February 15, 2024

DUC rewards Manitoba farmers for outstanding agronomy

Winners from Basswood, Rossburn, Birtle, St. Claude and Binscarth

Ducks Unlimited Canada Top 5 Forage Establishment winners Steven Sawchuk, Anna Donohoe, David Collier, Kevin Bridgeman and Gerald Wildfang
Ducks Unlimited Canada Top 5 Forage Establishment winners Steven Sawchuk, Anna Donohoe, David Collier, Kevin Bridgeman and Gerald Wildfang

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has recognized five farms in southwestern Manitoba for outstanding agronomy in establishing perennial forages, awarding $10,000 in cash prizes to the landowners.

“DUC’s mission is to make farms more profitable and sustainable,” explains Alex Griffiths, lead agrologist for the Forage Program in Manitoba. “We are thrilled to celebrate the achievements of these top producers who increased biodiversity on their land by converting cropland to grass and pasture.”

The winners

The farms were judged to have the highest plant density and plant height, forage diversity and lack of weeds in new acres seeded in 2023 through DUC’s Forage Program. The program is a partnership with Manitoba Beef & Forage Initiatives that receives funding from the Conservation Trust. Last year, program participants established 4,200 forage acres in Manitoba and over 26,000 acres across the prairie provinces.

Manitoba’s Top 5 Forage Establishment winners are:

  • Anna and Haydn Donohoe, Malarky Farms Ltd, Basswood MB
  • Steven Sawchuk, Rossburn MB
  • David Collier, Jim Lane Ltd, Birtle MB
  • Gerald Wildfang, Manasseh Fleckvieh Angus Farm, St. Claude MB
  • Kevin Bridgeman, K & J Bridgeman Farms Ltd, Binscarth MB

Read more about the farmers and their recipes for forage success here.

“The 70 acres we put down to forage had been crop land for past years,” says Kevin Bridgeman, who operates a horse and cattle ranch with his son. ”Working with Ducks Unlimited Canada has been great. We appreciate their input throughout the process. They were knowledgeable about the soil conditions in our area and the weather situation we had experienced during the growing season.”

Forages are good for farms and the planet

Farmers use perennial forages to feed livestock but other benefits include reducing soil compaction, building organic matter in fields and increasing water-holding capacity. Research shows DUC’s Forage Program is helping bring back declining populations of grassland birds and waterfowl. Perennial forages also capture and store more carbon than annual crops, which helps mitigate climate change.

DUC’s Forage Program pays participants $125 per acre to plant forages. Custom seed mixes, on-farm advice and the chance to win cash prizes are also offered. Apply for the 2024 crop year now by calling Griffiths at 204-848-0514.

“We have worked with hundreds of farmers in southwest Manitoba over the past decade and established over 37,000 acres of forages,” says Griffiths. “Our success with forages is science-backed and field tested.”

DUC support

“Alex was fantastic. Really knowledgeable,” says cow/calf producer Gerald Wildfang, who established 245 acres. “I took back this land last year after renting it out and I wanted to put it to forage, not cropland “I used an ordinary seeder – not an air seeder – and it worked out fine. I was also in a good pocket for rain.”

Read more about the Top 5 Forage Establishment winners and DUC’s Forage Program here.

As Manitoba’s oldest and largest conservation group, DUC has worked with 3,000 Manitoba landowners since 1938 to conserve over 1.5 million acres (626,000 hectares). Call 204-285-9779 to find out about DUC programs and financial incentives here.