going to be short the cash to pay them on time so you will probably end up paying interest charges. This is where it would be nice to have something in the contract whereby if your delivery period is extended beyond the original contract period that the company would pay you a storage fee based on industry rates for every day beyond the contract period, or advance you a percentage (50 to 75 per cent) of the value of the grains contracted, so you can pay your bills on time without incurring a penalty. This is about managing your cash flow to meet your obligations so that you aren’t paying unnecessary charges. I can appreciate the fact that the delay to your delivery period

may not be the grain company’s fault directly. It could be due to an issue with the rail roads or vessels at port. The reality is that you committed to sell and deliver grain to them in that specified period so why can’t they make an effort to help you (their customer) by having a storage payment or partial payment clause in the contract so that if your delivery is delayed you get some kind of compensation for the inconvenience it is going to create for you? Some companies do offer a storage payment with some of their contracts but it is not common with all companies or in most contracts. I understand that this would mean the companies are paying out monies in advance of receiving the grain which could change their cash flow situation a little but they are a lot bigger than the individual farmer so I think they can manage and adjust a little easier. Plus now the pressure is on them to get your grain into their facility sooner than later, so as to stop paying any further storage charges and or get the grain that they’ve already partially paid for. Maybe a clause like this would help to improve overall delivery performance within the grain handling system. What do you think? We’ll continue down this road of trying to build the producers perfect grain marketing contract in the next issue. † Brian Wittal has 30 years of grain industry experience, and currently offers market planning and marketing advice to farmers through his company Pro Com Marketing Ltd. (


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MARCH 18, 2013

Machinery & Shop PICKUP SPECIAL

60-Plus years of truck improvements PHOTO: CHRYSLER

After the Second World War, manufacturers began making pickups a little more comfortable. Today that comfort level hits new heights SCOTT GARVEY



Dodge 1946 Power Wagon, GM 1947 2nd Generation, and Ford 1948 F-1.


hen normal manufacturing resumed after the end of the Second World War, the Detroit Three automakers started paying attention to

making half-ton pickup trucks not only comfortable, but much more capable as well. In the 67 years between then and now, that continuing effort has reached unprecedented levels and turned pickups into the biggest selling vehicle in Canada, both on and off the farm. And the model that’s been taking the biggest slice of that market pie for the past 36 years is Ford’s F-150. The F Series made its debut

in 1948 as the F-1. And comfort was what Ford wanted to talk about when it unveiled the truck on January16 of that year. In fact, the first line of the company press release emphasized that fact. “Driver comfort and efficiency were among the primary considerations of engineers and designers who created the 1948 Ford truck shown to the public for the first time today...” it read. The F-1, Ford’s first new truck design since the end of the War eventually morphed into the F-100 and, finally, today’s F-150. But General Motors actually beat Ford to the punch by a few months when it came to introducing an all-new truck with an unheard of level of comfort for that era. In July of 1947, production of GM’s “Second Generation” trucks began. That basic style lasted through to the early part of 1955 and included what the company called its “Advance Design” cab. The Deluxe version of the Advance Design cab included such frivolous creature comforts as an optional heater with improved defrosting capabilities.

Those early definitions of comfort are almost laughable in comparison to current models Dodge managed to get its brand new truck announced ahead of Ford, too, when it released the B Series in December of 1947. It featured the “Pilothouse Safety Cab” and such innovations as shock absorbers to help it deliver a smooth ride.

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TRUCKS TODAY Today, though, those early definitions of comfort are almost laughable in comparison to current models. At the North American International Auto Show in Michigan’s Motor City, the Detroit Three just released their latest and best pickup offerings. So this seems like the perfect time to take a look at not only where comfortable, half-ton pickups began, but how far they’ve come. In this issue of Machinery and Shop you’ll find the latest news from the long-time players in the full-size pickup business, Ford, GM and Dodge. Along with that we tracked down a few classic images of the forefathers of the F-150, Ram 1500 and Silverado 1500. Enjoy. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop PICKUP SPECIAL

Ford introduces the Atlas concept pickup To showcase new technology and innovation in truck design, Ford unveiled the Atlas at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit BY SCOTT GARVEY


n many farms there are two pickup trucks. The reasonably new one that ferries kids to hockey games and makes shopping trips to the city, and an older one that lugs a fuel tank and tools back and forth from the field. If there is 20 or more years age difference between those two, the difference in comfort between them will be quite noticeable. There’s no doubting the fact creature comforts have been getting packed into pickup trucks at an accelerated rate during the last couple of decades. Pickups now seem to walk the line of part truck, part car. A concept automakers originally pioneered in the late 1960s with vehicles like the El Camino and Ranchero. Except they were neither car nor truck. Now, however, new pickups get carlike feel with truck-like capabilities. But as comfortable as your “good” truck may be now, Ford has just made it clear pickup trucks will get even splashier in the future. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, they pulled the cover off their Atlas concept

truck, which takes comfort, convenience and technology to an entirely new level. “The Ford Atlas Concept previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pickup,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice-president, Global Product Development, in a press release. “With 36 years as America’s best-selling pickup, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market.” Autoweek magazine named the Atlas as “Most Significant” vehicle at the Detroit show. Ford claims the design of the Atlas was driven primarily by comments from customers. When you look at the list of innovations, one thing is clear: no one will mistake the Atlas for your old work truck. Atlas is meant to be a hint at what buyers can expect to find in the F-150 of the future.

THE F-150 OF THE FUTURE First of all, the Atlas sits on a wide 78-inch track and has an overall width of 88 inches. Wheelbase is 137-inches and overall length is 237 inches, which rivals, and in some cases exceeds,

the dimensions of some of Ford’s current Super Duty models. But the Atlas is all about technology — and style, of course. Under the hood it sports a nextgeneration Eco-boost engine that is turbocharged with direct injection. There are already 250,000 or

Ford claims there are “65 cool things” incorporated into the truck so Eco-Boost engines on the road in F-150s. But the Atlas engine gets an automated start-stop feature tailored for trucks. What that means is when you roll up to a red traffic light, the engine shuts off and automatically restarts when you step on the accelerator, unless you’re pulling a trailer. In that case the truck will “know” and the engine will stay running. This feature and much of the rest of the electronic gadgetry is

intended to improve fuel mileage. And Ford claims the Atlas gets a two-miles-per-gallon improvement over a current comparable F-150. Behind the Eco-Boost engine is a six-speed, automatic transmission. And the truck rides on LT325/50R22 tires. To make the Atlas more aerodynamic, it has a drop-down front spoiler, which retracts at low speeds; automated grille shutters and wheel well covers also activate at speed. They streamline the truck and reduce drag. Electrical power to operate those shutters comes from batteries charged by wheel rotation. To further conserve energy the trucks gets a full helping of LED lighting, which has lower power demands than even current HID or halogen types. To make the Atlas lighter and stronger, the frame and body components are made of highstrength steel that incorporates Boron in its alloy. Out back there is a 110-volt power outlet to run tools. The tailgate step gets enough strength to act as a cradle for extra-long loads. And to make it easier to haul your ATV around, there are hidden loading ramps under the box.

Dynamic hitch assist makes it easier for drivers to connect to a trailer. An indicator on the dash signals when the truck and trailer hitch are lined up. And speaking of trailers, Ford says its research shows that backing a trailer is often the most intimidating task a truck customer can face, so that becomes an automated process in the Atlas. Just turn a knob and the truck handles the job. Then there are the automated, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto high-beam headlights, lane departure warning, next-generation productivity dash screen and truck apps, and, well, the list goes on. On the Atlas’ dedicated webpage, Ford claims there are “65 cool things” incorporated into the truck. “We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help people in both their worlds — professionally and personally,” said J. Mays, Ford group vice-president and chief creative officer. “Every feature and surface in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable ‘built Ford tough’ look.” † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at


Unveiled in mid January in Detroit, the Atlas concept vehicle is an indication of the direction Ford Inside the cab, occupants get the benefit of a lot of high-tech gadgetry, including a textto-voice feature that lets you get emails on the go. intends to take pickup truck design in the near future.

Efficient and long-lasting LEDs are used for all lighting needs on the Atlas.

The Atlas gets a six-speed automatic transmission that supports the Eco-Boost engine’s automated start-stop feature.



MARCH 18, 2013

Machinery & Shop Pickup special

GM redesigns the Silverado GM’s Silverado 1500 gets a style and engineering makeover for the 2014 model year By Scott Garvey


s pickup truck sales dominate the North American automobile market, GM doesn’t intend to let the Silverado fall behind the pack when it comes to style and engineering. A major redesign gives the truck a new, sleeker styling, new power options and a host of other updates and options. “Creating the new Silverado while maintaining its heritage was a challenge, but I am confident that we struck the right balance,” said Kevin O’Donnell, manager for the Silverado exterior design. “The 2104 Silverado will definitely stand out, in terms of both appearance and improved aerodynamic performance.”

New exterior design Chevy calls the Silverado’s new exterior design “a refined, modern aesthetic.” The new styling incorporates a twin-port grille, full-width bumper and “dual power dome” hood. Those new styling cues are carried through to sculpted body sides and incorporated fender flares. The new front end is engineered to improve sealing for more efficient cooling, while the roof and tailgate spoiler were shaped in the wind tunnel to smooth airflow over the truck for reduced drag. New inlaid doors, which fit into recesses in the bodyside, reduce wind noise for a quieter cab. But engineers went even further to make the truck aerodynamic. There will be a seal between the cab and box. Shields on the chas-

photo: gm

GM’s 2014 Silverado gets updated styling and new engineering Inside, the new pickup gets a revamped dash and information layout that from the frame up. accommodates a larger selection of technology options. sis smooth under-vehicle air flow, and deflectors guide air around the rear tires. The box will be available in three lengths: 5'8", 6'6" and 8'. Crew cab models add the 6'6" box as a new option as an alternative to the shorter one. Extended cab models come with 6'6" boxes and regular cab models are available with 6'6" or 8' boxes.

Interior makeover Inside the cab, the Silverado gets a total makeover there, too. Most models include a 4.2-inch colour Driver Information Centre to display vehicle and “infotainment”

data. The traditional column shifter, with tap-up and tap-down along with tow-haul functions integrated into the lever is carried over, because it clears space in the console and is easy to operate, even with heavy work gloves. Similarly, the available integrated trailer brake control is mounted high and to the left of the steering wheel, where the driver can more naturally reach for it. “Changes to the exterior of the 2014 Silverado can be described as evolutionary, but the updates to the interior are dramatic,” said Helen Emsley, Silverado design director. “The meticulous attention to detail and the steps we took to ensure optimal driver and

passenger comfort and convenience, are reflected in the fact that the new interiors rated off the charts in customer clinics.” Structurally the Silverado sees major changes. Major components in the frame are now made from high-strength steel and hydroformed. All that makes it more rigid but reduces its mass. The cab uses more high-strength steel as well. The mounts that isolate the cab from frame have a major impact on both noise and vibration in the passenger compartment. All Silverado models get shear-style mounts, which isolate both up-and-down and side-to-side movements, and extended- and crew-cab models get

additional hydraulic mounts to provide further isolation. The result is a truck that feels much quieter, more refined and more solid than previous models, according to GM.

