Young farmers have to be innovative if they want to remain competitive, says the president of one of the largest registered Angus herds in the U.S.
Don Schiefelbein, president of Minnesota’s Schiefelbein Farms, was one of two keynote speakers during the PE.I. Young Farmers of Canada annual general meeting at Murphy’s Community Centre on Saturday.
Schiefelbein Farms is a family operation that was started by Don’s father, a first generation farmer, in 1955.
It has since grown to become the largest cattle producer in Minnesota, and about the 20th largest seedstock operation in the U.S. while remaining a family operation.
Schiefelbein praised innovation throughout his speech, noting that every member of his family that wants to work on the farm is first required to leave for four years.
“In order to learn something, expose yourself to something new,” said Schiefelbein.
He said continuing to push the boundaries and experimentation is required in the competitive industry and has led to his own farm’s success.
“I think that’s what people forget. If you aren’t on the edge and trying to figure new things out, your competitor probably is. So if you want to stay competitive over the long haul, you’ve got to keep moving forward and keep trying new ideas.”
Schiefelbein also emphasized that cattle producers should strive to create genetics that are more profitable for “you, the customers and consumer downstream.”
The advice was well received in a room of many young P.E.I. farmers, with this being the 80th year of the organization’s existence.
The meeting also saw a keynote speech from Lance Stockbrugger of Saskatchewan, who spoke largely about leasing, rental agreements and improving farm profitability. Stockbrugger, a chartered accountant with LDS Farms, is a specialist in estate planning and intergenerational succession transfers.
While only 9.4 per cent of P.E.I.’s 1,810 farm operators are under the age of 35, which is a growing number, the next decade will see a major shift in Canada’s agriculture industry as older farmers retire.
Ian Drake, president of the P.E.I. Young Farmers, said both speakers provided valuable insight on how to best adapt with the shift.
“(The main takeaway was) how to grow your farm as your family grows. There is going to be three out of four farms will change hands over the next ten years,” said Drake, noting the average age of a P.E.I. farm operator is 55-years-old. “Within the next ten years, they’ll be 65… so farm succession is very important.”
Another growing aspect in P.E.I. farming is the number of female operators. About 18.2 per cent of P.E.I.’s farm operators are now women.