Tag Archives: alfalfa and timothy hay producers and exporters

Alberta Alfalfa Hay

Alberta Alfalfa Hay

Medicago sativa is the Latin name for “the Queen of Forages”, alfalfa, the most popular and important forage legume grown in Canada. (Agriculture Canada, 1987) It owes its monarchic nickname to its many virtues and merits. Alberta Alfalfa Hay is considered to be one of the most palatable and nutritious of hays. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, alfalfa hay is one of the chief components of dairy cattle feed, as well as serving as an important dietary ration for milking goats, beef cattle, sheep and horses. Aside from the nutritional advantages that it provides for ruminants and a variety of equine species, alfalfa is also an indirect source for honey as bees gather a substantial amount of nectar from alfalfa flowers. (Alfalfa)  This high-yielding cultivar also has a great ability to improve soil quality and provide weed control for ensuing crops.

The plant itself is a bushy perennial legume which grows to a height of 60-100 cm. Its leaves consist of 3 leaflets which can range in shape from almost round to lanceolate. The stems are slender and may be either hollow or solid. Flowers grow in clusters of 10-20 and the florets are usually blue or purple, white or yellow, occasionally bronze and green and may be variegated with shades of blue and green. (Goplen, 1987) Seed pods are slightly downy and vary from kidney or sickle shaped to single, double or triple-coiled in appearance; however “the sickle pod has been almost eliminated by selection because it contains few seeds and shatters easily”. (Goplen et al., 1987, p.6)

The roots of the alfalfa plant are of four types: tap, branch, rhizomatious and creeping. The majority of roots probably penetrate most soils to a depth of about 2 m. (Fulkerson) Taproots typically penetrate “from 7 to 9 m, but roots have been observed 39 m deep in a mine beneath an alfalfa field”. (Sheaffer & Evers, 2007, p. 182) “Depending on the length of the growing season and maturity at harvest, alfalfa will have from 2 to 10 regrowth cycles”. (Sheaffer & Evers, 2007, p.182)

One of the distinctive characteristics of alfalfa is its ability to tap into the nitrogen supply Alberta Alfalfa Hayin the air. It does this through an especially unique symbiotic relationship with a particular type of soil bacteria. These bacteria produce nodules on the root that convert nitrogen in the air into a form that is readily used by the plant- a process called “nitrogen fixation”. Soil acidity directly affects the growth and survival of these bacteria and can be a significant impediment to high alfalfa yields. Saline soil conditions also deter productivity because salinity adversely affects seed germination and also prevents roots from taking in water and essential nutrients.

At Barr-Ag, we take up to three cuts of the early maturing varieties of Alberta Alfalfa Hay from our irrigated farms. This alfalfa is sought after for its higher protein content. The later maturing variety is grown on our dryland properties and we harvest up to two cuts. All of our alfalfa hay is non-GMO.(See to the attached article: USDA to OK Genetically Modified Alfalfa )

Barr-Ag’s head office is located at 5837 Imperial Drive, Olds, Alberta, Canada, T4H 1G6. Please visit our website or call or write if you have any questions about our timothy hay, non-GMO alfalfa hay or any of our other products. We can be reached by telephone at: 403 507 8660 or by email at: info@barr-ag.com or haysales@barr-ag.com
References:
Fulkerson, R.S., Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Publication 59
Goplen, B.P, Baenziger, H., Bailey, L.D., Gross, A.T.H., Hanna, M.R., Michaud, R., Richards, K.W., Waddington, J., (1987) Agriculture Canada: Growing and Managing Alfalfa in Canada, Publication 1705/E
McKenzie, Ross H., (2005) Agri-Facts: Soil and Nutrient Management of Alfalfa
Sheaffer, Craig C., Evers, Gerald W., (2007) Forages: The Science of Grassland Agriculture
Alfalfa: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/botany/alfalfa-info.htm
Forage: http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1174594338500&lang=eng

Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically Modified Crops

Since 1994, GM foods have been permitted to be sold in Canada. Currently, Canada’s growing of genetically modified crops is limited to canola, soybean, corn and sugar beets of which most are exported to foreign countries. The country is one of the largest exporters of GMO crops in the world. Recently, field tests have begun on growing GM alfalfa in Ontario and Quebec that have raised concern over the probable contamination of Canada’s naturally grown alfalfa crop through cross pollination.

