Winding down, Great pasture season; so-so for hay

    As days grow shorter and nights cooler, pastures that responded beautifully to copious amounts of rain earlier this summer and slowed through August are now rebounding just in time for a checking frost. For many we spoke with, making hay – especially good, early hay – was a heart-breaking experience. 

    Sodden meadows brought to mind the comment of an old friend who, visiting Prince Edward Island one wet summer years ago, cursed the lack of rocks, which he had a-plenty on his own Nova Scotia farm. “You get stuck in the mud and there isn’t a stone to be found to put under your tire.”


    It was a pleasure being able to get to Truro on Labour Day weekend for a few hours of the Purebred Sheep Breeders Association of Nova Scotia, where auctioneer Laurie Parker pulled bids totaling $49,500 on a total of 215 lots representing 11 breeds. Full results of that sale can be found at (follow the “Sheep Sale” link). Must say, it is in a way satisfying to see a Minister of Agriculture, in this case Nova Scotia’s John MacDonell, getting down and dirty – well, not too dirty – while bringing some of his own Suffolk ewes into the sale ring. 


    At long last good news is trickling from the Atlantic Beef Products (ABP) federal abattoir in Albany, P.E.I. Under the guidance of  plant President Paul de Jonge, ABP is killing up to 300 per week, contributing to premiums paid to producers of cattle meeting the criteria for certified Island Beef, and moving product onto Sobeys, SuperStore, and Co-op Atlantic shelves.

    Things are woolier for Brookside, the co-op abattoir in Bible Hill, N.S., that’s turned itself inside out to meet federal standards for killing sheep. They’re still waiting for CFIA to inspect the beautifully renovated facilities and give the co-op a green light to ship lamb interprovincially. Atlantic Beef and Sheep has phoned CFIA in Moncton asking why the delay and patiently awaits a reply.

    Strawberry growers in Nova Scotia beset by virus-bearing aphids are asking government to do more than offer loans to help make up for acres of berries plowed under. It’s the same plea heard from beef farmers in the wake of BSE. What good is it to add loan to debt? A number of those strawberry growers also grow beef. They can dig into their files, pull out letters of complaint written years ago stating their case, simply replace “beef” with “berry,” and fire them off again.

    Risk insurance costs too much, one berry farmer told CBC the other day. And so it does. Thus the wisdom of that old, old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Why put all of your resources into beef or berries and fade quietly into the landscape when you can mix the two, add sheep, and go down in flames? 

    How’s that for a cynical view? Seriously, a mix has got to be a better bet for most any endeavor – just look at the improving world of beef – and when it comes to farming, better for the environment and the avoidance of monocultural systems; breeding grounds for pests and pestilence. 


    Hearing the pleas from berry producers and noting how similar they are to those heard previously from beef farmers calls to mind another quote, which Google helped nail down to German theologian Martin Niemöller. This is the allegory about the rise of Nazi “cleansing” of the population. “First they came for the socialists, but I wasn’t a socialist. . . .” The narrator of the allegory does not protest. Then they came for the old, next the mentally challenged, the Gypsies and the Jews. Still not a word. Finally, “and then they came for me. And there was no one left to speak for me.”

    Rather than farmers working and speaking as one, we’ve split into commodity groups, too often competing for support rather than working together and speaking as one for the betterment of all. Our federations, alliances, and unions work diligently to correct the situation, and the more power to them, but it has to be frustrating trying to pull together against repelling forces.

    Speaking of CBC, radio person Phonse Jessome, interviewing the new head of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, David Grant, commented, “Agriculture’s not sexy at the moment.” Grant should have tromped all over Jessome for that lame statement, but quietly agreed. These two should take in an ACORN conference, or attend one of Nova Scotia’s celebrations of small farmers ­– from the ranks of which are emerging new, enthusiastic, energetic, and yes, sexy, generations of agriculture practitioners.


    We are encouraged by response so far to our having brought sheep into the Atlantic Beef corral. It has been positive both from readers and advertisers. It is a lot of ground to cover, however, and so we appreciate every effort by readers to send us information about sales, field days, shows, events, and gatherings of every sort. Please send photos (prints or digital – 300 dpi or at least medium resolution for a 5” X 7” image), news, tips, and opinions. 

    Best to all preparing for fall and winter. DvL