Monday, 29 July 2013
My second day in Indiana was spent with Daryl Starr the founder of Advanced Ag Solutions. Daryl started his company in 2006 after leaving the family farm. AAS now does soil sampling, scouting (crop walking) and has its software yield prediction tool, Optmzr, on 350,000 acres and across 27 States.
The optmzr software is a yield prediction tool used for Corn, which is the main crop in central Indiana. It can be used as a planning tool or an in crop decision making tool. It combines the variability of the major inputs of a corn crop, soil, seed, fertilizer and weather. Some of this data is known, such as soil type, seed characteristics, and up to date weather data, and some such as future weather is predicted. Optmzr amalgamates all the data across the different field zones and produces a yield prediction and also shows what is potentially the limiting factor for yield. This means that farmers and agronomists can quickly compare different management options. It also allows farmers to change management decisions for each zone from year to year, as even though soil zones are constant their year on year management is variable.
After lunch we visited some farmers that Daryl works with our first stop was Solid Rock Farms, near Remington where we met Mark Waibel, a young farmer fresh back from his honeymoon. Mark farms with his parents and uncle, 1000 acres which is 100% corn, alongside a Pig (Hog) enterprise. The Waibels are also involved with Precision Planting Ltd and install and service their products on other farmers planters.
Mark Waibel, Solid Rock Farms
Mark is using optmzr to help with the management of their corn crop, and it's making some recommendations that are different to the normal farm practice, and are being met with normal farmer cynicism. Optmzr is recommending applying more nitrogen fertilizer in crop as a side dressing, as it was predicting a good yield response. Although it is not always practical to implement all these plans due to time and equipment restrictions, therefore most of the corn grown will have more than enough nitrogen applied pre and during planting to grow the crop. This is partly tradition but also helped by the price of corn and no real necessity to be totally efficient. This is in complete contrast to the efficiencies used on the planters, where they have single row sectional control and can vary the seed rate for each row unit according to a prescription map which is on an ipad in the tractor. Mark was trialling variable down pressure on the planter as it has been shown that there is a range of down pressure where you get good seed coverage but don't compact the soil below the seed, as soil conditions change.
Automatic coulter down pressure control ram, which is varied according to a reading from a strain guage on the planter arm.
On the way to our next visit we passed a field of seed corn, where there is on row of male corn between every four rows of female corn. This field would have been established using a full tillage system, common for the area, and the soil looked lifeless but fortunately for the farmers is very forgiving and will still grow a very good crop of corn even if it is abused.
Seed corn crop, one male row between the females
We also visited Dan Desutter another of Daryl's clients, who farmed 4500 acres further south near Attica. The area changed from the very flat land of Remington, to a more rolling landscape.
Dan Desutter and I
Although the majority of Dan's land was cropped with corn he also grew some winter wheat, was totally no-till, used cover crops and had a herd of beef cattle that mob grazed his pasture. Dan was trying to harvest wheat when we arrived but the weather had a different idea. Dan grows wheat and cover crops after corn, because he truly believes that the land should be growing something all year round and capturing sunlight to pump carbon and eventually organic matter back into the soil. It also along with no-till reduces soil erosion on the slopes. Depending on planting date a different cover is used, early planted is a mixture of turnips, clover and annual ryegrass, with less turnips and clover planted as it gets later, then the last cover crops are either cereal rye or wheat. The following years corn crop will be planted directly into the cover crop, which may or may not have been sprayed off depending on workload. The corn has some starter fertilizer, normally 25lbs/ac of 10-34-0, at planting, which Dan says needs to be with the seed and not to the side and below, the placement of the fertilizer is critical to the corn getting away in the thick cover crop. This will then be followed by an application with the herbicide and a final application side dressed. Dan says that the combined effect of no-till and cover crop break down delays the mineralisation of the available nitrogen, and delaying the nitrogen side dress application matches the demand of the corn and leads to better yields, even though his corn may not look the best in the area in its early stages. As Dan was one of the first users of yield mapping, since 1993, he has copious amounts of data to substantiate his claims.
