Are trees the next canola

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

At Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Forest Centre, the future is one in which we can see the forest, and the trees. The centre is working on research that may one day create an agroforestry industry that parallels our current conventional agriculture sector.

“We are optimistic that there will be new developments which will make trees a viable choice among the options in the farming system,” says SFC Business Development Manager Doug Currie. “It is reminiscent of the evolution of canola or pulse crops. When you look at the acreages in production of those crops today versus where we started, and how long it took, 20 years doesn’t seem like a long time.”

The 20 years Currie refers to is the current production horizon for hybrid poplar, the most common farmed tree species.

“If we could get the 20-year horizon on poplar down to 18 or 15 years, there would be a substantial change in the economics,” says Currie. “The economics we’ve studied suggest that, looking back at the past 25 years, a producer could make more money in poplars than in wheat.”

The Saskatchewan Forest Centre was created as a non-profit corporation in 2001. Its mandate is to promote the acquisition, creation and dissemination of knowledge to expand Saskatchewan’s forest industry in a sustainable fashion.

The centre’s core approach is to create partnerships that allow knowledge and technology to be brought to Saskatchewan and made available to companies and producers in the agroforestry sector. The SFC recently received a $100,000 sustaining grant from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

“We are an organization that is partner-based, and we have leveraged the partner expertise to improve our ability to bring technology here for producers,” says Doug Currie. “Our focus is growing trees on farms, to make money.”

Currie cites partnerships with groups like the University of Saskatchewan, the PFRA, the Saskatchewan Research Council and Ducks Unlimited as the kind of relationships that allow the SFC to foster scientific co-operation and information exchange on agroforestry to the benefit of Saskatchewan.

“We jointly released a strategy on agroforestry with the university,” says Currie. “It outlines the steps we believe have to happen to move the industry forward, including more dedicated research and development programs focused on the commercial aspects of tree production.”

Currie says Saskatchewan enjoys one huge advantage over most jurisdictions looking at commercial tree production: available land mass.

“You’ve got relatively low land costs, and competition for land is less,” says Currie. “Around any given point where a production facility is located, if, within a hour’s drive you plant two per cent of the land to trees, you can support an engineered wood plant. That might mean an industry creating 100 to 200 local jobs.”

In addition to farming trees for wood, new markets are opening up to use agroforestry for the production of biomass to create energy, and as a highly efficient carbon sink for the emerging world trade in carbon credits.

“Trees will sequester the equivalent of as much as five to eight tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year,” says Currie. “The value of that carbon sink could make the difference in the early years of a tree operation by providing some cash flow.”

The Saskatchewan Forestry Centre is currently associated with approximately 50 demonstration sites of tree farming throughout the province.

For more information, contact:
Doug Currie, Business Development Manager
Saskatchewan Forest Centre
Phone: (306) 765-2840

Canola powers Saskatoon transit system

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

After a two-year test project, the Saskatoon Transit System has decided to convert all of its buses to biodiesel fuel created with Saskatchewan canola oil. Effective this summer, all 112 buses in the fleet are running on a one percent blend of canola oil and diesel. Saskatoon Transit Manager Jeff Balon says they began exploring the conversion out of concern for the environment.

“At Saskatoon Transit, we pride ourselves on being stewards of the environment,” says Balon. “We realize that conventional diesel is not a renewable resource. There are some products out there that were worthwhile exploring.”

The initial study was funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and the Canadian Canola Growers Association. Over a two-year period, a team headed by University of Saskatchewan engineering professor Barry Hertz studied the impact of using biodiesel in four City of Saskatoon buses.

The study concluded that, over the two-year period, using biodiesel instead of conventional diesel had reduced fuel consumption by three per cent, reduced engine wear on the test buses by 20 per cent, and provided a seven percent decrease in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the buses.

Transit buses are very long-running vehicles, expected to log close to 1,000,000 kilometres during their operating life. A major overhaul of a bus motor costs an estimated $30,000, so the engine wear reduction is seen as an important means to reduce maintenance.

“The biodiesel provides extra lubricity for the engines and reduces engine wear, a major cost item for us,” says Jeff Balon. “All around, it’s a no-brainer; it’s a big winner for us.”

Saskatoon becomes the first jurisdiction in North America to convert its entire transit bus fleet to biodiesel, and they’ve sparked the interest of transit systems in Regina and Edmonton, as well as the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the national group representing all transit systems in Canada.

It’s no accident that the biodiesel being used in Saskatoon buses is supplied by Milligan Bio-Tech, based in Foam Lake.

“We always look for local suppliers,” says Jeff Balon. “Why wouldn’t we support our own farmers and industry?”

With the initial study in the books and the decision made to go one percent biodiesel, what’s next?

A further study to test a five-per-cent blend in four new buses.

“We’ve ordered two hybrid diesel-electric buses and two brand new conventional 40-foot diesel buses, to compare the use of the five-per-cent blend,” says Balon.

The latest study will take about a year, before a decision is made about increasing the biodiesel blend for the entire fleet.

For more information, contact:
Jeff Balon, Manager
Saskatoon Transit
Phone: (306)975-2630
E-mail: jeff.balon@saskatoon.ca
Website: www.saskatoon.ca

New leader in place for Saskatchewan meat processing industry

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Thomson Meats, the home of the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre, now has a new CEO in place to help advance its operations and build the province’s meat processing industry.

Paul Kowdrysh has been hired to lead the Melfort-based organization. Kowdrysh has had an active 20-year career developing and leading companies to profitability and success.

“Paul has worked nationally and internationally, really as a turnaround specialist helping organizations develop profitable ventures,” said Catherine Folkersen, the Food Industry Unit Manager with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food. “He’s done that in Asia; he’s done that in North America; he has a terrific resumĂ© in this area, and we’re feeling extremely fortunate to have him here.”

Folkersen says it was more than just an exciting challenge that attracted Kowdrysh to Saskatchewan from Ontario. “He looked at Saskatchewan as a positive lifestyle change for his family, and decided that this was an opportunity he was interested in.”

As the new CEO of Thomson Meats, part of Kowdrysh’s responsibilities will be to increase the client base for the Toll Processing Centre, expanding the province’s value-added meat industry at the same time.

The centre was established at Thomson Meats as part of the Government of Saskatchewan’s $3.3 million Meat Processing Strategy, announced in 2005.

Folkersen says the centre complements other services that are available to individuals and businesses with an idea for a new food product.

“Getting into the food processing industry can be very expensive,” she noted. “Our goal has been to help make that process a lot easier, a lot cheaper and a lot more feasible for people who want to take a raw commodity—grown or raised here in Saskatchewan—and turn it into a value-added product they can then market on the world stage.”

