The Centre for Agribusiness Training and Education is on the Move

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Centre for Agribusiness Training and Education (CATE) is enhancing the services it offers on the Internet. CATE is an initiative of the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) designed to connect those seeking training in agriculture and agribusiness to the relevant training programs.

CATE consists of a website ( and a toll-free CATE phone line for those who may not have access to the Internet or need assistance in finding specific training information.

“CATE’s mandate is to establish that critical link between rural residents and training and career development opportunities," explains Verona Thibeault, CATE's co-ordinator. "We have gone beyond the initial mandate of exclusively agribusiness and on-farm education and training, to offering a broader range of training opportunities."

Thibeault describes CATE as “a on-line gateway or information clearing house of all the opportunities and courses available to farmers in North America."

“Once you bring up a particular course on the website," she says, "CATE will tell you whether it is a workshop or a distance-education opportunity. It will connect the person to the institution, so he or she can see if it is the right fit.”

Courses range from agribusiness accounting to Chinese traditional medicine, and many of these courses are already, or likely to become, eligible for financial assistance if taken by rural residents, says Thibeault.

CATE recently entered into a partnership with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), the delivery agent for the Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) program in Saskatchewan. Through this partnership, on-farm residents can access training opportunities that are eligible for funding.

"We work with SAF on a weekly basis," says Thibeault. "They inform us of courses they have approved. We upload those courses to the website, and attach a little symbol to show that they have been approved by the Saskatchewan CASS program. With the website, you can quickly see which courses are available, and then go through the application process.”

Funding for the website and the CATE toll-free line pilot project is provided by the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development in Saskatchewan (CARDS) Program and Saskatchewan Learning.

To find out more about CATE, call the toll-free CATE line at 1-800-641-8256.

For more information, contact:

Verona Thibeault
Centre for Agribusiness Training and Education (CATE)
c/o Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
Saskatoon SK
(306) 975-6850

Upcoming Saskatchewan Pasture School in Saskatoon

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 2006 edition of the Saskatchewan Pasture School will take place at Saskatoon’s Heritage Inn on June 14 and 15.

Once again, the organizers are limiting registrations to 50 in order to make this hands-on event as rewarding as possible for participants. The school is held in Saskatoon because of its central location, and because the proximity to the tame and native pastures and to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) resources makes it possible to offer a much more comprehensive program.

“The pasture school is designed for producers, and the goal is to help them improve their forage and pasture management skills," says Al Foster, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Forage Development Specialist, one of the school's organizers. "Therefore, we try to ensure that everything in the program is useful to livestock and forage producers, that it will increase their knowledge."

Topics for the first day of the two-day school include principles of pasture production and grazing management, calculating stocking rates, forage establishment and assessing pasture condition.

In addition to classroom sessions, pasture tours take producers out into the field to discuss practical problems and techniques of good forage and pasture management. The first day will conclude with a barbeque and a producer panel, which will give participants an opportunity to hear and share their experiences with other producers.

The second day will include discussions of annual crops for greenfeed, pasture and swath grazing, pasture rejuvenation options and herd health. A session entitled Matching Animal Requirements to Forage Quality will be delivered by Allan Iwaasa of AAFC, which will teach producers how to ensure they have top quality forage at the point in the season when the animals require quality. Another session, entitled The Economics of Grain to Grass, will be led by Lorne Christopherson, a producer from Weldon who collaborated with the Western Beef Development Centre on a project to determine the economics of turning grain land into pasture.

The second day will also feature another field tour, this time to the AAFC Saskatoon research station, to view and discuss forage varieties for hay and pasture.

The Saskatchewan Pasture School brochure may be downloaded from the Western Beef Development Centre website at

For more information, contact:

Janice Bruynooghe
Saskatchewan Forage Council
Phone (306) 966-2148


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

New Prairie Swine Centre Scientist Adds to Pig Nutrition Expertise

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Just a few weeks ago, the Prairie Swine Centre announced a research project that would provide significant insight into how pigs use the energy they get from canola. The research scientist leading this project is Dr. Pascal Leterme, a Belgian who has been with the centre for less than a year.

Dr. Leterme is in charge of the Nutrition Department at the Prairie Swine Centre. He deals with the nutritional evaluation of the ingredients in swine feed, and how they are used in swine nutrition. This project will also look at the possible effects of the ingredients on gut health and the excretion of nitrogen into the environment.

"Our aim is to formulate diets that reduce the impact of pork production on the environment,” he says.

Initially, Dr. Leterme’s team was studying peas to determine their nutritional value. With some financial help from the Saskatchewan and Alberta pulse growers associations, his team collected pea samples from across the Prairie region, with a wide range of chemical compositions. The team will determine the nutritional value of the peas in weanling and growing pigs and in sows in order to optimize their use in swine nutrition.

The recently announced canola project, which is being funded by the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and the Canola Council of Canada, has similar aims.

"We will determine the nutritional value in growing pigs. In sows, we will determine the value of canola meal, but also of the benefits of using full seeds," he explains.

Dr. Leterme also has a third project under way that is funded by a private company in Belgium. That company buys 100,000 tons of flax seed a year from Canada to produce soap and detergent from the oil, but then flaxseed meal remains. At the moment, the market for flaxseed meal is saturated in Europe. Leterme is investigating whether there is any advantage to using flax meal in swine rations. Flax is the richest plant source of secoisolariresinol diglycoside, which hogs convert into phytoestrogens, and may have some benefits for the sows’ reproductive systems.

“We will be working on flaxseed meal, but the idea of 'functional feeds' is something we want to develop not only for flax, but also for peas, canola and other food products used in the Prairies,” he says.

Dr. Leterme brought with him an impressive list of credentials when he moved to Saskatchewan nine months ago. He came to Canada from the National School of Veterinary Medicine in Lyon, France, where he taught animal production. Prior to that, he was in South America at the National University of Colombia, where he was in charge of a new research laboratory in animal nutrition. His research, which was partially funded by the Belgian government, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Volkswagen Foundation, led to the development of a program in sustainable pork production for small farmers. Prior to that, he conducted swine nutrition research in Belgium.

What does he think of his new work environment?

“I like it here because there is a strong relationship between the research sector and the private sector. It is more developed than in Europe, where I worked mostly in public institutions. It seems that here, there is a stronger relationship between public institutions and private companies.”

Given this, it is likely we will hear from Dr. Leterme regularly, as he helps develop sustainable hog production practices in Saskatchewan through his contributions at the Prairie Swine Centre.

For more information, contact:

Pascal Leterme, PhD
Research Scientist – Nutrition
Prairie Swine Centre
(306) 667-7445

Stomp Pork Farm Recruits Employees From China and the Philippines

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

When finding enough qualified employees becomes a challenge, attracting immigrant workers with the right credentials becomes an attractive solution. That is what Stomp Pork Farm of Leroy, Saskatchewan, has undertaken to do, according to Human Resources Manager Corrine Kelly.

“We have a partnership with Canada Livestock Services out of Lloydminster, and they do recruitment in the Philippines and China for us. Lately, we have been focusing on the Philippines because Filipinos seem to be the right candidates for our farm. A connection was made between the manager of a large pork co-operative in the Philippines and a human resources consultant with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food's Livestock Development Branch, and we took it from there.”

