University of Saskatchewan offers new agribusiness degree

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

For the first time in the fall 2006 semester, the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Agricultural Economics is offering students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.

The course of study will allow students to develop the key business management, analytical and economics skills necessary to become the agri-food business managers of the future.

According to the department’s course calendar, the Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness degree program is made up of a combination of science, economics, agricultural economics and business courses. Graduates will understand the structure and organization of the agri-food sector, and will learn business skills with particular application to the value chain.

Agricultural Economics department head Jill Hobbs said the impetus for the new degree program came from “a recognition that a lot of students are interested in these areas, but did not have sufficient access to the courses they needed.”

She used the example of students headed into the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Commerce, whose real ambition might be to work in the agri-food sector. “This program provides a blend of core economics along with marketing and research skills in the sector,” she said.

As is the case with most undergraduate degrees, the Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness requires students to take a blend of credits in humanities, fine arts, social sciences and natural sciences during the first two years of their program. In the third and fourth years, the curriculum emphasizes credits in agriculture studies, economics, mathematics, statistics and commerce.

Hobbs said that, to her knowledge, only the University of Guelph in Ontario offers a similar degree program. “We hope to see not only students from across Saskatchewan, but also Alberta, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario,” she stated.

Hobbs indicated that the course of study was partly developed on the basis of surveys of potential employers in the agribusiness sector in Western Canada. “That gave us a sense of what skills they were looking for,” she said. “Students with this degree will be equipped to work through the agricultural value chain at companies involved in feed, supply, chemicals and food processing.”

She also noted that there will be a strong focus on entrepreneurship in the student experience, to encourage graduates to create their own companies in the growing agribusiness field. It is for that reason that students will study areas such as on-farm business models, processing economics, transportation, credit management and marketing.

Hobbs said that everyone at the Department of Agricultural Economics is excited by this new initiative. Targeted enrolment for the first semester of the new Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness is 50 students, with the first graduates expected to receive their degrees at the university’s spring convocation in 2010.

For more information, contact:

Jill Hobbs, Department Head, Department of Agricultural Economics
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-2445

Royal Red another crowning achievement

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 2006 edition of the Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Horse Show, otherwise known as the “Royal Red,” is now in the books. By all accounts, this year’s event, held August 21-26 in Regina, was another smashing success.

“We attracted approximately 1,000 of the finest horses in North America, along with several thousand exhibitors; and we had fantastic fan support, the best I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Hutchinson, Chair of the Royal Red Host Committee.

But with the 2006 show now successfully behind them, the event’s organizers will be busy preparing a bid to secure a new multi-year contract for the city to host the show into the future.

Hutchinson noted that the current contract with the Arabian Horse Association (AHA), the organization that oversees the competitions and shows, is coming to an end.

“The current contract is for five years, and (the AHA) had two option years. They have exercised that option to pick up those final two years. That will take us through 2007 and 2008,” he said.

“The next major milestone in our relationship with the AHA is to try to secure a new multi-year contract to retain the show in Regina. And we expect that we will likely have to prepare a bid and make our presentation over the course of the coming winter.”

Hutchinson feels the ongoing success of the Royal Red will help the city make a good impression on the decision-makers.

“One of the main advantages that Regina has is our central location on the continent. Another advantage we have is one of Canada’s largest agricultural facilities. And, something that the Arabian Horse Association appreciates very much, is the dedication and the professionalism of the staff at Ipsco Place,” he said.

“So we have a variety of pluses to offer them, in addition to the activities that are carried out by our great volunteer army and the Royal Red Host Committee.”

Hutchinson added that the friendliness and hospitality of Saskatchewan people is also a tremendous asset to event organizers.

“There are two kinds of support [participants] really appreciate. They really appreciate the fan support – the fact that people care enough about the show and love the horses enough to come and participate is very much appreciated and noticed by our competitors,” he said.

“The other kind of support that they really comment upon is the support in the public. Everybody in this community knows that the Royal Red is in town, everybody knows that there are people from all over North America coming to compete in this show, and they readily offer their support and hospitality. If people need assistance finding their way, figuring out where to eat or shop – all sorts of very kind, friendly, neighbourly advice is offered to our guests. They notice this very much, and it’s one of our strongest selling points as a host city.”

Hutchinson stated that an ambitious plan for the renewal of facilities at Ipsco Place will also be an important part of their pitch. “The AHA is always very conscious of the state of the facilities where it puts on its shows. When you’re bringing in animals of this quality and this value, it simply has to be a major factor in your decision-making.”

Hutchinson pointed out that the Royal Red is truly one of the continent’s premier equine events. “It is the largest show of its kind in Canada, and one of the top [horse] shows in North America,” he said.

“Because of its international prestige, the show attracts participants from all over Canada and the U.S. We’ve seen people from as far away as Alaska, California and Florida, and the maritime provinces.”

But according to Hutchinson, some of the best competitors come from right here in the province. “We always have fabulous competition from Saskatchewan horse owners. They’re right up there with the best.”

Hutchinson also noted the tremendous economic contribution the Royal Red makes to Regina and Saskatchewan each year, estimated to be around $10 million. In addition, spectators from all over the province get treated to an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience, he said.

“There are some really terrific benefits for Regina and all of Saskatchewan from hosting this event,” Hutchinson stated. “We should feel very honoured to host it, but also very proud of the tremendous show we put on year after year.”

For further information, contact:
Bill Hutchinson, Chair
Royal Red Host Committee
Phone: (306) 584-1739 or (306) 781-6400

Silvopasture research revealing surprising benefits

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

We’ve all heard of a win-win situation, but an old practice that is new to Saskatchewan has the potential to be a win-win-win-win for the province.

Initial research data is expected soon from two silvopasture pilot projects at Foam Lake and Pleasantdale.

Simply put, silvopasture is the practice of growing trees in a pasture. It sounds straight-forward, but research is required to determine the practice’s potential in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Forest Centre is providing funding for the project, and has worked with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) and the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) on the initiative.

The initial attraction to the practice of silvopasture was the ability to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while producing forest products. The downside was presumed to be a reduction in the forage crop on a pasture due to the competition from the trees.

Phil Leduc, Senior Manager, Research and Development, with PAMI said the pilot projects are about determining the potential benefits of the silvopasture practice, which include carbon sequestration, wood production (for either pulp and paper or lumber) and improved grass and livestock production.

Leduc said there is still a vast amount of research that needs to be done to determine the advantages and the best practices, but the potential exists for four distinct benefits: to reduce greenhouse gases, to create a wood product, to improve forage quality and to improve livestock production as a result of the improved forage.

Initial results from the Pleasantdale and Foam Lake projects are expected this year. At present, the data being collected is more focused on the trees than the forage. The trees are still young, and it will take a number of years before they will affect the forage.

