Dykshoorn Farms is a 5th Generation Family Farm and Ranch located in the county of Foremost, which is located in Southern Alberta.  Our farm was homesteaded in1907, and we have been committed to growing and raising quality products while protecting the land, and respecting the animal since then. 

We raise Red Angus, Hereford Cross Cattle, which graze our pastures in the summer, and are fed Haylage and Rolled Barley which has been grown on Dykshoorn Farms in the Winter months. We believe that the care with which we raise our animals translates into a better product you can taste and see. We are excited to say we are working towards being "Verified Beef" Producers which gives our consumers the ability to trace our cattle from Birth to Harvest.

We use our horses to move our cows the old fashioned way, as we have found that the cows respond better, move easier, and remain calmer when moved that way. We also use our Border Collies Mika, and Lacey to help move the cows. They are professionally trained working cow dogs, and there is a mutual respect between the cows and the dogs.

The Farming life

Living our Best Life

Five Generations Strong

At Dykshoorn Farms soil health is of the utmost importance. We are always striving to improve organic matter, microbial activity, water infiltration and retention, and proper nutrient levels. Organic matter is important to us because the higher the organic matter the more nutrients are available to the plants and the better the water infiltration. Simply put - the higher the organic matter the better everything else in the soil is. 
In recent years we have also become more aware of how important soil microbes are - or better yet how important the soil biome is to the health of the soil. As we strive to increase our soil, the most important part is increasing the microbial activity. As we find ways to increase this activity, we will be able to increase organic matter in the soil, and increase the fertility as microbes make nutrients more available. In the environment where we farm we have a tendency to be a drier climate. We are also aware that due to our drier climate changes to our soil is a slower process than it would be in areas with higher rainfall.
A big way to speeding up this process in a dry climate like ours is to find ways to increase our water infiltration rate, and water retention... Water infiltration is how quickly your soil absorbs water when it rains, and water retention is how much water our soil can hold, and limit the loses from evaporation, heat and wind.  I will also discuss ways we are doing other helpful things such as our chemical usage, crop rotations, and leaving adequate cover on the land (this is achieved by using a zero tillage system and stripper headers whenever possible)
We also monitor nutrient levels on all our soil to make sure that the crops we grow will reach their maximum potential for the rainfall we do receive on any given year - this is generally done by soil sampling, and at times by tissue testing  some of the crops to see if the plants are in need of any mid season top ups. 

Soil Health

What is Soil Health? 

Providing fertility - the nutrients a plant needs in order to grow is an important part of our farming operation. Our approach to fertility is to provide the adequate amounts of fertility to allow our crops to grow uninhibited by a lack of nutrients...but also not to provide excessive amounts. The way that we accomplish this is through the use of fertilizers.
The main nutrients needed are also known as macro nutrients. They are: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Sulfur... also known as "N", "P", "K" and "S".
Based off of soil tests and a knowledge of what each crop requires for the yield we want to achieve we generally apply the majority of the nutrients needed when we are seeding our crops. 
Nitrogen goes down as "Urea" and is "banded" - meaning it is placed between the rows of seeds which will grow into the plant. 
Phosphorus is usually a part of what we call a starter blend. This is a blend of N, P and S that we place with the seeds so that the seedlings have the nutrients available to them immediately. Potassium or "K"  is generally widely available naturally in our soil and area so we don't have to apply it.

One aspect of fertility and nutrients that we are experimenting with, and have had some success with is the use of foliar products. Foliar products are nutrients that we are able to apply directly onto the leaves of the plant later in the season.  It is then absorbed into the plant through the leaves. The use of foliar products gives the plant a boost at just the right time during important times during the growing season. The other theory that we are working on is foliar application allows us to add nutrients later in the season when we have a better idea of how our crop might be able to yield based on the weather. If it turns hot and dry it allows us to save some money on our input costs by not applying unneeded product. 

Another hot topic in the soil health and fertility world is the amount of salts that are put in our soil from excessive use of fertilizers. We agree that this is a challenge that the agriculture industry must face and deal with. At Dykshoorn Farms we are constantly striving to find ways to reduce the amount of fertilizers that we use while maintaining adequate yields from out crops in order to stay profitable and healthy. The reason salts can be harmful is they create an enviroment in the soil that can make it difficult for the natural microbes to survive. Some solutions that we are working on are as follows: Applying Biologicals to the soil that have microbes in them make nutrients already in the soil more available. Trying products that make the plants more efficient with the nutrients that we provide them and experimenting with using our livestock and grazing as a part of the crop rotations to add natural nutrients back into the soil  

