Monday, December 17

Call for Entries: 2008 Ice & Fire Carnival Snow Sculpture Projects

This Year’s Carnival Theme: The Crystal Habitat

The Dunlop Art Gallery is inviting artist entries for the upcoming curated Exhibition of Snow Sculptures that will be created and exhibited as a part of Downtown Regina’s Ice & Fire Carnival. Artists are encouraged to interpret the exhibition’s theme - Habitat.

The Downtown Ice & Fire Carnival is the not-to-miss winter event in Regina. This free family event aims at merging multiple communities in a celebration of winter sport, art and culture in Regina. Thousands of Carnival visitors are entertained each year with giant snow sculptures, carved by professional artists, located in beautiful Victoria Park. Other activities include public ice-skating; a carnival bonfire; ice sculpting; fire spinning and an evening lantern-lit procession.

This call for proposals is open to emerging and established artists. Each artist (or group of artists) will be provided with an 8’ x 8’ x 8’ cube of packed snow through which they are invited to respond to this year’s theme. Habitat is intended to evoke ideas about ecology, interdependence, community, and shelter. People around the world are searching for a balance between growth and environmental sustainability. Ecologically speaking, we are attempting this balancing act while skating on thin ice. It comes down to how we regard our various habitats - homes, communities, locations, environments, and certainly our planet.

Submissions accepted until January 8th, 2008. All artists will be contacted by January 11th, 2008 with regard to acceptance and/or return of documentation based on the curator’s decision.

The Ice & Fire Carnival will pay artist’s fees of $750 for each selected project. The Ice & Fire Carnival welcomes proposals from producers from all cultural backgrounds and sociopolitical associations.

Important Dates:
  • The postmark deadline for hard copy materials is January 4th, 2008.
  • Digital submissions must be received by 17:00 Central Standard Time, January 8th, 2008.
  • Exhibition: February 15th – 17th, 2008
  • Opening Events: February 16th, 2008
Please Submit:
  • A detailed project proposal, including title, concept, working methods, sketches, duration, and materials. People not familiar with Regina or the Ice & Fire Carnival are encouraged to contact Jeff Nye in advance to discuss ideas.
  • High resolution, large format digital images and samples of relevant work with a corresponding media list. No slides or originals, please.
  • A brief biography
  • A current CV (max. 3 pages)
  • A SASE if hard copies of support material are to be returned
Submit materials digitally, to or via post to:

Jeff Nye
Assistant Curator
Dunlop Art Gallery
P.O. Box 2311
2311 12th Avenue
Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada S4P 3Z5

Produced in partnership by Regina Downtown BID, New Dance Horizons, Great Excursions and the Dunlop Art Gallery.

Saturday, December 8

US market strategy builds on success

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The CTC’s US leisure marketing manager Ernst Flach is candid about what he expects to achieve in the US market in 2008: “We are capitalizing on our 2007 achievements. The segmentation strategy we implemented following the US Travel Study released in February of 2006 provided us with some key demographic information about our highest yield prospects. We layered the CTC’s own proprietary Explorer Quotient (EQ) research on top of that to impart more personality to these demographics, and we further focused on three EQ segments identified as most promising for us in the US: the Authentic Experiencers, the Free Spirits and the Cultural Explorers.”

Flach indicates that ideally, the campaign will reach the highest yield prospects no matter where they live. However, research has highlighted three geographic areas where the targets are clustered: California, the New York tri-state area and Massachusetts (Boston-New England). “We are comfortable with the results we have seen in 2007, and we are moving forward on that basis”, he says. “For example, the post-campaign ad-tracking results have told us that the targets — both in terms of geography and the EQ segments — are experiencing a higher recall of Canada and CTC ads than the control market. And, there has been a 9% cumulative positive influence on visitation to Canada; this tells us we are reaching the right people through the media, the message is resonating with them, and a program that is fully integrated from consumer media to PR/MR to Sales/Trade is paying off. ”

For 2008, the US Leisure team matched the EQ segments with the US PRIZM segments from Claritas. The PRIZM research classifies Americans into 66 different consumer types, each of which tend to be clustered geographically. The spirit behind Prizm and Claritas is that birds of a feather live together: “Combining the two sets of research further enhances our knowledge of travellers to provide more accurate information about media choices and other relevant behaviour,” says Flach.

The impact is far from negligible, Flach explains, especially when it comes to tactic deployment intelligence along specific communications channels. “Two key things came out of it (in 2007). In California, results emphasized that San Francisco is a very important market for us. While we have always been present there, most recently with the ski and niche programs, research indicated that San Francisco is a market worth investing more heavily in. The intelligence also told us that in Los Angeles, the “Free Spirits” segment is present in huge numbers, so we factored this information into our tactics.”

Flach explains that San Francisco is the newest addition to the CTC’s core program as a result of this research. There will be a media presence in Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains, and the campaign will also make use of the Whispering Windows system in San Francisco. Whispering Windows is an advertising medium using an amplifier and small puck-like objects that stick to any smooth surface, turning shop windows into loudspeakers. The CTC was the first to use this technology in North America for its summer campaign in New York, where it had great success, garnering much attention from consumers and the press.

“New to L.A. this year will be radio campaigns because that medium has a high index with Free Spirits, who are found in higher numbers in that market. Also new will be elevator advertising in L.A., and Sunset and AAA magazines inserts.”

But before 2008 comes, 2007 will go out with a bang. The Bryant Park Canada-branded ice rink is on the program for New York City, Flach comments. “Tourism Quebec will be sponsoring the Christmas tree, and it all starts November 27 with the lighting of the tree to kick off the CTC event. Ontario (OTMP) and Travel Alberta have also come onboard as partners. The Celsius Café at the Park will again be a great opportunity to create a vivid presence at Bryant Park. Plus, there will be a lot of on site activities like wine tastings, ice sculpting, a life-sized snow globe, and more.”

The US creative campaign launched in 2007 (known as the “Intrigue” campaign for its theme of creating involvement with consumers) will continue for 2008 with the intent of changing Americans’ perception about Canada.

“The issue with Americans has always been 'Canada is like the girl next door... it is nice but there is not particular sense of urgency or sexiness about it,’” concludes Flach. “The Intrigue campaign addressed that by highlighting select vacation experiences which are unexpected for Americans, and which really position Canada as an exotic, fascinating destination. So you can expect more amazing Canadian experiences to be featured in our global campaign as well.”

Voluntouring, Canadian style

(Originally published in TOURISM)

While turning the pages of any number of travel magazines these days, one word seems to appear more than any other: “voluntourism”. Whether it's Bill Clinton’s global trek, or Angelina Jolie’s ambassadorship, or the newest addition of the Lonely Planet family (Volunteer: A Traveller’s Guide to Making a Difference Around the World), to say nothing of a multitude of websites, volunteer vacations are in vogue.

More than that, they’re generating significant tourism revenue. A 2005 survey by the Travel Industry Association of America reported nearly one-quarter of travellers were interested in a volunteer or service-based vacation. In 2006, Euromonitor International projected voluntourism would be one of the fastest growing travel segments over the next three to four years.

When the subject is first brought up among Canadians, the reaction is often to associate voluntourism with people from affluent countries (like Canada and the US) travelling to third-world or stressed countries. To be sure, one can read innumerable articles about, as Condé Nast Traveler put it, “the age of virtuous travel,” and Canada hasn’t figured prominently. South America and Africa, on the other hand, have.

“When people think voluntourism” explained Rogier Gruys, product specialist at the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), “they think exotic. They think 'going to a village, building a well.'” Indeed, it appears that, because Canada is one of the world’s best when it comes to quality of life, we might have to work a little harder to attract the voluntourism market.

Or maybe not, suggests John Vanden Heuvel of WWOOF (which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms as well as Willing Workers on Organic Farms), the largest volunteer organization in Canada ( Vanden Heuvel says the WWOOF program, which asks travellers to share their organic farming skills in exchange for room and board, is thriving without carrying out any advertising whatsoever. “Our greatest PR by far is word-of-mouth,” says Vanden Heuvel. Service is paramount: “WWOOF is a people-oriented project. We’re not into making it bigger, richer, better. We offer a good service, a quality up-to-date product (including a 52-page booklet detailing the program), and we answer e-mails almost immediately.”

How, then, do we position Canada as a compelling voluntourist destination, given that Canada isn’t a country in need? Vanden Heuvel's answer may seem surprising; he dispels the notion that people's image of our country hinders our competitiveness in the global voluntour market: “We attract a lot of Europeans because of their romantic vision of Canada as a place of wide open spaces and unspoiled wilderness.”

On top of that, Vanden Heuvel states there’s a productive overlap between voluntourism and other contemporary trends, like ecotourism. And Beth Kelly Hatt of New Brunswick’s Aquila Tours Inc. agrees: voluntourism in Canada works, she says, so long as it has a green focus.

