August, 2022

The WAGS Word

Welcome to the Q3 2022 edition of the Western Ag Supply newsletter.

As you all no doubt are aware, grain prices in Western Canada are really starting to slide as crop conditions look quite good across the prairies. The real critical development is that livestock producers in Western Canada will be feeding local grain this coming crop year which makes our cost structure much more globally competitive than when we are importing feed grain from the Midwest. Great news!

It was great to see that many of you came by to enjoy some presentations and a meal at our customer appreciation day in July. Another sign of the world getting a little more normal again - this was the first time we could hold this event in the last few years. It was very nice to see everyone, to learn a bit together and to break bread together.

Thank you for your business and we look forward to helping you to formulate local grain into your rations as harvest gets underway!

Commodity Price Update

After months of increasing grain prices, we are finally seeing some relief with improved moisture across the Canadian Prairies. This bearish trend is also due to the resumption of Black Sea shipments and the escalating tensions between China and the US. Interest rate hikes and the fear of a global economic recession have also driven speculative money out of commodities.

As a result, there is a growing concern regarding global demand for commodities and Brent crude oil prices have gone down from around $115-120 USD in June to below $100 USD. This can reduce the costs of production but increasing fertilizer prices and the possible impacts of La Niña on crop progress can still provide upside risks.

The Canadian Dollar is trading around the $ 0.775 level over the past weeks. Decreasing oil prices can limit the Loonie strength, but market participants are pricing in a more aggressive hike of interest rates by the Bank of Canada (BoC) during the September meeting.

Corn prices have decreased following the global economic outlook, record Brazilian harvest, and the resumption of Ukrainian exports. However, heat and dryness across the US corn belt is providing support. Corn in Lethbridge/AB is being traded at $370 per MT FOB and at $403 per MT delivered in Saskatoon/SK. The declining US crop conditions could bring volatility, but corn will probably be replaced on Canadian feed diets by wheat and barley in the near term.

Wheat prices are also declining following the winter wheat harvest pressure and the improved outlook for the Canadian crop. Price indications in Red Deer/AB are at $410 per MT delivered and around $395 per MT in Saskatoon/SK.

Barley prices are also being pressured by the new crop prospects since the Canadian production is expected to increase by 30% this year. Prices are ranging between $355 and $365 per MT delivered in Lethbridge/AB. Delivery prices in Saskatoon/SK are at $340 per MT and at $359 per MT in Red Deer/AB. Soybean meal pricing in Alberta is ranging between $800-805 per MT, following the strong demand and the concerns around the weather forecasts across the US producing areas. The forecasts are showing dryness over producing regions in August, but spotty Midwest rains could boost the health of its crop. Rail logistics and labour challenges are also providing an upside risk. Following this trend, canola meal is being traded around $540 per MT in Red Deer/AB and $487 per MT in Saskatoon/SK. For the long term, meal prices could decrease as global crushing capacity is expected to rise.

Pulses prices are around $445 per MT in Red Deer/AB, with a downside potential as old-crop activity slows down and attention turns to the new crop. As we move towards the Q3, prices of grains and proteins are expected to drop following new crop activities.

Amino acids continue to trend downwards with container logistics becoming more manageable and good supply availability in North America.

Changes in poultry rations as a consequence of the drought experienced in the prairie provinces and Montana

Traditionally poultry diets in Alberta and Saskatchewan have used mostly wheat and to a lesser extent barley as source of energy. Usage of corn used to be low because of its higher price as compared to that of wheat and barley. A typical layer ration used to include around 35 to 45% wheat, 10 to 20% barley and 10 to 15% corn.

Due to the drought in the prairies and Montana last year, the availability of wheat and barley decreased substantially. According to a report from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, in October 2021, dry land yields were 37% lower than the 5-year average index. Because of the lower supply of these 2 grains, sharp increases in their prices were experienced. Figure 1 shows the variation of wheat price in central Alberta from January 2021 to June 2022. In that period the lowest price was $300 per MT and the highest reached $600 per MT.

Fortunately, the production of corn in the US in the 2021 season was near record-high according to USDA which resulted in corn becoming more economic to use in poultry rations as compared to wheat and barley.

