Author (#31): May 2012 Archives
Now that no one is enforcing those pesky fertilizer regulations, boy do I have a good product for you. I have mentioned it before. It is called the Grainews Tea and does it ever work great to increase crop yield by 40 per cent, quality by two grades, and also has been shown to have dramatic affect on male-pattern baldness too. Please call me for this miracle product, TODAY.
Marketing my new product is now possible as CFIA announced it will no longer be looking at fertilizer products to make sure they work. They will regulate products to ensure they are safe for humans, animals and the environment, but no one will have to worry their pretty little heads about whether the stuff actually does what it is supposed to do.
So if I can convince you that my patented, secret formula Grainews Tea, which is backed by stacks of high school research from Qatar can grow grass on a bowling ball – ain’t it just my lucky day.
To me this is just another step in a concerning trend of the federal Conservative government in screwing agriculture. Harper and the boys were big heroes last year as they carried through with plans to create an open market with changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. And on some level that was a good thing.
Then they turned a few months later and sold a good chunk of our grain handling system to Sweden, and to ice the cake, weeks later they decided to close a number of those Agriculture Canada research centres, because hey, that whole business about R & D is way over rated.
Maybe I am missing the bigger picture somewhere, but you put this all in a bag and give it a good shake, and about all I see at the top is a pretty clear message that agriculture has low priority.
We here heart felt speeches talking about the value of agriculture to the Canadian economy, the blood sweat and tears of those salt-of-the-earth farmers who produce crops and livestock, the need for a high quality, abundant, safe food supply, the need to be world leaders in an ever-more competitive global marketplace, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… And then the government hacks away at the infrastructure that helps the industry make all those good things possible.
I am reminded of the old joke, about a farmer telling a stranger about how smart and valuable a three-legged pig was. The pig had done many amazing things in its life. It had warned the family when the house was on fire and everyone got out safely, it saved a little girl from falling into a well, it had found his wife’s wedding ring that was lost in the garden, and the list of accomplishments went on and on. It was a valuable member of the family.
And the stranger said “that is amazing. But what happened to it’s missing leg?”
And the farmer says, “Oh, with a pig that valuable, you can’t eat it all at once.”
I don’t know where the Harper government is going with all its professed support and commitment for the agriculture industry, but I hope it stops soon before the industry collapses and dies.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at email@example.com
Roy Berg may not have been a household name on most Canadian farms and ranches, but if you ever raised cattle and ever matched an Angus or Hereford cow with a Charolais or Simmental bull (or some other combination) you had Roy Berg to thank.
Dr. Roy Berg who passed away May 8 in Edmonton was a pioneer in livestock genetics and launched this whole concept of crossbreeding cattle to get hybrid vigor. Most beef producers today realize, if you’re not crossbreeding cattle, you’re leaving money on the table.
In a release from the University of Alberta where Berg worked as a researcher and professor since 1955, he was described as a world-renowned animal geneticist and a giant in Alberta (Canadian) agriculture. He died after a long illness. He was 85.
Berg revolutionized the beef cattle industry in the 1960s with his innovative research. His hybrid breeding programs led to a 30 to 40 percent increase in production, helping make Alberta a world leader in beef production.
“Roy Berg was larger than life,” said John Kennelly, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. “As an individual, as a scientist, as an administrator at the University of Alberta, he made a tremendous difference. He was a very accomplished researcher who cared passionately about students. He was one of the best-known professors ever to work in our faculty and his impact on the agricultural sector in Alberta is unparalleled.”
Berg grew up on a farm in Millicent, Alberta. One of four brothers who studied agriculture at the University of Alberta, he graduated in 1950, went on to earn an MSc and a PhD from the University of Minnesota, and returned to the U of A as an assistant professor in 1955.
Together with L.W. McElroy, head of the department of animal science, they sought and received funding from the provincial government, through the Horned Cattle Trust Account, to build a beef cattle breeding facility. They found the ideal ranch in Kinsella, two hours east of Edmonton.
He sought to improve fertility in females and growth in males, according to Mick Price, a fellow U of A academic and long-time collaborator. Specifically, he wanted to show that selective cross-breeding of beef cattle – passing on desirable traits from a variety of breeds – could improve production.
His research proved very controversial as the prevailing wisdom in the beef cattle industry at the time was to use purebred cattle. Berg dared to compare how a Hereford purebred herd – the dominant herd in beef cattle at the time – responded to a strict selection program against a hybrid line made up of Charolais, Galloway and Angus. Specifically, he looked at rate of gain, efficient use of feed, merit of beef carcass, reproductive performance and mothering ability, grazing performance and wintering ability.
