Top Holsteins Live the High Life on Osler-Area Farm

Life is good for the 20 competitive Holstein cows on Bryce Fisher's dairy farm near Osler. He maintains the special group as his star exhibits, and as a result, has collected a mantle full of ribbons, including Grand Champion Holstein at the 2007 Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

Fisher's national champion is Silverridge Leduc Noleta, a cow he has been showing for six years.

"I bought her when she was about 10 months old, and she's five years old now," said Fisher. "At the calf shows, she did well. Then when she calved as a two-year-old, she calved with a perfect udder. We showed out west and she was undefeated; we took her to the Royal Winter Fair, and she was first there at that age. She was second at the Royal as a three-year-old and a four-year-old. And now - Grand Champion!"

The Fisher family is now in its third generation of dairy farming. The operation began in the 1950s with Bryce's grandfather; then his father, and, now, Bryce and fiancée Raquel Dyck operate the 600-acre farm. They milk approximately 150 cows, averaging some 28 kilograms of milk per cow per day.

However, there is a special group at Fisher's farm - his exhibition stock. Those 20 cows are kept in separate accommodations.

"We keep our cows ready to show year round," said Fisher. "They are housed separately, fed separately, and looked after separately. The other cows are on total mixed ration with silage. These cows don't get any of that. They're on first- and second-cut hay, beet pulp and 16-per-cent dairy ration. They are fed and managed totally for show purposes."

Showing Holsteins is an important part of Fisher's life and work.

"We work hard at it," he said. "With different cows, we've been grand champions at just about every western show at one time or another. I think we're just really competitive."

This year's entries at the Toronto Royal Winter Fair were no exception.

"We had 11 head there, and they were all in the top 10," said Fisher. "Out of Saskatchewan, we're probably the most competitive herd on the international scene. I've been going to the Royal for the past 10 years."

Fisher transports the show stock himself, so the appearance at the winter fair meant some 18 days on the road to go out, show the cows and return home.

Showing the animals, of course, is not just about ribbons: it's about business. The sale of embryos to breeders is an important part of his operation.

"It's a huge network of people," said Fisher. "The only way you can do it is by exhibiting at big shows."

He estimates potential buyers from some 160 countries were at the Royal Winter Fair and had a chance to see the quality of his stock. However, he is careful in managing his genetics business.

"We don't over-extend ourselves," he said. "We won't contract until we have embryos to sell. We just notify people when we have some."

As for Silverridge Leduc Noleta, she's back munching and milking in her VIP stall.

"She's just a great cow and we've had a lot of fun with her," said Fisher, with no small amount of pride.

For more information, contact:
Bryce Fisher, Owner
R and F Livestock Inc.
Phone: (306) 239-2233

Log On, Sip Coffee, Learn

Producers across Canada are upgrading their skills and knowledge in the comfort of their own homes, thanks to a series of "agriwebinars" offered by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The current series of Internet seminars are hosted by Regina-based agri-tourism entrepreneur Claude-Jean Harel.

"They involve a presenter who comes from across Canada, the United States, Australia, or even Brazil," said Harel. "These are made for agricultural producers who are trying to decide on which future trends they should tap into. Basically, I guide the session, introduce the presenter and the topic, and make sure everything is flowing smoothly."

The agriwebinar series is presented every Monday at 12:00 p.m. eastern time.

"The neat thing about the format is that you can be in your office, in front of your computer," said Harel. "Even if you have a dial-up system, you can log on. You are joining a community of about 100 participants, listening to a presenter with a PowerPoint presentation, and the participants can ask the presenter questions, as well."

The question and answer portion of the seminar is enabled through the webinar platform.

"There's a little [text] box in the system that allows them to type in a question, and the presenter will address the questions in real time," explained Harel. "It's a very interactive format."

The topics of the webinars are wide-ranging. Subjects that have been or will be addressed include grain marketing fundamentals, biofuels, beneficial practices from outstanding farmers and agri-tourism.

The list of agriwebinar topics and dates can be found at, the website of the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. The council was developed as a management resource for the industry. It is devoted to developing and distributing advanced farm management information.

The council receives support from Saskatchewan Agriculture, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and a number of private companies. It offers a virtual library of management education and information materials, including CD-ROMs, books and DVDs, as well as the webinars.

Harel, an agri-entrepreneur himself, said he enjoys being part of the series.

"I've been active in agri-tourism and rural tourism developments in North America. I deliver workshops, for instance, in places like Quebec, Alaska and Nebraska. I learn from it myself, and it allows me to stay in touch with producers who are looking to diversify their sources of income and develop greater awareness of what others are doing across the country."

If someone logs on for the webinar, they can slip into a virtual coffee meeting with other participants.

"There is a chat system that allows people to communicate with one another for about 15 minutes before the webinar starts," said Harel.

