The Art of Selecting the Right Forage Species

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Within Saskatchewan, a number of producers are making the transition from grain to grass and are expanding their livestock operations. Making this decision requires taking time to investigate what forage opportunities are available, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Agri-Business Development Intern Sarah Sommerfeld.

“There are many opportunities out there, in various forms," she says, "but they all come down to one central idea— seeding a perennial or annual for grazing, silage or baled dry forage.”

Prior to seeding perennial forages, producers must select a species that is suitable to their specific area, says Sommerfeld. Forage selection should be based on these criteria: soil type and characteristics, time of grazing, longevity, end use, competition, forage quality and yield potential. Specific species are better adapted to soils that are prone to salinity, flooding or drought. Tall wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass and reed canarygrass have good flooding tolerance, while alfalfa, crested wheatgrass and meadow brome harbour poor flooding tolerance.

Species that are suitable for production on saline soils include members of the wheatgrass family and altai wild rye grass. In areas that are prone to drought, producers could select crested wheatgrass, alfalfa, smooth bromegrass or Russian wild rye grass.

Depending on what time of year the forage will be grazed, the producer should choose the species that offers the greatest yield potential and forage quality. Crested wheatgrass is the best source for early spring grazing, and meadow bromegrass provides optimal forage production from late May to mid-July. Native grasses provide better grazing in late June to August.

“The longevity of various perennial species does differ, but the rule of thumb – ‘take half, leave half’ – should be practiced to maintain plant health and vigour," she says. "‘Take half, leave half’ refers to using only 50 per cent of the forage produced. This practice ensures that there is adequate plant material remaining for the growth and development of a healthy root system – which ultimately dictates the longevity of the grass species. Tame grasses can be safely grazed to various heights, but the general recommendation is to maintain between four to six inches of growth.”

If the decision has been made to seed a mixture, it is important to remember to select species that are suited to the site and complement production.

“A mixture can be as simple as two species, or as complex as several species. There are benefits and costs to seeding a mixture. With a mixture, forage production can be more consistent throughout the grazing season, but a single-species stand provides more uniform growth and re-growth.”

Sommerfeld notes that animal gains can be higher when grazing on a mixture, but animal selectivity can be greater, creating the need for a more intensive grazing management plan.

A mixed grass stand may have greater longevity, as more adapted species thrive and replace less suitable species, but this can result in loss of plant diversity and the benefits from seeding a mixture.

For additional information or assistance regarding seeding forages for grazing, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:

Sarah Sommerfeld, BSA
Agri-Business Development Intern
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 867-5557

ACAAFS Program Still Accepting Applications

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Mid-way though its mandate, the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program is still inviting applications from the province’s agriculture and agri-food communities, according to the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) executive director, Laurie Dmytryshyn.

The SCCD administers ACAAFS, the successor to the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Secretariat (CARDS) program, on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Nationally, this is a five-year, $240 million program designed to position Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector at the leading edge, to capture new opportunities. Saskatchewan's share of the ACAAF program, in the amount of $3.22 million annually, is delivered by the ACAAFS committee of the SCCD.

In essence, this is a grant program with three pillars, Dmytryshyn explains.

The first pillar is called Industry-Led Solutions to Emerging Issues. This pillar is attractive to agriculture and agri-food organizations—both for-profits and not-for-profits. It is designed to provide funding to assist industry in testing new ideas and approaches of importance to their sectors. Funding is also provided under this pillar for the development of new value-added products and processes. A good example of this is the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre's HAACP Technician Certificate Program.

Pillar II – Capturing Market Opportunities by Advancing Research Results – provides funding to organizations so they can address the pre-commercialization gap. Both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations can get funding for feasibility studies, business plans and marketing plans, and to complete engineering and product prototypes. The goal of this pillar is to help commercialize research done by industry, universities and/or government. The maximum grant under this pillar is $500,000, or 50 per cent of the cost for for-profits and 70 per cent for not-for-profits.

The last of the three pillars is called Sharing Information to Advance the Sector. It provides funding to assist industry in gathering, analyzing and sharing information that will shape the future of the sector. Industry organizations are eligible for up to 70 per cent funding for projects that demonstrate significant industry benefits.

