Agriculture in Southeast Saskatchewan

A Brief History

First Nations inhabitants of southeast Saskatchewan were the first to process plants and animals to produce food. The Assiniboine Indians were mainly hunter-gatherers who combined the use of buffalo jump hunting methods and berry and herb gathering. Later, with the arrival of the European fur trade, the First Nations people developed animal trapping. It was soon apparent that the land in the region was more suitable for cattle grazing. As the buffalo population decreased, ranching ventures increased. With the arrival of English, Scottish, Irish and American immigrants, the idea of plant cultivation combined with ranching grew.

The major difference in the perspective of agriculture between the nineteenth and twentieth century is that early homesteaders had mainly subsistence farms, while large industrial farms are the norm today. The early farmers focused on growing enough food to feed their families and animals, typically having a range of crops and animals needed by the family during the year. With population growth and advances in agricultural science, including mechanization during the Industrial Revolution, permanently settled farmers began growing cash crops, which are crops grown mainly for profit, or keeping large herds of animals for large-scale livestock operations. In the earlier days, cash crops were only on a small scale, or completely non-existent and farmers only had as many animals as needed by the family. Subsistence crops and farms are now few and far between in southeast Saskatchewan. Today, the types of crops grown and animals raised are planned around internationally markets, ensuring that farms have a strong economic base.

A Current Summary of Agriculture

SSEER has compiled a comprehensive profile of agricultural throughout the region, broken down by rural municipality. As well, SSEER has provided an “At a Glance” snapshot of the agriculture industry of the southeast.


According to StatsCan 2006, the population in southeast Saskatchewan is 47,996. Within that number are over 5,500 farm operators, which is close to 12% of the general population in the southeast. Only 6% of the population in the whole of Saskatchewan are farm operators.


Number of farms: 4,130 (8% of the farms located in Saskatchewan)

Average farm size: 1,541 acres (17% larger than the average Saskatchewan farm)

Average total farm capital: $768,642 (14% higher than the average Saskatchewan farm)

Climate and Precipitation

Generally speaking, the southeast area has a semi-arid continental climate with warm summer and cold winters. Because agriculture is the major land use in the southeast, water is essential. Farmers and ranchers alike need adequate supplies of clean water for livestock, irrigation, and household use. The two watersheds that cover the boundaries of southeast Saskatchewan are the Upper Souris River and the Lower Souris River watersheds.

The southeast area of Saskatchewan has much soil water that is readily available. Close to 60% of the region has between 75 to 99 millimetres of available soil water. 39% of the region has 100 millimetres or more of available soil water. A little more than 1% of the region has only 50 to 74 millimetres of available soil water.

The southeast region receives about 445 millimetres of precipitation annually. 330 millimetres are rain and the remaining 115 millimetres are snow.

On average, Saskatchewan has 211 days per year when the temperature drops below freezing. In the southeast area, though, the number of frost-free days can be as high as 124 days, as recorded in Estevan. Saskatchewan is also the sunniest province year round, with Estevan being known as the Sunshine Capital of Saskatchewan, receiving an average of 2,536.6 hours of sunshine every year.

The warm, sunny climate of southeast Saskatchewan makes it an ideal location for agricultural cropping.

Land Base

91% of the region’s total land area is used for agricultural and farming activity. In fact, over 55% of the total land area is land in crops, nearly 16,000 square kilometres. The soil zones found within the region are black, dark brown and brown.

Primary Production

Cereal Crops: (definition: a grass such as wheat, oats, or corn, the starchy grains of which are used as food)

Southeast Saskatchewan lies within Canada’s most important grain-producing region. In 2006, six million hectares of all classes of wheat were produced in Saskatchewan. Interestingly, 6% of this wheat was produced in south east Saskatchewan.

Types of cereal crops grown in the region include:

-Wheat: 384,722 hectares
-Oats: 56,643 hectares
-Barley: 80,284 hectares


Feed & Forage:

The forage processing industry contributes to sustaining the dynamic forage sector in Canada. This industry is highly export oriented. Estimates by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture report that $24 million worth of processed forage feed were exported in 2007. Major export markets for products like pre-mixed feeds, dehydrated alfalfa, and compacted long fibre hay include Japan, South Korea and the United States. In southeast Saskatchewan, The Weyburn Inland Terminal manufactures quality feed from back grounding rations to finisher pellets.

Types of feed & forage crops grown in the region include:

-Alfalfa: 167,920 hectares

-Tame Hay & Fodder: 8,034 hectares

-Oilseeds: (definition: seed from which oil is expressed, such as canola or flaxseed)

The southeast area of Saskatchewan has been very successful in developing oilseed production. Canola – a crop that did not exist 30 years ago – is now the second largest crop grown in the region, second only to wheat.

