Saturday, July 21

Culture and tourism: getting it together


(Originally published in TOURISM)

Though culture and heritage organizations are regularly called upon to become engaged with tourism, a great many heritage organizations haven’t really established what they hope to gain from this business. Exploring the role culture and heritage play in the tourism economy, and how these sectors benefit from the industry, is precisely why the Federal Provincial/Territorial Culture/Heritage and Tourism Initiative (FPTTI) came into being, explains co‑chair Donna Dul.

Dul, who is also Manitoba’s director of the Historic Resources Branch, finds this to be easier said than done: “Is this a win/win collaboration? If it is, how do we develop it further, and if it isn’t, what can we do to create more support and understanding from tourism colleagues about the special issues the arts and heritage sectors face as tourism partners?" She points out that – almost a decade ago – a need for closer collaboration between tourism and the culture sectors was identified. There was a realization that many of the attractions developed across the country— whether they are museums, heritage sites or festivals—contribute to tourism. In many cases, ministers responsible for culture were also ministers of tourism, and yet, Dul says, "it seemed both those portfolios were operating in their own parallel (but isolated) worlds.”

When Dul and her colleagues started to look at more collaborative models, there emerged a set of principles grounded in respecting local processes. “We found, for example, that many of the guidebooks developed by the tourism industry aren’t quite the right fit for the culture and heritage context, and that more emphasis on working with local groups and training initiatives was likely to lead to successful collaborations.”

Dul soon realized many provinces have developed materials they make available to heritage and art organizations, but these focus more on how to market successfully: “Often,” she notes, “it is not the marketing angle that arts organizations need. What they need is to have a very clear sense of objectives that are, indeed, their objectives, and an understanding of the support tourism can provide them in achieving these. Sometime we find our tourism colleagues too focused on marketing, when they might spend a little more time discovering what culture and heritage organizations are about – finding out about their networks, their needs and clarifying who plays what role. There is a basic developmental process needed.”

Dul then moves to the area of economic analysis and outlines a concern with the return on investment for the contribution arts and heritage organizations make. “The tendency is to look at visitation statistics and assume that when visitation goes up, things are wonderful. But many arts facilities (and particularly heritage sites) are concerned about the wear and tear of increased visitation. How much is participating in tourism creating new demands on fragile resources? Are culture and heritage organizations getting support or new dollars to maintain the infrastructure they have?

These are delicate questions from an arts and heritage perspective that haven’t really been well articulated until the work conducted by the FPTTI, notes Dul. “It is easy to talk about a partnership – and we know what tourism gets out of it. But what do we in the arts and heritage sector get out of it? The simple answer we get from our tourism colleagues is ‘you know, if you get more people, that is a good thing. You can charge them an entrance fee.’ But that is usually a minimal amount which doesn’t cover the full cost of maintaining and operating heritage sites and parks, with all the kinds of conservation and interpretive programs that exist.”

The FPTTI stakeholders know this is an issue that cannot be solved simply by pressing for more funding directly from the tourism sector. Dul feels that now there is a growing recognition of the role culture and heritage play in tourism across Canada. “There is potential for much positive exchange, even if there are many small museums and heritage sites which are struggling to stay open and to maintain an adequate level of service. At that level, we still haven’t seen significant change, but when we look at the people who are involved in the policy end of things, there is increasingly a perception that the arts and heritage sectors need more support in order to be able to become full partners in tourism.

"I have seen that Canada is falling behind internationally in attracting new visitors because of the lack of cultural product. How do you develop cultural products with no new strategies on where to invest? How do we do this in such a way that we are selecting the best, most authentic, unique products?”

The quest for common ground is on‑going, but it appears there is a new, more open, dialogue.

Campers often demand wireless internet service

(Originally published in TOURISM)

It seems consumers don’t necessarily want to get away from it all when they hit the campgrounds these days. A growing number of campgrounds offer free wireless internet service as part of the camping fee package. No longer are campers just happy to find out the service is available when they show up; they actually request it at the Niagara Falls KOA, according to general manager Lisa Thompson.

“People choose to stay here because we have a Wi‑Fi network. We know how popular it is especially when there are service interruptions. When that happens, right away we have guests in the front door telling us they can’t get connected. That is how we really know how many people are using it.”

Amy Raposo and her husband Tony own the KOA in Barrie, Ontario. They have witnessed pretty much the same trend: “Usually when guests arrive, the third question they ask is 'do you have wireless internet'. We do, and we put in a tower on‑site along with repeaters to make that possible.”

Kyle Newell is the network administrator at KOA's head office in Billings, Montana. He has been asked more than once to give advice to campground owners looking to offer campers wireless internet capability. “The first thing I tell them is they have to have good connectivity to the internet. This can be challenging because not all campgrounds are located in metropolitan areas. Then you need good wireless equipment. Over time, we have identified reliable companies called Wi‑Fi providers who will come in and install their equipment; they will help provide support to the campground as well as the campers, and they will monitor the network to ensure the camper has a good Wi‑Fi experience.”

These firms have this down to a science. They will ensure there are enough antennas and devices installed to provide adequate coverage, Newell explains: “They can look at a site or a satellite picture of a campground (and if they know where all the trailers, trees and buildings are located), they will achieve coverage for the entire park. My advice is ‘don’t do it yourself’. Make sure you work with a Wi‑Fi company that has dealt with campgrounds before because there is a world of difference between setting up a Wi‑Fi in a coffee shop and in a campground with rigs, trees, hills and buildings.”

In the end, Newell believes, campgrounds shouldn’t need to have computer experts on staff. They are in the campground business; they are not an internet service provider. Some things, it seems, are best left for experts in the field.

Culture and tourism partnerships need municipal support

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Saskatoon was selected as a Cultural Capital of Canada for 2006, along with four other communities across Canada, under a national program to recognize and support Canadian municipalities "for special activities that harness the many benefits of arts and culture in community life."

The goal of the national program is to promote arts and culture in Canadian municipalities through recognition of excellence and support for special activities that integrate these values into overall community planning. Funding from the federal government (up to $2 million for a city the size of Saskatoon) is to enable communities to invest more in arts and culture, increase and improve cultural services, and strengthen connections with other communities through shared cultural experiences.

Internal research to develop a cultural tourism strategy for the city involved a two‑part series of focus group sessions to generate broad‑based community input. Participants represented a wide range of cultural organizations, as well as representatives from the business, education, municipal government, and tourism sectors.

Tourism Saskatoon took the innovative approach that staff would not participate in these sessions, feeling this would help ensure a fully-open dialogue between the players. Participants discussed their vision for cultural tourism, the challenges and opportunities in developing and implementing a strategy, and their views on creative elements that should be incorporated into the visual identity. (The process was managed by Fast Consulting, Terry Schwalm and Associates, and the Marketing Den.)

