Korean 4-H Club Study Trip to Canada Focuses on Saskatchewan

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

When Brenda Clemens was contacted by an Asian tour operator to host 20 Korean visitors in March at the Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre in Lumsden, she and her husband Barry figured this would be a golden opportunity to showcase their operation and the province.

The tour was to be part of a Korean 4-H study trip to Canada. It would focus almost exclusively on Saskatchewan, where these visitors would spend nearly a week.

The 4-H movement was established in Korea in 1947. It serves not only rural but also urban communities; it is open to both boys and girls, and men and women, between the ages of nine and 29. Like here, 4-H focuses on developing well-rounded, responsible and independent citizens. The 4-H movement in Korea involves more than 61,000 youth, of which 44,400 are students and nearly 16,000 are young farmers. The total 4-H alumni in South Korea numbers 4.5 million people.

The Clemens called upon their friends, neighbours and partners to help them put together the perfect program for the Koreans' stay at the ranch.

One of the challenges of organizing an agricultural tour in late March is the weather and the absence of crops in the field. To make up for the lack of agriculture, the Koreans spent a couple of days in Saskatoon visiting the Western Development Museum, the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, the Kelsey Campus of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan and an agricultural implement dealership.

Meanwhile, the Clemens and their family and friends had been working on a ranch program that would sustain the Koreans’ interests.

“Everything was planned with precision. We had a ranch supper waiting for them when they returned. The living room had been turned into a dining room for 20, with candlelit tables. The evening meal was followed by an informal discussion on the nature of livestock production in Saskatchewan,” explains Barry Clemens.

The next morning started with a ranch visit right in the midst of calving season and a spring melt, which proved a little challenging for Asian footwear... but not for the spirit of the Korean guests.

“They were fascinated by the costs of forage in Saskatchewan compared to much higher costs in Korea,” says Barry. “Similarly, we were surprised to learn that the cost of a bred heifer is around $8,000 over there. Shortly after the ranch tour, we headed to Griffith's petting farm across the road. The petting farm was definitely a hit."

Afterwards, the group headed back to the ranch for a hamburger and hot dog lunch cooked on the BBQ and a warm campfire. This would be followed by a visit at the Arm River Hutterite Colony, and then a late-afternoon wagon ride on the ranch.

The main event for the day turned out to be the ranch work demonstration using young bison to train the cutting horses in the heated indoor arena.

“Our guests got to see how cows are roped with a lasso and gently immobilized for treatment out in the pasture, using our mounts to reduce the labour. Then, our new friends got a chance to ride themselves. Eventually, these budding cowboys and cowgirls also got to try their hands at roping from the ground. Learning how to rope a dummy cow is part of the basic training,” Barry says with a smile.

The Koreans headed back to Seoul the next morning. For Brenda and Barry, this was well worth the effort. It provided much-appreciated extra income for the ranch operation. They hope to welcome more such guests from Korea in the future.

Verified Beef Production is Gaining Ground in Saskatchewan

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The level of sophistication that today’s beef production requires is gaining acceptance in the industry, as the Verified Beef Production program is increasingly taken on by both producers and processors in the province, according to Janice Sopatyk, Program Administrator for the Quality Starts Here/Verified Beef Production (QSHVBP) program in Saskatchewan.

QSHVBP is a national program, launched under the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, with roots going back to 1994. The Saskatchewan Quality Starts Here Working Group administers the Verified Beef Program in the province. The idea is to encourage producers to adopt good production practices, such as giving injections in the neck instead of in the rump where the high-quality cuts of meat are. The program requires that producers keep records of treatments and vaccinations to ensure the appropriate use of medications.

"The Verified Beef Program is, in essence, the combination of good production practices with the documentation to prove this is what you are actually doing," explains Sopatyk. "It is a voluntary program. If producers wish, they can attend the workshop and implement the program in their operations, and then go on to be audited and fully registered with the VBP program."

The initial registration audit involves an on-farm visit. The auditor goes through the facilities, looks at how producers store and mix medicated feed, and how they store farm chemicals. The auditor reviews the treatment and vaccination program, as well as the documentation, and ensures that producers have a prohibited feed affidavit from their feed company swearing that there are no prohibited materials in their protein supplements.

“We have a couple of small meat processors in Saskatchewan and Alberta now who support the program and are requiring their cattle producer/suppliers go through the program," she explains. "Natural Valley Farms in Wolseley and Western Prime Meats out of Weyburn are having their producers attend the workshop and implement the program as a requirement of shipping animals to their processing plants. Prairie Heritage Beef in Alberta also has producers in Saskatchewan, and they are in the process of making it mandatory for their producers to attend the workshop, implement the program, pass the audit and be registered with the VBP program as well."

Sopatyk believes these processors are the first to have actually requested that their suppliers participate in the VBP program, which represents significant progress in her view.

So far in Saskatchewan, over 750 production units have attended the workshop in the last three-and-a-half years, notes Sopatyk. Twenty operations have been audited and registered, and another four are in the process of completing the audit.

"The acceptance rate may seem a bit low in comparison with the Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA) program for the hog industry, but we have approximately 20,000 beef producers in the province, as opposed to 400 pork producers, and the beef industry is far less integrated," she explains. "Also, there are no major beef processors in Saskatchewan that require VBP registration, unlike the hog industry, where all major pork processors require CQA certification."

Sopatyk feels it is going to take longer to get people in the beef sector to come on board—especially getting processors and packers to require the audit—but she is happy with the progress made thus far.

“We are starting to see a growth in interest with niche processors, and we expect the overall commitment to keep growing.”

If you are interested in attending a VBP producer workshop in your area, contact Dave Long, Provincial Co-ordinator, at 306-762-2033 or dlong@qualitystartshere.sk.ca.

More information can be obtained at www.qualitystartshere.sk.ca or www.qualitystartshere.org.

For more information, contact:

Janice Sopatyk, DVM
Program Administrator
Quality Starts Here Verified Beef Production (QSHVBP)
(306) 376-4422

Taking a Group Approach to Watershed-Based Environmental Farm Plans

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The new Saskatchewan Agri-Environmental Planning Group (AEGP) for the Lower Assiniboine and Lake of the Prairie Sub-Watersheds is working to implement conservation initiatives for their portion of the east-central region of the province.

“Under the Agricultural Policy Framework to which Saskatchewan committed a few years ago, there is funding available under the environmental section to carry out individual environmental farm plans (EFPs) as well as area-level watershed-based environmental farm plans," explains Todd Jorgenson, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Development Specialist and a member of the technical support contingent of the AEGP.

Because of the size of the Assiniboine River watershed, a smaller area was selected to be able to logistically implement an EFP. Partners include SAF, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Yellowhead Regional Economic Development Authority, and the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority with help from local producers. The significance of the Lower Assiniboine/Lake of the Prairies Environmental Group Plan, explains Jorgenson, is that it will strategically focus attention on issues specific to that watershed. Two public meetings—in Langenburg and Wroxton—have just been held for producers within the watershed.