Kelly says Stomp Pork Farm recruits 10 per cent of its workers from other countries because there are simply not enough trained hog barn workers in Canada and Saskatchewan. Stomp Pork Farm employs 100 people at its head office in the Rural Municipality of Leroy and 300 people in total across the province.

“We look for a minimum of three years experience in a hog production unit, in combination with some agricultural diploma or certificate. In order for them to be eligible for the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, potential employees must have experience in hog production."

The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) is a provincially administered program that operates under an agreement with the federal government, which allows the province to establish immigration priorities and selection criteria that reflect the particular needs of Saskatchewan employers.

The majority of Stomp's immigrant workforce is people with families, Kelly explains, "although some are single. We have probably a 50-50 split of men and women. They arrive first on a work permit, and while they are here they complete the nominee paper work. When that is approved, we can offer them permanent positions. In the barns, we find them to be very conscientious with the animals. They want to make a good living for their families."

Kelly and her team do everything possible to ensure that they keep their new workers for a long time.

“I pre-arrange housing for them. We go around town looking for accommodations for them. We stock the suites with some miscellaneous items like bedding. If it is winter, we get them some winter coats and maybe a little bit of food in their cupboards. After all, they are not going to bring everything from their kitchens to Canada. We do this so they can be a little more comfortable when they arrive, and can get going before their first pay cheque.”

Stomp Pork Farm welcomed its first immigrant workers in December 2004.

“The first group arrived from China. Our first Filipino worker arrived in March of this year, and four more will be coming in October. So far, we have welcomed 15 immigrants, plus their families," Kelly says.

“The harshness of the weather is the hardest thing for them to adapt to, as well as the small size of some of our communities—especially if they come from Manila. The Philippines is a country of 89 million people. It is densely populated there compared to rural Saskatchewan.”

Though she has travelled to the Philippines to set up the program, Kelly doesn’t believe she will have to go back there on a regular basis, because of an arrangement Stomp Pork Farm has made with Canada Livestock Services to do all the pre-selection work there.

“They read the resumes, and I go through the final selection. I have met all the workers who are coming now, but, if we do any further recruiting, I likely won’t meet them until they arrive in Canada."

Kelly says Stomp Pork Farm is very optimistic about this initiative. They strongly believe in the SINP, and in the selection criteria that has been set. Management ever underwent cultural awareness training to give them some sense of the Philippines and the type of workers they will be employing.

Kelly stresses that her company’s initiative in China and the Philippines does not take away any jobs from Saskatchewan residents.

“It is just one of a number of initiatives in the Stomp Pork Farm human resource strategy,” she says.

For more information, contact:

Corrine Kelly
Human Resources Manager
Stomp Pork Farm Ltd.
Leroy, Saskatchewan

Peg's Kitchen: For the Goodness of Homemade Foods

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Even in the age of convenience foods, it seems there are always consumers who appreciate the tastes of authenticity. That is pretty much what Vern and Peg Leippi were banking on when they launched Peg’s Legs out of their farm home in 1996.

“We started with turkey legs at Kronau,” recalls Mrs. Leippi. “We cured them, smoked them and cooked them. That was our very first product. We were farming at the time and did this mostly in the winter. We quit farming in 1997."

The Leippis celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1998 and made their own cabbage rolls and sausage for their outdoor party for 250 people.

"The reaction we got was: ‘Oh, your food is so good,’" she reminisces. "From then on, we just kept going. Our cabbage rolls really took off. They were first and foremost among our products. We took them to our first craft sale in 1999, in Lumsden, and we sold out in one hour and a half. We took orders, and from there we just kept on growing.”

The Leippis used to prepare their food on their kitchen table, and then they built a commercial kitchen in the basement of their farm home. They stayed on the farm for three years, but in 2002, they moved to their present storefront location at 1653 Park Street in Regina. They changed the name of the business from Peg's Legs to Peg's Kitchen shortly after arriving in the city.

"It was quite funny," says Mrs. Leippi. "We were getting calls from people who thought we did cosmetic hair removal, or were a dance studio, or sold prostheses."

Now, Peg's Kitchen makes five kinds of cabbage rolls and 20 kinds of sausages ... and they still do the turkey legs. Peg's Kitchen also sells perogies, which they don't make but instead contract from different producers in Saskatchewan. Peg’s Kitchen is Regina’s Saskatchewan Made store, and carries all the Saskatchewan Made-branded products: jams, jellies, flax, pickles and preserves, cookie dough and sweets. The store also sells some crafts, music, art works and books, and they operate a take-out deli at lunch time from Monday to Friday, where they offer their cabbage rolls and sausage or homemade beef or pork hamburgers.

Mrs. Leippi says their customers come from all income categories, and generally range from 30 years old and up.

"The homemade taste and smell bring them back," she says. "We hear over and over that we make the world’s best cabbage rolls. For the sausage, my husband uses low fat beef and pork. So you don’t get the flame-up on the barbeque that usually happens when the fat drips into the fire."

All of Peg's Kitchen's recipes were passed down through the family. “The sausages come from Vern’s family and the cabbage rolls come from mine,” she says. Rest at ease… Saskatchewan’s culinary heritage is in good hands at Peg’s Kitchen.

For more information, contact:

Peg Leippi
Peg’s Kitchen
1653 Park Street
(306) 781-2830

The Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists Celebrates its 60th Anniversary

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It is a professional regulatory body much like that which governs the activities of physicians and lawyers. After all, if an agrologist tells you there is a nutrient deficiency in your soil, you want to make sure that recommendation comes from someone whose practices are recognized as sound by his or her peers. That is precisely what the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists is there for, and it has been around for 60 years.

Bruce Hobin, executive director/registrar of the SIA, explains that it is his role to work with the Admissions Committee and the SIA Council to make sure that the people who become professional agrologists have the right credentials.

"We admit them initially as articling agrologists (AAg), and they move on to become professional agrologists. When members join us, there are a number of requirements they must complete before becoming professional agrologists.”

When the articling requirements are successfully completed, applicants become professional agrologists, who can use the designation PAg. To maintain their professional status, SIA agrologists are required to take part in ongoing professional development.

“When you see the designation PAg, or you hear the word agrologist, you have an assurance that the person is qualified to provide agricultural advice,” explains Hobin.

The Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists (SIA) was established by The Saskatchewan Agrologists Act in 1946. The Act makes it compulsory for anyone practicing agrology in Saskatchewan to be a member of the SIA.

Agrologists have played a significant role in the development of the agricultural sector in Saskatchewan. The idea was to have a professional body with the legislated authority to protect the interests of the public in issues related to agricultural production and processing.

“When the first agrologist members were admitted, they dealt primarily with conventional production,” says Hobin. “They were involved in crop and livestock production, or helping with farm management issues. But now, it seems we have a broader spectrum of agrologists.

"We have agrologists who still work in traditional agriculture, but you now have agrologists who work with environmental issues and wildlife management, and even in the oil industry, where agrologists work in soil reclamation. We also have many more agrologists who are involved with agricultural processing and the various issues related to that. So the profession has evolved in many ways.”

The SIA has about 1,000 members who are professional or articling agrologists.

“We also have approximately another 40 agricultural technologists who have a diploma in agriculture and who are therefore recognized as having post-secondary training in applied agriculture."

The profession of agrology has become increasingly specialized over the years, and from that comes the fact that agrologists, like doctors, practise only in their area of expertise.

