In this edition - March 17, 2017

Sights set on lamb production expansion 

Neil Billinger

Canada produces less than half of the lamb and mutton required by the domestic market, and the sheep sector wants to change that. It's focused on attracting new producers to reduce imports from New Zealand and Australia.

Statistics Canada reports the sheep population fell 1.4 per cent last year. Two of the three higher producing provinces, Quebec and Alberta, saw declines. However, there were gains in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Expansion effort

The two Prairie provinces are making concerted efforts to grow the sheep population.

A new venture, Canada Sheep and Lamb Farms, was recently formed in southeast Manitoba. The two participants are locally based Sarto Sheep Farms and Integrated Foods Ltd. of New Zealand. The plan is to grow the existing flock from 5,000 breeding ewes to 30,000 within five years.

Saskatchewan is setting its sights on encouraging smaller operations. About 900 provincial farms have sheep and lambs. Less than 10 per cent are sole-income operations, but 50 to 60 per cent provide significant income to the farm.

The Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board hosted seminars for beginning producers or those looking to expand.

Growing confidence

"Producers are starting to have more confidence that prices are not fluctuating very much," says Gordon Schroeder, SSDB executive director. "We are seeing lots of interest and hope that translates into increased numbers."

Trent and Sandy Larson own L5 Farms Ltd. near Southey, about 50 kilometres north of Regina.

"I think sheep farming is a little easier to get into than other forms of livestock," Trent says. "Breeding stock is a little cheaper to buy and you don't need the same amount of infrastructure."

Schroeder says prices are good at $200-plus per market lamb. Lambs raised in Saskatchewan are shipped to federally inspected plants in Innisfail, Alta. or Ontario for processing. A number of provincial abattoirs slaughter lambs for farmgate sales and direct marketing.

Producers egg-cited about restaurant growth  

Owen Roberts

The burgeoning Canadian restaurant industry represents a good opportunity for farmers – especially those who produce for the breakfast trade - to meet consumers’ food needs.

Canada’s 94,000 restaurants are becoming increasingly important players on the food scene. Mike Von Massow, a University of Guelph agriculture and food economics researcher, says dining out now consumes about 35 to 40 per cent of the food dollar.
That’s being reflected in menu choices, and in restaurant growth and employment.

Restaurant sales grow

A new report from the Conference Board of Canada says restaurant numbers have grown by 1.8 per cent since 2011. That compares favourably to the 1.1-per-cent growth in the general population, it says.

Strong growth in breakfast traffic is a particularly bright spot for the industry. The report says breakfast meals rose by 6.3 per cent in 2016, and now account for almost one in five restaurant visits.

“While it has historically been seen as a low-margin, low-revenue market, some fast food restaurants are capitalizing on rising demand for fast and portable breakfast options by introducing all-day breakfast,” notes the report.

Fruit and vegetable prices drop

And despite increased competition and narrow profit margins typically seen in the food sector, restaurant prices rose in 2016 by 2.3 per cent. That was contrary to the overall price of food, which Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index shows actually fell by two per cent. That drop was led by fruit and vegetables, which were down 10 to 15 per cent in price from 2015-2016, thanks mainly to the drought easing in California, Canada’s main supplier of vegetables in the winter, as well fresh and frozen meat, and milk and cheese (the latter dropped 1.6 per cent).

Jobs-wise, Statistics Canada’s recently released a labour force survey showing total employment in Canada’s food service industry rose to a record 1.2 million people in 2016. That’s nearly seven per cent of the country’s total workforce.

In fact, food service was among the top five private-sector job creators in 2016, with employment rising by 11,000 jobs, more than double the 5,400 jobs created in 2015.

Restaurants are the fourth-largest private sector employer in the country, and not just for part-time jobs, a popularly held belief. Restaurants Canada, the professional organization representing food services in this country, says full-time employment in the food service industry rose by 7,500 to 690,900 in 2016, while part-time employment increased by 3,500 to 553,700.

Von Massow says drug stores and corner stores represent another growth area for food retailing. As grocery stores get bigger and move to new commercial developments on the outskirts of cities, some neighbourhood outlets are starting to offer an expanded array of food products, the kind traditionally found at grocery stores.

Prairie provinces release 2017 crop protection guides 

Richard Kamchen

The latest Prairie provinces crop protection guides are out.

The annual guides provide farmers with information on the use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides for control of weeds, plant diseases and insects.

New registrations

One of the key pieces to Alberta’s guide, also known as the Blue Book, is newly registered pesticide products, according to provincial crop specialist Mark Cutts.

He reminds producers about pesticide resistance and recommends farmers select products based on chemical groups and active ingredients.

“Purchasing pesticide products based on registered product names could lead to repeated use of a chemical group and increase the risk of developing pesticide resistance,” Cutts says.

The Blue Book lists all pesticide products’ chemical groups and active ingredients.

“This year’s edition includes new herbicides, insecticides, seed treatments, and foliar fungicides,” Cutts adds. “In addition to including new products, previously registered products are updated.”

New herbicide registrations include pre-seed products for wheat and canola. Also registered are new herbicide products for in-crop use for a variety of crop types.

Fungicides and seed treatments

Cutts says numerous new fungicides are now also registered, with new foliar fungicides available for canola, cereal crops and potatoes.

Also, newly registered seed treatments are available for pulse crops, oilseed crops and potatoes.

Only one new insecticide – registered on a variety of crops including pulse and oilseed crops – will be available in 2017.

Hard copies of Crop Protection 2017 are available for $12 from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. It is also available as a free downloadable pdf.

Saskatchewan’s Guide to Crop Protection can be downloaded in its entirety or in individual components.

“This publication is only a guide. Always refer to the product label for application details and precautions,” the province urges.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba’s books include integrated weed and plant disease management, assessing spraying needs, and safety recommendations.

Manitoba’s guide is available for pick up at local Manitoba Agriculture offices for $10, and online.

Farm financials in Canada and the U.S.: Considering the differences

Farm financials in Canada and the U.S.: Considering the differences

Are you on top of your farm financial fitness? Find out more about the state of Canadian agriculture’s finances and what you can do to stay strong in 2017.

Ag Economics

Bearish chill blows across grain markets

Bearish chill blows across grain markets

Soybeans have trended lower since peaking in mid-January. Canola is holding up better, but has started rolling over now too.

Market Focus

Personal stories help bring Ag Safety Week to life

Personal stories help bring Ag Safety Week to life

Held every year in mid-March, Ag Safety Week features a mix of live and online activities that highlight farm safety.


Pulse sector roiled by India’s fumigation edict 

The clock is ticking on whether Indian officials will reverse an edict requiring Canadian pulse shipments to be fumigated at the port of origin rather than at their destination.

Alberta Farmer Express

Planned mutations can increase crop options 

There are more than 300,000 plant species in existence, but just three — rice, wheat and corn — account for almost all of the plant matter consumed by humans.

Manitoba Co-Operator

P.E.I. potato chip plant revived for pulse processing 

A Prairie grain and pulse processing firm plans to get Prince Edward Island farmers growing field peas this year to supply a new pulse processing plant.



Allison Finnamore

Allison Finnamore