“At this point, we’re just getting started to look at the issue,” said Leduc. “I think there’s going to be research done for quite a number of years to really examine this, because it has never been looked at. We’ve never really looked at what trees might grow well and won’t be damaged by livestock, and we haven’t really looked at whether there is significant benefit to having trees in a pasture – until now.”

For more information, contact:
Phil Leduc, P. Eng., Senior Manager – Research and Development
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute
Phone: (306) 682-5033
Fax: (306) 682-5080


Value chains a good way to diversify agriculture

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s all about building partnerships to strengthen Saskatchewan’s agricultural industry.

That’s the concept behind value chains, which promote multiple stakeholders in a supply chain working together to diversify a specific area of the agricultural sector.

Value chains can include any mix of producers, processors, distributors, brokers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers collaborating to meet a specific market need. The groups generally agree to co-operate in order to help build competitive advantage, identify marketing opportunities and improve industry response to market demand.

Here’s an example of how the process might work: a group of lentil producers might work with a processor and a retailer to develop a new lentil soup for the marketplace.

The retailer could help the producers work with the processor on packaging, and provide information on retail pricing requirements.

The producers would secure a long-term contract with the marketer for a specific quality and grade, and the processor would be guaranteed a supply of ingredients for the length of the contract.

The retailer might provide feedback to the processor and producers regarding sales, inventory and consumer comments, which could then be used to improve the product.

According to Gary Coghill, the Value Chain Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), encouraging this sort of teamwork has loads of potential to bolster the Saskatchewan value-added agricultural industry.

“The value chain concept could really apply to any food product idea, and even beyond, to things like manufacturing animal feed or using agricultural products for energy or biofuel development,” said Coghill. “The scope for co-operation is unlimited.”

The seemingly endless economic development and diversification opportunities prompted SAF to establish the Value Chain Program, which offers financial support and technical expertise to parties interested in forming value chains.

Funding is available on a 50-50 cost-sharing basis to approved applicants. It can be accessed in two phases. Up to $30,000 can be tapped to build awareness, develop the value chain concept and conduct training events, while an additional $70,000 can be accessed for the actual value chain implementation and related initiatives.

Coghill stated that the program has provided funding to around 10 value chain projects since it first began accepting applications in June of 2005. So far, most of the initiatives have centred around meat or grain and oilseed products, but “almost everything can potentially fit under this,” he noted.

Value chains can be started by groups in the supply chain simply wanting to get together to develop ideas, but more commonly seem to be spurred by an actual market demand that’s already out there waiting to be met, according to Coghill.

“It’s often driven by the consumer,” he noted. “The uniqueness of a product in demand drives the retailer to seek a supplier, who might then seek out a processor to provide the product, who might then approach a group of producers to supply the commodity to be processed.”

He added, “They end up working together to generate added value for everybody in the supply chain. All the partners see some benefit.”

Coghill stated that a series of workshops has been organized by SAF and the Saskatchewan Council for Community Development (SCCD) for anyone interested in learning more about value chains.

The next ones are taking place in Saskatoon on October 24 and 25. They constitute modules four and five in the workshop series, discussing Marketing and Category Management related to value chain development.

However, Coghill stressed that anyone can attend these workshops, even if they have not attended the previous sessions. “Even if people didn’t attend the first three workshops in the spring, there will be an opportunity to pick them up again at a later date. The order is not as important as being able to obtain the overall information,” he said.

More details on the workshops can be found on the SCCD website at Additional information on value chains or the Value Chain Program specifically can be obtained by calling Gary Coghill at (306) 787-8537, or visiting the SAF website at (under Processing).

For more information, contact:
Gary Coghill, Value Chain Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-8537


Saskatchewan Council for Community Development -- Website:

Alfalfa the focus of intensive seminar

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Some of the leading alfalfa experts and forage researchers in North America will be in Saskatoon later this month for the Western Canadian Alfalfa Training Seminar.

The two-day seminar, taking place September 20 and 21, will feature experts from here at home, from across Western Canada and from as far away as Wisconsin and Kentucky.

The seminar will be held at the Sandman Hotel in Saskatoon, with a registration cost of $400. It is being hosted in partnership with the Saskatchewan Forage Council and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. Funding for this event was provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Greencover Canada Program.

Janice Bruynooghe, the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Forage Council, says the goal is to provide a very intensive seminar.

“What we are trying to do is bring in those people who are specific experts or researchers in this field,” she said. “That’s why we’ve got three different researchers and agronomists from the United States, out of both the University of Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin, and then we’ve also gone across Western Canada and brought in researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and specialists with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, as well some private industry people who have made alfalfa research their life’s work.”

The seminar will delve into alfalfa topics from seed to feed, including the history and importance of alfalfa, genetics and variety selection, use of alfalfa in rotations and pest management for alfalfa. Bruynooghe says the seminar is geared to a higher level of learning.

“We’ve been able to bring in presenters who are looking at specific areas of alfalfa research. For example, if we are looking at a topic like alfalfa fertility, we’ve chosen someone who’s doing their research and their primary focus is alfalfa fertility. Rather than just generalize, we’ve brought in the specialist who can speak to and provide participants with a very specific look at the topic,” explained Bruynooghe.

Because it is an intensive training session, Bruynooghe says organizers are targeting it at feed industry representatives, government specialists and those who work in the agriculture supply industry. However, primary producers and farmers will also find a great deal of benefit. In fact, the seminar has been approved for Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) funding, so those enrolled in the CASS program can qualify for a reimbursement. It has also been approved for professional development hours both for the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists, as well as for the continuing education unit for certified crop advisors.

More information on the seminar can be found at

For more information, contact:
Janice Bruynooghe, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Forage Council
Phone: (306) 966-2148

Beef numbers show market returning to normal

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Statistics Canada’s semi-annual survey of cattle herd estimates shows Saskatchewan following a national trend of declining herd sizes in the past year.

Canada’s total inventory of cattle and calves was estimated at 16.25 million head as of July 1, 2006, a decrease of five per cent from the survey report of July 1, 2005.

In Saskatchewan, the survey reported the number of cattle and calves at 3.45 million head, which is a decline of five per cent from the herd size one year ago.

Sandy Russell, Beef Economist at Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Livestock Development Branch, commented, “We had expected a decline because of the fact that the U.S. border had reopened to live animal exports. When you combine that with a strong cash market, we are not surprised to see a smaller herd this year.”

During the period that the U.S. border was closed to Canadian exports, the Saskatchewan beef herd grew close to 18 per cent, or over 200,000 animals, according to Russell. “There were a lot of older animals retained within the breeding herd that needed to be dealt with, and it’s good to get them through the system,” she said.

