Award-winning farmers appreciate Sturgeon County’s support for agriculture
2021 Excellence in Agriculture Award - Majeau Family
by Lorena Franchuk for Sturgeon County
During the transition of taking over the farm from their parents, Dan and Victor Majeau made a significant change switching to hog production after generations of operating as a cattle and dairy farm.
It was a bold decision for the Sturgeon County brothers, but one that proved correct when the family farm’s aging beef and dairy infrastructure was in need of a retrofit.
“The marketplace was steady back then,” said Dan. When they ventured into hogs 30 years ago, there were about 200 registered hog producers in Sturgeon County.
Today, there are just a handful.
Their business, Majeau Ag Enterprises, has 500 sows and takes about 220 hogs to market weekly. Birth to finish takes about 170 days, said Victor.
“[The market is] pretty volatile today,” admits Dan, noting they are weathering the storm through innovation.
Thinking outside the box isn’t new for the third-generation farmers who farm in between Rivière Qui Barre and Calahoo in western Sturgeon County. That is one of the reasons Majeau Ag Enterprises was recognized this year with a Sturgeon County Excellence in Agriculture Awards.
“We’ve generally been early adopters of technology and we put a lot of time and energy into management,” said Dan.
On the hog side, the farm uses liquid feeding—something they started out doing when they switched from cattle to hogs.
“We’re mixing up the feed with water and pumping it to the pens four or five times a day so they are fed more frequently,” said Victor. “With that, we’re able to change the feed as to their growth pattern so we are able to change it almost daily if we want to,” he said. “It’s just another efficiency.”
On the grain side, the Majeaus are particularly interested in maintaining their soil health. “As generational farmers we’re very conscious of the fact that we have to leave the soil in better shape than we started with it,” said Dan.
Rather than using the typical high salt fertilizers, they seek lower salt versions and other products such as Bio-Sol.
“It’s a great news story, it’s reused … gathered from the cities … a very clean, good product we make or the company mixes with elemental sulphur and we apply that to the land,” Dan explained.
“We’re reverting back to more natural things and putting carbon back in the soil by using humics [to improve nutrient content] and less fertilizers in general,” he said. Soil samples are already seeing an improvement after a switch five years ago.
“You have to do your homework and research stuff. We talked to people in the industry and we’re constantly learning.”
When it comes to staying on top of the latest developments, Dan said it’s something they both learned from their parents.
“It’s been bred into us,” he said with a chuckle. “Dad [Oscar] had one of the first agri-seeders that came out.”
Their grandfather [Theobald], settled in the area after coming out from Quebec for harvest excursions in the fall during the 1930s to work the threshing machines.
A love for agriculture has also encouraged Dan’s son, Derek, to work on the farm full-time, while the remainder of Dan and Victor’s adult children Terrence, Andre, Evan, Carter, and Austin pitch in during busy periods in spring and fall.
“We do hire one or two people in our peak [grain] season, but mostly it’s still done by family,” he said. Three full-time staff assist with the hogs and family members step in when needed.
Mom [Angeline] continues to live on the original homestead while father [Oscar] resides in an extended care home in St. Albert. Both Dan and Dolores and Victor and Leslie have homes adjacent to the original homestead, while their children all live within 20 minutes away—all in Sturgeon County.
For the Majeaus, Sturgeon County is the perfect place for them to market their commodities from hogs to grain and other specialty crops.
“We have a county that is still in touch with agriculture that’s important and we hope that never changes,” said Dan.
“They have a good understanding of our farming operation and intensive livestock,” added Victor.
Both Dan and Victor believe it’s important for them to have a voice and are currently or have participated in several local and provincial organizations and boards.
As for the future, the Majeau family will continue to pivot as needed to keep their medium to large-sized farm competitive. While all the kids have jobs elsewhere, they will always be welcome on the farm.
“Growing up we had a good work ethic, and I can say our kids [do] as well,” said Victor.
“They are all out and about and doing very well for themselves, but they still love to come home and operate equipment or work with the animals.”
Do you know other local innovators in Sturgeon County? Tell us about them at www.sturgeoncounty.ca/AgricultureAwards.