Folkersen says the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre in Saskatoon, established to help companies develop products and test them on the marketplace, is the first step in that effort.

If their idea is for a value-added meat product, the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre then provides them with the opportunity to have it processed into its final state without having to construct their own facility.

“It’s a federally registered plant, where entrepreneurs can get their products processed at commercial rates. So, rather than having to build your own plant, you can have it done here and instead focus your energy on further developing your markets,” Folkersen said.

“In this manner, you don’t have to make the major infrastructure investment required to set up your own facility until you’re absolutely ready.”

Clients enter into a contract with the centre to have their products processed for a charge. Clients can provide the raw product to the centre if it comes from a federally registered facility, or the centre can simply procure it on their behalf. The client then arranges for the final product to be picked up when processing is complete.

Folkersen feels that Kowdrysh’s hiring is the boost the centre needs to take it to the next level. “I think this is a great opportunity for Saskatchewan people interested in getting into the meat processing industry, because there’s a very capable leader there,” she stated.

For more information on the services of the Saskatchewan Toll Processing Centre, contact Thomson Meats in Melfort at (306) 752-2802.

For more information, contact:
Catherine Folkersen, Manager – Food Industry Unit
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5768
E-mail: cfolkersen@agr.gov.sk.ca

A snapshot in time: assessing your pasture mid-season

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The health of your pasture is determined by its ability to perform important ecologic functions. The production of forage for livestock, the protection of the site from soil and water erosion, the cycling of nutrients and energy, and the capture and release of water are examples of the benefits a healthy pasture provides for society.

Maintaining a healthy pasture means sustainable grazing opportunities for producers. But it’s not something producers can simply take for granted. They will want to monitor their pastures from time to time and conduct health assessments to ensure they are properly managing the land to achieve its full potential.

According to Jodie Horvath, a livestock development specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), conducting a health assessment is like taking a snapshot of your pasture. It can help identify problem areas, such as patches of invasive weeds, uneven distribution of cattle throughout a paddock and damage to sensitive water sites.

“The first step in improving management is being aware of the issues,” Horvath said. “This allows a producer to make changes while it is still manageable. A quick survey of your pasture tells how your management has impacted a particular site.”

Take a closer look at your pasture. Are the types of grass you seeded present? In a tame pasture, you want the species you have introduced to be dominant. However, you can expect composition to change over time and with variable weather conditions. The SAF publication, Field Guide: Identification of Common Seeded Forage Plants of Saskatchewan, can help you identify the forage species that are in your pasture.

Take note of the weeds. What are they and how are they distributed around the pasture? Do you remember seeing them last year? Are they in solid patches or scattered throughout the field? Thriving weeds may be a sign that your seeded forage lacks the vigour to compete effectively against the weeds. Weeds are invasive by nature, so any bare ground provides opportunities for them to establish. Two SAF publications, FAQ: Identifying Weeds (Broad-leafed) and FAQ: Control of Selected Weeds on Pastures and Hay Land in Saskatchewan, can be found on the SAF website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

What do you see when you look down at the ground? The dead and decaying plant material from last year is litter. Litter performs an important function in your pasture by enhancing forage production through water, mineral and nutrient cycling. It protects the soil against wind and water erosion, and buffers against dry conditions by aiding moisture retention and reducing soil moisture loss.

It is important to monitor your pasture throughout the season, as well as from year to year. Identifying trends and patterns lets you know if the management decisions you made are working, or if you need to make some changes. For more information regarding the condition of your pasture, contact SAF’s Livestock Development Branch at 306-787-9112 or your nearest SAF Regional Office, or visit the SAF website. You can also contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:
Jodie Horvath, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 786-1509
E-mail: jhorvath@agr.gov.sk.ca

Grant ensures testing of newest grain crop varieties

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan producers will again have the opportunity to evaluate and compare the newest grain varieties for production on their farms.

This opportunity is made possible by an industry/government partnership. For the third year, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) has provided the partnership with a $100,000 grant.
An entry fee system is then used in which variety owners or companies with the distribution rights to a particular variety pay a portion of the cost of having the variety tested. The Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association (SSGA) also makes a financial contribution to the program.

The committee that administers the program is the Saskatchewan Variety Performance Group (SVPG). The committee is composed of representatives from organizations with an interest in providing variety testing information. Public and private research institutions conduct the testing and compile the data.

“The program creates a database providing producers with independent, comparative information on the varieties they grow,” says Blaine Recksiedler, the Cereal and Organic Crops Specialist with SAF. “The published results, including data from the co-op trials (pre-registration), present information on yield and agronomics and on certain market-related traits valuable to producers. Comparisons are made to a commonly grown check variety.”

“It has been indicated that producers value third-party variety testing as an important source of information when making cropping decisions,” added Recksiedler.

Testing requires several steps. First, trials are conducted using uniform protocols and standard check varieties. Second, data are collected from as many sites as are available and statistically analyzed. Third, results are aggregated over a number of years and on an area basis.

Variety trials are designed to measure the yield differences that are due to genetic causes while minimizing variability due to non-genetic factors such as moisture, temperature, transpiration, weeds, diseases and pests.

SeCan Association will administer the funding for SVPG. As well, crop co-ordinators will manage the data and provide expertise in their respective crops.

The results of the testing are then reviewed by the Council on Grain Crops, which also updates disease and other agronomic information, and approves the data prior to publication.

Producers will be able to access this information in early January during Crop Production Week in the Varieties of Grain Crops publication, which is also found in SaskSeed, the SSGA’s seed guide.

Crops in the SVPG program include wheat, barley, oats and flax; however, the SAF grant also provides support to organizations that are testing other crop varieties, including canola, pulses, winter wheat, sunflowers and canary seed. Variety information for these crops is also provided in the Varieties of Grain Crops.

For more information, contact:
Blaine Recksiedler, Cereal and Organic Crops Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-4664
E-mail: brecksiedler@agr.gov.sk.ca

Vision succeeding for Prairie Berries

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With the addition of 100,000 new trees presently underway, Saskatchewan’s own Prairie Berries Inc. is on it’s way to becoming the largest saskatoon orchard in the world.

Currently, the orchard founded and operated by Sandy Purdy near Keeler has 10 acres of saskatoons; however, with an investment from an Alberta business partner, the operation will expand by some 120 acres.

“It has always been the company’s plan to expand,” Purdy said. “Our vision statement from the day we started Prairie Berries was to be recognized worldwide for the supply of saskatoons in the international market.” This expansion is certainly a step in the right direction.

Purdy outlined several factors that played a role in the decision to increase the company’s size at this point in time. “The market opportunities that are being presented to us by customers, both in the domestic and the international marketplace, have had a major impact in our decision,” she stated.

