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News Roundup – for Apr. 6, 2009


The Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN) was officially launched Feb. 27 in Olds.

The new organization was formed to bring all of the industries and associations in the province that rely on forage together under one banner. As such AFIN represents livestock producers, beekeepers, processors, seed and equipment companies, rangeland managers, conservation and reclamation organizations and the turf grass industry, among others

It is estimated 30,000 producers manage more than 11 million hectares of forage land, rangeland and bush in Alberta.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA), which includes many of the producer-driven forage, research and conservation associations that focus on field research and new technology. So another one of AFIN’s roles is to set priorities for research, programs and extension efforts and try and find the means to make them happen.

Some 65 representatives from forage-related businesses and organizations attended the initial meeting in December 2007. A lot has been done since then, mostly with volunteer labour.

Doug Wray chaired the steering committee and was elected as the first chairman of AFIN at the inaugural meeting in February. Wray is a grazier and cow-calf producer from Irricana who has been active in the Foothills Forage Association and a long-time member of ARECA.

Membership is open to all who are connected to the forage industry or have an interest in it. A website is being built and should be available shortly at

For more information contact Doug Wray 403-935-4642 or Grant Lastiwka at 403-227-6392.


Bob, Dave and Jim Cooke of Jemstar Farms of Walkerton have retired for the foreseeable future. The brothers sold their feedyard to Schaus Land and Cattle of Elmwood, and put their farm equipment on the auction block March 25, closing the book on the farm’s 45-year history, for now.

“We’ll see,” says Jim Cooke. “There’s always an opportunity in the cattle business.”

The brothers held onto 1,000 acres of the farm that Dave and Bob Cooke started in the 1960s on 300 acres at Walkerton. Jim joined them in 1972 after earning a degree in ag engineering.

The farm grew to 2,100 acres, including a feedyard for 3,000 head of cattle and cropland to feed them.

Before the U. S. border closed to live Canadian cattle in 2003 the Cookes had been shipping animals to U. S. custom lots for finishing.

In April 2005, they filed a challenge against the U. S. government under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement and international trade law, challenging the ban on U. S. imports of live Canadian cattle.

This year, with all three brothers in their 60s and none of the next generation of Cookes planning to take over the brothers opted to retire. It’s a familiar story. “We’re just cashing in our chips and moving on to another table,” says Jim.


El Nio is on the way, says climatologist Art Douglas, which means the Prairies could be in for some wild weather this summer.

Professor emeritus at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, Douglas provides weather forecasts to CattleFax in the U. S., the Mexican Meteorological Service and ConAgra Foods.

His forecast calls for cool spring and summer temperatures for Western Canada, although there’s still one good month of warm weather in his long-range prediction from mid-June to the end of July, so it should be safe to pull out the haying equipment.

June will start out slightly cooler than normal in Alberta and western Saskatchewan and about a degree above normal in eastern Manitoba. Precipitation will be near normal to slightly above normal.

The cold should give way to normal temperatures by July and precipitation will fall to 80 to 90 per cent of normal across the Prairies.

“The one good month of summer will be bracketed by cooler weather on both sides,” he explains. April will be cold, especially in Saskatchewan and Alberta but May will bring some moderation to Alberta and portions of western Saskatchewan. Manitoba will remain cool.

Early spring will be normal to slightly dry in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with Alberta staying drier. May will see closer-to-normal precipitation in Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan. Albertans everywhere should brace for a dry May with precipitation at 80 per cent below normal.

Cooler-than-normal temperatures, particularly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are forecast for August but precipitation will pick up to 110 to 120 per cent of normal.

If El Nio materializes by fall, Douglas says Western Canada can expect changeable weather at best. El Nio usually means wild, wicked



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