I love the “Agriwebinar” concept. I can sit at home, paying no travel costs, and listen live to leading thinkers in agriculture. It’s a great way to get away.

Agriwebinars give me an opportunity to “get away” from the farm and hear what people from out of my environment are doing to be successful.

Winter is my time for reflection on what worked or didn’t last year and trying to come up with ideas to fix what didn’t. That is one of the reasons I was excited to see that Agriwebinars are back this winter.

For any of you that are unfamiliar with this free resource, you can find it at www.agriwebinar.com.Agriwebinars are free Internet seminars brought to you by the Canadian Farm Business Management Council. This season’s webinars are centring on organics and other upcoming trends in agriculture. I have dial up service and I have no problem logging into the seminars and listening. Even if I don’t manage to remember and tune in during the seminar, all seminars are archived. For those with the ability to download podcasts, these are also available. This kind of educational service is highly prized by rural families. Even during calving season with two-hour checks, we can still take part.

The other learning project for me this winter is learning how to use my home computer to help with our farm records. A very kind reader sent me an Excel course last winter and I have managed to use it now for my kidding and lambing records. There is still a lot to learn. I want to be able to streamline our animal inventories so that when someone other than me is looking for an animal, they just have to click a button and all of it’s information is in front of them.

Having to buy all our feed this winter has also been a learning experience. We purchased a high quality alfalfa/grass hay, which is much better than the native grass hay our stock is used to. What we are seeing is that they are eating less and wasting less than they usually do. I don’t want to be forced to spend thousands of dollars on hay ever again, but this has taught us that the money we need to spend on renovating our hayfields will come back to us in our livestock production.

We also noticed that since we have been feeding this hay, our milk cow, Pam, has increased her milk production by half. When the weather cooled off in the fall, she dropped down to 20 pounds a day. Not long after we started the new hay, she increased to 30 pounds, which is phenomenal increase for her in winter. I know a lot of beef guys don’t milk cows, but for us this is a marker. If the milk cow is eating what the beef cows are and her milk falls, then we know that the beef cows’ milk is also decreasing. We then assume that our calves are not getting the milk they need, so we have to assess what could be causing the issue. The fact that good forage can bring an increase in milk production has been an important discovery for us. Although we do feed Pam grain, we do not feed our beef herd any so they are totally dependant on the forage for production.

Prior to changing to the alfalfa/ grass hay, we were feeding decent quality native grass hay that had been put up early in the year. This is hay we would typically feed our beef cows when they had calves on them. We were not expecting the increase in Pam’s milk. This experience tells us that our money is better spent on forage than grain.

We need to get out more

The other lesson we learned this year is that it is vitally important for us to walk away from here on a regular basis. I think it is very easy for farmers to just keep doing things the same way over and over again even though it isn’t working. We are guilty of it, too. I think that is why I enjoy taking part in the Agriwebinars so much. Agriwebinars give me an opportunity to “get away” from the farm and hear what people from out of my environment are doing to be successful. It really doesn’t matter what we do to take a mental vacation. Basically we just need to concentrate on something other than our farms to be able to stay fresh. It is the same reason why, if I cannot balance our chequebook, I put it away and try again tomorrow. The answer to my problem is usually in plain sight, but I can’t see it because I’ve been staring at it for too long. The same thing happens on our farm.

Before long, spring will be here and we will be able to try out all the new things we have learned this winter. With all this new knowledge and a bit of cooperation from the weather, we’ll be poised and ready for a spectacular new year.

Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Man.

Email her at [email protected]



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