With products on offer such as whale-tracking off the shore of BC’s Great Bear Rainforest and monitoring carbon change in the Arctic ecosystem, Canada’s voluntours have thumbprints as green as they come. Available products give volunteers the chance to flex different skill sets: “Research is what people can do in Canada,” says Gruys. And though initially the word “research” might conjure up the thought of long hours spent pouring over university projects or crunching data at work, it can be far more exciting: voluntourism in Canada means all those things for which we’ve been known – land and nature – and all those things by which we want to be – people, adventure and story. From blue whale biopsies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to unearthing Canadian history at a Fortress of Louisbourg archaelogical dig, committed voluntourists can readily pursue their aspirations for a truly rewarding vacation.

The Rock: sense of place rings true for Canadians

Claude-Jean Harel takes in Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Charlotte Jewczyk, manager of market development and travel trade at Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, confesses enthusiastically that the domestic market has always been the highest producer for her province. “It is the Maritimes and Ontario, mainly. Lately, however, we have seen growth from Quebec and Western Canada.” More importantly perhaps, Jewczyk has witnessed an increase in expenditure from those markets. “Visitors are coming in and they are seduced by experiences which are a little higher-end. Because there has been significant investment in our accommodations infrastructure at that level, we are getting a higher return from those visitors. We are meeting the demand of sophisticated travellers who want the comforts — hard days and soft nights.”

Jewczyk also notes a sustained increase in cruise activity. “The cruise sector is a promising one for Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly for circumnavigation, because we have 27 ports of call. So cruise itineraries include communities where visitors wouldn’t otherwise be able to get accommodations on land. These are expedition cruises; I know cruise tour operators whose packages for 2008 are already sold out.”

So, why are consumers attracted to these types of experiences? Jewczyk says much of it has to do with the destination’s brand. “Our branding continues to serve travellers who seek enriching, soul-finding experiences. For a number of reasons, Newfoundland and Labrador delivers that in spades. Whether it is an encounter with a taxi driver or the home-made bread, or the fresh air, it is all of those multi-layered experiences they don’t get in the big city which seem to lure them.”

The other thing that speaks to Canadians in particular, according to Jewczyk, is the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. “It is reflected in our music, artwork and literature. Our books are read more, our artwork is seen more, all of which helps to promote the destination.”

Is there something exotic about Newfoundland and Labrador for Canadian consumers? “Absolutely,” answers Jewczyk. “I think we have come into our own as a mature destination that is off the beaten track. Our research says many clients come because they have always wanted to see Newfoundland and Labrador. Through our meetings and conventions, they are sometimes given an opportunity (through pre- and post-convention tours) to bring additional economic impact to our province.”

She explains how much of this success has to do with being authentic and experiential: “These are things which were given to us by nature, by geography, and by archaeology; (things like) our marine environment, our natural history, our people and our sense of place. There is a wonderful synergy about what Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer; it is a natural progression for us to inspire ourselves from that opportunity.”

And visitors seem to appreciate it. Jewczyk says the average length of stay in the province is between 10 and 12 days. “So we have a good return once somebody decides to come to Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no such thing as an accidental tourist here. Coming here takes a deliberate decision; you don’t just 'drop in' to visit Newfoundland.”

Nova Scotia looks to Ontario and the west for domestic visitors

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Like other Canadian destinations, Nova Scotia is feeling the downturn in the US market. According to John Somers, director of marketing in the tourism division at the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage, “the main culprits include the dollar and the continued reluctance of Americans to travel outside their own country and to Canada.”

He says it has been a year for domestic tourism: “The biggest increases we have seen have been mostly out of Ontario; I believe in the month of July we have seen a 19% increase in road traffic. That is kind of counter-intuitive to us, but we created profile with the “Ceilidh in the Capital” promotion we did in the Ottawa area this year.”

Somers believes the strength of these marketing efforts lies in identifying a target audience aligned with the CTC’s concept of the cultural explorer. “In conversations with our customers, the type of people who are interested in coming to Nova Scotia (particularly from a medium to long-haul market) are people who are genuinely interested in engaging with the destination to which they travel, experiencing the local culture. This is strongly wrapped up in a more conventional view of Nova Scotia’s great outdoor experience; it is that kind of combination which wins the day for us.”

Somers says research results show that a lot of medium-haul travellers still see Nova Scotia very much as a ‘drive’ destination. However, his department is working with a ‘gateway strategy’ to focus on growing air travel to Nova Scotia. He says his destination doesn't have huge budgets, but continue to put “a fair amount of money” in the US market because it still represents 11% to 12 % of overall non-resident visitors. “No matter what we do,” he says, “at the moment that market seems to be declining for most of Canada. We are trying to fill beds and get people here while exploring the idea of new markets like Western Canada. Of course, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes have always been important markets for us, so we are applying efforts there as well.”

Overall numbers are encouraging for Nova Scotia. A year-to-date comparison reveals a 1% increase in visitors for the period between the beginning of January and the end of August, largely attributable to an increase in domestic travellers. Numbers from the US are down 8%, and down 9% from overseas countries, but up 6% from Canada. The three Atlantic Provinces make up more than half the number of visitors to Nova Scotia and 10% of domestic visitors originate from Ontario.

Fourteen per cent of visitors come from Western Canada. “Certainly the economy in Alberta is booming to the extent there is going to be huge disposable income there,” Somers recognizes. “With Alberta's economic boom, there are a lot of people moving back and forth between the Maritimes and Western Canada.”

Bienvenue Québec adjusts to the future

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Organizations which ask themselves which directions they might choose in the future are often well on the way to ensuring their own sustainability. All indications are that Bienvenue Québec and The Association des propriétaires d’autobus du Québec (APAQ) are thriving as a result of this probing approach; this year’s edition of the marketplace included a session where buyers and sellers were asked a series of questions designed by François Chevrier from the École des sciences de la gestion (ESG) at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM):

“There is a will at the APAQ organization (Bienvenue Québec's owner) to allow the event’s formula to evolve,” according to Chevrier. He says APAQ is reviewing the event’s structure and is currently assessing the potential value of implementing additional components. “They have identified through their research the emerging interest in providing an even greater number of networking and knowledge-delivery opportunities for participants.”

APAQ was certainly keen on experimenting at Bienvenue Québec 2007 in Saguenay: it introduced a dynamic new roundtable concept which proved very popular, according to Marilyn Désy, the marketplace’s development and promotion coordinator. “This roundtable activity between sellers and buyers stems from sellers’ need to find out more about who the buyers are. Bienvenue Québec draws some big players, like hotel sector representatives, who know the buyers well. However, what often makes a difference in destination appeal are the small players and attractions that impart flavour to tour operators’ programs.”

During the Francophone Culture Tourism Carrefour, buyers moved around in pairs to 9 roundtables lasting 11 minutes each. Désy says many sellers in the past simply couldn’t afford to participate at Bienvenue Québec. “With this formula, the first day is devoted to francophone product, networking and market knowledge acquisition for marketplace participants in different sessions, while days two and three are regular marketplace days.”

The participating sellers certainly felt there was great value for them in this format. Pierre Derouin is executive director of Le Village Québécois d’Antan in Drummondville: “Because there were several buyers and sellers at the table, there seemed to be more ideas emerging and we received better answers to our questions. I certainly found the exercise useful.”

Julie Bouliane looks after customer service at the Parc national du Saguenay: “This is my first participation at Bienvenue Québec. I have attended other marketplaces in the past where we met our clients one-on-one, and I found it is easier to break the ice in this kind of a format. It prepares us for upcoming appointments; each participant benefited from a bit of time to introduce their activities, and we quickly moved on to asking relevant questions about what buyers are looking for. Within minutes, we had useful answers about offering potentially successful products.”

This sentiment was echoed by Catherine Boulay of ManiganSes, an international puppetry arts festival in Jonquière, who felt this was a less intimidating introduction to the tourism marketplace environment.

As APAQ’s Marilyn Désy notes, without a thorough understanding of buyer needs it is difficult for the sellers to maximize marketplace opportunities. “This type of activity encourages sellers to listen, so they gain a better appreciation for buyers’ business realities.”

Holistic approach to development at Charlevoix

When Daniel Gauthier (of Cirque du Soleil fame) bought the Le Massif ski resort at Charlevoix’s Petite-Rivière-Saint-François in 2002, he soon realized an elaborate development project would be needed to ensure its long-term prosperity. He wanted something that would transform the ski facility into a world-class four-season tourism operation, while preserving the landscape, the regional sense of place and the fabric of surrounding communities.