In Saskatchewan, the number of beef cows stands at 1.508 million head, down two per cent from last year, according to the Statistics Canada estimate.

Beef herd replacement heifers were down 16 per cent, heifers for slaughter decreased by 26 per cent, steer inventories were 12 per cent lower, and the number of calves was pegged at 1.388 million, down three per cent from 2005.

In comparison with Saskatchewan’s five-per-cent reduction in herd size, Alberta was down six per cent and Manitoba decreased by two per cent.

Russell said that, prior to the closure of the border, the Saskatchewan herd was increasing at two to five per cent per year, which indicated a trend of more producers switching to cattle from grain.

She expects the cattle herd in Saskatchewan will continue to grow over the longer term, because “herds were expanding prior to 2003, and development is again very much on the agenda of Saskatchewan cattle producers.”

She added, “We are feeding more cattle in the province than we have in the past. We need to continue to feed and process more and more animals in Saskatchewan.”

According to Russell, the ban on exports to the U.S. meant that producers were carrying many more older animals. “We hadn’t significantly culled the herd, and that needs to be dealt with,” she said. “Overall, we will have a stronger, more sustainable industry as a result of open export markets.”

Looking ahead at the cattle cycle, Russell estimates that a drought this year in the American Midwest will postpone expansion in that region, which should mean stability in prices for live animals.

“Of course, the priority for the industry remains getting the border reopened to older animals, which would mean a complete return to normal trade,” she said.

Russell pointed out that the emphasis for the Saskatchewan industry is to continue gaining new markets and exporting more beef in boxes rather than on the hoof, and that prospects look good for both of those trends.

For more information, contact:
Sandy Russell, Beef Economist, Livestock Development Branch
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5570

Saskatoon youth wins national agriculture science award

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

When 14-year-old Ronan Lefol heads back to high school in Saskatoon this fall, he’ll have quite a story to tell his science class.

Ronan was one of seven young Canadians to have their research work honoured by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Saguenay, Quebec, earlier this summer.

Ronan’s particular project was in the field of bioherbicides, a relatively new and emerging area of study focusing on the use of biological agents to control weeds.

Every prairie farmer knows all too well about green foxtail, a grass that can infest grain fields because it grows faster than most other forms of foliage.

Scientists have isolated a fungus, Pericularia setariae, that specifically attacks the weed. However, the fungus only occurs naturally in very low populations. In order to use it more effectively for the broader control of green foxtail, researchers need to find ways to carry the micro-organism into farm fields in a more viable application process.

Enter Ronan Lefol.

Ronan sought to find a medium for distributing the fungus’ spores that would be suitable for conventional field spraying methods and techniques. He discovered that the most effective way to attack green foxtail without damaging other plants was to mix these spores with sunflower oil and a Tween 80 surfactant, which aids in the blending and efficient dispersal of these agents using water.

His work netted him three awards at the science fair, as well as a $1,000 prize from AAFC.

“I was really surprised to win,” Ronan told AAFC. “As soon as I saw that another project was getting an award, I thought I was going home empty-handed.”

Ronan worked with AAFC research scientist Dr. Russell Hynes on the project. “He helped me a lot and took time to answer my questions,” said Ronan.

According to Dr. Hynes, the respect was mutual.

“Ronan is a budding young scientist,” he said. “He’s keen, bright and very hard-working. He asked great questions and showed a lot of interest.”

Dr. Hynes feels the research work to which Ronan contributed may very well have commercial applications in the future. Some might also consider it to be a more environmentally friendly form of weed control, since it uses a naturally occurring fungus, rather than a synthetically produced chemical, as its active agent.

When asked about Ronan’s future as a scientific researcher, Dr. Hynes stated, “I’d say he’s well on his way to being among the next generation of rising scientists in Canada.”

That would suit Ronan just fine. He noted that he enjoys both marine biology and agriculture at present, but one thing is certain: “I will definitely be studying in the field of science.”

His home province will certainly be rooting for him to choose agriculture!

For further information, contact:
Dr. Russell Hynes, Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (306) 956-7638

Applications available for 4-H Agriculture Scholarships

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Applications are now available online for the 2006 4-H Agriculture Scholarships.

This is the sixth year for the $2,000 scholarships, sponsored by the T.D. Bank Financial Group. The goal of the bursaries are to help 4-H members attain their educational goals in agriculture-related or agribusiness studies.

The scholarship recognizes 10 students from across Canada who plan to attend a Canadian college or university for agriculture-related or agribusiness studies. Endowments will be awarded to students who achieve the highest academic standing in the following geographical regions: British Columbia/Yukon, Western Canada/ N.W.T./Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“The T.D. 4-H Agriculture Scholarship invests directly in the future of agriculture and agribusiness in Canada. We believe strongly in supporting the development of our greatest asset – our youth,” said Marie Logan, president of the Canadian 4-H Council.

“The T.D. Bank Financial Group is committed to supporting the education of our youth, and we are delighted to once again offer this scholarship,” said Matthew Holden, the Manager of Agriculture Credit Products with T.D. Canada Trust. “We know that 4-H members make significant contributions to agriculture in this country and we are very pleased to give these students assistance in reaching their academic goals.”

T.D. 4-H Agriculture Scholarships are open to all active 4-H members who have reached the age of 16, and who plan on attending a recognized program of agriculture or agribusiness studies within Canada.

The deadline for applications is October 4, 2006, with the recipients to be announced in November. Information and application forms are available online at, or by contacting the Canadian 4-H Council directly at 613-234-4448, ext. 26.

For more information, contact:
Chris Forrest, Communications Manager
Canadian 4-H Council
Phone: (613) 234-4448, ext. 27

Matthew Holden, Manager, Agriculture Credit Products
T.D. Canada Trust
Phone: (416) 983-4373

Extracting more profit from herbs and spices

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan herb and spice growers are eagerly awaiting upcoming tests of a new piece of equipment that has the potential to open up new markets and new opportunities for producers.

“The essential oil industry is exploding, and Saskatchewan can capitalize on the value-add,” said Wanda Wolf of the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association.

The excitement is centred around the development of a portable essential oil extractor being developed by the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI), with the financial assistance of the provincial government’s Agriculture Development Fund.

An essential oil is a concentrated liquid containing volatile aromatic compounds extracted from plants. Essential oils are used in perfumes, aromatherapy, cosmetics, incense, food and drink flavours, household cleaning products and even some medicines.

While spices are often grown for seed under contract, the possibility of extracting essential oils from the screenings or foliage of spice crops, such as dill or caraway, can offer increased revenue opportunities.

Wolf said the essential oils industry is growing, noting that her association currently has over 300 members.