In addition, if the timing of the live presentation is not convenient, those interested can download the webinars at their convenience from the site. It requires signing up for a membership, but that comes without charge.

Harel said this learning resource is an evolving tool.

"We're all experimenting and hoping to stage a better and more rewarding webinar each time for the participants," he said.

For more information, contact:
Claude-Jean Harel
Great Excursions Co.
Phone: (306) 569-1571

Border Opening Prompts Optimism for Saskatchewan Bison Industry

The recent re-opening of the American border is putting upward pressure on bison prices and a smile on the faces of bison producers'.

Saskatchewan Bison Association president Mark Silzer said the price increase was almost immediate.

"We had our national sale a day after the scheduled opening of the border. There were some American buyers up, and that saw the first breeding stock animals cross the border in years. Prices at the sale were up 20 per cent over the previous sale a year ago," said Silzer, who is also the Canadian Bison Association president.

Like the cattle industry, Silzer said the border closure had been taking its toll on the bison industry.

"I think that, ever since BSE, Canadian prices have lagged behind the U.S., both in finished animals and feeder stock. I think, with the border open, we are going to start to see Canadian prices come up and be more in line with U.S. prices," said Silzer.

The national bison sale was held at Canadian Western Agribition. Seven of the 32 animals that went on sale were bought by Americans, with two-year-old bulls averaging $2,442 - a 22.4-per-cent increase over 2006.

Silzer is cautiously optimistic that the upward trend will continue.

"It's hard to say. Meat prices have trended up over the past three or four years in Canada and the U.S., but Canada has lagged behind. There has been a significant investment in the marketing of bison meat over the last number of years, and we are finding ourselves approaching a situation where we are going to have to ration bison meat because we just don't have enough. That will see finish prices go higher. As those prices go up, I think you are going to see higher prices in breeder stock as well," said Silzer.

Price increases are not the only implication of an open border. It also affects the genetic diversity of the North American herd.

"There's been a lot of American producers who would have liked to access genetics out of Canada. The bison herd in North America is only 500,000 head, and there is a need for producers to access genetics from both sides of the border," explained Silzer.

However, Silzer points out there are some challenges for the bison industry.

"I think our producers are being affected the same way that beef and pork producers are by the higher dollar - that is causing some concern and affecting prices for producers - and I think the other thing is the cost of feed. With grains and oilseeds up, we have seen feed prices rise dramatically, and certainly that is having a negative impact on our producers," said Silzer.

But Silzer points out that, on the whole, the industry is cautiously optimistic.

"I think prices will move up and fall in line with prices south of the line, and I think that, when you look at the supply/demand situation, it looks like this industry is poised to be looking at some pretty good times over the next couple of years," said Silzer.

For more information, contact:
Mark Silzer, President
Saskatchewan Bison Association
Phone: (306) 682-4933

Raising Sheep the New Zealand Way

You might think there is a not a lot in common between New Zealand and Saskatchewan. For starters, there is no such thing as "winter" as we know it in New Zealand.

However, Colleen Sawyer with the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board points out there is a lot Saskatchewan sheep producers can learn from their Kiwi counterparts. Sawyer said that knowledge will be showcased later this month at two conferences called "Raising Sheep the New Zealand Way in Canada."

"Well, the New Zealand way is different from us in a number of ways. One obvious example is that they have no winter. However, there are a number of New Zealand concepts, of lambing for example, that you can bring to Canada even with our winter this way," said Sawyer.

Mark Ritchie raises his sheep the New Zealand way. The producer from Amherst Island, Ontario, will be one of the speakers.

"Mark has a large flock of over 1,000 ewes and has worked in New Zealand and Britain, so he has a large base of knowledge of how they raise sheep in those areas. It's funny, but 1,200 animals would be a small flock in New Zealand. We call that a large flock here," said Sawyer.

The Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board is encouraging the province's 1,100 sheep producers to increase the size of their flocks.

"It doesn't take much more to run a larger flock when it comes to handling equipment, fencing and watering facilities, for example. Frankly, the pay-off is greater when you have a large flock. Certainly, though, you need to talk to people to learn about the techniques you need to be a large flock owner," explains Sawyer.

That is where the two workshops come in. The first will be held Friday, January 25, in Saskatoon at the Heritage Inn. The same workshop will be held Saturday, January 26, in Moose Jaw at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Registration begins at 9:30 both days, and the cost is $40 per person or $75 per couple and includes lunch.

For more information, contact:
Colleen Sawyer, Manager of Extension and Marketing
Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board
Phone: (306) 933-5200

Fact Sheet on Revegetating Saline Soils Now Available

A new fact sheet put out by the Saskatchewan Forage Council (SFC) will help producers return land with saline soil to greater productive capacity by using grasses.

