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Beef, Barley Or Oil — Decisions, Decisions

There is a column at the bottom of the page this issue that talks about loving your career. It is nice to make money, but foremost it is important to love what you do.

And that got me thinking about careers and money and looking at economics of three industries, close to the hearts of western Canadian farmers, and their money making potential. And as most people — except my wife — will agree I am a whiz when it comes to economics.

One headline the other day on a topic, which is causing the world a great deal of concern, involved a looming shortage of malt barley, that could increase the price of beer in 2012.

The media can get excited about a lot of things and fortunately they put a story about a new case of BSE in Alberta on Page 7, but the risk of rising beer prices made front page.

I think it is good the media turns its focus for a while to these rich barley growers who have the potential to hold the beer-drinking world hostage to whatever price demands they have, much like a Mideast oil cartel.

One Saskatchewan farmer mentioned the other day a malt barley contract at $5.75 bushel and if he produced 100 bushels per acre, he’s grossing $575 per acre. And if he had 500 acres of malt that is $287,500. (A few “ifs” in there.)

On the beef side, to make that $287,500 you would have to market 400 calves weighing 600 pounds at $1.20/lb.

And if you had an oil well in Saudi Arabia that was cranking out 6,000 barrels of oil per day, at $120 per barrel, you could make that $287,500 in about nine hours. (A full day’s earning at those rates is $720,000 from one well.)

So if you looked at careers and money, you could be stuck somewhere in Western Canada for 12 months and make $287,500 selling 400 calves; you could spend five months, under perilous weather conditions, to make the same money growing and harvesting 500 acres of malt barley; or you could spend nine hours in probably an air conditioned tent on the dessert and make the same from oil.

Yes it is great to love what you do, but as Helen Gurley Brown once said:

“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.” And, I think I could learn to suffer under certain circumstances.

And speaking of how the other half lives, (friends who surf the web are great for coming up with this stuff), but above is a photo of a new agriculturally dependent vehicle. It’s a biofuel car, although it may not be a fuel saver. This is a Mercedes V10, quad turbo with 1,600-horsepower engine that can go from zero to 100 k.p.h. in less than two seconds. It is owned by an Abu Dhabi oil billionaire, who probably hasn’t given much thought to the price of calves this fall. And don’t be silly; it isn’t silver or stainless steel. The body finish is actually white gold. I’ve seen some nice farm pickups and grain trucks with what I thought was quite a bit of chrome, but now I’m thinking that too was probably this white gold.

Lee Hart

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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