Diane Laberge is director of communications for Groupe Le Massif: “The concept evolved to include the planned development of a 150-room hotel at historic Filbaie farm, 20 kilometers away at Baie-Saint-Paul, along with a train station at the site providing rail service to shuttle hotel residents back and forth between the ski facility and the hotel.”

The rail shuttle is part of a grander tourist train plan linking downtown Québec City and La Malbaie (home to the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu). “At Baie-Saint-Paul, we plan to create a public plaza, a public market and a 500-seat show lounge,” says Laberge. She says the project will follow principles of sustainability which include the social aspects of development, aiming to provide quality, permanent employment opportunities for local residents: “We hope to bring about the kind of economic renewal that will convince the younger generation which has moved away to study or work, to come back to the region. We are working with local municipalities to create programs to give these people access to home ownership; it is more than a tourism project; it is a project with a genuine mission, a truly humanistic vision.”

The main elements of the project are scheduled to be functional by the summer of 2009, says Laberge, including the development of an aerial lift to take passengers disembarking from the train up to the base of the ski resort.

The project has caught the eye of many investors who have already launched their own development plans compatible with those of Groupe Le Massif. Olivier Lerun, executive director of Villa Marvic (owned by a France-based investment corporation), explains: "We have about 7-million square feet around Le Massif and we are seeking joint ventures to build hotels or hospitality establishments such as spas." The company's first creation is a 7,000 square feet luxury rental home with 200,000 square feet of yard space overlooking the St. Lawrence. Its heating system is geothermal, with windows designed to filter sunlight to minimize the use of air conditioning in the summer.

The Groupe Le Massif is well aware of just how compelling its project is for other developers, given how much the principles of sustainability upon which it is based resonate in consumers’ mind today, says Diane Laberge: “We don’t have all the answers yet. Sustainable development is central to our business model, but it will take us a few years to get there. Like many, we are still learning how it is done.”

Laberge hopes this approach will position Charlevoix as a model of beneficial practices for world tourism, an approach which is music to the ears of François Gariépy of Tourisme Charlevoix. “What is important about this project for the Charlevoix region and the province is that Mr. Gauthier is committed to respecting the fact that Charlevoix is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. He is committed to not changing the Charlevoix landscape and he agrees all new construction must not be higher than the tree tops at Le Massif.” Gariépy notes the project even includes using Le Massif as a scientific research park where Canadian advanced technology companies in the fields of sustainable energy will be invited to relocate at Le Massif.

Tourism at Charlevoix is, in itself, a heritage industry, and the new developments reflect that. The tourist train will provide an unparalleled panorama for travellers along the St. Lawrence. It will stop at villages like Les Éboulements and Ste-Irénée along the way, and will go all the way to the Pointe-au-Pic pier where the legendary steam-powered “floating palaces” called White Ships used to come, carrying high society members from New York, Toronto and Montréal at the turn of the last century.

“The project aims to attract Europeans in particular,” Gariépy confides. “We have started to send out feelers, and I am pleased to report we are getting positive responses from Canada as well. People are much more attuned to the spirit of this project than one might have believed initially.”

Canadian product needs refreshing

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Jonview’s Claire Bessette looks after the group travel segment for Canada, and both group and FIT products for Atlantic Canada. She has gained some valuable insight into what's “in” and what’s “out” in the motorcoach and group sectors, where that which is fashionable always seems to win the day.

“For Europeans, coming to Québec seems not so much in vogue these days, while Asia and Eastern Europe are more alluring. The fact Eastern European countries have opened up is very tempting for European travellers considering a multitude of factors like proximity, jet lag and price competitiveness (especially on air fare), says Bessette. “When we look at Thailand, which suffered as a destination following the tsunami, we see they are doing everything they can to bring tourists back home. This includes offering hard-to-resist products and high quality experiences.”

However Bessette notes that, as destinations go, Quebec is in a bit of a unique situation because of the linguistic dimension which is so rich in opportunities for motorcoach tour operators and suppliers: “I look after the francophone European group market, which includes France, Belgium and Luxembourg. My sense is that suppliers today must be extremely imaginative and inventive. We have to instil in people abroad a longing to come here. We must create the need to visit Québec and Canada now,” she says.

“We are not what we could refer to as an ‘at risk’ destination. There is no rush to come here; 10 years from now, Canada will still be there, as stable as it has ever been,” Bessette continues. “That’s the picture in people’s mind. Whereas in the case of places like China, people might think: ‘I should go to China before things change.’”

Bessette believes Canada is not perceived as exotic at the moment. “This is a perception we must change. We must become exotic, and we need everybody’s help in doing that. The tourism industry is in constant evolution; we must follow market trends. If we don’t, we will die.”

A bright future predicted for Canada’s motor coach sector

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Motor Coach Canada president Brian Crow writes in the November issue of Bus Ride Magazine (to a mainly American audience) that despite many challenges, Canada’s motor coach industry will keep growing.

“Coach operators in Canada face many, if not all, of the same issues US carriers face: low rates; subsidized competition; lack of awareness of the value bus companies add to the transportation system; image in the eyes of the public and government decision makers; taxes and permits; level of ridership; unfair competition from a minority of unsafe operators; operational issues such as congestion in major cities, fuel costs, seat belts, hours of service, CVSA inspections, fires, anti-idling laws; new technology such as GPS, EOBR, onboard cameras, engines, maintenance, parking and access to certain cities and parks. The list is endless.”

The majority of Canadian bus companies are family owned and operate with strong local roots, says Crow, and many began years ago by first providing school bus services, and passing the business down from generation to generation. Several older Canadian bus companies began with a four-horse stagecoach and five family generations later are operating fleets of 400-horsepower motorcoaches. However, the consolidation of the 1990s through today has greatly reduced the number of these family-owned enterprises. The industry is moving from family-owned to corporate-owned.

“While no statistics exist, Motor Coach Canada (MCC) estimates approximately 275 companies operate an estimated 3,000 motorcoaches throughout the Canadian provinces. Scheduled inter-city coach services in Canada had revenues of just under $400 million (Canada), with charter and contract at just over $550 million,” Crow writes.

“Canada experienced a decline in scheduled passenger services similar to the US over the past two to three decades, as low airfares and the love of the car absconded with many former motorcoach passengers.

“Greyhound is the dominant scheduled service carrier in western Canada and Ontario. Coach Canada also operates major scheduled services in Ontario, Quebec and into New York along with charter operations. Orleans Express is the major scheduled carrier in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. In the areas around major cities the scheduled carriers serve a large commuter base as well. Expanding city and regional transit authorities turned many short distance inter-city movements into a transit operation, displacing private carriers to more distant city pairs.”

Crow notes that Japanese tourists discovered Canada in the 1990s and created very significant business for coach operators, but with the devaluing of the Yen in the late 1990s, that business peaked and dropped slightly. He predicts that emerging markets such as China and India may lead to a growth in Canada’s inbound tourism. “If so, this will increase business for coach operators and receptive operators. Mexico and Brazil are growing markets as well but are still showing relatively low numbers. Many indicators suggest the US tour market to Canada will remain flat and well below the levels enjoyed in 2000 and 2001.”

From a charter, perspective growth is inevitable, Crow believes. “Canada just needs all its carriers to adhere to compensable rates to improve their return so they can invest in new coaches and services.

He believes the Canadian bus and tour industry is going to get better. “Canadian operators foresee a renaissance of coach travel as the result of highway and street congestion, cost of fuel, environmental sensitivity, expansion and development of more bus-only lanes, changing demographics, immigration (immigrants generally come from countries where bus travel is preferred and more acceptable), fewer taxpayer dollars available to subsidize rail and public-owned transit, technology (with the coaches themselves, with internet ability to show more people what today’s coaches are like and with how we reach more customers) and owners that will not settle for meager returns on investment.”

Fruit Growers Gather In Saskatoon

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The 20th annual Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association (SFGA) conference will be held during Crop Production Week in Saskatoon. The conference is set for January 11 and 12 at the Heritage Inn.

"The conference will reflect where the industry is going at this time," said Charon Blakley, Executive Director of the SFGA. "As the industry develops, growers are looking at marketing and branding as key elements."

The two-day agenda features numerous speakers, including Terry Ackerman, a business developer and brand builder with both a multinational corporate and co-operative background. Ackerman will be providing growers with insights on branding Saskatchewan fruit to set it apart and to gain recognition in the local, national and international markets.

Saskatchewan Agriculture will be presenting information on the history and future of the industry in Saskatchewan. The conference will be kicked off by Clarence Peters, who was Saskatchewan's Provincial Fruit Specialist for 27 years prior to his retirement, and will discuss how the industry has developed. Current Provincial Fruit Specialist Forrest Scharf will address the delegates during the opening night banquet.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for personal networking during the event.

"Sometimes, that is every bit as valuable as the sessions themselves," Blakley said. "We can learn from professional people, but we learn an awful lot just from networking with others who are doing the same thing as we are."