“With that in mind, these opportunities require a guarantee on our part to ensure an adequate supply to our clients year over year. The expansion was a strategy that we undertook to make sure we had a certain volume of supply that we knew we could count on every year.”

Prairie Berries currently pulls its supply from 27 growers across all three Prairie provinces. But Purdy says they needed to increase that in order to hit their targets throughout the next five years. The risk was that many of these operations were established as u-pick orchards, so the supply numbers were small and could fluctuate quite a bit from year to year.

“This situation was somewhat threatening to our supply guarantee,” she said. “By expanding, we are able to guarantee 40 per cent of our total supply using our own orchard. This brings the risk down considerably.”

Purdy feels that saskatoons have become more popular over the years for several reasons. First is an increased awareness brought about by the marketing initiatives of Saskatoon Berry Partners Inc., an organization Purdy formed in 2003 which amalgamates the efforts of over a dozen growers to increase supply and provide added value, both to the market and for the individual growers. Using a value chain management system, the growers are able to work together towards common goals.

Second, saskatoons hold health properties that are very attractive to consumers. Eating three-quarters of a cup (around 100 grams) of saskatoons provides 24 per cent of the recommended daily intake of fibre. “With trends in the marketplace for more nutritional foods, and demographics looking to change the way people eat, a diet high in fibre can have significant positive health benefits,” Purdy suggested.

Third, the antioxidant properties of saskatoons also contribute to improved health. “Research studies that we have done in the past couple of years have proved that saskatoons are about two to three times higher in antioxidants than blueberries,” she stated. Although there are several ways to measure antioxidants, the study was done using the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scalar value.

Fourth, Purdy feels that proactive strategies aimed at changing people’s lifestyles and eating habits have helped to create an increased demand for saskatoons.

Purdy says she wants to see Saskatchewan become more self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. She says that Prairie Berries hopes to contribute to that vision by being recognized as a major player in the overall Saskatoon market with respect to both supply and processing.

Prairie Berries currently has a primary and a secondary processing plant. However, given the projected demand, Purdy says these plants are not big enough to handle the required supply. The company’s ideal vision is to consolidate the primary and secondary plants into a single, centralized operation which can handle larger volumes.

With this centralized location, they will not only be able to support their own berries, but other growers who may have market opportunities if they are able to get their berries handled and processed in a federally inspected facility.

For more information, contact:

Sandy Purdy
Prairie Berries Inc.
E-mail: prairieberries@sasktel.net
Website: www.prairieberries.com

Clarence Peters
Fruit Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 788-2018
Phone: 306-787-4666

Low tech could mean big savings for hog producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Managing the escalating cost of building hog barns to finish pigs is a real challenge for the pork industry. Construction of a swine barn in Saskatchewan costs $350 to $370 per pig-space compared to $300 to $320 in the United States. As a result, more weanling pigs are shipped to the U.S. for finishing, which has a negative effect on the profitability and long-term stability of the provincial industry.

Sask Pork and the Prairie Swine Centre are looking into low-cost swine housing, based on locally available low-cost building material, as a potential solution.

One promising approach they are investigating is building barns out of bales.

“We undertook a project looking at the possibilities of using contract finishing as a way to increase hog production in Saskatchewan. Through that project, we found that the cost of building a new barn is quite high, and we wanted to look at low-cost methods of producing a structure to house swine,” said Mark Ferguson, the Manager of Industry and Policy Analysis with Sask Pork.

“We were approached by a company called C and C Feeders that had a novel idea of using a hybrid structure consisting of flax bale walls and a regular barn roof.”

With funding from the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program, Sask Pork is now testing the hybrid barn concept with a prototype building erected near Humboldt.

“The key is to find a structure that provides the same benefits as modern hog barns,” Ferguson said. “But you need to be able to maintain the feed efficiency and the feed conversions to be cost-effective. Instead of liquid manure, this barn uses a straw-based system.”

The critical factors that must be controlled in a finishing barn are temperature and humidity, according to Ferguson. With the bale structure, air flow is managed by opening and closing tarp covers at the entrances, and through the flax bale walls, instead by high-priced mechanical ventilation.

“The primary variable we are testing here is the temperature in the barn throughout the summer and winter, in terms of productivity, and how the hogs coming out of the facility measure up,” Ferguson stated. “The bales provide pretty good insulation. The question is the management of humidity, especially in the winter. Our theory is that moisture may be able to pass through the bales, which could be a very large advantage.”

The design of the flax bale structure suggests that its cost efficiency would be a substantial improvement over traditional hog barns. It has been estimated that , instead of $350 per pig-space, the cost of this new concept could come in as low as $150 per pig-space.

The Prairie Swine Centre is providing technical expertise and helping to measure the outcomes of the project. Funding allows for a two-year time frame, with the final report on the flax bale barn expected to be filed in 2009.

Ferguson says the hog sector has been growing steadily over the past few years. At last count, 2.6 million pigs were being raised each year in an estimated 430 Saskatchewan barns.

Sask Pork is aiming to find innovative approaches that will allow producers to finish more of their pigs here, rather than shipping them to out-of-province destinations. If the bale structure proves feasible, it could help reduce the capital costs of the barns, thereby reducing total production costs.

For more information, contact:
Mark Ferguson, Manager, Industry and Policy Analysis
Sask Pork
Phone: (306) 244-7752
E-mail: mferguson@saskpork.com
Website: www.saskpork.com

Agriculture still a key part of Saskatoon Exhibition

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Residents of Saskatoon and surrounding area are in for a treat the week of August 7 to 12. The annual Saskatoon Exhibition hosted by Prairieland Park will be in full swing all week long, with the promise of a pleasurable, fun-filled experience for all ages.

Mark Regier, the CEO of Prairieland Park Corporation, says the fair has been an institution in the city since 1886, even though it has grown and changed in many ways over its lifetime.

“It started out as a summer fair with a lot of different events focused around agriculture,” Regier stated. “Through the years, it has evolved to include many different types of attractions. Plus, we have a lot of exciting shows, showcases and activities, on top of the carnival and the midway. We always try to bring out the latest in entertainment.”

But Regier is quick to add that the exhibition has stayed true to its roots with a number of agricultural and prairie attractions. One of its most popular traditions is the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Races, a world-class competition that will be back again at this year’s event. “It’s a Saskatchewan favourite, and a very popular draw to our event,” he said.

Horse enthusiasts will also enjoy the Graham Sisters trick riding performance, a new feature for 2007. The Ken Jen Racing Pigs are another attraction that always provides audiences with a lot of laughs.

“We feel that we have programming for kids, teenagers and young adults, right through to seniors, so we are hoping that all ages will attend,” Regier noted.

“The fair is primarily a community celebration. It’s a chance to come out and see your friends and neighbours, and to celebrate your community.”

