Saturday, 18 May 2013

Feds trim the beef from research

Laura Nance, the columnist behind the Free Press's "Rural Revival" column, and editor of the Manitoba Co-operator, was the keynote speaker at Project Peacemaker's Eco-Friendly dinner a number of years ago.  In this column, she writes about the federal government's decision to close the research program at Brandon's Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada farm, which has existed for 127 years.   Here is an excerpt from the column:

In recent times, the research focus shifted towards integrating beef production with forage and nutrient management in an eastern Prairie environment.
In essence, the program shifted its focus from producing good cattle over time to growing good grass, the value of which was harvested by cattle. It is a small, but fundamental, distinction that recognized the role forages and grasslands play in the Prairie ecosystem, as well as the importance of the beef economy to Canadian agriculture.

The beef cattle herd at the Agriculture Canada Brandon Research Station helped researchers study integrated forage, beef  and nutrient-management systems before it was cut. It is unknown what will happen to the 800 head of cattle.
Photo-Source:  Winnipeg Free Press

So, the research focus of the Brandon farm addressed the sustainability of the prairie grasslands, and on methods of cattle raising that would actually improve the pasture, rather than depleting it.

Nance continues:  Forage and grasslands deliver immeasurable environmental benefits through the maintenance of healthy air and water, reduced soil erosion and maintaining biodiversity on the landscape.
But because 85 per cent of the forage produced in Canada is fed on the farm and because forages are only sown once every few years, the sector can't readily tap into the commodity checkoff model that raises research funds for annual crops. It doesn't draw much by way of private-sector investment either because there is no easy way to get a return. If anything, its effectiveness at reducing weed and pest pressures when included in a crop rotation works against it for attracting private-sector investment.

Click here to read the entire column.
- submitted by Gareth

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