The agenda has been designed to deal with the interests and issues of everyone in the sector, according to Blakley.

"For people just starting out, with something like a u-pick operation, we have the raspberry and strawberry workshop," she said. "In crops like saskatoons, the most advanced sector for fruit, marketing both nationally and internationally is increasingly important."

There will be two sessions on the potential for haskap, also known as honey-berry or blue honeysuckle, which is just beginning to develop as a commercial crop in Saskatchewan. The University of Saskatchewan's Eric LeFol and Bob Bors will present information on both crop development and the potential market for haskap exports to Japan.

The SFGA currently has about 160 members, and continues to develop new information and networking opportunities for members.

"That's one of the major advantages of being a member of the association. People like to hear how other growers are doing and how they are succeeding," said Blakley. "For instance, at this conference, we'll hear from Marie Bohnet of Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery."

Complete information and registration forms are available on the SFGA website at

For more information, contact:
Charon Blakley, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Fruit Growers Association
Phone: (306) 743-5333

Reducing Cattle Feeding Costs

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

With grain prices on the rise and margins shrinking for cattle producers, the time is right to look at the advantages of feeding lower grade grain such as light test weight barley.

Earlier this fall, cash prices for 1CW barley were as high as $167.12 per tonne, or $3.64 per bushel. Prices have dropped slightly and are currently about $153.00 per tonne, or $3.33 per bushel (in-store Saskatoon).

"With these higher prices for heavy feed barley, lighter test weight barley purchased at discounted prices may be an attractive option for cattle producers," said Saskatchewan Agriculture Livestock Development Specialist Bryan Doig.

This year, barley harvested in many locations across the province had lighter bushel test weights due primarily to dry conditions and high temperatures during the month of July.

"Many feedlots apply significant discounts for lighter barley and often refuse to purchase barley that is lighter than 42 pounds per bushel," said Doig.

Doig cites research done at the University of Alberta that compared the performance of feed steers fed finishing rations containing light test weight barley to rations with heavy barley.

"There were no differences in average daily gains or days to finish, comparing 34.5 pound, 47.3 pound, and 51.3 pound barley in finish feedlot rations," said Doig. "There were no differences in carcass weights, dressing percentage, rib-eye area or back fat depth between the three barley weights."

According to the Alberta study, steers gained an average of 3.6 to 3.7 pounds per day with a start weight of 867 pounds and a finish weight of 1162 pounds. It took 6.29 pounds of dry matter to get one pound of gain for the light barley, compared to 5.9 pounds of dry matter to get one pound of gain for the heavy barley.

"The dry-matter-to-gain ratio was six per cent higher for the light barley," Doig said. "The light barley contained more fibre and less starch than the heavy barley."

Doig notes that the main problem producers may encounter with light test weight barley is the variability in kernel size, because small kernels mixed with large kernels can make rolling the feed a challenge.

"Barley should be milled or ground to increase its digestibility," he stated. "This usually increases the feed efficiency by 20 per cent or more. Breaking the barley into two or three pieces is all that's required to expose the starch."

These findings are important, since 2007 is looking like a record year for the prices of top grade grains of all varieties. As a result, the feed grain market will be under pressure over the next several months, and innovative approaches will be required to manage feeding costs, especially in a time of flattening cattle prices.

"Lighter test weight barley at discounted prices could help offset high feed grain prices, it's that simple," Doig said. "This may provide an opportunity for producers to reduce feeding costs for wintering cows, backgrounding, and finisher calves."

For more information, contact:
Bryan Doig, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone: (306) 446-7477

A Natural Fit Suggests Bright Future For Can Pro

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Can Pro Ingredients Ltd. Of Arborfield is currently taking the necessary steps to establish the first commercial implementation of a new canola processing technology. The technology was made possible through acquisitions deemed a natural fit for the company.

After the recent acquisition of business assets and operations of Arborfield Dehy Ltd. (ADL) and licensing of proprietary canola processing technology from MCN Bioproducts Inc. (MCN), Can Pro Ingredients Ltd. Is in the process of transforming ADL's existing alfalfa processing plant into a multi-product processing facility.

"The acquisition was necessary to provide the base for the production facility," explained Todd Lahti, President and CEO of Can Pro Ingredients. "We acquired these assets and now we are expanding the production facilities that exist there, so it was a faster route than starting from scratch."

He says the combined operations are larger, more diversified, and more flexible than either alone.

"Arborfield Dehy Ltd. Has been operating the alfalfa business since the early 1970s, so when looking for a place to start this new canola business, it was beneficial to start it where there was existing infrastructure in place," said Lahti.

Lahti added that there are certain pieces of equipment that are utilized in the ADL business that are also utilized in the canola processing scheme and that they are planning to put to work within the new facility.

The expansion of the facility is expected to be complete and commissioned by May of next year. In addition to alfalfa, Can Pro will be processing canola. They will be crushing seed and using the licensed new canola processing technology which fractionates canola meal into a series of higher value products.

The infractionation process is a home-grown canola technology invented at the University of Saskatchewan and commercialized by MCN to employ in Saskatchewan's most productive canola region.

"This new venture is a synergistic combination of existing infrastructure and new technology," said Lahti. "Our value-added processing model accesses multiple input crops, maximizes infrastructure utilization, injects proprietary technology, and produces a diversified product line for international feed and industry markets."

"The canola meal is a low-value byproduct right now. MCN's patented infractionation process takes canola meal and fractionates it into multiple byproduct streams, creating products of much higher value than canola meal," explained Lahti.

"The canola meal has been an undervalued product for years with limited utilization. Therefore, fractionating the canola meal into other products opens up new markets for canola protein that previously could not be accessed. The new market suggests that more value is generated from the starting seed."

Can Pro has also attracted attention from biofuel manufacturers who have byproduct streams in need of further processing. The company's total seed utilization and multiple input materials approach to canola and alfalfa provide a model to enhance the economic viability of the biofuels industry.

"One of the problems with the biodiesel economic model is that they get little value from the meal. Our model extracts much greater value from the meal, which then allows better economics for the overall biodiesel manufacturer," Lahti suggested.

"Combined with unique local inputs, our model provides a risk-managed, sustainable, competitive advantage for our new company. If bio-refining is the wave of the future, this is an important step."

For more information, contact:
Todd Lahti, President and CEO
Can Pro Ingredients Ltd.
Phone: (306) 651-1930

Soil Disturbance Can Increase Anthrax Risk

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle producers considering improvements that will result in excavation in certain pasture areas are being advised to strongly consider vaccinating their herd for anthrax before going ahead.

"Anthrax spores come from the soil, and disturbance means higher risk for livestock in the immediate area," said Bob Drysdale, Resource Management Specialist with the Lands Branch of Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Saskatchewan Agriculture closely monitors disease and environmental conditions across the province to maintain optimal health and range conditions for its Saskatchewan Pastures Program (SPP). The program comprises some 54 community pastures representing 846,000 acres of grassland. The program serves approximately 2,500 patrons, who graze 125,000 cattle and calves.

"After the anthrax outbreak in 2006, SPP regional managers required cattle in anthrax risk areas to be vaccinated before entering the pastures this spring," Drysdale said. "By working proactively with the Pasture Patron Advisory Committees, SPP came through the 2007 pasture season without any anthrax-related cases, even with the repeated wet conditions in northeastern Saskatchewan this summer."

In late August, the pasture program was advised by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of an anthrax case in Cherry Grove, Alberta, near Cold Lake. Pasture managers were immediately notified of the risk, with an extra caution for the Beacon Hill and Bluebell Pastures just across the border from Cherry Grove.

"The basis of the Cherry Grove incident was traced to excavation," said Drysdale. "Since there was a case near Lloydminster in May and one near Bonneville the previous summer, this indicated a risk for anthrax in the northeastern area of Alberta. This case has real implications for SPP and livestock producers in risk areas of Saskatchewan."

With the risk ever-present, and the potentially devastating consequences for producers of any large-scale anthrax outbreak, Saskatchewan Agriculture is urging caution and the incorporation of prevention into plans for pasture improvements.

"If producers are planning excavation work such as buildings, dugouts and water pipelines, they should consider vaccinating if there have been anthrax cases in their areas," said Drysdale.

"Talk to your local veterinarian about anthrax. Their knowledge of conditions in your region will help decide whether vaccinating for anthrax is appropriate for your situation. With the herd out of the pasture for winter, now is the time to consider vaccination, before excavations begin in the spring."

For more information, contact:
Bob Drysdale, Resource Management Specialist, Lands Branch
Saskatchewan Agriculture
Phone : (306) 787-5173
E-mail :

Sunday, December 2

Are online agencies losing competitive edge?