What is left of last years corn and cover crop residue
We ended the day with an excellent steak in a restaurant owned by a cousin of Dan's. It was a very enlightening day and I thank everyone who gave up there time to speak to me, and especially Daryl for organising the day.
Sunday, 14 July 2013
My first day in Indana was spent at Purdue University, where I met Dr Bruce Erickson, Associate Driector, Centre for Commercial Agriculture. As I was going back to school I thought I would put my Nuffield Tie on. Thankfully it was a cooler day.
Cropping in Indiana is dominated by Corn and Soya Beans, and as is often the case farm size is increasing and labour forces are declining. These reasons are increasing the uptake of precision farming methods, now the majority of farms would be using guidance in some way and the benefits are easy to see and quantify. Whereas variable rate applications are less common, Bruce had done a study into precision farming uptake, and his findings substantiated these statements. Precision farming is seen by some of the larger farmers as an replacement of local knowledge, personally I think it is a tool to better utilise that local knowledge and not replace it.
We met up with Jess Lowenberg Deboer, Associate Dean and Director of International Programs In Agiculture (IPIA) for lunch. Jess had done a lot of studies into the economic benefits of precision farming, Historically Phosphate (P) and Potash (k) were not expensive, so variable applications were not used, but as prices have increased so has the uptake of variable rate. Variable rate application of lime is becoming increasingly popular as pH can be very variable within fields. The use of variable rate Nitrogen application is rare, primarily due to logistical constraints within timing and suitability of machinery, plus a reticence to change.
After lunch we met up with Larry Biehl, Systems Manager, Purdue Terrestrial Observatory. Larry explained to me how much imagery data and soil data is available to US farmers for free on the internet, that has been collected over years by NASA and the federal government. As far as I am aware this kind of resource is not available to UK farmers, although some of the NASA data covers the UK. The USDA uses this imagery to monitor how crops are developing and mapping areas of drought or high moisture.
Next on the agenda was a tour of the new Nanotechnology department, which had cost $60M to build and was 50% funded by a private individual. Nanotechnology is studying materials on a very small scale 1 to 100nm (1 nm is 1 billionth of a M), this allows molecules to be manipulated and in fact substances behave in a different way on the nanoscale compared to the microscopic scale. One of the most incredible things is the clean room where the experiments take place, the amount of dust contamination is 10,000 times less than a normal operating theatre and all the air in the room is recycled several times a minute, for some reason we weren't allow inside!
Nanotechnology Clean Room
My final meeting was with Chris Johannsen and Marion "Baumy", Baugardner, which took place in the retirement home where Baumy lived. Both Chris and Baumy are retired directors of LARS, Laboratory of Applied Remote Sensing. Their combined knowledge of remote sensing and people involved with it was phenomenal. We discussed how remote sensing had been used to measure a multitude of variables from crop residue levels, to hail damage and waterlogged areas to soil type.
Thursday, 11 July 2013
A day off from Nuffield visits today and some time to fill before my flight back to Chicago. The US space and rocket centre was just up the road in Huntsville so I decided to have a look around. It was a busy place with lots of school children taking part in space camp learning all about space and astronauts.
There were all different rockets on display from small ones to the very large. It was strange visiting a place like this with out my family as I sure they would have really enjoyed it.
The space shuttle that astronauts used to train on was on display, it is amazing how big it is and what a feat of engineering it was to get it into the earths orbit and bring it back to land. Especially when you consider how small a part of a rocket actually makes it back to earth after the launch.
Saturn V Rocket
The Saturn V rocket was used for the Apollo missions that eventually lead to man landing on the moon. There is another replica of the Saturn V rocket inside the centre but it is displayed in sections so you can see how it breaks apart during its launch.
The capsules that the astronauts were in during the launch were tiny in comparison to the rockets that propelled them into space.
