Farm Equipment- Up Close and Personal

Just outside the Big Top tent, you will be able to see John Deere’s 2010 Front-wheel assist Tractor with front end loader and grapple fork that is used on many farms for handling the round bales, manure and other daily chores.

Behind that tractor is a brand new John Deere big round Baler – these bales can weigh up to 900 kg (one ton) and are used to feed livestock and horses. Farmers use this machine to bale such crops as straw and hay.

An innovative machine can also be seen by the Big Top - the John Deere Tracked Tractor which uses rubber tracks instead of tires. The benefits of this tractor are that it makes less of a footprint in the fields (between rows) and causes less compaction than most wheeled tractors.

Inside the tent you will find a vintage crop duster. This plane was used to spray the crops in order to prevent disease and control pests which may adversely affect yield. This plane is provided by the Aerospace Museum of Calgary. Also at this display you can find video and information from the Alberta Aerial Applicators Association.

Also in the tent at the International Agriculture booth you can see a vintage horse drawn rig, provided by Will Irvine. This would have been used by past generations to transport people and supplies before the advent of the automobile. Come check them out!

What’s for dinner, Part Two?

We have talked about the cereal crops that make up a good chunk of your dinner menu, let’s talk about the main course…the meat!

Your first stop in the Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City tent should be the Alberta Beef Producer’s booth, just inside the north entrance. Our beef is world famous for a reason – it is the best beef anywhere. You will have many opportunities on park to try it for yourself, as most of the Stampede concessions are part of the ‘Grown Right. Here.’ commitment.

You will see a Speckle Park steer in this booth- the Speckle Park breed is a fairly new cattle breed, and was developed in Saskatchewan in the 1970’s. In 2006, this breed has been recognized as a distinct breed of purebred cattle by Agriculture Canada.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg…it will depend on which way you are walking! As you make your way into the Ag-Tivity tent you will see the Alberta Chicken Producers’ and Alberta Egg Producers’ booths. These are both great sources of protein and provide an important part of a well-balanced diet. The Associations’ representatives will be happy to answer any questions you have about these valuable parts of the agricultural community.

This reminds me of a great question I have been asked by many schools over the years. How does a chick get out of its egg? When a chick is about two days away from hatching (19-21 days after the egg is laid) it develops a hard tooth on its beak. It then begins to tap on the shell for many hours before the shell actually breaks and allows the chick to emerge. The tooth falls off shortly after the chick hatches.

If you love pork, ham or bacon, be sure to check out the Alberta Pork Producers’ display. Stop by and talk with local producers who will explain all about the pork industry and you’ll discover how this nutritious food source gets to your plate. You will even get to see pigs of all sizes.

And don’t forget to visit the Alberta Lamb booth. This producer group provides not only meat (lamb chops and mutton to name a few) for our dinner table, but also the wool that we use in socks, sweaters, blankets and the many cozy items we need to survive Alberta’s chilly July nights!

What’s for dinner?

The six main crops produced in Alberta are wheat, durham, barley, flax, peas and canola. If you look at your dinner table, this list makes up a big part of your dinner every night and you can learn more about them in Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City.

Let’s start with the wheat. At Agrium Ag-tivity in the City, you can see a mill turn wheat into flour, which is the main ingredient in most breads and baking. A common question I’ve been asked is what makes up all purpose flour, and there is only one ingredient – milled wheat.

As well you can see the process barley seed undergoes to become pearl barley – which involves removing the hull from the barley so that it can be used more easily for cooking and also can be turned into flour (commonly used in pancakes and some breads). Pearl barley is a main ingredient in Western meal-time favourites such as hamburger soup and Scotch broth.

In our post from Wednesday, July 14 “Everything you ever wanted to know about Agriculture” we discussed the importance of the Canola industry to Alberta and many of the products that are derived from this crop. Check out that post for more details.

Flax is a specialty crop and is used in foodstuffs and is high in fibre and healthy fat, and low in carbohydrates. Flax seeds can be added to yogurt, cottage cheese or smoothies and is a great addition to baking, and pizza or bread dough. Flax can also be turned into linseed oil, a main ingredient in paint.