Saline soils are those which contain sufficient soluble salts to impair productivity. In Saskatchewan, saline soils are generally rich in sulphate salts, existing as compounds of sodium, magnesium and calcium.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) estimates that about 5.52 million acres of agricultural land in the province are at moderate to high risk of salinization. Depending on the level and type of salt present in the soil, the impact on crops can range from minor yield reductions to establishment failure.

Given those factors, SFC Executive Director Janice Bruynooghe said the fact sheet, entitled "Revegetation of Saline Soils Using Salt-Tolerant Grasses," serves an important purpose.

"We've got some pretty vast acres in parts of Saskatchewan which have saline soils with sufficient soluble salts to impair productivity. Sometimes it's not an entire quarter-section that is affected, but smaller chunks and pieces here and there," said Bruynooghe. "Producers struggle with these areas, getting them seeded down and being productive."

However, the good news for producers is that moderately to severely saline soils can be reclaimed using salt-tolerant perennial grasses. In fact, new grasses have recently been developed that have improved salt tolerance, yield and quality compared to grass species traditionally used for saline soil reclamation.

"If we can get those areas established, forages can work to mitigate some of the salinity within the soil," Bruynooghe said. "The land can be reclaimed, while at the same time providing a forage crop that can yield a financial return for the producer from land that might otherwise be unproductive."

The fact sheet gives an overview of soil salinity and the problems it poses for plant growth. It provides a comprehensive rating of grasses that are commonly grown in Saskatchewan, highlighting their relative salinity tolerance, growth and production characteristics, and resulting forage quality. It also contains management considerations for producers to bear in mind when using grasses for saline soil reclamation.

"It's an excellent summary of some of the challenges and the resources available that producers might look at using," Bruynooghe said.

Funding for the publication was provided through AAFC's Greencover Canada Program. Project partners included AAFC, Saskatchewan Agriculture and the SFC.

Copies of "Revegetation of Saline Soils Using Salt Tolerant Grasses" are available online at, or by calling the SFC office at (306) 966-2148.

The SFC was formed as a co-operative in 1987 to enhance the province's forage industry in terms of production, harvesting, utilization and marketing. It plays a role in communicating information to producers and others in the industry, dealing with government on production issues and marketing policies, and assisting in the identification and prioritization of important research.

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

Climate Change Research Looks to the Past to Predict the Future

Hearing the weather forecast for the coming week helps agricultural producers make decisions about regular farm activities like seeding, spraying, swathing and harvesting. But hearing the weather forecast for the coming decade could conceivably help them with all sorts of major decisions like seeding intentions, rotation patterns and insurance coverage, or perhaps whether to switch sectors altogether between grain, livestock and other agri-business opportunities.

That is the potential benefit of the climate prediction modeling being studied at the Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory (SIL), located at the University of Saskatchewan.

SIL researchers are using innovative chemical and robotic sampling methods to recover historical environmental records from items such as clams, trees and fish ear stones. This data will then be compiled to create models of temperature, rainfall and snow pack that will hopefully enable scientists to better predict regional climate changes and weather patterns.

The research is expected to lead to the most detailed quantitative climate reconstruction of the western provinces to date. Dr. William Patterson, the director of the SIL, is excited about the work being done.

"If we are able to get a handle on how the weather system evolved over thousands of years and the patterns that have emerged, it can give us a very good understanding of what happened in the past and what may very well happen in the future," he said.

"We are never able to say with absolute certainty what the future will hold, but, through probabilities and percentages, we may, perhaps, be able to determine whether a given period of time is ‘more likely' to be dry, or ‘more likely' to be wet, and those sorts of things."

The findings could have a wide variety of potential applications, including helping agricultural producers and government policy-makers prepare for what may be coming down the road.

"It has applications for the insurance industry, applications for farm subsidies, applications for infrastructure preparedness," Patterson said.

Weather patterns, with their effects on water quality and quantity, also have relevance for municipalities.

In fact, Patterson noted that some U.S. cities along the eastern seaboard have incorporated climate modeling to help them decide whether to stockpile road salt in winters that are expected to be particularly severe with an abundance of precipitation.

"Arguably, there is no issue of greater scientific significance than gaining an understanding of the earth's climate system," he stated. "It is critical to all aspects of human society, and to the health of global and regional ecosystems, that we gain an understanding of past climates to understand and prepare for future climates."

According to Patterson, there is no better place to do that than at the SIL. "We definitely have a world-class facility here," he noted. It is the only one of its kind in Canada, and is recognized globally as a leader in climate record research.

That is one of the factors that encouraged Talisman Energy Inc. to donate $300,000 to the facility recently, an investment that Patterson says will enable SIL researchers to delve deeper into the details of climate variation.

Talisman CEO Dr. Jim Buckee stated, "By unraveling historical climate change, we begin to understand both the natural and unexpected climates that have occurred in the past. The importance of this is not only how it places current changes within normal climate fluctuations, but also its impact on how we should react."