It was impressive to see a replica of the lunar landing Module. I am not sure what I would have thought if the NASA engineers had showed me the lunar Landing Module and told me that this machine would be able to land on the moon and then launch again to return to the landing capsule.
This time my flight to Chicago went without a hitch and my bag followed me all the way to my next hotel in Indiana.
I had the pleasure of visiting 3 different farms in the Decatur area in Northern Alabama. All farming in different ways but in innovative ways.
First stop was Glenn Acre Farms, where I met Don Glenn and his father Eugene. Don along with his father and brother Brian farm 1400 acre, but harvest 2300 acres/year due to their cropping rotation.
My sincere thanks to John Fulton, Auburn University for arranging these farm visits.
First stop was Glenn Acre Farms, where I met Don Glenn and his father Eugene. Don along with his father and brother Brian farm 1400 acre, but harvest 2300 acres/year due to their cropping rotation.
The rotation means that five crops can be harvested in three years. The rotation is Corn, Winter Canola, Soya(non GM), winter wheat, Soya, fallow, Corn. This rotation has replaced the traditional local 100year cotton rotation! All of the land that is fallow is soil sampled on a 2.5ac grid basis, this data is combined with previous cropping offtakes to create variable rate application maps for base fertilizer. Glenn was variably applying nitrogen to corn according yield potential zones, but was not totally convinced it was the correct strategy. He was also following a two split N plan on his winter wheat using chafer streambars in the crop, which is a rare approach in his area.
Soya Beans planted 2 weeks ago inter row seeded in Canola stubble
Don was using a no till system and had seen an increase in organic matter levels on the farm from 0.5% to 1.5% in the 16 years they have been farming it. All the equipment was using a RTK correction signal which was a free signal from the state Department of Transport, and just needed a mobile phone sim card to connect to. If only we could do that in the UK. The crops are established under a CTF system and as shown in the photo crops are inter row seeded also. The wheeling are also planted as it helps with soil erosion and nutrient capture, except with corn, where the rows are never on a wheeling.
Planter hitch adjustment
The planter hitch, above, has two different pull points to move the planted rows in relation to the tractor wheelings, to make the inter row seeding possible, the precision planter can plant 30" or 15" rows depending on the crop.
A reluctant Don Glenn!
The sprayer above has got a pinpoint system fitted which means it has individual nozzle control and turn compensation, we did a spray run with the sprayer and is very impressive.
My next visit was with Paul Clark, Paul farms 1800 acres and can irrigate 600 acres. This year he was growing 50% Corn and 50 % Soya Beans, he always has half the farm in corn and then chooses between soya and cotton for the rest of the farm. I asked him why he wasn't intercropping with wheat or canola, he said that he preferred to grow one big crop using irrigation per year rather than two smaller crops, and also logistics with running the irrigators had to be considered. Last year in a dry year the difference in yield between dryland corn and irrigated corn was over 100bu/ac or nearly three times as much.
An irrigated crop of Soya Beans
The photo above is a good comparison to the other soya beans at Glenn Farms, to see the effect of planting date and being able to irrigate. When Paul is irrigating his corn, he will apply up to 2 inches a week depending on if there has been any rainfall, this is enough to make sure the corn has plenty of available moisture. Pauls farm was close to a river which he abstracted from, but if he farmed on the other side of the river it would be possible to pump water from a borehole, which would increase the opportunity to irrigate. Irrigation was Pauls best investment he had made for his farming business.
Paul had been using no-Till since 1993 and had been growing GM crops since 1996, since they have been growing GM crops the amount of chemicals they apply to the crops has been dramatically reduced, which must be a good thing for the environment.
The final farm visit for the day was at Hamilton Farms. I met up with Mark Hamilton who was hauling wheat from the combines to the store, they were about 2 weeks behind with the wheat harvest as it had been wet, sound familiar to anyone! The Hamilton family farm 5000acre, but harvest 7000acres, have a feed mill and run a cotton gin. I met Mark at the grain store, and a few minutes after starting to unload the truck the elevator stopped, some investigation later a broken cup was discovered and replaced.