This year’s event features a cross-section of entertainment. Nickelback, a band with over 23 million records sold worldwide and numerous album, radio and video accolades, will headline opening night.

Country recording artist Corb Lund, as well as Kim Mitchell, Hedley, and the Doodlebops, a pop band for pre-school kids, are also set to perform over the course of the exhibition.

Other popular attractions include a first-class midway, a Saskatchewan youth talent competition, a strongman challenge, a demolition derby, a comedic hypnotist and the “Super Dogs” show.

Those who enjoy the arts and crafts will find entertainment at the Showcase of Arts, which features works of fine art, photography and creative home art.

“Plus, there are fireworks every night. We try to have a little bit for everybody here to see and do,” Regier stated.

To get in on the fun and excitement, Superpass tickets can be purchased before and during the exhibition. These include gate admission and midway rides for any one day, and can be purchased at any Safeway or Mac’s convenience store. Prices vary depending on the date purchased.

For more information regarding this year’s fun-filled event, visit the fair’s website at www.saskatoonexhibition.ca.

For more information, contact:
Mark Regier, CEO
Saskatoon Prairieland Park Corporation
Phone: (306) 931-7149
Website: www.saskatoonexhibition.ca

Grazing crop residue a good way to cut feed costs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

It’s only mid-summer, but it’s not too early for beef producers to plan ahead for fall grazing with their cattle herds.

In Saskatchewan, we produce massive amounts of straw and chaff each year after combining. Field grazing of these residues can provide very economical nutrition for beef cows during the fall and winter months.

When annual crops are grown and harvested for seed, the crop residue is essentially a by-product generated at no extra cost. The cheapest and easiest method of using these residues as cattle feed is field piling or field collection with an attachment on the combine, followed by field grazing.

A manufacturer in Alberta has taken the concept of crop residue bunching to a new level by inventing a tool called the “Whole Buncher.” The device looks somewhat like a giant pitchfork attached to the back of a combine. It collects the chaff and straw and dumps the material in piles approximately three feet high, four feet wide, and five feet long. The unit trips automatically and resets back into place with a counter balance weight.

Lorne Klein, a Forage Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the device offers a unique spin on the idea of using harvest remnants for feeding cattle. “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 explained.

“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.”

Klein points out that a producer in Saskatchewan has taken the same concept and built a unit to collect the chaff only. The chaff piles are approximately one foot high, four feet wide, and three feet long.

During fall and winter, the crop residue piles can be grazed exclusively or supplemented depending on the feed quality and the nutritional requirements of the cows. If the piles are properly managed and cleaned up, there is no problem with any residual field trash causing difficulties during seeding the following spring.

But Klein says there are a few considerations that farmers need to take into account before moving to a feeding system that includes crop residue grazing.

First, since cattle will be turned out to graze, the fields will need to be fenced, at least temporarily. “An electric fence is usually a low-cost option,” he noted.

Second, the field will require a water source. However, Klein says that, under the right conditions, snow can serve as an alternative source of water on fields without a creek, dugout or well. “It’s been scientifically proven that cows that have been properly conditioned can survive on snow, provided you have at least three to four inches of it and it’s relatively soft.”

Third, some form of shelter will be needed to protect the animals from high winds if they are to graze there through cold weather. Shelter can take the form of natural barriers like bushes, trees or a creek area, or a portable windbreak that the farmer puts up for protection.

Producers interested in obtaining more information on the Whole Buncher crop residue collector or on other approaches to field grazing can contact Lorne Klein at (306) 848-2382 or lklein@agr.gov.sk.ca.

For further information, contact:
Lorne Klein, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 848-2382
E-mail: lklein@agr.gov.sk.ca

Fruit tour to discuss new markets and techniques

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Irrigation Development Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) will be hosting a Fruit Tour in Outlook during the afternoon of July 31.

The event will outline potential markets and irrigation techniques to aid current fruit growers and recruit new growers to the expanding sector.

The tour comes at a time when new markets are emerging in the fruit industry and growers require knowledge in various areas to maximize their potential.

The tour is open to anyone with an interest in fruit. However, as Lana Shaw, an irrigation agrologist with SAF, explained, “The focus is on potential commercial growers and individuals who want to be in the business of producing or processing fruit.”

Many aspects of the fruit industry will be highlighted at the event. “The main purpose is to provide individuals who might be interested in becoming fruit producers with the information, tools and services that they need to do the job,” Shaw stated.

One of the foci is on commercial production, which entails using large-scale fruit production to make a commercial impact on the economy.

The event begins with a tour of the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre orchard, which will feature strawberry crowns, saskatoon rejuvenation, sour cherries, haskap (blue honeysuckle), a fruit harvester demonstration, and research on fruit dehydration.

Growers will then tour the J.W.D. Market Garden, receive information on orchard irrigation, and view an agroforestry demonstration project.

“We will have information from a number of different production associations. The Canadian Cherry Producers and Haskap Canada will be represented, so growers will be able to get a snapshot of what is happening in the industry and where they might fit in,” Shaw noted.

“We are also going to be highlighting some of the government services that are available, both provincially and federally, to help people make the business plans and come up with the financing to start a new venture like this.”

A couple of important industry individuals will serve as guest speakers at the event. Larry White with the Saskatchewan Forestry Centre is involved in agroforestry using orchards. He will be providing an update on a trade mission that recently returned from Japan, where promising potential new markets for haskaps have been located.

Bruce Hill from the Canadian Cherry Producers Inc. will also discuss a study conducted for cherry primary processing plants and outline plans that are being considered for the industry’s future based on the findings.

The tour is expected to give current and potential fruit growers the opportunity to discover the latest developments in the industry, including new fruit markets and updated irrigation techniques.

More information is available at the Saskatchewan Fruit Growers website at www.saskfruit.com, or by calling the Irrigation Development Branch of SAF at (306) 867-5500.

For more information, contact:
Lana Shaw, Irrigation Agrologist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 867-5512

Southern Illinois Opry Set for Sept. 29

Rick Johnson's Southern Illinois Opry is set to debut Saturday, September 29, at the Williamson County Pavilion in Marion with a blend of country music and family-friendly comedy.

Tickets are $12 for table seating and $10 for general admission. Seating is first come, first served, except for parties who purchase a table of eight in advance.

Tickets may be ordered online, in person at the Williamson County Tourism Office in the Pavilion at 1602 Sioux Drive behind the Illinois Centre Mall, or at the door the night of the concert. Please note that a $1 service fee will be added to cost of tickets ordered online.

Buy your tickets now — online with PayPal.

Table Seats ($12 + $1)


General Admission ($10 + $1)

Tickets purchased online may be picked up at the Will Call booth the night of the performance or in advance at the Williamson County Tourism Bureau office.