“As an added development," explains Dmytryshyn, "we recently announced our new Speaker Sponsorship Program. Funding is available for speakers from the agriculture and agri-food sectors, just as long as they are dealing with issues of importance to industry. We will provide funding in amounts ranging from $2,500 up to $10,000 per application. The program covers 50 per cent of the speaker's fee and travel expenses."

Program details can be accessed by visiting the ACAAFS website at

For more information, contact:

Laurie Dmytryshyn
Executive Director
Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
(306) 975-6849

Blaine Lake farmer Preserves Doukhobor Dugout House Heritage

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you are driving around the Blaine Lake area on any Saturday from May 20 to August 26, you might want to stop in at the Doukhobor Dugout House on the edge of the North Saskatchewan River Valley.

This is the site of one of the earliest Doukhobor settlements in the province, and perhaps the only one left with remnants of a dugout house, according to Brenda Cheveldayoff, a local landowner and grain producer who, with her husband, has taken an interest in protecting this part of the rich Doukhobor heritage.

“I ended up with this land because, with all the movement in Doukhobor history, a lot of the land went up for sale, and my great-great-grandfather purchased the land in 1925. When my dad passed away, I acquired the land. I had always been curious about its history, and I thought professionals should document it. Research revealed that there were as many as 300 people, and perhaps more, who lived at the site as early as 1899.”

To get to the bottom of this, Cheveldayoff contacted the Department of Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan, which led to some subsequent research and excavation work.

“Every artefact found in the house has significance—an oven door, a button, some pottery, an old shoe. All are poignant memories of life in those five early years, 1899 to 1904.”

These five years were also used to plane and build a more conventional settlement up on top of the valley. Down below, the rudimentary dwellings provided temporary shelter, Cheveldayoff believes.

“The back wall of the dugout house was all dirt. They used some rock to shore it up. There was a freshwater spring just in front of the house, which is likely why they settled there in the first place," she says. “One dugout dwelling was home to nine families, who cooked and slept in an area of about 436 square feet. During one winter, five babies were born—one of them is buried at the top of the hill to the north. With no money and little resources, these vegetarian pacifists were bent on survival. As men went to work on the railroads in the summer months, the women hitched themselves to the ploughs to turn over land for gardens.”

Doukhobors were good farmers, and still are today. They did a lot of the ploughing by hand, with women pulling the plough to break the prairie soil. Cheveldayoff works with members of the Doukhobor community during the summer to re-enact some of the past activities.

“We do the pulling of the plough from May to August on Saturdays. Visitors might encounter Peter Verigin, who enticed his people to move to Saskatchewan; or Leo Tolstoy, to whom Doukhobors owe the financial resources for their trip through the gift of his book royalties—both of these historic figures will be encountered in period costumes.”

During the rest of the week, the Cheveldayoffs carry on their regular farm activities. Brenda is always on the lookout for new information about her very special heritage site.

“Our documents show there were 57 villages assembled in Saskatchewan, but there is no evidence of dugout houses, except with this one.”

The Doukhobor Dugout House is open, rain or shine, every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the summer months. Tour times are 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

For more information, contact:

Brenda Cheveldayoff
Doukhobor Dugout House
Blaine Lake
(306) 497-3140

Saskatraz: Attempting To Build a Better Bee

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As a joke, they call it Saskatraz, after Alcatraz, the infamous California prison. It's a project to weed out bees vulnerable to two of the greatest dangers to Saskatchewan bee colonies: tracheal and varroa mites.

The project is funded through Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. It was initiated by members of the Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association (SBA) through donations of money and colonies, in an attempt to find the most productive, most resistant stock, says SBA president Tim Wendall.

The selected colonies have been put in an isolated beeyard in an attempt to determine or develop mite resistant stock that will also perform well in honey production. Tracheal and varroa mites cause great trouble for beekeepers. Several treatments have been developed in the past. The first treatment controlled mites in the U.S. for 10 to 12 years, until the mites developed resistance.

“Then another chemical came along," explains Wendall. "It was initially developed for small hive beetles, which somehow came into the southern U.S. and decimated colonies. This chemical was wax-soluble, so residues were found in the bees’ wax, and mites develop resistance to it after four or five years of use. American mites are now resistant to both these chemicals, so they have major problems down there.”

Because of Saskatchewan’s closed border policy, there are only a few pockets of infestation in the province, but the mites are showing resistance to the chemicals.