Hamilton Farms Grain store
left silo holds 2000T and Right silo holds 4000T
After emptying the truck we headed out to where they were cutting wheat, we were greeted in the field by two full chaser bins and two full combines all waiting to empty. I went and rode in one of the combines with the farm manager, Butch, Mark said "Butch is the boss, but I pay the bills!". The wheat was yielding the best it ever had at around 100bu/ac (2.75T/ac), normally 80-90 bu/ac. They have only been growing wheat since 2008, and the average yield in the area has gone from 40 bu/ac to 80bu/ac in the last 10 years through improved breeding. All of the equipment on the farm is John Deere, and utilises the latest in GPS machine control, RTK guidance on the tractors, combines and sprayers. The planters and sprayers have sectional control, the planters also have their own RTK receiver to control the steering on the tractor, on slopes or around curves. The combines use John Deere "Row Sense" when harvesting corn which follows the corn rows, and according to Butch is excellent. They are also trialling John Deeres wireless data transfer system.
The benefits of RTK guidance are obvious
As with a lot of the farmers in the area as soon as the wheat is cut the fields will be planted with soya beans, today the planter was in the field getting ready for the morning whilst the combines were trying to finish the field, and importantly before the neighbours finished the other side of the highway! Some things are different, some things are just the same both sides of the Atlantic!
I ended what was a fantastic day, meeting up with Paul again for supper. It is days like this that make you realise what a wonderful experience a Nuffield is.
My sincere thanks to John Fulton, Auburn University for arranging these farm visits.
Tuesday, 9 July 2013
I met up with Simerjeet and some students from Auburn, at the research farm. We all headed out to a farm in southern Alabama, as the farmer wanted them to check the calibration and spread pattern of his fertililzer spreader. (Probably out of SCS area, even for Jim!) This kind of extension work is very valuable to all parties involved and would be standard practice here.
We arrived at Autauga Farming Company, and meet Andy Wendland who is running the family business. The Wendland family have been farming in the area since 1919.
A great example of a farm sign
Autauga Farming Company farm around 6000acres near Autaugaville, Alabama. The crops grown are Cotton, Corn, Soya Beans, Winter Wheat, Winter Oats and new this year sesame. Cotton is the main crop and the family used to run their own cotton Gin, but it is now uneconomic to do so. The wheat harvest was complete, and had been good with yields 30% higher than normal, at 1.6 T/ac. Most of the wheat fields were now replanted with either GM soya or Sesame. Both of these crops will be harvested this year and another crop of winter wheat will be planted again, which effectively is a double cropping rotation.
The Fertilizer spreader to be calibrated
Andy wanted to get the guys from Auburn to check the calibration and spread pattern of his spreader as he was concerned it was not accurate enough. As he was using the spreader to apply fertilizer variably he need to know it was accurate, otherwise the application rate would not match the prescription.
Whilst the spreader was being calibrated, I went on a "Windshield" tour of the farm with farm manager, Bill Lipscombe, who had been on the farm for 38 years. We toured all round the farm checking all the rain gauges as it had rained the night before, their annual rainfall is 52" (1320mm). Bill was a great guy and I had an enjoyable couple of hours with him
1st Stop on the "Windshield" tour
This crop of GM Soya Beans, nearly all soya is round up ready, these had been direct drilled into a winter wheat stubble 3 weeks ago, and will be harvested in time to plant wheat again. Considering the majority of soya grown in the US is GM, and exported all over the world and used as animal feed, with no known health risks, isn't about time the EU allowed GM crops so we can compete.
The 1st crop of Sesame grown
The sesame is being grown for topping bread buns, and is an alternative to soya to plant between two crops of winter cereals. It will take 120 days from planting to harvest, with the daily temperatures and plenty of rainfall crops grow very quickly. This field is in the river valley, and a few years ago it was under 10 feet of water when the river flooded.