For more on the Opry check out the Marion Daily Republican's Conversation with Rick Johnson.

Saskatchewan agri-food meets the world in Chicago

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A group of Saskatchewan companies and organizations will be showcasing the province’s agri-food industry at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference in Chicago at the end of July.

The IFT gathering, called “FoodSmarts,” brings together researchers, executives, marketing organizations and buyers from around the world for four days.

The Saskatchewan delegation is being co-ordinated by Ag-West Bio Inc., the member-based organization that works to create new value in agriculture, food, health and bio-based products in the province, with sustaining support from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Lisette Mascarenhas, Ag-West Bio’s Vice President of Health and Nutrition, says the IFT show is the largest of its kind.

“It’s a science and research exchange, education meeting and trade show all in one for people involved in the agri-food business,” Mascarenhas stated. “They learn about each other’s products, any new developments in the market and people who are trying to plug in to the market.”

Literally thousands of people from around the world will attend the conference, and Saskatchewan’s display will be part of a trade show that boasts over 2,000 exhibitors. The delegation, known as “Solutions Saskatchewan,” will include private companies such as POS Pilot Plant Corporation, CanMar Grain Products Ltd., FarmPure Foods and Mustard Capital Inc. There will also be representatives of Ag-West Bio, the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“We will talk about Saskatchewan as the home to 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, and our position as the largest grain producer,” Mascarenhas said. “We have top quality ingredients and technical expertise, right from basic research and product research to commercialization and venture capital. Our cluster includes everything needed to make it ideal for a company to come to our province.”

According to the IFT, some 70 per cent of those attending the conference are there to find new products, and 87 per cent of the visitors either make the buying decisions or have significant influence over the buying decisions of their companies and organizations.

Mascarenhas says those delegates will hear a lot about a very well-integrated agri-food industry in Saskatchewan.

“If you want cutting edge research in the agri-food business, you have that represented here,” she stated. “If I was looking from the outside, I would want to know what complementary and enabling technologies Saskatchewan offers, in addition to providing capital and research experience. People should be proud of the fact that we go right from basic research to product launches here in the province.”

The trade fair at the Chicago meetings includes displays organized around the themes of organic food ingredients, health food ingredients, food safety and quality, and international suppliers like the Solutions Saskatchewan group.

Mascarenhas says her group will be exploring some very large potential markets for the province’s products. “For instance, as a producer of oats, partly processed oats and wheat, or finished grain products, I would want someone perhaps from Kellogg’s or Quaker to buy my product,” she noted. “If you are into mustard processing, Dijon and French’s and various large mustard companies will be there. There are companies such as Unilever, Kraft and NestlĂ© who will all be looking for ingredients. We will be talking to their leading-edge food technologists.”

Mascarenhas says, while actual contracts may not be signed at the show, relationships will begin which may see two-way visiting between Saskatchewan agri-business players and major international companies, and eventually representatives of those companies coming here to see our industry cluster at work.

“If you are looking for a channel to connect to the rest of the world, here is an opportunity,” she stated.

The IFT conference in Chicago runs from July 28 to August 1.

For more information, contact:
Lisette Mascarenhas, Vice President of Health and Nutrition
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 668-2692
E-mail : lisette.mascarenhas@agwest.sk.ca
Website: www.agwest.sk.ca

Saskatchewan manufacturer develops world's largest air seeder

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An innovative new machine produced by Langbank-based implement manufacturer Seed Hawk Inc. lends credibility to their slogan as “The Emerging Leader” in the agricultural equipment sector.

The company’s new 84-foot air seeder is the largest in the world, adding to Saskatchewan’s reputation as a global leader in agri-business innovation.

Seed Hawk co-founder and president Pat Beaujot says the project has been several months in the making. “We have a very talented professional engineer, Dave Hundeby, who has about 35 years of experience designing cultivator frames. We put him to work on this specific project about a year ago,” he stated.

“When the design process began, we had certain parameters set. We wanted to try to keep the design under 17 feet high, and we succeeded at that. The transport width is wider than we would have liked, but to get an 84-foot machine down a road can be quite difficult. It ended up being 24 feet across the bottom and 27 feet across the top.”

This particular unit differs from a standard-size seeder in several ways. Hundeby beefed up the hitch to accommodate pulling the machine along with large carts and product. All of the hinge points were also redesigned for improved strength, and replaceable bushings were added to the hinge points on the wings.

“The biggest model we used to make was 66 feet as a five-plex design, but with the increase in width to the new seeder, we had to go to a seven-plex design. We have added a third set of wings, but it is still our standard depth from front to back,” Beaujot noted.

With an 84-foot toolbar, the new unit can seed 50 acres an hour traveling at five miles per hour, making it possible for a producer to comfortably seed 640 acres in a single day.

The seeder was designed to address a growing demand in the industry. With the average farm size increasing and labour becoming increasingly difficult to find, Beaujot says producers are seeking larger equipment.

“Timing is everything in the spring, and certainly if farmers can get their crops planted in the window between May 1 and 15, they will get a much better crop,” he noted. “If it takes farmers three weeks to seed their crops, and they don’t get three weeks of good weather, then they will be giving up some yield.”

Beaujot says it is important to stay innovative with respect to equipment design in the agricultural industry, because farms and demands are constantly changing.

“Technology is evolving every day, and new innovations such as GPS and auto-steer are being incorporated into tractors, making it easier to seed with an 84-foot drill and be within a foot of accuracy. Years ago, farmers wouldn’t have been able to seed with that many feet and do it accurately, but nowadays, things are changing rapidly, and the agricultural industry is no exception,” he stated.

“Seed Hawk has to feed industry demands and be more creative then ever before in order to help our customers become more profitable. If our customers are more profitable, then we’ll be more profitable, too.”

Beaujot says Saskatchewan has a lot to be proud of when it comes to its very resourceful and inventive agri-business industry, and he’s happy to be a part of it. “Saskatchewan has by far the most innovative bunch of seeding equipment manufacturers in the world. Seed Hawk has grown to become one of the top competitors in the market,” he stated.

“It has been our company philosophy from the start, and we are certainly on top of it. We want to be the leader, and we clearly are the leader in many areas with regard to seeding equipment.”

More information on this and other Seed Hawk products can be found on the company’s website at www.seedhawk.com.

For more information, contact:
Pat Beaujot, President
Seed Hawk Inc.
Phone: 1-800-667-4295
E-mail: pat@seedhawk.com
Website: www.seedhawk.com

I canola ready for the crown?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Wheat may still be king on the Prairies, but a new prince is vying for the crown.

This year, Saskatchewan farmers seeded a record numbers of acres of canola. Statistics Canada has revealed that 7.2 million acres of the oilseed are in the ground. That’s an increase of 20 per cent from last year.

