Sunday, 19 June 2011


COOL stands for Country of Origin Labeling. This legislation has come in to affect for many good reasons. In May 2002, law in the US to label all meat and other perishable items with the country it orignated from. This is a way of tracking meat that has found to have a disease in later dates.

This all sounds good in theory, but it proved to be detrimental to Canadian farmers.This legislation forced American companies to make a decision; separate the Canadian and American meat when packaging foods, or reduce import from Canada and increase local supply. What do you think they chose? To decrease importing, to ensure they are labeling their products correctly.

Canada has been urging the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ban the legislation, as it is proving to be nothing but trouble. Recently, the WTO has ruled that COOL is in violation of the Technical Barriers to Trade. This is finally giving Canadian farmers a leg up on the trading industry. There is still a 30 day comment period, and the US government does have a chance to appeal the ruling. In the fall, there will be a public ruling making the decision final.

Canadian Cattlemen still believe the consumer has a right to know where their products have originated from, however the legislation of COOL is not the solution. It has acted not as a traceability tool, but more of a trade stopper then anything.

This is the first step to finding a real answer to the question of traceability on meat and other perishable food items.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Father's day, Mother's Day, Farmer's Day??

Everyone has heard about the days where we honor the parents who have lived through numerous sleepless nights, lived through all the temper tantrums, wiped away all the tears and changed all those dirty diapers.

There is now a day to honor farmers?  Many people think this is a bogus holiday that should be scratched from the record. I disagree with them.

How often have you said thank you to the cashier at the grocery store after she hands over your receipt, or thanked the waitress who has brought your food to the table? I am sure countless times, many of you may not realize you are doing it, but the person on the receiving end sure realizes it is happening. Now I will ask, how many of you have thanked the farmer who grew the potato that you just purchased, or who fed the cow everyday who was made into the steak you are eating?  I’m sure many of you can’t think of an instance where you said thank you to those farmers.

Many people do not realize that when you are raising production livestock, it is not a 9-5 punch clock job, it is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week job. During calving/lambing/kidding season, there are numerous night checks to ensure the birthing process is going smoothly, and if intervention is needed, it can be done in a timely manner. As well, those who are independent farmers who depend solely on the income of the farm, do not get paid every two weeks.  They must wait until they take in their crop, or until the cattle sell, which is only a few times a year. This takes a great business mind to be able to plan financially for months ahead of time. Even if they are not in the field, there is alot of office work to be done by a farmer.

June 10 is the day that you can say thank you. If you know a farmer, or see one during the day, take a minute and simply say thank you. It does not have to be a whole hallabaloo, you simply have to walk up, and shake their hand, and tell them how much you appreciate them.

Some of you may not know a farmer or be comfortable walking up to a complete stranger, but you can still say thank you. Leave a comment on this post regarding you appreciation for the hard work  of the local farmer, as I am sure there are a few who will read this.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Volunteering? What?

Recently, I was asked to be a judge at a 4-H Show, and a Mistress of Ceremonies at 2 different 4-H shows. I was pleased to be asked about this opportunity. 4-H is a great program, and I would have been happy to help. Unfortunately, I had to work two of the three events. However, I did drive over an hour to go and MC the Lamont District Show and Sale.

When people asked me what I was doing with my day off work, I was excited to say, " I get to MC a 4-H show back at home." Many people asked, "How much they pay you for that?" I was stunned, and replied, "Nothing, 4-H is a volunteer youth organization, I am volunteering my time."

This got me thinking, how many people really only do something for others if they see a direct benefit for themselves? Let's evaluate this, what would happen if no one volunteered;

The local fair that you and your family attend every year is organized and run by a huge number of volunteers. Sure, there are sponsors, but that pays for the prize money in the rodeo, or to allow the public in for free. If no one volunteered to run it, there simply would be no events to attend.

Most schools have a Parent Advisory Council. This council does not strictly organize events for the school, they also over see how the school is spending the money. They also do fundraisers, such as working Casino nights, to help raise money for technology for the school. Are the parents gaining anything from the school getting new technology? No, not really, but their children are.

In the public school system, teachers do not get paid to stay late after school to coach the volleyball team. They do not get paid to spend their weekends 3 hours away from their family to attend a basketball tournament. Sure, they have their expenses paid for, but not their time. Are they directly gaining anything from the students gaining athletic ability? No, not really.

Volunteering for other people's benefit is the best gift you can give anyone. Next time you hear of any local club looking for helpers for their event, or the parent council is looking for people to attend meetings for input, try it out for a few months. The greatest reward is seeing the smiling faces on people who enjoyed what you spent so much time working to plan.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Stanley Cup Playoffs Started on the Farm?