Types of oilseeds grown in the region include:

- Canola: 186,263 hectares

- Flaxseed: 158,632 hectares

-Pulse Crops: (definition: the edible seeds of certain pod-bearing plants, such as peas and beans)

Pulse crop production has grown rapidly in Saskatchewan, and the same is true of the southeast area. In less than 30 years, Saskatchewan has gone from producing few pulse crops to becoming a major world exporter. This region produces about 12% of Saskatchewan’s total lentil production.

Types of pulse crops grown in the region include:

  • Dry field peas: 38,579 hectares
  • Lentils: 20,225 hectares

-Specialty Crops:

Specialty crops provide numerous diversification options for southeast Saskatchewan’s producers.

Types of specialty crops grown in the region include:

  • Sunflowers: There are several farms in the southeast growing sunflowers, as well as a number of sunflower marketing and processing companies in Saskatchewan. Products from sunflowers produce in the southeast include high oleic sunflower oil, birdseed and, of course, sunflower seeds.
  • Honey: 9 honey farms and 4 other pollinating bee farms
  • Canaryseed: 3,136 hectares


The southeast region’s livestock industry continues to grow and expand at a competitive rate with the rest of the province. Over 20% of Saskatchewan’s beef cows are located in the southeast area. While Saskatchewan`s southeast area has a low livestock population density, this allowing major opportunity for growth.

There are 4 livestock inspection points in the region – Alameda, Arcola, Estevan, and Weyburn. There is one major feedlot locate near Ceylon, as well as a few smaller feeding operations.

The export market for beef remains lucrative. The southeast area is best known for exporting calves, or feeder cattle. A limited amount is exported to eastern Canada and some to Alberta. The majority of the calves are exported directly to the United States, with Nebraska being a major importer. Once exported, the calves go to feedlots to be finished.

Types of livestock raised in the region, not including specialized livestock (see below):

-Cattle (beef & dairy): 358,029 animals on 2,104 farms
-Chickens: 12,745 birds on 138 farms
-Goats: 373 animals on 61 farms
-Horses: 11,943 animals on 853 farms
-Pigs: animals on 62 farms
-Sheep: 7,222 animals on 99 farms
-Turkeys: Numerous birds on 18 farms

Agri-Value Processing


Saskatchewan produces over $1 billion worth of beef annually. According to “The Summary of Agriculture in Canada”, published by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, there are ten provincially-inspected and seven federally-inspected beef processing plants in the province. The beef products from these facilities are sold in retail, wholesale, hotel, restaurant and specialty markets.

In southeast Saskatchewan, Western Prime Meats near Weyburn is the sole provincially inspected processor, leaving much room for further development of the beef processing industry. The small scale processing facilities producing beef products, of which there are many in the southeast, are strictly for the market within Saskatchewan.

Purebred cattle breeding is also done on a large scale in southeast Saskatchewan. Red and black Angus, Simmentals, Charolais and polled and horned Hereford are among the most popularly bred animals.


NorAmera Bio Energy Corporation is located near Weyburn, is one of only four such ethanol plants in Saskatchewan. The growing ethanol industry in Saskatchewan is beneficial and perfectly suited industry for the southeast region for a number of reasons:

  • The main by-product, distiller`s grain, either dry or wet, is a top-quality livestock feed that benefits the cattle industry.

  • Ethanol plants like the one in Weyburn, gives farmers more opportunity to sell their grain, even low-grade or damaged crops.

  • Ethanol plants also create more jobs for Saskatchewan workers. The NorAmera plant alone employees a staff of 25.

  • The southeast are of Saskatchewan is located in a prime place to export renewable fuels to sizeable markets in Canada and the United States.


Over the last 20 years, the Saskatchewan dairy industry, along with the industry in the southeast area of the province, has grown in production. There are currently six dairies in the southeast area alone. One dairy, the Baumann Brothers, is rated in the top five in best quality of product in all of Canada.

Milk is produced on large, specialized farms in Saskatchewan, with an average herd size of 85 cows per farm. The milk is delivered by bulk tankers to one large processing plant in Saskatoon.

The Saskatoon facility generally handles the processing of all the milk produced in Saskatchewan. Products from the facility include milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, dips, yogurts, cheese, whey products and special mixes both in liquid and dried powder forms. These products are destined for the western regional and national markets.

Specialized Livestock:

The specialized livestock slaughter capacity in Saskatchewan is limited, allowing opportunity for much growth in this area. Most specialized livestock are raised and processed on smaller farms in the area. Products from these animals, such as meat and hides, are exported nationally and internationally.

Specialized livestock raised in southeast Saskatchewan includes:

-Bison – Bison are raised for their meat and their hides. There are 1,516 animals on 44 farms in southeast Saskatchewan.

-Elk: Elk are raised for their meat and their antler velvet, used for medicinal purposes. There are 1,679 animals of 33 farms.

-Wild Boar: Wild boars are raised for their meat. There are currently 4 farms raising these animals.