The trend is similar across the rest of the Prairies, with over 14.5 million acres of canola seeded in all three provinces – an increase of 17 per cent.

At the same time, spring wheat acreage on the Prairies dropped 19 per cent to 14.8 million acres. It is the lowest level since 1970, but still just enough for spring wheat to keep the title for the biggest crop on the Prairies.

But for how long?

Darin Egert, the president of the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, says the increase is welcome news to crop advocates who have been working hard to boost its production.

“The Canola Council of Canada rolled out a program where they wanted to significantly increase the amount of canola being grown. This is a good step towards that goal,” he stated.

The Canola Council of Canada has set a target of boosting annual production from 9.1 million tonnes in 2006 to 15 million tonnes by 2015.

Egert says consumers are helping to drive the amount of canola acres seeded each year.

“Producers are responding to the market demand. Part of it is food demand, but the biodiesel industry is also starting to grow. To fill that market, we are going to have to increase production,” he noted.

A big jump in production this year could put downward pressure on the price, but Egert predicts the dip won’t be serious.

“It may hurt the price in the short term, but we’re hoping to build more and more markets, so that it’s not an issue,” he said. “I’m confident those markets will be there. The futures market is pretty strong right now, even with the record number of acres that went in this year.”

Egert says both the marketing and production side of the equation may be benefiting from canola’s new high profile.

“There has been a lot of attention to canola. The trans fat issue is an example, where large fast food companies are adopting canola, or in New York, where the city banned trans fats. Canola has been in the news quite a bit,” he stated.

With both foreign and domestic demand for biofuels increasing, Egert and others are predicting that more and more producers will be putting canola in their rotations.

“I think the amount of acres seeded is going to keep going up. I can’t see the record being broken every year—there are going to be some ups and some downs based on market and crop rotation—but I do think the acreages will increase,” he said.

Moreover, not only is the popularity of the crop expanding, but so too is its capability. “Canola is grown in areas now that haven’t had much production in the past. The Rosetown area, for instance, has seen some significant increases,” Egert noted. “With the different varieties that are now available, you are able to grow canola under many different conditions.”

For more information, contact:
Darin Egert, President
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 937-2005

On the lookout for Bertha

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

In war, battles can be won or lost based on the quality of the intelligence about the enemy. Knowing your enemy’s position and strength can be a huge advantage.

Saskatchewan canola producers will have that advantage this year when it comes to a costly pest – the Bertha Armyworm.

Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says there are a lot more people participating in the provincial monitoring program this year. This program monitors adult moths emerging from their pupae. The monitors use pheromone traps to catch the moths as they emerge from the soil.

“The number of people who are monitoring for us is up by 50 per cent, so that’s a pretty good indicator that there was some concern about this problem because of last year’s fairly wide-spread impact on canola growers,” Risula said.

Last year was a particularly bad year for the Bertha Armyworm, with significant crop damage in the northeast and east-central parts of the province.

Risula says the more monitors they have, the better the intelligence that is gathered.

“You get a better indication of where the outbreaks are taking place and a better representative sample of the moth counts that are out there,” he stated. “That will give us a better idea of what might take place this year, because it seems as though the moth count corresponds with the outbreak of worms. All of those things will add to the accuracy and understanding the intensity of any particular outbreak that might take place.”

A map of armyworm hotspots is prepared by SAF from the data collected by the monitors. This gives an early warning to producers in areas of potentially high risk. Knowing that information can help in many ways. For example, chemical companies will be able to have insecticide readily available in particular areas where an outbreak is likely.

“It’s important that people are aware of these pests when they show up, and then properly assess the numbers on a field-by-field basis to determine whether or not action needs to take place. Spraying for the sake of spraying may be more costly than beneficial.”

Of course, Mother Nature herself may help win the battle before the war begins. Risula points out that there are a number of environmental and biological factors that could dramatically cut armyworm numbers either before or after they emerge.

“The worms are subject to different types of predators, parasites and disease that are out there. In particular, there is a type of fungus that affects the larva. If that fungus happened to be fairly severe last year, in the worm population nearing the end of the season, then it could be that the outbreak is reduced,” he noted.

“The other factor is the survival rate of the pupae over winter. A cold winter and a lack of snow cover could reduce the number of moths that emerge.”

Risula says that the intelligence being gathered through the monitoring program should soon reveal what producers will be up against.

More information on Berth Armyworm moth counts and risk map is available on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:
Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3714
E-mail: drisula@agr.gov.sk.ca

Recognizing agricultural excellence

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan has witnessed some outstanding achievements in agriculture from its producers, organizations and businesses over the years. You can help celebrate these accomplishments by putting their names forward for a prestigious national honour.

Nominations are now being accepted for the seventh annual Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence. The awards recognize extraordinary contributions in six key areas vital to the ongoing success of the agricultural sector: innovation, environmental stewardship, export performance, volunteerism, agricultural awareness and youth leadership.

The youth leadership category is being offered for the first time this year. According to Christine Moses, the project leader for the awards with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), it is an important and very welcome addition.

“The youth are the next generation of farming. You can see the energy level of the young people who are involved in agriculture, and it’s a terrific dynamic,” she said.

“The recent farm census showed that the average age of our farmers is now over 50 years old, and we need more young people to revitalize the industry and keep it vibrant. So it’s important that we recognize and promote the young champions who are involved in this sector.”

Moses says the awards help to educate Canadians about farming and agriculture in general. “When we conducted consultations with the industry surrounding the Agricultural Policy Framework, there was a very strong sentiment that the public needs to know where their food comes from, and that we need to do more to celebrate this industry,” she stated.

“People are very eager to tell the story of agriculture, and to explain the good things that they’re doing. That’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish through these awards.”

The awards are sponsored by AAFC and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, one of Canada’s premier agricultural showcases held each year in Toronto. Winners receive a trip to the fair, where the awards will be presented during a ceremony on November 5.

While it’s a tremendous credit to be recognized by your peers across Canada, Moses says winning an agricultural award as a top performer in this country is really a lot more than just a national honour.

“Canada’s global reputation in agriculture and agri-food is second to none. We’re stars in the international world, and our name really holds that up,” she stated.

“When our agricultural exporters are traveling around the world and promoting Canadian products, they know they have a good thing going. So to win an award in this industry in this country really puts you in an elite class across the globe.”

The deadline for nominations for the Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence is September 7, 2007.

Selection criteria and nomination forms are available online at www.agr.gc.ca/awards, or by contacting AAFC by phone at 1-800-410-7104 or e-mail at info@agr.gc.ca. Information on the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair can be found at www.royalfair.org, or by calling (416) 263-3411.

