Archive for August, 2009

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August 31, 2009

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Its Harvest Time

August 30, 2009

Its fall time and that means only one thing…… It’s harvest time. Harvest time is all about long hours, teamwork and lots of windshield time. To make sure that everyone is prepared I have embedded on of my harvest videos from YouTube which was produced by FarmallDiesel a farmer from Wisconsin. This video incorporates great song selection and a great plethora of video and still photos from the 2008 harvest. Amazingly this video has over 45,000 views. Enjoy the video and have a great harvest.

Affects of Modern Farming on the Soil

August 28, 2009

Dr. Ross McKenzie, from the Lethbridge Research Station provides comments on the affect that modern farming has had on the soil. Some groups maintain that modern farming is destroying our top soil levels and creating adverse compaction, and decreasing organic matter. Others would say that things like organic matte are rising based on modern farming methods. I asked Ross to comment on this topic so that we could get a a professional scientific opinion to base some discussion on.

Harvesting the Benefits of Facebook and Twitter

August 25, 2009

The following article was originally written by Michele Payn Knoper on her blog Cause Matters. Michele is an accomplished professional speaker and writer.

Harvest is rapidly approaching, a season filled with measurements of a farmer’s success. Agriculture needs to look at yields in areas beyond the combines and choppers. One of those needing yield improvement is consumer understanding of agriculture. I’d encourage you to look at the millions of opportunities in social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Ning, et al) as a critical tool in improving perception measurements about the agrifood business. Why?

Networking: People with multiple decades working in agriculture have told me that they’ve never found a better networking tool than social media. For example, Twitter’s #AgChat on Tues., 8-10 p.m. Eastern, has brought together hundreds of people in the business of raising food, feed, fuel and fiber. In addition to discussing timely issues and educating others about agriculture, participants in in #AgChat regularly dialogue about what they’re doing in the field, the latest equipment, ways to improve practices and experiences in animal care.

Listen louder: Identify trends and thought patterns shaping opinion about what you do on a daily basis. Social media offers an early glimpse of emerging trends – and media outlets have been using tools such as Twitter to break news, as well as source it. Social media gives you the opportunity to really listen to people’s thoughts, needs and worries – and respond to them.

Share sound bytes about agriculture: Create greater understanding of what’s happening on the farm, in the field, the role of agribusiness and the challenges faced by those who produce food. In a society two or three generations removed from the farm – this is a critical business tool to ensure your long-term success. Don’t expect people to understand ag if you don’t tell them about it. Many of my speaker friends comment on the food facts I post on my Facebook and LinkedIn, noting their surprise. You’ll likely be surprised with the feedback you get from your social networking – people enjoy hearing about farm, food and your family.

Build collaborations: Many groups are interested in exposing misinformation campaigns and improving people’s critical thinking skills. For example, biomedical researchers and pet ownership groups have similar interests as agriculturists do in exposing animal rights activists. Broaden your circle and you may be surprised at what you learn – and who you meet.

Put a face on the plate: Connect with consumers and influencers – by the millions. Take two minutes a day to share what you’re working on your farm, in your agribusiness, or challenges in the business. If you’re not telling people, how do you expect people to know? When I began tweeting a weekly food fact (there’s now #agfact Tues. and #foodfact Thurs.) back in January, I saw my followers begin to diversify. People are hungry for information about food and it’s a tremendously polarizing issue. The day the L.A. Times Food Section began following me was the day I figured out Twitter is a very useful business tool.

Engage in debate with people from different backgrounds: This is particularly true when misinformation is running rampant. Blogs and Twitter have taught me how single-minded some people can be in debates about sustainability, local food, biotechnology, organics, animal rights, urban gardeners, et al. Time spent in civil discourse is constructive if it builds understanding of both parties’ opinions. Frankly, it also provides reason to step back and assess if agriculture is too single-minded.

The yield potential is significant. An estimated 1.9 million tweets are sent daily. There are more than 225 million people on Facebook and it reached 150 million users nearly three times faster than cell phones. Do the math about how many opportunities you have to connect agriculture if 98.5% of those people aren’t actively engaged in farming. Call social media a fad if you wish, but know that agriculture is missing an opportunity to be proactive if you don’t take the time to harvest the benefits of at least one of the tools. What’s holding you back?

Why Winter Wheat – Ross McKenzie, PhD – Lethbridge Research Station

August 22, 2009

Ross McKenzie, PhD of the Lethbridge Research Station talks about the agronomic considerations for winter wheat. Ross explains seeding dates, plant populations, nutrient requirements, specific variety considerations and seeding depth.

Winter wheat is a great crop with many benefits. Planting winter wheat is a great way to lower the amount of workload in the spring and creates a much more spread out harvest.

Beef Market Update – Anne Dunford – 08-19-2009

August 20, 2009

Summer is coming to an end and feedyards are starting to place grass cattle.  Anne Dunford of the Gateway Livestock Exchange talks about the fat cattle and feeder markets are being affected and how the fall may play out for the cattle industry in both Canada and the US.   Anne also predicts what will transpire when Stats Canada releases the July 1st inventory numbers.  

View past Beef Market Updates

SiemensSays.com – Jim Long President of Genesus Genetics – Our Observations

August 19, 2009

The following article was originally from SiemensSays.com. I think it is a very insightful analysis into the recent announcements in the pork industry.