The word “agrologist” is derived from the Greek words “agros” meaning land, or farm, and “logist” meaning scientist. The term designates persons who have attained at least a university degree, and who are members of a professional institute of agrologists. The basic criterion for membership in SIA is a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture from a recognized university. Other degrees, deemed by the council of the SIA to be equivalent to a degree in agriculture, may be accepted if an applicant indicates to the council an adequate training and knowledge of the agri-food industry. In some cases, additional training is required before the holder of an equivalent degree is deemed eligible for admission as an articling agrologist.

The largest employer of professional agrologists in Saskatchewan is Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

For more information, contact:

Bruce Hobin, PAg
Executive Director/Registrar
Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
(306) 242-2606

U of S Researchers Aim to Fast-Track Chickpea Breeding

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Chickpeas present a significant market opportunity for Saskatchewan; however, producers face two serious production limitations: the long growing season requirement for the current chickpea varieties and the high risk of ascochyta blight, an extremely aggressive fungal disease. These are factors which crop breeding can help address, thanks in part to the contribution of the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Agriculture Development Fund (ADF #20050723).

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are hoping to speed up the breeding process in order to save on variety development costs and to contribute to the molecular marker work that is currently being conducted there, according to crop scientist Monika Lulsdorf.

The research, which the U of S conducts in collaboration with colleagues in Australia, involves double-haploid technology. Normally, plant pollen contains only half the chromosomes necessary to produce a plant (single haploid), because half of the set comes from the father and the other half from the mother. Lulsdorf explains that double-haploid technology allows them to take immature pollen through a variety of steps and get it to regenerate into a plant. These plants are homozygous or "true breeding," meaning that, in a short amount of time, all the traits in which the researchers are interested can be fixed, and will not change from generation to generation.

"What is nice is that traits like resistance to ascochyta blight will be fixed in here," she says. "If you are looking for only one trait, it is fairly easy, but if you are looking for several different traits, and you have them all fixed all at the same time, that really helps in the end.”

Double-haploid technology is commonly used for canola, barley, wheat and a range of other species, but researchers are having difficulties using this technology on pulse crops, she explains.

“Pulse crops have always been more difficult than other species to work with, and there are very few people working on pulses, which makes research even more difficult," she says. "If you look at barley, there are labs all over the world working with double-haploid technology, and this synergy—financial and scientific—is helping them make more progress, faster. Whereas here, we are trying to do this mostly on our own. This is why I have called upon an Australian colleague to help."

Lulsdorf is working with Dr. Janine Croser, a research fellow from the Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) at the University of Western Australia in Perth.

"We are just trying to develop the technology at the moment," she says. "The androgenic part—the part where the pollen divides and develops into the pro-cell—we have already. We are now focusing on the development of the pro-embryo into the plant."

Lulsdorf and her colleagues hope to have one complete protocol developed this year.

“We are hoping for one cultivar, one genotype, because once we have developed one model cultivar, things become much easier. You can start playing around with it because you know what works already. Then we can start looking at other cultivars; we can improve the system; we can make it cost-efficient."

Lulsdorf believes success would open up a world of other opportunities, but, as she says, “we have to get there first.”

For more information, contact:

Monika Lulsdorf
Crop Development Centre
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-8558

Promising Saskatchewan Research Into New Vaccine Stimulant For Cattle

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

While the increase in antibiotic resistance in cattle continues to challenge scientists and producers around the world, researchers in Saskatchewan have identified a novel immune stimulant called CpG ODN that helps beef producers keep their herds protected from bovine respiratory diseases such as “shipping fever.”

This development by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan will keep cattle healthier, while reducing the need for antibiotics.

If it is generally agreed that vaccination remains the most cost-effective method of reducing animal suffering and death losses, animals that are routinely vaccinated as they enter feedlots are still exposed to pathogens because of previous weaning, shipping and mixing before their responses to vaccines are fully developed. As a result, there is a two-to-three-week period of susceptibility. The CpG ODN vaccine stimulant counters this by dramatically improving the speed and magnitude of immunity by enhancing a number of available vaccines.

The current reliance on antibiotics has a number of downsides, according to Dr. Lorne Babiuk, Director of VIDO.

“Antibiotics are of concern because of the increase in antibiotic resistance. Livestock production is under extreme pressure to reduce the use of antibiotics so they will be available for treating human diseases.”

The vaccine stimulant will reduce economic losses for producers and alleviate the suffering of animals from a variety of respiratory illnesses, while making more antibiotics available for human use.

“We develop these as platform technologies that will be beneficial to humans as well. If you reduce the use of antibiotics, you decrease resistance. The approach can be used for humans,” says Dr. Babiuk. “We have been able to, first of all, improve the magnitude of immune response, then change the type and broaden the quality of the immune response, and finally reduce the amount of vaccine required. We can also reduce the injection site tissue reaction.”

This project also has the potential to increase Canadian beef exports to Europe, as the European Union is taking steps to limit or ban the use of antibiotics in animal feed. They believe that, as antibiotics move through the food chain, they will lower human resistance to bacteria. They are also considering limiting or even banning live cattle and meat that has been exposed to antibiotics.

The project has received funding from Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS), and VIDO has brought in a number of other partners as well.

“We work with a collaborative group from around the world," he explains, "and, as a result of our expertise and world-leading activities, we have been able to team up with research institutes and bio-pharmaceutical companies around the world.”

The results so far have been impressive, and the benefits to producers are clear. Animal losses due to bovine respiratory diseases are estimated to cost $100 million annually in Canada. If the animals do not have to expend energy fighting off an infection, their feed conversion efficiencies are increased.

ACAAFS is a five-year program which provides $3.22 million annually to Saskatchewan projects that will position Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector at the leading edge. Funding for the ACAAFS program is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Application forms and information on how to apply can be found on the ACAAFS website at

For more information, please contact:

Dallas Carpenter
Communications Officer
Saskatchewan Council for Community Development
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
(306) 975-6856

Dr. Lorne Babiuk
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-7475

Saskatchewan Producers Seize Opportunities at Major U.S. Trade Show

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you are in the natural products business, this is an opportunity worth considering.

Natural Products EXPO West 2006 took place earlier this spring in Anaheim, California. Established in 1981, it is the United States' largest natural products trade show, with over 30,000 retailers, manufacturers, industry members, exhibitors and members of the media in attendance, along with 2,500 booths.

For Saskatchewan agricultural producers and marketers like Roger Provencher of Canadian Prairie Bison in Canwood, Natural Products EXPO West is an opportunity that can't be missed.

“I went to Natural Products EXPO West to meet potential customers, to get into the retail market and to look at doing some different programs for them," says Provencher. "We hope to add more value to the carcasses, which in turn will add more value for the producers.” Canadian Prairie's producers are all natural producers. They must sign an affidavit saying they don’t feed any growth hormones or antibiotics to their animals. The company sells mostly to the U.S., with a lesser market in Canada.

This year, Provencher’s group joined forces with the Canadian Bison Association and handed out samples on location.

“We hired a couple of chefs, and we did a bison brisket and handed out, I believe, around 3,500 samples over three or four days," he says. "Visitors would come by our booth, and we would start talking about what cuts they could possibly use and exchange business cards and pamphlets. Once we got home, we followed up by e-mail and telephone. We got them more samples and, hopefully, we'll strike a deal with them and go from there."