“PAMI’s portable extractor is very timely for getting in on a lot of the new products adding essential oils,” she said. “Everything from dog food to the diffusers that go with your air fresheners all have essential oil in them. There are so many Saskatchewan products, whether they be wild-crafted or grown in a field-scale setting, that can be distilled for their essential oils.”

Spice crops alone represent significant acreage in Saskatchewan. In 2005, there were 22,000 acres of coriander seeded and 14,000 acres of caraway planted in Saskatchewan.

However, the amount of material does not always justify the construction of a plant, and some types of raw material require processing at the source: hence, the value of a small-scale portable extractor.

PAMI’s Senior Manager of Research and Development, Phil Leduc, agreed with this perspective, and pointed out that not all of the opportunity lies with seeded crops.

“There are dozens and dozens of wild plants and cultivated plants that are being grown from which it is possible to extract essential oils that can be sold at extremely high prices,” he said. “These essential oils sell in dollars per gram. They are extremely valuable.”

However, a key piece of the puzzle has been missing for Saskatchewan producers to truly capitalize on the opportunity. Wolf said that a portable essential oil extractor could increase the quality of the oil produced, and ultimately the value of the product.

“Currently, Saskatchewan doesn’t have a portable distiller,” she explained. “Some of the crops, like lemon balm, are very sensitive. Once you pick lemon balm, you only have an hour or two, depending on the temperature outside, before it is losing its essential oils.”

For other crops, the lack of a portable distiller has meant a missed opportunity altogether.

“Let’s say wild bergamot, which is a beautiful flowering herb that grows in the southern part of Saskatchewan,” Wolf said. “If you had your distiller down there while it’s in bloom, you would have the best quality oil that you could possibly have. If you had to take it anywhere, it would (reduce the quality). That’s why we’ve never done it, because we have no place close enough to take it to.”

Leduc indicated the essential oil pilot project is coming together nicely.

“At this point in time, we are finishing welding up some of the parts and will be assembling it over the next two or three weeks. We are hoping that, by the end of September, it will be complete and ready to go,” he said.

Wolf sees an opportunity to make an impact beyond the industry.

“This distiller that PAMI is building could go up to any of the small communities up north, where they have a community venture where everybody is bringing in product to distil,” she observed. “You have one tech person running the distiller, and what have you done? You’ve created a huge income stream for that whole community.”

For further information, contact:
Wanda Wolf, President
Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association
Phone: (306) 398-2918

Phil Leduc, P. Eng., Senior Manager – Research and Development
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute
Phone: (306) 682-5033
Fax: (306) 682-5080

Workshop on natural products hold benefit for agriculture

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Agricultural producers and entrepreneurs with an idea for processing their commodities into natural health products (NHPs) have some help available to make it happen.

Ag-West Bio Inc. is working with the Western Canadian Functional Food and Natural Health Product Network, the Province of Alberta and the Manitoba Food Processors Association to host a series of workshops on setting up facilities to process and manufacture NHPs.

The first of the four workshops will be held September 20 at Innovation Place in Saskatoon.

“With the increasing interest from consumers in managing their own health and seeking access to healthy products, this market is expected to continue growing,” said Krista Dennis, Director of Communications with Ag-West Bio Inc.

“Producers in Saskatchewan and all across Canada are looking for ways to enhance their bottom lines and add value to the crops they grow,” she added. “This is one of the ways they can certainly do that, if they’re willing to invest a little time and effort in the start-up.”

Dennis stated that a number of agricultural commodities common to Saskatchewan can be refined into NHPs. Flax is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and lignans, both popular health supplements. Canola is also rich in omega-3s, and is a good source of Vitamin E. Fenugreek, hemp and borage are just three types of specialty crops grown in the province that can be processed into very desirable health products.

However, along with the increasing activity in this area has come new federal regulations. That’s one of the reasons Dennis said the workshops became necessary.

“As of 2004, Health Canada instituted a new regulatory and licensing scheme, administered through their Natural Health Products Directorate. Since the products are being marketed and sold for their health benefits, the requirements become a bit more onerous. But this lets the consumer know that the products are legitimate and that they are safe, so there’s also some benefit for manufacturers,” she noted.

“We just want to make sure that people who might want to get into this area are aware of the guidelines, and know that help is available in complying with them.”

Dennis indicated the first workshop will focus on planning and building NHP facilities that incorporate “Good Manufacturing Practices,” or GMPs, into the design. These are both cost-saving and performance-enhancing methods on how to establish an operation that meets the latest NHP regulations.

“This is a good introductory course for anyone wanting to learn more about the facility design and regulatory compliance required to process natural health products,” said Dennis.

Registration for the workshop is $175 per person for Ag-West Bio Inc. members, and $200 per person for non-members. “The investment could lead to something much bigger and better for agricultural producers, entrepreneurs or public policymakers who take part,” she added.

More information on the NHP workshop can be found on the Events Calendar on the Ag-West Bio Inc. website, at

For more information, contact:
Krista Dennis, Director of Communications
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 668-2656

Bison Prices On The Rise

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Saskatchewan Bison Association says all signs point to the continued strengthening of prices for top quality live bison and bison meat products for the balance of 2006 and well into 2007.

“Prices in the United States have been quite strong and continue to increase,” said Jim Warren, executive director of the Saskatchewan Bison Association. “Premium prices in the U.S. market drive the price in the domestic market, as well.”

In terms of market conditions, Warren said all the signals are positive from the U.S. At the Saskatchewan Bison Industry Economic Outlook sessions held in the spring, the CEO of the North American Bison Co-operative, Rusty Seedig, predicted that his firm would be increasing its purchases by as much as 42 per cent this year.

Warren said producers are receiving $1.70 to $1.90 per pound, hot carcass weight, for youthful animals (those under 30 months of age).

“There’s plenty of room for optimism,” said Warren. He indicated that acceptance of bison is growing, with bison being added as a menu item at national restaurant chains. In Canada, for example, the Montana’s Restaurant chain offered bison on their lunch specials menu right across Canada this summer.

Bison producers are subject to the same BSE export restrictions as beef producers and, as a result, accurate age verification is becoming more important.

“Producers should be registering their animals' birth dates with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency,” said Warren. “Age verification registration is available online, and it’s a point and click process.”

The website is found at, and information is also available toll free at 1-877-909-BEEF (2333). As opposed to registering each animal, the system allows registration of a total number of bison born during the normal 60-day calving season.

According to Warren, there are now over 500 bison producers in Saskatchewan. “We have everything from people just getting started with 10 or 20 animals, to many herds of over 100 and a few over 1,000,” he said. The Saskatchewan Bison Association estimates the total herd in the province at about 100,000 bison of all ages and types, including approximately 35,000 breeding cows.

