( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IN 1900 the crop value of the agriculture of Canada was 195,000,000 dollars. In 1909 it was 533,000,000 dollars. In this bald fact is to be found a gauge of Canada's prospect. The Dominion, with her broad prairies, her virgin soil, her uncounted forests of timber, and her resources of other kinds must remain chiefly an agricultural nation ; and since all humanity depends upon bread for its existence it is as a wheat-raising nation that she looks to become great. The three western prairie provinces, comprising as they do the great wheat belt of the country, are naturally the most important wheat producers. In 1900 the three provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta produced 23,000,000 bushels of wheat. In 1909 they raised 147,000,000 bushels. Of oats in 1900 they raised 16,000,000 bushels, in 1909, 185,000,000 bushels. In 1900 the crop of barley was 3,000,000 bushels, in 1909, 31,000,000 bushels. In other words, they are to-day producing nearly ten times as much as they produced nine years ago.
Amongst new countries the wheat production of Canada stands preeminent in quantity as well as in quality per acre. In 1909 Canada had an average of hard winter wheat of twenty-four bushels to the acre, and spring wheat twenty-one bushels to the acre. The United States had an average of sixteen bushels to the acre of winter and summer wheat. Russia had fourteen bushels per acre of winter wheat and eleven one twelfth bushels of spring wheat, and the Argentine had an average of eleven bushels to the acre. This fine average of production speaks volumes for the productivity of Canadian soil, and it is only when we turn to the older nations using expensive fertilisers that we find higher average productions per acre. France produces twenty and a half bushels to the acre, Germany thirty bushels, England thirty-three bushels, Belgium thirty-five bushels, and Scotland forty-one bushels.
While wheat is the principal crop grown on the prairie, in the more settled districts mixed farming is followed where wheat is succeeded by oats seeded down with grass. In the newer lands of the Far West, however, the most common system is to grow wheat for five or six years, then a year of fallow and back to wheat again. Either system exhausts the soil, and it is only because of the enormous store of fertility in the virgin soil that the average production per acre can be so high. As an example of what might be done in the way of production, Dr. Robertson, addressing the Seed-growers' Association and impressing upon them the importance of good seed and scientific cultivation, mentioned the fact that the farmers of the Province of Quebec received seventy-three million dollars from their crop, but if they had had a crop equal in yield to those at the Macdonald College they would have received 147 million dollars.
On the prairie both autumn and spring wheat is sown : autumn wheat for the most part is confined to the dry region in southern Alberta, which some years ago was considered too dry for wheat-raising. The scientific farmer discovered, however, that there was sufficient moisture for the wheat, and that the mildness of the winter made it possible to grow autumn wheat. Experiment showed that the wheat known as " Alberta red " could be profitably grown. In 1902 about 3,500 acres were sown, in 1908 the area under autumn wheat was 101,000 acres. Sowing begins in July, and during the autumn the wheat grows to a height of six or eight inches. It remains in the ground for a year, and, as is well known, this longer life allows the roots to penetrate deep into the soil and so produce a heavier and earlier crop than does the spring wheat. The prairie farmer, however, mainly depends upon the spring wheat, and after much experiment the variety known as " Red Fife " has been found to suit most conditions.
In breaking prairie-land the farmer prefers to begin between the beginning of May and the end of June, the reason being that if the land is broken up into a fine filth all the available rain is conserved and there is a good supply of moisture for the first crop.
During the winter the hard frost breaks up the soil, and by penetrating from three to six feet into the ground provides moisture to the growing roots during the heat of summer. In the following spring the seed is sown as soon as the weather permits, generally between the 10th of April and the 24th of May, at the rate of one and a quarter to two bushels per acre, and after being in the ground from 112 to 120 days the grain is usually ready to be reaped. Crops of wheat have matured in as little as ninety days. Practically all the reaping and threshing is done by mechanical power, and all threshers are licensed, one of the conditions of their licence being that they are obliged to return the number of bushels threshed and the acreage on which they were grown.
Dependent as this country is upon wheat grown elsewhere for our sustenance, it is important to know to what extent we rely upon Canadian and other markets severally for our supplies. We need, to feed our population about 100,000,000 hundred-weight each year. The following table shows the percentage supplied by the different markets of the world.
