Monthly Archives: February 2015

Feb 27 2015


Today I was able to finish my farm safety project.  All guards and shields are back in place, all PTO’s have adequate shielding and all augers have protective guards.  I have developed four emergency first aid stations within our farm yards, I have developed a Steppler Farms Safety Manual, and within that manual we have started the ongoing process of creating policies which address some of the highest safety risks to ourselves, our employees and our family.  This program was tedious and it took an extreme amount of motivation to carry me through the development of the manual to implementing the program.

Feb 26 2015


Today I spent some time in the metal working shop piecing together auger guards.  Most of our farm augers are old and NONE of them have the proper shielding.  Safe Manitoba’s farm safety consultant is coming by next week to do an assessment of the farm to help identify issues and help form a plan to address them.  I know she will tell me to fix up my augers…so I might as well fix them up before she comes by 🙂

Hauling out the crop

Hauling out the crop, making good use of the grain cart

Featured Bulls of the Week Now Up!


This year we are again running the popular “Featured Bulls of the Week” found under the Steppler Charolais page.  From now up until the sale held on March 24th, Andre will be featuring some of his favorites in the bull pen.  Andre and Dad have put together an outstanding bull pen this year cataloging nearly 80 bulls selected out of our 400 registered cow herd making this sale the largest Charolais bull sale in Manitoba.   The sales catalog is now available for viewing which can be downloaded from our webpage.  We have also started mailing copies of the catalog to our buyers and to anyone who requests one.  Video of each bull in our pen will be done on March 2nd and will available on our web page shortly afterwards.  With the work we have put into our farm internet service we will be broadcasting our sale streaming live through Cattle in Motion. This will allow buyers to buy online or to just simply watch the sale. If you wish to watch the sale, please get set up before hand to make sure you can make the connection.

Every year we have enjoyed setting up our Featured Bulls of the Week.  Our webpage is a neat way of interacting with our customers 24/7 showing our buyers that they are not just buying our bulls, but they are buying into our program.  A quote from Andre; “Now is the time to invest in your cowherd. The Cattle industry is our business”. I truly believe that investing in sound genetics will make your cattle operation profitable. You get what you put into it. Don’t sell your cows short by breeding them to the lowest birth weight bull you can find. Breed them to enhance their genetic potential. Remember, by today’s market, every pound at weaning time is multiplied by $2.50. Our farm operation truly is our way of life and one that we love. But rest assured we are also in the business of farming; every hour we work is an hour invested into Steppler Farms to increase the bottom line.

Feb 20 2015


Yesterday I sat in on an internet conference in regards to registering the farm with the Verified Beef Project.  I am now fully trained and I am now implementing the program on the farm.  Registering with the VBP is much the same process as registering the honey operation with CFIA; protocols and paperwork.  Within a couple weeks I am going to call in the audit and we will have another check mark behind our operating practices.  Fitting under this program is a natural fit, we pretty much operate under the requirements set out in this program anyway.  The only thing we need to do is increase our record keeping and use steel needles tips instead of Stainless Steel.

Feb 18 2015

The bulls settled into the warm bedding pad and enjoying the sun on a cold -25degreeC day.

The bulls settled into the warm bedding pad and enjoying the sun on a cold -25degreeC day.

I am trying to spend this cold day in the warmth of the wood shop... but they know I am in there...and keep getting me to do stuff that is cold...

I am trying to spend these cold days in the warmth of the wood shop, chipping away at my beekeeping wood projects…but my brothers know I am in there…and keep getting me to do stuff that is cold…



Lots of hugs to go around

Lots of hugs to go around

Feb 15 2015

I finally found where this diagram I found floating around facebook originally came from. The credit on the pic was too small for my eyes to make out. This link; credits which credits © Springer Life Sciences for the diagram I posted above.  

An interesting quote from the link;, which explains the reason why nosema shortens the lifespan of adult worker bees. This makes a lot of sense and I wanted to share it here to help demonstrate the negative influence Nosema has on colony health;

fatbees1-2“Nosema ceranae also suppresses the vitellogenin (Vg) gene in nurse bees, a gene which paces the onset of foraging and influences worker longevity. When Vg expression is suppressed, nurse bees transition to become foragers more quickly than a healthy bee would, resulting in a shorter lifespan.”


Dave Crushman‘s writings has answered some of my specific questions on Nosema quite nicely; what causes the spores to ‘germinate’?, how long is the entire life cycle of Nosema?, and how exactly is it causing mal nourishment in the bees?

“Spore germination is initiated by a signal from the species’ environment; the exact nature of these signals is not known for certain”

“Once inside a cell, the vegetative stage increases in size and multiplies, effecting an apparent reduction of RNA synthesis in the host cell. In 6-10 days the infected host epithelial cell becomes filled with new spores. “

“Under normal conditions honey bee epithelial cells shed into the ventriculus (stomach), burst, and release their contents including digestive juices. However, when the cells are infected with N. apis the parasite develops and multiplies in the cytoplasm and form after about 5 days. The spore-filled cells are shed into the lumen. Some cells pass into the rectum and are voided. The spore-filled cells burst and release infective spores rather than digestive juices.”

light bulbWhile drifting around the web on forwarded links I came across Randy Oliver‘s writings once again.  I like re visiting his site after reading up on things from other sources, as the more I learn from others the more Randy’s writing hits home.  I love the way he frame’s his messages.  It holds a unique sense of reality that really brings the message home;…wins-part-1-2/

“But when a bee’s got dysentery from nosema she just can’t hold it. The house bees then say “OhMyGod, somebody’s pooped in the hive!” The insidious thing is that cleanup is a job delegated to newly emerged bees, who then ingest the spores in the process, and the infection thus moves from older bees to the very youngest. When this happens, nosema can go epidemic in the hive, with dire results.”