  • Loan guarantees will help some producers. But, what is the criteria for a viable hog operation? The Canadian industry is currently losing $30 million a week. The situation is deteriorating daily.
  • The Hog Farm Transition Program of $75 million will help if it effectively pays people to get out of the business. This would cut production. No details yet, but it appears it’s like the U.S. dairy buyout where producers will bid to leave the industry for three years. If it only pays existing producers, not ones that already quit, it can significantly cut production. For example: ‘At $500 per sow bid the $75 million would cut 150,000 sows out of production.’ If it pays people already out of business, the plan will do little to cut supply.
  • The Government says detailed information will become available over the next few weeks. The industry is in crisis; they have been working on this for months – it’s too bad the Government is not ready. Not sure what the point is to gradually reduce supply as the Government proposes; gradually will lead to further attrition in the potential survivors. We need them out fast! Get it over and move on.
  • Not a stellar day for the Canadian Pork Council. The cattle industry got billions for Mad Cow. The Canadian Pork Council came up short on their $800 million want list for compensation for H1N1 effects and the economic crisis.
  • At the press conference, Minister of Agriculture Ritz assured he had talked to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. All was good with the plan. Loan guarantees are allowed.
  • Not to think that only Canada supports producers, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, announced last week that USDA rural development and the Farm Service Agency – FSA, were to help use all available means to help producers hit by worsening economic conditions. $1.7 billion from the American Reinvestment Program and Recovery Act has been made available. FSA has been instructed to increase efforts to provide loan assistance to livestock producers. The agency sent a letter to direct borrowers outlining the options and tools available to help ease financial stress. The letter encourages borrowers to contact their local county offices. Options available include rescheduling, reammortization, deferral, and in extreme cases reducing debt.
  • Bottom line – Canada and USA are liquidating. Both countries governments are stepping in to help out. We doubt that it’s enough to stem the tide of liquidation. We do not expect Canadian liquidation alone will cut supply to profitable levels without the US doing likewise. Both countries need and are getting liquidation.

This Is Bad
Our industry is losing $40 to $50 per head currently. USA – Canada aggregate weekly hog marketing are 2.6 million and making a weekly loss of $100 to $130 million. It’s dismal. It’s been almost two years of constant losses. This past week we travelled the U.S. Midwest. Our observations:

  • Producers are shell shocked. The question, “When will this end?!” is asked repeatedly.
  • Sow liquidation has picked up. Reports are the sow plants are taking all they want; before, they had capacity. Sow prices have dropped in the range of almost $100 per head. That’s a reflection of supply.
  • We saw lots of corn and soybeans on our tour. Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska crops look great (except where it hailed). Every ditch for 2400 miles was green as could be. This is the middle of August! Rain and now warm weather. We are no crop experts, but everywhere we went the crop was described as excellent by the locals. U.S.D.A. last week predicted 12.7 billion bushels of corn. We might have lots of other problems right now in our industry, but feed availability is not one of them.
  • Lean Hog Futures have hit multi-year lows. There are no hedge opportunities for profit. We expect the non Ag funds will begin to look at the historical lows and this coupled with sow liquidation will start driving up spring 2010 futures. We believe the U.S. is liquidating (combination of gilt retention and sow slaughter) 10-15,000 sows per week.
  • We received several emails last week encouraging us not to talk about liquidation. Like people out of money and out of faith will stay in the business because we give some optimism. When you are out of capital (cash) and courage, it’s over. No words or optimism will keep you in business. Cash is king.

Summary
Some Government Aid, but in an industry losing $100-$130 million a week, it will do little to stem the tide. In the last two weeks the collapse of cash and futures has broken the spirit and future of many. We are liquidating. We expect deferred lean hog futures will gather steam soon. There is no way next spring and summer hog supply will not be seriously cut. One packer told us last week that we need to start talking 90¢ hogs again. H1N1 destroyed this summer’s market, but it will be over by then. Does anyone in their right mind believe small pigs will be $4.00 each a few months from now? We expect $60.00 in January. The retail price of pork is higher than a year ago as supply demand adjusts. Our prices will recover. The retail price of pork, higher than last year, tells us we are producing a product people want. We are not making wagon wheels. There is, believe it or not, a future for many.

ILC 2009: Dr. Alastair Cribb – Making Decisions Based on Science Versus Emotion

August 9, 2009

At the International Livestock Congress I talked to Dr. Alastair Cribb, Dean. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Calgary about the balance between making decisions based on science versus emotion.  Sometimes this can be a very grey area and will continue to be in the future as both scientific advancement and emotions increase.  

See more ILC 2009 content

Feeding Cattle: Work in Progress

August 9, 2009
From drought to frost to hail, Western Canada ranchers have faced some significant challenges already this year. In a “normal” year, we gerenally only encounter one of these stresses as an issue, but this year producers have had to watch their pastures, hay land and crops alike undergo multiple stresses that have left some wondering what to do.
With most crops and pastures getting off to a very slow start due to cold temperatures and lack of moisture, there were cattle producers feeding late into the season. Now that crops are behind as well, it is looking like not all cereal crops will go through a combine, which may be an opportunity for cattle producers to procure some feed acres for silage or swath grazing.

Canola School – Lygus Bugs

August 9, 2009
In this edition of the canola school Matt Stanford of the Canola Council of Canada breaks down the issue of lygus bugs and their impact on the canola crop.  Knowing the correct timing for spraying is very important in terms of lygus bugs.