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Beef & Business

Off Label

Some things need warning labels. Hopping onto a roller coaster, for example, warrants a cautionary tag, as does applying pesticides, or walking on unstable terrain too close to the edge of a cliff, smoking a cigarette (real or electronic), or driving your tractor near an overhead powerline. It could even be argued that perhaps some people should come with a warning label. We all know That Guy who can turn a quiet evening of drinks at the local tavern one minute into an international adventure that involves an airplane trip the next. Spending time with those folks can lead to lasting side effects, and unsuspecting people deserve to know.

Some things do not need warning labels. Ground beef and pork do not need warning labels.

The rationale behind Health Canada’s proposed front-of-package warning label for ground beef is simply not sound. It seems they want to help shoppers avoid consuming products high in saturated fat and are willing to slap a label on ground beef and pork. Meanwhile, other animal-derived products – and more alarmingly – other highly processed, high sugar/high sodium/high fat products such as chips, cookies, and pop, are not affixed with labels at all.

These labels concern me deeply as a consumer, as a mom trying to feed my family the most nutritious and economical meals I can, and also as a rancher who raises commodity beef and direct-to-freezer products.

Does beef contain saturated fat? Like all animal products, it sure does. However, did you know there are three types of fats including unsaturated, saturated, and fatty acids? Unsaturated fats, like poly- and monounsaturated fats, are considered “healthy fats” which provide your body energy and help metabolize fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E, and K. More than half of the fat that beef contains is unsaturated. For people, including myself, who do want to reduce fat content during meal prep, I can simply drain my ground beef after browning it, like more than 90% of Canadians report doing. Or, I can grill my burgers, which again reduces fat content by up to a third.

You know what else beef contains? Heme iron. What’s that? It is the most bioavailable form of iron you can find in a food. This means your body can get ready-to-absorb iron in a smaller serving of beef with fewer calories than other iron-rich foods like spinach or legumes. This is a reason why Health Canada themselves suggests beef as a first food for babies.

Another nutritional nicety of beef is that fact that it can synergistically boost nutrients absorbed from other foods. For example, adding beef to a meal with plant-based proteins (think chili with beans) bumps up the absorption of iron from both the beans and the beef, compared to legume-only chili.

Here’s another fun fact: beef and other meats are considered complete proteins. That means they contain all the essential amino acids we require in our diets, unlike plant-based proteins which don’t contain a full set of amino acids and require mixing and matching in order to meet nutritional needs.

I also could continue to say that beef is an important source of zinc, Vitamin B12, selenium, magnesium, riboflavin, pantothenate, phosphorus, potassium, and so many more nutrients too numerous to mention. And let’s not forget that gram-for-gram, ground beef is the most economical, nutrient dense source of protein currently available in Canada.

Canadian consumers deserve economical, safe, highly nutritious, easy-to-prepare protein foods that are not processed. Ground beef checks those boxes.*

*beef also supports sustainable/functional ecosystems and provides habitat in a way that non-animal protein foods do not but there is not time to address that in this article, okay, thank you.

Worried about labels? Visit https://www.dontlabelmybeef.ca/

Looking for more science-based information on nutritional qualities of beef? Check out:
https://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/nutritional-qualities-of-beef-47
https://thinkbeef.ca/nutrition/

 

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Beef & Business Ranch & Real Life

When the Going Gets Tough….

It’s hard to think about much else right now other than the dry conditions that so many of us are faced with. Across much of the Prairie Provinces and the Northern Great Plains, farmers and ranchers are dealing with drought, water shortages, and pests. Years like ’61 and ’88 are often referenced at the coffee shop and around the kitchen tables of producers who are old enough to remember those times.

The summer is speeding by, yet somehow things also feel like they are at a standstill. One day stretches into the next, another pasture is checked, another scratchpad filled with numbers and figures and plans, another dozen phone calls are made. Tangible and timely solutions are hard to come by yet there is an abundance of questions. How will we get through the year? What about next year? What will the winter be like? Will there be any help?

I’m an (annoyingly) optimistic person and even I’ve become discouraged at times. I don’t have any answers to the hard problems everyone is faced with, but when things seem bleak, I try to shift my focus on what I can control. It’s not precious bales of hay, or tonnes of silage, or subsidies, or even rain that will pull us through (although sign me up for all of that, please and thanks). I’m learning that the most valuable resource we have and need is right in front of me – people.

