Low incomes real problem
Regarding Deb Smith’s letter to the editor in the April 23, 2020, issue about business risk management programs not working: the letter does not state anything new. Politicians set up things like the AgriStability program to paint a great-looking picture. It has no long-term to it, but it appears great.
The current situation regarding farm incomes and monstrous sizes would not be occurring if farmers’ incomes over the last 50 years kept up with the rest of the economy.
For example, 50 years ago, the wheat total income price was $2.25 per bushel. A loaf of bread was 10 cents. Minimum wage here in Saskatchewan was $1.25 per hour. A quarter of land or a new self-propelled combine cost $15,000.
Today a bushel of wheat might get $5. A loaf of bread, cheapest, is $1.60. Minimum wage is almost $12 per hour. A quarter of land is at least $250,000, partly because of out-of-province allowed ownership. A new self-propelled combine would be $500,000, for a starter unit.
Politicians, no matter provincially or nationally, are always talking that everything should be equal. In their dreams, and they do know that truly. Over the years, smaller communities have lost some of their businesses. People, including farmers, have to travel to ever-larger communities with larger businesses to obtain inputs or sell their produce. Ever increasing size is not necessarily better. And the farm support programs, including AgriStability, do not follow that bigger is better trend.
Salt blocks play an important role
The thing that caught my eye in this article was the statement “some cows don’t get enough free-choice minerals,” and I just had to reply.
This can sometimes be an easily rectified problem. It is common knowledge that cows need the right mineral supplement, but unless it is measured into a silage or grain ration, quantity received per cow is unknown.
After an outbreak of white muscle disease in British Columbia a half century ago, we turned to a trace mineral formula with selenium. Unfortunately, with feeding hay in the field and the minerals separately, we had no way of judging the intake.
What many of us turned to then was a more sure way of making sure each cow got some mineral into her. The trace mineral salt block with selenium was available in the U.S. at that time, so our government eased the restrictions and allowed importation. A couple of versions of this salt block are available in Canada now.
We found that when these blocks, and only these blocks, were available at all times, on the range and at home, year after year, all our problems disappeared and never re-surfaced.
We know the opinion is out there that “a cow could never get all the mineral she needs from a block.” We know, of course, that mineral needs will differ from area to area, but we found in our area if these blocks are constantly available, at all times, the cattle are healthy.
Sometimes cattle will go through these blocks like they are candy, but you have to keep them available. I think that the one thing ranchers do, and this should be guarded against, is letting salt blocks run out.
Oliver, B. C.