“We thought the best direction to go would be to find a genetic solution, if possible," says Wendall. “That is what we are trying to do with Saskatraz. Albert Robertson, who has been an SBA director for the past four years, has worked quite extensively with genetic markers, and he has isolated certain gene combinations in other species. He was put in charge of this program because of his scientific background. It takes a lot of his time, so he has decided not to run as director for this next term so he can concentrate his efforts to the project at hand.”

The Saskatraz beeyard is at an isolated location in the Quill Lakes area, north of Wynyard.

“It is just a normal beeyard, except that there are no other beeyards around. We don’t want to re-infect any non-project colonies, and we especially don’t want any outside drones mating with stock that we want to develop out of this beeyard.”

Any bee that is showing susceptibility to mites will be removed from the beeyard, says Wendall.

“There is no chemical treatment going on here. The entire colony has been infected and the whole colony has been equalized. Now they are on their own. The initial beehives that were put in there were provided by producers in the province who selected a few of their best colonies out of maybe 30,000 or 40,000 beehives in Saskatchewan."

This is an exciting project for the association, explains Wendell.

“Some bees show some susceptibility, and there are some that show encouraging signs, although it is still pretty early in the project.

“I would think that there are beekeepers around who are trying to do the same thing within their own breeding programs, but with not nearly the continuous monitoring that we are implementing. You have to have a non-invasive way to monitor mite levels within the beehives. That takes people. We just got another grant that will enable us to hire a couple of people to monitor this project. You need someone to pull slides every week, to count mites, to see if the bees have been chewed.”

The adult mite lives off the adult bees' “blood” or lymphatic system, thereby shortening the bees’ lives. The female mite goes into the cell of a developing larvae and lays eggs which hatch and feed off the larvae. Wendall says that Saskatraz has attracted the attention of some noted international bee scientists. The mites are simply that nasty.

“They just suck the blood of the bees. Once the numbers go up, they just collapse the hive. The bees can’t deal with it. With Saskatraz, the colonies that are going in are lifers.”

For more information, contact:

Tim Wendell
Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association
(306) 564-2315

Saskatchewan Marketing Organic Products in Europe

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For the past six years, the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) have successfully joined forces to lead delegations to BioFach, the world's largest organic trade fair, held annually in Nuremburg, Germany.

Together, the partners have successfully raised the profile of Saskatchewan’s organic industry via participation in the Canadian Pavilion at the show, according to SAF’s International Business Development Specialist Renata Bereziuk.

“BioFach is of interest to the producers and processors of organic and natural products, including raw materials, convenience foods, grains, seeds, pulses, herbs, spices, flavourings, cosmetics and consumer goods, as well as organic farmer and processor associations and health food suppliers."

Over the past number of years, the European Union’s (EU) organic food sector has created a tremendous opportunity for Saskatchewan certified organic products. At present, Saskatchewan ships organic wild rice, grains, pulses, seeds and flour to the EU, but Canada is in danger of losing access to EU markets because the EU has implemented a mandatory organic standard and certification system. In order to maintain access to the EU organic market, trading partners were to be on a third-country equivalency list by December 31, 2005. Canada has been granted a one-year extension. Officials from the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are highly optimistic that Canada will successfully obtain third-country equivalency.

“In past shows,” explains Dale Botting, President and CEO of STEP, “the Province of Saskatchewan has had by far the largest Canadian presence at the show. Organic agriculture provides a niche marketing opportunity that this province is well-suited to fill."

Companies that have participated in past shows noted a lot of interest in the Saskatchewan companies, he says. By setting up appointments prior to the show and then walking the show, they were able to obtain solid leads for follow-up.

One such success story is Naturally Nutritious Foods Inc. of Spalding, owned by Eric and Betty Leicht. Their company has been growing and processing organic grains and pulses since 1991. Mr. Leicht believes that attending BioFach is the best way to meet European and American organic importers, wholesalers and retailers.

“We have been going to BioFach for five or six years now," he explains. "Europe has been quite aggressive in organics—more so than Canada. The European demand for organic products continues to increase. The U.S. market is increasing also."

One of the ways the Leichts work the show is to bring small samples of some of their grains, just to give potential customers an idea of what they have.