A game cover crop of corn and narrow strip of wheat
The farm has a successful hunting reserve, this is one of many game strips around the farm, people come onto the farm to hunt deer, Quail and Doves, from 1st September until March 15th depending on what their are hunting.
Pecan Tree Orchard
There are approximately 1300 Pecan trees on the farm, some in orchards and some on the roadside. The nuts are picked once they have fell off the tree by hand, it can be done mechanically but the cost of separating the nuts from other everything else picked up is too high at the moment. They are looking at ways that the orchards can be better managed.
Bill with some of the Cows Grazing
The farm also has a "Cow Calf" herd, of 800 cows, one of the largest in the state. The herd is made of 3 different crosses of cows, Angus X Charolais, Angus X Simmental, Charolais X Simmental which are breed to either of the 3 breeds of Bull, and then divided into 11 separate herds, this increases the hybrid vigour in the herd. The cows calf in the fall (Autumn) as there is lots of grass available and the calves are sold the following august into a strong market, because the local supply in the main cattle feeding states is tight and it is cheaper to move the cattle north to the corn than truck the corn south to the cattle. Cows are pregnancy tested in the fall, and culled if they are not in calf which leads to a tight 10 week calving period. All of the steers will have a hormone implant put in their ear which costs $1, lasts 100days and results in an extra 30lbs weight gain, worth $45/head, its easy to see why they are used. None of the heifer calves have a hormone implant as many of them are sold for breeding.
Andy Wendland, Me and Bill
I asked to borrow a hat for this photo, but apparently a Cowboys hat is like his wife and not for sharing!
After some lunch I had to drive to Decauter in North Alabama. Unlike the bright sunshine in the photos the 1st hour of the drive was in torrential ran worse than anything I had driven in before.
I had an appointment with Shannon Horwood, Integrated Solutions Manager (I had to ask what it meant!), at Trigreen Machinery. Shannon's role is to help Trigreens customer get the most out of their John Deere AMS (Integrated Solutions) equipment. Shannon can help with everything from getting equipment working to collecting and holding yield data for future use, to a complete service of processing yield data from multiple years and cross referencing that data with soil data to produce prescription maps for inputs. Trigreen has setup its own RTK Network for its customers to use if they do not have there own bas station, the customers pay a subscription to Trigreen. The network is being used to control the end swinging arm on centre pivot irrigators, and also through JD Link (a telematics connection) and the use of moisture probes the level of irrigation can be controlled.
Monday, 8 July 2013
I spent my first full day in the US at Auburn University, Alabama. I was collected by Simerjeet Virk, a researcher for John Fulton, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Biosystems Engineering, who was my contact at Auburn University, but was unfortunately out of town. We meet up with Prof. Tim Macdonald, whose expertise was in forestry, for breakfast. Forestry is a big business in Alabama as 70% of the state is forest, which is clear to see as you fly in. We discussed how yield mapping can be utilised in forestry, not something I had considered before, it is used as a tool to plan logistics mainly. After breakfast we toured the faculty and labs, where all manner of research was taking place, from using high speed cameras to record the spread pattern of chicken litter, to measuring the nutrient value of manures and adjusting the application rate accordingly, to measuring flow rate of wood going through a wood pulping machine. Due to the climate and growing season in Alabama, industry uses the university facilities for winter testing of new products.
Next I met Jim Lancaster, who was involved with Media and Communications, we discussed how universities can reach out to grassroots farmers like myself. There are many routes from traditional meetings to using social media, but all methods need to be driven from the farm level up and not the other way round.
Simerjeet and I met up with Prof. Brenda Ortiz for lunch, where she explained her research work in climatology. I had a lesson on the the El Nino and La Nina weather patterns and how they can be used to predict if the weather in Alabama will be warmer and drier or cooler and wetter. The prediction is better closer to the gulf coast. This research has helped develop weather modelling software, which is being used to predict the effect of planting date in corn on the final yield.
