Farming In Manitoba, Canada

Farming in Manitoba is very diverse with dairy, pig and beef on the livestock side and grain farming on the other. Mixed Farms are very popular and offer some flexibility with a cattle or pig enterprise plus arable. A dairy farm can be from 160 to 600 acres, with mixed from 320 and grain exceeding 3,000 acres.

Before immigrating to Manitoba in September, 1983, we farmed all our lives in Lanarkshire, Scotland. We had a dairy farm in the Clyde Valley, milking 100 cows.

In Manitoba along with my uncle, we farm 1,550 acres of crop, growing wheat, winter wheat, malt barley and canola (rape). Since we've been here we have only dried 40 tons of wheat and 45 of canola. Both grain and oilseeds are cut with a swather and left a few days to mature, then picked up by the combine. In Manitoba more direct combining is done each year. Wheat is dry at 14.5%, Barley at 13.5%, and Canola at 10% for acceptance at the elevator.

Almost all the grain and oilseeds grown in Manitoba are transported by rail to their destination. Over 65% of the entire crop is exported. The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) controls the delivery of wheat and barley through a delivery quota and contracts based on the number of acres grown. These will normally be large enough to enable farmers to sell all their grain before the following harvest. The CWB sets the initial price for grain paid on delivery to the elevator, and will normally make a final payment at the end of the crop year.

The open market is another option and its price is based on the day to day prices of the World Market. They take their lead from the commodity markets of Chicago in the U.S.A. and Winnipeg, Manitoba, and can be higher or lower than the CWB initial price. Click here for current Grain and Oilseed prices.

Crops such as peas, beans, mustard and lentils are not subject to quotas, and are grown on contract with private companies. Delivery is fairly rapid, sometimes straight from the combine. So you have 3 options; CWB, the open market or private contracts which lend flexibility to what can seem a restrictive method of marketing.

In most areas the plough was abandoned many years ago in favour of the chisel plough and field cultivator. Some farmers cultivate twice after harvest and deep band, liquid fertilizer, ready for spring unless planting winter wheat. With the ground frozen during the winter and no rain, leaching is not a problem. (Perhaps 5%) We have moved to a one-pass system in the spring. The air-drill allows us to incorporate the seed and the liquid fertilizer in a single application. This is more like zero tillage. Zero tillage is popular and the number of farmers converting to it is increasing each year. Using air seeders or air drills, it brings a complete reliance on chemical for weed control. It also takes longer for stubble to warm up, making the start a little longer.

Other crops grown in Manitoba are flax, corn (maize), sunflowers, potatoes, oats, rye and sugar beets. There is no tram lining in Manitoba as we only need to spray once, mostly for wild oats and millet plus broad leaf. Depending upon the humidity each year, fungal disease and its associated spraying may be an issue and has to be watched each year.

In Manitoba, alfalfa hay is at 18 to 24% protein, if the weather is hot you can cut and condition it one day and bale it the next. Square bales are lifted by a bale picker, which also stacks them in the yard. If the set up suits round bales, quite a few have changed to them. Dairy farms can get as much straw as they want to bale for nothing from the neighbours. Very few people fertilize the alfalfa as it fixes its own nitrogen. A good stand of alfalfa can be cut twice a year for 5 years. Sweet clover is another good fodder crop, as is tame millet.

Manitoba unlike the U.K., has a milk board which controls the quota system. There are 2 ways to get quota in Manitoba: first if you buy an existing dairy, the quota will be transferred to you. Second, you can buy quota from the board as they hold a sale every month.

The quota they sell comes from farmers giving up milk production. In recent years the price per daily kg of quota has increased dramatically, now in excess of $20,000 (approx. 8,900 pounds) per kg. You get all kinds of set-ups from free stall with towers and parlor milking to the tie stall with a pipeline. With the good weather to make it, hay is the most common forage, however, there is more and more silage being produced within the province. A point worth remembering is the income per litre is the same for all 12 months of the year. Click the icon below to go to the Manitoba Milk Board web site.

Manitoba MIlk Board
Manitoba Milk Board

As far as beef is concerned, calves are sold in the fall (autumn) at around 600 lbs. If you finish them out you can do it on the farm or send them to a custom feedlot at a weekly cost. They will do everything including marketing them for you. Click here for the Livestock prices.

Manitoba has a northern continental climate, with cold winters and warm summers. Annual average precipitation is approximately 21.5 inches, 70% of which falls as rain in the summer months and the remainder falling as snow during the winter. A large part of this rainfall comes in the form of thunder showers, brief but heavy, although general rains do occur. The most snow I have seen in the fields since we came would be around 12 inches, mind you if it blows, it can drift in the corners.

Our farm is 13 miles from Brandon and there have only been a few days when we could not get to town. The roads are banked up the railways and the snow just blows off them. The temperature in Manitoba can vary from -45 C to +40 C but rarely reach these extremes. All buldings are set up with the weather in mind, if the temperature falls drastically you treat it like a wet day in the U.K. and don't go out anymore than you need to. The summer temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit are quite pleasant with the low humidity. For the current weather and forecasts in Manitoba, click here.

In other words, Manitoba has a drier heat and cold than the U.K. Houses are double or triple glazed and very well insulated, which helps both summer and winter. Farmland is at so much per 1/4 or 160 acres. The better the land the more tax. The most expensive 1/4 would be the 1/4 which contains the buildings. This can be handy when assessing a farm you wish to buy.

Manitoba has its health service just like the U.K. and you only pay for prescriptions, dentist and glasses. We also have an Agricultural College which offers free advice to farmers. Click on the icon below to go to the Agriculture Manitoba website.

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

In Manitoba, newcomers are readily accepted into the farming community, with neighboring farmers always willing to lend a hand. This willingness to help probably dates from a century ago when Western Canada was first settled and cooperation was necessary to survive.

Every farm is on a school bus route and education compares very favorably with the U.K., with Universities in both Winnipeg and Brandon. The local towns offer a wide range of leisure activities for all age groups. The focal point during the winter months is the local town's ice rink, where the adults spend time curling and the children skate and play ice hockey. There are many other activities in the larger centers such as indoor sports facilites, technical colleges offering a wide variety of daytime and evening course, cultural centres, art clubs, church organizations and for children, youth clubs, scouts and 4H clubs (4H is like Young Farmers Club), summer activities are less town oriented as golf, boating, fishing, and swimming in the many lakes take over. Pony clubs are also popular.

One thing which is different from the U.K. about buying a farm, is that a single agent can show all the farms for sale in the province, regardless of who has that farm listed. As part of our service, and for your convenience, we can show you all the listings that are ours and other agents. To ensure we stay current with what is available throughout the Province, we are members of the Farmmarketer internet database.

Finally, and perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects is, you don't pay the U.K. Capital Gains Tax if you immigrate to farm in Manitoba.

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