At this point, the market breaks down into three broad segments: about one-third of the stock is sold to the U.S. as live animals or meat products, one-third is processed in Canada for sale to Europe, and one-third is sold into the domestic Saskatchewan market.

The Saskatchewan Bison Association is currently drafting a brand new production and marketing manual for bison producers.

“Initially, the industry followed beef production practices, but in the past 10 years we’ve developed quite a bit of new experience specific to bison,” said Warren.

The new manual will pull together what producers have learned, and indicate best practices in the Saskatchewan industry. It is expected to be released in early 2007.

For more information, contact:

Jim Warren, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Bison Association
Phone: (306) 585-6304

New Software To Aid With Ag Business Decisions

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An innovative project under development at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) in Humboldt has the potential to greatly help producers, entrepreneurs and even public policy-makers make critical agricultural business decisions.

The project is in the form of a multi-faceted computer program that takes account of a wide variety of factors and inputs to generate a comprehensive spreadsheet which calculates the economics of different farming techniques, product usages, business opportunities, etc.

Les Hill, PAMI’s Business Development and Technical Services Manager, has worked closely on the initiative since its inception. He says the project is called the “Comparison of Whole Crop Harvesting Options,” because the concept behind it is to enable farmers to make the best possible use of all products and by-products generated in the crop production process.

Producers will be able to see how a different farming practice, an alternate usage of a commodity, or a simple change in a single input might affect the bottom line of their whole operation.

“We’ve tried to put all possible variables into the program that can give farmers as complete a picture as possible when they weigh the options available to them or look at the value of their products,” said Hill. For example, under what conditions might it be preferable for a producer to bale the straw and chaff left over after harvest for sale to a cattle operation or other commercial venture, and when might it be better to retain the crop residue to enhance the soil?

The software can also show producers how different farming techniques and practices might alter their profit equation. “Every piece of equipment can be operated differently. If you’re a conservative operator, you might reduce your machinery upkeep and repair costs, but you’ll probably spend more time in the field,” Hill said. “There are tradeoffs for all of these kinds of decisions, and this program has the ability to maybe help producers find ways to do things better or cheaper.”

But he was quick to point out that the tool will have benefits beyond just the farm gate. Entrepreneurs with agricultural business ideas could use it to calculate the viability of their plans and determine how changing factors might affect their profit margins. They would then be able to work with the numbers, adjusting different variables to see what it might take to make the venture successful.

Hill said that tests conducted on the program so far have gone quite well. “We’ve been experimenting with different inputs, and it’s all working very nicely,” he noted.

Hill estimated the project would be completed by March of 2007. The PAMI team is continuing to add new data from many sources to ensure the program is as thorough as possible. They are also working to make the software as simple and user-friendly as it can be, which is a big focus of their current efforts.

Given its many potential applications and benefits, Hill said PAMI was very encouraged to receive some funding for the project from the provincial government’s Agricultural Development Fund, aimed at supporting innovative research and development initiatives.

“The program can help in developing best practices for utilizing agricultural products and in making strategic business decisions,” he stated. “If it can take an agricultural business venture or a farming operation over the line from losing money to profitability, I think it will be a very worthwhile tool.”

For further information, contact:
Les Hill, Business Development and Technical Services Manager
Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute
Phone: 1-800-567-7264, ext. 226

Immigration Helps Meet Farm Labour Needs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Finding reliable farm labour in Saskatchewan is not always easy, but producer Paul La Casse went a little further than most to find employees for his operation: to South America, in fact.

La Casse operates a 10,000-acre family farm in the Kincaid district, about 80 kilometres west of Assiniboia. He chooses his crop mixture based on “marketability and cash flow.” This year, that means cultivation of cereal grains, peas, barley and brown mustard. He also has a significant acreage in pasture, since he is running a herd of 200 cows.

The La Casse family has farmed in the area since the 1950s, and Paul says there was never a time that they did it without some outside help.

“My mom was cooking for harvesting crews in the fifties, so I can never remember a time when we didn’t have hired hands in our operation,” La Casse said.

When he began managing the farm in partnership with his mother, Louisa, in the 1980s, they were still using mainly seasonal labour for seeding and harvest.

Eventually, he found that recruiting short-term workers twice a year was simply not efficient, and decided to employ full-time employees to work in the operation. In recent years, it became challenging to recruit and retain these workers, who had generally been young men.

So, in the winter of 2005, La Casse began to look farther afield.

“I read an article about a woman in southern Manitoba who was working to attract immigrants from Paraguay to work on farms there, he said. “I gave her a call and that’s how things got started.”

His conversation with Bertha Penner resulted in La Casse discovering a community connection between the Canadian prairies and Paraguay: the international Mennonite community.

“A large percentage of rural Paraguayans are Mennonite,” according to La Casse. “That’s the link with the folks in Manitoba.”

La Casse got in touch with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now Service Canada), which conducted a job study on the positions he had to offer, and the issues with recruiting Canadian workers to fill them. With approval granted to offer the jobs to non-Canadians, his search began.

Over a period of about six months, he completed the required paperwork and began looking at prospects. “You have to remember that once Immigration is on side, you are just beginning,” he commented.

He reviewed a number of candidates before deciding on two 29-year-old men. Both are married, and intended to bring their wives with them. “I felt that having a family unit rather than a single man would create some stability for them, and a source of support,” said La Casse.

In August of 2006, La Casse and his family welcomed the two Paraguayan couples to Regina. One couple also brought their four-year-old daughter.

Their mother tongues are Portugese, Spanish and German. The La Casse operation has another hand who speaks German, and a neighbour who speaks Spanish, both of whom were instrumental in helping to bridge the language barrier. In addition, the new workers have committed to studying English, and La Casse himself is now taking Spanish.

The workers are here on 24-month work visas, after which time they will be able to apply for landed immigrant status.

La Casse says his initial experience with the new employees has been positive. He describes them as very hard working, industrious and, “in a word, 'respectful'.”

They have been introduced to the local Mennonite community, which has embraced them.

In their native country, their maximum income expectation is about $300 per month, so the wages they receive here are an enormous improvement.

La Casse says the other important thing is that these are true farm folks, who understand and love the rural lifestyle. He is proud to have helped bring new families and young children into his community.

Will immigrant workers become Saskatchewan’s new farm labour force? “I guess I’m the guinea pig around here,” said La Casse. “My neighbours are watching to see how it works out for me. I expect that soon they’ll all be asking how I did it, and I’ll enjoy sharing my experience.”

For more information, contact:
Paul La Casse
(306) 264-3680

Country Critters Fall Fair Entertaining For Young And Old

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Duane and Margaret Rose are accustomed to having strangers stop by their farm near Zehner, but they’re expecting about 900 of them at once on September 16.

