Monthly Archives: March 2014

Canfax Mobile App Helps Producers Make Informed Marketing Decisions

Brian Perillat

Brian Perillat

Cattle producers all along the supply chain now have access to a new, free market prices app based on historical Canfax data. Using Canadian pricing and continually updating with new pricing information, the CanFax CFX Pro mobile app is applicable and useful for all Canadian cattle producers, says Brian Perillat, with Canfax.

Developed with industry funding, the free app offers producers insights into how markets changes may impact their bottom line in regards to future price movements and includes updates to cattle price insurance tables automatically. For those looking to purchase cattle, the app also features a breakeven calculator for backgrouding or finishing markets.

Available for download for the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms, Perillat says app versions for BB10 or Android may be developed in the future.

Shaun Haney, founder of RealAgriculture, interviewed Perillat to get all the details on the app, how it works and how producers may find it most valuable for their specific cattle operation.

Hear more from Brian Perillat: Why isn’t the beef herd expanding?

If you cannot see the embedded player, click here.

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Hold Your Judgement on Kathleen Wynne’s Agriculture Record: Stewart Skinner

Stewart Skinner, hog farmer & Liberal nominee

Stewart Skinner, hog farmer & Liberal nominee

After I wrote an editorial piece on Kathleen Wynne’s absence at the GFO meeting last week (click here for that), many people agreed with my take. In the true spirit of, some readers thought I was incorrect and called me out on it.

Long-time RealAgriculture follower Stewart Skinner contacted me and said, “Slow down, there, Mr. Haney. You’re not seeing the big picture.”

Never one to shy away from a good debate,  I talked to Stewart to get his thoughts on why he thinks Kathleen Wynne is working hard as Ontario’s agriculture minister, and is being effective for the long term success of Ontario agriculture. In the audio interview below, Stewart outlines why Wynne chose the ag portfolio, the state of food processing in the province, advocating for agriculture in urban circles and even comments on the closing of the University of Guelph’s eastern campuses.


If you cannot see the embedded player, click here.

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4 Ways to Achieve a Vigourous Crop

Seedlings from a foot of row seeded at 3 mph.

Seedlings from a foot of row seeded at 3 mph.

As seeding approaches, one of the most common topics I hear discussed is vigour.  A vigourous plant stand comes from a healthy seed that is out of the ground and competing in a timely fashion. This can mean fewer days to maturity, quicker ground cover, better weed competition, a more robust rooting system better able to scavenge for nutrients and the list goes on and on. The trick to making a crop more vigourous isn’t always just one thing, it can be the combination of two or more strong agronomic practices. (A vigorous crop is not to be confused with a seed vigour test — a measure of germination under less than ideal conditions).

Here are a few of the things you can do this spring to make your crop more vigourous:

Seed Quality/Depth: Starting the season off with clean, high germ and high vigour seed is one of the simplest ways to get your crop started off right. High disease and a low vigour means those seeds have a lot to overcome before making their way to the soil surface. Secondly, the most simple way to increase vigour is put those seeds at the ideal depth! Sometimes going a bit deeper to hit moisture is necessary, but if you seed too deep when there is adequate moisture you are hurting vigour. Think about how tiny a seed is — each seed as a limited amount of energy. It takes more energy to emerge from 2? down, than from 1?.

A Safe Rate of Seed Placed Phosphorous: Phosphorous (P) has been shown to cause a “pop up effect” when it is placed in the seed row with the seed. P is key early in the season for energy production in the plant which drives root and shoot growth. This ensures the plant is rapidly growing and gets out of the ground in a timely fashion. Be sure to reference the safe seed placed fertilizer charts because too much P can actually hinder emergence.

Seed Treatment: As discussed earlier, disease can be a big detriment to the vigour of crops, a properly chosen seed treatment can give you a big boost to crop establishment. This can even be the case when you start the season off with high quality, disease-free seed. There are many diseases that run rampant in our soil that aren’t on our seed and many seed treatments do a great job of controlling these as well. Tough seeding conditions — colder than ideal soil, a wet spring — can mean a slow emergence; even healthy seed may need protection.

