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Cool Running: Ranching in Alberta’s Cow Country

A pasture sits empty, virtually devoid of anything living, unless you count the grasses, which went dormant months ago as winter set in. While it’s minus 16 Celsius—a relatively balmy winter temperature for Northern Alberta—the wind is howling at about 50 kph and shooting cold like darts into any exposed skin.

Even the cattle up here don’t venture into the open. They choose instead the shelter offered by a sizable stand of poplar and spruce trees. That is, until they hear the tractor.

Like some sort of dinner bell, the sound of the engine bounces off the frosted landscape and calls the cows from the bush. Some 600 cows and a few calves—just one group from a herd that numbers as much as 11,000—barrel forth and line up, ready for mealtime, before they head back to the refuge of the trees.

The Cattlemen who raise them, Chris Sloan and his brother Frankie, and their father, Frank, run Sloan Cattle Company, a cow/calf operation north of St. Paul, Alberta. With some 30,000 acres owned or managed by them, they believe their ranch is among the 20 largest such concerns in Canada.

Comparisons aside, theirs is a demanding job. The Sloans’ pastureland is spread over some 130 km, while the land on which they grow hay—producing as much as 35,000 round bales in years past—is as far away as 150 km.

“One of the challenges of having [so many] cows,” says Chris, “is finding the feed for them. We fight as hard as we can to graze six months out of the year and feed six months. That’s why we make so much hay and bale so much straw,” as many as 1,000 bales a day, adds Chris. They cut and bale that hay with a combination of Massey Ferguson tractors, and Hesston windrowers and large square balers—all tough enough to handle harsh conditions and long hours in the field.

Even though prices are good now, market pressures are always a concern for ranchers, as they are for farmers. Still, says Chris, “The cattle industry really seems optimistic now.”

It’s a lifestyle the three Sloans absolutely love. “I like working with these two and seeing them grow up on the farm,” says Frank about his sons. “And it’s an awful nice sight to see 650 cows lining up, eating their oats behind a spreader. There’s satisfaction in knowing that you’ve done that … that you’ve raised that food for the whole world.”

For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/cool-running-ranching-in-albertas-cow-country.

She Wrote the Book: Audrey Levatino and the Women-Powered Farm

“People say, ‘Your garden must be beautiful,’” says Audrey Levatino of her specialty cut-flower farm near Gordonsville, Va. It’s not like owning a “landscaped country garden,” she says. “It’s work.”

Audrey Levatino

Audrey Levatino

It’s work she loves so much, she stopped teaching high school English to run the farm on the 23-acre property she and husband, Michael, bought in 2002. Michael’s full-time book-publishing work means Audrey operates the farm—named “Ted’s Last Stand”—mostly alone.

The name came from a rooster that died because of the couple’s inexperience. Without a guard dog, the rooster needed nightly protection. That didn’t happen, and Audrey says, “A trail of feathers is all we found.”

She includes such lessons in “Woman-Powered Farm: Manual for a Self-Sufficient Lifestyle from Homestead to Field” (W.W. Norton, $24.95). The cover features her 1955 Massey Ferguson® 65 “workhorse” tractor, which she uses to plow, mow, haul and gain height for chores, such as putting up and taking down hoop houses.

When she meets women who want to replicate her experience, Audrey recommends finding a supportive farming community. “You’re going to need help, you’re going to need to commiserate and,” she says, “you’re going to need to share your victories.”

For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/farmstead/she-wrote-the-book-audrey-levatino-and-the-women-powered-farm/.

One Beefy Tractor: the Massey Ferguson 1533

One of North America’s most accomplished whitewater pioneers, Paul Breuer spends more time these days riding his tractor than guiding a raft. Along with his wife Jennifer, Breuer owns and operates Country Road Cabins. The 89-acre rustic resort is home to 20 deluxe rental cabins near West Virginia’s New and Gauley rivers, where Breuer helped build the state’s whitewater industry.

Paul Breuer on the MF1533

Paul Breuer on the MF1533

In addition to maintaining the property’s miles of gravel roads, he mows fields and lawns, buries cable and water lines, clears snow and pulls a towable lift to work on those hard-to-reach places on his cabins, all with one tractor—a versatile, durable 33-HP Massey Ferguson® 1533.