Durham is another form of wheat and is the main ingredient in pasta; some of my favourites like spaghetti, ravioli and the eternal stand-by Mac and Cheese wouldn’t be part of dinner without durham.

Peas need little introduction – on their own, in the pod or in soup and many other dishes, they are a staple of a balanced dinner.

And of course, our chicken, pork and beef wouldn’t make it to the table without these crops being part of their balanced diets.

When you visit the Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City tent, you will also see the Twister grain bin, the primary means of storing these crops on the farm after harvest and before shipping to the grain elevators. Inside you will see models of past and present grain handling facilities and learn about their operation. Also on park, the Grain Academy in the Upper level of the BMO Centre is a great stop if you want to learn more about the field to fork process in the crop production business.

Remember all the farming and crops involved when you sit down to dinner tonight!

Everything you ever wanted to know about agriculture…in Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City

I was visiting the Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City tent just next door to the Agriculture buildings and wanted to share the amazing variety of agricultural information and hands-on, interactive displays.

At the south end of the tent was the Canola Learning Centre. The huge interactive screen will teach you all about the crop that provides us with everything from healthy cooking oil to an alternative fuel source, biodiesel. You can see the process that transforms canola seed into fuel in the Biodiesel Trailer. Kids can also play in the “seed” box – agriculture’s version of a sandbox, and learn more about one of the most important crops in Western Canada.

Just beside the Canola Learning Centre you will find the Swine display, representing the hog industry. Stop by and talk with local producers who will explain all about the pork industry and you’ll discover how this nutritious food source gets to your plate. You will even get to see pigs of all sizes.

These are just two of the many agricultural education opportunities that are available in the Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City tent – we will tell you more about it in the next blog!

Check out the traditional techniques and athletic competitors under the Big Top

Ranchers have traditionally used horses to herd and care for their cattle and the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition celebrates that rich history, which originated in the southern US.

The skills are still in use today on some ranches, and the competition dates back to the early days when bragging rights on the best horse, and even their bloodlines, were at stake. I am sure wagers were made about which horse performed the best, and this tradition has evolved into the high stakes competition we have today where over $50,000 can be won by youth, non pro and open competitors.

After a discussion with my friend Christine Sowiak, chair of the Western Performance Horse committee, I gained a far greater appreciation for the history of the Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic.

Celebrating the athleticism of the horse, this competition has roots in the horse training traditions of the California vaqueros, as far back as the 1700s. The competition includes a reined work pattern, where the horse maneuvers through a series of maneuvers including figure eights, straight runs, lead changes, sliding stops and 360 degree spins.

The most challenging and exciting part of the competition is the cow work – where the horse must control the movements of a single steer at a full out run, heading it off and turning it both ways along the fence, then bringing it into the centre of the arena to circle once in each direction. The Working Cow Horse Classic features finished “bridle” horses advanced in their training, as well as younger horses shown in the traditional hackamore.

The horse used by most competitors is the Quarter Horse – which is named for its speed at the quarter mile. This sprinter has the muscle and build to make it perfect for working cows and making the quick direction changes needed to keep the cow under control.

Check out the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Competition in the Big Top on Wednesday, July 14 at 12 pm and 2 pm, and Thursday, July 15 at 3 pm and 5 pm.

The Calgary Stampede Working Cow Horse Classic starts Friday, July 16 at 1 pm and Sunday, July 18 at 11 am – I hope you will take the opportunity to check out these great athletic horses and their riders.

Milk and Cookies…and dairy cows!


One of the questions I have frequently been asked is: How much milk can a dairy cow produce per day?  An average dairy cow consumes about one bathtub-full of water and produces 30 litres of milk per day (enough to fill 15 of those milk cartons).