After lunch we headed out to the research farm, in total their are seven farm units, including all types of farming covering 2200acres. As Auburn university was originally a land grant university, there are very strong links to agriculture and engineering, which must be a good thing.
At the research farm they were carrying out extensive research into variety responses to seed rate, nutrition, and down force on the coulter at planting.
Simerjeet Virk, my host for the day.
The corn was already well above our heads, and looked healthy and full of potential, to my highly trained eye. The corn in the picture above was part of the trial looking at the effects of coulter down force, what is the optimum? How does that change with soil type and moisture? Not enough down force and the seed placement is inaccurate, too much and the seed furrow is compacted.
One industry partner working at Auburn was Teejet, they had fitted the sprayer boom with electric flow meters on each nozzle to record if the nozzle was blocked and if so it would alert the operator to the problem.
Electronic nozzle flow meters by Teejet
The research farm does comprehensive testing of machines to verify if they do exactly what the manufacturers claim. As part of the variable rate seed trial, they are looking at how fast the machines can adapt to changing seed rates.
Experimental farms corn planter
The planter above has the capability to be able to vary the seed rate from row to row, and has sectional control, as each seed metering unit has it's own independent drive.
A large part of Brenda Ortiz's research is into the response from corn to nitrogen, both how it is applied and when. The trial has been running since 2009, and using a greenseeker to measure the different levels of biomass. So far the research has shown that if possible side dress the corn at growth stage V8 (eight leaves with a collar) rather than V6, and NIR imagery gives a better correlation to Nitrogen requirement than a NDVI image.
Prof. Brenda Ortiz
Variable rate of N on corn.
Our final stop for the day was to look at a centre pivot irrigator that is being used to evaluate variable rate irrigation, but as is normal with precision farming more questions are raised than solutions found! Do you apply water according to soil type, yield potential, soil moisture or correcting rainfall ? Do you work with historical data or try to collect it in real time? lots of questions, but an answer will be found, particularly because 80% of water usage in Alabama is for irrigation.
I had a very good day at Auburn, and I thank everyone I met and spoke to.
It was an early start to get from Claytons to Winnipeg airport, to catch my flight to Chicago to transfer to Birmingham, Alabama not the west midlands. After dropping off the hire car and eventually getting to the front of the queue to check in, I find out that the plane from Chicago is delayed, due to bad weather. Is this weather following me? Therefore I will miss my connecting flight to Alabama, but that's Ok there is a later flight. After experiencing the delights of Winnipeg International for a few hours, thankfully there was free wifi, we were airbourne bound for Chicago. We arrive 30 mins before my later flight to Birmingham departed, and I basically walked from plane to plane, thinking I hope my bag makes the transfer. Low and behold I arrive safely in Buurminghaam, Alabama, but my bag wanted a night in Chicago! When I enquire about my bag, I am told it will be sent by courier to my hotel the next day, and there are five courier pick ups a day from the airport, so a regular occurrence. Eventually 18 hrs after setting of I get to my hotel and crash out.
Sunday, 7 July 2013
My last day of my Nuffield trip to Canada was a busy one. In the morning I drove to Carberry to meet Trevor Thornton whose company Crop care consultancy is heavily involved with Precision Farming and the agronomy involved with it. The Carberry region grows a lot of potatoes, as the soil type in the area is light and there is water available to irrigate.
Potatoes near Carberry, Manitoba
We talked about how Crop Care soil sample, and the merits and pitfalls of zone sampling against grid sampling, Trevor's preference was for grid sampling, as he has seen better results from this method. The soil sampling data is never used in isolation, but will build in a yield target value, to create a prescription nutrition application map. As Trevor is producing these maps himself he is able to tailor the map to the specific needs of each farmer or field. Trevor was also using organic matter maps to create seed maps, with seed rate and organic matter levels inversely related. Organic matter measurements is something that we don't pay enough attention to at home.
