Archive for May, 2009

Lets Not Repeat the Same Mistakes With H1N1 As We Did With BSE

May 7, 2009

In Central Alberta, a 2200 head swine herd is under quarantine after the CFIA confirmed the H1N1 virus presence. According to a press release by the Government of Alberta, the pigs were exposed to the virus by a farm worker who recently returned from Mexico with flu symptoms.

I’m just glad to see not only the Canadian government, but the veterinarian’s involved informing the public that there is no food safety risk. Whether or not the public believes it is another story. Just as we saw in the BSE debacle a few years ago, consumers are prone to the media message, no matter its accuracy. The implication of pork being affected is purely due to the “Swine Flu” naming of the H1N1 virus, as it carries the same negative connotation as “Mad Cow Disease”. I cannot make the same compliments to the World Health Organization (WHO), who came out this week and said there is a health concern which is contrary to scientific opinion from several sources.

Look at how Egypt is handling the situation. While culling all of the 250 000 pigs in the country will not prevent the transmission of the virus, as there is no evidence of pigs passing the virus to humans. And there hasn’t even been a reported case of H1N1 in Egypt, whether human or porcine.

The pork industry has enough adversity to face as it is, and does not need false, negative media attention. I just hope that the consumers base their decisions on facts, not fear. We just got over BSE, lets not let that happen to the pork industry.

Seeding Videos to Get You in the Mood

May 5, 2009

Now that seeding is sort of underway across North America I thought I would highlight some YouTube videos that different famers have put together showcasing their seeding efforts. As you watch the videos you can see the pride that each has in their hard work and most importantly the color of the equipment.

I would encourage everyone to take video and pictures through the growing season and I will post the best ones for everyone to see. Have a great spring and good luck with seeding.

Pork Will Have to Repair Its Brand After H1N1

May 5, 2009

The H1N1 virus is really causing an issue with the global pork consumers with the weekends announcement that a hog farm in Alberta has been quarantined. Many are asking why a person just returning from Mexico was ever let in the facility in the first place but the biggest concern is restoring consumer faith in safety of Canadian pork. Alberta is the worlds third largest producer of pork.

In the beginning everyone was referring to it as the swine flu which has created mega issues for the perception of pork. Organic producers are cheering the fact they believe this demonstrates the negative impact of factory farming while realists are angry that this was ever referred to as Swine Flu. The sad part here is that it takes years to build a brand and a single moment to destroy one and this is the challenge the global pork industry now faces.

Harry Siemens on the radio talking about the safety of pork

I know that I will still be eating pork which is very similar to the fact I ate beef after BSE. As Canadian consumers we must do two things.

  1. Always refer to the flu strain as H1N1 (even though at this point the pork brand has been decimated)
  2. Continue to eat pork and show the world that our product is safe.

With countries like China banning the importation of Alberta pork, there is some major work to be done by the industry as BSE proved it can be a very long process to get the borders re-opened and in the meantime the producer is set up for financial ruin.

Seeding by 1000 Kernel Weight Ensures a Better Plant Stand

May 4, 2009

This article orginally appeared in the Winter 2004 edition of the Haney Farms Quarterly

Traditionally farmers have always thought of planting their crop in terms of bushels per acre. Bushels have been a unit of measure that we have felt comfortable with in the past because it was a function of pounds. For example, one bushel of barley is 48 pounds and if you seed two bushels per acre, you are seeding at 96 pounds. This was the simple convenient way because it usually was the same number every year. When you seed at the same rate every year you are not taking into consideration many of the important variables that can have dramatic affects on your yield and your bottom line.

According to Phil Thomas, Senior Agri-Coach with Agri-trend, “The optimum seeding rate will vary depending on several factors such as: length of growing season, location and potential for summer drought, seedbed firmness, moisture and temperature, variety seed size, germination and vigor, soil type, texture, pH, surface residue and tillage, depth of seeding, fertilizer placement, crop intended end us, weeds, insects and diseases.”

There are some drawbacks to this traditional system, which has spawned more agronomical based calculations for planting rates.