Figure 2 shows the price variation of corn from January 2021 until June 2022 in central Alberta. January 2021 showed the lowest price at $300 per MT whereas the highest price was recorded in May 2022 at $470 per MT. From January 2021 to September 2021 corn price was higher than that of wheat, with an average difference of $29 per MT in that period. From October 2021 to June 2022 corn became less expensive than wheat, with an average difference of $65 per MT.

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As a result of this new reality, in some cases corn has become the main source of energy in poultry diets. It has replaced completely or to a very large extent the use of wheat and barley in the rations. It has become common to see diets including corn at 25-55% of the rations, resembling rations used in Eastern Canada, which are based on corn and soy meal to provide most of the energy and protein. In other cases, barley has replaced large amounts of corn and wheat, with the inclusion rate going as high as 50%.

There are other factors that are considered when formulating poultry rations, besides the market prices of the feed ingredients. For instance, some chicken farmers also produce wheat and barley, so in spite of the very high price of these two commodities they have decided to limit the usage of corn and instead opted to use their own grains.

The use of least cost formulation programs, to work laying diets for hens, without modifying the nutrient constraints, shows that there is no difference in the cost of the ration when using barley instead of wheat if barley is $80 to $85 per tonne cheaper than wheat. On the other hand, to save around $5 dollars per tonne, the price of barley needs to be $90 - $95 dollars per tonne lower than the price of wheat. In the case of corn, the price of the formula does not change when replacing wheat with corn provided the price of corn is $35-$40 dollars less than the price of wheat. To save around $5 dollars per tonne using corn to replace some of the wheat, the price of corn needs to be $45 to $50 dollars less than that of wheat.

It appears that the nutrient content of wheat and barley from the prairie provinces and Montana was affected by the drought. In years before the drought, the protein content of wheat ranged from 12.5 to 15% (as fed basis) and in barley the average protein content varied from 10 to 11%. On the other hand, the average crude protein content of the wheat from the 2021 crop has seen values from 16.5% to 19% (as fed basis), similarly the average protein content of barley increased from around 15% to 17%. One benefit, as a result of the increased protein levels in wheat and barley, has been lower amount of soy meal needed to balance the diets.

Table 1 shows the protein content of wheat on as fed basis from two farms in Alberta for the 2020 and 2021 crops.

Table 1. Wheat protein content of 2020 and 2021 crop from two farmers in Alberta.

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The drought and other difficulties experienced due to the pandemic, made the previous year one of the most challenging years for poultry producers in the Canadian prairies and Montana. At Western Ag Supply, we have been, and we will continue our commitment to provide our clients with the most effective support to help them to succeed in their business.

Note: References available upon request.

Adding Enzymes to Cow Feed: Is it Worth it?

Adding exogenous enzymes to ruminant diet is not uncommon and a considerable research data has been out since 1990s 1. The interest for using feed enzymes has grown further because of availability of wide range of exogenous enzyme products, development of better methods to evaluate enzyme activity, revised knowledge on rumen functions and recent advances of biotechnology which lowers the cost of enzyme production. There are a few main categories of enzymes used in ruminant diets; fibrolytic, amylolytic and proteolytic based on their enzymatic action on specific substrate or type of nutrients. These enzymes are produced from mainly four bacterial species, three fungal species and some yeast. In order to extract enzymes from these organisms, highly advanced techniques such as solid-state fermentation (SSF) and submerged fermentation (SF) are used and subsequently followed by several other biotechnological aspects for preserving these enzymes at commercial level. Enzymes can be added to the diet at different stages of the feeding process; 1) adding to forage at harvesting, 2) adding to silage, 3) adding to concentrate (grain mix) and 4) adding to TMR (total mixed ration). Pretty much all ruminant animals (dairy, beef, goat, sheep and water buffalo) have been used for research experiments (feeding trials), however there were more research data found on dairy and beef cattle compared to the other species. The results are inconsistent and not very encouraging but some positive results on feed intake, nutrient digestibility, growth performance, other production parameters and manure nutrient excretion were shown 2.