In addition to stability and power, the MF1533 has a creeper gear that allows Paul to perform some exceptionally tricky tasks. “I have this 25-foot pole [that’s fitted to the] front of the tractor that I lift trusses with and set structurally insulated panels that are 400 and 500 pounds. You’ve got to go very slow and be very careful with it, and that’s where this creeper gear is just fantastic for me.”

From tractor to service, owning a Massey Ferguson has exceeded his expectations, says Paul, especially “after owning another ‘red brand’ that had 32 HP, but no real steel and guts under the hood. The Massey Ferguson is just heavier and more solid, but it’s got better fuel economy. It’s the best of both worlds.

“I don’t know how they do it, but they do it and it works. I wouldn’t trade that tractor for anything,” he says, pauses and adds, “except another Massey.”

For more, including a video of Breuer at Country Road Cabins, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/a-blue-sky-kind-of-guy-the-great-outdoors-with-paul-breuer/.

Massey Ferguson Introduces 4600M Series Tractors

Massey Ferguson® 4600 Series tractors have quickly become a favorite for utility applications. With the introduction of the 4600M Series, which consists of three new models, Massey Ferguson has made them even more versatile with the addition of new options and standard features, as well as compliance with new emissions standards.

The 4600M Series

The 4600M Series

An improved Deluxe cab option boasts even more features for comfort and convenience. Among them are a rear wiper and defrost, fender-mounted 3-point-hitch controls, an air-ride seat, a front sun visor, and long-lasting and super-bright LED lights. Those who need a utility tractor for loader work will also appreciate a loader-ready package that includes frame rails, joystick control and grill guard. Both the Standard and Deluxe cabs will also come radio-ready, with speakers and antennae.

“The new Deluxe cab will be particularly beneficial for our customers in northern climates conducting snow-removal activities,” says Warren Morris, AGCO tactical marketing manager for tractors under 150 HP.

All models also meet the newest Tier 4 Final emissions standards. For the new MF4609M and MF4610M models, this involved the addition of an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system to supplement the diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and high-pressure common rail system.

“We introduced a new 70-HP model, the MF4607M,” Morris says. “This puts it below the 75-HP threshold, which allows us to build it to Tier 4 Final emission requirements without SCR components to achieve this level. This helps to keep the costs down for customers, but still gives them the features they need from a full-utility tractor.”

For more, see http://www.myfarmlife.com/advantage/massey-ferguson-introduces-4600m-series-tractors/.

New MF entry-level tractors and implement range for Africa and Middle East

Massey Ferguson is introducing a new range of 50hp-85hp tractors for selected African and Middle East markets.

This latest move will further strengthen its product offering in the lower horsepower tractor sector in these territories and offer a broader choice to farmers looking for a rugged and reliable multi-purpose machine. In addition, to complement these new MF 300 Series tractors, a new line of Massey Ferguson-branded implements is also being unveiled for the region.

MF entry-level tractors and implement range for Africa and Middle East

MF entry-level tractors and implement range for Africa and Middle East

“Simple, yet powerful, the MF 300 Series tractors are tried and tested, with a strong reputation for straightforward operation and robust dependability – they are ideally-equipped to meet the tough challenges of African and Middle East agriculture,” says Thierry Lhotte, Massey Ferguson Vice-President Marketing, Europe/Africa/Middle East. “More than 1.5 million units based on this renowned design are already at work in the world.”

Affordable and economical to run, these entry-level ‘do anything’ tractors will have strong appeal as the main power source for smallholder farmers or local community groups looking to mechanise or upgrade their agricultural operations. The models can also be a valuable addition to a machinery fleet on larger farms or estates requiring a cost-effective workhorse.

Initially, a choice of six Massey Ferguson matched implements, covering cultivation, planting and transport, will be available for the MF 300 Series.

“As true multi-taskers, the MF 300 Series are equally adept at cultivation, planting, transport or yard duties, working across a wide range of farm sectors including arable, livestock and horticulture,” explains Thierry Lhotte. “Low cost of ownership, easy servicing and maintenance plus expert support from the Massey Ferguson local Distributor ensure a fully-sustainable and inclusive farm mechanisation package.”

Consisting of six models in total, three MF 300 Series models are set for release in early 2016 – the 50hp MF 345 two-wheel-drive (2WD), 75hp MF 375 (2WD) and 85hp MF 385 (2WD and 4WD).  The longer wheelbase 50hp MF 350 (2WD), 60hp MF 355 (2WD) and 60hp MF 360 (2WD) will follow later in the year.

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