Agricultural Diversity

FTLComm - Tisdale - February 8, 2001
This is one of the few farms in the Tisdale area with sheep. At one time South Eastern Saskatchewan had a considerable number of small mixed farms and it was popular in the forties and fifties for a mixed farm to have some milk cows, some beef cattle, chickens, a few pigs and often sheep raised for mutton. However, the small mixed farm of that era has completely disappeared as the economics of agriculture simply overwhelmed that form of diversification. The marginal cost squeeze intensified and even medium sized cattle farmers found that they were better to sell off the cattle and stick to grain farming.

As the farms grew from big in the seventies to really big in the eighties and nineties the governments, both federal and provincial saw this trend and provided several incentive programmes to encourage farmers to have develop what was referred to as "diversified" economies. For many farmers this proved to be a disaster as they went into cattle with government loans then saw cattle prices drop sharply, they built hog barns on a modest scale only to see their margins dwindle and their grain operations forced to prop up the diversification.

The trend in the late eighties and nineties has been far more small scale and for the most part has not involved government. Farmers have experiemented with unusual crop varieties such as lentils, peas, canary seed and hybrid canola while others tried out Lamas, Bison, Elk and Alpacas. These ventures have almost all been successful, simply because the farmer has put some planning into the project and put only as much capital into the projects as could be expected to give a reasonable financial return.

The one diversification that has not taken off in significant numbers is the raising of sheep. The primary problem with sheep and lamb production has been the limited market. Canadians and Americans consume very little lamb and mutton resulting in very low demand for the product and has kept the market price extremely low. However, they are very pleasant animals to raise and some farms still if they approach the project with sensible expectation can make it a profitable venture.

This is a small herd and beside the excellent facility for the herd this farm yard sports a very impressive log home.

Diversification is on the mind of every farmer as the cost of transportation of grain moves to the point where it is the major expense of production and in areas distant from the terminals this cost exceeds the margin of profitability. This is the reason that many areas are looking at the massive commerical hog barm operatins which can convert their grain into pork and thus allow the farm to remain viable. What is even more promising is the possibility of commerical grain crops that might turn otherwise food products into manufactured goods. Some farmers like the idea of hemp production while experiementation with canola as a source for plastics and fuel are edging forward as petroleum prices continue to make agriculturally derrived fuels look very good.

Sorry about the size of this QuickTime VR, it has a lot of detail in this image and lets you experience the environment as it was at 5:00 yesterday afternoon. The detail in the image is very high and you can zoom in and examine things, the light is low from the cloudy sky and lateness of the day but this is an interesting image.