Another Saskatchewan group that attended the show is Northern Lights Foods of La Ronge. Terry Helary, the general manager, explains there are several reasons why he attends.

“One is to look for new customers; two is to maintain relationships with existing customers; and three is to see what is new in the market. I find it is always the follow-up that makes the difference in the sale, but attending the show gives us exposure and a market presence."

California is Northern Lights' biggest U.S. market, for both their wild rice and wild mushrooms, and Helary believes it is the personal touch that helps cement the wholesaler/retailer relationship. When he is at Natural Products EXPO West, he visits the stores where their products are sold—stores like Trader Joe’s. Northern Lights will even do private labelling for them.

The Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP) is the provincial organization that has been leading trade missions of Saskatchewan food processors to Natural Products EXPO West. Brad Michnik, Director of Trade Development for North America and Mexico, explains that significant organic, natural products and herbal supplements sectors exist in the province. These export companies go to Natural Products EXPO West because it brings all the wholesalers, retailers, brokers and manufacturers in the industry together in Anaheim. There is also a Natural Products EXPO East held every fall on the East Coast, but the Anaheim show has proven to be the more significant of the two.

"Keep in mind that California is the birthplace of the organic, natural products movement in North America,” says Michnik.

STEP has worked with Saskatchewan groups going to Natural Products EXPO West for six of the last nine years. There has always been a large complement of Canadian companies that attend the show, of which anywhere from 12 to 20 are Saskatchewan firms.

“Saskatchewan is always well represented," say Michnik. "The Saskatchewan companies that attend range from people selling organic commodities to companies selling shelf-ready products for the retail market in the southern United States. Some of the companies that attend are in the early stages of the export process. They will go down to California to learn about the market, to see what the opportunities are, and to see how they are going to take advantage of those opportunities. At the other end of the spectrum, there are companies that are already successfully marketing down there, and are looking to expand their businesses and to find additional customers.”

When it comes to exporting natural agricultural products, there is nothing quite like getting your feet wet at Natural Products EXPO West.

For more information, contact:

Brad Michnik
Director of Trade Development
for North America and Mexico
Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
(306) 933-6555

Roger Provencher
Canadian Prairie Bison
Canwood, Saskatchewan
(306) 468-2930

Terry Helary
General Manager
Northern Lights Food
La Ronge, Saskatchewan
(306) 425-3434

Shaunavon Pulse Producers Develop Lentil-Based Lasagne

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The road to value-added agriculture is strewn with both rewards and hurdles. No one knows that better than Shaunavon grain producers Vicky and David Krause. They created Pulse Wise Foods to help them make the transition from producer to processor, and today they market their very own lentil and feta lasagne through the Saskatchewan Made stores in Regina and Saskatoon.

“We have a young family and a full future ahead of us,” says David Krause. “We were looking at the grain industry—we knew something had to change. We grew lentils. At a Pulse Days meeting in Saskatoon a few years ago, we heard an agricultural economics professor say that the pulse industry would overbuild the cleaning and processing facilities, and that there would be some losers, but the future after that would be in adding value to products above and beyond simply bagging and shipping."

So that is what they decided to do. With help from the Saskatchewan Food Processors Association (SFPA) and the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre in Saskatoon, the Krauses developed their product, designed the packaging and labelling, and brought it to market.

Both members of this entrepreneurial couple were born and raised in a traditional grain farming environment.

“Looking back from now,” Krause reflects, “we faced a lot of challenges. First, we really didn’t understand business and we didn’t understand food processing. So we had to learn a lot. We tried to market the product, as well as process it, and, at the same time, we were trying to raise two young kids—we have been tugging away at this for five or six years now.

“We have learned a lot about marketing and business. You hear about the successes, and about the people with the best gadget in the world, but who, for some reason, just can't get it off the ground. The key is marketing. It's neither an art nor a science, but it is a combination of both. You have to be lucky as well.”

One of the challenges Pulse Wise Foods is working on right now is how to produce their product more efficiently, according to Krause.

“Our product is labour-intensive to make and, therefore, costly. Finding the right package to put it in is another major issue. We are now looking to streamline production, for it is a handmade product at the moment. Because it is so unique, you are developing a whole new grocery category as you go. Our lasagne is meatless, using lentil as the protein.”

Krause feels it is only fitting that Saskatchewan producers should be able to capitalize on value-added lentil products, since the province is a world leader in lentil production. Canadians do not eat a lot of lentils, but, he notes, Pulse Canada is in the midst of researching and publicizing the health benefits of lentils and other pulses.

“In other parts of the world, people eat pulses on a daily basis. Think about it: no cholesterol, low in fat, prevention of heart disease and diabetes. Isn’t it the right food for us? Our product is a heat-and-serve microwaveable meal; quite convenient."

Krause believes the secret of being successful is to never give up; to have passion; to love what you are doing.

"Never get down on yourself," he says, "but don’t blame anybody else for your failures. It is all up to you. It is tough. We have cried, but we have laughed, too. Somebody said to me: when you are down and out and on the floor, when you are down there, pick something up. You might as well learn something while you are down there.”

The Krause family has learned much in the process of building their company.

“The food business is very highly controlled," he says. "Finding a distributor and a retailer that wants you is all about consumer demand. That is what they want. They don’t want to take something off their shelf that is making them money to put your product on."

Krause is trying to devise a way to educate consumers about lentils. Through market research, he has learned that consumers want convenience and they want wellness. They want food that will give them health benefits without sacrificing taste.

"They want something that tastes good," he says. "Otherwise, people won’t eat it. That is number one.”

As Pulse Wise Foods grows to tap into the demand for healthier foods, the Krause family will keep on growing as entrepreneurs also, learning how to make the best out of the resources at their disposal, while remaining stewards of valuable agricultural resources back at home in Shaunavon.

David Krause
Pulse Wise Foods
Shaunavon, Saskatchewan
(306) 297-6394

Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board Works On Designing Better Lambs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board and its partners succeed in a new project, funded in part by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s (SAF) Agriculture Development Fund (#20050709), consumers will end up with better cuts of lamb on their plate, and producers with more money in their pockets.

“We have joined forces with the Alberta Sheep and Wool Commission, SAF, Lakeland College and Sunterra Meats to try to work on building better lambs, using the Lakeland College ewe flock," explains Gordon Schroeder, General Manager of the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board. “We are taking six sire breeds to those ewes, and we are tracking their rates of gain and their cutability right through to the plant. We are trying to determine what is required to build that top quality carcass that can get us really good cutability at the plant.”

This matters, explains Schroeder, because the slaughter plant pays a premium for carcasses that index over 100 per cent.

“So we are trying to get some data and figure out a way for lamb producers to get that premium pricing all the time," he says. "You see, a carcass of average quality is called 100 per cent index. If you can produce a carcass that has more cutability, meaning better traits, they will pay a premium on those—a percentage over the average price.”

This project involves a multilevel partnership. Staff at Lakeland College —including veterinarians—are working with the students at Lakeland to provide the labour.

“They are handling the flock, doing the weighing, the breeding and caring for the flock. Once these animals reach slaughter weight, they will be transported to Sunterra meats for further tests around cutability." Sunterra Meats in Innisfail, Alberta is the only federally licensed lamb cutting plant in Western Canada.