(Originally published in TOURISM)

TravelMole's Bev Fearis reports that the balance of power in the online travel market is shifting from online agencies to suppliers, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

The consultancy group says over the past 12 months, online travel agents have lost their competitive edge while suppliers have been able to take control of their inventory and make use of high speed broadband internet connections. Airlines and hotels are in a strong position in a market where price and convenience are still the crucial differentiators, the group believes.

Malcolm Preston, partner and travel sector leader explained: "Suppliers are now providing the lowest-cost bookings available on the internet. Those suppliers which have sufficient scale will continue to see more and more bookings made through their own sites. It's the smaller operators that will become the key clients of the aggregators."

Preston says loyalty schemes for hoteliers and reward points for airlines are proving to be very successful and provide the online supplier with another advantage over aggregators. "Aggregators struggle to provide anything significant to ensure customer loyalty. Discounts are one option but this comes directly off the bottom line. If they want to give a free flight, they have to first purchase it from the supplier."

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP believes all online travel players will need to be more creative in the future, for example expanding into theatre tickets, restaurant bookings and theme park entry for example.

Its findings are published in a new report, called "The Distribution Revolution: the growth of supplier-only sites has been at the expense of the online aggregators".

2008 Business Travel Outlook predicts increase in Canada's travel spend

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Hospitality Trends reports Canadian companies will increase their travel spends by a solid 4.2% next year, while placing greater emphasis on green programs and expressing a stronger interest in the video options of demand management, according to the 2008 Business Travel Outlook.

This analytical white paper was produced jointly by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) and the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC). It formed the basis of a keynote presentation by Alexander Fritsche, Economist for the CBOC, on November 20, 2007, the final day of the ACTE Canada Education Conference in Calgary.

The top three reasons cited for higher travel spending were: a greater number of international trips to destinations other than the US, rising travel prices, and growth in domestic travel. Based on survey responses from 43 major Canadian companies, the report predicted travel managers will face tougher negotiations in 2008 over higher hotel room rates, and to a lesser extent, rental car rates. Corporate airfares for domestic travel and trans-border travel to the US are each expected to edge up by an average of 1.2% over 2007.

"The survey also revealed the growing influence of corporate social responsibility and environmental issues in shaping corporate travel policies. Nearly all the companies interviewed for the report said their organization had embraced corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a corporate goal. This is a remarkable increase from a similar survey conducted two years ago. CSR has been a key ACTE initiative since 2005," notes Hospitality Trends.

"The idea of using video teleconferencing as a travel alternative is also gaining traction in Canada. The motivating factors driving this concept are savings, better technology, and a higher quality of life from the increase in personal time not spent travelling."

The study did confirm that the majority of Canadian organizations continue to recognize the critical role of face-to-face meetings in the way they conduct their business.

Study says gays and lesbians are a "dream market" for tourism

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to the results of a survey reported in TravelDailyNews (November 20, 2007), lesbians and gay men are a dream market for the tourism industry.

The report says 94.1% of over 6,700 American survey respondents to Community Marketing's 12th Annual LGBT Tourism Study stayed in a hotel at least one night in the last twelve months, with the median respondent staying 14 nights in hotels during that period. A hotel's reputations for gay-friendliness was cited as the top influence for choosing a hotel, followed by location near tourist attractions, location near a gay neighborhood, and free high-speed internet access.

77% of respondents said they shop for hotels and book online, while 29% said they book accommodations by phone or in person through a travel agent or directly with the supplier. 86% of respondents took at least one flight (up slightly from 2006) with a median of six flights in the last 12 months. 81% said they shop and book their flights online.

Other key findings from the study include gay and lesbian interest in adventure travel (41.8%), spa vacations (36.1% ), educational tours (31.6%), culinary trips (29.7%), eco-travel (26.2%) and casinos (22.8%). 25% attended a Gay Pride celebration where they stayed overnight, making it one of the most prominent "gay motivators" for taking a trip.

65% of respondents are gay men, 28% are lesbians, and the remaining 7% identify as bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. The median age of respondents is 46.

Family travel growing in significance and scale

(Originally published in TOURISM)

US family travel continues to be on an upward trend, according to research carried out in the last two years by various companies, including Y Partnership (formerly Yesawich Pepperdine Brown & Russell) and American Express. According to a Y Partnership study, family travel represents one way to bring back to families a sense of cohesion in a "contemporary world that is increasingly dominated by the demands of work."

As to the type of vacation families are looking for, a 2006 poll conducted by American Express showed that agents are increasingly booking outdoor, active, adventure family vacations. Norman Howe of Canadian boutique travel company Horizon & Co. notes that it's landscapes, natural wonders and wildlife ("especially whales") that give Canada a competitive edge. "The trips we run with World Wildlife Fund-Canada are popular because they combine social responsibility, extraordinary wildlife, stunning landscapes and family fun," says Howe. "The conservation workers whom we meet are inspirational, and there is something uniquely powerful about sharing Canada's natural wonders with your children and seeing it all through their eyes."

Canada's timeless image as a safe haven also adds to its family appeal. "The notion of Canada as an easy and safe destination is also important in the psychology of family travel," explains Howe. 'Safe' may seem boring for some kinds of travel, but for family travel it's essential."

Saturday, December 1

Heli-skiing in Canada tops the list for European luxury travellers

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to a survey commissioned by Luxury Travel magazine (Europe), heli-skiing in Canadaias the adventure of choice for today's discerning traveller, topping this year's poll. Treks in Iceland and the Arctic Circle snowmobile trail were also ranked high, along with adventures in warmer climates such as climbing Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica and walking safaris in Zambia.

Commenting on the poll, contributing editor Yasmin Razak said: "86% of readers reported an increase in client demand for adventure travel over the past 12 months, with the biggest growth coming from families. "While skiing and safaris are among the perennial family travel favourites, today's discerning traveller is looking to add an adventurous twist to their holiday with the family in tow, while maintaining high standards of service and comfort."

Luxury Travel caters exclusively to the buyers of luxury travel products, covering trends and new products that directly affect those who book packages for upmarket, discerning customers.

Meeting planners find smaller is more productive

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A report published in TravelMole by David Wilkening finds a majority of meeting planners think small groups are far more productive than larger-scale gatherings, according to a recent poll.

"More than 55% said they believed the biggest advantage of small meetings over large groups is that they are more productive. Second in the poll at 22% was the idea that small meetings are easier to plan with fewer people to keep track of," notes Wilkening.

Small meetings offer other benefits, according to Laurie Sharp, president of California-based Sharp Events. These include the level of creativity, personalization and interaction among attendees.

The survey came out of a webcast themed "Bigger Isn't Always Better: Learn How and Where to do Small to Midsize Meetings Right."

Tired of flying? Motorcoach travel still has appeal

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to a report by TravelMole's David Wilkening, a recent study by Travelocity shows nearly two-thirds of air travellers would avoid using that mode of transportation if they had a comparable choice, leading the way to a possible resurgence of another form of travel: buses.

Greyhound Lines Inc. says it has spent $60 million over the past three years to freshen up its fleet of 1,250 buses and its largest terminals.

Patty Herbeck, Greyhound's director of marketing, said the company has refurbished more than 900 buses with new seats and paint jobs and spruced up 125 of its roughly 940 terminals by repainting, renovating restrooms and adding plasma-screen televisions in waiting areas.

Noting Greyhound has earned its status as North American icon, Herbeck said. "When you're 93 years old, you have to remind people who you are and what you stand for. We're trying to tell them the look and experience of Greyhound has changed."

Greyhound hasn't launched a major national advertising campaign in years. The company now plans an advertising campaign designed to bring back former customers and attract new riders between 18 and 24, and Hispanics, according to company officials.

Greyhound officials say the makeover is part of an upgrade that began in 2004, when the company eliminated many small-town stops and routes to speed up service between larger cities, says Wilkening. Ridership declined after Greyhound eliminated about 1,000 destinations in 2004, although sales are up 15 to 20% on the remaining routes. The company said it carried 19 million passengers last year and had sales of $1.2 billion.

Online leisure and unmanaged business travel continues to grow in USA

(Originally published in TOURISM)

According to PhoCusWright's U.S. Online Travel Overview Seventh Edition, the US online leisure/unmanaged business travel market continues to grow at a pace that far outstrips the overall travel market's rate of growth. The online leisure/unmanaged business travel market will surpass US$94 billion in 2007, over one-third of the total travel market (which includes offline leisure/unmanaged business and on-and offline corporate travel). PhoCusWright expects growth rates will continue to be at or near triple the rate of growth of the entire travel market through 2009. However, growth has slowed, especially at online travel agencies, which have seen their packaging sales come to a near standstill in some cases.