Under the hood Under the hood, Silverados offer a choice of three new EcoTec3 engines with aluminum heads and blocks: a 4.3-litre V-6 and two V-8s, a 5.3 and a 6.2. All feature direct injection, cylinder deactivation that allows them to operate in fourcylinder mode, and continuously variable valve timing. GM claims those features can optimize power, » continued on page 37

Pickup special

Dodge introduces 3.0-litre diesel pickup New for the 2014 model year, Dodge will begin production of a Ram 1500 equipped with a 3.0-litre, V-6 diesel and eight-speed automatic transmission By Scott Garvey


odge’s Valentine’s Day present to the truckbuying public this year was the promise of a new, fuel-efficient, diesel half-ton for the 2014 model year. The company claims the small 3.0-litre, V-6, diesel and the eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission it mates to will give an equipped Ram 1500 pickup a best-in-class fuel economy rating, and at the same it will get a best-in-class torque title, too. No small feat. Production is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2013. So far, it looks like Dodge will be the only brand to offer a small-displacement diesel for its half-ton line of trucks. “Truck owners have been emphatically asking for it, and Ram will be the only manufacturer to offer a diesel power train in the half-ton segment with the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel,” said Fred Diaz, President and CEO, Ram Truck brand and Chrysler de Mexico, Chrysler Group LLC.

photo: chrysler

For the 2014 model year, Dodge Ram 1500 buyers can opt for a 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine. That makes the Ram the first half-ton truck on the market to offer a small-displacement diesel option. The new turbo diesel will have emissions levels 60 per cent lower than diesel power trains of 25 years ago. The 3.0-litre engine is manufactured by VM Motori, a Chrysler Group diesel engine supplier since 1992. Lately, Dodge has been trying

hard to claw its way to the head of the pack in the North American pickup market segment. It says that big push began in April 2012 when the Ram 1500 won a 25 MPG EPA rating, allowing it to claim a

» continued on page 37

Some engine options for the Ram 1500 pickups, including the 3.0litre diesel, can be mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission.

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop » CONTINUED FROM PAGE 36

GM REDESIGNS THE SILVERADO torque and efficiency across a broad range of operating conditions. “Not only did we work to improve the horsepower, torque and EPA fuel economy estimates of all three EcoTec3 engines, but we worked hard to improve real-world efficiency as well, especially when towing and hauling,” said Jordan Lee, Small Block chief engineer and program manager. “We look forward to journalists and other third parties having the opportunity to test our trucks head-to-head with the competition in real world conditions.” The EcoTec3 engines all mate to six-speed automatic transmissions that include Auto Grade Braking, which downshifts on downgrades to help reduce brake wear. Suspension, steering and brakes get an upgrade, too. On the front,


DODGE INTRODUCES 3.0-LITRE DIESEL PICKUP class-leading fuel efficiency title. It introduced other new features then as well, such as Active Level four-corner air suspension.

MAJOR MAKEOVER Dodge claims Ram engineers changed every main element of the truck, including a newly designed frame, new engines and transmissions, and a new interior with the next-generation UConnect access system. Those improvements helped the Ram 1500 win Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year title for 2013 as a result. The J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. vehicle dependability study ranked Dodge Ram the most improved truck brand on the market. At the North American International Auto show in January, the Ram was awarded “Truck of the Year” honours, as selected by a group of automotive journalists from Canada and the U.S. The only other time a Ram has earned that title was in 1994.

“The half-ton market is incredibly competitive” — Fred Diaz

Another interesting title the Ram 1500 has earned is Chrysler’s most accessorized vehicle of 2013. Apparently more Dodge truck buyers that those buying any other Chrysler product wanted a little extra bling with their pickup. And the most-asked-for accessories were side steps and running boards. The Jeep Wrangler was Chrysler’s next most blinged-up ride. “The half-ton truck market is incredibly competitive, and although we’re honoured the Ram 1500 has received a number of prestigious awards, we cannot rest on what we have accomplished, we must keep pushing,” added Diaz. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

a coil-over-shock system that is 30 per cent stiffer improves handling. On the rear axle, two-stage leaf springs provide a balance between providing a smooth ride and the ability to haul a decent load.

GM doesn’t intend to let the Silverado fall behind the pack New, all-electric, variable-assist power steering improves overall vehicle handling and reduces steering effort at low speeds. Because there is no engine-driven pump, electric power steering also reduces fuel consumption and eliminates the maintenance associated with hydraulic power steering. Four-wheel disc brakes with Duralife rotors are standard. They

feature a hardened and strengthened surface that resists rusting, potentially doubling the life of the rotors and improving vehicle appearance. The brake pedal feel has been improved as well. When it comes to high-tech wizardry, 2014 Silverados will offer several new features in that department as well. Lane Departure Warning alerts the driver if the vehicle starts to drift into another lane. And there is Forward Collision Alert, which monitors the space in front of the vehicle via a camera, and warns the driver if he or she is getting too close to the vehicle ahead. GM is also bringing back the Z71 off-road option. Along with a limited-slip rear differential, that option package includes Hill Descent Control. Engaged by the driver using a button on the instrument panel, it uses the antilock braking system to enable a smooth and controlled descent in rough terrain. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at

The 6.2-litre V-8 is the largest of the three EcoTec3 gasoline engine options for the Silverado in 2014.



MARCH 18, 2013

Machinery & Shop Tractor evaluation

Reviewing John Deere’s 5101E Limited tractor For our third and final look at one of the models in Deere’s new family of tractors this winter, we drop down the horsepower ladder into the utility segment By Scott Garvey


n the November issue of Grainews we published the results of our first tractor evaluation of this winter with a look at Fendt’s 714 Vario. Then, we turned our focus to John Deere’s mid-range 7R and 6R models in January. This time we finish our three-part look at Deere’s new family of tractors with a review of the popular 5101E Limited, which falls into the utility tractor segment.

The 5101E limited The 5101E Limited was introduced to the market in August of 2008, debuting with a 4.5-litre (276 CID), four-cylinder Tier II diesel. But last year Deere upgraded that engine to meet Tier III emissions requirements, boosting the compression ratio from 17:1 to 19:1 in the process. With that came a jump in available horsepower. An original, Tier II version of the tractor was sent to the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab in September of 2007 and managed to deliver 82.81 horsepower on the PTO at rated engine speed. Last spring in a second Nebraska test, an updated 5101E Limited proved tractors with serial numbers above 340000 can now supply 90.42 horsepower. Deere still advertises the engine horsepower rating at 101 — hence the 5101 model number designation. Given the latest Nebraska test results, that

photos: scott garvey

John Deere’s 5101E Limited tractor offers 101 engine horsepower combined with basic specifications and a price tag similar to that of a new pickup truck. may now be something of an understatement. “To meet Tier 3 requirements, we added a charged air cooler to the existing engine,” says Chris Rhodes, Deere’s marketing manager for 5 Series tractors. “It turns out that this cooler not only enabled us to meet Tier 3 requirements, but it also reduced parasitic loss of PTO power. The result was, by our testing, an


COLOR Gary Arnst


“Last season we seeded canola, wheat and lentils and the hoe drill with these openers did a much better job than our disc drill in the same conditions.” Regardless of which make and model you pull in the field, we manufacture ground engaging tools to meet your seeding, fertilizer and tillage applications.

1 800 878 7714 But don’t take it from us, ask one of your neighbours.

increase of 3 horsepower to the PTO. The tests at Nebraska showed an even greater improvement.” When it comes to fuel economy, the engine’s uprated horsepower output means newer models can drink fuel a little faster than the previous versions — if you’re trying to squeeze all the power you can out of the tractor. Fuel consumption at maximum power at rated engine speed went from 21.27 litres

per hour in the 2007 test to 21.81 on the newer Tier III versions. But the good news on the fueluse front is the newer tractors give you a bump in efficiency, with horsepower hours per gallon jumping from 14.74 to 15.69. Hydraulic flow rate in the newer models has grown a little as well. The initial versions delivered a 59.5 LPM spec at the SCV when tested in Nebraska, while the latest test showed the current models can now produce 63.2. Officially, Deere currently advertises the rate at 60.1, again underselling the tractor’s specs a bit. The overall hydraulic flow available for all tractor systems, according to Deere, is 85.1 LPM. Operators will find another pleasant change built into the newer models, this time inside the cab. Sound levels have fallen from 82.4 decibels to 78.4 when tested at no-load in gear B2 (sixth). “There have been some minor updates to the cab that made it quieter,” says Brad Aldridge, product manager for the 5101E. “But there was no overhaul to the design.”

In the cab The cab comes standard with a single door, but a second, righthand door is available as an option. If you really want to cut down the purchase price, you can now delete the cab entirely. As of a few months ago, the 5101E was made available in an openstation configuration. The standard transmission in this model is a 12F/12R partly synchronized gearbox with a power reverser. And with a wheelbase of 85.7 inches (2.178 metres), the 5101E Limited is a small-framed, short-wheelbase tractor, all of which makes it convenient for loader chores. The 5101E Limited’s relatively basic features will appeal to the value conscious producer that doesn’t need high-end capabilities in a utility tractor. Base price for an MFWD 5101E Limited with a cab is US$52,815, about the price of

a reasonably-equipped, four-wheel drive pickup truck.

Our impressions So, how does a sample 5101E Limited perform when put to work on the farm? Having access to a 2009 model on our own farm, we had a chance to get a lot of seat time in one and find out firsthand how it performs under a variety of conditions. The tractor we based our driving impressions on has accumulated just under 600 engine hours and has been put to use in a variety of tasks. Primarily, this 5101E has logged most of its hours cutting hay and baling with a round baler. PTO power delivery is more than adequate to run a 5 x 6 round baler at 1,800 r.p.m., even when lugging it up a steep hill with a nearly-full bale chamber. In order to adjust ground speed to changing windrow conditions, the partly-synchronized transmission actually accommodates the process pretty well. On-the-go gear changes are possible within ranges, so clutching and gearing up or down makes a passable — and economical — alternative to bumping a power shift lever when baling. When powering a pull-type swather, the economy PTO feature has proven to be a money saver. In fact when staff at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab did a comparison, fuel consumption in the test tractor was reduced by 2.34 litres per hour when powering the same PTO load, which was set at 58 horsepower. That reduced fuel use pays another dividend by extending the number of hours the tractor can stay in the field without refuelling. At 30 gallons (113 litres), overall fuel capacity in the 5101E isn’t exactly generous. We’ve found that less than eight hours in the field working at a high throttle setting can leave the fuel gauge needle very near “E.” One disadvantage relating to PTO is the lack of a 1,000 r.p.m. shaft. It isn’t even an option on

MARCH 18, 2013 /


Machinery & Shop

Nebraska Tractor Test Lab results showed the first 5101E tested there in 2007 had an interior noise level of 82.4 decibels. A newer Tier III-compliant version tested last spring showed a significantly improved rating of 78.4. the 5101E, unlike some competitive models. When it comes to drawbar pull, the 5101E proved itself to be more capable than expected when we hitched it to a 20-foot deep tillage cultivator. The light weight of the tractor, ballasted only with fluid in the rear wheels meant there was some occasional power hop when the cultivator shovels hit very hard ground. But overall, the tractor handled that load easily. Spending hours inside the cab with the engine working hard isn’t bad, but it’s far from the quietest operator’s environment we’ve experienced. This tractor is one of the original models, so it doesn’t have the advantage of the quieter cab rating of the newer versions.