“European and American companies are our biggest markets, so we socialize with their agents while we are at the fair. There are eight or nine halls at the show, and each is very large. There are about 35,000 visitors to the show every year. The more they see you, the better it is," Leicht says.

Naturally Nutritious markets primarily peas, lentils, split peas, oats, barley, wheat, durum, spelt, flax and mustard.

“Most of them take our products and either small-package them or put them on the retail shelves,” Leicht says. “In the case of cereals, they may use them for flour. They are ending up in specialized stores, but more and more are finding their way into supermarkets, which are getting into organics all around Europe.”

STEP’s Botting notes that, in 2006, participation by Saskatchewan companies was down slightly, as was the case with Canadian participation, in general, due to a poor crop year and market access concerns.

“It will be STEP’s—and SAF's—goal to use BioFach to maintain contacts with international buyers, and to ensure that Saskatchewan is the first place that comes to mind when buyers think of organic products," he says.

To find out more about BioFach, visit:

For more information, contact:

Renata Bereziuk
International Business Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Dale Botting
President and CEO
Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership

Eric Leicht
Naturally Nutritious Foods Inc.

Age Verification Will Enhance Canada's Access to World Beef Markets

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Age verification is the way of the future for Canada’s beef industry, as both the country and Saskatchewan rebuild their export markets, according Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Livestock Development Specialist Bob Klemmer.

“Saskatchewan, like elsewhere in Canada, is very dependant on export markets," he says. "When BSE came along, we lost all of those export markets, and we are just starting to gain them back. Prior to BSE, Canada exported over 60 per cent of its annual beef production.”

Several of Canada’s main export markets, including the USA and Japan, have requirements around verifying the age of animals or the age of beef from animals for import.

“Dentition, of course, is available to identify cattle/beef under 30 months of age destined for the U.S.," he explains. "Japan, however, requires that imported beef be verified as being under 21 months of age, which requires other methods of verification, such as the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s (CCIA) voluntary and free-of-charge birth-date registration system and database.”

While Japan and the USA accept the CCIA’s birth-date registration system for age verification for export, Cam Daniels, the vice president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation (CBEF), says that, currently, there are not enough age-verified cattle to fill Japanese orders for beef under 21 months of age.

“We need more birth-date-based, age-verified beef to be available for export," Daniels says. "So I invite all beef producers to get their beef cattle and calf birth dates registered with the CCIA database. Indications are that age-verified calves are receiving a premium in some markets”.

One of the reasons why producers should register the age of their calves is that more young beef will then become available for export.

Producers will benefit from this, especially if they retain ownership through to slaughter, comments SAF’s Klemmer.

“The registration makes sense, especially to people who hang on to their calves because they will get direct benefit from it. But for producers in general, it also makes sense because you just don’t know what will happen next year in terms of your calf crop. You may decide to hang on to some of them, or you may decide to take an ownership position in a feedlot. In that case, you need to have those numbers in the database.”

Producers should know that feedlots with ties to beef packers trying to fill the Japanese export market will be looking for age-verified calves, and may have to bid more aggressively for these calves, he says.

“However two things have to happen to make this work: first, you need to get your calves' birth dates verified through the CCIA Age Verification Database, and second, you have to be prepared to market your calves as Age-Verified.”

The CCIA database has been enhanced to include birth date and other management data at the request of the beef industry. The process of age verification is simply a matter of linking up the birth date information to the animal’s tag number, according to Megan Gauley, Communications Co-ordinator with the CCIA.

“Beef producers can enter the birth dates of calves for up to 10 years back," she explains. "Individual birth dates, while nice to have, are not required as long as you have records to verify the dates of your calving period.”

This means that, with the ability to cross-reference with cattle ID numbers, there is no reason why today’s slaughter cattle couldn’t be age-verified by birth date, but beef producers must first get the information entered onto the database.

Gauley invites all beef producers or their proxies to enter their birth date information on-line to the database.

“The starting place," she says, "is the CCIA website at"

According to Bob Klemmer, some cattle markets have expressed interest in developing special sales for age-verified cattle, which would be of benefit to both cattle producer and buyer. However, there are still not enough cattle with verified birth dates to do so.

With the ability to verify the age of calves and finished cattle using the birth date information that cattlemen can enter themselves onto the CCIA database, beef export sales have an opportunity to grow once again. The data can be entered by the producer or by or by someone else who has access to the internet.

