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