A partly-synchronized transmission allows for on-the-go shifting within each of the three ranges.

Spring Oil

Sale on now!

It’s certainly capable of delivering on the promises made by Deere’s marketing people With its short wheelbase, the 5101E makes for a nimble loader tractor, which can be pretty manoeuvrable in tight corral spaces. Equipped with a 563 loader, the tractor has been a capable bale handler. But when carrying a heavy weight up front, the short wheelbase means an operator needs to keep the tractor’s speed down for stability.

THE CONCLUSION Overall, our driving impression of the 5101E Limited is that it’s certainly capable of delivering on the promises made by Deere’s marketing people. But the most impressive feature of the 5101E Limited is that with its US$52,815 price tag it does it on a budget. Would you like to participate in a future Grainews tractor evaluation? If so, we’d like to hear from you. We’re looking for people willing to share their experiences with various tractor models — either new or used. Email Scott Garvey at the address below to take part. † Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at


your CO-OP® 2013 Spring Lube Purchase! 15 lucky farm or commercial customers from across the west will win! Maximum of $5,000 retail value. Minimum purchase of 250 litres. Contest ends May 18, 2013. Draw date is June 28, 2013.

See your local Co-op for details.



MARCH 18, 2013

Cattleman’s Corner ON FARM RESEARCH II

Trit/oats seeding grazed three times Confessions of a lazy farmer and some of the “screw ups” that worked BY SEAN MCGRATH



ne of the areas we have been working on is monitoring our pastures/riparian zones and grazing progress. Because we operate a grazing operation we record animal unit grazing days as our measure of production (number of days per acre we graze a 1,000-pound animal equivalent). Because most of our operation is based on native rangeland, this is not complex enough to measure whether we are moving towards or away from our landscape and land management goals. Enter cooperation again. Through some connections garnered through an environmental goods and services project we are prototyping we have become acquainted with Alberta’s Cows and Fish program, and have been able to co-ordinate some work with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD). This has let us start to learn quite a bit about other aspects of our grazing system. Last fall we started a project to monitor litter accumulation and species composition in some of our more sensitive pastures. By monitoring the most sensitive spots and managing for them, the “regular” places should improve condition, but we will keep an eye on them as well. It has been great to learn alongside the resource people that are out there.

LANDSCAPE FENCING We do a lot of grazing here, both winter and summer, but I put landscape fencing in the summer category. In winter, we find if we have

enough snow cover we can get very even grazing distribution on our prairie pastures as the cattle are eating snow and don’t have to head to the water source. Through strategic mineral placement we can target areas of concern such as buckbrush patches, and things work pretty well. In the summer, we are challenged by terrain and distances. Through luck of the draw our operation is graced with at least one deep coulee in every quarter we own, rent or lease, and our water sources are often in the bottom of them. Many locations are inaccessible for standard fencing or watering solutions. One thing we noticed over the years with the addition of a few new oil leases was how a short fence around the lease could dramatically shift the grazing patterns of our cattle, even in large open pastures. This has led us to some small experiments with what I term ‘landscape fencing.’ Cows are generally pretty lazy and we have found by directing short fences (electric) at strategic points we can often increase or decrease grazing pressure and intensity effectively on large open pastures. We are not necessarily fencing cattle into paddocks — rather we are putting up a short length of temporary fence (in some locations as little as 40 feet) to make the cattle work a little harder to go around. They will often choose the lazy option and direct pressure where we want it. Last fall one short fence from a line fence to the edge of a coulee effectively removed grazing pressure from a sensitive hill slope. Interestingly enough as soon as we had three inches of snow, that same fence had the opposite effect, as cows could stay on that pleasant hillside and did not have to leave for water. The fence blocked easy exit from the very grazing site it kept them out of previously. This is part of the reason I am somewhat of a fan of

temporary fencing in situations where grazing seasons and pressures are tremendously varied.


McGrath’s homemade solar-powered livestock watering system.

WATERING SYSTEMS We continually experiment with watering setups here. Our latest is a converted sprayer that sat in our yard for several years. We dropped the wings off and added a 40-watt panel (Canadian Tire on sale) and charge controller. The mount is from an old satellite dish. The trough is mounted with a quick coupler on the hose and a ratchet strap to keep it tied to the sprayer body. This way it is fully portable, and this winter we dropped the trough off and used it to charge an electric fencer. It worked great for that job until we ran two weeks with no sunshine (even 10,000 watts worth of panel don’t work with no sun). The waterer also has a small strip fencer on the front so we can use a polywire and keep cattle out of the batteries and wires. Everything is wired using regular three-prong electric plugs so I can extend the hoses just by using extension cords. The parts that go in/near the water are hardwired and protected with shrink tubing. The pump is a low-cost bilge pump that draws very few amps. It does not have much lift, so it is not useful in all of our watering situations, but it is readily portable and works well for lifts of 10 feet or less.

TRITICALE Triticale fits into the summer since that’s when we grew it, but it is really about supplying our winter grazing needs. The first thing I will confess to diehard Grainews readers is that I am not much of a farmer. For example, last year after we seeded our swath grazing in late June I never physically checked the crop until sometime around the middle of September — luckily

about three days before we had to start cutting. That is probably blasphemous to the more astute farmers who read this publication, but I generally take the attitude that grass wants to grow and it doesn’t need my help as I would just not worry about it. That said, we have consistently had very good and very cheap production from our swath grazing and usually seed a rough mix of one bushel of barley, one bushel of oats and one-half bushel of fall rye in our mix. This gets us plenty of dry matter, pretty good energy content and some early spring grazing. If there is such a thing as an average year, we run right around 160 plus or minus animal unit-grazing days per acre. We do this consistently without fertilizer or spray inputs. In the interest of mixing it up a bit we decided to try some winter triticale this year. What started as an experiment to replace the rye component of our mix on a couple of fields wound up as a pretty successful screw up. In our first experimental field we planned to replace the barley in the mix with triticale, so we seeded what was to be a 1:1 mixture of oats and triticale. Due to my superior technical farming skill, an old drill and a “don’t look, don’t tell” attitude in the tractor seat, it wound up being 1:2 oats:triticale. We swathed the mix in October and the triticale was growing back so fast and thick that we baled the swaths and left them in the field so the swaths would not kill out the triticale underneath. We have been bale grazing these bales where they sit so far this winter and have been pretty pleased. Pre-snow there was a significant amount of new forage and with over two feet of snow on the ground, the

cattle were easily digging out the foot-high triticale. I think at this point it might turn out to be a three grazing event annual crop for us, which drives down the input costs (greenfeed/swath graze year No. 1, spring graze year No. 2, and greenfeed/swathgraze year No. 3). We also successfully seeded some test strips with the triticale that was left (which was less than expected) in another field in our traditional mix in place of the rye. We had good production and will see if there is a spring grazing difference between our strips in hopefully just a few months. I was surprised this fall at an Alberta Beef Producers meeting when the guest speaker was discussing triticale and the potential for the crop. He is significantly more knowledgeable than myself about anything crop related, but we learned of some very exciting results from the crop and also that it is a good disease break in a cereal rotation. We plan to continue working our way through some more triticale experimentation, as it has worked pretty well here so far. If you are interested in information on this crop that is far better than I can provide Google “Ropin’ the Web” and then search for triticale. Visit:$department/deptdocs.nsf/ all/fcd10535 (December 20, 2012) By the way, my accidental seeding rate was right in the range recommended by the production manual on the website. Sometimes even poor grain farmers get lucky. † Sean McGrath is a rancher and consultant from Vermilion, Alta. He can be reached at or (780)8539673. For additional information visit www.


Handy low-stress tip for sorting cattle HEATHER SMITH THOMAS


attle on most ranches are sorted several times a year — sorting the calves away from the cows for branding/ vaccinating, AI protocols, preweaning vaccinations, and for weaning. Often this is a timeconsuming part of the process if facilities aren’t set up to do it quickly and smoothly. Some producers use an alleyway where cows are encouraged to go one way into a corral and calves into another, but this still takes at

least two people, good swinging gates, and cattle sometimes bunch up in the sorting area when cows don’t want to leave their calves and vice versa. An innovative refinement of this idea works very nicely and smoothly, letting the natural movements of the animals sort themselves. Dr. Joe Stookey with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon says when cattle are put into a corral their tendency is to turn and come back out through that same gate. “If you have another pen adjacent to that gate, you can let the cattle come back to the gate and sort the calves off into that other pen as the cows go out,” says Stookey. “In our facil-

ity we just drop the bottom rails off at that spot, so the calves can duck through the fence into the adjacent pen.” The cattle are allowed to mill back around toward the gate at their own speed. “One person can just stand there and direct traffic, letting the cows go on out,” he says. “The calves scoot under the rails into the other pen.” A key factor in the success of this method is that the adjacent pen extends parallel with the gate/alley the cows are going out, so the calves can keep travelling alongside their mothers but they are in that adjacent pen with a fence between them.


The diagram shows that one rail or board has been removed from the bottom of the corral just to the right of man standing in the middle. As cows walk back down the alley, the calves are more likely to scoot under the panel sorting themselves into a pen.

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Global GAP: Livestock welfare in the spotlight Certification program gains steam, with implications for Canada


t’s a program with a bold target: Set the international standard for safe and sustainable agriculture. And it’s gaining steam. Fast. At the top level of the global food business. The program is Global GAP, which stands for Global Good Agricultural Practice. Members participating include a who’s who of the major food companies of the world along with a broad and growing segment of major agriculture industry players. It is largely Europe-based at this stage but both the program and the model it represents are gaining profile and making inroads beyond this scope, including in North America. What does it mean for Canada’s livestock industry? Here’s a look at some of the fundamentals of Global GAP, along with insights from University of Calgary animal welfare expect Ed Pajor, who participated in the latest Global GAP meeting in Madrid, Spain.