Saskatoon City Council voted to accept the finished report (Cultural Tourism & Marketing Strategy Saskatoon, March 2007) without further action at this time.

Putting a business focus on Aboriginal tourism

Daniel Paul Bork

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Put together spectacular landscapes, unique experiences, and a vibrant living culture and you have a remarkable opportunity to thrive in the tourism business. Nowhere can this be more true than with Aboriginal tourism products, of which there are stunning examples across Canada. Aboriginal Tourism Canada's (ATC) new CEO, Daniel Paul Bork, has a vision to ensure these products reach into the marketplace to achieve the success they deserve, and to increase Canada's portfolio of these market-ready tourism experiences.

Bork, president of Manitoba‑based Cook Consulting, was appointed CEO of ATC this spring. He told TOURISM that Canada's Aboriginal tourism file has gone through a growth spurt, accompanied by a re‑focused mandate. In the past, the regional Aboriginal tourism associations were heavily represented on the ATC board of directors. The principal mission used to be to advocate for the interests of those associations while they were developing regional strategies, but now – at the request of funding agencies as well as some of the board members – the new mission is to enhance, facilitate and support the Aboriginal tourism industry to get market‑ready product into the marketplace.

To get things moving, Bork has embraced a very specific goal: to identify 25 internationally significant Canadian Aboriginal tourism products and get them into the marketplace. "We want to market those at the international level and have an impact with consumers who are interested in coming to explore Canada, getting them to include Aboriginal product when planning their itinerary."

Bork acknowledges there will be challenges dealing with regional imbalances when it comes to the availability of market‑ready product. "There are regions of the country where organization has been lacking – notably Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta as well as in the Maritimes," says Bork. "They have struggled trying to organize owner/operators to market their Aboriginal tourism product, which seems a bit strange especially on the Prairies where there is a very high Aboriginal population and some good product. But there has been a trend there to look at the success of the individual operation rather than at the industry as a whole to develop a strategy to get products into the marketplace."

"Marketing is both an art and a science," continues Bork, "and some marketing initiatives in the past have been less than effective. It comes down to experience, and hiring people with experience." Bork notes that – using BC as an example – Aboriginal operators tend to work well with their provincial marketing organization (Tourism BC) which is a very good marketing machine, and have been more effective than those operators in some other jurisdictions that have not embraced marketing partnerships.

Bork emphasizes that – under the new ATC mandate – product development for Aboriginal tourism will stay with existing regional (Aboriginal) tourism associations. "What we would like to do, from the ATC point of view, is facilitate product development where there is a move toward ecotourism, matching existing Aboriginal tourism specialists with effective strategies. That would be our role, but development won't be one of the things we do." The ATC has been contacted by the International Ecotourism Society, which is working on an ecotourism strategy for Aboriginals and has some 15 operations that concentrate on ecotourism; Bork sees an opportunity to match that expertise with developing Aboriginal product in Canada.

"We have noticed," says Bork, "that the Aboriginal economic development sector and the businesses themselves tend to work in isolation. My role is to bring them out of isolation and get them working together with mainstream partners to broaden their consumer base. A lot of this is based around building relationships."

Bork sees a burning need for better research, a facet of ATC's new mandate in which he hopes to engage the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). "We have already decided to move forward with research into the German market, starting in the next couple of months. And, it will be important to disseminate the results of this market research and educate the tour operators and regional tourism associations, making the connection between the owner/operator – the product – and the tour operators. The research has to be accessible to ‑ and utilized to the benefit of – Aboriginal tourism products across Canada."

According to Bork, presentation is a key component of Aboriginal experiences. Too often, he feels, visitors have been encouraged to attend an attraction or an event, then provided with only a brief overview of what is going on and left to their own devices. Visitors want – need – to be engaged and fully informed about what they are seeing and doing from an Aboriginal perspective if they are to have a truly rewarding experience. As he points out, it is no longer (if indeed it ever was) good enough "to plop someone in a canoe and ride around all day" and consider it an Aboriginal experience.

Defining Aboriginal tourism products can be problematic. There are hotels and airlines in several parts of Canada which are entirely or partially Aboriginal‑owned, but may seem to have a connection with Aboriginal culture that is tenuous at best. "This can be a balancing act," says Bork, "because the tourism product or service that is 51% Aboriginal‑owned, for example, will want to be promoted and marketed along with other – perhaps even better – non‑Aboriginal products and services. And, there are products such as casinos and golf courses which are not traditionally Aboriginal experiences but are, in fact, fully Aboriginal products by any definition."

Given the challenges ahead, it is not surprising the ATC's new CEO emphasizes the concept of partnerships. The partnership inherent in the location of the new ATC office is a case in point: the office will share space with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in Ottawa. "We want to align ourselves much more closely with mainstream industry, stepping out of our isolation and working in areas that are in all of our best interests.

King Pacific Lodge a trailblazer on carbon footprints

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Dealing with the carbon footprint of tourism operations is a complex undertaking at the best of times. When someone takes the lead, a significant amount of corporate soul-searching has been invested before arriving at a solution, especially if the steps taken cut deeply into the bottom line. One of those industry leaders is BC’s King Pacific Lodge, a distinctive floating fishing lodge which has earned rave reviews around the world.

Moored in the shelter of Barnard Harbour on Princess Royal Island (south of Prince Rupert), it offers every luxury one could hope for in a wilderness setting. It is accessible only by float plane, and in close proximity to the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact temperate rainforest left on Earth. Imagine how strongly a place like this should feel about its carbon footprint!

King Pacific Lodge recently announced plans to reduce its carbon footprint by half over the next five years. It has committed to offsetting the carbon emissions of all lodge operations and employee travel, while also offsetting guests’ air travel to and from the lodge – creating what the company promises to be a truly carbon‑neutral vacation.

If journalists and environmentalists have been quick to point out that the lodge remains a relatively small player in the carbon footprint equation, King Pacific Lodge president Michael Uehara is inspired by something, perhaps, more fundamental. He and his team will look at everything from using more efficient light bulbs, to their recycling practices, even to installing a river‑hydro plant and solar panels for the lodge’s power needs. They will also look at using suppliers who conduct their own carbon reduction programs.

“It is really about an evolution in attitude that we are fostering, about hiring people who think in a similar vein; about associating with companies and creating a network of partners that are like‑minded," says Uehara. "You spread the notion of the need to reduce your carbon footprint and it influences your approach to social and environmental responsibility, even your perception of what are equitable practices.

