Author (#31): July 2009 Archives
Anyone looking for a couple months of grazing for a couple hundred head of yearlings, may want to call Rodger Savory near Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
Rodger is a friend of a friend, and apparently has enough pasture for two months and also has winter grazing available. That part of the country was blessed with a bit more rainfall than many areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Hay, in the area, is reported selling for about $50 per tonne.
You can reach Rodger at 306-647-2755.
While there is a bit of grass available in some areas of Western Canada, it is interesting to hear problems associated with too much rain in Eastern Ontario, as I visit that part of the country this week.
Environment Canada said this morning that July broke a record for rainfall in Ontario. I’m in the Ottawa area and they’ve had rain 17 of the past 28 days. Last Friday, the day after I arrived they had six inches of rain in two hours, just west of Ottawa, and the ground was already waterlogged.
I am interviewing a farmer in that area later today. He’s trying to get his hay off, but said there was no problem taking a couple hours this afternoon to talk. The ground is too wet, and the hay he had cut last week, is still lying in soggy swaths. More thunderstorms are forecast for this afternoon.
Although Environment Canada senior meteorologist David Phillips had forecast, in early summer, this was supposed to be a warm dry summer in Ontario, he now says that assessment was obviously off. July has been wet and relatively cool by Ontario standards, and at this point he says what you see is likely what you will get in August.
As a side note, I am working on a story looking at the value of effluent spray irrigation systems as a means of getting rid of ‘waste’ from municipalities. After the raw sewage is aerated and settles out in a lagoon, the nutrient rich water can be applied to land to grow a range of forage and grain crops. Some of these systems have been operating for more than 30 years. Ottawa uses the more conventional mechanical sewage treatment system. They recently built or added a $30 million sewage treatment plant. But, with all this rain overwhelming their tertiary treatment lagoons, an estimated 750 million litres of raw sewage has been dumped into the Ottawa River. Isn’t that great?
I shouldn’t always show disrespect for concern over global warming, but to be honest it is hard to pay it much heed, just by looking out the window.
It wasn’t too long ago – early July – they were scrapping frost off the windshields near Camrose, Alberta – and that was after a cool dry spring…that eventually just mostly dry.
And yesterday I arrived in Eastern Ontario for a few days and it appears to be great weather here for growing grass, but not so good for heat-loving crops such as corn and soybeans.
Looking out the kitchen window at the farm, this morning, there is green, lush growth everywhere. It is another rainy week. The few beef cows in the field certainly can’t keep up to the grass. And anyone trying to make hay is struggling to catch at least three dry days in a row.
Some grain-corn fields south of Ottawa looked to be about chest high while others were barely up to your knees. Having said that, Shouldice Berry Farms just west of Ottawa is reportedly on the street this week with fresh corn, although table-corn in the fields of a couple other market gardens I drove by will be a few weeks yet.
Back in Alberta, one report yesterday (July 23) said Taber corn is at least three weeks late this year due to the cool growing season.
Global warming may be out there, but at the moment I chalk this all up to just variable weather. I’m going to go out on a limb here with this assessment – ‘you just never know what the weather will do.’
It was interesting to note last week that as beef producers were gathered at a conference in Calgary to hear a message that the recession is coming to an end and there is great long term opportunity for the agriculture industry, hog producers were holding a rally a few blocks away to say if they didn’t get some help now they’d soon be out of business.
A couple days before those events, a vice-president of the Royal Bank of Canada, and other speakers also told grain farmers at a field day in Chinook, in eastern Alberta there is great opportunity ahead for agriculture.
No one had a really good answer for one question from the audience which asked ‘what are you supposed to do this year because it’s been so dry and you don’t have any crop or feed for your cattle?” Having a good marketing plan, at that very moment, isn’t going to help pay the bills.
The trouble with some of these bigger picture, or longer term outlooks is they are probably true and accurate, but the real issue is what to do about today. It reminds me of that old saying or joke “it is hard to watch the eagles soar when you are in a swamp and up to your ass in alligators.”
Grain farmers and beef producers have no control over a poor growing season, and the hog industry has no control over a pandemic called the H1N1 Flu, which unfortunately has knocked the hell out pork markets around the world.
I believe there is great opportunity for the agriculture industry ahead. And I think most producers should be able to (and many do) build enough flexibility or resilience into their businesses to withstand a poor year, maybe even two poor years. But there comes a point when all the good management in the world isn’t enough to withstand repeated battering from outside, uncontrollable, unpredictable weather and market forces.
Should the government open the purse strings to bailout a struggling agriculture sector? Well it certainly dug deep to bailout some other industries that in my mind didn’t deserve a hand. Their workers and other support industries didn’t deserve to suffer, but the industry executives seem to be the ones who got reserved seats in the lifeboats. The Canadian government is looking at a $50 billion deficit due to bailouts and economic stimulus measures, while the U.S. government is looking at a staggering $1.8 trillion deficit to bailout and stimulate it’s economy. I can’t imagine how much 50 billion dollars is, let alone 1.8 trillion dollars.
I haven’t heard pork producers or any other sector ask for a direct cash grant to help them weather the storm, but I think the government should act speedily to put in place whatever programs are needed – loans, tax deferrals, or whatever – to help the industry through this bog.
We can talk about all this future opportunity for the agriculture industry, but that isn’t going to amount to much, if there aren’t any farmers left to build it and enjoy it.