For more information, contact:

R.G. (Bob) Klemmer, MAg, PAg
Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 848-2380

Saskatchewan Farmers Fine Stewards of Archaeological Heritage

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

They haven’t always enjoyed the most trusting of relationships—archaeologists and farmers.

Innumerable archaeological sites have been lost forever through tillage since Saskatchewan was homesteaded. Even today, many farmers fear that disclosing archaeological remains on their property might lead to expropriation—something that has never occurred in the history of the province.

However, there are also some remarkable stories of farmers and ranchers who have gone out of their ways to ensure the preservation of evidence left by past users of the landscape. Some of them even achieved a certain degree of fame among the North American archaeological community.

David Meyer, a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan, has met a few of these people throughout his career.

“Many of them are deceased now," he says sadly. "I’m thinking of my old friend Archie Campbell in Bjorkdale. He was sort of a local mentor to me. He farmed—and the family continues to farm—there. They came to the Bjorkdale area around 1909 from Scotland. He developed a great interest in history and archaeology. He got involved in collecting artefacts from sites around Bjorkdale and Porcupine Plain. When I studied archaeology in the '60s and early '70s, I spent some time with him visiting the sites he knew in the area. That is how I became familiar with the archaeology of the area as well—as did others. He eventually donated his collection to the Department of Archaeology at the university.”

Another amateur archaeologist who has made quite a contribution to our understanding archaeology in the southwest is Henri Liboiron of Ponteix.

“His contribution was particularly important because he was so meticulous in everything he did," says Meyer. "He kept such good records of site locations and of what he collected. He had such good provenance information on his artefacts. Everything was identified as to what particular site in the Ponteix-Aneroid area they came from.

“Henri was even better than many professional archaeologists in that regard. He had educated himself to the point where he became very knowledgeable and had read many archaeological articles, on which he drew in his research endeavours."

These people earned their living from agricultural activities, yet their commitment to increasing our understanding of, and to preserving archaeological sites and resources in their home areas added a dimension to their farm and rangeland management practices that made them truly outstanding individuals.

Meyer has his own theory for what motivated them.

“These individuals shared interesting circumstances. Generally, they were born in the early 20th Century. They came into adulthood in the Depression era, in the early '20s and into the '30s. In a different world or situation—for instance, if they had grown up during the '60s—they might have gone through high school and university. I think of them as having been caught or trapped by the circumstances of their lives, in their home communities... but it was a real benefit to their communities to have people of such talent remaining in the communities.

“In the 1930s, there was so much wind erosion, especially in sandy fields, and artefacts were exposed by the wind. Eventually, this caught the attention of people like Henri and Archie. There was so much to see that was exposed. They made it a life-long passion to discover what these artefacts were all about, and we are indebted to these people for that.”

During the early 1980s, David Meyer was at the Saskatchewan Research Council.

“One of our early projects had to do with the planned straightening and improvement of Highway 13 in southwestern Saskatchewanand through the Ponteix-Cadillac area. That meant we got in contact with Henri Liboiron. He was the man who knew what resources to preserve, what bend to leave as it was.”

Before he died a few years ago, Henri made sure his collection and life’s work would be made available to the public for study and viewing. It is now housed at the Noteku Heritage Museum in Ponteix, which he helped create.

For more information, contact:

David Meyer, PhD
Associate Professor of Archaeology
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-4178

Border Line Feeders Bring Economic Benefits to Ceylon Area

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

This is a project that has great hopes associated with it. The Border Line Feeders cattle feeding operation is now open for business.

The operation is located three miles south of Ceylon on Highway 6, and General Manager Ryan Thompson figures he has the best job he could ever hope for.

“I worked for Cargil Animal Nutrition as a feedlot consultant for three and a half years before I started here in September of 2005. I am from Carnduff, originally."

Thompson explains that the feedlot started taking cattle on October 14, 2005, and, within two months, they were up over 6,000 head. The feedlot is operating at capacity right now, and the plan is to increase production to 20,000 over time.

Here are some quick numbers to illustrate what it took to get the project off the ground: $84,000 in grant money; financing is in place to cover up to $1.7 million; Border Line Feeders has raised $1,501,000 in shareholder capital to date. There are 370 shareholders, mostly from within a 1,000-kilometre radius.