When the going gets tough, find the helpers. Some people complain and some people figure things out, but now is the time to dip into your network, identify your problem-solvers and stick with them. It’s very easy to get sucked into a vortex of worry and “why me?” but for every fool out there, there’s actually a positive person lurking too, you sometimes just have to work a little harder to find them. There are many farmers and extension folks who are willing to share their experiences, provide insight or tips, ask a question you haven’t considered before, or provide simple reassurance. Putting my energy and time into talking to people who have fresh, innovative ideas or the wisdom that comes from decades of experience has been a good return on investment so far.

When the going gets tough, get a puppy! Okay, perhaps this is not sound advice. Perhaps you should consider visiting family and friends regularly as a feasible and intelligent alternative. But I’m not going to lie, our new border collie that arrived this month has been a welcome distraction. I’m almost at the point of being an obnoxious dog mom, which is highly unexpected behaviour for me. We have also been lucky to connect with some non-furry family members this month, allowing us to recharge our batteries and provide us with some much-needed grounding.

When the going gets tough, focus on what you do have. Low yields and dwindling water might pull our attention toward what we don’t have, but we should remember what really matters. Do we have our health? Are the people we care about safe and well? I’m keenly aware that we are fortunate to check those boxes, but not everyone is. Do we have enough food in our pantry to sustain ourselves? Past generations of farmers who dealt with harsher conditions had to make do with less. We are lucky to not have those worries.

Without a doubt, this year will leave a permanent mark on farmers’ memories and be a defining time for many. As the old saying goes, every drought ends with a rain, and someday, this one will be over too. But the people will endure.

Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.
Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.
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Beef & Business Critters & Kids House & Homestead Ranch & Real Life

WFH Woke

Well friends, these are some unexpected times, aren’t they? Life has changed with #COVID19 and recommendations for social distancing (although for ranchers, self-isolation is a normal and usually welcome practice). Schools and day-cares are closed and employers have transitioned to telework where possible, as society pulls together to minimize the spread of the disease that will potentially overburden our health care system.

I’ve been working from home (WFH) among a menagerie of children, cattle, and laundry for seven years. Most of my work is writing, analysis, and developing content, and I’m fortunate to work remotely although my approach is a bit unconventional. I’ve captured interviews in my truck from the Wal-Mart parking lot, simultaneously giving my kids the “mom eyes” to will them into silence. There is currently a soundtrack of Paw Patrol (“we’re on a roll!”) playing in the background of all my video and conference calls. I wear the abstract WFH wardrobe (hi there, ugly 17-year-old cardigan and Video Conference Head Band). And yes, I’m guilty of buying work time from my children for the sum of an unending supply of fruit snacks and the promise of binge-watching Dude Perfect on YouTube.

I’m not perfect. Nobody is, but working remotely for me is my everyday reality. Now that friends, family, and colleagues are unexpectedly riding the work-from-home wave, I’ve gotten a chuckle out of their experiences. Here are a few ideas and tips I’ve put into practice over the years:

Manage your expectations. And your guilt. At first, I was disappointed when I didn’t get a solid eight hours of “work” in each day, but I’ve grown to realize that it’s not realistic for me right now. I’ve also learned to cut myself some household slack because when I am in work mode, my house will be messy and other parts of my life will feel disorganized. Unfortunately, the mom guilt is real and I still struggle with explaining to my kids why I am distracted and not able to give them my full attention at certain times. There is also work guilt that creeps in when I ignore emails and undone projects in order to focus on other important things in my life.

There are no rules. I do have dedicated home office space that moonlights as a guest room but thanks to the nature of my live-in kinfolk co-workers, the boundaries are very porous. Sometimes my office works well, but I’ve also learned that perhaps I can get more done when I set up my laptop in a common area and become part of the general chaos. Plus, I can keep an eye on things (Put down the scissors! No more juice boxes! Why is there a cow herd in the front yard?!).  

Do not underestimate yourself. You will surprise yourself with how much work you can get done especially if you are under a little pressure. While I don’t advocate putting pressure on yourself, somehow the work that needs to get done, always does. (Why, yes, I am a procrastinator).