A rising force The beginnings of Global GAP are traced to an earlier program, Eure GAP, which was started by British retailers working with supermarkets in continental Europe as a means to address consumers’ growing concerns regarding product safety, environmental impact and the


handy low-stress tip for sorting cattle That way all the animals keep moving past the gate. This works very well if the cattle are fairly calm and used to being handled by people. The cows will walk on past the person standing by the gate. “If they are wild and have big flight zones (hesitant to walk past the person), this might not work, but it works very well for gentle cattle,” says Stookey. “The cows walk right on out the gate and the calves move into the other pen.” The cows don’t try to go under the rails because they are too big to fit comfortably. It’s easier to just walk on out the gate. The calves, being a little more timid, may hang back a little, not wanting to come that close to the person standing there, and more readily choose to go under the pole. They can then go alongside their mother but have a fence between them.

WORKS SMOOTHLY “If there is no pressure on them, the cows go right past you and on out the gate, and with any subtle movement you can stop the calf and he will go under the fence to get away from you and keep coming along to try to follow mama.

health, safety and welfare of workers and animals. To tackle this challenge, Eure GAP developed a focus on harmonizing standards and procedures related to these issues, along with an effort to develop an independent certification system for Good Agriculture Practice. This certification system gradually evolved and grew in participation throughout Europe and beyond, becoming Global GAP in 2007. In recent years, participation and relevance has continued to increase and broaden, with Global GAP now increasingly regarded as the leading model for food industry certification in the world. “Canada and the U.S. are among the countries taking notice,” says Pajor, a professor of animal welfare and behaviour who advises on many of the key livestock welfare approaches among companies and industry on both sides of the border. “Certification is becoming a greater focus beyond Europe and many of the companies involved in Global GAP have a global reach that includes a strong presence in North America. They like what the program offers and see it as a model they can apply beyond Europe. A lot of the direct participation has tended to be the European-based arms of these companies, but we’re seeing an expansion there too

“What’s neat about this system is that both the cow and calf keep walking on past you, flowing right by, with no balling up at the gate. If you put them in a corral with just a gate for sorting, you soon have cows trying to come back in for their calves, and calves trying to go out the gate to catch up with mom,” says Stookey. This creates a bottleneck and it becomes more and more difficult to sort the rest of the herd. “Here in our facility we don’t swing gates anymore,” says Stookey. “We just have this little spot where we can direct traffic. We can sort hundreds of cattle, separating the calves from the cows, in just a few minutes. We got this idea from Dylan Biggs, a Hanna, Alta. area rancher who was working with us some years ago. He has been sorting cattle this way for many years on his ranch, working by himself. The cows know that the sorting area is the route back out of the corral, and they sort themselves.” Stookey recently prepared a video showing how smoothly it works. To see this sorting technique, view it on YouTube at: watch?v=P4FUE-OrXRw. Or those on twitter can access it at: buqqst5 † Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband Lynn near Salmon, Idaho. Contact her at 208-756-2841.

where things are becoming less Euro-centric.” In fact, the language used by Global GAP now includes reference to the program as “the world’s leading farm assurance program,” observes Pajor. Activity using the Global GAP program now has reached every continent and over 100 countries.

Focus on harmonization, assurance In addition to the role of the program in bringing everyone together with a harmonized approach, its major focus is providing a consistent framework from which clear production standards can be developed in a number of different areas. The program purpose is stated as to translate consumer requirements into Good Agricultural Practice. For Pajor, a critical distinction of its approach is to have requirements for third-party verification that standards are followed. “What they really have become is a third-party certification organization,” says Pajor. “They are providing a brand that those participating can point to, in order to show they are following good practices. The program needs to be one that consumers have confidence in. That have taken the approach that to do that means not just saying what

you’re doing but proving what you’re doing.”

mplications for animal agriculture in Canada For Canadian livestock industries, Global GAP is not yet on the doorstep but it’s something to watch closely as a pretty clear indicator of where expectations are headed and where there will be more pressure. “My impression is they deal primarily in fruits and vegetables at the moment,” says Pajor. “Although they are starting to do some things in terms of livestock and animal welfare. I do know when I went to the Madrid meeting there were some very impressive groups of people and companies in the room and it really felt like this is where the world is going. It seems pretty clear this is going to have an influence on the expectations for how we do things as livestock industries in Canada.” Pajor’s own role at Global GAP in Madrid included delivering a presentation on what’s happening in Canada. He provided an overview of the approach Canada is taking, with initiatives such as Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals and range of different stage industry approaches to assurance programs and on-farm assessment models.

Ed Pajor

Demonstrating sustainability Pajor is not saying Canada needs to go headlong to where the Global GAPers are. But in a globalized world it’s tough to go it alone. Particularly when the members of the club are big customers such as the WalMarts, CostCos, McDonalds, Smithfields, Cargills and other major food and agriculture companies of the world. At other key meetings and seminars here in North America that deal with big-picture thinking on livestock welfare and food assurance, Pajor increasingly hears a consistent message, not far off the Global GAP one, about the increasing need for assurance and to demonstrate good practices for sustainability. “Ultimately the choices for us in Canada are going to be up to our industries,” he says. “But we know there are going to be tough expectations and we need to be ready for them, whatever path we choose.” † Article courtesy of Meristem Land and Science,

27th AnnuAl Edition


Date: Sat. April 13, 2013 Place: Eionmor Stock Farm at the Morison Farm Time: Viewing of the Cattle at 10:00a.m. Dinner @ noon, Sale @ 1:00 p.m. On offer 30+ yearling bulls, and 30+ yearling heifers purebred and commercial (red roan & blue roan) At the farm 26 miles west of Innisfail, watch for signs

Eionmor Stock Farm Downsview Shorthorns Willow Butte Cattle Co. Shepalta Shorthorns Donnelly Shorthorn Farm or for more info, call Ken @ 403-728-3825 sale day: 403-877-3293 or 587-876-2544

Sale is on (click on bull sales)



MARCH 18, 2013

Keepers & Culls We spare no expense to bring you ‘the news’ LEE HART


ne of my assignments this winter was to find a beef animal in Arizona. I know it sounds crazy since there are probably a couple of hundred head right here in Western Canada. But, NO, the editor and maybe even the editorial director and publisher insisted that I find and photograph a beef animal in Arizona. And here it is. But, it was no easy task. First we had to stop in Phoenix for a few days — acclimatize to the elevation, get my bearings. My wife came too. I needed someone to carry my camera gear. It was the first time I was in Phoenix. And what is there to do in Phoenix? OK we went to an outlet mall, a golf superstore, we golfed and I had to sit by a pool for a few hours. But I didn’t see any beef there. (One interesting note about golfing in Phoenix — we went with a cousin to the Arizona Golf Resort in Mesa and one of the golf balls I lost during this game landed in the front yard of the house once owned by Lorne Green, a long-time rancher and head of the famed Cartwright family of the long-running TV series Bonanza (1959 to 1973). And according to those in the know, Hop Sing, the TV series cook, owned the house two doors down. But back to the beef saga. Then it was on to western Arizona. There had to be a beef animal somewhere between Phoenix, Parker and Lake Havasu. But there wasn’t. In fact in that stretch of the state I don’t think anything actually lives. Pretty country, but in my view not all that productive. Surprisingly the I-10 Interstate highway is fenced on both sides, but I cannot imagine what kind of life it is holding back from getting on the road. I did see a dead pile of fur on the highway at one point, but there was little else to indicate that anything survived in the endless miles of brush, sand, gravel and cactus. After a tedious three days around golf courses and casinos near Lake Havasu it was on to the I-40 and north and east towards the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It wasn’t long after passing through the town of Kingman that I began to have some hope. There was grass amid the brush. And before long it began to open up into what I considered pretty good-looking range country

This is an Arizona heifer, although it took five days to find it and it went on for miles. In fact there are about 62 million acres of rangeland in the state supporting nearly a million head of cattle. Obviously I picked a slower day to observe the ranching industry. It was probably the wrong time of year too to see many cattle on pasture, but finally near the town of Seligman, there it was — a beef animal. I believe it was a Charolais heifer (pic. above). I doubt it was the finest example of the Arizona beef industry, but it was bound to make burger and steaks one day. Seligman, by the way is a thriving community of about 450 people, settled by southern plantation families who lost everything in the Civil War. Its major claim to fame is that it is the starting point of the famous Route 66. It is a good place to stop for lunch and if you’re in need of 1960-era souvenirs, it is the Mecca. Just past Seligman there was a group of about 15 Charolais/ Simmental cross cattle standing near the highway. Elsewhere in this area I saw stock trailers attached to pickup trucks, an empty cattle liner, and every once in a while out on this vast expanse of range I would see black dots of grazing Angus cattle. But my mission was accomplished. I had the photo. Time to move on. I did stop and see the Grand Canyon. It is nice too. But after looking at miles of unproductive desert further south, it was nice to drive through this vast expanse of range country. And then it was home. That is one example of the effort we go to here at Grainews to bring you news of the agriculture industry around the world. Now there is a rumor they want me to find a cotton field in Georgia this fall — like that will be easy! But I know I am up to the challenge.


BEEN THERE, DONE THAT Arthur is 90 years old and has played golf every day since his retirement 25 years ago. One day, he arrives home looking downcast. “That’s it,” he tells his wife. “I’m giving up golf. My eyesight has gotten so bad that once I hit the ball, I can’t even see where it goes.” His wife sympathizes and makes him a cup of tea. As they sit down, she says, “Why don’t you take my brother with you and give it one more try?” “That’s no good,” sighs Arthur. “Your brother’s a 103. He can’t help.” “He may be a 103,” says his wife, “but his eyesight is perfect.” So, the next day, Arthur heads off to the golf course with his brother-in-law. He tees up, takes an almighty swing and squints down the fairway. He turns to the brother-in-law and asks, “Did you see the ball?” “Of course I did!” replied the brother-in-law. “I have perfect eyesight!” “Where did it go?” says Arthur. “I don’t remember.”

BIOSECURITY ON THE FARM There are many definitions of biosecurity. On the farm it means a lot of simple practices that make sense. This is the view of veterinarian Dr. Ron Clarke of Clarke Communications and Consulting. “Most of the diseases that come onto the farm either walk onto the farm or are bought. Producers need to be aware of that,” says Clarke. Clarke has been involved with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) in the production of a biosecurity manual for veterinary clinics and agriculture producers. The manual makes reference to all areas of biosecurity including small animals, compan-

A group of cattle near the community of Seligman, Arizona out on winter range.

ion animals, cattle, sheep, pigs and horses. “ P r i m a r i l y b i o s e c u r i t y, a s defined in the manual, is ‘Steps taken to prevent the transmission of disease between animals, between animals and people and between premises that have animals.’ It means doing the simple things and doing them all the time including how you buy livestock, what you do with livestock that you bring onto your farm, how you treat disease and how you manage animal health. These practices, more and more often, are now included in Codes of Practice that the swine, horse, dairy and beef cattle industries have published,” adds Clarke. He encourages anyone involved in the livestock industry to look at biosecurity material that appears on the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association web page. “Think how these principles might be applied on individual premises,” says Clarke. “It might be as simple as doing more through the calving season to prevent the transmission and, or introduction of diseases — how we manage weaned calves to reduce the prevalence of respiratory infections, how we bring in replacement heifers and how we bring in yearling bulls to insure that we’re not bringing in things that we don’t want to bring in.”