Consider a Seed Dressing: Seed dressings, in the form of beneficial bacteria or nutrients to make up for nutrient deficiencies in the seed/soil, may also have a fit. The bacteria can increase availability of phosphorous or other nutrients and get that plant motoring along on the path to high yields. There are also products that include small amounts of nutrients like zinc, manganese or calcium that are helpful in early season plant growth. When a plant is rapidly growing early it is trying to suck up a lot of nutrients from a developing root system so these types of products can really get that crop popping up in a stressful situation. (Click here to see a video on a 3-point plan to using micronutrients).

Having a crop that gets off to a great start is a huge benefit in achieving big yields; make sure you are doing at least a couple of these things this spring to help your crop reach the target you have set out for it.

Click here for past agronomy columns from Shane Thomas!

GMAC 300-250


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Canola School: Strategies for Saving on Seed Costs

Big seed results in only slightly better germ rates — not enough to balance the pounds/acre seed number spread.

Big seed results in only slightly better germ rates — not enough to balance the pounds/acre seed number spread.

Canola seed size has climbed in recent years from a once-common 4 grams per 1,000 kernel weight to north of 7 grams per 1,000 seeds. What does that mean to you, the farmer? It means that if you’ve stuck with your typical four pounds per acre seeding rate (and there are good reasons to do so) you’re actually putting down nearly half as many seeds as before.

Are big, fat seeds more vigourous? At the recent CanoLAB event held in Brandon, Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist with Alberta Agriculture, tackled that exact topic. Turns out that, yes, larger seed is ever so slightly more vigourous, however, the slight increase is more than cancelled out by the far fewer seeds per foot of row you’d end up with if you stick with seeding at your historical rate.

Hartman recognizes though that doubling your seeding rate to make up for the seed size difference isn’t reasonable either. Instead, he encourages farmers to dial up the pounds per acre slightly but take the extra time to ensure more of those seeds become actual producing plants.

How? In this episode of the Canola School, Hartman explains a few ways in which farmers can cap their seed costs while still achieving the desired plants per square foot (hint: seed shallow and slowly, into warm soil and limit seed-placed fertilizer). (Click here to see a video on two ways to evaluate a canola plant stand.)

Looking for more canola production information? Click here to see all of the Canola School videos!

If you cannot see the embedded video, “>click here.

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CIGI CEO Announces Retirement


Earl Geddes will retire in September 2014

Cigi’s board of directors announced today the retirement of Earl Geddes, chief executive officer (CEO), effective September 8, 2014.

Since 2009, Geddes has led Cigi through a challenging period including a transition in marketing from the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly era to an open marketing system for wheat and barley in Western Canada. Also, during this period, production of oats, oilseeds, pulses, and specialty crops has become increasingly important to farmers. New business partnership funding arrangements have been secured, and Geddes has been instrumental in expanding the scope of Cigi and positioning the organization to capture opportunities for growth and advancement of its programs and services on behalf of farmers, industry partners, and the Government of Canada (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada).

Cigi is a not-for-profit organization recognized for its independent market development programs and activities specializing in the delivery of high-quality technical expertise, support, and customized training in Canadian field crops to customers around the world.

Geddes said, “I have loved my time at Cigi, working with the dedicated team of world-class highly qualified professionals, and the successful relationships we have built in Canada and throughout the world. Together, we in many regards are well on our way to achieving Cigi’s vision of being recognized as the leader of Canadian field crop product applications around the world through education, research, and innovation.

“I have had a lifelong commitment to family and agriculture, and to having fun. Now the focus will be more on family and fun, although you can’t take the farmer out of the farm kid,” Geddes says in a press release.

The Cigi Board has engaged Scott Wolfe Management Inc. to immediately begin the search for a CEO.

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The 2014 Grain Summit: Solving Logistics Challenges, the Revenue Cap & More


Bruce McFadden, Quorom Corporation, on the Grain Monitoring Program.

Bruce McFadden, Quorom Corporation, on the Grain Monitoring Program.

In light of grain logistics challenges, the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics hosted a Grain Handling and Transportion Summit in Saskatoon this week. Besides hearing presentations from stakeholders along the rail supply chain, delegates were also given the opportunity to voice their concerns, ask their questions and propose their ideas for solutions.

One of the presenters was Ian McCreary, a grain and cattle farmer from Bladworth, Saskatchewan. McCreary’s experience in policy, marketing and transportation is vast, having been employed by the Canadian Wheat Board, and later chairing the Transportation Committee as a director on the board.