The project will be conducted over three years. Schroeder looks forward to obtaining the results. He says this is the only project of this type going on in Canada.

“This is why we have partnered with other jurisdictions. Our industry has to build a quality carcass and we have to have consistent quality. So we must acquire the knowledge and provide that data to producers.”

For more information, contact:

Gordon Schroeder
General Manager
Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board
(306) 933-5582

Watch For Crown Rust On Oats in the Southeast

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Researchers are warning oat producers to watch for crown rust this season. The level of crown rust has been increasing in recent years in Manitoba and south-eastern Saskatchewan, says Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Plant Disease Specialist Penny Pearse.

“The crown rust outbreak in 2005 was one of the most severe we've witnessed in many years," she says. "The 2005 season was characterized by late planting of oat, and humid and warm weather conditions that were favourable for crown rust infection. Furthermore, oat cultivars bred for resistance to crown rust are no longer effective at warding off infection, because the rust population has developed new races that have overcome the resistance. Because current oat cultivars are no longer effective at resisting crown rust, growers will need to incorporate other management practices to reduce disease risk.”

Crown rust—also known as leaf rust—is caused by the fungus Puccinia coronata f.sp. avenae. The crown rust fungus is specific to cultivated oat, wild oat and a few other wild grasses, and will not infect wheat, barley or rye. “Crown rust reduces oat yield, and causes thin kernels with low test weight. This greatly reduces milling quality. Losses due to the disease can approach 100 per cent if infection is early, if it is a susceptible cultivar, and if weather conditions are favourable for the development and spread of fungal spores,” says Pearse. So far, losses have been most severe in Manitoba. The problem area in Saskatchewan will be the southeast, where oat is a preferred crop and is more likely to be exposed to the rust fungus moving in from the south.

Symptoms of crown rust include orange pustules developing on oat leaves. Each pustule contains thousands of spores that can spread to neighbouring plants and produce new pustules in only seven to 10 days under ideal conditions.

This raises the question: why are our current oat cultivars no longer resistant? “Within the rust fungal population," Pearse explains, "there are a number of different races that have evolved to overcome the rust resistance genes in our current oat varieties. Almost all oat cultivars currently grown on the eastern prairies rely on a single gene for resistance: Pc68. The outbreak of oat rust in 2005 proves this gene is no longer effective.

“Dr. James Chong, a pathologist with the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, has determined the frequency of the various rust races collected from infected plants. In 2005, 73 per cent of isolates from cultivated oat were virulent against the Pc68 gene, compared to 39 per cent of isolates from 2004, and only 12 per cent in 2003. This is evidence that the rust race that can overcome the Pc68 gene has increased rapidly in the rust population in only a few years.”

The primary means of infection is rust spores floating up from the southern United States on air currents. The onset and severity of any rust infection in the eastern prairies is dependent on what happens to southern crops.

“If there is a high proportion of the race virulent against the Pc68 gene in the rust population developing in the U.S., oat crops on the eastern prairies are likely to suffer," she explains. "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produces a cereal rust bulletin that monitors rust development in the U.S., and we can use it to predict the risk to Canadian crops. To date, rust levels have been reported as low in the southern states; however, this is not a guarantee that some spores won’t find their way to Canada later this season. Provincial specialists will continue to keep producers and agronomists updated on the risk in 2006 as the season progresses.”

Developing crown rust resistant cultivars is an ongoing battle for cereal breeders. As soon as new cultivars are developed with specific genes for resistance, the rust population begins to develop new races to overcome this resistance. The goal of cereal breeders is to “pyramid” genes for resistance, meaning that several genes are incorporated into one cultivar to extend the breakdown of resistance or to find less specific, moderate genes for resistance that will delay the breakdown.

Two new cultivars, Leggett from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Winnipeg, and Hi-Fi from North Dakota State University , have been registered in Canada , but certified seed is not yet available, explains Dr. Brian Rossnagel, an oat breeder at the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan . New sources of resistance have been identified in wild oats collected in Europe , the Middle East and North Africa, and are being incorporated into the breeding programs. Several advanced lines with resistance that have been developed at the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are in co-op tests in 2006.

One of the key ways to avoid severe infection is to plant oat crops early.

“By planting early, the crop should be advanced enough by the time the rust spores arrive in the eastern prairies that it will not suffer significant yield or quality loss," Pearse explains. "A second option is for growers to be more selective in the cultivars they choose to plant. Although most of the cultivars depend solely on gene Pc68 and won’t be effective, a few other cultivars have other genes. Until Leggett and Hi-Fi are available, the best choices would be slow-rusting cultivars such as CDC Boyer or CDC Dancer.

“Another tool that growers have to manage rust is foliar fungicides. There are a number of fungicides available that contain the active ingredients propiconazole and/or trifloxystrobin. Ideally, you should spray at flag leaf emergence to protect the flag leaf. Rust can develop very quickly, so once the flag leaf is covered with spots, it is too late to apply fungicide.”

Oat producers need to be aware that crown rust may be a problem in oats in 2006. Management practices as well as crop scouting should be implemented to reduce risk.

For more information, contact:

Penny Pearse
Provincial Plant Disease Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-4671


Dr. Brian Rossnagel
Oat Breeder, Crop Development Centre
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-4976

Is Supplemental Feeding Feasible

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Large numbers of steers are being placed on grass this spring and summer before they are moved to feedlots for finishing. Some of the questions that usually get asked are: what rate of gain can be expected from such cattle? Will providing supplemental feed result in greater gains than grazing the forages alone?

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Livestock Development Specialist Bill Kowalenko has these answers:

“Two factors come into play when considering the rate of gain in cattle. First, livestock producers should be aware of the nutrient requirements for any given class of cattle at their stage of growth and development. The other important factor is to know the nutritional value of the forage at any given stage of growth. The rate of gain of the cattle can be predicted pretty accurately if one knows the nutritional content of the forage and the cattle’s requirements.”

Forage quality is highest in the plants’ early growth stage when energy, protein, and digestibility will be higher, and the fibre content will be lower.

“As plants mature, the protein and energy drop off and the digestibility also decreases, due to the increased fibre content. For example, crested wheatgrass at the early vegetative stage will have energy of 75 per cent total digestible nutrients (TDN) and a crude protein content of 21.5 per cent. At full bloom, the same grass will have an energy value of 61 per cent TDN and crude protein of 9.8 per cent. As the grass continues to mature, both the energy and protein will continue to drop. Smooth brome at the early vegetative stage has an energy of 73 per cent TDN and crude protein of 21.3 per cent, while at the mature stage of growth the energy will be 53 per cent TDN and crude protein of 6.0 per cent.”

Similarly, cattle require higher energy and protein levels in their daily diet when they are younger—and at lighter weights—than when they are older and at heavier weights.

“For example, steers weighing 400 lb. consuming forage with crude protein in the range of 13 per cent would be expected to gain 2.0 lb./day. If the crude protein in the forage being grazed was in the 8.0 per cent range, the expected gain by the same steer would be only 0.5 lb./day.”

Proper nutrition dictates that an animal’s growth or production can be no greater than that allowed by the most limiting of the essential nutrients, explains Kowalenko.

“If a nutrient is included in an animal’s diet at a level that does not meet its requirements, the ability of the animal to use the other nutrients is governed by the level of that limiting nutrient. The two most important nutrients required by growing cattle are energy and protein.

