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EASTERN ONTARIO: Kingsway Farms of Hastings continues winning ways at Autumn Opportunity dairy show

ORANGEVILLE — Kingsway Farms continued an excellent year of showing with a victory at Autumn Opportunity, one of top dairy shows in the province.

Hastings’ Kingsway Farms is the owner of Knonaudale Jasmine, a mature cow which was named grand champion at the Oct. 18 show at Orangeville in Dufferin County. The champion cow was bred by Chris and Bobbi-Jo Uhr of Knonaudale Farms Inc. at Crysler, Ont.

Since October, 2016, Kingsway Farms has bred the grand and reserve champion calves at the East-Central 4-H Championship show, bred the grand champion and reserve 4-H calves at the Ontario Summer Show, bred Holstein Canada’s 2017 Cow of the Year back in 2002, was named junior breeder at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, won its second Master Breeder shield and was named premier breeder of the heifer show and runner-up for overall premier Holstein breeder at the 2016 World Dairy Expo. The farm was also awarded top breeders herd, junior breeder, premier breeder and premier exhibitor at the Ontario Summer Show, and either bred or owned the county grand champion cows at Hastings, Lindsay, Northumberland, Bruce-Grey and Peterborough counties.

The reserve champion was Embrdale Exquisite Lauthority, bred and owned by David, Cathy, Steven, Cameron, Brett and Rebecca Stockdale of Embrdale Farm at Asphodel-Norwood, Ont.

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2017 will be the largest soybean crop in history

This past spring, American farmers planted the largest soybean acreage in history, and with only a few isolated exceptions, the environment didn’t do anything to limit that crop from reaching maturity in good condition.  The challenge facing oilseed producers today is how do we find upside opportunities to market this crop in a situation where supply is anything but limited?

In terms of Ontario’s 2017 soybean crop, one of the key factors that has significantly changed our province’s crop production this year has been the warm finish to the growing season through the month of September.  In their August crop production estimates, Statistics Canada estimated an average soybean yield of 44.6 bushels per acre to reach a total production of 3.7 million tonnes. When StatCan updated their production estimates in mid-September, they increased the yield projection to 49.3 bushels per acre which will put Ontario’s 2017 soybean crop at a record 4.1 million metric tonnes.

While jumping up soybean yields by 4.7 bu/ac in a month seems like a big adjustment to make in 30 days, when you break that number down, it’s actually entirely achievable. Adding one extra pod to each soybean plant represents a yield increase of 3.7 bushels per acre (assuming that you’ve got 180,000 plants per acre and a seed weight of 5,200 beans per kg). In which case that “big” yield adjustment that StatCan rolled out simply means that between mid-August and mid-September, growing conditions in Ontario were such that a typical soybean plant was able to add about 1.2 extra pods per plant. When the crop is successfully off the field and stored away, we will know for certain whether we are just over or just under the 4 million-tonne threshold. But it is very safe to say that both Ontario and the United States are going to harvest their biggest soybean crop in history in 2017.

The good news for prices is that the enormous size of North American soybean supply this year has never been a secret.  As farmers’ 2017 planting intentions became apparent last spring, the Chicago soybean futures for November 2017 slid into a trading range between US $9.25 and US $9.75 and have largely stayed within that trading bracket for the entire growing season.

What’s been really interesting to watch unfold, through the spring and summer soybean markets this year, is that although the futures market found a comfortable level within which to trade, cash soybean transactions were suspiciously absent. Farmers went into the spring of 2017 with about
30 % of this year’s expected soybean production forward contracted, and then essentially sold nothing between May 1 and Sept. 30.

On the demand side, export sales of North American new crop soybeans (forward sold export sales), was just under 10-million tonnes at the end of August or 8-million tonnes behind last year, and less than half of 2015’s export sales bookings on the same time period. The market has actually spent the past five months with extremely little commercial trading going on because the end users overseas believe that the price is too high, and the North American farmer believes that the price is too low.

My own view is that the market is due for a bit of a bounce. The world’s population still needs to eat, so the overseas buyers still need to purchase soybeans. If we see some volume of export sales executed on a small bump in pricing, buyers will have reason to believe that the short-term bottom is in, and they’ll rush to catch up on their purchasing needs. A little run up in prices will provide an opportunity for farmers to make some sales to meet their cash flow needs, and the pace of commercial soybean transactions will return to normal. All that we need is a rally in soybean prices to break the standoff and set the market into motion.