For more information, contact:
Dr. William Patterson, Director
Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-5691

Saskatchewan Students to Sell Tortillas to Mexico

There's an old expression to describe an excellent sales person: "She could sell sand in the desert." In the case of two University of Regina students, they're going to try selling tortillas made from Saskatchewan roasted barley to Mexico.

Students Chelsea Stulberg and Mathew Zook drew that assignment, thanks to winning the latest Bridges to International Practice competition at the University of Regina's Paul J. Hill School of Business. Associate Professor of Marketing Sylvain Charlebois stages the competition as an advanced marketing class, with real companies and real products.

"I meet with the executives of a company that is interested in getting involved with us before the semester actually starts," said Charlebois. "We look at what projects they want us to get involved with, and we design a course in accordance with that mandate. Every semester is different. We've had projects with five different companies, and the focus has gone from communications to channels to branding and market segmentation."

The latest project idea came from CanMar Grain Products of Regina. They agreed to sponsor the winning students' trip in exchange for their market research.

"They are in Mexico with their roasted flax, and they wanted to develop that market for roasted barley," Charlebois stated.

The class takes up a semester, during which students, generally in teams, do research on the product they've been given, and develop marketing proposals which are then presented near the end of the semester.

"They all submit their written proposals, and those proposals are read by me and the executives of the company," said Charlebois. "Then, a few teams are short-listed. Those are invited to present their proposals to a jury of six members, comprised of two representatives from the company, one from Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, and three professors from the faculty of business."

Once the winning proposal is chosen, the students must go to work in the international market chosen, aiming to create real results for the sponsoring company.

"The idea of this advanced class is that they can actually travel abroad and collect some primary data by interviewing people and meeting prospects and consumers in a foreign country," said Charlebois.

In the case of CanMar, the students are proposing to market tortillas made from roasted barley as a more nutritional, and perhaps less expensive, alternative to the traditional corn tortillas favoured by Mexican consumers. The project means that the students, along with a faculty advisor and an executive from CanMar, will travel to the United States and Mexico in February.

"They will be meeting with potential distributors for their product in the southern U.S. as a launching pad to get into Mexico," said Charlebois. "They will move into Mexico to see whether there are potential retailers to market roasted barley."

Previous winners of the competition have traveled to China, Australia and Ukraine, among other countries, working on marketing products including Saskatchewan canola and pigs. In one case, the company involved ended up selling about 1,000 pigs through a joint venture in China.

According to Charlebois, in addition to finding new markets for the companies, the students are creating opportunities for themselves.

"We've had about 14 students who have had offers from the companies that got involved with us, so it's a great opportunity to keep our students here."

Professor Charlebois is looking for Saskatchewan companies with an interest in placing their products in offshore markets through his class. The sponsorship involves the time of the company executives and the payment of the winning students' travel costs.

"To my knowledge, this is the only program in Canada that brings students into a competitive environment where they get to travel free of charge," he said. "It's an equal opportunity for all of our students."

For more information, contact:
Sylvain Charlebois, Associate Professor of Marketing
Paul J. Hill School of Business
University of Regina
Phone: (306) 337-2695

Agri-Food Companies Get Student Research Help

Applications are now being accepted for the 2008 edition of the Student Assisted Business and Marketing Plan program offered by the Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan (ACS) and the University of Saskatchewan. The program matches up agri-food companies with the research talents of U of S agriculture students.

"During the first year-and-a-half of the program, we had approximately 38 projects split evenly between marketing and business plan development," said Bryan Kosteroski, the Value Chain Specialist at ACS. "We just had students complete 10 marketing plans and six business plans."

The program is intended to assist companies in developing strategic business and marketing plans for their products. The companies are chosen by application to the council.

"We work with the U of S and look at projected numbers of students," Kosteroski said. "We normally have more projects than students, and we assign four students per project."

Kosteroski says the participating companies receive a high degree of professionalism and commitment from their student-assistants.

"They are either third-year or fourth-year students," he said. "They work on these projects for approximately three months. It's very intense, and a major part of their marketing program."

The students receive course credit for their work, and don't just spend time in the library or on their computers.

"They go out into the community," Kosteroski said. "For example, we have a lot of projects where they do taste-testing of products in restaurants. They talk to chefs, or to distributors, or go into retail stores and food service outlets. So the students are getting real life experience in what it takes to develop marketing strategies and business plans."

The program is particularly well-suited to start-up companies. Due the assistance of the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Saskatchewan (ACAAFS) program, ACS is able to pay half of the $500 cost of each project, leaving the companies to pay only $250.

"It gives small, entry-level companies an insight into where they have to go and what they have to do in the future," Kosteroski said. "Once they use the business or marketing plan to a certain extent, they will grow with it. We've had some companies that have used this program more than once, because they are looking at different marketing avenues, such as food service or retail. It could be into studies of consumer acceptance of products."