"We will be sending a report on these meetings to the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), which will review it within their group and determine which beneficial management practices (BMPs) are best-suited to this particular area," says Jorgenson. "We want to make sure that producers have the opportunity to implement these practices in the upcoming year."

At the two public meetings, producers were told about the EFP process, and their input was solicited. A biophysical inventory of the area was displayed, which formed the basis for identifying land use issues. The issues were prioritized and discussed in the context of how an EFP and BMPs would address them.

"Most of the concerns that emerged dealt with forage and riparian area management, which relates to BMPs such as establishing buffer strips, seeding forages, cross-fencing, alternative water development, or simply improved range-forage management practices," says Jorgenson.

“The benefit of the area plan is that, if you are a producer in that watershed, you won’t have to go through an individual farm plan to access cost-shared funding administered by the PFRA to help implement BMPs. Producers in the area can just contact the Yellowhead REDA in Langenburg (306-743-5177) to discuss the area EFP and the BMPs that would be applicable to the individual farm. As part of this project, we will be hiring a full-time technician. He or she will be based in Langenburg, and will be the main contact for the project."

The EFP's steering committee is comprised of Jorgenson, representatives from Ducks Unlimited and the local REDA, as well as a Saskatchewan Watershed Authority specialist, and will provide overall direction for the project. The Lake of the Prairies Conservation District in Manitoba is also involved as a partner in this project.

It is expected that, by the end of the process, there will be nine such projects in the province.

For more information, contact:

Todd Jorgenson
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 786-5859

Consider Integrating Short-Term Forage Stands in Your Mixed Farm

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For most producers, the main objective of their pasture management plan is to keep a tame forage stand productive for as long as possible. This reduces the frequency of reseeding/rejuvenation, and keeps costs down. Many producers also tend to keep cropland in perpetual crop production, and pasture land in perpetual pasture.

However, Al Foster, Forage Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, wants producers to consider incorporating a short-term forage rotation onto their cropland.

“Including perennial forage crops, such as alfalfa or alfalfa/grass mixtures, in rotation with annual grain crops provides many agronomic and environmental benefits,” he says. Also, given low grain prices, the ability to raise a few more cattle should put more money into mixed farmers' pockets.

This is where the integration of short-term forage stands becomes attractive, Foster points out.

“A number of the benefits are unique to deep-rooted, perennial hay crops like alfalfa," he says. "These are well-documented and are especially noticeable on dark grey and grey soils. For example, alfalfa fixes much of the nitrogen it needs for growth. After an alfalfa crop is terminated, nitrogen in the decaying roots and nodules becomes available for subsequent crops.”

Alfalfa roots perform “biological tillage,” thereby improving the soil environment for root growth of subsequent crops.

“On heavy clay soil, including alfalfa in a rotation increases soil/water infiltration by creating ‘channels’ in the soil through which water can move,” he explains. As well, the tap roots of perennial legumes extract nitrogen and phosphorus from deeper in the soil than shallow-rooted annual crops.

In addition, forage in rotation reduces weed pressure on the annual crops that follow. Two or three years of forage in a six-year rotation virtually eliminated wild oats in cereal crops in a long-term study at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Station in Brandon. In fact, a survey of commercial fields in Manitoba indicated significantly fewer wild oats, green foxtail and Canada thistle in wheat following forage crops, when compared to wheat following annual crops.

“The average lifespan of an alfalfa stand in the northeast is probably six or seven years,” Foster explains. “The main advantage of shortening the lifespan to two or three years is that the benefits associated with forages can be spread across more land without the need to increase the farm's total forage acreage.

Also, forages in rotation can slow the development of herbicide resistant weeds, which, in some areas, is becoming a problem.”

In areas where land is marginal for crop production, rotating two to three years of alfalfa hay—in lieu of crop production—can both improve the soil and save on crop input costs. In addition, land currently producing hay can be converted to pasture, thereby increasing the grazing capacity of the farm.

Foster encourages producers to give serious consideration to the advantages of short-term hay stands: lower input costs and increased cattle production.

For more information, contact:

Al Foster
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 878-8890

Saskatchewan Agribusinesses Take Advantage of Nextrade's Financing Solutions

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Here is a home-grown solution for agribusiness export needs: Nextrade Finance has been providing Saskatchewan exporters with customized financial solutions since November 2004. It is an initiative of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP), and Glen Millard is its director.

One of the greatest challenges faced by service providers, and the companies they work with, was a real lack of financing for small-market export transactions—short-term 90-day receivables, valued at $150,000 U.S. or less, he explains.

“There is a multitude of reasons for that, one of them being their one-off nature. You sell to a buyer in Germany, and you might not be able to sell to him again for 18 months, or three months.”

One of the Saskatchewan companies that has been taking advantage of Nextrade’s services is Regina’s Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd. They export organic durum, flax, hemp and barley, among other commodities.

“We have clients around the world," says Jason Freeman, the co-operative's sales and marketing manager, "and Nextrade Finance provides us with the kind of critical account receivable financing that allows us to get paid immediately after we ship our product, instead of having to wait 30 to 90 days. As you can imagine, this gives us a considerable advantage in carrying out our day-to-day business. I can’t praise it enough.”

Nextrade’s services are certainly popular. Since December 2005, Nextrade has financed $1.5 million in exports, according to Millard.

“We did $3.7 million in our first year, so that’s $5.3 million since the inception of the program. Our strength is the fact that we can customize our lending to meet the needs of our clients. With Farmer Direct, if they are purchasing products from one of their suppliers to meet an export order, they may have to purchase that 40 days in advance to fill in that order and ship it.

“What we do for them is make available the capital they need to purchase that product so they can pay their suppliers immediately. They do what they have to do to that product— whether they have to clean it, sort it or get it ready for shipment, and the day they ship, we would then pay them the total amount, depending on what the export receivables were.”

It is a kind of bridge financing for exporters. Nextrade allows them to conclude these small transactions without having to overextend themselves and use traditional credit facilities.

“We are a non-asset-based lender, so exporters don’t have to put up their assets for collateral," says Millard. "We actually lend against the paper of the transaction, so we spend a lot of time doing our due diligence process, analysing the actual export sale documentation. We have uncovered a lot of variances on behalf of our clients, and have really helped them tighten those things up, which of course results in payments being made more quickly by their buyers. It shortens accounts receivable times, and really improves a lot of our clients’ payment history.”

Essentially, Nextrade Finance accelerates the business cycle for these enterprises.

“We are getting them their cash more quickly. There are two reasons why we do it: to make available the financing so that companies have the financial capability to fill export orders, and to eliminate or reduce their risk as much as possible.