Prioritize. Each morning, I take a moment to mark down the essential family, ranch, or work duties that need to get done that day, plus a few nice-to-do tasks in another column. I also try to go with the flow, and work on creative tasks that require my full attention when the spirit moves me. I save perfunctory jobs for times when I don’t feel as focused.

Put your phone down. No, really. It’s a vortex, especially now with constant updates and alerts, and it can put a real damper on your productivity, not to mention your mood. Avoiding my phone is tricky because part of my work is to curate social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. However, there is a fine line between uploading a disciplined professional work post and accidentally spending 45 minutes trying to identify desert range plants on a friend’s Facebook feed. I have adjusted the screen time settings on my phone to set a time limit on social media apps, which helps. I also place my phone out of reach. I can still hear it and respond as needed, but it’s a little more difficult to get distracted.

Back up yo’ files. Get to know your external hard drive. Appreciate it. Become one with it. While having things available on shared online folders or “the cloud” is a revolutionary way to share resources and collaborate virtually, make sure you download the files you really need to do your work. I’ve learned this the hard way thanks to rural internet challenges, but no one is immune to technical issues. It is frustrating when you get focused and ready to work, except you can’t because your material is inaccessible.

Budget your energy. Parents all have the grand scheme to maximize work during our kids’ naptime. This is a great strategy…if your kids get the memo. Which they never do. In order to enjoy the luxury of a quiet workplace, I used to pride myself on being able to stay up late and get lots of hours in. Then sometimes I would try and get up extra early to get a few hours in too. All this extra time did allow me to accomplish some work, however it came with a nasty side effect of me becoming a burnt-out crazy person, so I had to dial that back. I still occasionally will get up early OR stay up late, but then I try to budget my energy accordingly for the rest of the day.

While the COVID-19 situation is challenging everyone in an unprecedented way, it may also be an opportunity to show employers that working from home, even with kids around, is possible. Our families can learn more about the work we do while we spend less wasted time (and money) commuting. Plus, we can spend less time listening to Felicia from Human Resources drone on and on about her dog’s babysitter.

Now get off your phone, put on your office blanket-disguised-as-a-sweater and get at ’er. You can do this. We can do this. We truly are in this together.

Categories
Beef & Business Critters & Kids Pastures & Prairie Ranch & Real Life

Beyond Meat is Beyond Me

It’s hard to beat a beautiful Canadian summer! Fun in the sun, beach time, lake days, and of course, the sizzle of a grill as you barbecue a simple patty comprised of twenty-one ingredients, like bamboo cellulose, vegetable glycerin, gum arabic, and pea protein isolate…just no actual meat. Yeah, I’m talking about the Beyond Meat sensation that is on the news, in your Facebook feed, featured in advertisements, and speculated about on Wall Street.

When it comes to food preferences, I’m not opposed to options. While I enjoy serving and eating ranch-raised beef, I also eat other proteins, so long as they aren’t in disguise. I make a mean lentil chowder, serve baked beans at many large meals, and have been known to eat an entire container of hummus at one sitting (don’t judge me).

Diet diversity is important for what it is – diversity. However, some Beyond Meat proponents make false claims, saying it is “healthier” or more “environmentally friendly.” Well my friends, the devil is in the details, and when you look at the fine print, these claims are wrong.

Myth 1. Plants are always healthier… right?

Wrong.

I took a minute to compare nutritional parameters between beef and peanut butter, our other handy household protein source. A small serving of peanut butter (32 g) had less protein, more calories, more fat (including saturated fat) and zero iron, compared to 75 grams of cooked lean beef. I’m not going to cut back serving either to my kids but I’ll admit I was a bit surprised that when it comes to packing a nutritional punch, beef handily surpasses an old-fashioned PBJ.

What about looking at how the Beyond Meat burger compares with a beef burger? According to this article, a 113 gram Beyond Meat patty has 250 calories, 18 grams of fat, 390 mg of sodium and 20 grams of protein. Health Canada rates 113 grams of lean ground beef as having 292 calories, 16.5 grams of fat, 105 mg of sodium and 33 grams of protein. If consumers need a nutrient dense, high protein, low-sodium diet, real beef is the healthier option. If people are worried about consuming processed foods, a faux meat patty made from 18-21 ingredients is the much more highly processed option. A ranch-raised beef patty served here isn’t processed at all, unless you consider the four pairs of helping hands that went into forming it.