At this point, the program is accepting applications for projects which will be approved in August of 2008, with students getting down to work later in the fall. The applications are available on the ACS website at

Kosteroski says applying is not a difficult process. "We work with the clients. They'll put an application in, and we'll contact them and talk about expanding on their needs to make sure we focus on the highest priorities," he noted. "Then we can look at additional projects for that company."

For more information, contact:
Bryan Kosteroski, Value Chain Specialist
Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan
Phone: (Toll Free) 1-800-641-8256
Nominations Open For Equine Welfare Awards

Be It Cattle Or Crops, It All Begins With The Soil

Crop production and cattle production are often viewed as two separate streams in the overall agricultural industry. Although there are many differences between them, these two sectors have one major factor in common: soil quality is the basic foundation for a successful operation.

Adrienne Hanson, a Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, says soil is the starting point of almost every farm. "The soil determines productivity, fertility, plant growth, shelter availability, water availability and much more. The material beneath our feet is alive with fungi, micro-organisms and macro-organisms that determine how fertile and, therefore, how productive the soil may be."

Soil type varies throughout the province, but Hanson says there are many things producers can do to ensure the best quality soil possible for their area.

"Improving the soil is something everyone can do with just a few adjustments to everyday practices," she stated. "As the producer cares for the soil, many other production issues will also be resolved. Beyond stopping erosion, we can significantly boost the productivity and quality of soil by improving its health."

Good soil health depends on cycling organic material and nutrients. The traditional method of raising cattle in Saskatchewan consists of packaging up feed grown in the summer, transporting it in from the field, feeding it in a smaller penned area, and then hauling the manure out the following fall.

Considering our cold winters and traditional calving period, this process was necessary to protect the animals and ensure feed is available. But Hanson says it also removes nutrients and organic matter from the soil and deposits them in the yard.

"Not only does this practice generate large manure hauling bills, it puts farm families at risk of contaminating their water supply from infiltration and runoff by nutrient-loading at the yard," she noted.

Hanson points out that modern agricultural research has been strong in this area, bringing forward alternative feeding strategies for the field or hay land that eliminate the need to haul hay and straw, while improving organic matter and nutrient cycling. These technologies, including bale grazing, swath grazing, stockpiling forage and more, offer excellent opportunities for producers to promote soil health by more evenly distributing organic matter and manure than would be the case in a dry lot.

Soil health is also improved by promoting soil structure, and thereby water infiltration. According to Hanson, this means increasing the pore space in the soil, which provides a good place for water to accumulate. Surface condition is very important in retaining precipitation. Heavy, continuous stocking rates often result in crusting and the loss of soil porosityl, which means faster runoff, less infiltration and more erosion.

Expanding crop rotations to include perennial forages like alfalfa can likewise help to restore soil and root health, and provide nitrogen. But Hanson notes that the crop must be properly managed to ensure plant longevity.

"Proper supplement, water and shelter management, as well as controlled grazing, prevents animals from congregating in one location, thereby preventing the overgrazing of select plants, soil compaction and nutrient-loading," she said.

Given the strong link between soil quality and production quality, Hanson says it makes good sense for producers of all types to incorporate strategies for soil improvement into their farming practices.

"Basically, good soil grows better plants that produce the best beef," she noted.

For more information, contact:
Adrienne Hanson, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone : (306) 848-2380
E-mail :

Mechanical Weed Control For Organic Producers

"Many organic growers say that mechanical weed control is more like an art than a science. Well, we are trying to find out what the science is behind the art." That is how Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) researcher Dr. Steve Shirtliffe sums up some new research into herbicide alternatives.

In 2004, Shirtliffe and co-researcher Eric Johnson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada set out to explore the tolerance of oat, wheat and barley to mechanical weed control methods. Three years later, the research, funded in part by ADF, provided some interesting results.

Shirtliffe, an Associate Professor with the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Saskatchewan, said the research will benefit the growing organic sector.

"Weed control in organic crops is difficult. Mechanical techniques offer some options for farmers. When you use mechanical methods, they tend to be not nearly as selective as an herbicide would be. A lot of these mechanical methods cause crop damage as well as weed damage, so you have to balance it out to make sure that you are not making the matter worse," said Shirtliffe.

The research looked at several mechanical techniques, including in-crop harrowing, mowing and rolling. Shirtliffe said the biggest surprise had to do with oats.

"At the onset of our research, the thought was - and it was reflected in some production manuals - that post-emergent oat should not be in-crop harrowed. The information at the time suggested that wheat and barley were tolerant to this, but what we found out is that oat is indeed tolerant to it," explained Shirtliffe.

It's unclear why in-crop harrowing was previously not recommended for oat.