Plant and Soil Fertility

Plant and soil nutrients explained

Crop Rotation at Dykshoorn Farms is of the utmost importance...It has also changed A LOT over the years. Our most recent rotation has been in development  for awhile as we try to move our pulse crops out to a 6 year rotation. A typical crop rotation for us would be: Pulse Crop (currently Red Lentils) > Durum > Winter Wheat > Brown Mustard > Fall Rye > Barley > Back to a Pulse Crop (Red Lentils, Peas etc). The reasoning for this rotation has a few different objectives. 
First, having a 6 year rotation - specifically red lentils is becoming the recommendation. We are doing this to try to avoid Aphanomyces disease (better known as "Root Rot" in our lentil crops. It is a soil born disease, and our hope is that going with a 6 year rotation it will allow us to continue to grow Lentils until disease resistant varieties become available. Even through Red Lentils only account for a small portion of our crop acres, they are a very important crop on our farm. 
Durum is generally planted on lentil stubble because it is usually our highest valued cereal crop. Seeding it into lentil stubble limits the amount of contamination from other cereal crops. 
Winter Wheat comes next in the rotation. One reason is because we like to have some part of our rotation planted in the fall - this allows for living roots in the soil for longer periods of the year which helps to build the organic matter in the soil.  Second, we like to grow a cereal on cereal stubble to increase the amount of cover on the land. This cover will in return catch more snow in the winter months and also protects the soil from wind and water erosion. Growing fall crops also allows for competition against weeds that germinate and grow at different times of the year. It also utilizes the early spring moisture. 
Mustard is the next crop in the rotation. We like to grow a brassica in the rotation to allow for a different root profile...this also means different nutrient demands on the soil. Mustard can also be quite profitable most years. 
We follow mustard with a hybrid fall rye for the same reasons as growing winter wheat, but also because Rye competes extrememly well with weeds. It essentially cleans land up that has higher weed pressure (lots of weeds). It is a good fit to have Fall Rye following Mustard because weed control options are very limited in mustard. 
Barley follows Rye for a couple of reasons. The combination of rye and barley really increases the cover on the land, and barley is not affected by the allelopathic traits of rye (this is a trait that rye has that inhibits plants of other species to grow alongside it), and barley is a great crop to grow before planting pulses. 
We try to follow this rotation pretty closely but are very adaptable to what the land is telling us based on weed pressure, soil cover and operational efficiency. 
We are also experimenting growing polycrops which is when you plant multiple species together.  This allows us to graze it, and to increase soil health at the same time. 
We also grow perennial grasses and alfalfa for both grazing and hay production.
In the past, we have grown and probably will again sometime grow other crops like chickpeas, yellow peas, coriander and canola.

Crop Rotation

Why is it important that we rotate our crops?

The equipment that we use is complicated, and yet very simple at the same time. 
We have a high clearance sprayer that we use for applying herbicides, insecticides, and plant nutrition. 
2 John Deere 1895 Disc Drills that are zero till units - This means that they disturb the ground as little as possible. It just opens that soil about an inch and places the seed and fertilizer at the desired depth. The biggest advantage of not disturbing the soil is it protects that soil from drying our and being exposed to the elements. The carts that are pulled behind the drills carry the products (seed and fertilizer) and meters it out at a desired rate. Then a fan and air are used to move the product through hoses until it is eventually placed in the ground. 
We have 3 John Deere combines that we use to harvest our crops. These machines thresh (separate the grain from the "trash" or residual matter) and collect the grain in a hopper and then the residual material is spread back on the ground to increase cover on our soil.
One of the more unique things that we use on our farm are stripper headers. These are heads on the front of the combine that collect the material into the combine. A traditional straight cut header cuts the crop above the ground and collects all the plant material into the combine in order for the combine to separate the grain from other material; what a stripper header does differently is it uses a rotating drum and it strips the grain out of the head, and off of the straw or stem of the crop we are harvesting. In return our combines are able to travel faster, use less fuel/horsepower and be more efficient the separate the same amount of crop. Another benefit is the stripper header leaves as much straw standing in the field as possible. The standing straw will then catch more snow in the winter, and protect the soil from wind and sun. 
For our haying operation we have a disc bine or hay bine to cut the hay, and a couple of round balers that we use to bale up the material when the conditions are correct. For hay we like the moisture content to be under 20% and for the haylage we produce we want the moisture content to be under 65%.
Of course we have other equipment such as trucks and trailers, augers, conveyors and bins that we use on our operation, but the ones mentioned above are the main equipment for our field operations. 


The equipment we use to help acheive no-till

Pulses are crops that are a part of the legume family. The main pulse crop that we grow at this time are Red Lentils. Red Lentils are generally produced for the export market and are mainly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Other pulse crops that we have grown in the past, and may grow again are: Green Lentils, Yellow Peas and Chick Peas. 


What are pulses?

Cereal crops refer to crops that we produce that are related to the grass family. The cereals that we generally grow are Durum wheat, Winter wheat, Fall Rye, and Barley. We have also grown Spring Wheat and Triticale. 
Durum is generally grown for the pasta market and most of what we grow is exported to Europe and North Africa. 
Winter Wheat is most often grown for the feed market to feed livestock such as cows, chickens and pigs. It can also be used to produce flour which is then used to make bread.
The Fall Rye that we grow had typically been used to produce Rye Whiskey but can also be used in the feed market. 
Barley is grown for either the feed market like our Winter Wheat and Fall Rye, or the malt market (beer production). We most often grow feed barley because of our close proximity to many feed lots which finish out cattle, although we have grown Malt Barley in the past also.