Myth 2. Plant-based protein is better for the environment.

No! NO! This is wildly inaccurate.

I’m not sure exactly what inputs are required to extract bamboo cellulose or derive pea protein isolate, but I do know that grasslands and beef cattle support natural wildlife habitat, preserve fragile land, and make use of marginal land incapable of producing other crops. No other agricultural enterprise in Canada supports natural biodiversity or maintains sensitive ecosystems as well as beef cattle. Grasslands provide habitat for thousands of species, including many species at risk such as loggerhead shrikes and short-eared owls. Grasslands also provide dozens of ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, soil protection, and nutrient cycling, to name just a few. Does gum arabic do that? What is gum arabic? Beef is truly the ultimate plant-based protein and the beef cattle sector continues to make positive strides to become more efficient with water and energy. Plus, innovation and research is enabling beef farmers to make use of human-inedible by-products like ethanol distillers grains, potato peels, and even leftover beer-making ingredients.

At the end of the day, I am just a mom, standing in front of her hungry kids, trying to feed them a well-balanced, healthy diet. If they want a healthy, environmentally-friendly juicy burger that looks like beef, tastes like beef, has the same texture as beef, and smells like beef – I’m going to serve beef!

Beyond meat is beyond me.

Additional reading:

Isn’t Beef Canada’s Ultimate Plant Based Protein? Beef cattle Research Council

Vegan Beyond Meat burgers are just ultra-processed patties that can be bad for our health National Post

Why Canadian beef? Canada Beef

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This short-eared owl, a species at risk, looks on as cattle graze at Lonesome Dove Ranch.

Categories
Beef & Business Critters & Kids Ranch & Real Life

Calving Certainties

People are pretty particular about how they raise their cattle. The breed, colour, size, temperament, horns or no horns, registered or commercial, roped or tabled.… The list of variations, and associated opinions about different methods, can go on for a country mile.

Calving season is one example of how different farms and ranches can be. Do you calve in winter? Or wait until spring? Are the cows out on grass, or in a pen? Do you have a short calving season, or does it have stages? Do you tag your calves or not bother?

When it comes to preferences around cattle, I’m more of a “you do you” sort of person unless you ask – then I will tell you! It’s easy to get caught up in the differences, but I’ve been thinking a little about some of the similarities too. Regardless of breed, season, or herd size, there are some calving facts that apply to every cow-calf operation.

They Move on Their Terms

It is remarkable to watch newborn calves stand up right after birth. At first they might wobble a bit, but with a nurturing mama and a belly full of milk, they are quickly bucking around. Until you want to move them into a different pen, that is. Sure, these calves were racing with their cohorts a minute ago, but now that you want to move them in a coordinated effort, perhaps even as part of a tiny gang, it’s a different story. You nudge them, poke them, and push them in the right direction, one at a time, then start again with the first calf who has already wandered off in the wrong direction. When you get everyone within a hair’s breadth of the gate (or whatever goal you’ve been doggedly working toward), those calves regain their energy and race their buddies…back in the opposite direction so you can repeat this process again.

Fecal Contamination

There is nothing stickier, smellier, or with a greater ability to coat all the surfaces you don’t want it to than fresh, yellow, baby calf poop. At best, you might get away with just a little on your boot or perhaps you kneel in some. At worst, you’ll get fresh poo on your glove, then transfer this fudgy, goldenrod sh*t to the tractor door handle, then gear shift, steering wheel, and finally your coffee cup before you smell its distinctive odour and realize your error. You will encounter this stinky substance both in a corral and in a large grass pasture. No rancher is immune – it will find you.

Flat as a Pancake

With longer daylight comes bright, warm sunshine that is most welcome however also responsible for the emotionally charged job of checking calves. Calves will stretch out flatter than a pancake out in the field to capture some rays. Honking the horn yields no movement, so you are compelled to walk or ride or drive over to check. You get closer and still nothing moves, other than your quickening heart. This was a healthy, live calf last night when you checked! You proceed to get a look at the tag and at the last moment, the calf springs to life, flashes you a “dude, what’s your deal?” look and bounces away, leaving you with a roller coaster of emotions that at least has a happy ending.