“To expect cattle in the 400 to 600 lb weight range to grow at 2.0 to 2.5 lb./day on a grass-based forage, one would need to maintain the forage in the early vegetative phase to provide the energy and protein that would support that level of performance. If a legume was included as part of the forage supply, gains of 2.5 lb./day or greater may be expected.”

Supplementing standing forage is advantageous where it can correct a nutritional deficiency that interferes with forage utilization by the animal.

“Protein supplementation is effective where forages contain less protein than the animals require. Even though there may be adequate amounts of energy in a forage supply, if the protein is deficient for the grazing animal’s diet, there will be a reduction in forage intake.

Correcting for low protein content in the diet will result in an increase in forage intake, digestibility and animal gain.

“A report by the Oklahoma Co-operative Extension Service, titled How to Estimate the Value of Supplementing Grazing Stocker Cattle, shows that ‘when forage is slightly deficient in protein, you can expect about 0.4 pounds of added weight gain from the first pound of high protein supplement fed. When protein is adequate, you can expect about 0.09 pound of added weight gain from each pound of supplemental energy feed added.”

“In their example, they indicate if you correct a minor protein deficiency, one pound of a protein supplement such as cottonseed meal (38 per cent crude protein) should increase gain about 0.4 pound per day,” explains Kowalenko. “If the protein level in the diet (forage or forage plus supplement) is adequate, the addition of one pound of corn will likely increase gain by 0.09 pound per day. Adding energy to the daily diet of grazing cattle will result in their substituting the supplement for the forage they consume.

“The nutritional quality of the forage, and the size and age of the cattle grazing it, will determine the level of performance that one can expect to achieve in grazing the forage resource,” Kowalenko concludes.

For more information, contact:

W. S. (Bill) Kowalenko
Livestock Development Specialist
SaskatchewanAgriculture and Food
(306) 867-5559

Progress in the Quest for More Effective Control of Gopher Populations

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Gophers present a significant problem to agriculture in Saskatchewan and in other North American jurisdictions. Wherever they live, gophers tend to create problems, says Andrew Olkowski, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan who has been looking for solutions to the gopher problem.

“We proposed to undertake a research project inspired by information that I read in the press several years ago," he says. "People were complaining that the gopher population was growing. I read comments to the effect that poison is not working, or is difficult to get."

As a toxicological researcher, this was a challenge Olkowski could not resist. He and his research team decided to investigate the problem. Why is the gopher population growing despite the efforts to control it?

Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s (SAF) Agriculture Development Fund helped finance the project (ADF #20020076). Olkowski assigned his team to some basic investigative work.

“When any toxin enters the body, the gopher's first line of defence is to get rid of the toxin as fast as possible. This happens when the toxin is being metabolized. How fast it is metabolized? That is what pre-determines the effectiveness of the toxin. So essentially, if the toxins that are currently being used on gophers are less effective in some cases, there must be some biological explanation."

Olkowski’s project was designed to test all the major pathways that are responsible for breaking down toxic compounds.

"We captured a number of gophers for the study and harvested the liver tissue, then extracted the enzymes that are responsible for detoxification. This gave us a very good idea of how, at what speed, and at what rate those compounds are metabolized. We essentially learned which ones are the compounds that metabolize faster and which are slower; what the gender differences are, and quite a few other things.”

Part of this study also compared two different groups in an attempt to determine why the toxins do not work in some situations.

“We wanted to test a group of gophers that were not exposed to toxins in the past, and compare them to another group that was captured from a field where attempts to control them for a number of years had been made. Essentially, one group had been exposed to toxins and the other had not.

“What we found out was quite intriguing. It turned out that animals that were captured from the field, the ones that had been previously exposed, had actually built up quite a bit of resistance—the metabolic pathways in this group of animals were much better equipped to deal with the toxins. They acquired a certain immunity to them.”

Olkowski admits that this in itself is not something new, but it is revealing.

“You can actually stimulate a lot of these metabolic pathways in an artificial way. In experiments done on rats, the subjects were given low doses of a drug designed to make them sleep. They acquired such immunity to this drug that other rats that hadn't been exposed to the drug fell asleep rapidly, while the exposed rats were not even losing consciousness. Even humans develop mechanisms to deal with sleeping pills. If used for a long period of time, they become ineffective. It is the same type of mechanism.

"We tested generic pathways that are organised in certain patterns of metabolisms, so some groups can be added to the original chemical to basically facilitate excretion of this chemical. This is a kind of reaction that we call a biotransformation. Usually the aim of this organism is to make the compound less available to the body and more excretable, therefore less toxic.” Usually, this would happen because the metabolism would add some function to make it more soluble, more excretable, or it would immobilize some toxic paths of the chemical, explains Olkowski.

“We didn’t come up with miracle solutions, but on the basis of this study, we now have enough information to think about designing a new generation of drugs. We know which structures are metabolized faster, and what the gender differences are. We found quite a significant difference between males and females. This can be used as a target.”

For more information, contact:

Andrew Olkowski
Department of Animal and Poultry Science
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-5848

New Generation Elk Products Co-Operative Gets $25,000 Grant

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Norelkco, the North American Natural Health Products Co-operative Ltd., is getting some business plan and market development activities support in the form of a $25,000 grant from the Province of Saskatchewan.

The announcement was made recently by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Wartman at Norelkco's first annual general meeting in Saskatoon.

"We are grateful for the operational help this grant will provide," says David Altrogge, Marketing Manager for Norelkco Neutraceuticals. "It is always hard to generate that first revenue stream for a new company."

Norelkco Neutraceuticals was incorporated as a new generation co-operative in December to market human and pet health care products containing elk velvet antler and a variety of other natural ingredients. The majority of Norelkco's members are also members of the Saskatchewan Elk Breeders Association.

Norelkco is targeting a number of different markets, but its primary division is the VetPro Naturals line, which produces seven products that are sold exclusively to veterinary clinics across Canada.

What pleases Altrogge the most about the new company is that it is a homegrown solution to the challenges facing the elk industry.

“I like it when producers get together and form a company that doesn't just sell raw materials, but is also involved in producing, processing, distributing and marketing the product," he says. "Retailing is where the profits are made, and with the new generation co-op, we hope that all revenue from all the different stages will be returned to the producers. That is what is so exciting about our VetPro line.”

Saskatchewan elk producers had built a lucrative industry supplying velvet antler to the Asian traditional medicine market, but this came to an end in December 2000, when the Republic of Korea banned imports of all North American velvet antler after the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the North American farmed elk herd. Since then, the price of antler velvet has dropped from $45 per pound in 2000 to $8 per pound in 2005. Elk farms in Saskatchewan now follow a mandatory CWD surveillance program and have done extensive testing, but the Asian markets have not yet returned. Norelkco's goal is to develop new North American markets, first in pet care and then in human health supplements.

“Our product line is very unique in the sense that we had a veterinary consultant formulate our product line," says Altrogge. "All our products contain elk velvet but they also contain a variety of natural ingredients to remedy specific pet ailments. Our star product is VetPro Naturals Joint Plus, and we have high hopes for its sales potential. In addition to the velvet antler, it contains collagen 2, nettle leaf and horsetail, all of which are known to help in joint regeneration for arthritic dogs. It will be available only at veterinary clinics across Canada.”

