WESTERN FARMERS FACING SPRING WITH COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE BASED ON FACTS
M. D. GEDDESMay11923
WESTERN FARMERS FACING SPRING WITH COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE BASED ON FACTS
BUSINESS & INVESTMENTS
M. D. GEDDES
i\'Ianager, the Farm and Ranch Review~ Calgary
THE West is still a young man’s country and youth and optimism are synonymous. The old saying, "You can’t keep a good man down,” applies with equal force to a good country.
It is common knowledge that conditions in the West have been abnormally bad, and yet the buoyancy and hope that return with definite indications of spring are again with us. The average western farmer faces the future with courage, real deep-seated, resourceful courage, the kind that turns failure into success.
There are many good and substantial reasons, particularly amongst? livestock men, for the faith that is within them. “The worst is past,” “We have turned the corner,” “The dawn of a new day is here,” these and similar sayings are expressions one hears from the leading stock men.
To give a few specific instances: W. L. Carlyle, manager of the Prince of Wales’ ranch, south of Calgary, recently left for Great Britain to purchase more shorthorns and a few thoroughbred stallions and before leaving told the writer that he had made a number of very satisfactory sales at good prices.
Again, one of the largest combined ranchers and buyers of live stock in Western Canada in conversation the other day said: “There is a real dearth of good cattle for western requirements alone, and at present none is going East.” He regretfully stated, however, that “in certain localities there are still some feeder cattle being shipped into the U. S., which at this time of year, so near grass, is most unfortunate.” His opinion is that prices for quality stock will slowly and steadily stiffen. •
Then, George Lane, one of the pioneer cattle kings of Alberta, whose experience in ranching covers a period of forty years, has unbounded faith in the livestock future of the West. He feels that the removal of the British embargo will be of great assistance even to the West, particularly if the Dominion Government regulates land and water transportation rates. His advice to young stockmen is, “Stay with the business, as I do not think there is any place in Canada, or in the United States, where better cattle or horses can be raised and certainly no place in either country where they can be raised as cheaply as in Alberta. The last four years have been the worst for the rancher in my experience, but I feel absolutely sure that this business will come back in splendid shape and that before long.”
Co-operative Marketing and Leases
A LIVE stock co-operative marketing plan has recently been inaugurated by the United Grain Growers which many stockmen feel will prove beneficial. The project provides for a well planned scheme of co-operative pooling of livestock for shipping purposes, covering the three prairie provinces. The thought that brought this scheme into being is the wellknown fact that certain classes of livestock can be sold to better advantage on some markets than on others; thus the demand and consequently the best prices, rarely, if ever, exist on any one market for all classes on any given day. Farmers naturally ship mixed carloads and these are to be graded and sent where the market seems most favorable. The plan, if properly conducted, seems feasible and western stockmen appear willing to give it a thorough test.
Another reason why many of the large stockmen are more hopeful is that the leasing problem is more settled. A year ago government leases were in a most unsettled condition, whereas now, with one or two exceptions, they have been renewed so that big stockmen feel they have a new lease of ranch life. .
Deeded land is still not used to any considerable extent for ranching purposes on an extensive scale.., Take land that is somewhat rough, a considerable distance removed from railways and value it at, say, $15.00 per acre, which is perhaps a fair value, and it would entail an annual oyenhead of about $1.20 per acre for interest. Add to that municipal, school and other taxes which would mean at least twenty. cents additional, and compare it with leased land which costs four cents per acre with an average tax of three cents, or seven cents in all, against $1.40. It is, therefore, easily understood the reaí value lease land is for extensive operations and how the big fellows felt a year ago when many leasing privileges were likely to be terminated.
During the period of uncertainty of lease renewals the livestock market was steadily sagging, consequently the big stockmen of the West suffered enormous losses and many of them, fearing the government would not grant renewals, slumped their stuff, including breeding stock, for whatever it would bring. But even when this was going on there were men of faith who reached out to the very limit of their credit, selecting the best that was being offered and on the rising livestock market of to-day these men begin to see a comfortable-profit.
WESTERN Canadian farmers have never had a greater opportunity than at present to establish high-class grade and pure-bred herds and flocks. This is the greatest opportunity to select and purchase at low prices and there appears to be no question but that livestock prices are bound to advance. One good feature of the depression is that there has been a tremendous amount of culling done, but there is also a weakness and it is the tendency to be niggardly in paying the necessary price to get the best sires. Quality always counts, but in times of depression it is often the only thing that makes sales possible.
All classes of livestock except hogs have advanced since this time a year ago. The outlook for young, sound draft horses, fourteen hundredweight, or more, is better than it has been for several years. There is a demand for them in the lumber woods of B. C., also in various eastern towns and cities in addition to those required for the natural growth of the prairies.
More Interest In Dairying
THE dairy branch of the livestock industry is, however, the most en' couraging of all, and this is a sign of permanency. One very prominent breeder of Holsteins told the writer a few days ago that the demand for dairy bulls was very much better than a year ago. Buyers of cream state that numbers of localities that never shipped cream before are now shipping considerable quantities. The truth is there is less dependence on the one crop system and a greater interest is being taken in diversified farming.