AFAC CONFERENCE THIS WEEK There’s still time to find a seat at one of the leading showcase events on farm animal care at the Alberta Livestock Care Conference (LCC), March 21-22, 2013, in Calgary. “The conference provides an opportunity for producers, researchers, industry, students, government and the public to address animal welfare issues from all sectors of the livestock industry,” says Larry Delver, producer vice-chair of AFAC. It typically draws both speakers and attendance from across Canada, along with representation from the U.S. and internationally. The first day of the conference, on Thursday, March 21, is focused on student activities and the AFAC AGM, which is followed by an evening research posters presentation and welcome reception for the LCC which begins at 8 p.m. The main LCC agenda is Friday, March 22, beginning with registration and continental breakfast at 7:15 a.m., with speakers and discussion running from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The main speaker agenda includes a special focus on major developments and issues on the front burner for livestock producers and their industries. Featured sessions highlight new global standards in animal care, innovative assessment models for the livestock industry, and case-studies of how major livestock producer organizations are meeting new challenges and expectations. Among specific highlights, Dr. James Reynolds, College of Veterinary Medicine, Western University, U.S.A., will present a major two-part session on animal

welfare assessments. This will be followed by a processor’s viewpoint on assessment needs, by Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway of JBS, the large Brazilian multinational food processing company. Jackie Wepruk, manager of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), will provide a breakdown of what’s happening at a global level with new World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, and the implications for Canada. Snapshots of how industry is tackling livestock welfare progress will be showcased in a session slated to include representatives of NFACC, Alberta Milk, Alberta Chicken Producers and the Canadian Pork Council. Closing insights will be provided by longtime livestock industry and farm animal care leader Dr. Darryl Dalton of the ABVMA. Full conference details including agenda and accommodation information is available at www.afac. Register online at that address or call AFAC at 403-6628050. AFAC is the organization representing all major livestock producer organizations in Alberta with the goal of promoting responsible farm animal care. An LCC communications program around the conference is also anchored on the AFAC LCC website at, including a link to a special “LCC News Blog” covering key action leading up to and during the conference. Watch for Twitter updates at the hashtag “#LCC2013.”

GLOBAL 4-H YOUTH AG SUMMIT Later this year, 120 young leaders, ages 18-25, from around the world will gather in Calgary for the 4-H Youth Ag Summit, August 19-25 to find solutions to food and environmental issues as the global population approaches nine billion people. The summit, sponsored by Bayer Crop Science will include keynote speakers, group discussions and collaborations, educational tours and celebrations. Delegates will be tasked with identifying actionable agriculturally sustainable solutions to feeding a growing world. The event is all part of the 100th anniversary of the 4-H movement in Canada.

WORLD ANGUS FORUM The Canadian Angus Association on behalf of the Canadian Angus Foundation has announced those chosen to represent Canadian Angus in New Zealand this October at the 2013 PGG Wrightson World Angus Forum. Youth representatives who will compete on three teams of four include: Stacey Domolewski, Taber, Alberta; Sean Enright, Renfrew, Ontario; Ty Dietrich, Forestburg, Alberta; Erika Easton, Wawota, Saskatchewan; Kaitlynn Bolduc,


MARCH 18, 2013 /


Cattleman’s Corner contact us

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

» CONTINUED FROM Previous PAGE Stavely, Alberta; Matthew Bates, Cameron, Ontario; Chad Lorenz, Markerville,  Alberta;  Patrick Holland, Montague, Prince Edward Island; Melissa McRae, Brandon, Manitoba; Austen Anderson, Swan River, Manitoba; Michael Hargrave, Maxwell,  Ontario;  and  Jared Hunter, Didsbury, Alberta.

TAKE THE ADVICE A man goes to see the Rabbi. “Rabbi, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it.” The Rabbi asked, “What’s wrong?” The man replied, “My wife is poisoning me.” The Rabbi, very surprised by this, asks, “How can that be?” The man then pleads, “I’m telling you, I’m certain she’s poisoning me, what should I do?” The Rabbi then offers, “Tell you what. Let me talk to her, I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll let you know.” A week later the Rabbi calls the man and says, “I spoke to her on the phone for three hours. You want my advice?” The man said yes and the Rabbi replied, “Take the poison.”

Performance). He completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island in 2000, and moved to Alberta shortly thereafter. Marshall is the owner of Big Horn Veterinary Services Ltd. in Hinton, a mixed animal practice in the foothills of Jasper National Park. He has served on the ABVMA Alternate Livestock and Wildlife Committee since 2008, on the ABVMA Council representing the North Region for the last three years, and is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Reserve.

FORAGE BEEF WEBSITE GROWS Thanks to a tip from Jim Forbes, Regional  Business  Agrologist, Ministry of Agriculture at Kamloops, B.C., has just added to its collection under the “Links” tab. The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture’s Farm Business Management program has launched a comprehensive collection of online resources and electronic business tools to help farm owners and managers to make informed business decisions. The website, , provides electronic workbook and self assessment tools, farm business management blogs, videos, real-time news and data feeds, and a wealth of information on all aspects of the business side of farming. Whether producers are just starting out in farming, striving to improve the bottom line in their established business, or transitioning to the next generation of farmers, provides the resources to meet the challenges and build business success. Also, thanks to an email from Kabal S. Gill, Research Co-ordinator from the Smoky Applied Research & Demonstration Association (SARDA) at Falher, Alta., Foragebeef. ca has added “Evaluation of Forage Type Barley Varieties for Forage Yield and Nutritive Value in the Peace River Region of Alberta” into the Annuals folder, the Silage Crop Management folder and under Extended Grazing, the subfolders Using Cereal Crops and Using Swath Grazing. is a storehouse of good information from many sources pertinent to forage and beef in Western Canada!

s j n i n a pl a


The Saskatchewan Livestock Marketers have elected its new executive. Veteran Livestock Marketers of Saskatchewan (LMS) Board Director Bob Blacklock of Saskatoon Livestock Sales has become president, after serving two years as first vice. He takes over from Rhett Parks of Whitewood Livestock Sales, who completed two years as LMS president. Stewart Stone of Heartland Livestock Services assumed the role of first vice. The following representatives of Saskatchewan’s auction markets, order buyers and assembly yards complete the LMS Board: Joe Jackson of JGL Livestock, Michael Fleury of Saskatoon Livestock Sales, Roy Rutledge of Assiniboia Livestock Auction, and John Williamson of Mankota Stockmen’s Weigh Co.

those s” “famou

Roper gloves

NEW PREZ FOR ALBERTA VETS T h e   A l b e r t a   Ve t e r i n a r y Medical Association (ABVMA) has announced that Dr. James Marshall has been appointed to the position of ABVMA President. Marshall grew up in the Musquodoboit Valley of Nova Scotia. His father was a medical doctor and his mother was a radiology technician. He attended high school in Halifax, followed by Dalhousie University for six years graduating with an Honours B.Sc. in Biology, Minor in Music (Saxophone

“By golly. This ol’ dog sure likes me!”

However, even with full power, the little plane can’t handle the load and down it goes and crashes in the middle of nowhere. A few moments later, climbing out of the wreckage, Paddy asks Mick, “Any idea where we are?” “I think we’re pretty close to where we crashed last year,” says Mick.

NEW GENOMICS COMPANY The federal government has invested more than half a million dollars in helping an Alberta company boost the value and use of genomics in the cattle industry with new trait identification tools. Delta Genomics Centre will provide genomics technology to the Canadian cattle sector in order to optimize productivity. The investment of more than $575,000 will help Delta accelerate the adoption of new genetic profiling tools that are more accurate, less costly and less time-consuming than traditional DNA tools. Potential future benefits extend to feed lot owners and processors, who will use the technology to efficiently pinpoint animals with the right meat qualities. These innovative tools use genomics technology to give producers the chance to look “under the hide” and make improvements to their cattle. Genomics, the study of an animal’s genetic composition (DNA) or “profile,” can identify valuable traits like disease resistance, carcass quality, or feed efficiency. Using new technology, the tools identify SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) which are genetic markers that can be tracked between parents and their offspring. Trait selection for markers such as meat quality, animal health and feed efficiency can lead to a more consistent product in the marketplace. Similar technology is being implemented in other countries. The funding will help Delta Genomics Centre collect and analyze samples from the cattle sector for SNP testing. The samples and profile results will be catalogued for use by Canadian breed associations. “This project is an essential stepping stone to get the benefits of genomics into the hands of pro-


more on the web


p l a i nj a n s

: rom Paddy f and Mick get a pilot to fly


them to Canada to hunt moose. They bag six. As Paddy and Mick start loading the plane for the return trip, the pilot says, “The plane can only take four of those.” The two lads object strongly. “Last year we shot six, and the pilot let us put them all on board; he had the same plane as yours.” Reluctantly, the pilot gives in and all six are loaded.

ducers on the ground” said Colin Coros, VP Operations of Delta Genomics Centre. “It will allow our project partners to adopt a new sire identification tool, which is fundamental to using more in depth DNA profiles for genetic improvement of Canadian cattle.” This project is supported through the  Agricultural  Innovation Program (AIP) — a $50-million initiative announced as part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2011 and part of the Government’s commitment to help Canadian producers benefit from cuttingedge science and technology. The AIP funding has allowed the Canadian Angus Association to convert to SNP technology for parentage verification testing at no cost to our membership. SNP technology is more advanced and also less expensive than Microsatellite technology. The Canadian Angus Association leveraged its own funds through the AIP program to be able to convert over 4,000 historic samples to SNP, and to lower the

cost of parentage verification testing from $30 a test to $12 a test. The Association believes that SNP parentage verification technology will allow Canadian Angus breeders to maintain extremely accurate pedigree records and guarantee customers  superior  Canadian Angus pedigree information. The Association has also been able to offer its members genomic marker panels (Igenity and Pfizer 50K HD) for half price through the AIP program. Canadian Angus members will be the first in Canada to receive Genomically Enhanced Expected Progeny Differences (GE-EPDs). †

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Black Angus Bulls Black Angus Black Angus Bulls &

Bulls &

Shellmouth, MB CANADA 204-564-2540 Shellmouth, MB CANADA 204-564-2540



MARCH 18, 2013

Cattleman’s Corner CATTLE HANDLING

“Bud box” takes stress out of cattle handling By Angela Lovell


harlotte Crawley of Littlemore Farms near Clanwilliam, Manitoba admits that she used to dread vaccination day. Handling the excitable cattle with outdated and poorly designed equipment made it hard on her and the cattle. Thanks to a new custom handling system based on the “Bud box” design, Crawley’s processing days are now much faster, less stressful and a lot safer. Crawley had attended a clinic a few years ago delivered by U.S. veterinarian and low-stress cattle handling expert Lynn Locatelli. She described a cattle-handling system that used a series of boxes specifically designed to promote smooth and continuous cattle movement. The “Bud Box,” as the handling system was dubbed, was originally designed by Bud Williams, a mentor of Locatelli’s and a world-renowned cattle handling specialist.