Altroggi now plans to focus on developing the brand name and the company's image.

“We will be providing the clinics with lots of valuable information about our products. We want to convey the idea that we are a reliable company that can supply the product at a good price, and provide lots of support for vets who have questions.”

For more information, contact:

David Altrogge, Marketing Manager
Norelkco Nutraceuticals
Innovation Place
102 - 116 Research Drive
Saskatoon, Sask.
(306) 384-1888

Researcher Looks For Way to Improve Efficiency of Starter Fertilizer

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

How much is too much, or not enough?

That is just one of the questions Jeff Schoenau of the Department of Crop Science at the University of Saskatchewan will attempt to answer as part of a Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) project (#20050725) over the next few months.

“With the move toward low-disturbance seeding systems, there is a limit to how much phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) fertilizer can be safely put down in the seed row as a starter," he says. "If you want to disturb the soil less during the seeding operation, you have to use narrow openers, and that, coupled with the wide row spacing, means that the seed and fertilizer get crammed together, which increases the likelihood of fertilizer burn.”

Given the move to fertilizing in a single pass using low-disturbance openers, Schoenau says there is a need to re-evaluate safe rates of starter fertilizer, which are placed in or near the seed row so that the seedlings get easy access to nutrients like phosphorus and potassium that are immobile in the soil. Because phosphorous and potassium cannot move very far through the soil, they have to be placed very near the seeds for the seedlings to derive any nutrient benefits. This lack of mobility also increases the potential for damage from an over-application of fertilizer, because the nutrients cannot dissipate in the soil.

“So what we are doing," he says, "is to look at safe rates of combined, seed-placed phosphorus and potassium applications using these low-disturbance seeding-fertilizing configurations. We are also looking at the effectiveness of a new controlled-release phosphorus (CRP) fertilizer product, which has a special coating that controls the release of the nutrients into the soil water.”

One of the potential advantages of CRP, explains Schoenau, is that farmers might be able to safely place higher rates of fertilizer phosphorus in the seed row.

“If you have a recommendation for a high rate of phosphorus, and you have a sensitive crop and a seeding unit that has low seed-bed utilization, you may damage the crop if you try to place all the phosphorus with the seed in the seed row. CRP may overcome this limitation by allowing all the recommended P fertilizer to be safely placed in the seed row. As a secondary benefit, the slow release nature of CRP could improve the crop utilization and efficiency of uptake."

So far, research is showing that CRP allows higher rates of fertilizer application in the seed row. Further research is planned into the actual affect of CRP on crop uptake, as well as on P and K combinations.

This is a one-year project. Schoenau hopes that, by late-December, he will have a good idea of how the starter fertilizers affect the safety of crops when placed in the seed row, and also, how they affect the availability and crop utilization of phosphorus.

For more information, contact:

Jeff Schoenau, Ph.D
Department of Soil Science
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-6844

Trace Mineral Supplementation for Summer Grazing

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

As cattle producers look ahead to placing their cows on to summer pasture, ensuring that these cows receive a proper supply of minerals throughout the summer grazing period is important, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Livestock Development Specialist Bryan Doig.

“A large number of pastures in the province are commonly deficient in trace minerals," he says. "In addition to iodine and cobalt, copper, zinc and manganese are three of the trace minerals of which cattle are often deficient."

Selenium deficiency problems are also common, especially in the black, thin-black, brown and grey-wooded soil zones, Doig says.

“Copper deficiency due to low copper levels in the forage is compounded when there are high levels of the mineral molybdenum in the feed and/or high levels of sulfates and iron in the water source or feed. The molybdenum, sulfates and iron act like a magnet in the cow's rumen, attracting most of the available copper in the feed and causing it to pass through the animal rather then being absorbed by the body. This can cause a number of problems, including low rates of conception."

The easiest method of providing adequate amounts of trace minerals to cattle on summer pasture is to feed the minerals as a supplement. Salt, minerals or a combination of salt and minerals, which contains a balance of trace minerals, can provide proper supplementation to grazing animals. Supplying a trace mineralized fortified salt (TM fortified salt) is a convenient method of providing trace minerals. Cattle tend to seek out salt and will almost always eat it every day, he explains. Blue salt blocks contain salt, cobalt and iodine. TM fortified salt blocks (brown blocks) contain salt, cobalt and iodine, as well as copper, zinc, manganese and sometimes selenium.

“Providing a range mineral—a mix of calcium and phosphorus—which often contains salt, encourages intake by cattle on pasture," says Doig. Another option is to mix loose, TM fortified salt with a salt-free cattle mineral supplement to encourage intake. A common mixture is one part TM fortified salt to two parts salt-free mineral.”

Doig warns that all salt blocks must be removed from the pasture for this method to work. Ensure that both the salt and mineral contain adequate levels of the trace minerals. Look for products containing at least 2,500 mg/kg of copper. The levels of zinc and manganese are usually balanced with the copper.

“If selenium deficiencies are common in your area, select a TM fortified salt with added selenium. Mineral supplements may also contain selenium. Be careful, though. Product labels caution to supply selenium from one source only. Selenium is extremely toxic, and the effects of over-supplementation are as bad—if not worse—than a selenium deficiency.”

Additional information on trace minerals is available in the publication Trace Minerals for Beef Cattle on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food website at under the sub-headings Beef, Feeds and Nutrition.

To find out more, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at: 1-800-457-2377.

Bryan Doig
Livestock Development Specialist
Saskachewan Agriculture and Food
North Battleford
(306) 446-7477

Reminders and Tips for Successful Forage Crop Establishment

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The precautions you take to foster the establishment of your forage crop can go a long way to ensuring you reap the rewards of your investment of time and money, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Conversion Specialist André Bonneau. It is often a matter of dosage.

“For instance, cover crops are not necessary for good forage crop establishment, but are often used because they provide a cash return, hay or pasture and weed suppression. During establishment, some forage crops can compete better than others with cover crops. Wheat grasses, brome grasses, alfalfa and sweet clover are reasonably competitive under normal conditions. Russian wild rye, bird's foot trefoil and sainfoin are less competitive, and should be seeded only on clean land without a cover crop.”

If you use a cover crop, Bonneau advises reducing the normal seeding rate by 50 per cent to reduce competition.

“Quite often, seeding the cover crop at 50 per cent of normal will not drastically reduce the yield of the cover crop for greenfeed," he explains. "Seed both crops at right angles, if possible. This takes two operations, which many producers do not like, but it does ensure the forage crop can be seeded shallowly, and avoids direct competition with the cover crop within the rows."

Seed the cover crop first. If you are seeding fluffy grasses that do not flow well through your seeder, consider adding up to 20 lb. of actual high phosphate fertilizer per acre in a six-inch row spacing. However, avoid contact between nitrogen and potassium fertilizers and the seed. In a grass/alfalfa mixture, mix the alfalfa seed and the fertilizer immediately before seeding. Increase the recommended alfalfa inoculant rate before seeding and use a sticker solution. Consider re-inoculating pre-inoculated seed before mixing it with fertilizer.

Herbicide residues are another factor to consider.

“Most herbicides—if applied properly—do not affect the development of the crops that follow," he says. "There are a few herbicides that leave residues in the soil and which carry recropping restrictions.”