A comparison of the wheat production of Canada to that of the rest of the world is interesting and instructive. In the whole of Canada 169,000,000 bushels of wheat were produced in 1909: in the same year the United States produced 730,000,000 bushels, Russia 780,000,000 bushels, Argentina, a comparatively new comer among wheat-growing nations, 172,000,000 bushels, and Australia 66,000,000 bushels.
From these figures it will be seen that the United States is one of the great wheat producing countries, but it is well to remember that there is a widely-held opinion that the United States in the future, so far from keeping her place as a food exporting nation, will, because of her rapidly increasing population, become in the next half-century a food importing nation. The United States has not for some years succeeded in increasing her wheat production to any great extent, and since it is estimated that in the next half-century she will have to provide for a population of 200,000,000 people, and they will require over 1,000,000,000 bushels of wheat for their home markets. This being so it is argued they will be driven for their food to Canada, Argentina, and other markets of the world, but principally to Canada. The Russian and Indian crops fluctuate in the most remark-able manner, and Argentina is subject to numerous pests in the form of locusts and seasons of drought.
Therefore, though Canada has her own troubles, it is to her that we must look mainly for the increase for which the world will soon be wanting. But what, it is demanded, are her resources ? Taking the three North-West provinces we find that her total crops of 195,000,000 dollars are raised on 12,000,000 acres. 7,000,000 of these acres were in wheat and produced 147,000,000 bushels.
About two years ago it was estimated that the land in the hands of settlers amounts to about 46,000,000 acres, of which 12,000,000 were cultivated : 7,000,000 being in wheat. Of these- there are about 32,000,000 acres in the hands of railroads and other corporations (not settlers). There are, in addition, about 45,000,000 acres surveyed, and there are probably something like 90,000,000 acres of agricultural land unsurveyed. The total of these is 213,000,000 acres for the three provinces, of which 50,000,000 acres are probably suitable for wheat production with ordinary methods of farming in other words, about seven times the area that was cultivated in 1909. If it were possible to keep up the average production per acre this would give a crop of about 1,000,000,000 bushels of wheat for the three prairie provinces.
In dealing with the unsurveyed land north of the general surveys, criticism might be made that it is too far north to grow wheat. This is not so. In the northern country the conditions for producing the very finest kind of wheat are excellent. The long days of sunshine which nourish the corn, and the rapid development of the crop, coupled with the store of nitrogen in the virgin soil all make for production of wheat containing the largest proportion of protein in the world. It is a striking fact that for many years now the Minneapolis and St. Paul millers have bought Canadian wheat to mix with their own in order to keep up the standard grade of their flour. For several years back the very best quality of wheat has been grown in moderately large quantities as far north as 58 1/2 latitude, and the same latitude as Sutherland and Caithness, in the north of Scotland.
It is hardly to be expected that other branches of farming should be as popular as grain growing ; nevertheless, there has been quite a satisfactory increase in the number of live-stock in the country. The following table shows the number of cattle kept in Canada in the years 1901 and 1909. The 1901 figures are those of the census, and those of 1909 are taken from the Census and Statistics Monthly of the Department of Agriculture.
Ontario has been called the province of mixed farming. Excellent beef breeds are found in many parts, and Shorthorns, Herefords, and Polled Aberdeen Angus are to be seen which would be no discredit to the old country. Prince Edward Island has large numbers of cattle used for dairying purposes, and some years ago every small farmer fattened three or four steers ; but of late the quality has deteriorated. In the last two or three years, however, some good bulls have been imported, and the industry is reviving. In Nova Scotia the conditions of dairy cattle-keeping are excellent, and there is a good demand for dairy produce. The dykelands, formed of mud brought up by the high tides of the Bay of Fundy, is very fertile and produces splendid hay. Many farmers in this region are engaged in beef producing, and keep a moderately good class of cattle for this purpose. In the fruit districts, too, some little beef is produced since farmers require a class of animal that needs less attention than dairy cattle. The Provincial Government gives grants under an Act passed for the encouragement of agriculture, and a good deal of money has been expended on the purchase of bulls for the agricultural societies with a view to improving the breed.