Whether you’re all done calving, right in the middle, or haven’t started yet, enjoy this season of birth and renewal…and all the manure that goes along with it.

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Beef & Business

Happy Canada Ag Day!

I’ve done the math (ok – I haven’t, but it sounds cool) and I’ve determined that February is arguably our busiest month of the year. It seems especially fitting to me then, that Canada’s Agriculture Day takes place when we are up to our Muck boots with calving and bull sale prep and the latest and greatest weather fluctuations.

The theme for this year’s Ag Day celebration is The Future is Bright. There are certainly challenges within the ag industry as a whole and there are obstacles specific to whichever sector you are a part of. But I see so many reasons for there to be a strong future ahead, especially for those willing to work hard.

The strength of Canada’s agriculture sector is its people. Agriculture is a multi-billion dollar economic force but for the thousands of farmers across Canada, agriculture isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. Rather than money, what motivates me on our ranch are people who are passionate about their farms and what they do. I’m inspired by people who are moving toward their goals, people who love to improve their environment, their cattle, and their businesses. Meeting people, learning from them and their stories — that is my ag currency.

When I see so many opportunities for young enthusiasts to become involved in agriculture, I know the future is bright. There are numerous initiatives, apprenticeships, and mentoring programs available to help transfer experience from one leader to another. I’ve had many mentors, both formal and informal, and am humbled to be a mentor for the Cattlemen’s Young Leader program. When I visit with my program partner Rachael, I am encouraged to hear how articulate, professional, and keen she is, and I can’t help but feel excitement for what lies ahead for the beef industry!

And of course, I can’t discuss the future without thinking of our children. Our young kids have responsibilities and are expected to help us on our ranch and it’s been enjoyable to see how their own interests are sprouting. One of our kids is a natural with animals, another has an aptitude for numbers, statistics, and pedigrees. Our daughter likes to understand the logic behind our production practices. I guess the baby is the only one that doesn’t show a real preference for chores yet, but so far he’s gotten in on fall run, cattle shows, and now his first calving season, so I suppose he’ll catch on too.

Whether or not our kids choose to pursue a future in agriculture is completely up to them. But I do know that their farm background will only support them with whatever path they take and they will be able to explain how and why their food is on the table.

The future is bright for Canadian agriculture today. It was bright yesterday and it will be bright tomorrow too. Happy Agriculture Day, Canada!

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Beef & Business Ranch & Real Life

Gender Bender

Recently there has been some discussion surrounding women-oriented agricultural events and groups. Organizations like Women in Ag, and national conferences such as Advancing Women in Agriculture, have sparked debate and even inspired a column in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about this “dicey topic.” Questions have surfaced…Why aren’t there men-only agricultural events? Are women just creating their own barriers? Why don’t more women join agricultural boards? Should men encourage women to participate more? Or should women just step up to the plate?

I’m a rancher and an agricultural professional and I’ve thought a fair bit about my experiences as a woman in agriculture. I have a heritage of strong, rural women. My fore-mothers worked hard on their farms, raised large families on little, and in some cases, had to navigate new languages. My mother was one of just a few females Agros in her class and later became the first female extension agrologist in Saskatchewan. She overcame gender roadblocks that my generation fortunately never had to encounter. Compared to past  inequalities, I’ve got it made in the shade.

Yet, I still participate in female-focused agriculture events. I’ll never forget the first time I went to a women’s range workshop where I found kinship among women who shared my passion for grass and cattle. We also shared common struggles, discussing how to budget on one annual calf cheque, or how best to physically handle a roll of baler net wrap — these ladies spoke my language, I had found my tribe! I continue to attend women’s events, big and small, specific or general, because I find them useful on a personal and professional level.

When it comes to the old boys’ club rhetoric surrounding industry representation, I admit I’m not doing my demographic justice. I do not currently hold a role on an industry board, but it’s not because “many women just aren’t interested in rural municipal politics” as per the Star Phoenix piece. Noooooo. Ugh. God, no. I would do great things on a board, and perhaps someday I will. At the moment however, I have four kids aged zero to seven, and a board role would cause my family, my ranch, my household, and other community commitments to suffer. My lack of board participation is certainly NOT because I’m disinterested. In fact, I serve in other capacities, and maintain close contact with beef lobby groups, participate in formal mentorship programs, and attend industry meetings (with or without a baby on my hip).