More information on herbicide re-cropping restrictions is available in the 2006 Guide to Crop Protection published by SAF, which may be downloaded from the SAF website at:

For more information, contact:

André Bonneau
Forage Conversion Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
1-866-457-2377 (toll free)

SAF Forage Specialist Wins Range Management Award

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Michel Tremblay, Provincial Forage Crop Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food recently received the Society for Range Management (SRM) Outstanding Achievement Award. SRM is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable management of rangelands for the benefit of current and future generations.

Also receiving the award were Ted and Olive Perrin of Beechy. The couple owns and operates the 12,775-acre Castleland Ranch in the northern mixed prairie region. The official citation mentions how Castleland Ranch is a leader in range management in the Canadian ranching industry.

“Forward thinking and conservative range management on Castleland Ranch ensures sustainable grazing resources through extremes in climatic conditions over the short- and long-term. Many of the long-standing management approaches of Castleland Ranch are new technology for many producers,” according to the SRM.

Tremblay and the Perrins accepted their awards at the SRM convention in Vancouver. SRM has about 4,000 members worldwide who deal with natural resource management and range ecology. SRM award recipients may or may not be SRM members, but they will have had a significant impact on the advancement of applied ecology on rangelands.

Tremblay is a native of the Saskatoon area. He developed an interest in rangelands as a result of his farm upbringing.

“We were concerned with the level of soil erosion occurring with the farming practices prevalent at the time," he says. "Seeding light land to forages was a bit of a conservation ethic for our family. We gained much appreciation for the landscape, and for the value of rangelands. Conservation of rangelands is good for the environment.”

Tremblay worked at the Saskatchewan Forage Council for a few years. He joined Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food as a Provincial Forage Specialist in December 1992.

Tremblay finds the Society for Range Management a useful resource for him.

“The society gives you a professional network. You become aware of what other people are working on, and you draw on that to solve problems in your own jurisdiction.”

There are between 10 and 12 million acres of rangeland in Saskatchewan. There is also a large acreage base of introduced forages that has grown steadily in recent years, Tremblay points out.

“That part of the industry expands, but rangeland is a finite resource because you can’t create rangeland. Restoration of broken rangeland is very difficult. This is why we should manage it with a little bit of wisdom,” he concludes.

For more information, contact:

Michel Tremblay
Forage Crops Provincial Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
(306) 787-7712

Successfully Seeding This Year's Forage Crop

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

If you are planning to seed forage this spring, the last thing you need is to have a seeding failure.

“Unfortunately, there is no way of guaranteeing that your forage stand will be a success,” says Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Forage Development Specialist Al Foster, “but there are steps that you can take to remove much of the risk."

It is important to select an adapted forage species or mixture. Use only varieties that are winter-hardy and adapted to your particular soil conditions.

“Ensure you start with a well-prepared seedbed," he says. "The seedbed should be firm below the surface, with a minimum cover of loose soil. The thin layer of loose soil will provide adequate cover for the seed.”

Foster recommends seeding into standing stubble only if the straw has been well spread. Be aware of the possible risks posed by herbicide residues in the soil.

“Another important step is to ensure you seed shallowly. There is probably more seed wasted because of seeding too deep than for any other reason. Keep in mind that an emerging seedling is totally dependent on the food reserves in the seed to get it to the surface and sprout leaves.” Since most forage seeds are relatively small, they won't have enough stored energy to reach the surface if they are planted deep in the soil, he adds.

“The smaller the seed, the shallower the seeding. For most forage crops, aim for less than a one-inch seeding depth. When a cereal cover crop is used, it may be best to seed the cover crop and the forage crop in two separate operations. This way, you can ensure that each crop is placed to its appropriate depth."

If mixing the forage seed with a cover crop, Foster suggests seeding shallowly, even though this may reduce the establishment of the cover crop. Cover crops are not necessary for good forage establishment, but if you use a cover crop, Foster advises reducing the seeding rate to 50 per cent of the normal rate to reduce competition.

Cut for greenfeed, bale and remove the crop as soon as possible. Cut the crop high. This ensures that new seedlings are not defoliated. They will be protected from the wind, and the stubble will catch snow to insulate new seedlings from low winter soil temperatures.

Finally, Foster recommends ensuring the seedbed is free of weeds, especially perennial weeds.

“Weeds will compete heavily with the small, slow-growing forage seedlings. Where weeds become a problem, mowing or chemical weed control measures may be necessary. If the forage is a grass/legume mixture, the number of registered herbicides for weed control is very limited.”

A good rain shortly after seeding is the easiest way to ensure a successful forage stand.

“Unfortunately, mother nature is not always that co-operative," he says. "By taking care to reduce all potential risks when seeding forages—just in case you don’t get the timely rains—you will effectively even out the odds of success.”

For more information, contact:

Allan Foster
Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Effects of Grain Legumes in No-Till Crop Systems are Being Investigated

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Dr. Guy Lafond’s passion for no-till agriculture has been part of the Saskatchewan agricultural knowledge landscape for some time. Now, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist working at the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation can count on a Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food Agriculture Development Fund (ADF #20050704) grant to further our knowledge on the contribution of grain legumes in no-till cropping systems. The Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association is also contributing to this project.

“When we started this study 11 years ago, I asked: 'Is starter nitrogen required with a grain legume like field pea?'" he says. "Secondly, what is an optimal frequency of field pea in the rotation? What I did is I set up the study so I could compare growing peas every year—which is the extreme practice—to growing peas every second year; and every three years. As time went on, this whole question of carbon sequestration and nitrous oxide emissions came into play.” This has now become an integrated component of Dr. Lafond’s research focus with this study.

Dr. Lafond was then in a position to investigate the effect of accelerated carbon sequestration on nitrous oxide emissions.

“Because this study has been developed and conducted over so many years, it has allowed us to answer two other important questions," he says. "One was: if you put legumes in the rotation, do you accelerate carbon sequestration? The thinking here is that legume residues have a higher nitrogen content than cereal. Any residue that has more nitrogen tends to decompose a little bit quicker and a little bit better, but there is also a feeling that more of it remains in a stable organic matter fraction than otherwise. So that was the second question we investigated.

“Because we have peas grown with and without nitrogen, we can compare against cereals grown with fertilizer, and we can compare to cereals grown with cereals and then to cereals grown with peas," he says.

Dr. Lafond conducted some in-depth soil sampling last spring, which showed some carbon sequestration, but because of the variability, he was unable to show conclusively that grain legumes accelerate carbon sequestration. Part of his current project involves sampling again in 2007.

“We wish to re-estimate it to see if there were sampling errors. But so far, in terms of nitrous oxide, there is no question that, if you are growing peas with just a little bit of phosphorus fertilizer, the nitrous oxide emissions are much less than for wheat grown with fertilizer."

Dr. Lafond is also finding that the spring wheat that is grown on a short rotation with peas every second year tends to emit a little more nitrous oxide than the spring wheat grown every three years. It may be that the presence of legume residue is priming the system and there could be a potential for a little more nitrous oxide emission during the spring wheat phase, but he stresses that this idea is very tentative. Dr. Lafond wishes to confirm the tendency by taking measurements to quantify it. This is why the funds were approved for 2005, 2006, 2007, he says.

The study also allows Dr. Lafond and his colleagues to address other agronomic issues, like the risks associated with the short rotations, and the impact of short rotations on diseases and populations.

Dr. Guy Lafond
Senior Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation
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