“There were tremendously strong feelings about it,” explained Price. “Ranchers thought that by crossbreeding, we would ruin the herds. They used the word ‘mongrelized.’ They thought that once you mongrelized the breed, you’d never get back the beauty that was the Alberta herd and everybody would be ruined.”
Despite the ferocious opposition, Berg persisted and developed Kinsella Ranch into one of the most successful cattle breeding research operations in the world. He bred two hybrid lines, according to Price. The first was 30 per cent more productive while the second was 40 per cent more productive.
His crossbreeding techniques have since become the norm in the beef cattle industry. Driving along Alberta highways, a traveler would be hard pressed today to find a purebred herd grazing in a pasture or on a farm.
And yet, in a 1999 Folio story for which Berg was interviewed, he said his greatest impact on Alberta agriculture was in the classroom, where he pushed his students to conduct their own research and think independently. He didn’t believe in giving lectures. Rather he’d have the students give seminars.
“He was very, very concerned with teaching,” said Price. “He would become very cross if you ever talked about training students. We educated students. We didn’t train them.”
In 1977, Berg served a term as chair of the Chair of the U of A Department of Animal Science before serving a term as dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.
Through his career, he won numerous awards including, among many others, induction into the Alberta Agricultural Hall of Fame and the International Stockman’s Hall of Fame in 1989, an honorary degree from the University of Guelph in 1991, the U of A Alumni Honour Award in 2002 and the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005.
He is survived by his wife Margaret and four children, Ruth, Paula, Kevin and Nora as well as five grandchildren.
Well the old farm couple that looked after me for the past 60 years are both gone now. I am officially an orphan. The outlook isn’t good.
As I said at my Mom’s funeral last week, my sister, Brenda and I are now officially orphans, if anyone wants to adopt us we are available. No one came forward with a serious offer. I think my sister is holding me back on this deal. I may have to just market myself and leave her behind.
It has been a busy, sometimes stressful and very reflective past couple weeks.
My Mom, Marion Hart (nee McConnell) died April 25, the funeral was April 30. She lived her entire 86 years within a 15-mile radius of the long-gone brick farmhouse at Gallingertown, Ontario where she was born.
She married my dad, Roy Hart, in 1942. They raised three adorable children, farmed together for more than 30 years, both took on new careers a bit later in life…and overall had a pretty rewarding and successful life in the community of Colquhoun, which everyone knows is about 10 miles south of Chesterville (and if you’re still lost that’s about 35 miles south of Ottawa, not far from the St, Lawrence River). She lived in the same farm house, looking out the same window on an ever changing world for 70 years.
My parents met when my mom was a housekeeper and my dad was a farmhand at the Ballantyne Farm in Eastern Ontario. The stately home and dairy farm was owned by Senator Charles Ballantyne of Montreal. He was born in the Colquhoun community in 1867 and lived most of his life in Montreal.
My grandparents, who had emigrated from England both worked at the Ballantyne farm, but my Grandfather Hart also bought his own place – a farm just down the road. And that was where my parents set up housekeeping after they were married. They started with one Jersey cow, but over the years my Dad built the place up. When I was a kid, it was a pretty typical Eastern Ontario dairy farm. Dad owned about 240 acres, with a milking herd of about 35 head.
In the late '50s the St. Lawrence Seaway Project was developed and as part of that project, the government developed a tourist attraction along the St. Lawrence River known as Upper Canada Village. It was/is an operating village and museum recognizing the life of the United Empire Loyalists who settled the area.
In 1961 my Mom was recruited for a temporary, two-week stint to work as a guide in The Village. And that lead to a 30-year career mostly in crafts department where she demonstrated the skill and art of spinning wool and weaving fabric. When my Dad retired from dairy farming in the late 70s he too worked at The Village for a number of years, becoming a skilled cooper, using a range of period handtools to make wooden pails, barrels, wheels and axe handles. And he loved to visit with people.
After retiring from The Village they continued to live on the farm, renting out the land to another area farmer Tony Logten, who ran a few beef cattle and also grew corn and soybeans. My parents grew a big garden, loved to travel on bus trips, did a lot of visiting with neighbors and friends, and enjoyed an ever-growing family that included seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mom had to bury her oldest son, our brother Mark, six years ago, Dad passed away three years ago in July and Mom succumbed to pneumonia in April. My parents lived full and honorable lives.
One of the biggest realities to hit me in the last few weeks…you go through your whole life thinking your Mom will live forever, and then you have to face the cold hard fact that that isn’t the case.
Another scary reality at my stage of life, is going through my day and realizing how much I am like my parents. As a teenager, I remember that being a pretty depressing thought, that should be avoided at all costs. But now, I am thinking, it’s not a bad thing at all. And in fact there is regret I will never be that good. They set the bar pretty high.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org