DESIGN MODIFIED Crawley took the concept of the design and commissioned a local

photos: angela lovell

Charlotte Crawley explains how the Bud box helps her manage cattle on her Manitoba farm.

A cow exiting the squeeze on Crawley’s farm after coming through the Bud Box.

welder to make her a variation that would suit her needs. “Ours is comprised of a series of free-standing, custom-made corral panels,” says Crawley. “We also had a custom line chute built that has open, adjustable sides that prevent animals from laying down or turning around while waiting to be processed.” It also enabled them to be worked from the side

says by creating a continuous motion with the cattle as they pass through it doesn’t give them the time to hesitate or try to back up. Crawley’s design is slightly different than the conventional “Bud box” because instead of a solid gate that closes behind the cattle in the line chute, she has a lightweight, swinging metal gate with a tubular end that hangs down from a support beam,

instead of from above like many other systems. The total cost of the entire system, excluding the squeeze chute, was less than $5,000 and it’s a simple, yet efficient design that has totally transformed cattle handling on Crawley’s operation. The line chute, which she can adjust sideways to accommodate different sizes of cattle, holds six yearlings nose to tail. Crawley

which the cattle walk under and which applies a gentle pressure from above that keeps them moving forward through the chute. Crawley would like eventually to add a built-in scale and a hydraulic squeeze chute to the design, but even as is, she recommends it as a great way to take the stress and strain out of handling cattle. † Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba.


How to build a Bud box


ivestock extension specialists at Texas A & M University, Ron Gill and Rick Machen, say there is nothing “magical or mystical” about a Bud box. It is a facility design that allows handlers to position themselves correctly to facilitate cattle flow out of the box into either the crowd alley leading to a chute or to a trailer load-out. Always keep in mind that the box is a flow-through part of the facility. Cattle should never be stored in the box waiting to be sent into the crowd alley or to a trailer. Bring them in and let them flow back out immediately. Dimensions are important to successful use of a box but not as critical as handler position in relation to the stock leaving the box. Without proper position and attention to detail a box will only confuse the stock and frustrate the handler. The box should be large enough to accommodate the number of cattle to fill the crowd alley or fill a trailer compartment. A crowd alley to a squeeze chute should hold a minimum of four cows and might need to hold 20 head depending on the speed of processing. Crowd alleys on cow-calf operations will typically hold five to six cows. Facilities working calves or yearlings routinely need crowd alleys for 12 to 20 head of cattle. Remember, the crowd alley will normally not be empty when additional cattle are brought through the box. To maintain flow it will be necessary to add additional cattle while one or two stand in the crowd alley awaiting processing. Consequently the length

of the crowd alley is important. Ideally the crowd alley would be long enough to hold an adequate number of cattle for processing while more cattle are brought through the box, without disrupting flow. A short crowd alley may result in frequent interruptions of cattle flow and processing.

STRAIGHT DESIGN For some reason the industry has migrated toward the crowd alley starting to curve at the entrance from the tub or box. The exit from a tub or a box and entrance into the crowd alley should be straight for at least two mature cow body lengths. This allows flow to become established without the appearance of entering a dead-end crowd alley. Keep it straight for at least 12 feet and then start a curve if warranted (e.g. space is limited). Otherwise a long straight crowd alley works very well for processing cattle. Most cow-calf operations will need a box that is at least 12 feet wide and 20 feet deep. It can be 14 feet wide and should be if the handler will be horseback. Depending on the size of the cattle being worked it could be 16 feet wide if the handler in the box will always be horseback. Both the 14- and 16-foot widths are too wide for comfortably working most stock on foot. A box can certainly be wider than an alley leading up to it. In fact, going from a 10- or 12-foot alleyway into a 14-foot wide box will normally allow the cattle entering the box to do so faster

A basic Bud Box design Exit

one animal wide

14 feet

e Gat


20 to 30 feet Here is a diagram of basic Bud box design setting up the transition even better. Do not let the width of an alley dictate the width of the box.

SIZE BASED ON NUMBERS The length/depth needed is determined by the size of the group handled. Again, group size is dictated by the capacity of the crowd alley or trailer compartment being loaded. The box needs to be deep enough to allow the cattle to flow to the back of the box, let the handler close the gate and get in position before the cattle transition out of the back of the box. Just like a tub system never overfill the box. Success depends on the flow into, transition, and flow out of the box. For most crowd alleys a 20- to 24-foot box is adequate depth. Any deeper may force the handler working in the box to move too deep in the box to initiate flow. As

the handler returns to the correct position, their movement with the cattle will stop flow and turn the cattle back. Going with movement slows it or stops it. Neither response is desirable in getting cattle to flow out of the box. Other aspects of a box design that are critical to success relate to whether or not the sides are enclosed. It is absolutely essential to have the end of the box open sided so cattle are going to light and will build speed as they enter the box. Entry speed facilitates the transition and correct flow out of the box. Solid (opaque) panels should be limited to the box’s entry gate and the sides of the box closest to the crowd alley and load out exits. Note:solid sides in these areas are not required but may minimize distractions. Load out and crowd alley exit gates must open back flat against the sides of the box.

A box used in loading semitrailers may require additional depth (30 feet maximum) to facilitate filling compartments quickly. If using this same large box for a crowd alley, the addition of a block gate in the box to shorten it might be a good solution. In summary, a box needs to be 12 to 14 feet wide for most operations and 20 to 30 feet deep depending on the number of cattle needed to flow through the system at any given time. Leave the back open (translucent); cover the sides and entrance gate if necessary. For additional information on cattle handling and facility design look for Cattle Handling Pointers at Go to Publications and look for the Facilities and Equipment section. † Article courtesy of AgriLife Extension, Texas A & M.

MARCH 18, 2013 /



Your deepest needs

How do you find out what a person needs? What sustains those who have faith? ELAINE FROESE


asked my Sunday school class, a faithful group of farmers and rural folks, “How do you find out what someone really needs?” They shared their thoughts on listening deeply, spending time with people to build relationships, and relying on God to give wisdom. We’ve learned how we are all shaped differently by our experiences in life, and yet every person can show love by connecting to someone and pointing the way to a relationship with God. At Easter time I am excited to share in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Nine years ago I attended the film “The Passion.” The small, brown pamphlet I found at the back of the theatre is something that none of the film’s critics will discuss. It offers answers to your deepest needs: • Pure love, • Everlasting life, • Complete forgiveness,

• Ultimate wholeness. “Our greatest felt needs are to be loved, forgiven, whole and alive,” writes Brian Mavis. A relationship with Jesus will meet your deepest needs. Readers tell me that they appreciate the times I use scripture, and share the good news of the Gospel. I have written many things this winter about the struggles farm families are facing, yet what sustains those who have faith? I believe that the resurrected life of Jesus gives us “a reason to hope and not just cope.” My friends who are coping with a serious illness were encouraged when their doctor said, “You will make it, you are people of faith.” I received a phone call from a frustrated farmer who wonders if he will ever be happy. His needs are to be loved, forgiven, and feel whole and alive. As a Christian I have the greatest treasure, the knowledge that God loves me unconditionally, and that when I die, I will have eternal life in heaven. My sins are forgiven, and my purpose in life is to serve God and tell others about His love for them. My theme word for 2013 is “beloved.” I am deeply loved by God and Jesus.

B i l l y G r a h a m ( w w w. told his readers: “Jesus Christ can come into your heart and forgive your sins, cleanse you and change you. Christ stands ready to give hope to everyone. Christ’s truth can make you free.” John 8:31,32 says, “If you hold on to my teaching,

who also struggle, yet know God’s goodness in their lives. Call the pastor of your local church, and find out how to get connected. I’ve done a lot of speaking over the years about living an intentional life, or finding balance in a complex world. Some people think “balance” should

I have written many things this winter about the struggles farm families are facing, yet what sustains those who have faith? you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If this is the first Easter that you are truly curious about who Jesus is, I encourage you to read a recent translation of the Bible, and start with the book of John. I like the “Message” translation as it uses today’s language. I also encourage you to find a small group to study your questions about Christ, and be connected to Christian people

be replaced by the word “integration.” Whatever you call it, people need to have a sense of wholeness. My pamphlet from “The Passion” talks about the followers of Jesus being devoted to Him because He took the broken pieces of their lives and gave them the peace of His life. Jesus said, “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be

troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27 (NIV). The years have whizzed by and I am still teaching adult Sunday school. This spring we are digging into the practical teachings of James, the brother of Jesus who encourages us to get results with our faith and “live it!” James also says that God will give us wisdom. I wish you peace and wisdom as you encourage your family into the exciting new chapter of life’s adventures that God has in store for you. When I was 15, Jesus met my deepest needs and I committed my life to a relationship with Him. May you find your deepest needs met this Easter, as you accept the gift of eternal life from a loving God who conquered death, and gives us hope. He is risen indeed! † Elaine Froese plants barley seed on Palm Sunday, to have green sprouts of “Easter Grass” for Sunday’s Easter eggs. Take a 9x 13-inch glass container, warm soil, great barley seed, and sow not too deep. Cover with rich earth, dampen with water, and cover with a plastic wrap until the sprouts poke through. Make sure the container gets lots of that great warm March sunlight on your windowsill. Have fun watching how fast the green barley shoots turn into “grass.” Reach Elaine at 1-866-848-8311 or

Creating cowboy gear Woman works with horsetail hair as well as leather BY EDNA MANNING


amie Mamer combined a lifelong love of horses with her need to create crafts, when she began producing her line of beautifully handcrafted cowboy gear. Some of her items include custom leather chaps, tack, saddles, wool saddle pads and horsehair hitching — a unique craft using twisted horsehair to make one-of-a-kind designs for items like hatbands, bridles and belts. “I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan. My sister had a Barbie dollhouse and I played with model horses in a ‘barn’ my dad built. I made saddles and bridles for them when I was eight,” she said. Mamer became intrigued with horsehair hitching while studying for a degree in animal science at the University of Saskatchewan. She did some research online, bought a book by Shoni Maulding, and launched into her first project — a hitched headstall with a minimal amount of leather to attach the buckles and bit. Horsehair hitching uses strands of horsetail hair to create beautiful, durable designs. “The items often have intricate design work and can be personalized. I’ve made a few memoirs for people who’ve had horses they had to say goodbye to,” she says. Horsehair hitching is extremely time consuming and requires a

great deal of focus. It was taught in state prisons for a time but it’s a dying art, and Mamer feels it’s important for the younger generation to keep it going.