As a rancher and a professional, I look to several leaders that represent both genders and span many generations. I value male and female perspectives, but I still think there are differences between men and women – good, bad or indifferent. If we can have women’s sports organizations, female religious groups, or business women networks, why shouldn’t we have women’s agricultural groups? Agriculture absolutely needs positive events and organizations that build capacity in women and men, in families, groups, and sectors.

Maybe it’s time people stop mansplaining how women’s ag events don’t work and start thinking about how they do.

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Beef & Business Critters & Kids Pastures & Prairie Ranch & Real Life

#OurFoodHasAStory…what’s yours?

October is Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, and friend and fellow rancHER Adrienne Ivey asked me to share my food story as a guest post on her blog VIEW FROM THE RANCH PORCH. Adrienne is sharing a variety of food stories from people across Saskatchewan as part of Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s #OurFoodHasAStory campaign. Head over to Adrienne’s blog to read my story and what food means to me… better yet, participate on social media and share your own story!

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Beef & Business

Food and (Tax) Shelter

Apparently only two things are certain in life: death, and taxes. The newly proposed changes to federal taxation for small businesses is making the certainty of taxes a little more complicated.

I would like to preface this by saying I am not a tax specialist. I’m sure my accountant (hey, girl!) is wondering what I could possibly even offer on the topic, but my goal is to draw attention to this serious matter, provide information links below where people can read the facts and even sign a petition if they so choose. Official comments must be forwarded before October 2.

Thanks to my upbringing, I know just enough about taxes to be dangerous. That’s okay, because now I can spot danger when I see it, and the proposed federal tax legislation definitely sounds an alarm bell. Because of the way we are structured, the proposed changes won’t affect us in the short term, however these changes have major implications in the way we do business going forward. My gravest concern is these changes may potentially limit our ability to formally involve our children, in more than just a free labour capacity, in our business someday if they are interested.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Canada and provide hundreds of thousands of jobs for Canadians. For business owners, they provide the opportunity to “follow their dream” and “be their own boss” which sounds all kinds of sweet. In the end, it really involves a major personal investment of money, long hours, no pay/pension/benefits/maternity leave (hey-o!), but lots of stress and big-time sacrifice for owners who are after a different type of currency.

For small business owners, regardless of whether you operate a ranch, a hair salon, or a medical practices, employees and expenses need to be paid first, often not leaving much left behind for the owners. The owners may either choose to pay themselves a wage (ha!) or save the money in a non-RRSP for a crop failure drought tractor blow-up fire flood rainy day. (*Side note: I would totally welcome a rainy day this year). Farmers have to be ready for whatever delight Mother Nature throws at us and we need accessible money that’s not locked into a traditional pension or long-term savings. And if there is extra money, maybe we will go ahead and get ourselves something fancy, like a water bowl that wasn’t fashioned out of five old ones, or a new-to-us set of tires for our fifteen-year-old pick-up. If we are feeling extra devious, we might even fertilize that “moo chew” crop of ours! What a tax shelter!

My concerns with the proposed tax changes are:

Succession planning – proposed changes will provide a greater tax incentive for farmers to sell land to a non-family member or business, rather than to a potentially interested family member (who does not meet the intergenerational rollover definition). This isn’t right. You can sell your land to whoever you want to, but you shouldn’t be penalized for selling it to a family member if there’s a willing buyer and a willing seller. And for farmers who have already started the complicated journey of succession planning and have used existing tax scenarios as a guide, these potential changes are a major hit.

Income sprinkling – around our place, there’s not a lot of income to sprinkle, but there’s a sh*t load of work dumped on anyone old enough to ride a horse, hold a shovel, or market cattle. (At this point, the new infant is getting a free ride, but I’m sure that will change). For small business corporations, proposed changes will limit compensation paid to partners or owners otherwise triggering a large increase in taxes for those people. Also, compensation will be limited to people based on division of labour, financial contribution to the business, or financial risk. I’m not sure how you quantify that…

Capital Gains Exemption – There are also proposed changes to the Capital Gains Exemption, including possibly limiting family members from using the exemption if they have outside jobs or are only on the farm part-time. Last time I checked, it takes money to buy a farm or ranch and having a job is a useful way to make money. If you’re penalized for having a job so you can afford to buy into an all-work-no-pay small business (oops, I meant “live the dream!”), what incentive is there at all?!