“We sent a letter to every one of our suppliers telling them what we were going to do, and the letters we got back were incredible. Here are these companies that for years had been taking these small steps, unbeknownst to us. Yes, it is true that we are a small company offsetting our carbon – it is not like reducing emissions at a coal‑fired power plant on the shores of Lake Ontario. It really is more about harnessing our collective actions, and I am surprised at how quickly this catches on.”

According to Uehara, King Pacific Lodge has teamed up with Ecotrust Canada, an organization which focuses on building what it calls the “conservation economy” while raising and brokering capital among communities and businesses to achieve this. Ecotrust connects conservation entrepreneurs to each other.

“They are bringing about ten other companies in a carbon offset program,” notes Uehara, “which will involve the Pembina Institute, a non‑profit organization which is mandated to create an elaborate carbon footprint measuring tool to make it possible to assess the carbon footprint of companies and figure out ways to reduce it.”

When reminded that tourism is frequently referred to as one of the industries that contributes significantly to carbon emissions, he offers the following comment:

“We all have a definition of hospitality and of tourism; they exist for a reason. For me, they are absolutely necessary. They are about taking people outside of their world and introducing them to a new world. It is somewhat akin to providing an intensive course in the authentic lives of other people, in an authentic setting that you are not familiar with. It expands your mind and gives you a greater appreciation for all sorts of things in life.

"Of course, there is a cost; everything has a cost. When a baby is born, there is an environmental cost. Should we stop engaging in tourism activities? Is tourism worth the cost? In my mind… absolutely! We all need that sense of recreation. We all need to be exposed to hospitality. In many ways, it goes to the core of our human existence since the beginning of time.”

Evidently, the soul‑searching still goes on at King Pacific Lodge.

Vaughan Mills as a 'shoppertainment' destination

(Originally published in TOURISM)

There is no denying that shopping is one of the most powerful travel motivators – ever – and studies report shopping to be one of the most common activities engaged in by travellers while on holiday. How important, then, is it for businesses focused on marketing shopping experiences to differentiate what they offer from the experiences offered by their competitors? Very!

And that is what Vaughan Mills (just north of Toronto) is all about, with 250 stores configured inside and outside a loop – somewhat like stores lining a racetrack. Imported from the US, the Mills concept does away with the typical series of anchors, explains marketing director Jamie MacLean: “Instead of an anchor store at either end of the mall, which is the traditional format for a shopping centre, we are looking at 14 major tenants like Winners and HomeSense. We also wanted to bring in a number of first‑time stores to Canada. We have the first Designer Depot in Canada, and Children’s Place. Bass Pro Shops/Outdoor World has a surface area of over 140,000 square feet; it is a fishing and hunting destination in itself, with a 40,000 gallon fish tank where you can catch fish feeding throughout the day and also take fishing lessons. The tank also provides habitat for 15 species that are native to Ontario.”

At Vaughan Mills, gone is plain old shopping and in comes “shoppertainment”, a term the Mills claims to have coined where the emphasis is on a richly‑textured high‑quality shopping experience. MacLean emphasizes how the entertainment component helps impart destination status to the Mills:

“We have the NASCAR SpeedPark for the first time in Canada, featuring indoor and outdoor race and go‑kart tracks. We also have the Lucky Strikes Lanes (upscale bowling) from Hollywood. We have the world’s largest Tommy Hilfiger store. Pro Hockey Life is opening the largest specialty hockey store in Canada; it will have a themed, interactive environment with an indoor ice pad, providing opportunities to try out the merchandise before committing to a purchase.”

So, shopping thereby becomes even more of an experiential journey. “40% of our shopping centre is based on the outlets concept (Holt Renfrew Last Call, Lacoste, Browns Outlet, Calvin Klein Underwear). So it is the combination of standard fashion, large‑scale retail formats, outlets, dining, and the entertainment components that make a difference for us.”

To refine the experience even further, the shopping centre is broken up into six neighbourhoods and six transition courts, themed to expose visitors to meticulously conceived architectural environments at six entrance ways. MacLean explains that the over‑arching theme is “Discover Ontario” with neighbourhoods themed for lakes, nature, rural, small town, city, and even a "fashion neighbourhood". “So as you move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, the Discover Ontario theme makes the beauty and diversity of the province more vivid. The total mix we offer elevates the shopping experience to a new level. Vaughan Mills is not just about shopping; it is about adventure and the emotional connection. It appeals to all the senses.

“Back in the 80s and 90s, it was a big deal to go to a shopping centre as a destination and to spend the day there. Over the years, that idea faded away because there wasn’t anything unique about the shopping experience.”

The West Edmonton Mall was a Canadian pioneer in destination shopping complexes, MacLean acknowledges, but he feels Vaughan Mills is also a pioneer in its own right: “We are the largest single level shopping centre in Canada. We are a significant attraction in Ontario because of the Discover Ontario theme, and we think it also provides a sense of education for tourists – something that they can take back with them.”

Last but not least, Vaughan Mills has developed extensive partnerships with the tourism industry through a standing package promotion with seven local hotels and 70,000 coupon books distributed annually to tourists. The Vaughan Mills Shop and Stay program has helped sustain the attraction’s success in the travel trade, where management feels it belongs.

Culture and heritage key to success

(Originally published in TOURISM)

by Ernest Labrèque

Despite the existence of such powerful icons as the Cirque du Soleil, Canada ranks no higher than 18th in culture and heritage overall, in terms of international perception, according to the 2005 Nation Brands Index (Simon Anholt).

Will Canada one day be perceived as a destination which can offer its millions of visitors a rich cultural experience? How will we be able to ensure that museums, festivals and cultural institutions do not become critically under funded? How can we keep the major heritage sites – so beloved of tourists – from deteriorating to the detriment of the international competitiveness of our country?

These are real issues. The results achieved by two national co‑operative initiatives involving the tourism, culture and heritage industries are worthy of our attention, even though they start out with different perspectives on the issues. One of them is the CTC’s now‑completed Packaging the Potential and the other is the Federal‑Provincial‑Territorial Culture/Heritage and Tourism Initiative (FPTTI), a unique joint effort involving Canada’s 13 departments of culture and heritage.

Did you know that the FPTTI, which started in 2003 and was renewed in 2006, provides cultural organizations with extremely useful tools which are accessible on line?