Quebec ski sector faces challenges

(Originally published in TOURISM)

A report by Jean-François Gagnon published in La Tribune says Quebec's ski sector faces serious challenges. A document obtained by Gagnon outlined a presentation to members of a Station Mont-Orford visioning committee by Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Tourism Chair Michel Archambeault, calling attention to the decrease in the number of ski operations in Quebec since the beginning of the 1980s.

Gagnon writes: "There were 116 ski operations during the winter of 1981-1982, and only 99 ten years later. Today, there are only 80 left. There are more cooperatives, municipalities and non-profit organizations running ski operations than there ever were. These account for 50% of facilities still in operation, and that percentage is likely to increase in coming years."

Meanwhile, the number of users of those facilities has not dropped in the last 10 years: "For instance, during 1996-1997, there were 5.9 million cumulative ski/days reported, which is about 500,000 less than there were last winter," Gagnon also notes.

Gagnon reports that Archambeault's presentation explained how factors like aging and climate change might affect the use of ski operations in the future, as will a predicted shorter ski season. To compensate, the organizations which run ski operations will need to look at new snow condition enhancement systems that can perform in higher temperature environments.

"It is estimated that around $80-million will be required to improve Quebec's snow-making systems, and about $100-million are needed to improve the mechanical lift infrastructure," Gagnon writes. "The problem is that current ski operation revenues make this prohibitive."

On a brighter note, Gagnon writes that Quebeckers' environmental consciousness may favour those ski operations which put sustainable operational practices to the forefront. This would have the potential to lure new client segments.

Canada booming for business travel

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Although it may come as a surprise, when TravelMole's David Wilkening asks the question "what is one of the fastest growing international markets" the answer includes Canada.

That's what a National Business Travel Association (NBTA) survey said. It has ranked Canada in the top 10 as one of the fastest growing international markets. The report ranks the top 10 destinations outside of the US with the highest potential for growth in corporate travel spending in 2008, according to Wilkening's report.

The rankings put China in the number one spot, followed by the UK, India, Mexico, France, Germany, Latin America (excluding Brazil and Mexico), Canada, Japan and Brazil.

The NBTA survey also found that business travel will continue growing in 2008, though the rate of growth will level off somewhat; published airfares will increase six to ten percent over 2007, published hotel rates will increase from five to seven percent; and overall travel costs will increase from six to eight percent, Wilkening notes.

Canadian Atlas Online gets an upgrade

(Originally published in TOURISM)

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launched the second generation of its Canadian Atlas Online. Maintaining the Society's tradition of bringing Canada's geography to life, the 2007 edition of the online atlas boasts an expanded inventory of timely thematic modules, including climate change and the rivers of Canada. Content is richly illustrated with slide shows, narrated video vignettes and animated graphics, along with games and interactive questionnaires. The site's popular mapping tool currently features 1:50,000 scale data, providing users with street-level detail.

First launched in April 2005, The Canadian Atlas Online marries the ancient art and science of cartography with state-of-the-art technology. Fully bilingual, it attracts up to 500,000 page views each month. Detailed maps combined with thematic sections weave the stories of Canada's people, culture, environment, history and heritage together into a compelling celebration of our nation.

Record year for oat production

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The latest figures from Statistics Canada show that this year's oat production on the Prairies could be at the highest level in three decades.

Saskatchewan's oat production is up 44 per cent from last year.

The Statistics Canada survey of over 3,000 Saskatchewan farmers pegs oat production in the province at 2.5 million tonnes.

Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission Executive Director Jack Dawes says strong market factors are driving an increase of over 35 per cent in harvested acres.

"The big thing is that oat prices went up quite substantially, and that, of course, always drives acres. The other thing to keep in mind is that oats have been one of the few profitable crops over the past few years," Dawes said.

"Partly because of the need for lower input costs, oats have been a real solid crop. Of course, there has been a lot of good export demand from the United States, so that has helped keep prices up."

The big American millers, including companies like General Mills and Quaker Oats, are major purchasers of Canadian oats.

"We grow the best oats, and there are very, very few oats of any quality being grown in the States. Since the early ‘90s, Canada has been the go-to market for the big players," Dawes said. "Right here in Yorkton, we have Grain Millers, and they have several plants in the U.S. So there are very strong customers for Canadian oats."

While production was up, Dawes says yields could have been better.

"From all indications, oats have been no different than any other crop in that what looked like big bushels back in June haven't panned out," he noted. "A lot of that has to do with the heat. My guess is that yields are going to come in somewhere around average, but the bushel weight is going to be down."

Some external market factors suggest that oat prices and the oat market will remain strong, with even an outside chance this year could actually see Canadian oats exported to Europe. Analysts predict that a bad crop year in Europe and an end to the European export subsidy for oats could create import demand for the Canadian product.

"There are always a number of factors, but it seems like a lot of them have come together at a good time for farmers who are looking to sell oats," said Dawes.

There are an estimated 14,000 oat producers in Saskatchewan, but the volume of oat production still pales in comparison to canola, barley and wheat.

The Statistics Canada survey also showed significant production increases this year in other crops. Pea production is expected to be about 2.4 million tonnes, thanks to a record harvested area of 2.9 million acres. Barley production increased by more than 850,000 tonnes to 4.3 million tonnes, with a 29-per-cent increase in the harvested area.

Statistics Canada will release final production numbers in early December.

For more information, contact:

Jack Dawes, Executive Director
Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission
Phone: (306) 744-2775

Food safety management for beef producers made simple

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Cattle producers have the tools and the know-how to prepare their cattle for market free of drug residues, thanks to the practices outlined in the Quality Starts Here/Verified Beef Production (VBP) program.

"The program provides the latest knowledge to assess and improve on-farm food safety," said Jodie Horvath, Provincial Co-ordinator for VBP in Saskatchewan. "It helps cattle producers keep up to date with good production practices in their operations, and supports improved efficiency."

The Verified Beef Production program manual outlines standard operating procedures on the use of animal health products, medicated feed and water, control of pesticides, and cattle shipping.

A key recommendation is that producers keep a permanent record of all individual and group medical treatments of their herd. The record should include details such as date, animal identification, product used, route of administration, withdrawal time, and who administered the treatment.

"The manual provides sample records to help you get started," Horvath said. "Animal identification is a must-do step in order to clearly link the animal with its treatment or vaccination record throughout the duration of its withdrawal period. Group or pen identification can be used in the case of group treatments."

Another important record-keeping practice is to double-check that all drug withdrawal requirements have been met before cattle are shipped to slaughter or to the next owner. The manual suggests that treatment records should be initialled once the producer has verified the withdrawal date.

Producers can avoid some potential issues by taking simple steps, such as storing their animal health products according to label instructions, which normally means avoiding extreme cold or heat. It is also important to make sure that syringes and other equipment deliver the intended amount of product.

"Sometimes we see producers using treatments in ways that are not in keeping with product labelling," Horvath noted. "This so-called ‘extra-label use' includes use on species or under conditions not listed on the label, using different dosages than specified, or using the treatment via an inappropriate route, frequency or duration."

The VBP requires that, in cases of extra-label use, there must be a vet prescription for the treatment. This prescription should include withdrawal times appropriate to the product's use.

The manual also deals with "what-if" situations that may arise.

"For example, if a needle breaks, you need to identify the animal and record the incident in a permanent record," Horvath stated. "The next owner must be notified. Or, if the wrong product is administered or if the dose is wrong, you should contact your vet and record it to make sure the animal meets its withdrawal time before shipping for slaughter."

At this time of year, it is common for cull cows to be shipped if they have turned up open during pregnancy checks. Concerns can arise if they have been given health products in the two-month period prior to shipping.

"Some of the common topical treatments for parasite control require a 49-day withdrawal period before slaughter," said Horvath. "Separating the culls from the rest of your cows before treating the herd is an easy way to avoid any accidental treatments."

Producers can learn more about these procedures and the manual at Verified Beef Production program workshops, which will be scheduled at various locations this fall and winter.

"The workshops last about two hours, and include time to go through the manual and discuss its requirements with qualified VBP trainers," said Horvath. "I welcome questions about the program from anyone who wants more information."

For more information, contact:

Jodie Horvath, Provincial Co-ordinator
Saskatchewan Verified Beef Production Program
Phone: (306) 675-6177

New pricing strategy for mustard capital inc.

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Mustard producers now have the option of choosing from three new pricing contracts when selling their product to Mustard Capital Inc. (MCI) in Gravelbourg.

The dry mustard mill began operating a few weeks ago, and produces flour, oil and bran products. MCI has created two averaged-priced contracts that will give producers the opportunity to share in the upside of price surges in mustard markets.

"These changes were necessary due to the current volatile market," said Tom Halpenny, CEO and member of the MCI board of directors. "Currently, mustard prices are fluctuating, creating uncertainty."

