Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) presented Tom Thompson and Winding Creek Ranch with the 2017 Environmental Stewardship Award in December at the Annual General Meeting. Each year, ABP recognizes an operation that demonstrates leadership in environmental stewardship – one that contributes to the land while improving productivity and profitability. Grass management, riparian area and water management, animal welfare, wildlife and community involvement are all considered during the selection process.
Tom Thompson grew up in farming and agriculture, but it wasn’t until the property across from his parents’ land became available in 1984 that he decided to build a career and a life in ranching. Today, Winding Creek Ranch is a cow calf operation near Mayerthorpe, AB, that rotationally grazes 500 acres, with 700 acres of hay crops.
“Growing up there was something always pulling me into this direction… being a steward of the land. What sustainability means to me is, what you’re doing today, will this carry on for generations,” said Thompson.
The West-Central Forage Association played a large role in changing the focus and management practices on the ranch. Frustrated with some outcomes, Tom attended a seminar on matching production cycles with grazing cycles and began to make significant improvements to his operation. The forage association spoke of Thompson’s keen interest in expanding his knowledge and willingness to share information, while working with him to implement an economically beneficial plan that supported his environmental concerns and beliefs.
“It’s all about harvesting as much sunlight as you can. We move the cattle when the plants still have leaves because the leaves of the plants are like solar panels that feed the root, and that’s what we’re managing for – a strong root system,” said Thompson. “We went from a high input operation to a low input operation… managing the grass and trying to work with mother nature by moving the cattle to fresh forage on a daily basis, fencing the waterways and using the sun to kill bacteria.”
Canola, the Prairie Gold
Canola (formally known as "Canada ola") was developed by researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Manitoba looking for a new oilseed crop yielding food-grade oil. The first variety of canola was released in 1974, which lead to the rapid expansion of the canola industry. Canola is now the most valuable Canadian crop and 99% of the production is concentrated in the Prairies (Statistic Canada, 2015). More information on canola is available here. Below are the most recent peer-reviewed articles published by AAFC scientists in the Prairie Region related to canola production.
Blackleg is a serious disease of canola causing significant yield losses and export challenges. The disease is mainly controlled by genetic resistance and crop rotation. However, there is growing concern the pathogen could overcome genes used in resistant hybrids.
- Blackleg severity and yield losses in Alberta – Gary Peng
- Breakdown of resistance gene used in Canadian canola – Gary Peng
Breeding programs enhance plant genetics to ensure commercial success by improving disease resistance, yields and agronomic traits.
- Potential genes identified in quantitative response to blackleg disease – Derek Lydiate
- Pangenome of canola and associated agronomic traits – Isobel Parkin
- Genome-wide mapping of agronomic and seed quality traits – Isobel Parkin
Collaboration between scientists and producers has improved environmental performance and reduced greenhouse gas emissions of canola production. Additional management practices have been identified to further improve technical efficiency and yields.
- Life cycle assessment of canola production – Reynald Lemke
- Environmental stewardship and technical efficiency in canola production – Elwin Smith
- Canola seed yield in response to plant density – Yantai Gan
Silo bags are gaining popularity with canola producers as a temporary storage system to accelerate harvest and reduce travel time and costs to permanent storage sites. Scientists are looking at changes in quality of canola seeds stored in silo bags under Canadian Prairie conditions.
- Feasibility of storing canola in silo bags – Noel White
- Quality changes in canola stored in silobags – Noel White
Are you ready for the spring seeding rush? Your seed, fertilizer and other crop inputs are likely ordered and you are readying your equipment to get this year’s crop into the ground. But have you checked your on-farm fuel storage? Because proper maintenance now can mean less down time in-season.
“Most fuel tanks are filled to varying degrees throughout the winter,” says Dave Graham, Technical Specialist with UFA. “But as the temperature and the humidity changes as the weather warms up, you should take the time to make sure all your fueling equipment is looking – and working – as it should.”
Graham says a visual inspection can tell you most of what you need to know. Look for leaks and for rust outside and inside the tanks. He says to check your filters to make sure they fit correctly and are cleaned. He also says to check your dispensing hose and nozzles to ensure they are in good working order. And then consider if it’s time to upgrade.
“It is not uncommon to see equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars being fueled up by antiquated fueling equipment,” says Darcy Simoneau, Strategic Account Manager with Westeel. “Tanks will degrade over time. You should always ensure your storage system and fueling equipment are in the best shape they can be, with the appropriate filtration systems in place to guard against any contaminants entering your equipment.”