Okay, maybe that title was a tad misleading, but not completely untrue. I am sure many of you learned how to skate on a homemade rink on the farm, so did many of our NHL players.

Mason Raymond, Vauncouver Canucks wingman came from a farm near Cochrane, AB.

The great one, Wayne Gretzky's grandparents were Ontario farmers.

These are just two examples of great Canadian Hockey players who learned to skate on the farm. Gretzky learned at the age of two how to skate on his grandparents homemade ice. Raymond's great grandparents where pioneers of the Cochrane area, and he spent numerous hours on the family ranch's rink.

This is just a reminder of how our roots shape who we become. Most people think that it is fun and a family tradition to teach their children to skate at a young age, I am sure they never thought their sons would become such great hockey players.

Who woulda thought these boys where from the farm. I guess you just never know. 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Spraying 101

It is almost that time of the year, when the farmers are out in the fields spraying their crops to help protect against weeds and insects. I have complied a few tips regarding nozzle selections and spraying techniques that you may find useful.

Nozzle Selection
Standard flat fan nozzles are measured at 280 kPa. Lower pressures will decrease the fan angle and can affect distribution across the boom.
Generally, 110° is used, so that there is a double overlap of spray patterns at lower boom heights.

Nozzle Size
The total volume of spray mixture to be applied. (Ha)
The operating speed of the boom sprayer. (km/h)
The nozzle spacing of the boom (cm)
Individual nozzle output (L/min)=
Boom output(L/ha) x Speed of the sprayer(km/h)xNozzlespacing (cm)

Types of Nozzles
Standard Flat Fan Nozzle (200-300 kPa)
Low Pressure (LP) Flat Fan Nozzle (70-100 kPa)
Extended Range (XR) Flat Fan Nozzle- applies constant spray over  varying pressures.
Boom Stability
Both vertical and horizontal movement of the boom will affect sprayer distribution.
Before selecting a boom sprayer, test it under the conditions it will be performing in.
Nozzle Alignment
To avoid clashing of nozzles leading to uneven distribution of product, offset nozzles 10-15° to the spray boom. 
Self aligning nozzles are available. They have a self locking mechanism that is preset to work with the boom. 
Ground Speed  
All depends on individual needs. 
Top speed 15-20 km/h

Marking Systems
  Can vary from:
Disc or mechanical markers,
Foam, paint or dye markers,
Seeding equipment marks, sight marks, or tramlines.
Paint will not harm crops. 
  Essential to ensure there is proper distribution.
Filling the tank: 80-100 mesh filter
In-line filter-suction line to pump: 80-100 mesh filter.
In-line filter-outlet side pump: 100-120 mesh filter
Nozzle filter: usually 80-100 (depending on nozzle size)  

Boom Height (Height fo the nozzle above the target)

The fan angle of the nozzle and nozzle spacing at the boom will determine boom height.
Nozzle spacing of 50 cm:
80° nozzle fan, 60 cm above target, for double coverage.
80° nozzle fan, 45 cm above target for 1.5 times coverage.
110° nozzle fan,  35 cm above target for double coverage.
110° nozzle fan, 26 cm above target for 1.5 times coverage. 
 I hope you all have found these tips useful, and happy spraying :)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Well, its that time of the year again! The smell of hairspray and the sound of clippers is in the air! Its show time!

4-H members from across the province have been working hard for the eight months feeding, halter breaking and grooming their market steer and breeding projects. I am sure you have heard the numerous ads on CFCW and other radio stations across the province advertising the local beef show and sales to display the members hard work.

Showing cattle; one of my  favorite past times.
It just occured to me, I have been assuming that you all know what 4-H is, my apologies. 4-H was traditionally an agricultural based youth program, but has know grown to include a variety of different projects. The organization is committed to helping the members become valuable and contributing members of society.

Youth from the age of 9 can join the program, and have a project of their choosing. There are over 30 projects, including beef, horses, crafts, cooking, outdoors and everything in between. Depending on the project, the members develop a plan to complete their goals.

Within their 4-H club, they are the leaders. The clubs executive positions are held by the members and they run the show. The youth decide everything that should be done within the club, with advisory from the adult Leaders.

Alberta 4-H offers many programs to expand the youth's skills even further, from the Leadership Through Counseling Seminar, to Club Week, to People Developing People. All of these programs are developed in the hopes of the attendees to extend their leadership, teamwork and communications skills. There are also programs designed simply for the members to have fun, including summer camps and forums.
LTCS develops some of the coolest camp counsellors!

There are a few additional requirements for the members to complete their 4-H year. They must complete a record book for their project including everything they did through out the year. They also must complete a communications activity, which can range from competing in a competition, to reading a story in front of their club. As well, they must contribute to an activity where the community has benefited.