Enzymes are substances (a type of specialized protein) that act as a catalyst in living organisms, regulating the rate at which chemical reactions (e.g. enzymatic digestion) proceed without itself being altered in the process. The biological processes that occur within all living organisms (animals, plants and micro-organisms) are chemical reactions, and most are regulated by enzymes. Enzymes catalyze all aspects of animal (cellular) metabolism. This includes the digestion of food, in which large nutrient molecules (such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are broken down into smaller molecules. The process of digestion is performed by digestive enzymes secreted by the animal or micro-organisms. So, there are two categories of enzymes involved in the process of digestion in animals; endogenous enzymes and exogenous enzymes 3. Some important aspects to be noted are that enzymes are active and efficient in certain temperature (thermo-sensitive) and they could be easily destroyed by heat or pH change (they could become unstable or inactive).

Endogenous enzymes: Enzymes secreted by the animal body cells are called endogenous. Mainly digestive enzymes secreted at the digestive tract of the animal are considered endogenous enzymes 3.

Exogenous enzymes: Enzymes coming to animal from external sources such as gut or rumen microbes, and enzymes added to feed. This group of enzymes is specific and typically fed to livestock animals or pets in order to target particular components (nutrients) of the diet such as starch, protein, fibre and phytic acid 3.

Purpose of enzymes in feed (aiming feed efficiency): Given the recent-rising costs of feedstuffs and lower margins in the livestock industry, feed efficiency is paramount in livestock operations. Enzymes are one of the tools that can be used to increase the digestibility and efficiency of nutrient utilization 4.

Role of enzymes in digestion: The digestive enzymes break down feedstuffs to release nutrients ready for absorption from the gut to the animal body. In monogastic animals, the digestive enzymes are secreted by specialized parts of the gut; pancreas and specialized cells of gastro-intestinal tract. In simple terms, enzymes in the gut can covert 1) carbohydrates to glucose, 2) protein to amino acids, 3) and lipids to fatty acids and glycerol through digestion. In ruminants, the digestion is somewhat different from monogastrics. Microbes in the rumen play a bigger role supporting the process of feed digestion. Some enzymes are produced naturally by microbes in the rumen and the gut of animal. However, there may be limitations in the quantity of enzymes produced naturally for the process of digestion under different production conditions, feeding regimen and high dry-matter intake (DMI) by animal. In addition, the rate at which digesta passes through the digestive tract (passage rate) may be too fast for the natural enzymes to complete the task of digestion efficiently. Additionally, there may be limitations on the amount of enzymes produced by the microbes in the rumen (in situations like rumen acidosis). Because of rumen microbial activities, using exogenous enzymes in ruminant diet is more complex and complicated compared to monogastrics 1.

When exogenous enzymes are fed to ruminants, the main site of action is the rumen. Enzymes may assist the rumen microbial population by performing some of the digestion for the microbes or share a part of the process. Overall, this means improved digestion in the rumen. It results in less work for the rumen microbial population, thus energy is saved and can be used by the animal for maintenance and production, instead of being used by the microbes. The improved digestion provides the opportunity to maintain or improve ruminant performance on less dry matter (feed) intake. The bottom line is optimal animal performance and production but lees feed hence less feed cost. This efficiency in the rumen digestion, may help preventing rumen acidosis and also reduce heat normally produced during rumen digestion. It may help to slower the heat stress in summer 5. Knowing the analysis of ingredients used to formulate a diet for ruminants is not only important in understanding what enzyme complex may be best to use but also to understand potential rate-limiting steps. For example, lignin forms complexes with carbohydrates in the cell wall of plants. This “interference” from lignin will prevent some enzymes (e.g., xylanase) from binding with their substrate, thus slowing the rate at which enzymes can function.

Researchers in 1990 demonstrated that surface area (particle size) is also a major limiting factor, especially for cellulose digestion 1.

Source of exogenous enzymes: The enzymes added to feed are extracted from complex microbial fermentations of fungi (e.g., Aspergillus, Trichoderma) and bacteria (e.g., Bacillus). The type of enzyme and its activity is dependent on few surrounding factors in the process of enzyme production; the strain of micro-organism used, the media they are grown on and the culture conditions used 1.