Quebec being a closely settled province devotes special attention to dairy produce, much of which is purchased by the cities of Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa. It is hardly to be expected that Manitoba and the two other prairie provinces should, while wheat prices remain high, produce a great amount of cattle, but their capacity in that line is very great.
Curiously enough the cattle trade of British Columbia, where at one time cattle raising was a chief industry, has almost completely died out, though there are good cattle to be seen in some districts. Much of the beef supply at present is imported from Alberta. With its moist climate, well situated to the production of grass and fruit, and its mild winter it would seem that as the province grows there must be a large expansion of the cattle industry.
One cannot leave the cattle industry without a note on the embargo against the importation of Canadian cattle into Great Britain. As far as the ordinary infectious diseases are concerned, for example, pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, etc., there is practically no trace to be found in any part of the Dominion. The onus of reporting infectious diseases lies upon the owners of the cattle.
Precautions have been adopted against the importation from the United States, Newfoundland and Mexico, and a chain of sixty-seven inspection stations have been installed on or near the frontier through which all live-stock must enter. A heavy fine and liability to confiscation of stock is incurred by any attempt to evade the customs duty or to cross the frontier without inspection. The Canadian farmers and ranchers would, of course, welcome the removal of the embargo, but there are those who, looking at the subject from the more enconomic point prefer the cattle should be fattened and killed in Canada, so using up the food-stuff which is available, and building up a dead meat trade by the formation of packing centres and chilling houses at suitable points.
HORSES. When the Spaniards invaded Mexico in the sixteenth century they brought over with them large numbers of Spanish horses, many of which were abandoned or escaped from their owners and spread over the American continent to become wild horses of a particularly good type. The number of horses in Canada in the year 1901 was 1,577,493, and in 1909 2,132,489. About the two most popular breeds, Clydesdales and Percherons, there is considerable difference of opinion. It is claimed by many that the Percheron is more suitable to the country, but, on the other hand, the Clydesdale, with its greater weight of between 1,500 to 2,000 lbs. is the more powerful, the better boned, and makes the better waggon-horse. Considerable interest is being taken both by the provincial governments and the local horse-breeding societies in the question of breeding draft-horses, and in view of the continuously increasing demand and rising price it is probable that horse-breeding will revive to be a profitable business for many years to come. There is a growing demand for street draft horses of 1,500 to 1,800 lbs., and since these horses cost no more to raise than the ordinary nondescript horse, which is too common at present, the farmer may be expected to take up the matter much more systematically than heretofore.
It has been estimated by a ranch owner in Calgary district that he can grow horses to four years old for 10 each ; in the east the estimate is f20. Prices for the best class of five-year old horses range from £60 to 80 each. £100 is not an unheard of price for a first-class heavy draught horse.
SHEEP. It is a curious fact that although many parts of the climate of Canada are entirely suitable to the production of wool of good quality the sheep industry is falling off in almost every province. In 1881 the total number of sheep in the Dominion was over 3,000,000, whilst twenty years later, in 1901, it was not more than 2,500,000. In 1909 the total number was 2,705,000. There is this to be remembered that the Canadian farmer is very adaptable, and in bad sheep-keeping years the flocks were given up by many who found it more profit-able to adhere to agriculture pure and simple. Another fact must also be borne in mind, viz., that years ago, when the Eastern country was not in such a developed state and homespun was the rule, each farmer kept a small stock of sheep for clothing himself and his family.
The Maritime provinces seem to be showing more enterprise in the matter of sheep keeping than the others.
The present Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Sydney Fisher, himself a scientific farmer, is fully seized of the importance of the Sheep industry, and during the autumn of 1910, arranged for two experts to visit Great Britain and carefully investigate conditions bearing on the whole question with a view to advising the Canadian farmer as to the breeds of sheep suitable for the particular localities and the characteristics affecting wool and meat production.
Quite a large number of lambs is exported from these provinces to Boston or New York. They are much appreciated and bring high prices, bought on the farm, live weight, 5 or 5 1/2 cents per lb. is quite a usual price. Of recent years a market for lambs has been opened by the starting of feeding stations at the various points where light and refuse grain can be successfully utilised as feeding stuff.