McCreary’s suggestions ranged from improving the west coast’s capacity to handle grain to creating forward rail contracts and enhancing competition. Though McCreary suggested the revenue cap could be reviewed, he felt it very important to maintain. Ultimately, McCreary agreed with David Miller of CN Rail: this isn’t a “rail-only” problem. 

Following his presentation, McCreary agreed to the following interview, where he expanded on the need for all stakeholders to be involved in planning and coordinating, the role of the revenue cap, his desire to see improved running rights and the future of the logistics conversation.

For details on the government’s latest move, introduction of the “Fair Rail for Grain Farmers” act, click here.

If you cannot view the embedded video, click here.

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You are invited to our Annual General Meeting on Friday, April 11th at 2:00pm at the Queensbury Convention Centre, Evraz Place, Regina in Salon 3. Visit our website for more details!

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An Elevating CWB, Fair Rail and the Threat of War in Russia

The grain trade this week was mostly higher as solid export numbers and lingering concerns over dryness and the political state of Eastern Europe hung over market. With Russian troop numbers building at the Russian-Ukrainian border, more than a few intelligence analysts are reminded of a similar series of events leading up to Russia’s incursions/clashes with Georgia & Chechnya. With companies like Visa and Mastercard pulling out of Russia (significant in its own right), Ukraine’s top diplomat recently said that the threat of war with Russia is increasing. Further, world leaders decided to kick Russia out of the G-8, as the group is supposed to have “shared beliefs & shared responsibilities” and “Russia’s actions in recent weeks are not consistent with them.”

Strong red lentil export demand, coupled with weather concerns in India & Turkey, are leading to talk of more acres of the pulse crop getting planted across the Canadian Prairies this year. Another factor to keep in mind though is that India’s population can be fairly price sensitive & will substitute pulse crops for other options it they get too expensive. While I doubt estimates of 3 million acres of JUST red lentils will be realized, it’s certain acres will be higher than years past, especially with margins fairly tight this year amongst most crops. That in mind, there’s more interest (and R&D investment) building in Western Canada for corn and soybeans. Simply put, versus planting just 2 or 3 crops, your market risk is spread over more options when there is more variety in your crop rotation (that’s usually a good thing for agronomy purposes too).

On Monday, March 31st, the USDA will release its much-anticipated Stocks And Acreage report, which some regard as the most important report of the year as it contains old crop, new crop, quarterly inventories, and acreage data (holy information overload!). The Reuters average US acreage estimates are for 92.75 million acres of corn (-2.75% from the 95.365 million acres last year) with March 1st stocks estimated to be 7.1 billion bushels (+31.5% from the 5.4 billion bushels at the same time a year ago). As for soybeans, the average market estimate is for 81.075 million acres (+6% from 76.533 million last year) while available supply as of March 1st is seen at 989 million bushels (-1% from the 998 million bushels available a year ago on March 1, 2013). Finally, for wheat, expectations are for 56.28 million acres, up slightly from the 56.156 million acres last year but, more specifically, durum acres are seen increasing 22% year-over-year to 1.794 million acres.

The Canadian Wheat Board recently announced that they’re building a brand new elevator just west of Portage la Prairie, MB in Bloom. The facility, expected to be completed and accepting grain by harvest 2015 will have about 34,000 tonnes of storage capacity and a 130-railcar loop track (serviced by CN Railway) with a loading capacity of up to 60,000 bushels an hour. This move adds to the CWB’s recent acquisition of a few other facilities including Mission Terminal in Thunder Bay & another elevator in Trois-Rivieres, QC. In my opinion, this a welcome move for the industry as the CWB continues to diversify the landscape as they head down the road of being fully privatized. Simply put, the CWB is moving their chess pieces to diversify their procurement strategy. On the flipside, what are you doing with your chess pieces to diversify your marketing strategy?

And finally, the Canadian federal government announced Bill C-30 (Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act) to put some more pressure on the railroads to improve their service. Included in the bill are requirements for the railroads to move 500,000 tonnes a week through August 3rd, 2014, inter-switching distances increased to 160 kilometres (one railroad picks up cars for another) which expands this option to 150 elevators from the current 14, and the Canada Grain Commission now being able to regulate compensation for farmers if delivery dates aren’t honoured in a grain company contract.  According to the CGC, more than halfway through the 2013/14 marketing year, total producer cars being ordered are “basically double last year” and that the number processed is 80 per cent higher. It’s clear that producer cars are one way to diversify a marketing strategy.

To growth.

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