Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I know you don't care, but. . .

When my son was young, he was always reading encyclopedia or baseball facts or Guinness Book of World Records. He would come to us with something that caught his eye that he had to tell someone.  He always started with "I know you don't care but. . .  the shortest baseball player ever was . . . " or some other wondrous thing. That is how most of you will likely view todays blog. Interesting to me but of limited interest to anyone not milking cows.

Farm Babe writes a blog which shows up on my FB feed. Today she was discussing the farm crisis because of Trump's tariff war with China coming back to bite them.  Farmers are in Crisis the hurt they feel is real. She said that 90% of the dairy farms in America had disappeared in the last several decades. So I wondered how our dairy farms were doing since apparently our supply management system which keeps them from going broke is responsible for the death of the American dairy industry.

The Canadian Dairy Information Centre has more information than I ever wanted to know but does have a very good database which I proceeded to plunder. Since 1959, our dairy cow numbers have dropped from 2.9 million to 900 thousand in 2017. Since 1967 our dairy farm numbers have dropped from 174,000 to  19,400 in 2000, roughly 89%. Between 2000 and 2017 another 8,400 left the industry, for a total of 94% in the past 50 years.

Supply management was introduced in 1972 to end the boom and bust cycles that were destroying our dairy industry. Farmers were at the mercy of the processors, prices dropped in spring when cows went to pasture and supply mushroomed, while in winter there was sometimes not enough milk to meet demand. The new system was intended to supply the Canadian market only. No imports or exports. Quota was assigned to farmers based on historical production and estimated Canadian consumption, farm gate prices were determined at cost of production plus a margin. Both quota and prices were adjusted annually. Farmers met their quota or lost it. Overproduction was punished.

One can argue whether or not supply management has outlived its usefulness. (My theory is if the Americans are against it, it must be good for Canada. Why did the Americans hate the Canadian Wheat Board so bad if it was such a terrible cost to Western Canadian grain farmers?).

Trends in Canadian Dairy Farm and Dairy Cow Numbers
The large numbers exiting the business in the first 15 years were likely unable or unwilling to finance the improvements to their barns and milk houses to meet the stringent regulations to produce Class 1 milk. Their herds were small and facilities old. They took advantage of the fact that the new production quota had a sale value. It wasn't supposed to at first, it was transferred with the cows if the herd was sold but cows with quota were worth more than cows without.  Eventually, the government gave up and allowed the direct sale of quota. Today it costs about $35,000 for quota to milk one cow for one year.

Canadian Milk Production and Production per Cow
Canadian milk production fluctuated closely around 8 million tonnes per year. Technically it should have increased with the increase in population but consumption of dairy products declined at roughly the same rate, hence the flat line. Milk production per cow continued to increase steadily. The biggest problem was to prevent surplus production on a national basis.

As farm numbers dwindled, dairy cows per farm increased. Canadian average increased from 14 cows to 86 cows between 1967 and 2017, almost coincident with Ontario. Quebec herd numbers are small, averaging 64 cows in 2017. BC has the largest average herd size of 196 cows in 2017 with Alberta at 150. These are the four largest dairy provinces but BC and Alberta have 900 farms while Ontario and Quebec have 9,000 farms, with 60% of them in Quebec. The Canadian dairy lobby is Ontario and Quebec.  What the rest of the provinces want is kind of irrelevant.

Herd Size in Canada,  British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec
In 2017 Canada produced 9.25 million tonnes of milk.  What did we import and what did we export?
Imports are tricky as of course, we would rather import nothing. We do not have that luxury even if we truly wanted it as we do not produce many products here, such as decent European cheeses. Also, our trading partners would like to swamp us so we have to give them something. We keep dairy products out of Canada with high tariffs. I don't know if they are 300% or not and am too lazy to look it up but they are high. Certain imports have been negotiated and are allowed in, up to a certain amount. Imports under Tariff Rated Quota in 2017 amounted to 141.6 thousand tonnes valued at $636 million. Imports outside TRQ were 45 thousand tonnes valued at $236 thousand dollars.

Canadian Imports of Dairy Products in 2017
In 2017 Canada exported 171.8 thousand tonnes of dairy products valued at about $400 million dollars.

Canadian Exports of Dairy Products in 2017
Supply Management is far more complex than my simple explanation, as are the Import Quotas.  How things will shake out in the short run I have no idea.  That is up to our negotiators. In the long run, Supply Management has to go but to be replaced with what? And how to shut it down? Buying out existing quota at today's price is impossibly expensive and provides those dairy farmers who have been in business a long time a huge windfall.

I need a bowl of ice cream.