"We couldn't find any solid evidence, but speculate that because the position of the growing point of oat is closer to the surface, perhaps it was believed there would be damage. Our research showed oat, in fact, was often more tolerant than even wheat, which most people hold up as being a crop that is quite tolerant of in-crop harrowing," said Shirtliffe.

The findings provide organic oat producers with another option for weed control which previously was not recommended.

Another surprise came from the research into rolling flax as a weed control method.

Shirtliffe said the results there were pretty clear.

"We found out that it is probably not a good idea," but, he said, there was some anecdotal evidence that it might be effective.

"The idea was that you roll your flax with a roller that you would use for pulse crop production, and the thinking is that some weeds, like wild mustard, would be broken down by it and not come back, whereas flax with fibre in its stem would come back up and wouldn't be affected. Well, that never happened. It is something that we are not recommending at all. We looked at it for three years in a row at one location and it did not have any potential," said Shirtliffe.

Mowing to control weeds was an equal disappointment.

"We used wheat, oat and barley in the test, mowing them at different stages. The thinking was that the crop would come back quicker than the weeds - giving it a competitive advantage. In the end, we just didn't see any positive yield response or weed control benefit that would indicate that it is a practice that we would ever recommend," said Shirtliffe.

However, rotary hoeing did yield some positive results.

"My partner Eric Johnson looked at rotary hoeing. It looks like it might have some promise for organic growers - using a minimum-till rotary hoe. It is an implement we are not very familiar with in Western Canada, but it is used in the corn and soy bean belt. Multiple passes with a rotary hoe when the weeds are small is effective at killing some weeds, and there is quite good crop tolerance as well," said Shirtliffe.

While this research will benefit organic producers the most, Shirtliffe points out mechanical weed control techniques can also help non-organic producers reduce herbicide use.

A copy of the ADF report, Mechanical Weed Control for Organic Producers, project number 20030400, can be obtained by phoning Saskatchewan Agriculture at (306) 787-5929, or downloaded from the Saskatchewan Agriculture website at

For more information, contact:
Dr. Steve Shirtliffe, Associate Professor
Plant Sciences Department, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4959
Nominations Now Open For Rosemary Davis Award

A prestigious national award recognizing outstanding Canadian women in agriculture is now accepting nominations.

The Farm Credit Canada (FCC) Rosemary Davis Award honours women who are active leaders in Canadian agriculture. FCC said these are women who give of themselves in their communities or beyond - producers, veterinarians, teachers, researchers, agribusiness operators and more.

"The award is intended to promote agriculture as a viable career option for women, and to highlight the contributions that women have made over the years to the agricultural industry," said Edward Mulrooney, FCC Project Manager for the Rosemary Davis Award.

The distinction will be bestowed upon five women from across Canada, who will each receive an
all-expenses paid trip to "Dialogue and Discovery," the Simmons School of Management premier leadership conference for women, being held May 3, 2008, in Boston.

The award is named after the first female board chair of FCC, herself a successful agribusiness owner and operator. Davis was first appointed to the FCC board of directors in 1995, and served as chair from 2000 to 2006.

Mulrooney said that candidates for the award are judged on a variety of criteria.

"Do they demonstrate leadership? Do they give back to their communities and to Canadian agriculture? Do they show a passion for agriculture? Do they have a vision for the future of agriculture? These are the kinds of qualities we look to celebrate in our award recipients," said Mulrooney.

To be eligible, nominees must be at least 21 years of age and actively involved in the agricultural sector in some manner. Candidates may submit their own names for consideration or be nominated by someone else who believes they are well-suited for the distinction.

"People can nominate themselves or someone they feel is deserving of the award. People often don't feel comfortable putting their own name forward because they feel like they're bragging, or they don't feel they deserve an award," Mulrooney said. "So other people can nominate their friends, sisters, mothers or any other women who really work hard towards building the industry."

Application forms and instructions can be found at The deadline for online applications is January 21, 2008. Recipients will be notified sometime around mid-March.

Anyone with further questions about the award or the application procedure can visit the award's website or contact FCC at 1-888-332-3301.

Headquartered in Regina, FCC is Canada's largest provider of business and financial services to farms and agribusinesses through a network of 100 offices located primarily in rural Canada.

For more information, contact:
Edward Mulrooney, Project Manager for the Rosemary Davis Award
Farm Credit Canada
Phone: (306) 780-3991

Rosemary Davis Award
Farm Credit Canada
Phone: 1-888-332-3301

Christmas Tree Farms Bring Smiles To Many Families

Santa seems to get all the credit at Christmas time, even though he has many helpers who pitch in to make the season bright. Among them are Saskatchewan's two dozen or so commercial Christmas tree growers, who can spend a decade or more nurturing tiny seedlings into the perfectly shaped conifers that eventually find their way into family rooms around the province.