The Roses, who operate Rose Farm and Shepherds’ Cottage Wool, are hosting the third annual Country Critters Fall Fair. Duane Rose said the fair grew out of a need they felt wasn’t being served.

“It started as a result of three couples, friends, just sitting around saying how we need something to showcase our fibres,” he stated.

The Roses keep sheep and llamas, and their friends have Romney sheep, angora rabbits and alpacas.

The one-day event welcomes farm and city folks alike. Those planning to attend should be sure to bring their appetites. Rose noted there will be up to 16 different vendors offering all kinds of dishes.

“We built a clay oven,” he said. “We had built another one last year, on a trailer. I was going to put it away and it fell off the trailer. So we played in the mud for a while and got the new one ready.”

Rose said the new oven will have a permanent home on their farm in order to stay better preserved. It will be put into use the whole day, baking up bread, cinnamon buns and individual pizzas around lunch time.

Because the fair is designed to be a showcase for the various wool fibres the farms produce, there are also displays of sheep shearing, sheep fitting for showing, fleece washing, carding, spinning, weaving, knitting and quilting. Other displays will include cow milking, butter churning, cream separating, and the sure-fire hit – home-made ice cream in production.

Horse and wagon rides will be running throughout the day, and children can expend some energy on the hay bale play structure or riding the ponies. The Roses will also have livestock on display, including sheep, chickens, donkeys, rabbits, alpacas, llamas, goats and cattle. Miniature donkeys will be brought in from near Kronau, and angora goats from around Saskatoon will round out the animal displays.

Admission for the day is $3 per person, which includes a horse and wagon ride, or a pony ride for children.

To get to Rose farm, travellers should head to Zehner and follow the road for seven kilometres straight east. If approaching from the Pilot Butte area, the Rose farm can be found six kilometres east of the correction line where Pilot Butte Road meets Highway 46 (roughly 14 kilometres north of the #1 Highway). Signs will be posted along both routes.

For more information, contact:
Margaret and Duane Rose, Rose Farm
Zehner, Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 789-3763

Pami Aims To Improve Farm Safety

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A multi-year project aimed at improving farm safety is now entering a new phase.

Over the past year, the Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute (PAMI) has been developing strategies and innovations to improve the safety of used farm equipment, and is now looking to spread the word to farmers about what they have found.

Jim Wasserman, PAMI’s Vice President of Saskatchewan Operations, said the project flowed out of a study sponsored by the provincial government’s Agriculture Development Fund, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association, Alberta AgTech Centre and Bourgault Industries.

“We found that a lot of work was going into improving the safety of new farm equipment, but there was actually very limited engineering activity occurring with regard to the safety of used farm equipment,” Wasserman said.

He stated that the first phase of the project was to determine what engineering activity might provide maximum injury reduction for farmers. PAMI used existing research data from Canada, Australia and the United States, as well as consultations with over 40 individuals from groups representing researchers, machinery manufacturers, regulators and farmers themselves.

A number of issues were identified, but the top four became the focus of the next phase of the project:

1. Improving guarding for used equipment;

2. Increasing the amount of rollover protective structures;

3. Improving access to guarding for power take-offs; and

4. Improving guarding for grain auger intakes.

Wasserman said all of these issues require easy and economical solutions to make a difference, since the cost and the complexity of corrective action is often a barrier to it being implemented.

An example of how the PAMI team overcame this challenge can be found in the handbook developed to help producers quickly and cheaply build their own guarding if it is not readily available in the after-market. The handbook, called “On Guard!,” is written for farmers rather than for engineers.

“It’s intended to simplify the process, which can be fairly complex,” said Wasserman. “Through pictures and simplified instructions, we tried to make it something that farmers can access.”

A similar guidebook is planned for rollover structures with a target for material costs of under $250. Wasserman said that product is still a year or two away.

“There’s a lot of research to make sure we do it right, because there is potential liability associated with these types of recommendations. But we see there being huge potential, so we are going to work our way through it,” he stated.

For the time being, PAMI has created a reference book for farmers to quickly determine which after-market rollover structure will work for their equipment and where they can get it.

Simplicity is also the main goal for PAMI’s work related to grain auger intake guards. Wasserman noted that, if a guard is difficult to use, it often winds up on the ground rather than on the equipment.

“What we found is that standard auger intake guards were either bolted on or welded on, so if the guard was removed for maintenance or for storage, it was quite a pain to put it back on the auger,” he explained.

The auger intake guard design that is available on the PAMI website requires no tools to move it.

“It basically takes 10 seconds to move it from in position to out of position, and more importantly, 10 seconds to move it from out of position back into the guard position,” Wasserman observed. “Because of this, it doesn’t wind up forgotten in the long grass.”

An ongoing effort of PAMI is to determine if a manufacturer can be found to build the auger intake guards for a price point of less than $250.

The entire safety project is now moving into a new phase: getting the word out to producers.

“What we’ve come to realize is that, with every innovation, you’ve got to solve the problem and you’ve then got to get it into the hands of the users,” said Wasserman.

“Right now, across Canada, in each one of the provinces, there is a least one farm safety association that deals one-on-one with the farmers,” he added. “Part of this project is to market these innovations, thoroughly educate each of the farm associations on what we have available so that they can use a system that fits their province, and ultimately get these innovations into the hands of farmers.”

Information about the safety innovations, designs and guidebooks are available at PAMI’s website,

For more information contact:
Jim Wasserman, Vice President of Saskatchewan Operations
Prairie Agriculture Machinery Association
Phone: 1-800-567-7264, ext. 223

Efforts enhanced to provide anthrax information online

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Efforts are being stepped up to ensure the most up-to-date information on anthrax is available online to Saskatchewan producers and the general public.

Adele Buettner, Executive Director of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS), said added measures have been taken in response to concerns raised by cattle farmers at Anthrax Information Sessions held in various parts of the province.

“Many producers who attended [the sessions] stated it was difficult to find current information on the web,” she said.

“Therefore, in an effort to provide easy-to-find data, we are working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), and providing regular updates online.”

The information is available on the FACS website at

New cases of anthrax were confirmed in new areas of the province in late July and early August. Cattle vaccinations have also been ongoing, as many Saskatchewan farmers take steps to minimize the risk of their herds contracting the disease.

Since shortly after the first anthrax outbreak, the FACS has been working closely with the CFIA, SAF and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine to ensure producers and the public have current and accurate information on the disease. The internet has proven to be an effective and convenient vehicle to get that material out on a timely basis.

For more information, contact:
Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: (306) 249-3227

Age Verification for cattle a vital marketing tool

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the possibility of mandatory age verification for beef cattle just around the corner in Alberta, Saskatchewan cattle producers should consider their own needs and cattle marketability in the coming months.