Experimental evidence: In many research published so far, production responses to fed enzymes are not consistent. This is not an amusement if you are aware of the complexity of digestive processes. A single enzyme added may not be sufficient to create a statistically significant effect on feed efficiency, since many different enzymes are required to degrade the structural carbohydrates naturally found in plant cell walls. Therefore, simply adding enzymes to diets without considering the substrates being fed may not result in efficient digestion or improved feed efficiency. Having said that, here we present some studies showing a positive impact.

Alpha amylase-fed beef cattle showed an increase in average daily gain when the diet contained cracked corn or high-moisture corn and corn silage. However alpha amylase had no effect on cattle fed alfalfa hay, cottonseed hulls or steam-flaked corn. It means precision selection of enzymes matching to the feed types is important to increase feed efficiency and better productivity 6. In another study, adding fibrolytic enzyme in dairy cattle feed enhanced the fat-corrected milk efficiency with increasing dosage of the enzyme 7. An enzyme blend (xylanase and cellulase) fed to steers improved the feed efficiency with a barley-based diet but not with a corn-based diet 8.

Researchers in 2011 studied the effect of applying a fibrolytic enzymes to diets with either high (48 percent) or low (33 percent) amounts of concentrate on milk production of lactating dairy cows. The fibrolytic enzymes increased the fat-corrected milk efficiency of cows fed both the low and high concentrate diets, demonstrating the enzymes were functional and capable of improving the digestive efficiency in the rumen, even with lower ruminal pH 2.

If dry matter intake does not decrease with the addition of enzymes, the enhanced digestion by the enzymes can supply more nutrients and energy for increased milk production, even though rumen retention time of feed is compromised by a higher dry matter intake.

Therefore, enzyme technology can improve feed efficiency in three possible ways: direct improvement in digestibility of feeds, indirect improvement in digestibility via lower dry matter intake and increased rumen retention time of feed, or some combination of the first and second.

Expectation: A good forage treatment program will not only preserve the forage but also provide enzymes (cellulases, amylases, xylanases and pectinases) that “pre-digest” fibers, starches and sugars in forages, which makes them more digestible for animals. The release of sugars from both structural and non-structural carbohydrates stimulates rapid microbial growth, which aids in microbial colonization of plant material. Treating feed directly with enzymes should be considered the first step toward feed efficiency with enzyme technology. In addition, enzymes capture more value from components of feedstuffs already digestible by allowing quicker release of the nutrients. In this way, more potentially digestible substrates from feed can be obtained for use by livestock 1.

Concerns: It is important to keep in mind that adding enzymes to ruminant diets will increase the rate of digestion but not necessarily the extent of digestion. This means the effect of enzymes is not due to making substrates digestible if they would not be digested in the rumen without the use of enzymes3, 5. Practically speaking, enzymes become advantageous when you consider digestion efficiencies decline with increasing dry matter intake. There is a 4 percent decline in digestion per multiple of maintenance dry matter intake (NRC, 2021)9. Conversely, if one improves digestibility of a TMR with enzymes, cows should not need to consume as much feed to support a given volume of milk production. The reduction in dry matter intake will enhance dry matter digestibility in the rumen due to slower passage rate (increases rumen retention time) of the feed through the rumen.

The cost of inclusion should be evaluated against the expected benefits (feed efficiency).

Summary: Feed efficiency is an important aspect of livestock production. Exogenous enzymes can provide a means to improve efficient use of nutrients in feeds by livestock, enhancing production goals. Starting with the application of a forage/feed inoculant containing enzymes should be considered. However, enzymes need time in the rumen to work before they are exposed to the low pH and pepsin of the abomasum. Enzymes to be fed should tally with the diet or feed ingredients. With a correct practice, enzymes may improve the efficiency in ruminants.

Note: References available upon request.

