IT'S the end of an era in Canada for David Caldwell and his wife, Jean. They are returning to Scotland for what he says will be their final retirement! Still in Canada because of the Covid-19 restrictions, he sent us this final chapter of his View from Canada ...

Our last Canadian harvest was a mixed bag – the cereal yields were excellent and the hay was a decent crop but too concentrated a rainfall at a crucial time for the emerging crop punished the soyabeans and canola, making for the lowest yields we have had in 25 years farming here.

Thankfully, we had crop insurance but we would have preferred the bigger crop. Fluctuating grain markets world wide as well as here had been creating havoc with prices, but also some windows of opportunity.

An envious sight - dust flying from the combine as it works in a crop of soya

An envious sight - dust flying from the combine as it works in a crop of soya

Because we were meaning to sell up, we knew we had to have contracts in place so that the grain would all be sold off the farm by the proposed takeover date. We had been selling whenever we saw a spike and were pleased when the markets started climbing before we had sold too much, but we still missed the more resent highs for wheat, canola and soya which are approaching record highs.

Top quality bread wheat is at $275 per tonne (£157), canola/rape $620 and soyabeans are more than $500. It reminded me of 1995 when we were selling Southcairn and we had one of the best summers ever, Jean said to me: “Do you think Scotland is trying to tell us something?”

New crop futures prices are also at historic highs, which is putting confidence into the land market which suits us just fine.

We have been busy juggling sales over the New Year tax deadline, trying to spread the load between two tax years. I wrote a check for over $100,000 on December 29 for fertiliser for 2021 crop inputs and then I got it credited back on the January 10 – the accountant tells me it’s legal!

As for any major changes we’ve seen since coming here, the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board (similar to the SMMB) was one and it hasn’t really helped prices. The biggest differences have been yield increases, red spring wheat has gone up from around 1 tonne to 1.7 tonnes, canola yields from 0.65 tonne up to 1.25 tonnes and, of course, we now have auto-steer, precision seeding and variable rates for seed and fertiliser. Plus there's been some genetic improvements.

On a side note, 10 miles west of us are a young couple from Ayrshire, David Logan and his wife, Vicky (originally Bargenoch, Coylton) who moved here around 10 years ago. They came to a mixed cattle and crop farm.

In December, Donald was helping him to haul his wheat to the elevator. Now, wheat here is priced according to quality and protein, with bonuses for above 13 % protein, most of us struggle to get 13.5% protein, some of David’s wheat tested at more than 19%.

I think he’s keeping his production method a secret. His grampa, wee Andy Logan, Bargenoch, would have been fair chuffed.

Now to the career change. As some already know, Jean and I are retiring back to Scotland. If anyone had asked us 10 years ago if we would come back, we would probably have said 'No', but things change.

When you move a long distance away from your home you make new friends and the Manitobans are very friendly, but unfortunately the three or four couples we got closest to have since all died. Also (and only people who have emigrated notice this) when you are in a company of people who you have only known for five or 10 years and they start talking about things that happened locally before your time you feel kind of out of place (don’t get me wrong, it’s never intentional).

I did notice at AgriScot, in Edinburgh, in 2019, that I met around 70 people who I knew and knew me. If I went to the Manitoba Winter Fair, I would be lucky if I meet 10 or so.

Also in the last couple of years, some of our best Scottish pals have passed away. Eventually, Jean and I won’t be able to travel every year, so some difficult decisions had to be made. The roots run deep!

Also, we won’t miss the winters, this morning February 7, it was minus 37°C. With wind chill making it minus 45°C.

One thing David Caldwell wnt miss is the extreme cold of Manitoban winters. This was on a clear day!

One thing David Caldwell wn't miss is the extreme cold of Manitoban winters. This was on a clear day!

I had been farming on my own since I was 26. First on the 154-acre family farm of Inchgotrick, near Kilmarnock. Then, in 1972 after the Kilmarnock bypass divided the farm, I bought the 375 acres at Southcairn, near Stranraer, where we developed a 140-cow pedigree Holstein herd, and we also had the pleasure of hosting the gas pipeline to Northern Ireland project.

"Our eldest son, David, was off to college eventually graduating and getting a good job. Donald and Douglas farmed with us and although they would milk the cows, their hearts weren’t in it.

"The final catalyst for change was the deregulation of the Milk Board, which knocked the guts out of the dairy industry. So we headed to Canada to purchase a 2600-acre grain farm. We added to that by buying three smaller farms, giving us a total of 3500 acres and established a 140-cow Angus beef herd.

Donald concentrated on the grain side and Douglas on the cattle but, of course, helped each other out at busy times such as calving, seeding and harvest. With some help from me, it worked well.

But time and tide.... we have been paying more and more income tax over the last 10 years which I grudge, farming is getting more stressful and I am getting older (I’ll be 80 on tomorrow, Saturday) plus I've ahd some health problems. Jean also has some health problems and Donald has early stage osteoarthritis.

Douglas and Valerie have Christyna, who is 17 and very clever at school, and Liam who is 19 and at college in Brandon, studying engineering. He is also very bright but is not very interested in farming.

The next generation of Caldwell still in Canada - Douglas and Val Caldwells daughter, Christyna

The next generation of Caldwell still in Canada - Douglas and Val Caldwell's daughter, Christyna

Douglas is keeping on with the cows and his 960 acres, some of which he can rent out as arable, so there will still be some one carrying on the family farming tradition, carried on in Ayrshire since at least 1600 when William Caldwell was in Annanhill. My great, great, great, great, great grandfather, George Caldwell, was married in 1753 in Annanhill. And his descendants spread out over the county, the country and the world.

Donald and Jean and I have sold our land. Donald can invest his money and can also find work locally if he wants. He and his wife, Devon, have no family, she has a masters degree in teaching and is taking her doctorate – they hope to do a bit of travelling.

Jean and I can do the same but also help with our four grand childrens’ university expenses. Our son, David and his wife, Alison, who live in Balerno have two sons, Jack (21) and Fraser (19) who are both at Edinburgh University.

Choosing where to retire to was our dilemma which was actually quite easily solved. I always loved being near the sea, plus we didn’t want a big house or garden and somewhere between our calf country of Ayrshire and Stranraer appealed to us both – so we have purchased a penthouse flat with a sea view at Turnberry, (not from Trump).

Unfortunately, the corona virus travel restrictions have been causing havoc. We bought our flat in December but still haven’t actually seen it, only over the internet, but cousin, Jim Caldwell, has been a big help.

The machinery sale is taking place on-line on April 12 and the farm take over date is April 30. We hope that the vaccination programme is well under way by then.

The inventory for the Caldwels machinery sale which will be sold in April to catche the spring rush

The inventory for the Caldwel's machinery sale which will be sold in April to catche the spring rush

I am now watching the dollar to pound exchange rate, as a cent or two up or down can make a big difference. When we emigrated in 1995 £1 bought $2.15Canadian, at the moment £1 costs $1.75 and that is in our favour. So, in 1995, £1000 bought $2150, coming back to Scotland in 2021 that same $2150 can buy £1230 pounds which is a gain of £230 pounds on every £1000, so, do the math.

We look forwards to seeing some of you when we finally get “o’er the watter”.