“We pay the Saskatchewan exporter in Canadian dollars, yet we allow the foreign buyer to pay us in whatever currency they choose, as long as it is a tradeable currency. It is a definite advantage for companies because, if you have been following the U.S. dollar for the last four years, you know that the Canadian dollar has appreciated quite a bit, and a lot of companies have lost money by not hedging. The fact that we pay in home currency eliminates that currency risk for them. We use export credit insurance products, so we take away the risk of buyer non-payment.”

Nearly half of Nextrade's business is in the agricultural sector, says Millard. Their most recent figures, compiled on March 17, show that $2.3 million has been generated through agricultural commodities. The biggest users of Nextrade's agricultural services have been exporters of organic crops.

“Since the inception of the program,” Millard explains, “we have supported 58 agricultural export transactions, each worth an average of $38,800. Export companies usually use our support for 47 days. Agricultural commodities are the fastest growing sector among our clients. To date, 56 per cent of our clients are located in rural Saskatchewan.”

Nextrade Finance's services can be accessed by any company in the province. Visit www.nextrade.ca to find out more.

For more information, contact:

Glen Millard
General Manager
Nextrade Finance
(306) 787-7936

Jason Freeman
Sales and Marketing Manager
Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd.
(306) 352-2496 ext. 222

Livestock Producers Harvest Efficiency During Grazing

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Making the best use of one’s grazing resources is always top-of-mind in the livestock production world. As a result, a few producers have started to intensively manage their pastures during summer grazing, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Forage Development Specialist Lorne Klein.

They’re doing that by moving their electric fences at intervals of two days or less.

“This level of management tends to happen in the higher rainfall areas of the province where forage production is relatively high," say Klein. "It also tends to be done by producers grazing large numbers of livestock in a single group: for example, where there are between 300 to 600 steers, or 250 cow/calf pairs. In these cases, the time and cost of intensive management can be economically feasible.”

Klein explains that not all of the grass or forage produced on a pasture is actually consumed by the grazing animals. As grazing periods become longer, more forage is wasted due to manure-fouling, trampling and camping. The percentage of a pasture's production that is consumed by livestock is called the utilization rate.

Research shows that, in a continuous season-long grazing system, only 35 to 50 per cent of the forage grown in a season is actually consumed by grazing livestock. During three- to four-day grazing periods, however, utilization can be increased to 65 to 70 per cent, and grazing periods of two days or less can achieve utilization rates of 85 to 90 per cent.

“These utilization rates represent a significant difference in harvest efficiency,” Klein points out. “For example, suppose a perennial forage grass/legume stand produces 3,000 pounds per acre through the growing season. A utilization rate of 45 per cent would result in 1,350 pounds per acre being grazed. A utilization rate of 70 per cent would result in 2,100 pounds per acre being grazed.”

For comparison purposes, a group of animals could be grazed on 103 acres rather than 160, he adds.

“This represents a significant difference in land requirements, and is one of the reasons why producers are adopting management-intensive grazing systems more and more,” Klein concludes.

For more information, contact:

Lorne Klein
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 848-2382

Saskatchewan Attracts Alberta's Aspiring Livestock Producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The current wave of Alberta residents moving to Saskatchewan, where agricultural land is more affordable, does not show any sign of waning, if one judges by the rewards the Last Cattle Frontier initiative is reaping in east-central Saskatchewan.

Gord Bulmer is the General Manager of the Good Spirit Regional Economic Development Authority (REDA) in Yorkton. His organization has joined forces with the Yellowhead REDA in Langenburg and the South Parkland REDA to lure Albertans to Saskatchewan's “Next Best West,” by visiting them and extolling the virtues of buying land in Saskatchewan.

“Each of the three REDAs had to chip in $3,000, and the province matched that with another $9,000," explains Bulmer, and to have a good lure piece on hand, he and his colleagues solicited advertising for a supplement produced by the Yorkton This Week and Enterprise.

Individuals who lived in the area and who wanted to list their property could place a free advertisement in supplements put out by Yorkton This Week or The Melville Advance. The cost of the ad was picked up by the three REDAs.

“We had over 100 listings from private individuals from the Yorkton area alone. We took the Yorkton This Week supplement with us and we dropped it on the table when we were out doing our presentations. We are talking about well over 100,000 acres. Every listing was for at least one quarter; most were for five or six. In addition to that, several of the realtors took advantage of the opportunity and paid for their own advertising in the same section.”

Does it bother Bulmer to have so much land for sale in this area?

“Not at all. Would it bother Esso to make a discovery and find out they have another billion barrels hidden in the ground? I don’t think so. I think they would be quite happy. What we have here is just a lot of opportunity.”

Asked about the results of the campaign so far, Bulmer answers: “One realtor in our area closed seven deals that originated from the trip we made a year ago last January. Seven ranch families are moving to our area. It has been a success, and it is snowballing. Two weeks ago, I received another unsolicited call from an Alberta realtor who couldn't keep up with the local demand for ranch properties and so was directing them to our region. It is now getting a momentum of its own."

The Last Cattle Frontier project specifically targets young farm families who are just starting off in livestock production. The influx of young children helps out the local school.

This year, it was the turn of Michelle Andrews, the Yellowhead REDA's Agri-Business Project Manager in Langenburg, to be Alberta bound.

“In late January, we hosted seminars in Fort McLeod, Olds and Vermillion," she says. "We spoke to over 250 people. I was amazed at the number of people who were looking into coming to Saskatchewan. The first seminar was mostly first-time lookers, taking up the idea to see what we had to offer. At the other two meetings, people had investigated the possibility already. They were looking at confirmation of what was out here. Some of them were looking at southwestern Saskatchewan, and with us coming, they wanted to see what the east-central area could offer. It was amazing that people were already thinking of coming over.”

Andrews says the initiative has generated a lot of media coverage in Alberta communities, which also contributed to raising the profile of Saskatchewan livestock production opportunities.

It seems it pays to go boldly and to show Albertans the way to the Last Cattle Frontier.

To find out more about the initiative, visit: http://lastcattlefrontier.com/

For more information, contact:

Gord Bulmer
General Manager
Good Spirit REDA
(306) 783-7332

Michelle Andrews
Agri-Business Project Manager
Yellowhead REDA
(306) 745-5176

Crop Insurance Coverage Information For Chickpeas

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

More Saskatchewan producers may be considering large Kabuli chickpeas as part of their 2006 seeding plans, given the attractive current market prices. Experienced producers have had success growing this management-intensive crop, but it is anticipated that additional acres will be seeded this year by less experienced growers.

If you do not have experience growing chickpeas, starting with a small number of acres is advised, with a thorough review of Saskatchewan Crop Insurance’s terms and conditions applied to chickpea insurance. Crop Insurance has consulted with industry experts to develop these terms and conditions, which will be mailed to all customers who endorsed chickpeas in 2006.