  • A model for the analysis of tourism spin‑off for cultural sites, useful for working with decision‑makers to obtain funding;
  • 23 case studies (tourist attractions) of successful collaboration between tourism and culture;
  • a complete survey of domestic and international market studies in this field.
These reports, and many others, can be consulted at www.pch.gc.ca/pc-ch/pubs/tourism/index_e.cfm

The 2000‑2005 business strategy which was prepared by the CTC and adopted by its board of directors does, in fact, present a number of resources and new marketing models:

  • Canada: Destination Culture, which came out of a symposium where international buyers presented their expectations with regard to Canadian cultural product;
  • innovative partnerships as part of tourism trade shows and specialized forums aimed at cultural products, such as Bienvenue Québec and Sharing Manitoba’s Culture with the World;
  • the “Learning Travel” tourism product, which sets forth a selection of more than 320 certified educational experiences suggested for international buyers;
  • research on US and Canadian tourists interested in entertainment events, art, museums and heritage.
Ernest Labrèque was a culture tourism specialist with the CTC until 2006, and is currently head of film and television for International Cultural Relations, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Vancouver gallery works with travel trade

(Originally published in TOURISM)

In a bold move, the Vancouver Art Gallery is offering a major exhibition of works by modern masters from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art this summer. “From Monet to Dali” is the largest showing of historical European art ever presented at the gallery, with works by Picasso, Gauguin, Cézanne and Manet, among others. It will run until September and is the major revenue earner of 2007 for the institution which has tapped heavily into the travel trade to ensure the endeavour’s success, according to director of marketing and communications Dana Sullivant.

“It is extremely important for us not only to attract our local audience within BC’s Lower Mainland, but we also have a wonderful opportunity to bring visitors to the city as well. It has been shown time and time again, on both sides of the border, that a major exhibition with impressionist works by the European masters has the potential to bring tourists. We have probably for the first time ever for the gallery developed a larger campaign where we are working with our local DMOs. We are actually spending dollars in other markets to invite visitors to enjoy everything that Vancouver has to offer.”

Sullivant says the initiative started about 2 years ago when the gallery approached Tourism Vancouver and Tourism BC, which has led to a compelling outdoor campaign inspired by images from the exhibition. In addition, the gallery has promoted its project through the travel trade at Rendez‑vous Canada and Canada’s West Marketplace.

“At all of our major shows, we featured Monet to Dali with tour operators, with consumers and travel agents," Sullivant says. "We have individual packages and group packages available. We have covered all our bases.”

But this didn’t happen overnight, explains Sullivant: “Before 2005, the Vancouver Art Gallery never had a dedicated tourism program. Its efforts were focused mainly on the local market and on taking whatever tourists happened to wander around and come into the building. We now have ticket partnerships with the Vancouver Trolley Company, Grey Line and with a number of entities around town. So we really started two summers ago with ground level tourism initiatives that are now yielding results.”

The gallery saw a virtually untapped potential in its visitation numbers. Survey results indicate 44% of the gallery visitors are from the Greater Vancouver area, 23% are from elsewhere within Canada, 20% from the US and 13% from countries other than the US. A total of 33% of our gallery visitors according to those figures are from outside Canada.

A few factors work in the gallery’s favour: It is located in a heritage building in the heart of downtown, and there has been a major shift in the gallery’s attitude to tourism and revenue diversification, according to Sullivant, brought about at the board level through the leadership of director Kathleen Bartels, who came to the gallery from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

“There is now recognition that tourism is a virtually untapped gold mine for the Vancouver Art Gallery,” confirms Sullivant. “Our visitation has been climbing incrementally ever since Kathleen got here in 2001; there is no reason why Vancouver shouldn’t be one of the top cultural destinations in North America. As time goes on and we spend more of our resources singing the praises of this beautiful city and its artistic riches, this will surely come to fruition."

Priceless Index offers an insight into Canadians’ preferences

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A new poll conducted by Environics Research Group for MasterCard Canada yields new insight into what is most "priceless" to Canadians. With a look at cities, best places to camp and favourite events, the 2007 MasterCard Priceless Index (conducted in honour of Canada Day), surveyed over 2,000 Canadians and found that nearly one in five (19%) Canadians chose Vancouver as the number one Canadian city tourists should not miss. Québec City came in a close second with 18%, followed by Montréal (14%), Toronto (13%) and Ottawa (8%).

Atlantic Canadians love Toronto, with 15% ranking Toronto first, followed by Québec City, Ottawa and Montréal (all at 11%). Twenty‑six percent of Ontarians chose Toronto, over Vancouver (14%), Ottawa (14%) and Québec City (13%).

Residents of Manitoba/Saskatchewan ranked Vancouver (21%) top on their list, followed by Montréal (13%), Ottawa (10%) and Toronto (8%). It is no surprise Albertans and British Columbians ranked Vancouver first, but both provinces also ranked Montréal (30%) second. Québecers sure love home! Québec City is their city of choice (43%), followed by Montréal (30%).

When Canadians were asked the best place for a road trip, six in ten Canadians (59%) chose the Rocky Mountain region, followed by the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island (14%).

The survey also highlights pride in regional identity, as a whopping 81% of Albertans chose the Rocky Mountain region as the best part of Canada through which to drive.

British Columbians and those from Manitoba/Saskatchewan also ranked the Rocky Mountain region first (79% and 73% respectively).

The survey asked Canadians which of Canada’s national parks is the most priceless. Alberta’s Banff came first (19%), followed by Ontario’s Algonquin second (15%) and Alberta’s Jasper third (7%). Atlantic Canadians chose Newfoundland’s Gros Morne (15%) as the most priceless national park, followed by Banff (13%).

More than a third of Ontarians (37%) chose Algonquin as the most priceless, followed by Banff (15%). Quebeckers love their own Laurentian Park (11%), followed closely by Banff (10%).

When asked which Canadian event or attraction would be the most priceless for a tourist, 37% of Canadians chose the Calgary Stampede. All regions surveyed ranked the Calgary Stampede as the number one do‑not‑miss event. However, while all seemed to agree on what is number one, there was not as much consensus on what number two should be: Atlantic Canadians ranked whale watching as number two (29%); Ontarians recommended tourists lace up their skates on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal (18%); British Columbians and those in Manitoba/Saskatchewan also ranked whale watching as number two on their list (29% and 11% respectively).

This national survey of 2,006 Canadians 18 years of age and over was carried out by telephone between May 24 and May 31, 2007. Results from a survey of this size can be considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Saskatchewan agri-food meets the world in Chicago

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A group of Saskatchewan companies and organizations will be showcasing the province’s agri-food industry at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference in Chicago at the end of July.

The IFT gathering, called “FoodSmarts,” brings together researchers, executives, marketing organizations and buyers from around the world for four days.

The Saskatchewan delegation is being co-ordinated by Ag-West Bio Inc., the member-based organization that works to create new value in agriculture, food, health and bio-based products in the province, with sustaining support from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Lisette Mascarenhas, Ag-West Bio’s Vice President of Health and Nutrition, says the IFT show is the largest of its kind.