Strategies to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress in pigs

Pigs do not sweat and so they can not dissipate heat efficiently to maintain normal body temperature. When ambient temperature exceeds the upper critical temperature (UCT), pigs are subjected to heat stress and production efficiency is compromised (Mayorga et al., 2019); resulting in severe economic losses (Pollman, 2010).

Effect of heat stress on animal performance
Digestion produces heat (metabolic heat) and so one of the immediate signs of heat stress is reduced feed intake. Consequently, heat stress in pig production results in reduced growth rates and increased mortality. Reduced fertility, higher lactation weight loss, reduced milk yield and litter weight are observed in the sows/boars (as cited by Cotrell et al., 2015)

Piglets. Young pigs are not affected by heat stress possibly due to its small size. The reduction in weaning weight is typically an indirect consequence of reduced feed intake by the sow.

Growing pigs. Feed (and energy) intake has been shown to decrease by 10-30% when ambient temperature increased from 19 to 31˚C. Average daily gain was reported to be slower by 20% in pigs under heat stress (35˚C), and feed conversion ratio increased (poorer) by 4.6% (Stahly and Cromwell (1979; 1981)

Gestation. Gestation feed intake is typically not affected by heat stress because they are limi-fed.. However, a 2-hour exposure to 40˚C between day 2 and 13 can cause 63% embryo mortality (Wildt et al, 1975). Piglets born to heat-stressed sows (d 85 of gestation to 21 days lactation; 28 to 30˚C; 10 hours per day) may have increased fatness at finishing (Heng et al., 2019).

Lactation. Daily feed intake was 54% lower; body weight loss was 52% higher, backfat thickness loss was 67% higher; and piglet growth rate was 23% slower in sows under heat stress conditions (29˚C) compared to those under thermoneutral environment (Quiniou and Noblet, 1999)

Nutritional strategies to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress in pigs

1) Reduced protein and fiber; increased added fat. Pigs produce higher metabolic heat when digesting excess protein and fermenting fiber compared with fat metabolism. Therefore, diets with higher fat, less fiber and with the correct amount of protein and amino acids would help alleviate the effects of heat stress (Patience et al, 2015). It has been shown that feeding finishing pigs (88 kg body weigh) diets with higher fat (8%), especially with high crude protein levels, resulted in higher growth rates and better feed efficiency compared to pigs fed diets with lower fat (1%) during heat stressed conditions (Spencer et al, 2005). For practical diets, added fat of 2 to 6% would suffice.

2) Selenium (Se), vitamin C and vitamin E. Oxidative stress is often linked with heat stress and may result in tissue damage. Oxidative stress occurs because of the imbalance between the reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and antioxidant capacity (Liu et al., 2015). Feeding growing pigs high in levels of vit E (200 IU/kg) and Se (100 ppm) for 14 days during heat stress (35˚C) protected the intestinal barrier integrity, improved antioxidant buffering and reduced oxidative damage (Liu et al., 2015). Vitamin C may alleviate heat stress by reducing the stress-hormone cortisol and anti-diuretic hormone (Mavromichalis, 2010).

3) Grape seed polyphenols. Supplementing sow diets with grape seed polyphenol (200 to 300 mg / kg) during late gestation and lactation enhanced the antioxidant status and hormone levels in the serum and increased IgM and IgG content in the colostrum of sows. Grape seed polyphenol supplementation also improved piglet farrowing survival and pre-weaning survivability (Huang et al, 2019)

4) Betaine. Performance was not improved with betaine supplementation. However, reduced respiration rate and improved intestinal barrier function were reported by Gabler et al (2013) in pigs supplemented with betaine (1.25 kg/tonne) compared to those fed without. Higher total born (+12%; Van Wettere et al., 2012) and total born alive +8%; van Wattere et al., 2013) were reported in sows supplementation with betaine (7.6 to 9 g/sow/day) from 3d post breeding to farrowing during summer months.