One such operation is the Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm, located just a few kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway east of Moose Jaw. Like all commercial growers, the farm's owners, Henri and Aline O'Reilly, work hard all year long preparing for the magical month leading up to the most joyous of family holidays.

"My wife and I both worked in Moose Jaw, and we bought this piece of land in the 1970s hoping to move here after retirement," said Henri O'Reilly. "A number of years ago, we felt we should do something with the land. We used to go down east a lot, because we had some children going to university there. They have a lot of Christmas tree farms there. It sprung into an idea for us, and we thought, ‘Yeah, let's try it!'"

The O'Reillys planted their first trees around 20 years ago, and began selling about 10 years ago. Today, Henri estimates they have between 10,000 and 12,000 trees at various stages of growth on 20 acres of land, planted to allow roughly a 10-year rotation.

"When we first started, we planted Scots pine. They probably take about nine or 10 years to grow from a young tree into one that's ready for market," he said. "They make beautiful trees, but the trouble with Scots pine is that they tend to grow a little bit crooked, especially if it's windy - and we all know what Saskatchewan weather is like."

As a result, the O'Reillys are in the process of switching their farm over exclusively to balsam firs, which come from northern Saskatchewan. "Some members of the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Association are from the north, and they go out and collect balsam fir seedlings, which we purchase from them," he stated. "In about four years, it's all we'll have."

The Come See-Come Saw farm uses a drip irrigation system to make sure the trees get the moisture they need to grow strong and healthy. As a result, dry weather is not a problem. Instead, it's an abundance of precipitation, particularly in the springtime, which can pose a challenge.

"Wet springs cause the soil to become very soggy, so the roots don't hold well. When the wind blows, it can tilt the trees over, so we have to straighten them out again," said O'Reilly.

"The other big challenge is the deer. We ended up erecting an eight-foot high page wire fence around the property to keep them out," he added.

"The only other problem we sometimes run into is bad, blustery winter weather at selling time that prevents people from coming out to get their trees."

O'Reilly estimates that the most amount of work required on the farm is the tree shearing. Shearing is the process of cutting off the tips of the branches at a certain time of year so that more buds grow along the branch, resulting in a fuller, more shapely tree. For Scots pine, he says growers have about a one-month window from late June to late July to trim. For balsam fir, there is more leeway, and growers can shear right into the fall.

O'Reilly says the best part of the job for him and all other members of the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association is the thousands of smiling faces they get to see each and every year.

"It's really more than the tree, it's the whole experience," he stated. "We've had some people who have been coming back now for 10 years. They make an annual family tradition out of it."

Patrons of Come See-Come Saw are given a saw and a hauling sled, and sent out into the plantation to look around at their own pace and find the tree they want. When they return with their tree, Henri uses a shaker to hoist it up and shake any dead needles out to avoid a mess at home, then employs a wrapper to wrap it in netting so it is easier to transport and haul into the house.

"We also have some real live reindeer here, which the kids absolutely love. We have a store where we give the people a complementary cookie and hot chocolate, and they are welcome to purchase any other assorted treats and crafts and jams they might want," O'Reilly said.

The Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm is open seven days a week from November 24 to December 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day. For more information on the operation, visit their website at or call their info line at (306) 693-9845.For more information, contact:

Henri O'Reilly, owner and operator
Come See-Come Saw U-Choose Christmas Tree Farm
Phone: (306) 693-2062

Corporate Leadership From The Horse’s Mouth

Using horses as teachers is the foundation of the program offered at the Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre, located near Lumsden. The ranch provides skills training using an approach called
Equine-Assisted Learning.

"Your reaction with the animal is the same in your approach to people," said owner and instructor Brenda Clemens. "We use horses as a barometer to tell what a person's energy is like, and then to help people understand that if they change their approach in handling the situation, it can lead to a better effect."

Clemens and co-instructor Lisa Larsen are both Certified Equine-Assisted Learning Specialists, a designation earned through a course offered at the Cartier Equine Centre in Prince Albert, which is the first of its kind in Canada. The program puts participants in direct contact with the horses on the ranch, and through their interaction, the participants learn how they are being perceived by others.

"Horses are really intuitive," said Clemens. "They are really sensitive to someone who maybe is approaching them under false pretenses, or who isn't authentic."

The focus of the Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre is on providing innovative solutions to enhance team effectiveness in the workplace. Clients are using the centre to help develop leadership skills.

"Horses look for leadership," said Clemens. "So you could be awfully nice to the horse, and pat them, and say please do what I ask, but the horse still won't move. You have to be appropriately assertive. So that becomes a metaphor for the workplace. If you were nice to everybody in the office, would they co-operate? You have to be assertive but you can't be a bully."

The corporate training sessions normally involve two-person teams that work with an individual horse.

"First we explain that we're going to guide the people through the exercises, and, after the exercises, we talk about how they reacted to the horse, how the horse reacted to them, and how they worked as a team," Brenda Clemens explained. "The beauty of it is that it involves you in a real-life situation, rather than a lecture."

