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 :