“I encourage any first-time growers, or growers who feel they are not familiar with the terms and conditions, to consult them online or contact their customer service office for a copy,” said Saskatchewan Crop Insurance agrologist Chris Stewart. “Staff can address any coverage questions you may have.”

Some important considerations that could affect your liability include the use of high quality seed, required to produce a good crop. Some relatively high quality seed was produced in 2005, but there are also significant amounts with problematic germination and disease levels. Customers must provide a sample of their seed for verification prior to the processing of any claims.

Ascochyta levels on the seed must not exceed 0.3 per cent as it is ready to go in the ground (after cleaning and application of any seed treatment).

“If requested, the lab will test your seed using a fungicide treatment to reduce disease. However, you must ensure you can achieve the same level of seed coverage and disease control with your equipment, or any custom application equipment. Keep in mind that Kabuli chickpea seed must be treated to control Pythium,” Stewart points out.

“Because of the rapid and devastating nature of Ascochyta, you must monitor the crop closely from the time of emergence. Adequate control measures must be implemented at the earliest possible detection of the disease. Multiple fungicide applications may be required.”

Chickpeas seeded more than once in four years on the same land will not be eligible for insurance.

May 21 is the final seeding date that liability that will be accepted in areas with the latest possible first fall frost. Coverage may be reduced or denied in areas where chickpeas are seeded too late to reasonably expect to mature.

Customers who are considering or have decided to stop crop monitoring or taking control measures are asked to contact their Crop Insurance customer service office to discuss the crop’s condition and all insurance implications.

To find out more about chickpea production, please visit the following links:

Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Chickpea Terms and Conditions
Chickpea in Saskatchewan (SAF)
Guidelines for Seed-Borne Diseases of Pulse Crops - 2006 (SAF)
Guidelines for Disease Scouting and Foliar Fungicide Applications for Ascochyta Blight in Chickpea in Saskatchewan (SAF)

For more information on chickpea production in Saskatchewan, call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377. For details on chickpea coverage, contact Saskatchewan Crop Insurance at 1-888- 935-0000.

For more information, contact:

Chris Stewart, Agrologist
Saskatchewan Crop Insurance
(306) 728-7216

Saskachewan Poultry Sector On The Lookout For Avian Influenza

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

While there is always a risk that avian influenza A (H5N1) may come to Saskatchewan in the future, steps are already in place to control the impact the discovery of any infected animals would have on the Saskatchewan poultry sector, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Disease Surveillance Veterinarian Dr. Mary VanderKop.

“We know that avian influenza A has made its way to waterfowl in Europe, and that North American and European ducks and geese have migratory patterns that intersect, so, in theory, there is a risk of transmission, but the poultry industry is extremely well protected because commercial birds are raised in confined barns,” VanderKop says.

“It is perhaps more at locations where geese and ducks are raised outdoors that cross-infection might occur. Wild ducks and geese may share ponds, and the disease may be transmitted in these circumstances to domestic ducks and geese that might, in turn, transmit it to free-ranging chickens.”

In the event an animal became ill and died as a result of avian flu, provincial authorities are in an ideal position to detect it right away because the province co-funds the Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) laboratory, in co-operation with the University of Saskatchewan. PDS tests animals submitted by veterinarians to determine the cause of death. It would find out if avian flu were to blame, says VanderKop. If the PDS suspected that it found the highly infectious strains of avian flu, it would have to report it to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which has authority to quarantine and eradicate the disease. Therefore, the risk of it spreading in Saskatchewan is very minimal, especially to humans.

Current evidence suggests that the most likely means of transmitting the virus to people is close human contact with live infected birds. There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of cooked poultry or eggs could transmit the avian flu to humans. All the evidence to date indicates that thorough cooking will kill the virus.

“The cases of transmission in developing countries that we hear about in the news are attributed to close contact, including allowing chickens to live in the house during the winter months,” she says.

The CFIA advises poultry operations to rigorously follow current guidelines to prevent avian influenza from spreading. It reminds producers that vehicles, equipment and clothing can carry the avian influenza virus. As a general practice, poultry owners should strictly limit access to their premises. If visitors must enter, poultry producers must take the following biosecurity precautions:

Provide visitors with clean coveralls or other clothing which they must wear for the duration of their visit.

Clean these clothes daily using normal laundering practices.

Require all visitors to wash their hands before entering the barns.

Provide all visitors with clean footwear to wear for the duration of their visit. If this is not feasible, footwear must be thoroughly cleaned of all debris with soap and water followed by disinfectant. As an added precaution, footbaths containing disinfectant should be placed at the entrance of poultry houses to clean entering and exiting footwear.

Place a standard pump sprayer containing disinfectant at the entrance to the property, and require all visitors to thoroughly spray their vehicles – particularly the tires, wheel wells and undercarriage – before entering the premises.

The CFIA advises poultry producers to ensure all equipment brought onto their premises is clean. To further protect against the spread of avian influenza, equipment should be sprayed with disinfectant.

As for the risk of transmission through egg or animal consumption, Health Canada says that, while unlikely, transmission of the virus to humans via the consumption of uncooked or undercooked eggs or poultry cannot be completely ruled out. To limit potential risks, poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked to kill any possible viruses or bacteria.

Proper safe food handling practices, such as handwashing and keeping poultry and egg products separate from other food products to avoid cross contamination, should be followed. This is consistent with long standing advice from Health Canada and other health authorities throughout the world.

The bottom line is keep following the procedures that are already in place.

To find out more, visit the special Pandemic Influenza website established by the Government of Canada at: http://www.influenza.gc.ca/index_e.html, or Saskatchewan Health’s Public Pandemic Preparedness Influenza Plan at http://www.health.gov.sk.ca/.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Mary VanderKop
Disease Surveillance Veterinarian
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-8661

Pesticide Safety Training For Equipment Maintenance Professionals

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

This may not be the first thing that comes to mind to producers whose spraying equipment malfunctions in the field, but it sure matters to the service technicians who are called upon to fix the problem.

What sort of precautions do they need to take when they are bringing in a sprayer?

The Saskatchewan Institute of Sciences and Technologies (SIAST) now offers a program for the workplace that can help ensure safety risks are minimized, according to David Warnock, Instructor of Agricultural Programs at SIAST.

“We have done machinery operation and maintenance training for students here, and we have dealt with machinery dealers in the cities. Staff at one of the local dealerships, who indicated they do a fair bit of repairs on high-clearance sprayers, approached us. Some of them were a little nervous about dealing with some of these machines after they had been out in the field. Sometimes, they would even come in with some pesticide in them and they wouldn’t know how to handle it. They needed to find out what the risks were, and what the best procedures would be to observe when working on the equipment,” Warnock says.