April 1, 2007, is the proposed mandatory age verification date for Alberta. With 75 per cent of Saskatchewan-fed cattle and over 65 per cent of feeder cattle going into the Alberta market, age verification makes good business sense for Saskatchewan producers, as well.

Sandy Russell, Beef Economist with the Livestock Development Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says presently, age verification is the only export-safe classification.

“It isn’t mandatory to have age verification, but if you want to export – particularly to Japan, where cattle have to be less than 21 months – then our only route right now is age verification,” she said.

Dennis Fuglerud, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, agrees, and says it’s important for producers to ensure their cattle's value in all markets.

“With age verification, the Canadian beef industry will be eligible for all markets,” he stated. “It’s also a way for producers to add value from possible premiums on their age-verified cattle.”

Age verification is rapidly becoming the expected norm in markets around the world, and verification from the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) is considered a standard those markets will accept.

The Government of Saskatchewan currently recommends voluntary age verification, meaning it is up to the individual producer to decide whether or not to verify his or her stock.

The Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association also supports voluntary age verification, and Fuglerud has an important reminder about its benefits.

“Producers who don’t age-verify their cattle will be missing out on any premiums that may be paid for age-verified cattle,” he noted.

Roy Rutledge, manager of the Assiniboia and Weyburn auction marts, says although age verified cattle won’t always fetch a premium, it is a good, modern business practice to verify your herd.

“I have sellers who say to me, ‘What if we do it (age verify) and don’t get anything extra?’ and I tell them, ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to verify either, so what are you out?’” he said.

It is not necessary to age-verify cattle down to the exact date of their birth. Working with their stock tags, farmers can enter birth dates that correspond with tag numbers (if available), or can enter a calving start date associated with their tags.

The CCIA takes age verification only though its website at The process can be a bit daunting for those who are not comfortable using the internet, but there are a number of resources to use for help, including asking the younger generation to navigate the process with you, asking a fellow producer who is familiar with the process, or calling CCIA toll-free at 1-877-909-2333.

“It’s about marketing opportunities,” said Russell. “Any time there’s an opportunity to capitalize on the market from your business perspective; it’s good to take it.”

For further information, contact:

Sandy Russell
Beef Economist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5570

Age Verification - Computer skills not necessarily required

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Age verification for Canadian cattle is done entirely online, which can be anything from daunting to annoying, especially if producers don’t have an internet connection in the house.

While age verification is not mandatory, it is a strongly recommended process that will make cattle much more marketable, especially in the most convenient marketplace: Alberta. That province is considering mandatory age verification by April 2007. Choosing not to age-verify their cattle could mean lost marketing opportunities and lost revenue for Saskatchewan cattle producers.

“Nobody can do it for you,” stressed Jason Dean with the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association. “Keep records. The information is yours; you are the one who has it. Get someone else to go on the computer if you need to.”

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) is the national agency dedicated to maintaining the database. The CCIA does not accept paper applications for age verification, so producers planning to use the system will have to submit information through the agency’s website, at

No matter what level of computer literacy producers may possess, Roy Rutledge, manager of the Assiniboia and Weyburn auction marts, says it’s not a good idea for them to just assume that somebody else in the industry, such as their auctioneer or veterinarian, will handle the verification for them.

“We have certainly been assisting people by telling them where to go for help,” said Rutledge, “but we can’t keep up at our end if people are going to expect us to age-verify for them, too.”

For those who have privacy concerns about sharing so much of their operation’s information over the internet, Dean says to remember the database is industry-controlled.

“The industry owns the database, and gives very limited access to it. We set the policy,” he noted.

In Alberta, where proposed mandatory age verification could take effect next spring, third parties like veterinarians, auction marts and even public libraries have joined forces with producers to help with the age-verification process, offering internet access and help learning the system. It can simply be a matter of knowing who to ask for a little help when it comes to the internet.

Rutledge says, above all, don’t go without verification, and get help with the process if you need it.

“Call your tag supplier, if you don’t know who else to talk to. Get on the bandwagon; get ’er done, and nobody has to worry about it anymore,” he stated.

To age-verify their cattle online, producers should take the following steps:

1. Visit

2. Follow the instructions on the screen. If it is your first time visiting the site, you will need to choose “Option 2,” and create an account. (The website will automatically direct you to the right place and ask for the necessary information, which will include your operating name and a current tag number.)

3. When you have set up your account, the site will allow you to log in as a registered user, and you will be ready to enter information for your cattle. When you set up your account, make sure you record your user name and password for future reference.

4. Don’t forget to look for the “log out” or “sign out” button on the page when you are done, in order to close the connection you have on the site and keep your own computer secure.

If cattle producers do not have access to a computer, CCIA states that they may designate a third party to use the site on their behalf. Contact the CCIA for information on third party users.

For further information, contact:

Canadian Cattle Identification Agency
Phone: 1-877-909-2333
Jason Dean
Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association
Phone: (306) 629-3270

Christy Winquist
Beef and Forage Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Phone: (306) 694-3768

Defeating the Armyworm

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

To spray or not to spray: that is the question. Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous armyworm infestation, or to risk seeing tight margins eroded by insecticide costs: that is the question facing farmers after an army of insects cut a swath across much of the province this year.

Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), said this year has been a particularly bad year for the Bertha armyworms.

“Historically, if you take a look at Bertha armyworm, it only seems to be a pest, on average, two or three out of 20 years,” he said. “The cycle seems to be dependant on a number of factors – more than just weather, perhaps also the number of acres that are seeded to the host crops where they are attracted to lay their eggs.”

Risula said the timing of the life cycle of the crop and the life cycle of the Bertha armyworm timed out in early August to result in significant damage.

“The worms were in their later stages of development and the crops had lost their leaf material, so the only thing left for them to chew on was the pods. If they start doing damage to the pod, that is a direct impact on the yield,” he said.

“Contrast that to the damage that they would have done to leaf material earlier, that would be less of an impact on the yield than them doing damage to the pod itself,” Risula added.

“If [the armyworms] are there in sufficient numbers – meaning a certain economic threshold – then they will do significant damage, so control measures have to be taken in order to deal with that.”

Aye, there’s the rub.

Given the tight margins in farming, producers have to make a judgement call about whether the cost of spray will outweigh the damage from the insect.

“I think it is important that, if they decide to spray, it be based on good economical threshold information,” said Risula.

According to SAF, if there are under 10 larvae per square metre in a field, it might not be worth spraying.

A chart to help determine the economic threshold for spraying, and more detailed information on the Bertha armyworm, is available at

Risula noted there are other options to help control populations for the coming crop year.