-Llama & Alpaca: While llamas are raised for both their meat and their wool, alpacas are raised solely for their wool. There are at least 100 animals on 50 farms.

-Deer: Deer are raised for their meat (venison) and for their antler velvet. There are four farms raising various types of deer, including fallow, white-tail, and mule deer.



Organic food production is becoming more and more prominent in southeast Saskatchewan. There are at least 30 organic producers in the region, along with many organic growers. There are also five certified organic processors, offering a range products and services. Some of these include commercial seed cleaning, production of food ingredients, providing consumer ready products like soup mixes and spices, and cleaning and bagging most organic grains, pulses, sprouting seeds, cereals and oilseeds.

General South East Saskatchewan Agriculture Statistics Compared to the Province of Saskatchewan

(Source documents from Statistics Canada 2006)

Average gross farm receipts:
Saskatchewan: $116,497
Southeast: $137,535 (higher by 16%)

Average total farm capital:
Saskatchewan: $661,368
Southeast: $768,642 (SSEER’s average total farm capital is higher by 14%)

Total Number of Farms:
Saskatchewan: 50,598
Southeast: 4130 (Just over 8% of farms in Saskatchewan)

Average Size of Farms:
Saskatchewan: 1,283 acres
Southeast: 1,541 acres


Did You Know About Southeast Saskatchewan

The Weyburn Inland Terminal, located along Highway 39 in south east Saskatchewan, has many firsts:

  • The first farmer-owned grain terminal in Canada.

  • The first to clean and dry grain in the Prairies.

  • The first to do protein testing in Canada.

  • The first to ship 50 and 100 car unit trains in Western Canada.

  • The first to pay farmers for freight and dockage incentives in Western Canada.

  • The first to show elevator tariffs on cash tickets in Western Canada.

  • The first to construct and sell condominium grain storage in Canada.

  • The first major grain company to assess tariffs on a net-weight basis in Western Canada.

Southeast Saskatchewan covers parts of four crop districts, those being 1A, 1, 2A, and 3AS. These crop districts, formed by the Government of Saskatchewan, came into effect with the opening of the 1916 crop season. They were set up mostly for statistical reporting purposes, though geography, climate, soil zones and the like were kept in mind when the province was divided into these crop districts.

Weyburn, a city located in southeast Saskatchewan, is the largest inland grain gathering point in Canada.

NorAmera Bio Energy Corporation is an ethanol plant located near Weyburn, one of only three such facilities in Saskatchewan. NorAmera also produces syrup, dry distiller’s grain, and wet distiller’s grain.

The southeast region is home to one major feedlot, Border Line Feeders, Inc, located near Ceylon. This feedlot finished 6% of the total number of head finished in Saskatchewan.

13% of the Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions is comprised of members from southeast Saskatchewan, demonstrating the strong sense of pride in agriculture in the region.

Agriculture Support Services Available In Southeast Saskatchewan

For a comprehensive listing of programs and services offered by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, please visit:

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture has 10 regional offices, one of which is located in the southeast. This office boasts some of most experience agrologists in the province. Feel free to call or visit the Weyburn office to talk to one of following qualified specialists:

Elaine Moats, PAg – Regional Crops Specialist
Telephone: (306) 848-2856

Elaine has been with Saskatchewan Agriculture for more than 30 years. Elain can provide advice on crop pest monitoring and control, agronomy and evaluation of new crop production opportunities. She has a specific interest in sunflowers, pulses, and forage establishment.

Lorne Kleine, PAg – Regional Forage Specialist
Telephone: (306) 848-2382

Lorne has worked with Saskatchewan Agriculture for 20 years. Lrone is available to answer questions on a wide range of pasture and forage management inquiries. Lorne’s interest are in identifying the opportunities, economics and management needed for extended grazing and feeding through fall and winter periods, especially when using crop residue as a feed resource.

Robert Klemmer, PAg – Regional Livestock Specialist
Telephone: (306) 848-2380

Bob has been with Saskatchewan Agriculture for 30 years. Bob is available to answer questions on a wide range of livestock production issues and provide technical advice to support the livestock industry. Bob’s interests include food safety, as well as water quality and its effects on livestock production.

Lyle Ballard, Regional Farm Business Management Specialist
Telephone: (306) 848-2393

Lyle has worked with Saskatchewan Agriculture in agricultural finance and credit and farm management for 35 years. His experience with lending and feasibility analysis, mediation and problem solving helps him to be the resource for inquiries on programs and services relation to business planning and advice, risk management and succession planning.

Weyburn Regional Office (Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture)
Box 2003
110 Souris Avenue
Weyburn, SK
S4H 2Z9
Telephone: (306) 848-2857

Crop Reports for Saskatchewan (including southeast Saskatchewan):

The above data sourced from:
Statistics Canada 2006
2006 Census of Agriculture
Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
Saskatchewan Organic Marketing & Processor Directory 2009