“So, we staged a one-day workshop where an instructor from here goes to the dealership and goes through some of the basic information related to pesticides. They discuss some of the hazards and which products are of particular concern, and how to deal with them; things like the type of clothing that would be appropriate, what work practices would be worth considering, and even what to do if someone was accidentally exposed, or if there was a spill.”

Warnock says the program is customized in the sense that the instructor spends time working with the staff—looking at their particular facility and planning a kind of workplace program that would help them know how to deal with situations, and what they should do based on their facility and their surroundings.

“We did this with one facility in Saskatoon last year, one in Regina and one in Yorkton. We do it on a cost-recovery basis. We charge so much for a day. It relates to the Pesticide Applicator Certification training that we do. We use some of the material we use for that course as a resource, and we are certainly prepared to do it more than we have been, if people are interested,” Warnock says.

“What often happens with a sprayer that breaks down in the field is that it could even have product still in it. It is contaminated externally because of the spray drift and dust on the wet parts of the equipment. So when it gets into the workplace, staff need to clean it properly and then they ask, what do you do with the contents left in the sprayer?”

Warnock explains that, when machine components are removed for replacement or repair, quite often there is some spillage from what is in the line.

“So just deciding what resources the technicians can call upon to contain this material is of crucial importance. How do they dispose of the pesticide? How do they protect themselves when handling the equipment?

“The most important precautions are to wear the proper protective clothing, to have good personal sanitation, and to have a shower facility in the workplace."

Many mechanics who come from a farm background understand the importance of precautions when handling pesticides, but that is not always the case for everyone.

“They really appreciate knowing what the risks are, first of all, and knowing how to deal with them—how not to put themselves at risk. At one location, there were a couple of employees who had been fairly significantly poisoned in the past and had been off work for a day or two at least, and perhaps longer. That made them realize how important it was to know the risks and how to handle them.”

Accidental poisoning is dangerous. Anything from mild symptoms, like headaches, dizziness and nausea, to actually being laid up for a time are real possibilities.

“It is a great program. We know it; the mechanics know it,” says Warnock. “It gives them confidence in going to their employers and saying, 'Maybe we need to spend some money to make the workplace safe.' Employers, who themselves might not be aware of what can happen, appreciate discovering what the best practices are. In one workplace, they changed some of their policies and now refuse to bring in machinery that has product in the tank. They require that it be washed down in the field so they don’t bring all this stuff into the shop.”

To bring in an instructor and access the program in your workplace, call SIAST at (306) 798-6310 or 798-0456.

For more information, contact:

David Warnock
Agricultural Programs
Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Sciences and Technologies (SIAST)
(306) 798-6310

Johne's Disease Prevention Initiative A Welcome Development

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan dairy producers are eligible for $400 in funding assistance as part of a Johne’s Disease prevention initiative, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Surveillance Veterinarian Dr. LeeAnn Forsythe. The initiative is being supported by CanWest DHI, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Agricultural Adaptation Council's CanAdvance Program, provincial agriculture ministeries and dairy farmer organizations from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Westgen Endowment Fund.

Johne’s Disease (JD) is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, a distant relative of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. The disease is a contagious, chronic, progressive bacterial infection that causes thickening of the gastrointestinal tract, thus restricting absorption of nutrients. The clinical signs of an animal infected with JD are chronic diarrhea and weight loss. The average incubation period is five years, but can range from two to 10 years. The main tests for JD have been fecal culture and a blood test for antibodies.

On Ontario dairy farms, research suggests that 15 to 30 per cent of herds contain animals infected with JD. A serological survey of dairy farms in Saskatchewan in 2001 found that 43 per cent of herds had at least one animal infected with JD, and 24 per cent had two or more.

In May 2005, the Milk ELISA test for JD became available for use by Ontario dairy producers through CanWest DHI. This test was validated by Dr. Steve Hendrick, who was at the Ontario Veterinary College at the time, but who is now located at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. This test allows milk to be tested for JD during the normal collection of milk samples, making it very convenient for evaluating the presence of JD in a herd.

CanWest DHI is located in Ontario, and they collect and test milk samples for dairy farmers participating in the Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) program. CanWest DHI has received funding from the Agricultural Adaptation Council's CanAdvance program to train veterinarians in Western Canada.

In Saskatchewan, the veterinarians are trained by Dr. Hendrick to conduct on-farm JD risk assessment tests and to counsel producers on the best management practices to reduce the risk of JD. Calves are most susceptible to infection, so the risk assessment emphasizes keeping the calving area free of manure.

In Saskatchewan, there is funding in place to train up to 18 veterinarians and to complete risk assessments on up to 40 dairy farms.

CanWest DHI charges DHI-participating producers $9 per Milk ELISA test, plus a $50 handling fee, and non-participating producers $10 per test, plus a $75 handling fee. Producers will receive a $400 credit against their DHI account when the DHI veterinarian submits a herd report to the provincial DHI co-ordinator.

For more information, contact:

Dr. LeeAnn Forsythe
Surveillance Veterinarian
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-6069

Agricultural Industry Marketers Host Korean Journalists

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Why would the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) host a delegation of foreign journalists?

The answer soon becomes clear when we find out who the guests are.

Some of the province’s most recent visitors represented publications with readerships ranging from 30,000 to over 900,000 people.

In January, Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector hosted a pair of Japanese food writers. This time, it was the Koreans’ turn to be brought to Canada by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Embassy in Seoul.

The group—consisting of Yim Ho-Yeoun of The Eating-Out Management Magazine for Restaurant Owners, Kim Dong-Youn of The Korean Economic Daily, Kim Yong-Deok of The Monthly Food Industry and Kim Sei-Dong of Munhwa Ilbo (Evening Daily Newspaper)—was accompanied by Jong-Hoon Kim, Trade Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul and Jake Thomas, an International Market Development Officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. They traveled across Western Canada seeking information on beef, canola, functional foods, food preparation and food safety.

During their one-day stop in Saskatchewan, STEP and SAF organized a program that showcased Saskatchewan companies and their products. The delegation began their program with a tour of CanMar Grain Products, where they sampled the company’s golden roasted flax seed. They also met with Chef Rob Fuller, the owner of Zest Restaurant in Regina, to learn about various food preparation techniques, and they were subsequently treated to a luncheon of Saskatchewan’s finest cuisine—locally produced, of course.

SAF hosted the luncheon at Zest Restaurant for the visiting delegation and the Saskatchewan producers who supplied products for the meal.

Chef Fuller created a variety of unique dishes featuring golden roasted flax from CanMar Grain Products (www.roastedlfax.com), organic beef and pearl barley from Poplar Valley Organics (www.cluborganic.ca), lentils from Diefenbaker Seed Processors Ltd. (www.dspdirect.ca), bison from Canadian Prairie Bison, saskatoon berries from Prairie Berries (www.prairieberries.com) and Riverbend Plantation (www.riverbendplantation.ca), canola oil from Canola Info (www.canolainfo.org), sour cherries from Over the Hill Orchards (www.overthehillorchards.ca), and wild rice from Points North Wild Rice Company (www.pointsnorthwildrice.com).