Trevor is also experimenting with an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to capture images of crops with digital cameras and sensors, to identify weed areas and for variable rate applications.
The UAV that Trevor is using
After lunch I went to visit a family that I have not seen for over 10 years, since they emigrated from Shropshire to Manitoba.
The Walker family farmed the next door farm to me in the UK, so I was looking forward to meeting up with them again. As I approached the farm, a sprayer was coming down the drive, and out jumped my old next door neighbour Richard Walker. It was great to see him again, whilst he did some spraying I went and had a "proper" cup of tea with his wife Frances. After a good catch up Frances had to go to work, unfortunately, but Richard soon returned and then I went with him spraying.
Applying Herbicide and Fungicide to GM Canola
After finishing the spraying, Richard and I had chance to look around the farm and equipment, which are very different from the machines he had in the UK. I was glad for him and his family that they have settled so well in Canada and are enjoying their new life, it was a brave decision at the time but obviously the right one for them. Later on I got to catch up with Richard and Frances's two sons, Lawrence and Joel, who are both now grown men and not little boys, but unfortunately I missed to see their daughter Amanda. After having some food we all headed over to Lawrence and his new wife's house, I got to drive his jacked up truck which was nearly as uneconomical as it was loud!
I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time with them all and would liked to have stayed longer, but an early start in the morning to fly to the USA was next.
Lawrence's "little, quiet" Truck
Joel, Richard and Lawrence Walker
I had a wonderful time in Canada, a Huge Thank you to everyone that helped me and gave me time to meet them, and I hope to welcome you to the UK in the future.
Friday, 5 July 2013
Having left Saskatchewan behind I headed into my 3rd and final province of Manitoba, to go and stay with my fellow Nuffield scholar and friend Clayton Robins and his wife Rebecca. It is a wonderful thing about Nuffield, even when you haven't known someone very long or even at all, you will be made very welcome when you visit.
This sprayer was parked up and I had to stop and take a picture
Clayton and his family farm near Rivers, Manitoba, raising cattle and growing some crops. Clayton is also a 4-H director. 4-H is organisation that encourages young people to get involved with agriculture. The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach. Though typically thought of as an agriculturally focused organization as a result of its history, 4-H today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs.
Clayton showed me around his farm. He has a herd of cow calf (suckler cows), mainly angus, Gelbvieh and Simmental, and uses a shorthorn bull. Clayton employs a fairly extensive grazing practice and is extremely passionate about pasture health and balance, and is the first person I know to study the shape and structure of cow pats!
Clayton with his Cows and Calves
A group of weanling steers
The area that Clayton farms is near to the little Saskatchewan river, and some of his pasture runs down to the river in a steep wooded valley and over to the valley bottom the other side. This is an excellent environment to summer the cattle as they can keep out of the heat and away from flies. Unfortunately some buffalos from a local farm had recently got out and decided that they would rearranged some of Claytons fences, so there ware some fences to repair before the cattle to go to their summer pasture.
Top of the valley overlooking the Little Saskatchewan River
Clayton used to keep sheep, which are rare in Canada, as they can't be kept outside in the winter the same as cattle. Also there are a lot of Kyote's and wolves have been know in the area, so the sheep need guarding. This was the job of Claytons donkeys and Luxxor his lamma, who is still on the farm, but doesn't like the cattle much.
Clayton and his guard Lamma, Luxxor
We came across a crop of "Peaola" on our travels, which is a mix of peas and canola. The theory is that the peas will climb up the canola and not go flat. The whole crop is then harvested as a dry pea crop and then the Canola is cleaned out of the peas. The results have been variable so far, but a good example of trying something different.
Peaola a mix of peas and canola
I am very grateful for Clayton and Rebecca welcoming me into there home and looking after me so well during my stay, Many Thanks and I look forward to returning the favour in the future.
Clayton and Rebecca