Family farms have always been sandwiched in that no-man’s-land between “operating as a business” and “doing it for the lifestyle.” These proposed changes satisfy neither philosophy, but if they do proceed, I’m worried there won’t be a future for family farming.

Sign a Petition to the Minister of Finance 

Review official document from Government of Canada – Department of Finance Tax Planning Using Private Corporations (Page 17 shows you where you can submit comments)

Contact information for Members of Parliament

Tips on writing a letter to your Member of Parliament

MNP Factsheet – Potential Impacts of Changing Tax Regulations on Ranching Operations

Thomsan Jaspar & Associates – Short Video About Proposed Changes- 

 

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Beef & Business Ranch & Real Life

Land Down Under

I enjoy traveling. The whole idea of going to a faraway place, where the surroundings and customs are unfamiliar to you is exciting. Traveling pushes me out of my Type A comfort zone and into a place of adventure and fun. As a self-confessed organizer, going on a trip is one of my best reminders that some of the best experiences come from flying by the seat of my pants. In the past few years, our expanding herd of humans and bovines has made travel a bit trickier from a logistical standpoint. One might not necessarily realize my wanderlust because I typically keep my travel to within a radius of three rural municipalities, or so, but I know that will change too someday.

Ten years ago this month, my Other Half and I embarked on a better-late-than-never honeymoon to Australia for three weeks. This was before the era of smart phones or readily available internet access. I had to book our plane tickets using dial up, and while I did make quite a few travel arrangements via email, there was no Google Maps or iPhone to rely on, and no text messaging.  We boarded our flights with a little Australian cash, a list of phone numbers for people we might know and hope to run into, and a Lonely Planet guide book.

Being interested in agriculture, we planned to mix in visits to different cattle and stud stations with tours to vineyards, beaches, and cities. As we hopped off our long flight into the humid, Australian air on Boxing Day, we were excited to start our ambitious agenda. We holed up in those quaint little spots known as “phone booths” (millennials, please ask a grown-up what that is), and started calling friends, acquaintances, and even strangers before we hopped on trains, planes and buses on our whirlwind excursion.

It was as much fun as we had hoped. We bartered for an already cheap suitcase at China Town in Sydney. We enjoyed beverages in small town pubs, large downtown nightclubs, and small, medium and large family-owned vineyards. We navigated roundabouts and dodged kangaroos in our rental car. We toured the Great Ocean Road in a backpackers’ bus named “Pigeon” along with a Brazilian sugar cane famer, German fashionistas, wandering souls from Romania, ag journalists from Switzerland, and a pair of (very) avid photographers from Hong Kong, among others. I had a rather long conversation about spicy Asian food with a well-meaning tour guide before I realized she thought I said I was from Szechuan, not Saskatchewan. An unwelcome emu ate my sandwich right out of my hand. We unintentionally stumbled across Kent Saddlery, a renowned tack and saddle-building outfit that had an impressive shop and an even more impressive mobile following. We ate schnitzels the size of steering wheels, met up with good friends, and made new ones.

We toured eleven ranches in four different states, ranging from small mom-and-pop operations right up to some of the top purebred studs on the continent. We caught up with farm friends that we had hosted in Canada and have been fortunate to host many others since in return. We spent New Year’s Eve with a delightful Canadian/Australian farm family that treated us as their own, and spent the next day at another top notch farm that was most welcoming. Along the way we got to view one of the best, and dare I say, most efficient, mobile embryo transplant laboratories in action.

When I think back on the trip, the people were phenomenal. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and totally stopped what they were doing to show us around during a busy time of year. The people you meet are what makes traveling so valuable to me. And while I can’t argue that it’s nice to enjoy a trip to a warm climate during a Saskatchewan winter, we’ve met some pretty great people on quick jaunts to Medicine Hat, AB, or Outlook, SK, or Havre, MT. And those trips don’t usually involve retrieving a suitcase thoroughly soaked in Bundaberg rum from an airport …