During the afternoon, the visiting journalists met with Saskatchewan suppliers and listened to presentations by SAF and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) on food safety and Canada’s food inspection/regulatory system.

This event was another example of how STEP, SAF, AAFC and the Canadian diplomatic corps work together to create an exceptional opportunity to showcase Saskatchewan companies and their products to potential international buyers.

For more information, contact:

Christall Beaudry
Membership and Communications Specialist
Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
(306) 787-7919

Joan McConnell
Marketing Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-6154

Saskatchewan Producers Sign Up For CASS Program

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Farmers and ranchers who want to learn how to farm and ranch more successfully—or who want to learn a new trade that can provide off-farm income—can turn to the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) for assistance.

CASS supports training to enhance or develop the skills and knowledge necessary to improve farm production or management practices, gain off-farm employment, or create or expand a business venture.

Those already participating in CASS appreciate the help it provided, and are confident that their new skills will lead to a more profitable future, either on farm or off - people like Mylo Chubb of Assiniboia:

“The CASS program gave me an opportunity to look into other fields of work," he says. "I’m a rancher. We are 100 per cent livestock. We have a cow-calf operation, along with yearlings, and we also custom graze. All our land was seeded back to grass in 1988 to 1990. We have approximately 3,500 acres. I used the program money to train for the oil patch. I am basically diversifying toward the oil and gas sector, with the anticipation that it is really going to open up here in south-western Saskatchewan.”

What are the expected results of the program?

This program will help increase the income and profitability of farmers through learning activities that have been validated through a skills and needs assessment process and the development of an Individual Learning Plan (ILP).

Assistance is provided to access training in areas such as improved farm practices, business management, accounting, finance, human resource management; training for other employment, or training to acquire skills to start a new business.

Dawn Anhorn and her family farm north of Hafford. “With the help of CASS, I am taking an office administration course at the Academy of Learning in North Battleford," she explains. "This will help me get off-farm income to help with our farming. I think it is great that they are helping people who normally would not be able to afford to do anything like this."

Anhorn will finish her training in July, and then her husband will start a heavy equipment operation course, also with CASS assistance.

"To other people considering taking advantage of CASS, I would say 'Go for it!' It paid for my tuition. It is helping to pay for mileage. This will help us make ends meet. Times are tough. We have a beef cow-calf operation. This will be a way to supplement our income.”

Farmers and their spouses with a net family income of $45,000 or less are eligible to apply for CASS. Beginning farmers are also eligible for some services, regardless of income.

To find out more about CASS, call the toll-free number 1-888-887-7977. Program application forms can be down-loaded from the SAF website at:


For more information, contact:

Gerry Holland
Business Planning Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4051

Adrienne Jensen
Acting Provincial CASS Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 933-6016

Pound-Maker Investments Launches Share Trading Program

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you own shares that you would like to sell, or if you would like to acquire shares in Pound-Maker Investments Ltd. (PMI) of Lanigan, the company just made it a whole lot easier to do so.

Pound-Maker recently launched a web-based program in which any existing shareholder or member of the public may enroll as a “Participant” in the Share Trading Program, and then submit offers to sell or buy existing shares of the company.

Sheri Pederson looks after the program at PMI.

“We needed an easier way for people to let others know that they have shares for sale," she explains. "Our company has grown and been around for over 35 years now, and some of our shareholders are not in the farming business anymore. We needed a way for them to liquidate their shares and to let the public know that there are shares available to purchase.”

PMI will post summaries of all offers that are received through its website—including the number of shares that the participant is offering to buy or sell, the bid or asking price for the shares, the date the offer was made and the expiry date of the offer. PMI will then attempt to match as many buy offers with as many sell offers as possible at monthly “Trading Sessions” that will be held on the third Friday of each month.

“Our lawyer has a lot of influence in it because of his background,” explains Pederson. “It all had to be passed by the Saskatchewan Securities Commission before we could even attempt to go with it. Whether you are an existing shareholder or an individual interested in purchasing shares, you must enroll by printing the enrollment form that is on the share trading website and filling it out.

“On that enrollment form, there are a number of options. If you are a company, you fill in the incorporation date. If you are an owner of shares already, you must list the shares that you have, so we can ensure that one entity is not purchasing more than a certain percentage of the shares in the company. Once you are enrolled, I would send you back a PIN number and, from that point on, you can actually submit your buy or sell forms online.

“It is not like an auction where, if something matches, it falls off right away. The offer remains posted until the session closes and then, if there is a match, the shares are sold. If you went to our current trade share information right now, you would see the current share offerings. You also have the option of making a change offer if you so wish. If two offers are the same, the first one in gets it.”

Peterson says there are only a few people registered in the system as of yet, but she expects interest in the program will increase once word gets out.

Full details of the Share Trading Program are available at: http://www.pound-maker.ca/sharetrading.htm

Pound-Maker was originally established under the name Pound-Maker Feeders Ltd. in 1970, when about 50 local area farmers joined together to build a 2,500-head cattle feedlot to create an alternative market for their grain. By the mid-'80s, it had expanded to 8,500 head, and expanded dramatically once again in 1991 when the company increased capacity by 10,000 head and built a 10-million-litre-per-year ethanol plant.

Pound-Maker Feeders was then renamed Pound-Maker Investments Ltd. and reorganized as a holding company for local investors/shareholders, with the integrated feedlot and ethanol plant spun off into a new subsidiary operating company, Pound-Maker Agventures Ltd. (PMA).

For more information, contact:
Sheri Pederson
(306) 365-4281

Canaryseed: Not Just Bird Feed Anymore?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are making significant strides in the development of canario, a type of canaryseed that may have potential human applications, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Special Crops Specialist Ray McVicar.

“Canario is the market trade name that the industry has developed for those canaryseed varieties that are smooth and hairless, or glabrous. It does not have the small hair on the seed that causes the dust to be very itchy and irritating on your skin.”

Canada is the largest producer and exporter of canaryseed in the world, and Saskatchewan is home to 95 per cent of that production.

Through an Agriculture Development Fund (ADF # 20010108) project, the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, under the direction of Dr. Pierre Hucl, has successfully developed canario varieties that are not as irritating to the skin, and also produce better yields.

“Dr. Hucl’s program has developed a number of hairless varieties. This makes the crop much easier to work with, and reduces the risks of throat, breathing and more serious health problems,” says McVicar.

Canario yields have been lower than regular canaryseed, until now.

“When the first variety of canario was released—CDC Maria—it was typically lower yielding than the other two varieties that have been grown for many years,” says McVicar. “It also had higher bushel weight because, without the hair, it packed down more. Dr. Hucl has released varieties that are equal in yield to the old standard, itchy type of canaryseed.”