“It’s a science and research exchange, education meeting and trade show all in one for people involved in the agri-food business,” Mascarenhas stated. “They learn about each other’s products, any new developments in the market and people who are trying to plug in to the market.”

Literally thousands of people from around the world will attend the conference, and Saskatchewan’s display will be part of a trade show that boasts over 2,000 exhibitors. The delegation, known as “Solutions Saskatchewan,” will include private companies such as POS Pilot Plant Corporation, CanMar Grain Products Ltd., FarmPure Foods and Mustard Capital Inc. There will also be representatives of Ag-West Bio, the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“We will talk about Saskatchewan as the home to 40 per cent of Canada’s arable land, and our position as the largest grain producer,” Mascarenhas said. “We have top quality ingredients and technical expertise, right from basic research and product research to commercialization and venture capital. Our cluster includes everything needed to make it ideal for a company to come to our province.”

According to the IFT, some 70 per cent of those attending the conference are there to find new products, and 87 per cent of the visitors either make the buying decisions or have significant influence over the buying decisions of their companies and organizations.

Mascarenhas says those delegates will hear a lot about a very well-integrated agri-food industry in Saskatchewan.

“If you want cutting edge research in the agri-food business, you have that represented here,” she stated. “If I was looking from the outside, I would want to know what complementary and enabling technologies Saskatchewan offers, in addition to providing capital and research experience. People should be proud of the fact that we go right from basic research to product launches here in the province.”

The trade fair at the Chicago meetings includes displays organized around the themes of organic food ingredients, health food ingredients, food safety and quality, and international suppliers like the Solutions Saskatchewan group.

Mascarenhas says her group will be exploring some very large potential markets for the province’s products. “For instance, as a producer of oats, partly processed oats and wheat, or finished grain products, I would want someone perhaps from Kellogg’s or Quaker to buy my product,” she noted. “If you are into mustard processing, Dijon and French’s and various large mustard companies will be there. There are companies such as Unilever, Kraft and Nestlé who will all be looking for ingredients. We will be talking to their leading-edge food technologists.”

Mascarenhas says, while actual contracts may not be signed at the show, relationships will begin which may see two-way visiting between Saskatchewan agri-business players and major international companies, and eventually representatives of those companies coming here to see our industry cluster at work.

“If you are looking for a channel to connect to the rest of the world, here is an opportunity,” she stated.

The IFT conference in Chicago runs from July 28 to August 1.

For more information, contact:
Lisette Mascarenhas, Vice President of Health and Nutrition
Ag-West Bio Inc.
Phone: (306) 668-2692
E-mail : lisette.mascarenhas@agwest.sk.ca
Website: www.agwest.sk.ca

Saskatchewan manufacturer develops world's largest air seeder

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

An innovative new machine produced by Langbank-based implement manufacturer Seed Hawk Inc. lends credibility to their slogan as “The Emerging Leader” in the agricultural equipment sector.

The company’s new 84-foot air seeder is the largest in the world, adding to Saskatchewan’s reputation as a global leader in agri-business innovation.

Seed Hawk co-founder and president Pat Beaujot says the project has been several months in the making. “We have a very talented professional engineer, Dave Hundeby, who has about 35 years of experience designing cultivator frames. We put him to work on this specific project about a year ago,” he stated.

“When the design process began, we had certain parameters set. We wanted to try to keep the design under 17 feet high, and we succeeded at that. The transport width is wider than we would have liked, but to get an 84-foot machine down a road can be quite difficult. It ended up being 24 feet across the bottom and 27 feet across the top.”

This particular unit differs from a standard-size seeder in several ways. Hundeby beefed up the hitch to accommodate pulling the machine along with large carts and product. All of the hinge points were also redesigned for improved strength, and replaceable bushings were added to the hinge points on the wings.

“The biggest model we used to make was 66 feet as a five-plex design, but with the increase in width to the new seeder, we had to go to a seven-plex design. We have added a third set of wings, but it is still our standard depth from front to back,” Beaujot noted.

With an 84-foot toolbar, the new unit can seed 50 acres an hour traveling at five miles per hour, making it possible for a producer to comfortably seed 640 acres in a single day.

The seeder was designed to address a growing demand in the industry. With the average farm size increasing and labour becoming increasingly difficult to find, Beaujot says producers are seeking larger equipment.

“Timing is everything in the spring, and certainly if farmers can get their crops planted in the window between May 1 and 15, they will get a much better crop,” he noted. “If it takes farmers three weeks to seed their crops, and they don’t get three weeks of good weather, then they will be giving up some yield.”

Beaujot says it is important to stay innovative with respect to equipment design in the agricultural industry, because farms and demands are constantly changing.

“Technology is evolving every day, and new innovations such as GPS and auto-steer are being incorporated into tractors, making it easier to seed with an 84-foot drill and be within a foot of accuracy. Years ago, farmers wouldn’t have been able to seed with that many feet and do it accurately, but nowadays, things are changing rapidly, and the agricultural industry is no exception,” he stated.

“Seed Hawk has to feed industry demands and be more creative then ever before in order to help our customers become more profitable. If our customers are more profitable, then we’ll be more profitable, too.”

Beaujot says Saskatchewan has a lot to be proud of when it comes to its very resourceful and inventive agri-business industry, and he’s happy to be a part of it. “Saskatchewan has by far the most innovative bunch of seeding equipment manufacturers in the world. Seed Hawk has grown to become one of the top competitors in the market,” he stated.

“It has been our company philosophy from the start, and we are certainly on top of it. We want to be the leader, and we clearly are the leader in many areas with regard to seeding equipment.”

More information on this and other Seed Hawk products can be found on the company’s website at www.seedhawk.com.

For more information, contact:
Pat Beaujot, President
Seed Hawk Inc.
Phone: 1-800-667-4295
E-mail: pat@seedhawk.com
Website: www.seedhawk.com

I canola ready for the crown?

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Wheat may still be king on the Prairies, but a new prince is vying for the crown.

This year, Saskatchewan farmers seeded a record numbers of acres of canola. Statistics Canada has revealed that 7.2 million acres of the oilseed are in the ground. That’s an increase of 20 per cent from last year.

The trend is similar across the rest of the Prairies, with over 14.5 million acres of canola seeded in all three provinces – an increase of 17 per cent.

At the same time, spring wheat acreage on the Prairies dropped 19 per cent to 14.8 million acres. It is the lowest level since 1970, but still just enough for spring wheat to keep the title for the biggest crop on the Prairies.

But for how long?

Darin Egert, the president of the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association, says the increase is welcome news to crop advocates who have been working hard to boost its production.