What Cereals do we grow?

On our farm we always like to grow some sort of crop that is for a much smaller market. We attempt to find a niche market and produce for that. Currently we have been growing for an IP Brown Mustard. IP stands for "Identity Preserved"  The contract that we have grown under is for the European market which has some of the highest standards of quality control. The buyer wants to know where the mustard was produced, what products we used on the crop, and who we are. 
This information is available right to the end user of the mustard. We like growing for a market like this because they generally provide a premium for the extra effort to produce the crop and the data collection. 
Other specialty crops that we have grown in the past include Coriander, Oriental Mustard, Yellow Mustard, Canary Seed and Desi Chickpeas.

Specialty Crops

What specialty crops do we grow?

At Dykshoorn Farms we grow a variety of different forages. Forages are "Crops that are grown for grazing and feed production".
The first we grow would be Native Grass. This is grass that is native to the area and is solely used for grazing livestock. Native grass in Southern Alberta can be highly valuable to us as it maintains high feed quality even during drough years when other crops have dried up and lose quality. Native grass has to be managed very carefully, because if you ober graze it or graze it at the wrong time, it can take a long time to recover. To make sure that this does not happen we use our many generations of experience to monitor the grass and only graze it down to a certain point and then the livestock is moved before damage happens. 
Tame forages are another crop that we produce. Tame forage is grasses or legumes that we have planted for the use of either  grazing or feed production. Tame forages that we grow for feed production are generally a mix of Brome Grasses, Wheat Grasses, Fescue, Alfalfa and Sainfoin. Forages that we grow for feed production typically have higher amounts of legumes like Alfalfa and Sainfoin - but we almost always include grasses as well. 
Tame grasses are hugely beneficial to our operation as they generally produce higher tonnage per acre than tame grasses do, and have a quicker recovery after drought or heavy grazing. 
Our grazing management programs are constantly evolving and changing to improve soil health, livestock health and plant health. Some general rules we follow are the following: only graze 50% of the stand before moving the livestock to another location, try and limit the size of the fields, and try to change the grazing rotations so the same piece of ground is not grazed at the same time every year. 
We have also done some work with intensive grazing and like the results, but are still working on how to manage the time and labour side. 
The last type of forage that we grow would be what we call annual forages. These forages we have to plant every year. We have spent several years experimenting with growing "Polycrops" (this is multiple types of species grown at the same time). The benefit of Polycrops is it allows for a very dynamic root profile which is the number one way to increase organic matter in the soil. Another reason that we started growing these annuals was to fill in the gaps of our growing season when our regular forages would be in shorter supply. We are trying to extend our grazing season. 
The annuals are also like tame forages in that they generally produce a higher tonnage per acre than native grasses do. Some examples of annual forages would be: Sorghum, Hairy Vetch, Clovers, Triticale, Oats, Millet, Radishes, Turnip, Beets, Italian Rye Grass and many more. 


What is a Forage, and why do we grow it?

 We at Dykshoorn Farms we are constantly trying to find new ways of doing things.  We are always trying to improve efficiency, enviromental health and profitability.  In doing this we need to have trials to be able to see what works and what doesn't work for our operation. 
Some examples of these trials would be yield trials of new varieties of crops that we are growing, and product trials that we used to see if new products are a right fit for our program and operation. 
Some trials that we will be doing in the upcoming season would be conducting test strips of products that are intended to improve the plants on a cellular level.  These products are supposed to improve the stress tolerance and nutrient us of the the plant and make it more efficient.  Our biggest goal with products like this would be to maintain or improve yield while using less inputs. 
We will also continue to do our long-term trials with adding grazing into our rotations to improve the soil heath which would in return allow us to reduce inputs while maintaining strong profitability. 
We are also going to have some yield trials again this year.


What kind of Trials do we do at Dykshoorn Farms and Why do we do them?

At Dykshoorn Farms we understand that in today's world chemical use has a really strong negative connotation. We are committed to to always lookin for ways to reduce the amount of chemicals we use.  In saying this we do what keep chemical as an option for us to maintain clean, healthy products that we sell. 
The chemicals we use are there to prevent prevent weed infestations that could happen and cause us to not have any crop because the weeds have taken over the land.  This could potentially make the land difficult to farm for a very long period of time because of residual week seeds.
Fungicide is not very common on our farm, but at times we do use it to keep the plants at optimal health. This in return allows us to provide a healthier, cleaner product at the end of the season. This is one area that we have had tremendous success in moving away from. We now use a low salt fertilizer product that seems to preform just as well as fungicides at reduced costs, but again, most years fungicide is not required on our farm. 

Chemical Use

How do we feel about chemical use on the farm?