Now that the operation is running, fuel purchases to date amount to $17,907; there are seven full-time positions and two part-time positions; $95,748 has been spent to date on commodity purchases: barley, wheat, silage, supplement, hay and straw—the projected inputs budget is $1.5 to $2.5 million annually, spent mostly in local communities.

It has been a long, hard road for the project’s promoters, says Thompson.

“Border Line Feeders incorporated in 2001. They started in March that year and didn’t have the funding for construction in place until the spring of 2005. They spent four years doing business plans and raising the funds and capital in order to move ahead. When BSE hit, they basically lost a year and didn’t push quite as hard, but we have moved on since.”

Construction started on the feedlot in the spring of 2005. The first phase of construction was completed in October of 2005. An organization of this size creates many direct and indirect employment opportunities for local people and for former locals who want to return.

“For me," says Thompson, "the nicest thing was being able to come back to Saskatchewan and find opportunities for myself. There are not a lot of businesses like this that offer employment to people with my qualifications. It is great to be back. This is a great organization to be associated with—a good bunch of people, very tightly knit as well. There are always challenges within the beef industry, given the ups and downs of recent years. Managing the cycles and taking advantages of opportunities are what makes it exciting. Working with shareholders and neighbours to secure a local feed supply, I am sure we can grow this business locally.”

For more information, contact:

Ryan Thompson
General Manager
Border Line Feeders
(306) 454-2250

Future of the Hog Industry Conference to be Held in Saskatoon

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For the latest on swine development and production, Saskatoon will be the place to be on March 27 and 28, as the Prairie Swine Centre hosts its 2006 Focus On the Future Conference.

Ken Engele is with the Prairie Swine Centre.

“This conference was established back in 1999-2000," explains Ken Engele, the centre's Assistant Manager, Information Services. "We had completed a technology transfer review and, at that point in time, we had a previously established satellite conference. We dropped the satellite conference to concentrate on the Focus on the Future Conference. This will be the sixth annual conference, which rotates among the three Prairie Provinces. This year it is in Saskatoon, next year is Alberta, and the following year, it’ll be in Manitoba.”

The whole idea of the Focus on the Future Conference goes back to the technology transfer review, says Engele. It’s a high-level technical conference that highlights the research carried out at the Prairie Swine Centre over the past calendar year. The conference is held over two days. Day 1 is actually a Pre-Conference Swine Health Seminar.

“It focuses on PWS and PCV2 viruses," says Engele. "These are diseases that some of the Quebec and Ontario hog producers are currently facing. They are at the root of the mortalities that they are seeing in their nursery barns. We have entitled Day 2 as Optimizing the Production Systems."

One of the issues that will be covered on Day 2 is how to maximize returns by incorporating field peas and pulses into the diet. The speaker will be Dr. Pascal Leterme, the PSC's new research scientist on nutrition. Dr. Leterme comes from Belgium by way of Columbia and France. He has a very extensive pulse development background from his time in Europe. Engele says he is almost a global expert on the incorporation of peas and pulses into the diets of swine.

Also presenting at the conference will be Harold Gonyou, PSC's swine behaviourist, who will discuss a pig’s perception of space, and how this knowledge can benefit a producer’s operation. He will take a retrospective look at his past research as well as describe some of his ongoing projects. He will provide producers with a bottom line on how understanding a pig’s perception of space will drive economic returns.

There will also be two breakout sessions. One looks specifically at large group housing and auto-sort systems. There seems to be a trend in the industry to focus more on group systems. In the past, finishing pigs had been housed in pens in groups of anywhere between 20 and 40 pigs per pen. Now, some producers are running anywhere from 100-pig groups to 1000-pig groups. Producers nearer the 1,000-pig end of the spectrum tend to incorporate auto-sorters into their systems. This is not a new technology, but it is constantly being refined.

Also on the agenda is Dr. John Patience, who will speak about addressing variability within the finishing barn. He will be exploring with participants how this affects the profitability of an operation.

“One important thing to note is that the conference is about tying a piece of research to actual practices," says Engele. "We try to make people think of how they can incorporate this type of research into their operations."