For more information, contact:
Christine Moses, Project Leader, Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (613) 759-7938
E-mail: mosesc@agr.gc.ca

Feedlot management school filling up fast

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 11th annual Western Canada Feedlot Management School at the University of Saskatchewan is expected to be the 11th consecutive sell-out of the four-day seminar.

This year's school will be held July 30 through August 2 in Saskatoon. Enrolment is limited to 45 students, and organizer Dr. John McKinnon says there is always a diversity of people in attendance.

"We have had people from grain farmers with very little animal experience right through to the owner of one of the largest feedlots in Canada," McKinnon said. "In some cases, it is producers wanting to [expand] their cow-calf operations … with backgrounding operations; in others, it is owners and their employees looking to expand their skills. Every year, we also have some graduate students from the university that take the course to gain more practical experience in the work they do in their studies."

The school is a joint project of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association and the University of Saskatchewan.

The industry-government-university combination allows the school to draw from a wide array of expertise, and also allows it to focus on what producers really need, McKinnon explained.

The feedlot management school curriculum is broken into two core areas. The first two days focus on business and marketing, and the final two days focus on issues surrounding the management of feedlot cattle.

"We have industry experts, those involved in the marketing business, and economists making presentations on key topics [such as] … how to market cattle, how to effectively control costs and how to guard against some of the risks involved in feeding cattle," McKinnon noted.

"Then we get into areas such as nutrition, animal health and the tours that take us to feedlots, where we see how the topics discussed are being applied hands-on on a day-to-day basis."

If participants are unable to commit for the full four days, each two-day session can also be taken as a stand-alone course.

This year's field tours will take the class to the Goldenhill Cattle Company in Viscount, which has a capacity of approximately 20,000 head, and to the feedlot and packing plant operated by Natural Valley Farms in Neudorf.

McKinnon says the entire school is oriented towards providing participants with hands-on experience.

"In the business and marketing sessions, we may have a lecture, but then we'll move to our computer room and run market simulation programs that allow producers to get a feel for how the market changes," he said. "We've expanded our tours to give a more practical aspect to the classroom work that is conducted on-site."

The Western Canada Feedlot Management School is offered at a cost of $200 for either of the two-day sessions, or $350 for all four days. The registration fee includes course materials, some meals and tour transportation.

A full agenda and registration form are available at www.saskcattle.com, or by contacting Dr. John McKinnon at (306) 966-4137 or Sandy Russell with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food at (306) 933-5570.

For more information, contact:

Dr. John McKinnon, Saskatchewan Beef Industry Chair
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4137
E-mail: john.mckinnon@usask.ca

Sandy Russell, Beef Economist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5570
E-mail: srussell@agar.gov.sk.ca

On-farm safety a top priority for Saskatchewan researcher

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Dr. Sarah Parker's primary goal is identifying practical on-farm food safety practices for Saskatchewan producers. Raised and educated in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, she has always been happy to call the province her home.

"I chose research and to start my career in Saskatchewan because I like it here. I like the fact that the countryside is wide, and enjoy both the summer and the winter," she said.

"Saskatchewan is a province that has a nice casual feel to it, yet people are generally practical and like to get things done."

Parker received her post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan. There, she completed her undergraduate degree in biology with honours, then went on to complete her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), as well as her Master's of Veterinary Science in Epidemiology.

Parker has always been interested in both biology and numbers. She went through her undergraduate degree looking at plants and animals, then moved to veterinary medicine because it was a problem-solving field that also involved biology. She went back to university after her DVM to study epidemiology, since her interests included looking at why and how events happen in populations.

She began her career at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Centre for Animal Parasitology, a diagnostic test and research laboratory, and expanded from animal health diagnostic issues into food safety diagnostic issues. Then her career took off in a different direction.

Two years ago, Parker was hired as the Saskatchewan Research Chair in On-Farm and Food Safety under the Strategic Research Program (SRP), an initiative funded and administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Parker now works at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine to increase the understanding of pathogen biology and control points, as well as to provide an increased understanding of potential controls for biological and chemical hazards, both on-farm and post-slaughter.

Parker says that a key part of her research is focused on developing control systems that will achieve food safety standards.

"In food safety, for example, there are lots of [intervention points at which] the current food safety practices [could be enhanced]", she stated. "Some of those [enhancements] might include testing and helping the public deal with food properly in order to avoid cross-contamination problems, or managing control systems in the slaughter or processing plants to improve the product."

Although there are standards that all products made available to the public must meet, Parker notes that consumers are continually seeking increased assurance of food safety. "Every-day producers are under pressure to enhance their operations and to communicate their efforts. Making sure food is produced safely is always a top priority," she observed.

"Since producers are being asked this, I think it's important that I research where there is an actual need for updated practices, and try to find ways in which implementation would be successful. Hopefully, this research will help them find the most practical approaches to make improvements."

As a researcher in on-farm and food safety, Parker says that producers are never far removed from her work. "Producers should expect that researchers are available both to help interpret the work that is being done, and also to look at what producers might want done, who might do it and what research might need to be done in order to put the initiative into place."

For more information, contact:

Dr. Sarah Parker, SAF Research Chair on Farm Food Safety
Large Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-1994
E-mail: sarah.parker@usask.ca

Proper hay conditioning gets best bales

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The dog days of summer are usually the time of year when livestock producers turn their attention to cutting and baling the feed that will nourish their herds through the winter months.

There are a lot of factors that can influence the quality of livestock feed, but one of the more important aspects is hay conditioning.

According to Glenn Barclay, a forage development specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, hay conditioning is a mechanical treatment that helps forage dry more quickly. "It allows moisture to escape from the stem faster, so that the stem will dry at nearly the same rate as the leaves, allowing baling to start sooner," Barclay said.

Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that properly set conditioning rolls can reduce the drying time of the first cutting by 80 per cent as compared to using only a sickle bar mower. In about one hour, moisture will begin to escape from stems and the results of conditioning will start to show.

Crimping (breaking or bending the stem) and crushing (splitting the stem longitudinally) are two of the most common methods of hay conditioning. The crushing and crimping techniques are most effective on crops with a thick stem and a low leaf-to-stem ratio, such as first-cut alfalfa.

According to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, the goal for conditioning alfalfa is to have 90 per cent of the crop stem showing some signs of either being cracked or crimped. No more than five per cent of the leaves should be separated from the plant, show signs of bruising, or be blackened from conditioning.

"A good haying operation may be able to retain 60 per cent or more of the alfalfa leaves," Barclay noted. "Over two-thirds of alfalfa's protein is contained in the leaves, which are also especially high in vitamins."

Barclay points out that there are a variety of conditioners on the market. Regardless of the model selected, however, he says that many farmers check or adjust their conditioners far too infrequently after they are purchased and brought home. For example, a recent American survey found that only 54 per cent of conditioner owners adjusted their machines annually, and 26 per cent never adjusted them at all.