” the life spans of infected young bees can be reduced by up to 78%, plus they are unable to feed brood!”

When we start putting some of our gathered disease surveillance information, hive activity and hive observations together, answers might just start appearing to explain why at times some real troubling hive conditions appear. The response I get back from this kind of comment is ‘so what can be done about it, so why does it matter’. The point is knowing why so we either can develop a strategy to counter the problem, or just plain out know so the problem is addressed properly.

Feb 14 2015

package bees opI received an interesting strategy today, applies to California and Migratory beekeepers. 

Colonies are raised to huge populations on well fed bees to meet the almond pollination. After the bloom these hives are managed one of two ways, either they are shaken down and sold as packages or shipped south to be split off as many ways as possible. Nosema hangs around in older bees, as we all know. Shake off those bees into packages and your effectively selling off the infected stock leaving the hive remaining with a higher population of young bees. With nucing out the hives, overall pest population is cut down and divided up, and the units are sent into growth mode out pacing the pest pressures. 

Our season is short up here on the Canadian prairies but one fact that all beekeepers know is the time spent on nucs will pay off the following year with huge honey producing hives. This is a strategy might just need to be exploited for more than just keeping mite pressures under control.  

shaking beesOr perhaps this strategy could be adopted somehow in our own management plan.  Why not take those huge honey production hives off the last drag of bloom and shake that surplus amount of bees off into nucs?  Those bees are simply surplus at that point of time anyway, and if a new queen is dropped into that cluster of bees, maybe there is enough time for her to lay a couple rounds of brood. Dribble a shot of Oxalic Acid onto the cluster to rid any mite loads before brooding starts and dose them with a nosema treatment.  Theory is removing those surplus bees should purge the hive of nosema infection.  I have tested these logistics out last fall and it works quite nicely.  My thinking is if the flow is going strong and late, take the honey.  If the flow has been burnt off or slow, take the bees.  I would be interested in beekeepers comments in regards to these thoughts.  

Feb 13 2015

My little helper.  We were modifying one of our loose housing cattle shelters today preparing for the blast of -40 degrees cold about to fall on us.

My little helper. We were modifying one of our loose housing cattle shelters today preparing for the blast of -40 degrees cold about to blow in tonight.  Lots of shelter is our strategy to managing these cold extremes.  


Nosema is the scourge of the beekeeping industry and I truly believe it is the route factor which is causing so much death and stress on our honeybee hives.  Nosema is a fungal gut infection which latches onto the cell wall of the bees gut lining and injects itself into the bee where it carries out its vegetative process.   The symptom most noticed by beekeepers is dysentery.  Spotting of poop will appear inside and outside of the hive usually followed by death.  What beekeepers do not usually associate Nosema with is mal nutrition and viral infection.  With millions of spores infecting the host, the competition for available nutrients puts a higher demand on the bees to maintain a high quality diet.  Through times of poor forage or dearth the bees can be put into a prolonged ‘starving’ state which compromises their immune system allowing other diseases to take hold.  With the spores penetrating the bee’s gut lining, it creates a pathway for viral diseases to infect the bee.  You can imagine the snow ball effect as infection increases as other types of pathogens are readily available for infection.  

sickbees16-fig08There is a lot of talk among beekeepers on the efficacy of Nosema monitoring because of the huge disconnect associated with hive spore counts and relating it to actual poor hive performance.  Colonies can and will maintain a high level of health and performance even with a high infection with Nosema present.  The point is looking at the entire picture to fully understand what that nosema infection actually represents.  Alone, Nosema only represents a small issue, causing your hives some difficulty utilizing all its digestible food.  The bees can still fly out and expel the spores and keep on top of the disease effectively though a shortened life span of infected adult bees is a concern.  The concerning issues comes in when other compounding factors enter into the equation.  Slight decrease in feed uptake creates competition for digested nutrients.  Dirty mite loads carrying viruses expose the apiary to a ‘hive to hive’ spread of virus.  The virus then uses opportunities like that of the nosema infection as an efficient mode of transmission to infect the bee’s system.  That virus effectively exploits these conditions to effectively infect the bees system!  Chalk brood, Foul Brood… drop a hit of pesticide into the equation and with a shortened adult life span all of a sudden your thriving hive has hit the skids.

blindfoldedI have been telling beekeepers to know their nosema counts as part of their disease severance plan.  All pest pressures and other types of outside influence need to be considered to be able to create a well developed understanding on how it is having an influence on our hives.  Our current health related issues in the bee industry is not a one thing or another type of problem.  I challenge anyone who I hear point fingers to pesticides as being THE issue facing our bee industry to tell me their current pest levels in their hives.  Most of these finger pointers have no idea of the diseases present and nutritional status of their hives…