In this edition - May 19, 2017
Profitability will be the key in attracting more young people to agriculture in the future.
There were positive signs in thereleased last week, specifically a small rise in the number farm operators under 35 years of age. There were 24,850 farmers in the demographic - the first increase since 1991. The under 35s account for 9.1 per cent of operators, which remains well below the 54.5 per cent in the 55 and over category.
Norm Hall, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a farmer from Wynyard, Sask., says as long there is money to be made in farming, young people will come back to the farm.
"But if we get back into a situation like the 80s or 90s when there was no profit in farming, young folks stayed away in droves and that could happen again," Hall says.
The stability in the expense-to-receipt ratio indicates farms were as profitable in 2015 at the national level as they were in 2010. For every dollar in gross farm receipts, the average farm had 83 cents in expenses. The expense-to-receipt ratios varied by region and farm type with the best numbers in dairy, followed by oilseed and grain.
Cashing out on beef
The Census on Agriculture also reported a 12.3 per cent decline in the number of farms with beef cattle. Some producers chose to take advantage of higher prices and retire or concentrate on crop production.
"A large grain operation today with 100 cows doesn't really offset much risk on a grain farm these days," says Brian Perillat, Canfax manager and senior analyst. "So, they basically pick one or the other and that's where we've seen an exodus of those mixed farms."
Perillat adds that improved technology and farming methods are now used to grow crops on land that used to be considered marginal. The area of hay and alfalfa cropland declined 16.6 per cent or 2.8 million acres between 2011 and 2016. Pasture area also dropped by 4.4 per cent.
Ontario's lost farmland
Expanding urban areas continue to cut into the agricultural land base in eastern Canada.
"Although the rate of loss of agricultural land in Ontario appears to have slowed over the last census period, we remain concerned about the loss of farmland," says Jason Bent, director of policy research with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
Ontario lost nearly 320,000 acres of agricultural land between 2011 and 2016; equivalent to 175 acres per day. That would be about half the rate recorded between 2006 and 2011.
Millions of acres of unharvested 2016 crops could cause some challenges for Prairie farmers this spring in the form of volunteer crops.
"High densities of volunteer crops are just as competitive and detrimental to yield as high densities of wild, weedy species," says Clark Brenzil, Saskatchewan Agriculture's weed control specialist.
Dense volunteer crops
About 1.3 million Saskatchewan acres were left unharvested last fall, and he predicts higher densities of volunteer crops in 2017 as a result.
"The combination of weathering of the seed bearing structures and a full six months of being beaten around by wind will likely have resulted in some additional shattering through the winter."
James Wright, a risk analyst with Alberta's Agriculture Financial Services Corporation estimates 1.2 to 1.4 million acres weren't harvested in his province, but adds recent cool weather may stymie volunteers somewhat.
"If it had been much warmer, we could have had a fair amount of shatter that started growing, but that could start-up the last couple of weeks made that a lot less of an issue," Wright says.
Manitoba's 2016 harvest was far less problematic by comparison with only about 100,000 acres unharvested.
The amount of volunteer seeds will partly depend on whether crops were lying in swaths or standing, Brenzil notes.
"A standing crop will be more exposed to the elements and wind through the winter, and could have a greater overall level of shattering, but the seed will be distributed more evenly over the field," Brenzil explains.
Although swathed crops might be better protected, the shattered seeds will be more concentrated within the swath and at heavier numbers.
How farmers manage unharvested crops this spring also will have a bearing on volunteer density.
"If a standing crop is mowed rather than combined, the densities of volunteers are likely to be extremely high as all of the seed is being returned to the soil," Brenzil says.
Crop burning could reduce the number of viable seeds returning to the soil – particularly in swathed fields – while combining will remove most of the seeds from the field.
For herbicide burn-off, a second pass may be required if stands are very dense and emerge in multiple flushes.
Brenzil warns against multiple applications of the same active ingredient to the same crop in the same season, unless it's recommended on the label.
"It can result in excessive residues in the grain, compromising its marketability. It is better to select a different active ingredient if another application is required."
The list of pluses is long, says Jim Bauer, including easier calving, reduced feed requirements, and calves that outgain their winter-born cousins.
Five Manitoba commodity groups have signed a deal to spend the next year working towards a merger.
Candace Tierney came up with the idea for her frozen dessert over a bowl of oatmeal.