Dairying, however, would be far more profitable and far more popular were it
not for the “boarder” cow. We have far too many cows giving 4,000 pounds of milk per annum, yet in every locality we have examples of farmers who through breeding, feeding and management have doubled or even trebled the average production capacity per cow with practically no increase in cost items. These men are outstanding examples of what can be done by using intelligent judgment combined with hard work and thrifty habits. They are financial successes even in this period of depression.
A growing percentage of western farmers are beginning to endeavour to make their farms more self-contained, that is, produce their own vegetables,,butter, eggs, bacon, mutton, etc. Greater attention is also being paid to fodder crops, trench silos, and more thrift in general.
Tfye truth seems to be that although western agriculture, in common with agriculture in 'other places, has passed through a very trying period, yet, except in isolated localities where drought, hail or some other unusual hardship have been encountered, a fair living has been made.
Some farmers have left, it is true, but these mostly have been misfits or have suffered as already mentioned, or have been unfortunate in becoming overburdened with unpaid land holdings purchased at inflated valúes. The average farmer with a half section, free of encumbrances and with a fair amount of western experience, has had little difficulty in tiding over the depression, although of course he is not satisfied because he has not made the progress which his labor and experience justly entitled him to.
When we think to the root of the matter it is only natural that during the re-adjustment period, agriculture should be hardest hit for the reason that farmers have no voice in fixing the sale price of their products, and consequently are unable to shift their economic load onto the shoulders of the consumer. Canada, however, in this respect is as well off as any . other land. To cite a concrete example, a few days ago a farm sale was held thirty-five miles from a railway which was exceptionally well attended and fair prices were realized. The general feeling seemed to be “Let us get anything we require for our spring work.”
' Western Grain Shipments
HE movement of grain westward has also added some encouragement to Alberta grain shippers and these farmers really are the ones who have suffered most. They are farthest from eastern tidewater, consequently hit hardest by freight rates and are the last to get their grain out. The new route is a great blessing to them and when the West gets the next big crop, as it will sooner or later, it will be of great benefit to the entire West. The crop last year, although the largest ever har.vested in the West, was not a big crop on basis of acre yield. It was big because the acreage of the West is steadily expanding. And yet we all know the great difficulties that were encountered in getting it to market by way of the Great Lakes. The Port of Vacouver is open twelve months of the year and with freight rates westward more on a basis with rates eastward, practically all Alberta grown grain and a little from Saskatch-' ewan should be marketed via the western route. This would greatly assist in relieving congestion on east-bound shipments and would lessen the grain volume going through United States channels, thus increasing Canadian industry and pres-
tige, which is a point that should be kept constantly before us.
It is common knowledge that dividend earning railroads haul freight both ways. Long trains of “empties” pile up big expense bills. Up until the present Pacific coast traffic to the prairies has exceeded west-bound shipments. Canada is a wide country from coast to coast and anything that can be done to laydown thenecessary foreign goods as cheaply as possible at the doors of our consumers and to transport their surplus products economically to the markets of the world is bound to create confidence. Up to the present we of the further west, have attempted to haul our incoming freights practically clear across a continent from eastern tidewater, and shipped our out-going produce by the same lengthy route. This must be modified and the more it is modified economically the greater the benefit to farmers of the further West.
Wheat Board and Financing
MANY farmers are also looking with hope to the formation of a Wheat Board in time for the 1923 crop. It is most doubtful whether a Wheat Board under present conditions will be of any benefit to them, but the mere knowledge that, the prairie governments are looking into a solution is creating confidence. Others hope that the present extensive grain marketing companies, organized and financed by western farmers, with headquarters at Winnipeg and Regina, will amalgámate into a real co-operative marketing company, while still others hope thatAaron Sapiro, that wizard on agricultural co-operation, will be able in someway or other to improve co-operative marketing in Western Canada. There is a movement on foot at present with this object in view, but what \yill come of it remains for the future to unfold.
And now we come to the most difficult part of all, namely, the neccessary finances required to seed and carry the 1923 crop to completion. Of course a very large percentage has the necessary equipment, yet there are quite a goodly number not so fortunate. A real measure of tolerance on the part of creditors is essential. In fact the creditor is serving his own best interest in most cases by strengthening the morale of the agricultural debtor. It is pretty generally conceded that the average western farmer’s paper is gilt-edged as long as he remains on the job. There will be exceptions, of course, but in the main that is true, therefore our national interest apart from the call of humanity, demands that everything possible should be done to keep the farmer and his farm intact as a going concern. What will the attitude of the banks be on this crucial point? Bank managers will telLyou, or most of them will, that they purpose, to go the limit with those who have shown any desire to ce-operate with them in the past.
Last year’s crop substantially reduced the indebtedness of the West, yet many for various reasons need assistance for seed, feed or horse pqwer. Will they get it? Many will, but some won’t.
At the time of writing, early in April, the weather outlook is very encouraging. Sections of Alberta which are inclined to suffer from lack of moisture are getting more than their usual allowance at this season. There has been rain in places with two quite heavy coverings of wet snow in others which slowly melted and largely sank into the land, as the surface is unfrozen. The general feeling seems to be that the law of averages will make 1923 a wet year.
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