Team building takes place as participants work together with their horses to achieve some simple objectives. They are encouraged to do things like unifying their efforts, working as allies and sharing available resources to break down the barriers that can prevent people from working together.

"All of the exercises are team-oriented, and can be as simple as catching the horse with someone else," said Clemens. "The last exercise will usually involve the whole team, so everyone is in the arena at the same time."

Corporate clients that have used the Beaver Creek facility include the Saskatchewan Communications Network, the law firm McPherson, Leslie and Tyerman, and Athol Murray College at Notre Dame. The equine-assisted learning program provides a bonding experience for the groups, which usually consist of no more than 16 people.

"At the end of the day, we'll have supper, or sit around the campfire and have a round-table discussion about what they think they learned from the horse, and how they can apply those lessons to the workplace," said Clemens.

The Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre also operates a bed-and-breakfast, and holds western-themed group dinners on their property. As well, Brenda Clemens and husband Barry are working ranchers, running about 150 head of cattle.

Complete information on the Beaver Creek Ranch learning programs is available on their website, at

For more information, contact:
Brenda Clemens, Certified Equine-Assisted Learning Specialist
Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Centre
Phone: (306) 731-2943

Tickets On Sale Now for Country Concerts

Tickets are now for sale online at for the upcoming Bucky Covington concert on April 9 and the Keith Anderson concert on April 10.

American Idol-finalist Bucky Covington will perform along with special guests South 70 at the Williamson County Pavilion on Wednesday, April 10.

Keith Anderson's "Raisin' the Bar" tour comes to the Pavilion the following day along with Chris Young and The Lost Trailers.

Tickets are general admission and cost $25 per show. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Concerts start at 7 p.m. There is a facility fee for ordering tickets online. Tickets can also be purchased from Black Diamond Harley-Davidson in Marion.

'Foodies' Target of SIU Tourism Project

Monday's Southern highlights another tourism project underway in the region, this time targeting the distinct culinary delights of Southern Illinois.

Carbondale Tourism Director Debbie Moore talks about the project with the Southern's Karen Binder. She's mentioned it before in tourism meetings and quite frankly it sounds delicious!

"What better way to understand an area's culture if it means understanding the food," Moore said. "The natural start for destination dining here is a perfect pairing with Southern Illinois wine and our Southern Illinois dishes. We want food and wine to the primary focus to this initiative."

While culinary tourism development opportunities are as varied as menu choices, Moore said developing partnerships with key food communities, such as restaurants, wineries and food producers, could tap the region's German, Polish, Italian, Hispanic and black historical roots.

Also, the team cited potential for a barbecue trail, promotion of locally grown products, turning farmers' markets into travel attractions, production tours, food safety and hospitality training, tourism business planning and more. Work is already under way on a regional cookbook.

Next step for the team is rolling out its Web site around a Southern Illinois Food, Family and Fun logo against a checkered tablecloth and continuing planning to launch the concept.

"Our hope that this entrepreneurial spirit can be leveraged with state money and we can see this happen," Moore said.

Karen ends her story with Debbie's rhetorical question, "How simple does it sound to serve apple pie made of Southern Illinois apples?"

Yet, it's not that simple. It's getting harder and harder to find locally-produced pies, let alone locally-produced pies filled with locally-grown fruit.

It came up at every tourism town meeting we conducted last year this issue of where tourists can go to get a "true taste" of Southern Illinois.

I call it the rhubarb test. I'm not a big pie eater, but I grew up on my grandmother's rhubarb and occasionally gooseberry pies. To me that's Southern Illinois. That's a distinctive taste that I associate with the region.

It's like knowing where the best barbecue can be found, or knowing that if going to Herrin - the best Italian beef.

Not all tourists stay overnight in the region, but it's almost guaranteed that if they spend just two or three hours here they'll eat at least one meal.

Whatever we can do to make that meal more memorable the better down the road for us.

Another part of Debbie's grant would pay off even more immediately as it would connect local food growers to local restaurants.

Southern Covers Agri-Tourism in Region

The Southern Illinoisan's Karen Binder highlights the region's growing agri-tourism industry in Sunday's business section cover story.

While our ever-growing number of wineries in the region prove to be the best-known combo of agricultural and tourism the story also points out the other sides as well.

There is more to agritourism than wineries. Also at home here is The Haunted Barn south of Marion, Rendleman Orchards Farm Market in Alto Pass and Shumaker Christmas Trees in Olive Branch.

Simply, an agritourism business is any land-based farm or business that is open to the public and offers services or products for sale.

I'm quoted in there as well talking about our hunt clubs focusing on geese and duck hunting as well as the thousands of acres of land in Williamson County alone leased to outfitters for all type of hunting activities.
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