“The Canola Council of Canada rolled out a program where they wanted to significantly increase the amount of canola being grown. This is a good step towards that goal,” he stated.

The Canola Council of Canada has set a target of boosting annual production from 9.1 million tonnes in 2006 to 15 million tonnes by 2015.

Egert says consumers are helping to drive the amount of canola acres seeded each year.

“Producers are responding to the market demand. Part of it is food demand, but the biodiesel industry is also starting to grow. To fill that market, we are going to have to increase production,” he noted.

A big jump in production this year could put downward pressure on the price, but Egert predicts the dip won’t be serious.

“It may hurt the price in the short term, but we’re hoping to build more and more markets, so that it’s not an issue,” he said. “I’m confident those markets will be there. The futures market is pretty strong right now, even with the record number of acres that went in this year.”

Egert says both the marketing and production side of the equation may be benefiting from canola’s new high profile.

“There has been a lot of attention to canola. The trans fat issue is an example, where large fast food companies are adopting canola, or in New York, where the city banned trans fats. Canola has been in the news quite a bit,” he stated.

With both foreign and domestic demand for biofuels increasing, Egert and others are predicting that more and more producers will be putting canola in their rotations.

“I think the amount of acres seeded is going to keep going up. I can’t see the record being broken every year—there are going to be some ups and some downs based on market and crop rotation—but I do think the acreages will increase,” he said.

Moreover, not only is the popularity of the crop expanding, but so too is its capability. “Canola is grown in areas now that haven’t had much production in the past. The Rosetown area, for instance, has seen some significant increases,” Egert noted. “With the different varieties that are now available, you are able to grow canola under many different conditions.”

For more information, contact:
Darin Egert, President
Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association
Phone: (306) 937-2005

On the lookout for Bertha

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

In war, battles can be won or lost based on the quality of the intelligence about the enemy. Knowing your enemy’s position and strength can be a huge advantage.

Saskatchewan canola producers will have that advantage this year when it comes to a costly pest – the Bertha Armyworm.

Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, says there are a lot more people participating in the provincial monitoring program this year. This program monitors adult moths emerging from their pupae. The monitors use pheromone traps to catch the moths as they emerge from the soil.

“The number of people who are monitoring for us is up by 50 per cent, so that’s a pretty good indicator that there was some concern about this problem because of last year’s fairly wide-spread impact on canola growers,” Risula said.

Last year was a particularly bad year for the Bertha Armyworm, with significant crop damage in the northeast and east-central parts of the province.

Risula says the more monitors they have, the better the intelligence that is gathered.

“You get a better indication of where the outbreaks are taking place and a better representative sample of the moth counts that are out there,” he stated. “That will give us a better idea of what might take place this year, because it seems as though the moth count corresponds with the outbreak of worms. All of those things will add to the accuracy and understanding the intensity of any particular outbreak that might take place.”

A map of armyworm hotspots is prepared by SAF from the data collected by the monitors. This gives an early warning to producers in areas of potentially high risk. Knowing that information can help in many ways. For example, chemical companies will be able to have insecticide readily available in particular areas where an outbreak is likely.

“It’s important that people are aware of these pests when they show up, and then properly assess the numbers on a field-by-field basis to determine whether or not action needs to take place. Spraying for the sake of spraying may be more costly than beneficial.”

Of course, Mother Nature herself may help win the battle before the war begins. Risula points out that there are a number of environmental and biological factors that could dramatically cut armyworm numbers either before or after they emerge.

“The worms are subject to different types of predators, parasites and disease that are out there. In particular, there is a type of fungus that affects the larva. If that fungus happened to be fairly severe last year, in the worm population nearing the end of the season, then it could be that the outbreak is reduced,” he noted.

“The other factor is the survival rate of the pupae over winter. A cold winter and a lack of snow cover could reduce the number of moths that emerge.”

Risula says that the intelligence being gathered through the monitoring program should soon reveal what producers will be up against.

More information on Berth Armyworm moth counts and risk map is available on the Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca.

For more information, contact:
Dale Risula, Integrated Cropping Management Systems Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 694-3714
E-mail: drisula@agr.gov.sk.ca

Recognizing agricultural excellence

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Saskatchewan has witnessed some outstanding achievements in agriculture from its producers, organizations and businesses over the years. You can help celebrate these accomplishments by putting their names forward for a prestigious national honour.

Nominations are now being accepted for the seventh annual Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence. The awards recognize extraordinary contributions in six key areas vital to the ongoing success of the agricultural sector: innovation, environmental stewardship, export performance, volunteerism, agricultural awareness and youth leadership.

The youth leadership category is being offered for the first time this year. According to Christine Moses, the project leader for the awards with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), it is an important and very welcome addition.

“The youth are the next generation of farming. You can see the energy level of the young people who are involved in agriculture, and it’s a terrific dynamic,” she said.

“The recent farm census showed that the average age of our farmers is now over 50 years old, and we need more young people to revitalize the industry and keep it vibrant. So it’s important that we recognize and promote the young champions who are involved in this sector.”

Moses says the awards help to educate Canadians about farming and agriculture in general. “When we conducted consultations with the industry surrounding the Agricultural Policy Framework, there was a very strong sentiment that the public needs to know where their food comes from, and that we need to do more to celebrate this industry,” she stated.

“People are very eager to tell the story of agriculture, and to explain the good things that they’re doing. That’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish through these awards.”

The awards are sponsored by AAFC and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, one of Canada’s premier agricultural showcases held each year in Toronto. Winners receive a trip to the fair, where the awards will be presented during a ceremony on November 5.

While it’s a tremendous credit to be recognized by your peers across Canada, Moses says winning an agricultural award as a top performer in this country is really a lot more than just a national honour.

“Canada’s global reputation in agriculture and agri-food is second to none. We’re stars in the international world, and our name really holds that up,” she stated.

“When our agricultural exporters are traveling around the world and promoting Canadian products, they know they have a good thing going. So to win an award in this industry in this country really puts you in an elite class across the globe.”

The deadline for nominations for the Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence is September 7, 2007.

Selection criteria and nomination forms are available online at www.agr.gc.ca/awards, or by contacting AAFC by phone at 1-800-410-7104 or e-mail at info@agr.gc.ca. Information on the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair can be found at www.royalfair.org, or by calling (416) 263-3411.

For more information, contact:
Christine Moses, Project Leader, Canadian Agri-Food Awards of Excellence
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Phone: (613) 759-7938
E-mail: mosesc@agr.gc.ca

Feedlot management school filling up fast

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 11th annual Western Canada Feedlot Management School at the University of Saskatchewan is expected to be the 11th consecutive sell-out of the four-day seminar.