Based on past surveys, approximately 50 per cent of people in attendance will be pork producers, and the other 50 per cent will be feed company representatives, veterinarians or government/industry people.

“In the past, we have had between 100 to 120 people in attendance," says Engele. "We strive to attract the top pork producers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. We are looking for the top 100 innovators among pork producers and leaders from the industry—from feed companies, genetics companies and associated pork industries—anybody who supplies product to the pork industry.

“Prairie Swine really tries to concentrate on near market growth finish research. Once we come up with the final research results, the producers can actually implement the research in their operation within anywhere from six months to two years of the final report."

The conference will be held at the Travelodge Hotel in Saskatoon. To find out more about the event, you may download the agenda at:

For more information, contact:

Ken Engele
Prairie Swine Centre
(306) 373-0922

Hobby Bison Ranching Enhances Quality of Life

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

We are all familiar with the phenomenon of farm families relying on off-farm income to keep the farm alive. But increasingly, we are seeing newly rural families relying mostly on off-farm income to enjoy the farm lifestyle.

That is the case of Daniel Blais, a North Battleford teacher who dabbles in bison ranching about 15 kilometres southwest of Battleford, in the Eagle Hills Escarpment area.

“Our family got into bison in 1994, at the same time as my father and brother. His father now runs 30 head of buffalo but at one point he had a couple hundred head. Our big choice to move out was motivated by the desire to provide a healthy wholesome lifestyle for our children. I have a farm background myself. We lived in Battleford. We had a beautiful home and a large backyard but it is still not the same—the liberty that life provides on a small farm.

“We have a half section of land and we have our bison and chickens. Someone farms broke land for us. It is not like a farm where someone is running a couple hundred head of cattle or even 50—we have a herd of 6 bison cows and a bull. They are a majestic critter. They do not require a lot of maintenance. They calve on their own. They are not prone to diseases. I de-worm them and take care of them like you would. I don’t give them shots. I built a high-tensile steel, 8-strand, five-and-a-half-foot-fence with one electric line in the middle of it and I don’t have to worry about keeping them contained.

“It was a big investment. At the time, the price of bison was way up. It made sense to invest in them. When the bison prices came down, at least my bison were paid for. The fence is there now and will be for some time.”

Blais and his wife were aware that full-time agricultural activities for them were not an option.

“We knew that living out on our farm would never replace our in-town jobs. What we are hoping is that perhaps with the bison and some of the revenue coming in with the broke land, that it would help to pay for some of the difference in cost of travel from living in town. I can’t say that it has necessarily done that, but we definitely have a good quality of life out here.

“Children love playing outside. When we first came out here they were scared of going outside. There was no fence to keep them in; to give them a boundary and they found that intimidating. A year later, they loved it. They love that fact that there is no fence—that they could go explore. All we had to do was to establish verbal perimeters.”

Blais and his family were in awe of the location, and full of admiration for the authentic creature of the Canadian Plains that the bison is.

“When I moved out here, dad and I talked. I had some older cows and I basically bought from him some two-year-old heifers that I moved out here. They were young and I felt I wouldn’t have to worry about them trying to escape, as some of the older ones might. I moved out here with six bred two-year-olds. The first year we moved out here, I fenced off one quarter and cross-fenced it. So I have four 40-acre pastures that I use on rotation. I have a well in that quarter, so I run a summer line up and on to a trough. Therefore the trough is accessible to all four pastures. In one of the pastures, I also have a freshwater spring that they use up to late fall and in the spring again for water. They are free-range animals.”

With his current set up and the amount of pasture he has, Blais figures he is pretty close to capacity in term of the number of animals he can keep.

“If I had 8 to 10 breeding cows, that would be the maximum I’d want to have. I don’t want to overtax the land. They’re still a ruminant and can add pressure to the land. I am an educator. We want to keep it as a hobby. If prices rose and we wanted to buy more land, I suppose expanding could be an option.”

Regardless of the size of his operation, Blais feels he is still part of the agriculture economy at some level, through the relationship he enjoys with the people who farm his land, his community, feed suppliers, and the channels through which he markets his crop of animals each year. At this point, he wouldn’t give that up for the world.

- 30 -

For more information, contact:

Daniel Blais
(306) 445-3843

Copyright © Tourism News. All Rights Reserved.
Blogger Template designed by Click Bank Engine.