Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Alberta Day 2 18th June
Day 2 and we are out on farm. Today we were visiting the team from Agritrend who are a group of independent crop coaches (agronomists) who all work under the Agritrend umbrella The company was started by Rob Saik in 1997 and is now involved in many aspects of farm business from agromomy, business development and precision farming (incl data management) to grain marketing and many other aspects.
After meeting Warren Bills and Matt Gosling (and a footlong sub for lunch), we headed to the fields in Wheatland County. There are 1 million acres in the county and 3% of that land would be classified as the best soil in the province of Alberta, with about 1/3 of that land on the farm we visited.
The spear Matt used very easily went down 18" of no-till soil before he pulled out it out to reveal the black organic soil that smelt incredible. The soil had just been direct drilled for about 20 years and was in a great condition. Then he put the probe back into the hole and took out the next 18" down which was a more bodied clay but also very free draining and very accessible to the plants roots. The crops here only have a very short growth period, maybe only 150 days from the middle of April until the middle of September when the first frosts kill off the crops. They go through the growth stages very quickly. The stem extension stage can take as little as 10 days (GS30-GS40) At home that can take over 35 days. Only 2 fungicides are applied as the crop grows so fast and the majority of the fertiliser is applied in the soil at seeding. There are no growth regulators which limits the amount of fertiliser farmers can apply, effectively pegging yield as the crops need to stand.
The drilling rig here is about 21m wide (66') and the seed trailer at the back has 5 compartments. One for seed and the other 4 for different straights of fertiliser so each nutrient can be variably applied, to a recommendation based on soil sampling, yield prediction and previous history. The rotation is all spring cropping with OSR (Canola) then wheat followed by barley which is whole cropped to feed to the cattle.
The cattle feed lot, where 10 years ago they would have finished 22-25,000 head of beef now they finish 11,000 head due to the economics of beef production in Canada. There are fewer processors to sell to so a proportion of the beef is shipped to the US for sale. The cattle will travel down to Nebraska, Utah and Washington from here.
A huge thanks to Warren, Matt and Rob for showing us around the operation and also to Marissa for the excellent home cooked ribs we had for supper. After leaving Matt's house we headed north towards Three Hills for the next leg of our journey.