This year's school will be held July 30 through August 2 in Saskatoon. Enrolment is limited to 45 students, and organizer Dr. John McKinnon says there is always a diversity of people in attendance.

"We have had people from grain farmers with very little animal experience right through to the owner of one of the largest feedlots in Canada," McKinnon said. "In some cases, it is producers wanting to [expand] their cow-calf operations … with backgrounding operations; in others, it is owners and their employees looking to expand their skills. Every year, we also have some graduate students from the university that take the course to gain more practical experience in the work they do in their studies."

The school is a joint project of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association and the University of Saskatchewan.

The industry-government-university combination allows the school to draw from a wide array of expertise, and also allows it to focus on what producers really need, McKinnon explained.

The feedlot management school curriculum is broken into two core areas. The first two days focus on business and marketing, and the final two days focus on issues surrounding the management of feedlot cattle.

"We have industry experts, those involved in the marketing business, and economists making presentations on key topics [such as] … how to market cattle, how to effectively control costs and how to guard against some of the risks involved in feeding cattle," McKinnon noted.

"Then we get into areas such as nutrition, animal health and the tours that take us to feedlots, where we see how the topics discussed are being applied hands-on on a day-to-day basis."

If participants are unable to commit for the full four days, each two-day session can also be taken as a stand-alone course.

This year's field tours will take the class to the Goldenhill Cattle Company in Viscount, which has a capacity of approximately 20,000 head, and to the feedlot and packing plant operated by Natural Valley Farms in Neudorf.

McKinnon says the entire school is oriented towards providing participants with hands-on experience.

"In the business and marketing sessions, we may have a lecture, but then we'll move to our computer room and run market simulation programs that allow producers to get a feel for how the market changes," he said. "We've expanded our tours to give a more practical aspect to the classroom work that is conducted on-site."

The Western Canada Feedlot Management School is offered at a cost of $200 for either of the two-day sessions, or $350 for all four days. The registration fee includes course materials, some meals and tour transportation.

A full agenda and registration form are available at www.saskcattle.com, or by contacting Dr. John McKinnon at (306) 966-4137 or Sandy Russell with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food at (306) 933-5570.

For more information, contact:

Dr. John McKinnon, Saskatchewan Beef Industry Chair
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-4137
E-mail: john.mckinnon@usask.ca

Sandy Russell, Beef Economist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 933-5570
E-mail: srussell@agar.gov.sk.ca

On-farm safety a top priority for Saskatchewan researcher

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Dr. Sarah Parker's primary goal is identifying practical on-farm food safety practices for Saskatchewan producers. Raised and educated in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, she has always been happy to call the province her home.

"I chose research and to start my career in Saskatchewan because I like it here. I like the fact that the countryside is wide, and enjoy both the summer and the winter," she said.

"Saskatchewan is a province that has a nice casual feel to it, yet people are generally practical and like to get things done."

Parker received her post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan. There, she completed her undergraduate degree in biology with honours, then went on to complete her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), as well as her Master's of Veterinary Science in Epidemiology.

Parker has always been interested in both biology and numbers. She went through her undergraduate degree looking at plants and animals, then moved to veterinary medicine because it was a problem-solving field that also involved biology. She went back to university after her DVM to study epidemiology, since her interests included looking at why and how events happen in populations.

She began her career at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Centre for Animal Parasitology, a diagnostic test and research laboratory, and expanded from animal health diagnostic issues into food safety diagnostic issues. Then her career took off in a different direction.

Two years ago, Parker was hired as the Saskatchewan Research Chair in On-Farm and Food Safety under the Strategic Research Program (SRP), an initiative funded and administered by Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

Parker now works at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine to increase the understanding of pathogen biology and control points, as well as to provide an increased understanding of potential controls for biological and chemical hazards, both on-farm and post-slaughter.

Parker says that a key part of her research is focused on developing control systems that will achieve food safety standards.

"In food safety, for example, there are lots of [intervention points at which] the current food safety practices [could be enhanced]", she stated. "Some of those [enhancements] might include testing and helping the public deal with food properly in order to avoid cross-contamination problems, or managing control systems in the slaughter or processing plants to improve the product."

Although there are standards that all products made available to the public must meet, Parker notes that consumers are continually seeking increased assurance of food safety. "Every-day producers are under pressure to enhance their operations and to communicate their efforts. Making sure food is produced safely is always a top priority," she observed.

"Since producers are being asked this, I think it's important that I research where there is an actual need for updated practices, and try to find ways in which implementation would be successful. Hopefully, this research will help them find the most practical approaches to make improvements."

As a researcher in on-farm and food safety, Parker says that producers are never far removed from her work. "Producers should expect that researchers are available both to help interpret the work that is being done, and also to look at what producers might want done, who might do it and what research might need to be done in order to put the initiative into place."

For more information, contact:

Dr. Sarah Parker, SAF Research Chair on Farm Food Safety
Large Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-1994
E-mail: sarah.parker@usask.ca

Proper hay conditioning gets best bales

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The dog days of summer are usually the time of year when livestock producers turn their attention to cutting and baling the feed that will nourish their herds through the winter months.

There are a lot of factors that can influence the quality of livestock feed, but one of the more important aspects is hay conditioning.

According to Glenn Barclay, a forage development specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, hay conditioning is a mechanical treatment that helps forage dry more quickly. "It allows moisture to escape from the stem faster, so that the stem will dry at nearly the same rate as the leaves, allowing baling to start sooner," Barclay said.

Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that properly set conditioning rolls can reduce the drying time of the first cutting by 80 per cent as compared to using only a sickle bar mower. In about one hour, moisture will begin to escape from stems and the results of conditioning will start to show.

Crimping (breaking or bending the stem) and crushing (splitting the stem longitudinally) are two of the most common methods of hay conditioning. The crushing and crimping techniques are most effective on crops with a thick stem and a low leaf-to-stem ratio, such as first-cut alfalfa.

According to researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, the goal for conditioning alfalfa is to have 90 per cent of the crop stem showing some signs of either being cracked or crimped. No more than five per cent of the leaves should be separated from the plant, show signs of bruising, or be blackened from conditioning.

"A good haying operation may be able to retain 60 per cent or more of the alfalfa leaves," Barclay noted. "Over two-thirds of alfalfa's protein is contained in the leaves, which are also especially high in vitamins."

Barclay points out that there are a variety of conditioners on the market. Regardless of the model selected, however, he says that many farmers check or adjust their conditioners far too infrequently after they are purchased and brought home. For example, a recent American survey found that only 54 per cent of conditioner owners adjusted their machines annually, and 26 per cent never adjusted them at all.