Appearance of Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically modified crops were first produced in 1982 and by 1986; the first field trials were done on tobacco for herbicide resistance. In 1994, the United States approved its first food crop, a tomato. Since then, GM crops have exploded in variety and availability.

Claimed Benefits of GMOs

GMO crops do have their advantages:

  • Because they have been engineered to be more drought resistant, they can be grown in borderline areas and places that might not have been usable previously.
  • They can provide more nutrients such as the vitamin A in rice exported to countries with poor populations and malnutrition issues.
  • There is also a larger yield per acre with some crops and they are much more resistant to disease, herbicides and insect infestation.

Why is There Concern over GMOs?

Much discussion  has ensued over GM crops and whether they are environmentally safe. While the subject has been widely researched, there continues to be controversy over whether there has been enough proof found to be certain that GM crops are safe. It is not so much safety for human consumption, as it is safety for our environment.

The biggest issue appears to be cross-contamination of adjacent natural crops, which is almost impossible to control. Is this going to cause the eventual extinction of natural crops within a few decades? No one knows, as there has just not been enough long term research to determine what the outcome will be.

Barr-Ag

 

Contact Barr Ag to get more information on any of our crops including Alfalfa, Timothy, Mixed Hay, Canadian Grains and Pulse crops.

Forage Trends North America 2016

Forage Trends North America 2016

Canadian alfalfa hay has continued its upward movement for the first quarter of 2016 as we continue to monitor forage trends across North America. Improved demand on a world-wide basis results from a larger demand and smaller supply globally of natural forage. This is an excellent indication of an ongoing upward movement for the year. A lot of this can be attributed to the global market which has a strong bias against GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) crops and Canadian alfalfa hay is completely natural.

Increased Production of GMO Crops

A big issue again this year is GMO crops. There are already test plots in Ontario and Quebec, alfalfa hayand there is a real fear that these will cross pollinate and ruin the natural alfalfa crop which could end up being a disaster of biblical proportion. The United States already has an issue with GMO crops, and China along with other countries, has issued a total ban on the importation of GMO crops. So far, Canada has stayed away from GMO crops, but there appears to be some bleed-over from the border which, if not corralled, will become an issue. Alberta, in particular, is already having a problem with contaminated seed.

 

Increase of Alfalfa Growth

Canada currently has about 32 million acres in forage crops, most of those in the west. Of these millions of acres, only about 25,000 are growing alfalfa seed. However, that’s changing rapidly due to the lack of seed acreage in the United States. Natural alfalfa seed acreage has risen substantially in the last few years and that trend is estimated only to continue. Until GMO crops are better researched and more is understood about their effect on humans, animals, nature, and the environment, natural seed production will only continue to grow.

Corn Silage Growth

If alfalfa is queen of the forage crops, corn silage is king. Corn silage has shown considerable growth in the last few years and it looks to be continuing. This can be attributed to higher yield and continued growth into late harvest which raises the starch content.

In conclusion, Canadian alfalfa hay looks to be fairly strong this year partially due to the GMO issue. Until further research is conducted on the effects that GMO crops have on humans, animals, and the environment, the increase of alfalfa crop production will only continue.

Barr-Ag

 

Contact Barr Ag to get more information on any of our crops including Alfalfa, Timothy, Mixed Hay, Canadian Grains and Pulse crops.

Canadian Timothy Hay

Canadian Timothy Hay

Canada’s forage industry is booming as Asian markets continue to provide strong demand for one of the most commonly-grown forage grasses in Canada, timothy hay. Timothy is perfectly suited for growing in cooler, more temperate climates like that of the Alberta province. As far as forage grasses go, timothy hay is one of the more palatable options and preferred by most livestock.

