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Canadian Farming in 2015 – A Perspective from a Visiting Danish Farm Coach Part 2

September 26, 2015 0 Comments


Guest post by Coach Sylvia Fredenslund-  Fredenslund Farm Coaching Denmark

Sylvia Fredenslund was invited by CAFA (Canadian Association of Farm Advisors) to hold a lecture at the recent “Ag In Motion” agricultural exhibition in Saskatoon Saskatchewan, about her experiences with the crisis in the Danish farming and handling problems in that respect. This is the second of three articles of her experience while she toured across Canada.

Canadian Agriculture in 2015 – Manitoba and Saskatchewan

A drive of 1,032 km from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Blane Lake in Saskatchewan through the prairie, where we turned three times says something about the distances and the way the roads are arranged  in Canada.

It is said many jokes about the very long straight roads in Canada – and I can based on personal experience confirm that you first need to take food out of the freezer when you can see that there are guests on the way! Most roads to farmers are dirt roads and dust from cars can be seen long before one can see the car.

No surprise of government controllers coming driving into the yard here!

Prairie, Manitoba, July 2015 Sylvia Fredenslund

Prairie, Manitoba, July 2015 Sylvia Fredenslund

The prairie in Manitoba is very special to drive through. The color of the landscape is unique – I thought a lot of the Skagen painters in Denmark, when we ran this trip. It was fantastic watching fields with wheat or canola throughout the prairie. Both corn and rape was not as far along in the process of maturation as July in Denmark because of the very hard and long winters there are in this area – it is quite common with freezing temperatures of around minus 20 degrees and can often come down to minus 30 degrees. This means that the first to be planted well into the spring – late April or often in May. There is no such thing as winter wheat here – it’s not possible. It is often difficult to get finished harvest before the winter arrives with huge amounts of snow – it was a problem mentioned by several farmers.

It was interesting to see how the colors change when you get “out of the prairie” again. Of course it is about the vegetation there are more forest and trees outside the prairie, which helps to give the landscape darker colors.

I was fortunate that the director of the Canadian Association of Farm Advisers (CAFA) Liz Robertson took me on this trip, which also made some talking about advising Canadian farmers in relation to advice in Denmark possible.

In Canada, they are not usely farmers’ associations with counseling centers as we traditionally know them here in Denmark. Rather, they rely on small independent traders in all fields of consultancy spectrum – some developments we gradually see more and more here in Denmark too. This means that all

Blane Lake, Saskatchewan,

Blane Lake, Saskatchewan,

who are professional consultants with experience and knowledge in agriculture often is a member of CAFA – it’s both professional consultants (pigs, cows, growing crops), veterinarians, economists, lawyers, psychologists, therapists and coach` that are members of CAFA. In general, the same types of advisers in Denmark. However, it is more common to use psychologists and coach’ within the management area than it is in Danish agriculture and so there are special “Generational consulting companies” – that is companies which helps farmers  to carry out a sensible succession with all aspects – that is, economic, legal, mentally / psychologically and practically.

In Winnipeg, I visited “Manitoba Pork” by director Andrew Dickson, who told me that Manitoba is the largest pig producing province in Canada, accounting for 29% of all pork production in Canada. There were 550 pig farms / production companies in Manitoba in 2014 and the average number of pigs per farm was 5,355. In Manitoba naming the pig farming as “swine industry” which largely produced pigs less 20 kg for export – there is no other province in Canada where they focus so extensively on the production of piglets.

In 2014 there are a total of 314,100 saws in Manitoba. In 2014, Manitoba exported 2,907,900 piglets to the United States.

There are very few one person owned pig farms left in Manitoba. It is mainly very large production companies that runs for piglet production. These companies are owned by different investment companies, pension funds and the like.

Mike Sheridan, Chief Veterinarian, Manitoba, July 2015

Mike Sheridan, Chief Veterinarian, Manitoba, July 2015

he production is mostly organized so there is the same working hours for employees from 7:00 to 16:00o´clock and they were working to establish electronic systems to handle tasks so that everyone could have free weekends! Employees are not skilled farmers and are usually residents from Mexico and the Philippines.

I had a meeting with the chief veterinarian Mike Sheridan, who worked primarily with the smaller farm units – the kind of production we know as pig producers in Denmark. He was a very passionate and committed person, who in cooperation with individual farmers seeking solutions to everyday challenges as diarrhea and bacteria so it could be possible for the small farmer to catch up with the big industries through higher efficiency and quality. He came with a good advice in relation both to prevent diarrhea in piglets and eliminate bacterial attack: Give the pigs water with apple cider vinegar! I do not know if it works, but it’s pretty harmless attempt. The mixing ratio should be 30 ml apple cider vinegar – it MUST be apple cider vinegar-  to 128 liters of water – given as drinking water for the pigs.  I would like to receive feedback from those of you who want to try it!

Jordan Vaandrager, Milk producer, Langham 2015

Jordan Vaandrager, Milk producer, Langham 2015

In Saskatchewan, I visited a dairy farmer. In contrast to pig production so milk production per unit on average is somewhat less than in Denmark in this field. I visited Jordan Vaandrager in Langham, who has 100 dairy cows and an equal number of young animals. The production was organized as an ordinary Danish dairy production of the small kind we better knew in the 90´s. There was much focus on animal welfare and his mixing cows and calves seemed to have a good life. Jordan’s main concern was that Barack Obama demanding that Canada terminates their quota system – and thus their supply-management system – as a requirement for Canada can be part of a new Pan-American trade agreement. It was a topic that all farmers in Canada talked about, some was afraid of it, but had to trust their lobbyists in Toronto and others felt that it gave itself, now Canada as all other countries in the world have to operate on free market conditions. But all feared the consequences of an abandonment of the system. Jordan and many others were therefore very interested in how it went with us now that the quota system is terminated by. April 1, 2015.

In Saskatoon I gave a lecture on the crisis in the Danish agriculture and its consequences for the individual Danish farming families. It was great to give a lecture of half an hour that led to discussions for one hours afterwards. It was great to hear all the interest there was for Danish agriculture. And many came with good advice. Just to mention one of them then it was: “Be honest with yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses and make sure that your marriage works – stay focused on that!”

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