If you have ever wondered about where your milk comes from, Agrium’s Ag-tivity in the City is the place to find out all about it! There’s a lot to see and experience about dairy cows and milk production; see a milking demonstration in the Country Critters area – Jerseys, Aryshires and Holsteins are milked at noon, 3:30 and 6pm daily. Or try your hand on Blue Bell, a milking simulator (she doesn’t kick or knock over your bucket!). And once you understand where and how your milk gets from the cow to the carton, stop by the Milk and Cookie Shack for the real thing – it’s just $1…the best deal on Park!


Six Horse Hitch 2009

How did people move freight, grain and produce before we had the big trucks and trailers? The mighty heavy horses were the only way you could move supplies around the country and you can see them in action at the Heavy Horse World Champion Six Horse Hitch at the Pengrowth Saddledome at noon Sunday, July 11. The Belgians, Clydsedales, Percherons and Shires are the breeds represented in one of my favourite Stampede events. From noon until 3 pm these bright, shiny wagons and harnesses strut to the sounds of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Vintage Tractors

Another showcase for horsepower takes place in the Big Top on Sunday. The Vintage Tractor Show and Shine runs from 4 to 6 pm and gives the audience a taste of tractors from our past- anything made before 1960. I have likely driven many of the red tractors (International Harvester or McCormick Deering) involved. I still own three vintage tractors and I hope one day to compete in the event myself. I’ll see you at the shows – look after for me after 3!

Agriculture 101

I would like to share some of the questions I have answered as Farmer Dave in the past and give you a little Alberta Agriculture 101.

Question: What kind of crops do you grow and harvest? Why did you pick those crops? 

Answer:  On my farm we grow wheat, canola and barley.   These crops grow well and are suitable for our climate. The crop rotation we use is cereal crop, cereal crop and then oilseed.  Wheat and barley are both a cereal crops and canola is an oilseed crop.   In the spring wheat is planted first as it takes the longest time to mature. Canola is planted next and swathed to help it ripen evenly.   Swathing is when the crop is cut and placed in a swath to help it finish mature and dry out and then is combined. Barley has the shortest growing season so it is planted last. We straight cut the wheat and barley which means the combine cuts and threshes the grain all in one operation.

Question: How many bushels of canola do you get when you harvest a hectare of land? 

Answer: An average yield is 2.25 tonnes per hectare which is equivalent to filling 98 laundry baskets full of canola.

Question: Why did you want to become a farmer?

Answer: I grew up on a farm that was started by my great grandfather and then farmed by my grandfather and father, so you can say that farming has always been in my blood.  

I love the outdoors, watching my crops grow and working with animals.  I take great satisfaction in my job and know that without farmers the world would go hungry.

Question: How much do two male cows cost?

Answer:  Male cattle are either called bulls or steers. A male that has been neutered is called a steer and are seldom kept past 2 years.  Bulls are usually kept with a farmer’s herd for breeding purposes and therefore are kept longer.  In my herd I have kept bulls for up to eight years.  A four year old market bull weighing 1000 kgs would sell for approximately $1300.

Question:  Why do animals wear ear tags? 

Answer:  On my farm we use two different types of ear tags:   Each cow is assigned a number which is written on this tag as well as an RDIF tag (Radio Frequency Identification or RFID tag). This tag can be read electronically and checked when cattle are sent to market.  It also contains information on where they were born or herd of origin.

Farmer Dave comes to the Stampede

Hi there, this is my first entry on the Stampede blog and I thought I should tell you a little about myself.

 I farm close to Calgary, in the Conrich area, and have been mixed farming (livestock and grain farming) for the last 38 years. Some of you may know me as Farmer Dave from another blog I have done for the Calgary Stampede- just one of my many projects as an eight year volunteer with this organization. Some of my previous work has been as chair of the Agriculture Education Committee, and involvement in Aggie Days and Agrium Ag-Tivity in the City – my passion is to educate people about agriculture and its connection to everyday life.

 In my blog entries over the next 10 days I will entertain and educate you with stories from the wonderful world of agriculture at the Calgary Stampede. I hope you will enjoy these snapshots and glimpses into one of the most important industries in Alberta, and I invite you to ask me questions.

 You will find me down at Stampede Park almost everyday…when I’m not haying and spraying. I hope to see you here!