“We’re trying to see how simple life can be,” remarks farmer Reg Sonntag, one of three Saskatchewan brothers who reduced their cow-calf herd to shape an easier operation. Together, the brothers turned a small operation into 800 acres of grain crops and hay — now they’re planning to downsize as they look to the future.
Reg’s concerns are like those of many other farmers: How do you make your operation easier while maintaining a bottom line? For the Sonntags, this meant reducing their cow-calf herd by more than half, cutting their numbers to about 250 cows.
Changes in cow breeds
“We realized a few years ago that half our work was with cattle, and probably 80 percent of our income was from grain, so we started backing off the cattle,” says Ian Sonntag. Along with reducing the herd, the Sonntags switched from their Simmental and Charolais breeds to Angus for smaller, more aggressive calves, and moved calving a month later into March.
Years ago, the Sonntags developed a unique sled for transporting calves that’s been sold throughout the Prairies. Since then, Patrick Sonntag created a barn design that reflects the animals’ natural behavior, with features such as split gates, managed sightlines and remote latches. The improvements help cows and calves enter the pen and be tended to comfortably and safely.
In the past, the Sonntags struggled to make dry bales, a difficult task in the cool and damp conditions of Saskatchewan. Now, with a silage-capable Case IH RB565 Premium round baler, they make the choice as they bale, poly-wrapping higher-moisture hay after baling.
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Investing in production and marketing
As their labor demands have decreased, the Sonntags have sharpened their focus on producing and marketing their cash grain crops. By hiring specialists, they’ve seen soft white wheat yields approaching 100 bushels per acre and canola yields pushing 50 bushels.
Reducing the cow herd size and enlisting specialists to help with crop management decisions are indeed making life easier for Reg, Ian and Patrick. The capabilities of their Case IH tractors, hay equipment and combines have played a role as well. “It’s good equipment,” Ian says, “and we have very good service from our dealer.”
Talk with your Case IH dealer about how you can use your equipment to streamline your operation.
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