McVicar explains that all canaryseed is currently used for the bird food market only. No human consumption is allowed and, in order to start to look at the human consumption market, one would have to have the hairless type.

This is where canario shows promise. The recently approved canaryseed check-off, sanctioned by the provincial government through the creation of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan, will now make it possible to explore potential new markets for canaryseed, concludes McVicar.

“The commission will be looking closely at potential new uses for canario when it undertakes its strategic planning session in the next few weeks.”

For more information, contact:

Ray McVicar
Special Crops Provincial Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4665

Prince Albert's Meridian Bison Company Takes The High Road to Value-Adding

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Two friends of over 20 years, two neighbours and an undying entrepreneurial spirit: that pretty much describes Terry Rock and Michel Dubé. The former is a retired wildlife biologist; the latter, a businessman who owns a successful fishing lodge at Oliver Lake in northern Saskatchewan. Together they launched the Meridian Bison Company in 2001.

“I have had some land up here for quite a while,” says Dubé, “and I was renting it out to my neighbour. Terry had 160 acres at the time—he just approached me to see if I wanted to raise livestock. He was more interested in elk because he had worked quite a bit with wild elk as a biologist. I said, 'No, not elk. It isn’t something that interests me.' We were just talking, and he asked, 'How about buffalo?' I said, 'Buffalo? OK.' I started researching this a little bit. We started fencing that spring, and put our first animals in there in October of that year.

“We raise them until they are 24 months, slaughter them and sell the meat almost exclusively at the retail level to individuals. We have a list of clients we have developed, and people contact us, or we contact them once in a while to find out if they want some meat, and they can buy one pound or a whole animal if they want.”

Between them, Rock and Dubé now have about 1,200 acres of land in hay and pasture.

“There are 200 acres here, 300 acres there: three or four parcels of land in all. Not everything is fenced. Some of the land is used to grow hay, which we bale. We have about half of the land fenced off at the moment. We pretty much grass-feed our animals. We use the hay mostly in the winter to supplement their grazing. They graze from, basically, June 1 to December 1, depending on snow conditions.”

Every two weeks or so during the winter, the partners bring in 25 to 30 round bales that they run through a bale processor.

“It basically shreds the hay. We put two of the 1,500-pound bales on the machine, and it shoots it out on the side. We sometimes supplement the hay with oats to maximize the cows' protein and health levels so their breeding success is higher.”

The company has customers in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, and has also created a niche serving the francophone community as far away as Manitoba and Alberta by placing advertisements in the provincial French weekly L’Eau Vive.

"It is snowballing," says Dubé of the company's market, "and we have an e-mail marketing list that has also helped get the word out.”

The pair is looking at doubling their herd within the next two years. They want to diversify into two different areas: one is an on-farm retail store which will feature all types of meat and value-added products like patés and prepared meals; the other is the creation of a separate herd of purebred Plains bison. (Their animals are currently a Woods/Plains bison crossbreed.)

“We realize that, in order to be successful financially in this operation, we have to value-add," explains Dubé. "We make jerky and pepperoni. Right now, in Saskatchewan and any other agricultural areas in Canada, we are not paid what we need to be paid to be economically viable. The price of commodities, whether they are grain beef, bison or anything else, is low and in Saskatchewan, particularly so, because of the nature of the economy.”

Dubé is thankful for his business experience.

“It certainly has helped, because I don’t have a formal business education. We are able to navigate through the different steps and jump through the different hoops to bring about a profitable situation. And we are also not scared to try things out because, in business, you have to try things to succeed. Sometimes you do, sometimes, you don’t. Hopefully you do.”

For more information, contact:

Michel Dubé
The Meridian Bison Company
(306) 764-5554

Alfalfa Helps Improve The Profitability of Cattle Production

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Inputs now comprise such a large share of farm production costs that producers are starting to rethink their approaches to production, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Development Specialist Trevor Lennox.

“One of the tools cattle producers have is legumes," he says. "I work with cattle producers, and alfalfa is by far the best resource we can work with because it fixes its own nitrogen and produces such good quality forage."

Insufficient nitrogen is the main factor limiting forage production potential on the prairies, he says.

“Water is your number one driving factor; next is nitrogen. With legumes, we have a plant that can provide a lot of its own nutrition. Meanwhile, our atmosphere contains 78 per cent nitrogen. It is a huge, vast resource of nitrogen. We just need to harness the power of legumes to pull nitrogen out of the air and fix it in the soil.”

Nitrogen fixation occurs mainly in the roots of legumes that form a symbiotic association with a bacteria species called rhizobia.

“Nitrogen fixation is directly related to the ability of legumes to accumulate energy through photosynthesis. Thus, leaf removal decreases nitrogen fixation, and leaf regrowth increases the potential for nitrogen fixation. Legumes not only fix nitrogen for their own needs, they are also able to supply nitrogen for non-nitrogen-fixing forage crops. In fact, they primarily supply nitrogen to forage plants following decomposition."

While legumes are still growing, mycorrhizal fungi can form a bridge between the root hairs of legumes and nearby grasses. This bridge facilitates the transport of fixed nitrogen from legumes to linked grasses. Depending on the nitrogen content of the soil and the mix of legumes and grasses in a pasture, legumes can transfer between 20 and 40 per cent of their fixed nitrogen to grass during the growing season.

Think of it this way: a pasture composed of at least 20 to 45 per cent legumes—on a dry weight basis—can provide the majority of the nitrogen needed by the forage stand.

When alfalfa constitutes a significant portion of the forage stand, it has the potential to fix 70 to 198 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. Under irrigation conditions in southern Alberta, a pure stand of alfalfa has been shown to fix up to 267 pounds per acre per year. It is far cheaper to include a legume in a forage mix than to plant a grass and make annual applications of nitrogen fertilizer.

On another level, Lennox believes including legumes as part of the forage mix is necessary if nitrogen fixation is to provide a source of nitrogen for the pasture system.

“Rotational grazing is a management tool that has been shown to help maintain the proportion of alfalfa in mixed pastures,” he says.

But can cattle graze safely on pure alfalfa?

“When grazing cattle on pastures with a high component of alfalfa, bloat is a very real management problem," says Lennox. "However, a product called Alfasure is now available to control bloat. It has been on the market for a couple of years. In a series of grazing trials conducted across Western Canada, Alfasure has been almost 100 per cent effective at eliminating bloat in cattle.”

According to reports from those trials, yearling heifers grazing alfalfa gained an average of 1.5 to two pounds per day, and steers gained between two and 2.5 pounds per day. Stocking densities were two to three times higher on straight alfalfa than on grass and grass/legume pastures.

“When applied at the recommended rate, Alfasure costs 15 to 25 cents per head per day, depending upon the weight of the animal," says Lennox. "The drawback is that it needs to be applied through water, which requires restricting livestock access to only one watering source.”