Barr-Ag grows timothy hay in the cool and clean environment of the Canadian Rockies. Timothy Hay Barr-AgThe area near the eastern slopes where Barr-Ag grows its timothy is known for producing the sweetest timothy hay anywhere on the planet. It is thought that this is the result of the outstanding growing environment created by the perfect altitude and seasonal changes for timothy hay.

Timothy is a perennial bunchgrass that is well-adapted to climates like those found in Western Canada. The fertile farmland there is paired with long daylight hours and plentiful sun; because of the exceptional environment for the growing season, Barr-Ag is able to grow and produce timothy hay of unsurpassed quality. This is very important as increased incomes and better standards of living in many areas of the Middle East and Asia are resulting in higher demands for animal-based protein and dairy. The rapidly-expanding dairy and beef industries in Asian countries rely on Canadian timothy hay due to limited land area for growing forage in their own countries. In fact, Canadian timothy hay exports are growing nearly exponentially and currently account for more than $100 million in trade on a yearly basis.

Barr-Ag produces dry-land timothy hay that is harvested once every season, and irrigated timothy that can be harvested twice every season. Nearly all hay produced by Barr-Ag comes from their farms, with the balance coming from trusted producers. Additional hay is procured only from producers who have been carefully vetted to ensure their adherence to Barr-Ag’s strict growing protocols and standards of quality control.

Barr-Ag makes shipping easy through thorough accommodation of customer needs. All shipping and customs documents are prepared for buyers to help ensure that every delivery goes smoothly. Shipments to other continents, as well as those heading into the US, are treated with the utmost care and are routed through various ports to keep shipping time to a minimum. Various shipping options are offered by Barr-Ag, including cost and freight (CNF) and freight on board (FOB); container yard (CY) shipping is also available.

Contact Barr Ag to get more information on any or our crops including Alfalfa, Timothy, Mixed Hay, Canadian Grains and Pulse crops.

Canadian Alfalfa Hay and Its Many Benefits

Canadian Alfalfa Hay

Over the past four decades, the Canadian Alfalfa processing industry has experienced tremendous growth. Today, it ranks as one of the top five largest exporters of Alfalfa in the world. Alberta-grown Alfalfa hay offers many benefits and advantages when compared to hay grown in other parts of the world. Canadian Alfalfa hay provides farmers with a consistently higher quality product, while also offering a more rapid harvesting time than many other types of hay.

Because of its high protein content, farmers across Canada and the United States use dehydrated Alfalfa hay as food for their livestock. The soil on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is rich in calcium and magnesium, which helps to produce a more robust, nutrient rich hay.

The clean air, long warm days, and cool nights in Canada ensure a vigorous production Canadian Alfalfa Hayduring the shorter growing season. Dry land alfalfa hay may be harvested up to twice per season, while irrigated alfalfa hay can be harvested up to three times each season. Because of it has a deep perennial root system, Alfalfa hay is a high water use forage crop. Although it optimally requires 540 to 680 mm of water per growing season in Alberta, the crop is relatively drought tolerant.

The long Canadian winters allow farmers to grow Alfalfa hay using more natural methods. This significantly reduces the need for pesticides and herbicides, as the cold temperatures effectively discourage pests and most weeds. The shorter growing season allows the land a greater resting period to recuperate. This recovery time helps eliminate the need for artificial fertilizers to coax more production, as is commonly necessary in areas with warmer climates.

This non-GMO crop also offers more stringent quality control guidelines. Instead of being graded by observation and smell the way Timothy hay is, Alfalfa hay is tested and graded by independent labs. Canadian Alfalfa hay promises a more consistent product, year after year.

Barr-Ag is a family-owned operation with a farm-to-farm business model. This allows them the unique ability to maintain much tighter control over the product they export. Barr-Ag’s farms and producers are strategically positioned near the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains where they are fortunate to have clean air, long warm days with cool nights, soil rich in calcium and magnesium and a pristine environment in which to grow their non-GMO alfalfa hay.

Growing 60% of all exported hay ensures that they can set high standards in place at each stage of their product, from planting to packaging. The remaining 40% of their stock is purchased from local growers with the same dedication to quality. Barr-Ag’s quality standards allow them to guarantee mold-free hay with less than 12% moisture content.