Communications may be scary, but the trophies are big!

For all projects, the final step is participating in their clubs achievement day. This is a day where the public is invited and the members display their hard work from the previous year. For the beef project, this also includes selling their market show steer.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for the community to become involved in something great. You are helping youth, the future leaders of your communities, to become aware of the value of money, as well as many other life lessons. And the best part? You can purchase some of the greatest beef you have ever tasted!

Check out the Alberta 4-H Website for information on shows and sales in your area, or you province/state 4-H website.

Alberta 4-H'ers always have a smile on!

Census 2011

I am sure many of you have received a Census 2011 instruction sheet in the mail. I am sure you have asked, why complete it?

A census is a government run questionnaire to gain information about people in a given population. Statistics Canada uses the census to decide where government funding is needed the most.

There are separate questionnaires for agricultural purposes. Many of you may be wondering who is considered an agricultural citizen. Anyone who is responsible for the operation of farm or an agricultural operation should fill out the agriculture version of the census. An agricultural operation is defined as a farm, ranch or other operation that produces agricultural products intended for sale. This can include crops, livestock, poultry, bees & honey, maple products, fur, and wool, among other things.It also does not matter the what the size of the operation is, the census is designed to include all variations in the agriculture industry.

Many of you may still be wondering, why should I waste my time filling this out? The government uses the answers given, and distributes them in a way that solely benefits the producers. Don't worry, under FOIP (Freedom of Information Privacy Act), they can not give out your personal information, so there is no need to fret about spam or telemarketers. The information shared can help everyone; it aids companies that supply agricultural product to know where to market, helps the producer when the government releases trend information, as well as assisting the government to determine how much damage will be done to the industry when there is a threat of a natural disaster.

Although the Census 2011 deadline has passed, I hope you all will realize how vitally important it is to fill out the questionnaire. When the next Census is sent out in 2016, I hope you all take the time required and answer the questions. If the benefits of the Census are not incentive enough, know that it is a federal offense not to complete the survey.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A little about me

Agriculture hasn't always been a part of my life. I was already 11 years old before my family and I decided to ditch the city lights in search of a farm to call home. It was only a short 4 months later when I met the love of my life; agriculture.

After a typical day in grade 6, I came home with a flyer from the local 4-H club. I thought it would be cool to own a cow and feed it up, and to be honest, my best friend Amy was joining, so I had to sign up.

My parents had always intended to purchase livestock on our newly acquired home, however they had a "5 year plan" to follow. My dad wanted to slowly invest in the farming business, as our farm had absolutely no facilities for any type of farm, especially a livestock operation. It took quite a bit of arm twisting, but I finally convinced my parents to let me join the 4-H club.

After signing up, the building began. My dad and grandfather set out one weekend to build a shelter and a corral. They rented a hand held auger and began digging. (It would be a year later when they discovered the post pounder). 

After the facilities were built, the hunt for a suitable calf was on. I contacted a local Charolais breeder and explained my situation. He was more then willing to help me out, as he was an avid believer in the 4-H program. He helped me learn the aspects of choosing the perfect animal, as well as taught me how to feed, even mixing extra feed for me. When show time came around, his son offered to teach me how to groom the animal.

When the show came, I had put in a ton of work in feeding, halter breaking and grooming my animal. I was scared to go into the ring against many veterans of the show ring, but I held my head up. The show ring went smoothly, and suddenly the judge slapped my calf on the back! I thought, "what the heck?? Why are you slapping my calf? It did nothing to you!" He then proceeded to shake my hand and congratulate me on my job well done. I had achieved the highest honor of the ring, Grand Champion Steer.

It was then that I fell in love with the agriculture industry. Putting in a years worth of work, and then having something to show for it, was an amazing feeling, and I could never let go of it.

I have begun my career in the agriculture industry by studying Animal Science (AST) at Lakeland College, in the hopes of becoming a Livestock Nutrition Specialist. I will also be completing my AgBusiness diploma at Lakeland College after completing the AST program. I am working for the Federated Co-operatives as an Agro Student Development Trainee for the summer. I am enjoying the work so far, and can not wait to see what else is in store.

I decided to begin this blog in hopes of raising awareness to those who do not realize how huge agriculture really is. I recently asked a friends daughter, where do eggs come from? In hopes of starting a "chicken and egg" debate, to which she had replied "the store". Unfortunately, she wasn't trying to be a smartie pants, she did not know an egg came from a chicken. That began me thinking, how many people truely believe that eggs are manufactured? I hope I can help educate at least a few people, and my job will be done.

Please, leave comments on my posts, and let me know what you would like me to blog about!