To find out more about this product, contact your local veterinarian or the manufacturer (Rafter 8) in Calgary at 1-800-461-8615.

Fort more information, contact:

Trevor Lennox
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 778-8294

Thunder Rail a Made-In-The-Northeast Solution to Branch Line Closures

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Around Arborfield, everyone has high hopes for Thunder Rail, a homegrown railway initiative designed to alleviate the consequences of the closure of the local CN line five years ago.

“We had to raise between $285,000 to $300,000,” explains Thunder Rail General Manager Danny Edwards. “We didn’t really have to go out and canvas for shares; people overwhelmingly came to us. It was almost more than we could handle. Everybody is on board with it."

Thunder Rail was formed out of necessity brought on by the closure of the branch line. The RM of Arborfield and the towns of Arborfield and Zenon Park convinced CN to sell them the branch line instead of tearing it up. At that point, Carlton Trail Rail took it over and ran it for five year, but they decided that it wasn’t profitable. Carlton Trail left, and the locals were left with no choice but to form their own short line rail company.

Thunder Rail's shareholders are 50 local people or companies. The two major investors are Arborfield Dehy Limited and Arborfield Grain Producers Ltd., and there are 48 other smaller shareholders.

“The company is doing very well for its first year,” says Edwards. “I have only been in the short line business for six months myself, so it is difficult to compare it to anything. My background is fertilizer, chemicals, farm input sales. I have learned so much, and the learning curve is very steep."

Thunder Rail has 19.5 miles of their own line, and they use some of CN’s main line out to Murphy Siding, so in total, the short line covers approximately 23 miles. The company doesn't own any cars, but it does have its own locomotive and all the necessary track maintenance equipment such as snow ploughs, ballast regulator and tamper and tie inserters.

Thunder Rail's major clients are its two major shareholders, explains Edwards.

“In Arborfield, the dehy plant is the main industry. Without the railroad, it wouldn’t survive. We can’t afford to ship that much product out of here by truck. Without the rail line, the dehy industry is gone, and the town is in big trouble. We had to make the rail work.”

Now that the new company is going strong, there are a few things in the works.

“We want to see the dehy do well here and the town stay in good shape, and we also want to expand. It seems that CN would like to see someone else do the main car handling and assembly work for them, so all they have to do is pull up with the engines, hook up and go off to the coast. I foresee a lot more branch line closures, and, since we are already established in the northeast, there will be room for us to expand."

The company is projecting handling around 500 cars annually, but there are projects under way that might bring that number up to 700 or 800 cars.

"Things happen very quickly in the railroad business," says Edwards. "You never know, we might get a phone call tomorrow from people who tell us, 'Hey! We would like you to run this for us.'”

For more information, contact:

Danny Edwards
General Manager
Thunder Rail
(306) 769-8663
E-mail: thunderrail@sasktel.net

Training Needs Assessment Under Way For The Saskatchewan Organic Industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD) has received funding from Saskatchewan Learning’s Sector Partnerships Program to carry out a training needs assessment study of the Saskatchewan organic sector, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Agri-Business Development Specialist Don Perrault.

“The organic sector in Saskatchewan is growing rapidly and encompasses approximately 1,200 producers in all areas of the province," he says. "Saskatchewan is a leader in the organic sector in Canada. Based on an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) survey conducted in 2003, about one-third of all Canadian organic producers are located in Saskatchewan. Fifty-eight per cent of all land in organic production in Canada is in Saskatchewan."

Perrault believes organic production presents an excellent growth opportunity for this province.

“This is due to our abundance of agricultural land and our reputation for a clean environment. The markets for organic food are strong, and are growing at 15 to 20 per cent per year. It is also one of the sectors in agriculture that continues to be profitable.”

For this reason, SAF has identified organic farming as an opportunity area.

“We have a good toehold in this industry. We need to motivate producers to take advantage of the opportunities in this market."

Education and training are critical elements in expanding any new sector of the economy, Perrault explains.

“We hope that the training needs assessment will provide insight into the needs of the organic industry and the appropriate learning models which will help propel this sector forward.”

The study will also look at the feasibility of an Organic Learning Centre in the province. A steering committee made up of representatives from the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, the Sagehill Business Development Corporation, the Carlton Trail Regional College, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Arts and Science, the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, the Prairie Ursuline Centre at Bruno and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food has been put in place to provide direction to the study.

In January, Lorraine Beaudette of Sage Management Services of Saskatoon was retained to carry out the needs assessment.

“She has already established contact with many of the certification bodies in the province and a few producer groups," says Perrault. "Over the next few weeks, Sage Management Services will be surveying the various organic sector stakeholders to obtain their views on future learning needs, preferred delivery methods, use of technology and other areas of interest.”

For more information contact:

Don Perrault
Steering Committee Chair
Agri-Business Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 953-2361


Lorraine Beaudette
Sage Management Services
R.R. 3, Gs 303, Box 9
Saskatoon SK S7K 3J6
(306) 956-3136

Canaryseed Check-Off In Effect May 1

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Canaryseed growers can look forward to improved market development now that the canaryseed check-off is in effect, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Special Crops Specialist Ray McVicar.

“The check-off is now in place, with the Government of Saskatchewan approving the regulations to establish the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan (CDCS)," he says. "So we have a brand new organization mandated to support research into new uses for canaryseed, including human consumption; to support plant breeding and agronomy research; and to attract other development support, such as government funding that is only available with matching money.”

McVicar feels the CDCS will put growers in the driver’s seat.

“In January and February of 2005, the Canaryseed Association of Canada (CAC) hosted information meetings in Saskatoon and Eston to discuss the check-off with producers and industry representatives. At each meeting, the CAC used a secret ballot to survey growers' support for the check-off. Of those growers who completed the ballots, 73 per cent supported the check-off. "

The canaryseed check-off has been discussed at grower meetings and field days, as well as in a number of news releases and farm publications for the past two years. There have been numerous opportunities for growers to voice their opinion and ask questions about the check-off.

The check-off is mandatory but refundable. The check-off level will be $1.75 per net tonne on commercial sales of canaryseed. Canaryseed grown for seedstock will be exempt. Growers will be registered if they have sold canaryseed within the past three years. There will be two opportunities per year for producers to apply for a refund.

The CDCS has hired Levy Central of Saskatoon to administer the check-off. The company has provided information packages to explain to buyers of Saskatchewan canaryseed how to deduct the levy and submit it to the commission. Levy Central also administers the check-offs for the Saskatchewan Canola, Flax and Mustard Development Commissions. The CDCS office will be established alongside the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission office in Saskatoon.

“The check-off will begin on May 1, 2006," says McVicar. "The interim board of directors will begin strategic planning within the next month to set the priorities for market research and development.”

For more information, contact:

Ray McVicar
Special Crops Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4665
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