5) Chromium. Insulin concentration in the blood of growing pigs has been shown to decrease after 6 hours of exposure to heat stress (Gable and Pearce, 2015). Therefore, compounds that improve insulin sensitivity may be beneficial during heat stress. Chromium has been shown to augment the receptor binding of insulin potentiating its activity. Summer diets supplemented with chromium picolinate at 400 ppb fed to finishing pigs increased ADFI by 6% compared to those fed diets without and was attributed to the reduction in cortisol levels (Hung et al, 2014)

6) Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Pigs respire rapidly to help alleviate the effects of heat stress. As a consequence, CO2 is rapidly removed from the blood by exhalation, resulting in metabolic acidosis and reduced feed intake. Sodium bicarbonate and potassium (from potassium chloride) may help maintain electrolyte balance and improve feed intake (Lankveld, 2016). Mavromichalis (2015) recommends using 1 kg (0.1%) of sodium bicarbonate per tonne of complete feed.

Heat stress results in huge economic losses in pig operations. Some nutritional strategies to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress include diet modification i.e. high fat, low protein, and fiber to reduce metabolic heat generated, addition of anti-oxidants (Vit E, Vit. C, polyphenols and Se), and the use of betaine, chromium and sodium bicarbonate.

Note: Adapted from an article published at the WAGS Newsletter in July 2022
Note: References available upon request.


2nd Sovereign Farming Company
4th Wymark Farming Company Ltd.
6th Raley Colony Ltd.
8th New Dale Hutterian Brethren

5th Bench Farming Company
7th R Valley Farming Co. Ltd.


Lean Percent target
1st New Dale Hutterian Brethren
2nd Wymark Farming Company Ltd.
4th Bert Dunsbergen
8th Vanguard Farming Co. Ltd
10th Raley Colony Ltd.

Loin Depth Target
1st Skylight Colony
4th Raley Colony Ltd
9th New Dale Hutterian Brethren

% in Core Area
1st Soverteign Farming Company
7th Hillridge Farming Co.
8th Raley Colony Ltd.

Carcass Wt. Target
1st Hillridge Farming Co.
2nd Raley Colony Ltd.
3rd Sovereign Farming Company

Congratulations and well done! WAGS is proud to be the nutrition provider in your barns.


A farmer goes into a farm supply store and orders two hundred chicks, explaining to the owner that he wants to start a chicken farm. Two weeks later, he returns to the store and buys another two hundred chicks. The owner is curious but doesn’t say anything. The same thing happens when the farmer returns in another two weeks for another two hundred chicks.

When he returns for the fourth time, the owner’s curiosity is too much for him, so he asks the farmer why he keeps coming back for so many chicks.

The farmer says, “Well, I guess I must be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what. I think I’m either planting them too deep or too close together.”

Bemused by his lack of success, the farmer sends off a report of what he has done to the local agricultural school, asking for advice.

Three weeks later, the reply comes back, saying simply, “Please send soil sample.

You Might Be A Dairy Farmer:
- If you know the price of milk per hundred weight but not by the gallon.
- If the medicine cabinet contains a container of Bag Balm.
- If you’ve ever gotten an award for fat (and were proud of it).
- If your idea of a power lunch is a sandwich on a tractor.
- If your idea of a neighborhood watch is someone calling you to let you know your heifers are out.
- If you have more than a dozen cats.
- If your idea of overnight delivery is pulling a calf at three in the morning.
- If you can remember the name of every cow on your farm but the names of your children elude you.
- If manure is a dinner table topic.
- If your backyard ends at an electric fence.

Source: https://jokesnjokes.net


David Borsboom – Sales Manager
Harry Korthuis – Sales Manager
Darcy MacDonald – Sales Manager
Doug Richards – Sales Manager
Tony Rock – Sales Manager
Gordon Van Dasselaar – Sales Manager
Denni Van Dasselaar-Sales Manager
Allison Atford-Office Assistant, Lethbridge, Alberta
Hailey Moors – Office Manager, Lethbridge, Alberta

Darlene Thorburn – Office Coordinator, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Andrew Vassar– Warehouse Coordinator, Great Falls, Montana
Saman Abeysekara – Ruminant Nutritionist
Benjamin Londono – Poultry Nutritionist
Darren MacLeod – Swine Nutritionist
Mario Rebolledo – Poultry Nutritionist
Danilo Sotto – Swine Nutritionist
Tom Dowler – General Manager