Mamer’s goal is to build the business slowly, do it properly and with integrity Mamer started making her own bridles when she was looking for quality headstalls that would stand up to the longevity of the horsehair hitching she wanted to incorporate. From there she started sewing leather chaps and chinks, learning more about the art of tooling. Saddle making followed for this busy woman who lives in Hanley, Sask. and works full time as an animal technician at the University of Saskatchewan. “I took a course from a saddle maker in St. Brieux named Bill Wilm, who gave me some guidance with the tooling as well. I took that and added my own flare to it, now doing all my own patterns, by first putting them on paper and then having them come to life on leather.” Mamer’s goal is to build the business slowly, do it properly and with integrity. “I’m pretty demanding of myself. I feel that if people have


Jamie Mamer combines her love of horses with her creative talents.

The art of horsehair hitching takes much time and focus.

made the step and shown interest in my work, I owe it to them to provide the best product that I can give them. They’re going to be my best marketing. If my chaps are on somebody in a show ring and it sparks an interest for someone else, that’s the best advertising I can do. And the most rewarding as well,” she adds. Eager to begin showing her work, Mamer collaborated with a web designer (Barn Spider Designs) in Melville to develop her logo Two Shoes Handcrafted Cowboy Gear for her website, signs and business cards. For several years

she attended community events where word soon began to spread. Trade shows and other events across Saskatchewan such as cutting horse shows and cowboy poetry gatherings followed, some of which also included western art and gear shows. “Those have been fantastic places to meet other artists and make contacts. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on my work which has been very encouraging,” she said. Mamer’s business has grown steadily and she receives enough orders to keep her busy. “One of my goals is to be up there with the

big boys in the leather world. Not necessarily competing with them but to be considered in the same league. The leather craft industry is male dominant, but I’ve never felt that to be a setback. It’s a challenge. The unique artists are those who can develop their own flare. Every artist has the ability to take what they’ve been taught and create their own spin on it.” For more information on Jamie Mamer’s handcrafted cowboy gear, visit † Edna Manning writes from Saskatoon, Sask.



MARCH 18, 2013


Life’s secrets, according to you… People of the world, tell me this — what is your biggest regret? And have you done something about it? Part 2 JANITA VAN DE VELDE


’ll wager a guess that at some point in our life, most of us have dealt with regret. The shifty thing about regret is that it’s usually not a once-anddone thing. It’s not like we say: “Oh, what a nasty regret that was. Thankfully, I’ve moved on.” Rather, even the whiff of regret has the power to significantly alter the trajectory of your life. It’s slippery as an eel, this one. However therein lies the beauty of it. With regret, we’ll always have a choice on how we deal with it. The mistake is ours to own, as is the decision on how to handle the mess. We can let that regret — let’s call it manure — sit on the surface, smelling badly, wafting nasty odours, giving us a foul disposition and tainting everything and everyone we come into contact with, or, conversely, we can use that same manure to act as fertilizer. Let it seep to our roots, become part of who we are, learn from it, grow from it and bloom because of it. Again, it’s a choice. Just make it a better choice the second time around. Here forthwith, is Part 2 of your biggest regrets (bet you regret not reading Part 1): It changes from year to year. On paper my life would lead you to believe I should have a gazillion regrets, but I don’t, oddly enough. When my marriage ended I thought for a moment I married the wrong guy, but one look at my beautiful child and I know that is not true. I am not proud of how I handled some things dur-

ing our separation, but we have since forgiven and forgotten and have a good relationship in coraising our child. So I don’t regret the divorce, even though I don’t like being divorced, if that makes sense. I guess one thing I regret is not making a living at something I am really passionate about. I like my job and my employer is great, but I know I have more in me and untapped talents. I haven’t fully explored it, so my answer to the second question is no, I haven’t done anything about it... yet anyway. There is still time!

Giving up, for a time, my creativity. I don’t have any big regrets. Maybe not buying up a bunch of real estate before housing prices skyrocketed… but I’m not clairvoyant. I regret that I’m not clairvoyant.

Losing my scholarship due to lack of effort. I no longer do things half-ass and take pride in everything I am a part of.

If I could pass on a lesson to anyone it would be to never hurt someone you love!

A time when my actions hurt those that I loved the most. Have I done something about it? Yes, I did.

Waiting for something to happen to me. I have started to do something about it, but I am not good at it.

Not being a good friend when a good friend needed me. Yes, I told her it was my only real regret up to that point in my life, and asked for her to forgive me.

Having someone sever a relationship with me, for reasons I didn’t understand. I did everything that I could think of to restore that relationship, but it didn’t happen. I have to let it go — I can’t make other people’s choices for them.

Not travelling before I started working. Although looking at where I am now, I wouldn’t trade it back, but would encourage my children to not get responsible so quickly. Living a life of nonchalance, and not caring as deeply for some in my life as I should have and taking for granted that all friends and acquaintances would always be there. I am in the process of trying to rebuild past relations, and make new ones. These feelings have just set in over the past five years. Not learning to drive sooner. It’s on my to-do list.

I really wish I would have liked myself as much as I do now… fine lines, zits and all. My biggest regret is going with the flow in high school. So many opportunities passed where I should have stood up for the weakest link. What I have done about it is to try to instil this value deep within my children. My biggest regret is that I have lied. Not about anything in particular, but lied to cover up mistakes rather than being honest, lied to

hide my fears and insecurities, lied to make my life seem ‘cooler, happier, more adventurous.’ I’ve done nothing. I’ve sat with these lies, scared of the outcome. Scared that I will lose the trust of my friends, family, co-workers, and people whom I admire and have great respect for. I try to tell myself that they were small lies and that I did them in order to cover up stuff that could lead to potential problems — however, I really think they’ve sat and bubbled away, soon about to explode into something deeper. I don’t know that I regret anything entirely because I wouldn’t be who I am today without those moments. I do wish that I had been braver and more confident in myself when I was younger… we’re talking teens and 20s. Eventually, those instincts kicked in though, and now I find myself really trying to encourage that bravery and confidence in our children as we parent them. My biggest regret is not staying in university. I haven’t done anything about it. Yet. It used to be that I didn’t tell my parents or the rest of my family how important they were. I changed that a couple years ago and can say I love them to their faces. But you shouldn’t wait 45 years to make that a habit. That I didn’t take more time playing music with my dad. He’s gone now so I can’t do anything about it. That I wasn’t a better father and husband. Not making exercise a part of my life until after kids. But it is

never too late. I now lift weights two to three times per week. Getting married. No, I’ve done nothing about it. She’s still alive. My biggest regret is stomping all over the heart of my greatest love, and totally giving up on love. I felt like I HAD to give up because I made huge mistakes. I am not sure what took over, it could have been my ego, peer pressure, ideologies, immaturity, or worst of all the lack of the ability to love and care for someone. I actually refused to do anything constructive about it at the time. What I did do was try to run away from my mistakes and quickly move on with my life. It did not work. I pretended to not have regret for a long time. I ran and hid, but now the regret constantly (weekly, daily) catches up with me. I was so cruel and emotionless towards him for so long and I hurt him so deeply, that the reciprocal pain within me is seemingly everlasting. If I could pass on a lesson to anyone it would be to never hurt someone you love! It will change your life forever if you do, and it will be a horrible feeling like a bad stomach ache or a lump in your throat that never goes away. To be continued. Janita Van de Velde grew up on a farm near Mariapolis, Man. She holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Manitoba, and has worked for a financial institution since graduating. She lives in Regina, Sask., with her husband Roddy and their children Jack, Isla and James. Her first novel, Postcards Never Written, was the recipient of the Saskatchewan Reader’s Choice Award and also listed by CBC as one of the top funny books in 2009. She donates a portion of proceeds from the sale of her book to World Vision to help those less fortunate. For more information, or to order her book, visit her website at

Reduce snowmelt problems now NDSU AGRICULTURE COMMUNICATION


now holds a lot of water. Each cubic foot of drifted, piled or compacted snow contains two to three gallons, so steps homeowners take now can minimize future water problems in or around their house, says Ken Hellevang, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer and flood expert. For example, about 1,200 gallons of water will come from a 1,000-square-foot roof with six inches of compacted snow on it. This much water may cause seepage problems if allowed to drain next to the house. Hellevang recommends homeowners make sure their gutter downspouts carry the water several feet from the house to a well-drained area. He also has this advice to help prevent snowmelt from damaging homes:

• Move snow on the ground away from the house. Snowmelt may cause a wet basement if it’s allowed to run down along the basement walls. If the ground is sloped one inch per foot near the house, moving the snow just three to five feet from the house will reduce problems. • Examine and clean both the sump pump and pit. Test your sump pump by pouring water into the pit. Make sure the discharge hose carries the water several feet away from the house to an area that drains well. • Make sure the sump pump discharge hose is on sloped ground so it drains to prevent it from freezing. • Remove snow from around rural yards to minimize soft, wet soil conditions. “Remember, a 10-foot-high pile of snow 20 feet in diameter contains 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of water,” Hellevang says. †


MARCH 18, 2013 /


Home Quarter Farm Life FROM THE FARM

Planning your Easter dinner menu? DEBBIE CHIKOUSKY


ith Easter upon us thoughts are turning to the kitchen My family is of Welsh descent and all ate lamb across the ocean but never here. When our children were young we had the privilege of sharing a Manitoba lamb chop barbecue with another family and were instantly hooked. Since then we have learned to cook many tasty recipes. If your Easter menu hasn’t been planned these would make tasty choices. We made this one a few years ago and found it very tasty although we used the meat from a cull ewe not a lamb. Actually recipes that contain acids work very well for cull ewes because the acid keeps the fat from being unpalatable. When we first started raising sheep a very wise person advised that the monetary value of the meat of a cull is much more than they are worth to ship them. The culls from the beef herd and old laying hens were easy but learning to cook the goats and sheep took a bit of experimenting. With the right recipes producers can easily be pleased with the outcome.

Set oven to 350 F. Mix flour, rosemary, seasoning salt and garlic to make seasoned flour. Coat the lamb in the seasoned flour; heat the butter and lightly fry all over for one minute. Add leeks and fry for a further minute, and then transfer to a casserole dish. Add the pearl barley, herbs, salt and pepper, then pour over the stock. Cover, bring to a boil and cook in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Remove the herbs before serving and serve with potatoes. Serves 4. Another very popular dish in our house for a special occasion is goat curry. Our children were introduced to it in Wales and are quite fond of it. Culls can be tough so it is best to make a curry in the morning and leave it to simmer on the back of the stove, or in the slow cooker, for the day.

