LAND PRICES AND EMPLOYMENT ARE MAJOR ISSUES IN CANADA
Rising land prices and a decline in available farm workers are two issues facing Canadian dairy farmers, according to fourth generation Alberta farmer, Cregg Nicol. “In this irrigation area, you’re looking at about $10 000 an acre. There is a lot of competition from feedlots starting to move east. We call the Picture Butte area ‘feedlot alley’.” Picture Butte is 27 km north of Lethbridge and has claimed the title of Livestock Feeding Capital of Canada. Cregg said the falling number of dairy farms in Alberta — there were an estimated 1200 dairy farms in Alberta 20 years ago and about 490 today — has contributed to employment issues. “One of the biggest issues we deal with is finding guys that want to milk cows,” he said. “Agriculture doesn’t have the appeal it used to. When we had more farms in the past, that provided a large group of kids that knew farming and were willing to work on farm. All of a sudden, there are less kids who want to work.”Consumer perspective is another challenge, exacerbated by incidents like that in neighbouring province British Columbia, where a video showed workers mistreating cows. They were recently charged in court. “I have nothing to hide here, but incidents like that affect us all, even the guys doing it right.” Canadian dairy industry milk quotas enable farmers to be paid around 80c/litre for milk. There are no government subsidies, but farmers must pay for quota and not exceed this. The system allows them to purchase more at times through the year. Cregg said the lowest the milk price has fallen was about 75 cents a litre.
The Nicolls produce their own silage and aim to carryover 10-15% of each commodity each year.