Contact Barr Ag to get more information on any or our crops including Alfalfa, Timothy, Mixed Hay, Canadian Grains and Pulse corps.

A Japanese Dairy Farm-Timothy Hay and Alfalfa Hay Customers

Harvest season 2012 was a very busy time for everyone at Barr-Ag. Along with our farming responsibilities, we usually host clients from abroad. They come to examine Timothy Hay, Alfalfa Hay, mixed hays and other crops and set up their purchasing. We took the time this year to sit down and profile one of our Asian customers. The farm was happy to oblige us with all the data we needed, but for confidentiality reasons has asked that we do not post their name.

Japan is divided into 47 sub-national jurisdictions (like states or provinces) known as Prefectures. Our client’s dairy farm, located in the Tochigi Prefecture, is about 2 hours north of Tokyo. Tochigi Prefecture is the second largest producer of raw milk in Japan. The farm has been operational for 26 years and is home to 2000 Holstein dairy cows. For the past 7 years this dairy operation has been receiving our shipments of Timothy hay and alfalfa hay every month. “We like that Barr-Ag is a farm-based company because of the stable supply source”. “We would recommend Barr-Ag to other dairy farms because having a relationship directly with the grower is a big advantage”.

The 2011 Tsunami in their country had a devastating effect on agriculture. “Our neighbour farms have gone out of business.” “We experienced significant loss because we were unable to ship our product for a few weeks.” Because our business relationships at Barr-Ag extends over long periods of time, we get to know our clients and we care about them. We kept in close contact and adjusted our supply schedule to meet their immediate needs after the Tsunami.

There wasn’t much else we could do from a small, rural, agricultural community in Olds, Alberta, but we wanted to do what we could to help. “Barr-Ag donated a few containers a month after the disaster. We distributed them to our neighbour farms to help”. It’s what farmers seem to do everywhere; neighbours helping neighbours even if they happen to live 5000 miles away.

The Chinese Dairy Industry and Canadian-grown Alfalfa

There is a new trend in the consumption of a Canadian-produced commodity. The demand for fodder by dairy cattle has risen steadily in response to an explosion in China’s dairy industry. As a result of the tainted-milk scandal of 2008, “15% of China’s dairy cows were lost as financially ruined farmers sold their cows for meat”. In an effort to rebuild the dairy industry and make it viable, Chinese producers have been importing dairy cows by the boatload and building high tech, American style factory farms. In fact, “since 2009 China has become the world’s most important buyer of dairy cows to the extent that some farmers in Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay exporting their prize heifers worry that China could go from consumer to rival in the global milk market”.

Because Chinese dairy cows have been only half as productive as their American cousins, the most effective way for China to improve their lagging milk production is to replace their herds. In an effort to promote the growth of their own dairy industry, China has implemented a complete overhaul of their farming practices. Backyard farms are being replaced with government approved “group facilities known as cow hotels that are more easily monitored by inspectors and large producers are benefiting from government subsidies and tax incentives.

Factory farming lends itself to China’s limited grazing land. Cows that remain indoors in a controlled environment with controlled feeding produce more milk than their grazed counterparts. The dramatic growth of China’s dairy industry has been a boon for Canadian producers of alfalfa-the feed of choice for top producing dairy cattle.

Barr-Ag has expanded our production of alfalfa hay to try and keep pace with the increased demand for this newly expanding Chinese market. We have been hosting Chinese producers for the past couple of years that are interested in viewing our production sites and compacting facilities. If you are interested in learning more about our non-GMO alfalfa hay, timothy hay or coming to Barr-Ag for a tour, please contact us.

Barr-Ag’s head office is located east of the Canadian Rocky Mountains at 5837 Imperial Drive, Olds, Alberta, Canada, T4H 1G6. Please visit our website or call or write if you would like to speak with us. We can be reached by telephone at: 403 507 8660 or by email at: info@barr-ag.com or haysales@barr-ag.com.
References:
China Grows Its Dairy Farms With a Global Cattle Drive by Alex Frangos/The Wall Street Journal