"The conditioning roll gap and tension are the two most important items to check and re-adjust with each harvest," Barclay said, adding that the owner's manual is generally the best place to check for proper settings.

In alfalfa fields, roll clearance should be slightly smaller than the alfalfa stems. This usually means setting the clearance at 1.6 to 2.4 millimetres (1/16 to 3/32 of an inch). Too large a gap will result in under-conditioning, while rolls that touch will wear prematurely and unevenly.

"Ideally, the roll gap should be about the size of the diameter of the lower stems of the alfalfa being cut," he stated. "An operator can check the roll gap of a conditioner by taking a typical plant from the hay stand and trying to pass the stem through the roll gap in about four or five places. If it doesn't get caught, the roll gap is too large. Ideally, the stem should bend a bit, then go through the gap."

Barclay says that most industry experts feel the top operators are those who adjust their conditioners for each field. Adjusting a conditioner only once or twice a season will not get the full benefits of the machine.

"Alfalfa stem diameter, plant moisture levels and maturity levels change from field to field," he noted. "Stems will vary in size depending on yield, age of the stand and plant density. As a stand gets older, the stems are usually larger, while in younger stands, they tend to be smaller."

Barclay says that hay conditioning can seem like more of an art than a science for many producers, but with practice, they often gain a good sense of what needs to be done and when. "Conditioning over-ripe fields will accomplish very little. Under-conditioning may necessitate raking, which increases potential leaf loss; over-conditioning increases losses because the leaves dry too fast."

For more information, contact:

Glenn Barclay, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 446-7650

Producers encouraged to plan ahead for marketing cattle

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle feeders and cow-calf producers were hurt by the rapid increase in feed grain prices during the final quarter of 2006. Price volatility and market uncertainty are prevailing conditions in 2007, and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) is encouraging beef producers to start planning their cattle marketing now.

"Canadian dollar appreciation, potential interest rate increases, seasonal fluctuations in beef demand and continued volatility in feed grain prices are some of the factors that will influence the market prices producers receive for feeder and finished cattle in 2007," said Grant Zalinko, SAF Beef Consultant for Feedlots.

Zalinko says cow-calf producers should start talking with cattle buyers now, and focus their marketing plans on selling the right animals at the right time. "The market is always correct with respect to price, despite what we might think," he stated. "Prudent marketing is essentially learning what is in demand and when."

Vaccination programs and verified beef production, including age verification, are positive attributes that can add value to your beef cattle. "It will be the marketplace that determines how much of a price premium you might receive, but producers should realize that value and price are not necessarily the same," Zalinko added.

Cow-calf producers who have surplus forage and adequate feeding equipment and facilities may want to feed their smaller calves to generate more income. Producers are encouraged to contact their local SAF livestock development specialist or call the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 to evaluate marketing alternatives and to obtain production advice.

Retaining ownership of calves through custom feeding agreements is another option available to producers. However, producers who are considering retaining ownership of their animals should contact custom feedlots early, as pen space is expected to be fully utilized.

The Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association maintains a listing of custom feedlots. They can be contacted at (306) 382-2333.

Zalinko says the best advice producers can follow is to plan ahead. "Develop a written cattle marketing plan in accordance with your cash flow projections and available feed resources, and then stick to it," he stated.

"If a market rally develops, you can always sell into it."


For more information, contact:

Grant Zalinko, Beef Consultant-Feedlots
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-6607
E-mail: gzalinko@agr.gov.sk.ca
Website: www.agr.gov.sk.ca

An $80-mission investment in Saskatchewan's future

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Government of Saskatchewan recently announced that it was investing up to $80 million to assist producers and communities in the construction and expansion of transportation ethanol or biodiesel (biofuels) production facilities in Saskatchewan.

As a result of the province's interest in further developing the bio-fuels industry, the Saskatchewan Biofuels Investment Opportunity (SaskBIO) Program was born.

SaskBIO's timeframe is set to span four years and provide repayable contributions of up to $10 million per project. An additional $2 million per year will also be provided for biofuels and bio-products research and development.

"We were the first province in the country to mandate ethanol use, and we took the lead on the production of biofuels several years ago," said Ken Magnus, Manager of Strategic Projects with Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development. "Now that the provincial industry is producing enough ethanol to meet our 7.5-per-cent-blend provincial mandate, the next phase-SaskBIO-is to help producers expand into the national market."

Magnus says momentum has been building for biofuel use on a national basis. "Hopefully there will be a mandate or standard for biofuels on a national scale in the near future."

It is felt that the industry has tremendous growth potential to supply provincial, national and export sales. "We want to keep our eye on the ball to make sure that we have the opportunity for Saskatchewan's production to fill the void that now exists," Magnus stated.

SaskBIO was created to provide an opportunity for farmers and communities to participate in the value-added biofuels industry in Saskatchewan through investment ownership in biofuel facilities.

Furthermore, the program will ensure that Saskatchewan is an attractive jurisdiction in which to build a sustainable biofuels industry.

Corporations, individuals or partnerships are eligible to apply for funding. However, applicants must meet a couple of requirements. First, applicants must have a minimum of five per cent farmer/community investment. Second, the minimum annual production capacity of a new facility, or the increased capacity of an existing facility, must be at least two million litres per year.

"One of SaskBIO's goals is to create a situation where a higher level of local ownership becomes an incentive to access the program," Magnus said. "Therefore, production facilities will be owned by Saskatchewan people."

The expansion of the biofuels industry in Saskatchewan is expected to create more jobs and economic spin-offs, develop new markets for agricultural producers, decrease impact on the environment, and create new opportunities for the provincial research community.

Magnus adds that these benefits will extend well beyond the farm gate. "The province's target is to be producing one billion litres of ethanol and 400 million litres of biodiesel per year by 2015. If we can achieve that goal, it will certainly be a huge boost for the economy, generating both urban and rural opportunities province-wide," he said.

Magnus believes this is a unique opportunity where Saskatchewan is in the right place at the right time. "If you look at what is going on globally, production of renewable fuels is real and it is on. Here we have almost half of the arable land in the country. Therefore, we produce nearly half of the feedstock for biofuels, mostly wheat and canola," he stated.

"So if Saskatchewan has an opportunity to be a player in that marketplace, which we certainly do because of our natural advantages, we should take advantage of it. Whether it is an ethanol plant or a widget factory, any time you end up with an industry that grows in your province and that will exceed a billion dollars worth of investment, that's a good thing."

For more information, contact:

Ken Magnus, Manager of Strategic Projects
Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development
Phone: (306) 787-4484
E-mail: ken.magnus@gov.sk.ca
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