The problems are as follows:

  • Does not consider the germination or mortality levels of the seed
  • Does not consider the actual weight of the seed (1000 kernel weight). This is important because for example, not all barley weighs the same. Therefore you may think that you are planting 150 pounds per acre but are truly planting 125.
  • There was no realization of the desired plant population

The calculation that is recommended by researchers is to obtain a desired plant population based on plants per square foot. This calculation takes into account the germination of the seed as well as the 1000 kernel weight and the row spacing of the drill. The following example will outline this concept more clearly.
Seeding rate (lb/ac) = desired plant population/ft² x 1,000 kernel wt (grams) ÷ (germination – mortality) ÷ 10.

In a Prairie Post article, Ross McKenzie of the Research station in Lethbridge states that, “the plumper and more ideal the seed, the higher the seeding rate. Because plumper seeds weigh more, a larger sample will be required to attain the desired number of plants per square foot.”
Ross continued, “once the seeding rate is determined the farmer must calibrate his drill to dispense the correct number of pounds of seed per acre.”

At, click on the calculator tab and find the seeding rates section. In here you can enter your seed information to calculate the seeding rate that is best for you according to the variables discussed in this article. Farming in the 21st century requires accurate scientific based decisions because of lack of room for error due to decreasing margins.

Getting the Youth in the Beef Industry Politically Involved is Important

May 4, 2009

While the demographics of farmers and ranchers generally follow an aging trend, there are still many young people getting, and staying, involved in the livestock industry. A prime example is a new group I have the privilege of helping to develop between the US and Canada.

The Canada/US Young Farmers and Ranchers Livestock Forum is being developed by a group of people with a vested interest in the policy and trade aspect of the livestock business.
Working with Canadian Consulate of Agriculture (Denver), producer groups, breed associations and more, we are trying to get young (under 35-ish) farmers and ranchers from both sides of the border together for a roundtable discussion on policy issues that currently affect livestock trade in both countries. The intent is to demonstrate the economic importance of developing, fostering and maintaining strong trading partnerships, specifically the relationship between Canada and the U.S. The plan is to continue this roundtable on an annual basis rotating between locations in Canada and the U.S. For this year, the Forum will consist of topics such as: addressing challenges of country of origin labeling; strengthening our food safety systems / animal health and implications to disease outbreak; environmental regulations / cap and trade climate initiatives; and joint efforts to gain access to the European Union.

As this is the first year, the participant numbers are expected to be small, with approximately 20 participants total, depending on sponsorship. Taking place July 8 – 11 at the Calgary Stampede, in conjunction with the International Livestock Congress (ILC), we expect this event to be a huge success, even in its inception year. Participants will attend the ILC program on July 9th and the Forum itself will be held on the 10th. July 11th will be a day for agricultural tours of the Calgary area. As we move forward in planning this initiative, we are always looking for interest and support. If you have questions, comments or would like to get involved in this exciting new industry initiative, please feel free to contact me.

Do Your Weeds Still Have Their Winter Parka’s On?

May 1, 2009

In the last two weeks I have been asked one thing constantly.

Is it too cold to spray?

Well if we are below zero every night then yes. I know that this is a problem right now but we also have to look at what we are trying to get rid of.

When it comes to perennials like a dandelion then we have to use the rule of thumb “if it is below zero then we need two days of plus 10 or greater before we can spray”. What happens is we get some minus temperatures then we get a real nice day and of course when it is nice there is no wind. So what do we do, we jump in the sprayer and start spraying like crazy to catch up. Now with the products like PrePass and Express Pro that have residual we think that they will be our saving grace or silver bullet but remember if the plant is not actively growing you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. What I mean is that if the plant is growing you are getting two modes of death. Through the leaves and absorbing through the roots. If it is not active then you are hoping that you will kill the plant by roots. With annuals and volunteer canola that will work to some degree but with things like dandelions and narrow leaf hawks beard that could be a wreck waiting to happen. So my advise is to wait till we get away from freezing at night and do the proper spraying job the first time We know what happens when we don’t get a good kill on those weeds because it tends to bite us in the you know what and costs us more money to get rid of a simple problem.

Those are my thoughts,

Garth Donald C.C.A.