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Panel optimistic about 2013

While all is looking good for the coming growing season, farmers say they are familiar with the adage “no one ever lost a crop in January”

It may be too wet, or too dry in some regions this winter, but farmers contacted for the early January 2013 Farmer Panel are optimistic about the year ahead.

New equipment in the field, changes in rotation, more wheat in rotation and farming more acres, are among the changes farmers have planned for the coming year, say panel members.

Canola is still important, but wheat appears to be making a comeback for a few reasons. Wheat has been able to handle a wide range of growing conditions, improved varieties are being developed and prices appear to be strong for the coming year. The market is telling farmers to grow more wheat this year, however — and there is always a however — seed supply might be tight. First of all demand is high, and on top of that, high levels of fusuarium head blight in 2012 may affect the amount of good quality seed available. The message here is to line up seed supplies early.

So here are what members of the January Farmer Panel had to say about their plans for 2013:

Kris Mayerle Tidsale, Sask.

No major changes are planned by Kris Mayerle for his family farm near Tisdale, Sask. He is taking pulse crops out of rotation and 2013 will be the second year he has grown hemp on his KRM Farms Ltd. He may tweak the rest of the grain and oilseed rotation, but has no major shift in acres planned.

Mayerle has been fighting a series of wet years in that part of central Saskatchewan and it continued in 2012. He says they had between 26 and 30 inches of moisture this past year, and this past December already had a lot of snow on the ground. So, too much moisture might be a concern again come seeding time.

In the meantime, Mayerle says they are planning to crop about the same land base in 2013. Farmland is getting harder to come by in his area he says, as more young farmers are coming back to the farm, or looking to expand. To keep machinery current and reduce downtime in the field, he may upgrade some of his seeding equipment this winter.

Rotation-wise, he plans to grow more wheat in 2013, he is attracted to some pricing options. Canola acres will be about the same this year, and he sees no major shift in barley and oats. Mayerle will be dropping peas out of rotation, just because it has been too wet and the crop doesn’t handle excess moisture well.

He added hemp to the rotation in 2012 and will continue with that oilseed in rotation for the coming year.

“We had an opportunity to grow hemp for seed in 2012 and we will continue with it in 2013,” he says. “Hemp appears to provide a good return, and it is also a crop that helps to break up the rotation. Our basic rotation is wheat, canola, barley, and oats and it is good to have another crop in there to break up the cycle.”

Kevin SerfasTurin, Alta.

Kevin Serfas, who farms with his brother and father near Lethbridge, Alta. will be cropping more acres in 2013, but doesn’t plan any major shift in rotation.

“Overall we will be looking at about a 10 per cent increase in acres, but we are just going to spread the increase over the crops we produce now,” says Serfas. Their usual rotation includes canola, wheat, barley, and corn for silage for their own farm feedlot.

“We may cutback some on canola and grow more cereals, just because canola isn’t producing the return we expect, but it will still be in our rotation.” While many farmers across the southern prairies are starting to include grain corn in rotation, Serfas says he doesn’t feel variety development has reached the point for him to include it in his cropping plans.

“I think we need to see grain corn at a consistent 150 bushel yield for it to work,” he says. “I know guys who grow it, but it doesn’t come easy. They got it off this year and it was tough, and last year they were out in the snow and some didn’t get anything. I think we are 25 bushels away from where we need to be. It will come, but it may be a few years yet.”

Looking at changes affecting farm services, Serfas says it will be interesting to see how the buyout of Viterra by Glencore pans out. “I am going to miss Viterra,” he says. “It took them a while to figure things out, but once they did they had a good company going. Now with this buy-out we are starting from scratch, so we’ll see how that goes.”

And he has a wait and see attitude toward the changes in ag retail as well. He’s expecting 50 per cent of the ag retail outlets, will be held by Agrium through their Crop Production Services (CPS) network. “I don’t know how it is going to work, if half of the ag retailers are also the same company that has 20 per cent of more of fertilizer market. That may not be the best situation either, but time will tell.”

Stuart Manness Domain, Man.

Stuart Manness made major changes in his crop mix and rotation in 2012 and he plans to continue that into 2013. Manness, who farms at Domain in the Red River Valley, “slashed canola acres” in 2012 in favour of corn and soybeans.

“Certainly in the last two years corn and soybeans have a better fit with the weather we’ve been having during the growing season,” says Manness. “We are still keeping some canola in rotation, but have switched to these other crops.

“Our weather in the Red River Valley has been from one extreme to the other — too wet, too dry, too hot — and canola just isn’t adaptable to those conditions. With hot conditions in the summer, soybeans and corn have been doing well.”

Manness has been hiring a custom operator to seed corn and has been renting a corn header for harvest. He is looking to buy a used header for this fall. He has been able to use his conventional grain and oilseed seeding and harvesting equipment for soybean production.

Along with introducing corn and soybeans, Manness also expects to increase wheat acres in 2013 and at the same time will be dropping oats. Manness says he is looking to seed more wheat for several reasons: there are some new, high performing varieties; there are also some attractive contracting programs at the local elevator that interest him; and the crop has yielded well despite the weather.

“That’s one of the big things for farmers, is to see what is going into the hopper of the combine,” says Manness. “If you have something that is yielding well, that probably gives you a lot of direction on what to do next year.

“What we are trying to do with these changes is to better manage our risk. We’re not eliminating canola, just introducing crops that appear to be more adaptable under current growing conditions. We are trying to get a proper balance of crops, in hopes of getting a decent yield and return regardless of the weather. †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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