Halpenny explained the three pricing contract options available to farmers.

The first option allows producers to take a spot price on delivery, which is very similar to what is offered traditionally. The prices offered will fluctuate daily, and if a producer likes the current price, he or she is able to book into a purchase agreement.

The second option allows producers to average the daily prices from the time the contract is signed to July 31 of the crop year in which the average is calculated, with delivery based on MCI's call.

The third option allows producers to select one of four 60-day pricing and delivery periods beginning on December 1, 2007, with price averaging during that time frame and guaranteed delivery.

Halpenny says the new pricing options give producers the opportunity and flexibility to participate in future price rallies. "Producers are able to lock in a minimum price, which would be paid at the time of delivery," he noted. "Then, we pay the amount owing if the average is greater than the minimum price. This process allows producers upside potential if the market increases, with no downside risk."

Yellow mustard has topped 40 cents per pound this fall. For producers who think the rally will continue, the price averaging contracts will be enticing. MCI hopes these options will attract long-term suppliers who will provide the company with the stability it needs in the tough international market for food ingredients.

Halpenny stated that MCI has recognized two deciding factors with respect to pricing options. "We want to secure our supply, but we recognize that producers want to extract as much value as they can from the marketplace. Our pricing options match these objectives," he said.

For the averaging options, the minimum price is paid at the time of delivery, with the amount owing being paid within 10 days at the end of the averaging period. Average price is calculated using Stat Publishing's daily posted price, which is the average of five brokers' daily spot prices.

All of the contract options include paid storage from the time the producer signs an agreement until the time of delivery.

The volatile prices in the mustard market are the result of decreased supply. Although mustard acres in Western Canada were up this year, production was average when combined with the carry-over from last year.

Production from this year still leaves less supply than was available last year at this time. As well, production declined in eastern Europe, further decreasing supply. Consequently, with limited supply, prices are trending higher.

More information regarding pricing contract options can be obtained by contacting MCI at (306) 648-2799.

For more information, contact:

Tom Halpenny, CEO
Mustard Capital Inc.
Phone: (306) 648-2799

Maximum value from equine health funding

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

Equine health research is getting a major boost with the latest funding from the Equine Health Research Fund (EHRF) to the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The EHRF is providing $225,000 to several research and training programs at the college. It is the single largest annual amount ever awarded by the 30-year-old fund. The investment will be used in three major areas, according to Dr. Norman Rawlings, WCVM's associate dean of research.

"The fund is supporting three of our residents," Rawlings said. "They are veterinary graduates who have come back to do specialized training in some aspect of equine medicine or surgery. They are tomorrow's specialists and researchers."

In addition to the training component, the funding will also be used for research projects that are aimed at increasing knowledge of equine medicine.

"The faculty members apply for the funds, and an external committee composed of people from other colleges reviews the applications," Rawlings said. "They would be projects to do with fertility and management of reproduction, orthopaedic surgery, and several in the area of infectious diseases and immunology."

Another important aspect of the WCVM research effort is the fellowships offered to undergraduate students.

"Last year, we had some 43 undergraduates working in the college, in a laboratory, with a professor, on some sort of research project do with veterinary medicine," said Rawlings. "We see this as a means of getting students interested in research and graduate studies when they leave the college."

The Equine Health Research Fund has helped the WCVM become a national centre for horse health research and specialized training. It has resulted in the training of many equine specialists who are working in clinics across Western Canada.

"The reason this fund was set up was to foster equine research with the WCVM," Rawlings noted. "We regard this as start-up money for research projects, but we encourage faculty to go outside and look for other sources of funding once they get rolling."

The EHRF is administered by the college, but is entirely dependent on grants and donations from outside the university.

"We get donations from horse clubs, individual owners, clinicians and some of the racing associations, as well as the endowment which makes grants from its interest earnings," Rawlings said. "We have a standing offer of $100,000 in grants from a private foundation over the next four years if we can find a matching amount from other sources. So we are always looking for participants in this two-for-one campaign, and we welcome new supporters."

There is always information on the activities of the Equine Health Research Fund in the college's Horse Health Lines magazine. Anyone interested can also find more on the WCVM website, at

For more information, contact:

Dr. Norman Rawlings, Associate Dean of Research
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: (306) 966-7068

Workshop focuses on nutrition and management for organic beef

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

"Better Beef - Better Returns" is a workshop that is designed to assist organic beef producers with returns on their cattle by optimizing nutritional performance and improving management decisions.

Craig Klemmer, a Livestock Development Specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food (SAF), says the workshop will give organic livestock producers tools and instruction, allowing participants to take home the material and apply it to their own agricultural operation.

The course will be separated into two sections. The first part will cover nutrition balancing, while the second segment will focus on management.

Nutrition balancing will address the issues of creating a balanced ration, allowing producers to maximize the performance of their cattle based upon the available feedstock. Cattle owners will be able to compare different rations so that they can determine the best gain and return from the feed.

Instructors will address the importance of producers knowing their individual costs of production. Using management calculators, producers will determine their cost per pound of gain, including all overhead and operating costs associated with cattle production.

"I would highly recommend that organic producers feeding cattle in Saskatchewan enrol in this course," Klemmer said. "They will receive a lot of good information that will allow them to improve both the animal and financial health of their operations."

The course will be offered in Saskatoon on January 18 to 20 at the University of Saskatchewan, and in Yorkton on January 23 to 24 at the Parkland Regional College. Registration is $575 per person, which includes all class material, software and follow-up support. It is a Canadian Agricultural Skills Service (CASS) registered course, and limited space is available at both locations, so producers are encouraged to sign up early.

Registration forms are available on the SAF website at, or by calling the Agriculture Knowledge Centre 1-866-457-2377.

For more information, contact:

Craig Klemmer, Livestock Development Specialist
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone: (306) 953-2772

Agriculture Knowledge Centre
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Phone : 1-866-457-2377

Winter feed concerns require careful management

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

You've cut and baled your available forages and put your feed grains into storage. But you're still concerned you might be tight for feed this winter, and your budget, as always, is pretty thin. What can you do about it?

Getting through the winter when feed for your herd is scarce and expensive means getting the most out of every forkful.

It is really an ongoing management strategy in well-run and profitable operations where production costs are constantly pared to the bone.

Planning ahead from the first sign of trouble for available winter feed - considering both quality and quantity - can get the bulk of the herd through the cold season without spending too much money or sacrificing productivity the following year.

In order to help cattle producers manage the challenging task of wintering a herd with a limited feed supply, the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS) has devoted one of its many "Cattle FACS" fact sheets to the subject.

"The information we provide through these fact sheets has been developed by committees of cattle care experts with specific knowledge in each of the topic areas covered," said FACS Executive Director Adele Buettner. "Our organization has offered to co-ordinate the effort, produce the material and make it as widely available to producers as possible."

The first strategy the fact sheet recommends is to match feed nutrients to animal needs. This means saving the best quality feed for after calving, and the next-best feed for 60 days before calving. Boosting feed during cold snaps is also necessary, particularly for young or thin cattle.

Segregating cattle by their feed requirements can reduce over- and under-feeding. For example, mature cows in good condition will need fewer nutrients than bred yearlings or rebred two year-old heifers.

"Animal feed experts always advise producers to test, don't guess," said Dr. Murray Jelinski, FACS director and veterinarian at the University of Saskatchewan. "In other words, feed test and balance rations based on actual nutrients in the feed." Vitamins, minerals, protein supplements and mixed-in grain should be introduced as required, particularly for young, growing or thin cattle.

The second strategy recommended in the information is to minimize the herd's overall feed requirements. For example, use herd records to identify and keep only the best breeding cows or replacement heifers. Pregnancy test and consider culling open cows, hard calvers, poor mothers or those with bad feet, legs, udders, eyes or temperament.

Employ a body condition scoring system to manage the herd's rations, and manage feed to reduce waste. "This could include something as simple as feeding on clean snow, feeding under a hot wire, or grinding and mixing with more palatable roughages," Jelinski said. "Whatever works to get your cattle through the winter."

Experts also suggest treating for external parasites such as lice and warbles, since they lessen a cow's health and increase feed requirements. Internal parasites may also be worth treating, on the advice of a veterinarian.

The third strategy recommended in the fact sheet is to maximize the value of the feed supply. Supplement low-quality roughages like mature range grass, slough hay, stubble and straw. They are too low in protein (and energy, minerals and vitamins) to support sufficient microbial growth in the rumen for optimal digestion.

"Evidence shows that proper supplementation of nutrients and grain will allow animals to get much more value out of the same feed," Jelinski stated. "When formulating rations, it's always a good idea for producers to consult their veterinarians, a provincial agriculture specialist or an animal nutritionist."

