Failing farm rebounds with diverse ideas

GIRVIN, Sask. – A decade ago, the Manz family used money saved from

family allowance cheques to invest in their future on or off the farm.

Tim and Janice Manz, now both 42, decided to send Tim to auctioneering

school. They also approached the Farm Debt Review Board to get out from

under heavy debts and gave up the home quarter at Girvin, Sask., to

reduce their payments. They have since bought it back.

Tim worked for others before launching his own auction house, Manz’s

Auctioneer Service, which today hosts about 24 auctions annually. His

wife and brother have since joined the auctioneer ranks.

Sales are usually held on Saturdays to fit around other farm work that

starts with cattle and ranges to meat packing.

Cattle were a first love for Tim, a licensed livestock buyer.

“I can only sit in a tractor for so long,” he said.

A late spring sowing of feed grain allows him more time to work with

cattle and auctions. Cattle are sent to a Prairie Farm Rehabilitation

Administration pasture during the summer.

Hard work, diversification and “Dad” were all offered as reasons for

the family’s current comfort levels.

“The only way to survive is to build a quarter mile from your dad,”

said Tim, noting their future plans are tied to his father’s retirement


The family maintains about 125 cow-calf pairs and operates a 350-head

feedlot that does some backgrounding and finishing.

They have an assortment of pets and animals for their own use, like

pigs, chickens, goats and herding dogs. They grow mainly feed on about

1,100 acres of land and summerfallow in a 50-50 rotation.

They avoid costly drugs in their animals and have all but eliminated

chemicals in their fields for health and economic reasons.

“Cost was a factor,” said Janice.

“We couldn’t see the bottom line. It didn’t make sense to us.”

Poor crop prices led them to plant only feed grain last year. That

allowed them to reap savings by avoiding freight costs.

Their other businesses include trucking livestock, with both Janice and

Tim holding Class 1 licences.

They also operate a slaughter and meat packing facility, “a farmgate

business” servicing the local community.

Orders are called in steadily this morning. A machine warms fresh

coffee, and nine chairs are pulled up to an oversized table in the

family kitchen.

The Manzes have three teenaged boys, and regularly entertain visitors

and 12 employees from their varied businesses. Tim’s father pops in for

a rest from chores this day.

The couple like working with people, agreeing it is the most enjoyable

part of the auction business.

“If we quit it tomorrow, we could say we met a lot of people,” Janice


The couple feels they work well together and with others.

“It’s working because we enjoy what we do. If you have fun in what you

do, you do a good job at it.”

She said they finish each day on good terms by settling things and

discussing the next day.

“Everything is hashed out before. If we’re going to make it work, I

have to work with my husband. We are very dependent on each other.”

Tim calls Janice his business partner. “I don’t get into the books and

she doesn’t get into buying,” said Tim, who handles the livestock sales

and checks with her on financing.

The children also help out with chores, especially when one or both

parents are away. Each gets $10 per kill in the farm slaughterhouse.

Tim said their diversification was born of necessity: “There’s only one

goal and that is to make enough money to live.”

Having hands in so many pies means plenty of full-time work for Janice

at the farm after a decade commuting to a banking job in Davidson.

Her hand is regularly needed in the fields and livestock yards and

plant, in addition to bookkeeping work. Days seldom end before midnight

for the Manzes, who hire friends to clean their house each week.

“We are very busy,” said Janice. “You get in a rut and you go with it.

You don’t think about it, you just do it.

“Ten years ago, we were struggling so hard that once you get going you

want to keep the ball rolling, ’cause you don’t want to go back.”

Janice took a community college course in 1993 in business management

to help develop a business plan and give her ideas to sustain the

family and the farm.

That spawned the feedlot business, initially launched with money from

investors. Their credit rating was restored, which assured them of

loans at the bank again, Janice said.

Their boys are still charting their futures, which Janice hopes

includes a taste of life beyond the farmyard.

“I want to encourage them to see the world first. I wouldn’t want to

pressure them to be a farmer here,” said Janice.

For the immediate future, the couple can see further expansions in

their feedlot, but not their land base.

“I can make just as much money off the yard as off more land,” said Tim.

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