"The conditioning roll gap and tension are the two most important items to check and re-adjust with each harvest," Barclay said, adding that the owner's manual is generally the best place to check for proper settings.

In alfalfa fields, roll clearance should be slightly smaller than the alfalfa stems. This usually means setting the clearance at 1.6 to 2.4 millimetres (1/16 to 3/32 of an inch). Too large a gap will result in under-conditioning, while rolls that touch will wear prematurely and unevenly.

"Ideally, the roll gap should be about the size of the diameter of the lower stems of the alfalfa being cut," he stated. "An operator can check the roll gap of a conditioner by taking a typical plant from the hay stand and trying to pass the stem through the roll gap in about four or five places. If it doesn't get caught, the roll gap is too large. Ideally, the stem should bend a bit, then go through the gap."

Barclay says that most industry experts feel the top operators are those who adjust their conditioners for each field. Adjusting a conditioner only once or twice a season will not get the full benefits of the machine.

"Alfalfa stem diameter, plant moisture levels and maturity levels change from field to field," he noted. "Stems will vary in size depending on yield, age of the stand and plant density. As a stand gets older, the stems are usually larger, while in younger stands, they tend to be smaller."

Barclay says that hay conditioning can seem like more of an art than a science for many producers, but with practice, they often gain a good sense of what needs to be done and when. "Conditioning over-ripe fields will accomplish very little. Under-conditioning may necessitate raking, which increases potential leaf loss; over-conditioning increases losses because the leaves dry too fast."

For more information, contact:

Glenn Barclay, Forage Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 446-7650

Producers encouraged to plan ahead for marketing cattle

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle feeders and cow-calf producers were hurt by the rapid increase in feed grain prices during the final quarter of 2006. Price volatility and market uncertainty are prevailing conditions in 2007, and Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF) is encouraging beef producers to start planning their cattle marketing now.

"Canadian dollar appreciation, potential interest rate increases, seasonal fluctuations in beef demand and continued volatility in feed grain prices are some of the factors that will influence the market prices producers receive for feeder and finished cattle in 2007," said Grant Zalinko, SAF Beef Consultant for Feedlots.

Zalinko says cow-calf producers should start talking with cattle buyers now, and focus their marketing plans on selling the right animals at the right time. "The market is always correct with respect to price, despite what we might think," he stated. "Prudent marketing is essentially learning what is in demand and when."

Vaccination programs and verified beef production, including age verification, are positive attributes that can add value to your beef cattle. "It will be the marketplace that determines how much of a price premium you might receive, but producers should realize that value and price are not necessarily the same," Zalinko added.

Cow-calf producers who have surplus forage and adequate feeding equipment and facilities may want to feed their smaller calves to generate more income. Producers are encouraged to contact their local SAF livestock development specialist or call the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 to evaluate marketing alternatives and to obtain production advice.

Retaining ownership of calves through custom feeding agreements is another option available to producers. However, producers who are considering retaining ownership of their animals should contact custom feedlots early, as pen space is expected to be fully utilized.

The Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association maintains a listing of custom feedlots. They can be contacted at (306) 382-2333.

Zalinko says the best advice producers can follow is to plan ahead. "Develop a written cattle marketing plan in accordance with your cash flow projections and available feed resources, and then stick to it," he stated.

"If a market rally develops, you can always sell into it."


For more information, contact:

Grant Zalinko, Beef Consultant-Feedlots
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 787-6607
E-mail: gzalinko@agr.gov.sk.ca
Website: www.agr.gov.sk.ca

An $80-mission investment in Saskatchewan's future

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The Government of Saskatchewan recently announced that it was investing up to $80 million to assist producers and communities in the construction and expansion of transportation ethanol or biodiesel (biofuels) production facilities in Saskatchewan.

As a result of the province's interest in further developing the bio-fuels industry, the Saskatchewan Biofuels Investment Opportunity (SaskBIO) Program was born.

SaskBIO's timeframe is set to span four years and provide repayable contributions of up to $10 million per project. An additional $2 million per year will also be provided for biofuels and bio-products research and development.

"We were the first province in the country to mandate ethanol use, and we took the lead on the production of biofuels several years ago," said Ken Magnus, Manager of Strategic Projects with Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development. "Now that the provincial industry is producing enough ethanol to meet our 7.5-per-cent-blend provincial mandate, the next phase-SaskBIO-is to help producers expand into the national market."

Magnus says momentum has been building for biofuel use on a national basis. "Hopefully there will be a mandate or standard for biofuels on a national scale in the near future."

It is felt that the industry has tremendous growth potential to supply provincial, national and export sales. "We want to keep our eye on the ball to make sure that we have the opportunity for Saskatchewan's production to fill the void that now exists," Magnus stated.

SaskBIO was created to provide an opportunity for farmers and communities to participate in the value-added biofuels industry in Saskatchewan through investment ownership in biofuel facilities.

Furthermore, the program will ensure that Saskatchewan is an attractive jurisdiction in which to build a sustainable biofuels industry.

Corporations, individuals or partnerships are eligible to apply for funding. However, applicants must meet a couple of requirements. First, applicants must have a minimum of five per cent farmer/community investment. Second, the minimum annual production capacity of a new facility, or the increased capacity of an existing facility, must be at least two million litres per year.

"One of SaskBIO's goals is to create a situation where a higher level of local ownership becomes an incentive to access the program," Magnus said. "Therefore, production facilities will be owned by Saskatchewan people."

The expansion of the biofuels industry in Saskatchewan is expected to create more jobs and economic spin-offs, develop new markets for agricultural producers, decrease impact on the environment, and create new opportunities for the provincial research community.

Magnus adds that these benefits will extend well beyond the farm gate. "The province's target is to be producing one billion litres of ethanol and 400 million litres of biodiesel per year by 2015. If we can achieve that goal, it will certainly be a huge boost for the economy, generating both urban and rural opportunities province-wide," he said.

Magnus believes this is a unique opportunity where Saskatchewan is in the right place at the right time. "If you look at what is going on globally, production of renewable fuels is real and it is on. Here we have almost half of the arable land in the country. Therefore, we produce nearly half of the feedstock for biofuels, mostly wheat and canola," he stated.

"So if Saskatchewan has an opportunity to be a player in that marketplace, which we certainly do because of our natural advantages, we should take advantage of it. Whether it is an ethanol plant or a widget factory, any time you end up with an industry that grows in your province and that will exceed a billion dollars worth of investment, that's a good thing."

For more information, contact:

Ken Magnus, Manager of Strategic Projects
Saskatchewan Regional Economic and Co-operative Development
Phone: (306) 787-4484
E-mail: ken.magnus@gov.sk.ca