The agricultural area of Canada is 730,000 km2, which is nearly 8% of its total area. Approx. 400,000 km2 of this is intensively cultivated. The rest is grassland of highly variable quality. The types of soil are: clay, clay-loam, sand, and sandy loam. Large tracts of land have a fair quantity of stones on them, which makes their cultivation considerably more difficult. The countryside varies from practically flat to very hilly. Moreover, there are parts that can not be fully cultivated due to the presence of woodland areas or of low, wet, and boggy sites. The division of land varies from area to area. In the “older” areas (Eastern Canada and British Columbia), land divisions are fairly arbitrary, and farms come in all sizes. Land prices are expressed in dollars per hectare. In the “newer areas”, the Prairie Provinces, all roads as well as the streets in towns, run from north to south and, at a right angle to these, from east to west. In the rural areas, you will find a road at every mile, and the parcels of land enclosed by these roads, i.e. one square mile each, are called “sections”. These sections may in turn be divided into four “quarters” (each approx. 64 ha.), which are generally the smallest units to be bought. The qualification-system of the Canada Land Inventory (C.L.I.) describes the quality of farm-lands on the basis of seven classes. Land-classes 1 to 3 (large parts of the Prairie Provinces and Ontario) are used for arable farming; land-classes 4 and 5 tend to be used for livestock, while land-classes 6 and 7 are not suitable for agricultural purposes.
Dairy: In Canada, there are currently approx. 16,970 dairy farms in all. That is a relatively low number. It shows that there is much more space in Canada for operating a dairy farm. On average, there are 72 dairy cows per farm in Canada. The dairy market in Canada is divided into a market for liquid milk (i.e. drinking milk) and industrial milk. Industrial milk is for the production of cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc. Of all the milk produced in Canada, 33% is liquid milk, 60% industrial milk, and 7% is used as livestock feed. For each province, percentages may vary strongly, though. For instance, 17% of total milk production on Prince Edward Island, and 62 % in New Brunswick, is intended as liquid milk. Market regulation for industrial milk takes place nationally, while market regulation for liquid milk
is a provincial affair. Milk quotas in Canada are freely marketable and therefore not tied to land. In general, the transaction is made as follows: dairy farmers wishing to sell quota submit a quantity of “fluid milk”
or “MSQ” to the Milk Marketing Board at a minimum asking price. The sale will proceed if the set indicative price equals or exceeds the asking price.
The reverse applies for buyers of quotas. They register a quantity of milk at a maximum bid price. The sale will only proceed if the established indicative price equals or is below the bid price.
The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been divided into five soil zones:
brown, dark brown, black, dark gray, and gray.
The types of soil may be characterised as follows.
• On brown soil, you will find a large variety of crops and yields. This soil is more susceptible to drought.
• In areas with black soil, average precipitation levels are higher and the soil
is better capable of retaining moisture. Hence, the yields are higher and the soil is rarely susceptible to drought.
• Gray soil can be found in the northern areas of the three provinces. This soil is characterised by more precipitation, colder temperatures, and a shorter growing season. The principal crops of Western Canada are: wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape, and Timothy hay. In addition, lentils, peas, potatoes, and sugar beets are grown there.
Brown soil can be found in the semi-dry areas of south-eastern Alberta (Medicine Hat, Brooks, Oyen). Annual precipitation is approximately 300 mm. Grain production in this area is mostly limited due to soil humidity. Besides, wind erosion can be a big problem in this area as well. Land prices are approximately $700-$1000 per acre. Dark-brown soil (Lethbridge, Calgary, Stettler, Vermillion) has an average annual precipitation level of approx. 350 mm. Land prices here are approx. $1500-$2000 per acre.In the black-soil areas, soil humidity and precipitation levels in summer greatly affect crop yields. Black soil is located in a zone between Calgary and north of Edmonton. Annual precipitation levels in this area are between 450 mm and 600 mm. Land prices vary from $2000 and $3500 per acre.
Gray soil is in central Alberta at the foot of the Rocky Mountains (Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, Breton, Edson, Barrhead and Westlock) and in the Peace River area. Precipitation in this area is less restrictive than in other parts of Alberta, but the growing season is shorter. Annual precipitation in
this area often exceeds 600 mm. Land prices in this area are around $1200-$2000 per acre.There are 13 irrigation districts in Alberta.
Approximately 1,300,000 acres are irrigated in Southern Alberta. This is 5% of all of Alberta’s farm lands, as against 12% of the total agricultural production of Alberta consisting of irrigated crops. Irrigation also sets the right conditions for growing a greater variety of crops. Irrigated lands in this area cost $3,000-$5,000 per acre.
Land prices in Saskatchewan are between $500-$2,000 per acre. In the south-west of Saskatchewan, you will find brown soil. This area is similar to the area in south-western Alberta. Land prices in the area around the town of Outlook are around $2,000 per acre, including irrigation. Dark brown soil covers the area between Saskatoon and Regina. The Regina Plains is an area with heavy clay soil. Surrounding the town of Melfort, you will find black soil. This area is characterised by an average annual precipitation of 650 mm. Land prices in the area are between $1200 and $1500 per acre.
Of the total agricultural area in Manitoba (19 million acres), 11.8 million is cultivated for arable farming. The average size of the farms is 785 acres. The main part of the agricultural area is in the
black-soil zone. East of the capital city of Winnipeg, you will find good arable lands. In this area, there are also two potato factories, in Purtase and Carman. Land prices, including irrigation, are between $ 2500 and $3500 per acre here. South of Winnipeg the land prices are between $1500 and $2000. When you go a little more to the west in Manitoba, you tend
to find more stones in the soil.
Ontario:In the south the soil consists of Fox sandy loam on which a great variety of crops is grown, including tomatoes, maize and vegetables, fruit orchards, grapes, and field crops for seed production, i.e. seed maize on
a contract basis for seed operations. In the Learnington surroundings, there are many hothouses for tomatoes, cucumbers, and flowers. Land is expensive here at approx. $11,000 per acre (1 acre = 4047 m²).
In Essex County, there is a clay area stretching along the north- and south shores of the lakes. Lighter soil is sold at approx. $4,000 - $5,000 per acre. Clay at approx. $3,500 per acre. The soil in Kent County consists of sand, sandy-loam, and clay-loam. This is used for growing beans,
wheat, seed maize, and tomatoes. The Heinz plant is very popular in Learnington. Huron and Perth Counties are good farming areas with 2700-2900 H.U. These are regions with a lot of livestock farming, as well as soy beans, white beans, cereals, maize, wheat, and small grain crops (oats, barley, and canola). In addition, you will find pig-, dairy-, and poultry-farming there. The region has good soil, including areas with clay-loam, Perth clay, Huron clay, as well as loam. Land prices are $5,000 - $6,000 per acre, and in some areas even $8,000 per acre.