Saturday, 22 June 2013
Alberta Day 4 - Beyond Agronomy
Our second day out with Steve started with a visit to Al Jones, who's family has been farming in Alberta since 1903. Al runs about 5,000 acres with his family. A herd of 200 Herefords (Herfuds) cattle also run on the farm. We looked at some of Al's crops after a tour of the workshop. Steve and Al are trialling precision rape seeding with very low seed mortality compared to the usual air seeding. The photograph above shows the young canola seedlings growing fantastic root structures very quickly. Al doesn't practise CTF (controlled Traffic Framing) but has been zero till for a long time. Again what stood out was the lovely soil, very well structured even after a lot of heavy rain.
Al is also trying a field of Faber Beans this year to see how the crop develops and to get a handle on its Agronomy. The crop was just starting to flower and in need of a herbicide, but weather delays, due to rain are frustrating the operation. (Sound familiar?) Beans would be a fairly new venture in the area to add further diversity into the rotation.
After an agronomists lunch we headed out to visit Spencer Hilton who has land spread over a 100Km strip end to end. I bet it's quite a sight at harvest moving men and machines along the highway. Spencer had a great business, succession and planing are the key. Weekly family management meetings and regular staff meetings all made for a very well run business. The staff were empowered that if they weren't happy, for a safety reason, they could shut the operation down, the management would sort it out and they would move on. With the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board new markets were developing and Spencer was taking full advantage. They are contracted to grow malting barley for an American brewing company where the risk was shared between the two parties, in the form of an area value rather than a bushel value.