GOAT CURRY The spices needed are found at very reasonable prices in the ethnic aisle of Superstore. 2 pounds goat meat 2-3 tbsp. yogurt 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 tsp. ground ginger 1 tsp. chili powder 1 tsp. turmeric powder 2 tsp. ground coriander 1 tsp. poppy seeds 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. cloves 1/4 tsp. cardamom 1 tsp. fennel 1/2 of 1 coconut (fresh) OR 1 c. desiccated (unsweetened) 4 medium onions, chopped 4 medium tomatoes, chopped 1 bunch chopped coriander leaves (parsley can be used)

Salt 2 tbsp. butter Marinate the goat with yogurt, salt, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/2 tsp. ginger, and 1/2 tsp. garlic for two hours. Roast together coconut, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and fennel, coriander and poppy seeds for a few minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn. When the aroma starts coming out, take it out of the oven and cool. When cool, add to the chili powder and coriander. Grind it in a mixer (or mortar and pestle) to make a smooth paste by adding water in a required quantity. Heat butter in a pan. Sauté the onions and once the onions turn brown and translucent, add the remaining ginger and garlic and fry for a few minutes. Add the remaining turmeric powder and fry for a minute. Add the chopped coriander leaves and after frying for a few minutes add the spice paste

and fry for another 4-5 minutes. Add the marinated goat pieces and mix, frying, for a few minutes. Add salt and tomatoes and mix well. Cook over low heat for around an hour (till the goat is fork tender). This curry tastes awesome on the next day after cooking — since the spices get into the meat well — so I always cook it one day in advance. Serve with basmati rice for a very authentic meal. Then these recipes are also equally as delicious made from beef. As Easter is a sign that spring is here I will take a moment to remind everyone to be careful as field work season approaches. I know for us it comes on the tail of an extremely busy calving, lambing and kidding season when sleep is minimal and accidents are more prone to happen. So, be careful out there. † Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba.

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HONEYED WELSH LAMB (FAVOURITE WELSH RECIPES) 4-lb. leg of lamb Sprig of rosemary 6 tbsp. honey Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 pint apple cider (juice will do) Set oven to 400 F. Place the leg of lamb on aluminum foil in a roasting pan. Brush with 4 tbsp. of warm honey and season with salt and pepper. Place the sprig of rosemary on top of the joint. Draw up the foil to form a tent and roast for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 F and continue roasting for 1.5 hours until the juice just runs pink or longer if preferred well done. Open up the foil to crisp and brown the skin for the last 20 minutes of cooking time. Remove the lamb from the oven and keep warm. Pour off the fat from the pan and make the gravy from the meat residue, adding half a pint of cider (or juice) and 2 tbsp. of honey. Reduce to two-thirds volume by boiling. Serve with roasted potatoes and green vegetables. Serves 6.

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MONMOUTH STEW (FAVOURITE WELSH RECIPES) 1.5 lbs. stewing meat, cubed OR 8 lamb chops, trimmed 1 oz. flour 1/8 tsp. rosemary 1/8 tsp. garlic 1/4 tsp. seasoning salt 1 oz. butter 4 to 6 leeks, washed, trimmed and cut into rings 2 ozs. pearl barley 4 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme and a bay leaf, tied together with a piece of string (dried herbs can be added if fresh unavailable) Salt and black pepper 1 pint lamb stock (we use whatever is in the fridge)

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MARCH 18, 2013

Home Quarter Farm Life SINGING GARDENER

Want to outsmart a crow? Plus, timely tips for tomatoes and potatoes TED MESEYTON or go to or (phone toll free) 1-888-804-8820 or (fax) 604-952-8828.



rows are intelligent birds but there is a way to outsmart and discourage them once they become a nuisance in your yard and garden. Also, the interest in heirloom tomatoes continues to grow. There are hundreds of named heritage tomato varieties and among them is one called Valiant that I shall highlight.

… have not gone out of style. You may have seen the recent story on TV of a Canadian woman and Australian woman who finally met in person face to face, after corresponding with each other as pen pals for 30 years. I mention that out of appreciation to all people who still write letters and thanks to gardeners who’ve also written. Let me share a letter from Rebecca in mid-February.



As a kid, I can recall when it was rare to find any crows that took up residence in town. Now many of them have discovered there are easy pickings in urban areas and as a result, crows have migrated into communities. They especially appreciate tall, stately evergreens and trees in dense groups of any design for habitat and nesting purposes. In the so-called good old days, a gardener or farmer might hang a dead crow from a fence post or other limb to repel crows. But why mess around with a dead crow? Now comes a unique, innovative and perfect organic all-weather solution in the form of hand-stitched crow decoys that are made in Canada. Crows are wary and cautious birds and known to gather in a group when alarmed. It’s been shown that placing a life-size crow decoy in strategic view causes them to flee the area licketysplit to somewhere else in search of their bread and butter. A crow decoy should be moved about to a different location periodically. Real-life crows are cunning creatures. They won’t detect trickery or become accustomed to a crow decoy that’s moved about. A lot of thought went into the manufacture of crow decoys and by the way, magpie decoys are also available. Here’s where to get either or both. Contact Mark Macdonald, West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., email

Dear Singing Gardener: First, I want to tell you I enjoy your column and look forward to it every time. Valiant is one of the older, hard-to-find kinds. It was my father’s favourite back in the 1950s to 1980s. I have been gathering the seed over the years and the last few years I really thought I had lost it because the seed was quite old (about five years). But I started it last year. The germination was amazing and we had a wonderful crop. The flavour is the good kind of yesteryear. I saved some seed from last year. Try it. I’m sure you’ll like them. Valiant is the staking type but I don’t stake them so the plants do want their space. Thanks for writing an interesting, informative garden page for all your readers. Sincerely, Rebecca Maendel, Wawanesa, Man. Ted adds: Rebecca told the Singing Gardener her green thumbs are itching to plant already. She’s in charge of the garden this year at Treesbank Colony at Wawanesa and will be growing about 500 tomato plants including Valiant and five or six other varieties. Valiant traces its ancestry back to the mid-1930s. There are dozens upon dozens of different-named heirloom tomatoes possessing historical significance; many of which arrived in Canada from overseas. Bright-red, medium-size Valiant fruits slice well for table use and are top notch both for fresh eating and canning. Rebecca is correct in describing Valiant as a vining variety. It will definitely ben-


Gardeners and farmers will instantly love this crow decoy the moment they see it. Each one is hand stitched with a wingspan of 60 cm (24 inches) and measures 52 cm (21 inches) from beak to tail. Body of the crow decoy is made from a nylon, weatherproof fabric with synthetic thread and stuffing. The wing and tail feathers are made from a polystyrene that is stitched and glued in place. Overall weight is 1,000 grams or just over two pounds. But the proof of its quality lies in the fact that it fools real crows. These decoys are made in Maple Ridge, B.C. and Ted tells where to get one. efit from sturdy stakes or trellising. Such support assists in giving the gardener attractive, blemish-free fruits. Most old-fashioned tomatoes fall into the indeterminate (i.e. vining) group. Adequate support or caging of some sort also makes it easier to prune them. Valiant begins ripening between 75 to 80 days after transplants are set out in the garden. Selling started heirloom tomato plants in season could easily become a home cottage business for an enterprising individual and an opportunity to make a handsome dollar. One source for Valiant seeds is: Heritage Harvest Seed, Carman, Man. R0G 0J0; phone (204) 745-6489.

WHAT IS CHITTING? It’s a term that means the green sprouting of seed potatoes. Spuds are heavy feeders and require adequate moisture and nutrients. Planting them shallow encourages early emergence especially if the soil is cool. I’ve known home gardeners who always planted an early-maturing variety such as Warba. They’d reach down into the

ball of soil around the root system about Canada Day to sneak some wonderful, fresh and clean potato gems. New potatoes possess a special taste that cannot be captured any other time of year. I note that Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes at Bowden, Alberta has four new varieties listed this season. They are: Yellow Finn, Seglinde, Duke of York and Rode Eersteling. The latter is a newly selected, early-maturing heritage potato with pale-yellow flesh and red skin. Correct seed spacing is critical when planting and depends on when a variety matures. Early varieties can be placed close together in the hole or furrow at eight inches apart, as they tend to have a low number of tubers per hill. Mid-season potatoes can be planted eight to 12 inches apart while late-season potatoes should have a space of 12 inches or more between each seed. See Eagle Creek’s complete selection of about two dozen Alberta-grown, early, mid-season, late and fingerling seed potatoes at or phone toll free: 1-877-224-3939. A recommended garden acces-


sory product available for purchase at Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes is a floating row cover. It’s a white fabric that can be draped over potatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes and other garden-grown plants that are subject to attack by insect pests such as cabbage moth butterfly, flea beetles and potato bugs. The row cover also helps retain heat by making a frost protection difference of up to 5 C (12 F) around plants during a cool spring and early-autumn frost. The fabric material is water permeable allowing light to enter and rain to penetrate and water plants.

TED TIP WORTH KNOWING … and still connected to growing potatoes. Smelly marigolds — the stronger, the better — are an excellent companion deterrent plant against potato beetles and flea beetles. Try interplanting every fourth potato with one or two strongly scented, tall-growing marigolds. French marigolds (Tagetes patula) have built-in insecticidal properties but may be too short unless potato plants are well spaced. Potato foliage can shade, cascade over and stunt growth of shorter marigolds. †

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


Here are some best 2013 dates according to the man and woman in the moon to begin pre-sprouting seed potatoes indoors in single layers on several sheets of moist newspaper. Select from: March 27, 28, 29, 30 and April 2 and 3. When placed in bright light you’ll need to moisten the paper as required so it doesn’t dry out.

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. There can be no Easter without Good Friday. Easter sings with voice of spring, ushers in His rising, once more the world awakening, the time of earth’s adorning. A little country church in the valley, with special rejoicing today, there on the altar of springtime, Easter lilies again beg to say, in this season of promise we borrow a quote, forever enduring, abiding, are faith, love and hope. My email address is

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When tough broadleaf weeds invade your cereal crops, it’s no time for half-measures. You need action now. With a new and more concentrated formulation, DuPont™ Barricade® II herbicide leverages the strength of three active ingredients from 2 different groups (Group 2 and Group 4) to keep broadleaf weeds far away from your crop. Powered by Solumax® soluble granules, Barricade® II also delivers one-hour rainfastness and easier, more consistent sprayer cleanout. It’s no wonder growers made it Western Canada’s premier broadleaf herbicide for cereals.

Barricade® II. Raise the bar on your broadleaf weed control.

™ DuPont DuPont™ Barricade Barricade II II ® ®

Questions? Ask your retailer, call 1-800-667-3925 or visit

powered by Solumax® soluble granules, combining

narrow-leaved hawk’s beard, kochia, cleavers, flixweed, lamb’s-quarters, cow cockle, volunteer canola

multiple modes of action from two groups – Group 2 and Group 4.

An effective, time-saving formulation. Barricade® II is powered by DuPont™ Solumax® soluble granules, combining the c As with all crop protection products, read and follow label instructions carefully. The DuPont Oval Logo, DuPont™, The miracles of science™, Barricade® and Solumax® are registered trademarks or trademarks of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. E. I. du Pont Canada Company is a licensee. Member of CropLife Canada. © Copyright 2013 E. I. du Pont Canada Company. All rights reserved.

cereal crops

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