There’s a trajectory to price movement.  Anyone who has played baseball knows that if you make solid contact, the ball will still be rising when it goes over the second baseman’s head. But there’s very little chance that the ball will still be moving higher when it goes over the center fielder, or the outfield fence. In marketing crops, our objective is to lock prices in at the apex of the flight curve, not to see how far the ball rolls after it hits the ground. While it’s accurate to say that soybean prices have some room to rise, don’t expect the price chart to look like the flight path of a home run into the second deck.

Marketing big crops requires reasonable expectations, and in all likelihood, locking in soybean prices in November of 2017 for shipment in April, May, June of 2018 is going to be the way to lock in the high point on the price curve.

Steve Kell operates a crop farm in Simcoe County and is a grain merchant for Parrish and Heimbecker Ltd. in Toronto.

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OPINION: Cows down 24 hours are three times less likely to return to milking

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By Dr. Rob Tremblay

Down dairy cows, or ‘downers’, are not common but they are a challenge to deal with for dairy farmers and veterinarians. Downers can be a lightning rod for tension when they don’t respond quickly to nursing care and get up.

The causes of downer cows are quite varied, anywhere from injury to metabolic disease. One key to making good decisions about downer cows is to try to get a better understanding of why the cow is down. A recent report from the veterinary school in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, listed what caused cows to be down when they were brought to the veterinary school. The large animal hospital at the school offers flotation service, so they tend to see many down cows. Between 1995 and 2014, they admitted more than 1,100 down cows. They ended up using a flotation tank to assist all but about 150 of those cows. Just about 50 % of the cows survived. This is about twice as many cows that were observed to recover in a recent study from Australia.

Many of the non-survivors at St. Hyacinthe had serious injuries that would have made recovery difficult or impossible. It pays to have downer cows examined by a veterinarian to see if the reason the cow is down is an injury that cannot be successfully treated.  Cows that have damage to the nerves that control their legs or have injuries like dislocated joints are much less likely to stand again. It is best to investigate what is wrong so you can make better decisions. Cows that have mastitis or metritis, but have no injuries, are much more likely to recover.

The Australian study reported that one of the biggest predictors of whether downer cows would successfully stand again was the quality of the nursing care they received. One good reason that so many cows survived at St. Hyacinthe is likely the quality of care. The Australian researchers also found that cows that were down for longer than 24 hours carried a lower probability that they would eventually stand up and be productive again. That finding was pretty much the same as a study of U.S. dairies. They found that cows down for longer than 24 hours were three times less likely to become productive cows again.

The welfare research group at the University of British Columbia recently investigated downer cows too. They had access to a flotation tank owned by a local veterinary clinic. They also concluded that good nursing care improved the chances that a cow would stand again.

What are the take homes from all this research? Well, first it is good to try to figure out if the cow is injured. Then, it is important to provide nursing care right from the start. That would include addressing any metabolic abnormalities including dehydration, and providing a protected, dry and well-bedded area with good footing. Cows that are repositioned frequently, including using flotation tanks, are also much more likely to recover.

The following are some of the components of good nursing care as listed in the Australian Veterinary Journal.

Treatment: Have the cow appropriately treated for the primary cause of the recumbency (being down). Then appropriately treat for any secondary conditions.
Location: Down cows should be cared for in a small, sheltered area within a shed or barn. For cows that are unable to stand but can walk after being lifted: Keep them away from slippery surfaces. Isolate them from other cattle. Lift them once or twice daily and closely monitor them.

Bedding:  Use deep, soft bedding of suitable material: 40–50 cm of hay, straw or 20–30 cm of sawdust, rice hulls or sand or appropriate depth of equivalent substrate.

Cow only to be lifted in these circumstances: The cow is able to take some of its own weight after being lifted and not hanging from the lifting clamp or within the frame. Or the lifting is supervised by the care provider so the cow can be lowered when observed to be no longer standing effectively.

Use barriers to restrict cows crawling more than two to three metres. Use barriers to prevent cows from crawling off the suitable bedding. Cows that are unable to change sides by themselves should be rolled off the down leg several times daily. Offer the cow access to good quality feed at all times. Provide suitable drinking water. Do teat disinfection twice daily. Milking is optional unless leaking milk. Protect the cow from adverse weather conditions, including excessive cold and heat.

Dr. Robert Tremblay is a veterinarian for Boehringer-Ingelheim and lives near Guelph.