Feed experts note that grinding coarse or poor quality feeds can increase feed value by increasing intake. Mixing with moderate quality roughages will increase palatability and dilute anti-nutritive factors like nitrates, as well.

The Cattle FACS fact sheet on how to manage a herd through winter feed shortages can be obtained from the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan's website at or by calling 249-3227.

There are a number of other good resources on the subject, including the websites of Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, the Western Beef Development Centre and the Prairie Feed Resource Centre of the University of Saskatchewan. Another good source of information are the livestock nutrition experts at the SAF Agriculture Knowledge Centre. They can be reached toll-free at 1-866-457-2377.

FACS is a membership-based, non-profit organization that represents the livestock industry in advancing responsible welfare, care and handling practices in agriculture. It endeavours to raise producer awareness of the economic and ethical benefits of animal welfare and to help consumers achieve a greater understanding of animal care issues.

For more information, contact:
Adele Buettner, Executive Director
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: 249-3227

Little Horses are a big passion for Parkbeg producers

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

A mutual interest in miniature horses sparked a marriage and a 20 year business for Dennis and Donna Russell, operators of Double D Miniatures in Parkbeg.

"Donna got into them in 1981," says Dennis Russell. "I was working bigger horses and then a friend of mine bought some miniatures. She was showing them and I was showing for a friend of mine, and that's how we met and got married."

The result was the Double D operation, originally established in the Wolseley area, but now located in Parkbeg.

Miniature horses are literally small copies of the well known larger breeds. They represent everything from draft horse types to elegant Arabians in look and colour, and can be found with the look of the appaloosa, pinto and many other variations.

Miniatures are shown right across North America, and sold as pets, therapeutic animals, and often seen in parades, exhibitions and at petting zoos.

Dennis Russell has seen an evolution in the breeding towards a slimmer and longer legged animal.

"At one time they were short-legged," he says. "You buy good stallions to put some leg under them, and then they look like small versions of full-sized saddle horses rather than a short, stocky draft horse."

Standards for breeders are established by the American Miniature Horse Association, which sanctions shows, including the World Championship, across North America. Dennis and Donna Russell normally take in five or six shows per year, showing their horses in several categories. They are proud to have had a national championship with a stallion in the under-28 inches category at Tulsa in 2005.

The Russells are running about 50 head of miniatures, of which some five or six are being shown in any given year. Showing and selling are closely linked.

"You're trying to sell horses all the time," says Dennis. "The show circuit is in spring and summer, and the better you do, the more you can sell."

The Russell herd includes stallions, mares, geldings and foals. They range from 25 to 32 inches in height at the shoulder, and come with names like "Shirley's Gem," "China Doll," and "Meadow Pussycat."

"We've made sales from the east coast to the west coast," says Donna Russell proudly. "Our horses went to Nova Scotia last year and to Washington state this January."

Many of the miniatures are sold as pets, which brings a price of several hundred dollars. Breeders looking for the best stock will pay thousands for the right animal. In Saskatchewan, there are at least 45 members of the provincial miniature horse club. Sales are generally conducted privately through contacts made at shows or on the Internet.

For the Russells, small is big. Along with the horses, they sell mini-carts in a sulkie style or even a tiny grain wagon, along with the harness required for the miniatures to pull the carts for shows or pleasure rides. They are also breeders of registered Yorkshire Terriers, the teacup-sized puppies that grow into the perfect lap dog.

They welcome inquiries about their horses, carts, and dogs at or at 355-2399.

For more information, contact:
Dennis and Donna Russell, Owners
Double D Miniatures
Phone: 355-2399

Alpaca Breeders Working Together To Build New Markets

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The young alpaca industry is pulling together through a provincial network and a national co-operative to find markets for their unique fibre product.

Alpacas are a domesticated version of a species that arose in the South American highlands, in the camelid family. They might be called "small llamas," in that they superficially look like a llama, but are much smaller. Unlike llamas, which are used as beasts of burden in their home countries, alpacas are raised only for their fibre.

"Alpacas were a hidden secret of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile for thousands of years," says Lynn Hilderman, who operates Country Vista Alpacas with her husband Don on a farm near Duval. "The first herds in North America and Australia only date back to the late 1980s."

Like sheep, alpacas are raised to be sheared, and their soft fibre is used for weaving various fabrics. Alpaca fibre grows in over 50 natural colours and many grades of softness and toughness.

"We shear them once a year, in April," says Lynn Hilderman. "It can be done anywhere from April to June. Then the new growth is enough to protect them from the summer sun, and there's lots of time to grow their heavier coats for winter."

The Hildermans are running some 36 head of their own, and caring for another 50 stock that will be sold on consignment for other producers. They have been in the alpaca business for 11 years.

"They are easy to raise," says Hilderman. "The animals are gentle, inquisitive, friendly, and intelligent. They don't eat much and don't require that much attention. They live up to 25 years and reproduce pretty much through their whole life cycle."

For producers, the challenge to make the industry viable is building markets. To that end, they have formed the Saskatchewan Alpaca Breeders Network (, which represents a majority of the 50 active breeders in Saskatchewan.

"You can enter at many levels, from just keeping a couple of fibre-producing males, to a group of mixed females, to top quality bred females," says Hilderman.

The SABN exists to share expertise and success stories and to promote alpaca fibre here at home and elsewhere. Members recently organized displays and sales at the Sask In Demand trade show held in Saskatoon, and their annual alpaca show was held in Nokomis.

Now alpaca breeders from across Canada are coming together in the Canadian Camelid Fibre Co-op ( to market their product.

"The co-op was formed to provide quality assurance and uniform classes of fibre," says Lynn Hilderman. "This created certified classes of fibre so that you have consistency of colour and grade when it goes to the mill. As a result of the availability of large lots of uniform fibre, our products are now much softer and more durable."

Alpaca fibre is woven into a long list of products, from sweaters and scarves to insoles for winter boots. Hilderman says the industry continues to evolve, and the current players are looking for new entrants.

"We need more members supporting the co-op with more fibre," she says. "Canada is not a fibre-producing nation on the order of Australia or England, where their experience allows them to adapt to the market very quickly. We are still doing trial and error, although we have begun to produce some really beautiful Canadian-made alpaca products."

Hilderman welcomes inquiries from fellow producers, those interested in joining the industry, and anyone who would like to know more about alpaca fibre products.

For more information, contact:
Lynn Hilderman, co-owner
Country Vista Alpacas
Phone: 725-4337

New Lab Means More Leading Edge Research At WCVM

Source: Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food

The opening of the new Westgen Research Suite at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine is another leap forward for a facility with a long track record of producing results for livestock producers in Saskatchewan.

WCVM dean Dr. Charles Rhodes says the new lab will provide an enhanced base for the work the college has been known for over the past 30 years.

"The suite is primarily going to be concerned with research related to animal reproduction," says Dr. Rhodes. "It will focus on the common livestock species such as cattle, swine, sheep and horses."

The name of the new research suite honours Western Canada's Genetics Centre, a B.C.-based non-profit society owned by producers which promotes the development and use of assisted reproduction in dairy herds. Westgen contributed $640,000 toward the cost of the new laboratory building. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provided 60 per cent of overall funding, and the remainder was funded through Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food.

"This is a tremendous improvement for us at the college," says Dr. Rhodes. "It provides added space that we need for research and for graduate students. More importantly, it provides the very latest equipment and dedicated space to do really cutting-edge research in this area."

The Westgen Research Suite comprises facilities such as cell culture rooms, storage space for liquid nitrogen, and more than $1.5 million in specialized equipment. It will also host scientists from the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources Centre, which is dedicated to preserving the diversity of genetics in Canadian farm livestock.

The new lab completes a research wing of some 1,468 square metres that is certified to handle lower-level biohazards such as food pathogens. It represents part of a multi-year expansion and renovation project at the college.

"Earlier this summer, we opened the Animal Care Unit, which is where we house the research animals - everything from mice to cattle," says Dr. Rhodes. "Beyond that, we have expansion of our clinical resources, and we're working on our diagnostic laboratory right now. It'll be a year and a half to two years before the entire project is completed."

In all, some $57 million will be spent to modernize and expand the WCVM facilities.

"We will have an increase of about 25 per cent in space and a renovation of a quarter of the existing space," says Dean Rhodes. "It's a huge, complex project, because we're trying to keep our clinics running, our diagnostics lab running, and our student teaching continues during the midst of all this."

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine today boasts enrolment of over 400 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled, and annual researching funding of more than $10 million from both public and private sources.

"Really, what you're talking about is enabling good people to do good things," says Dr. Rhodes. "In order to attract outstanding students and outstanding staff you need to have the facilities and equipment that they can apply to modern research."

For more information, contact:
Dr. Charles Rhodes, Dean
Western College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
Phone: 966-7448