Note, an American gallon of milk weighs 3.9 kg, if anyone wants to convert.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Fifty Years is a long time

Next year will be 50 years since I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, College of Agriculture. The Saskatchewan Ag Grads Association (SAGA) holds a several day reunion every January.  Any graduate is free to attend but those grads celebrating 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60+ years are specifically encouraged to attend at least the Friday night banquet.

I was at my 30th in 1999 and thought I was old then.  Our grad class, those that were there posed for a photograph. What a bunch of old men. Hah! My friend, professor, and mentor, Dr. Christensen celebrated his 41st year in 1999 and another of my professors, the late Dr. Red Williams was celebrating his 50th. I thought he was REALLY old. Dr. Christensen celebrated 60 years this year. I was so hoping Dr. Williams would make the reunion in January with 70 years but not to be.

Since I am in Canada for a while yet, I am going to our 50th reunion banquet, good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. Each grad year has a 'chairman' who is responsible for getting the word out, encouraging attendance and flogging banquet tickets.  No one had offered to chair the '69 Grads so I was volunteered by a '65 grad who happens to be a shirttail relative. Since it is something that can be done on my computer, I can handle it.

Today I got busy and started organizing the mailing lists I have of the '69 Grads.  Just got a new list in tonight so will look at it in the morning.

There were about 50 of us then, now we are minus a few. No girls in those days, now they are 60% of the graduates.

Fall of 1968, 4th Year Employment bulletin circulated to prospective employers

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tanya's Flower Garden

Tanya is glad to be home and looking after her beloved flower gardens. The kitchen garden is small this year as she was not there to plant it and our friend Katya had her own to look after so she just planted enough to keep Tanya in fresh vegetables.

I get Tanya to send me pictures of her flowers. The roses bloomed and were trimmed back.  The lilies bloomed and now the roses again. The trick in any flower garden is to have something blooming all summer long. Tanya takes incredibly good point-and-shoot pictures of individual blooms with her little Samsung J5 phone.

Here are a few pictures that she sent me.

Sometimes I get lonely

Monday, July 16, 2018

It's a world world world MAD.

As Alfred E. Newman once said. And as my 2 1/2-year-old daughter once said when she dialed 911 for the second time, "Nothing 'citing ever happens around here".

I finished the second draft of my report for my long-suffering and patient client. 44 Tables. 220 charts. Excel is wonderful. When you start with 10,000 to 15,000 pieces of data, boiling it down takes some doing and charts if done right allow seeing the analysis at a glance. Much better than tables.

My sister came to visit last week and my second youngest over the weekend.  Hadn't seen my sister in 4 years.  Or my daughter in as many months. Not since she got her ring, wedding next July. I'll still be here at the rate things are progressing. Cheaper to stay longer than fly back for the wedding.

Hard to know what to rant about.  The world has gone insane. Even the onion has gone to straight journalism. You can't make this stuff up. No one would believe you.  All I see is Trump headlines and articles.  Is anyone watching to see what the GOP is stealing while you are watching Trump?

Today when I was reading the articles posted on FB, I couldn't even hit the angry button.  Just the sad. Three posts caught my attention, not in a good way.

This one:

Do Americans Understand They’re Beginning to Commit The Legal Definition of Genocide?

This one:

And this one of a young white woman calling for a genocide of all non-whites

And Canadians should not feel too smug. We have our own far-right terrorists, racist politicians,  and political parties with ties to the far-right running dog-whistle campaigns opposing "illegal" immigration

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Salt of the Earth

Still doctoring. Seemingly no nearer getting rid of my ileostomy pouch, which I have dubbed Donald Trump, than I was two months ago. Now I am supposed to cut back on salt intake.  OK.  I quit putting salt on eggs, tomatoes and corn on the cob which is about all I ever salted anyhow and laid off the salted peanuts which I only eat when other people buy them. Ah, but you have to avoid processed foods.

What the heck are processed foods? The health food sites talk about them like "avoid arsenic and ground glass". Turns out if you didn't kill it, pick it or dig it yourself, it is processed food. And the sodium (salt) levels are printed on the packages.  I should read them.  No I shouldn't as they are scary.

Just for the halibut, I went through my cupboards and fridge and wrote down the sodium levels based on my serving size. Like who uses one tbsp (15 ml) of salad dressing? "Real" food, I didn't bother with: eggs, pork, beef, chicken, potatoes, onions, turnips, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, etc.. Or rice, macaroni and spaghetti. High salt content in too many things.  With no effort at all I could (and do from time to time) hit 3 or 4 times the sodium RDA and never touch the salt shaker.