“Crop diversification and rotation is probably the most important thing you can do in terms of lessening the potential impact of the moth laying its eggs on suitable host crops the following year,” he said. “Not growing canola every year is a good thing, or, if farmers do grow canola every year, at least space the fields far apart. That, in itself, won’t deal with the problem completely, but it will at least help.”

Risula said another option is to manipulate the timing of seeding.

“You want to avoid anything that flowers at the time when the moth usually emerges, sometime near the end of June,” he noted. “If the plants are flowering, that seems to be a greater attractant to the egg-laying capabilities of the moth. They are attracted to a flowering plant quite readily.”

Another option is crop selection, since cereal and pulse crops are less vulnerable to Bertha armyworms than canola.

“None of these options are 100-per-cent foolproof,” Risula stated. “It’s difficult to get around the outbreak of Bertha. Sometimes the only means left for producers to deal with them is through chemical action.”

More information on Bertha armyworm control can be obtained by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For further information, contact:

Dale Risula
Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Phone: (306) 694-3714

"Whole Buncher" helps farmers and the environment

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A simple device that attaches to the back of a combine can help cattle producers keep their winter feed costs down, and help the environment, too.

"It was a pilot project for the province that proved to be successful," said Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) Forage Development Specialist Lorne Klein.

In 2005, the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association obtained funding through the federal Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Program to obtain six specialized pieces of equipment produced by A.J. Manufacturing in Balzac, Alberta. SAF got involved in helping to set up the project.

The mechanism, called a "Whole Buncher," looks like a giant pitchfork that attaches to the back of a combine and collects crop residue, rather than having it spread across the field. When around 150 pounds of chaff and straw land on the tines of the device, it tips, the pile drops off, and it springs back into position.

"Instead of the crop residue being baled and hauled to the cattle, the piles are left in the field for the livestock to graze on during fall and winter," Klein explains. "This reduces the amount of fuel that would ordinarily need to be burned in the feed production process. As a result, it's a much 'greener' approach, and it reduces the input costs to the farmer."

Five of the six Whole Bunchers were provided to cattle producers to try out. The sixth went to the Western Beef Development Centre, a research farm near Lanigan.

"One of the concerns with this method of crop residue collection was how it might affect the crop on that field in the following year," said Klein. "But we've found that there really is no detriment."

He noted, "The producers testing the Whole Buncher grew crops afterwards with no problem, provided the piles are cleaned up reasonably well."

However, Klein indicated there are a few considerations that farmers would have to take into account before using the device.

First, since cattle will be released to graze there afterwards, producers will want to use it on fields that are fenced or can be fenced.

Second, if there is relatively little snow during the winter, the field will require a water source.

Third, some form of shelter, be it bush, trees, a creek area, a portable windbreak or some other form of protection, will be needed if cattle are to remain there for a period of time.

With these measures looked after, the findings from the trial period showed the Whole Buncher can deliver positive benefits to Saskatchewan cattle producers, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the crop year.

Farmers interested in obtaining more information on the benefits or cost of the device can contact A.J. Manufacturing at (403) 226-0767.

For further information, contact:

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

A.J. Manufacturing
Balzac, Alberta
Phone: (403) 226-0767

Nominations open for Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Do you know a Saskatchewan producer, business, organization or individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to agriculture? If so, why not put their name forward for a prestigious national honour?

Nominations are now being accepted for the Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence.

The awards recognize outstanding achievement in five key areas that are vital to the continued success of the agricultural sector: environmental stewardship, innovation, export performance, agricultural awareness and education, and agricultural volunteerism.

The annual awards are sponsored by the federal department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (RAWF). This year, they will be presented at the 2006 Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence Banquet, hosted by RAWF on November 6 in Toronto.

"This country has some pretty special people making significant contributions to the sector," awards co-ordinator with AAFC Brock King said. "These awards are a way to shine a spotlight on their achievements."

The awards have been handed out annually since 2001, but surprisingly, have never gone to anyone from Saskatchewan.

"It's something we'd love to see redressed," King said with a chuckle. "Given the innovative and vibrant agricultural sector in Saskatchewan, it would be terrific to have a nominee from the province finally break that drought this year."

Nomination forms, additional information on the awards, and specific criteria for each category are available on the AAFC website at under "Features," or by using the website's search function.

The deadline for nominations is September 8, 2006.

For further information, contact:

Brock King, Co-ordinator, Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (613) 759-7780

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Phone: (416) 263-3406

Job program becomes powerful rural youth retention tool

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A major Saskatchewan hog producer is learning that you reap what you sow when it comes to youth retention.

Big Sky Farms of Humboldt has an innovative summer job program that has created three dozen positions for young people looking for employment in their home communities.

"We know that a locally based job is a powerful tool for retaining young people in rural communities," said Big Sky Farms President and Chief Executive Officer Florian Possberg.

"We hope that, by creating a few dozen summer placements in our operations, we can contribute to sustaining the communities our barns operate in," he added. "At the same time, by offering students employment, we can identify potential employees and leaders of tomorrow."

That strategy is now starting to pay off.

Four of the summer placements have turned into full-time employees, and another summer student is considering a full-time job offer. In previous years, students who worked at Big Sky barns while pursuing a degree or diploma later chose to join the company full-time, returning to rural communities upon graduation.

"Some of them now include barn managers, training co-ordinators, senior production managers, herd health technicians and production technicians," explained Denys Robidoux, the Vice-President of Human Relations for Big Sky.

Thirty-four of the positions are in Saskatchewan communities, with the remaining two in southern Manitoba.

Five local students have been hired at barns in the Porcupine Plain area. Another five are working at barns in the Rama district. Other communities in east-central Saskatchewan hosting Big Sky summer students are: Humboldt (two posts), Kelvington (two posts), Melville (one post), Preeceville (one post), Quill Lake (one post), St. Denis (two posts), Sturgis (one post) and Theodore (two posts).

Barns in central and western Saskatchewan account for 13 of the summer job placements. Three students (including one student who has become a full-time employee) are working at the Great West barn near Broderick. Another student is working in the Melville area, two have been placed in the Ogema facility, two are at Riverhurst, two are at Rosthern (including one full-time employee), one at Shaunavon and one at Strasbourg.

In addition to the local students who secure summer work at Big Sky operations, the company has also introduced the prairie farming lifestyle to students from Germany and France. This is the third year that the company has hosted a student from the Lycee College in France.

Students joining the Big Sky team undergo an intensive and wide-ranging student orientation and training program that includes an overview of the hog industry and where Big Sky, as the third largest hog producer in Canada, fits into the industry.

The orientation also covers production techniques and targets, as well as occupational health and safety rules, the company's management trainee program and career development opportunities within Big Sky Farms.

For more information, contact:

Denys Robidoux, Vice-President, Human Resources
Big Sky Farms, Humboldt
Phone: (306) 682-5041
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