Volume 2 Issue 4 | February 15, 2010

In This Issue ...


Fire, Ready, (Aiming optional), Reload and Fire Again

How many times over the years has R-CALF blasted out a press release trumpeting some “revelation” about Canadian cattle production, only to be proven wrong when the facts came out? The group’s latest effort, a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) objecting to Canada’s WTO complaint on COOL, is no exception.

R-CALF’s attempt to portray the Canadian cattle industry as feeding at the government trough is spurious. If they can’t be right, at least they are predictable.

Let’s review R-CALF’s record . . .

There was the time in 2005 when they declared that Canada was decreasing its BSE testing levels, when in fact Canada was increasing its testing levels. They also tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with their analysis that Canadian BSE testing levels didn’t measure up to U.S. levels, but when the CCA explained that the Canadian beef herd is about one-sixth the size of the U.S. beef herd, it became clear that Canada actually was testing proportionately higher numbers of cattle than the U.S.

There was the time in 2007 when they claimed Canadian cattle were being illegally sold in U.S. auction barns, when in fact somebody just imagined they had seen a Canadian ear tag in South Dakota. The tags in question were collected at a packer in Nebraska and the Canadian cattle identification system quickly traced them back to animals that were exported from Canada to the U.S. the day prior to slaughter. There was no way the ear tags in question could have been on cattle in a sale barn in South Dakota at the time alleged. R-CALF just riled folks up without bothering to learn the facts and they never apologized for their error afterward.

There was the time also in 2007 when the Washington State R-CALF affiliate claimed thousands of Canadian cattle were being lost in that state. The CCA and several Canadian cattle exporters travelled to the state capital to review the situation, which turned out to be based on little more than a couple of e-mails from state officials to feedlots seeking reconciliation of a handful of transposition errors. The few human errors that had been identified were all corrected long before the R-CALF affiliate launched its missile. Of course, again there was no retraction or apology from those who leapt before they looked.

As the Canada – U.S. border re-opened to young cattle in 2005 and older cattle in 2007, each time R-CALF predicted a “wall of cattle” would flood into the U.S. market and destroy U.S. prices. Nothing anywhere close to that happened on either occasion. In fact, the resumption of live cattle trade could best be described as a ‘trickle’ upon initial re-opening at both stages since many traders were hesitant to be the first to operate under the new rules established on both occasions.

Canadian live cattle exports to the U.S. have not climbed back to the level achieved in 2002, the last unrestricted year before BSE. Canadian live cattle exports to the U.S. in 2009 were the lowest they have been (not counting 2003-2005 when the border was closed to all cattle) since 2000.

There have been innumerable other instances when facts have belied the rhetoric spewed by R-CALF, not the least of which were their earlier subsidy allegations against Canada in the late 1990s, which the U.S. government investigated thoroughly before exonerating Canada and terminating the complaint.

In their latest efforts, they describe the Canadian cattle herd as “unsustainable at its present size.” We don’t know what counts as unsustainable in R-CALF’s book, but when the January 1, 2010, cattle inventory numbers are released in mid-February, we expect to see the 5th consecutive year of beef cow herd reduction in Canada. In fact, we are expecting the smallest beef cow herd in Canada since the mid 1990s. If anything, the herd needs to start growing to meet the demand that we believe will resume growing as the broader North American economy recovers. R-CALF just plain has its facts wrong on the size of the Canadian cattle herd.

Canadian Beef Cow Numbers

R-CALF’s latest complaints about government support are very light on details as to what these programs might be or when they were delivered. When the U.S. re-opened the border to trade in live young cattle in 2005, we heard similar charges of subsidies, but the reality is that any government support provided in 2003 through 2005 was only a small fraction of what the industry lost due to the over-reaction of export markets, including the U.S., shutting us out. Furthermore, any temporary programs that were created during that time were terminated when the U.S. border partially opened.

We suppose that R-CALF will continue its pattern and they will again work to extract donations from honest hardworking ranchers that they have riled up with their bogus Canadian subsidy allegations. If they proceed with a formal complaint, the CCA will again defend the Canadian industry. Even though we will be ultimately exonerated, markets will be disrupted in the meantime and the lawyers will be the main beneficiaries. Let’s just hope that those who have carried water for R-CALF in the past are getting tired of being misled and will think twice before funding them further.

CCA helps promote Canadian beef at the Olympics

The CCA was in Vancouver on the eve of the 2010 Olympics as part of a promotional event led by Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz to highlight Canadian agriculture.

It’s been said that the Olympics are the ultimate trade show. The CCA is very pleased that Minister Ritz and his Agriculture Canada officials are seeing it that way and used the arrival of the world's media in Vancouver to promote Canadian food and prominently featuring Canadian beef.

CCA Vice President Travis Toews was invited to join Minister Ritz to take part in a demonstration of Canadian beef. Held last Thursday, the event treated about 60 journalists from around the world to a breakfast feast highlighting the high-quality foods that Canadian farmers produce.

A team of Canadian chefs, including Chef at Large Michael Smith, prepared dishes featuring key Canadian export ingredients.

“We took advantage of the opportunity to showcase Canadian beef to media from around the world. The chefs did a marvelous job of describing the positive attributes of Canadian beef,” Toews said.

The event was emceed by self described Canadian "gastronomer and food activist" Anita Stewart (www.anitastewart.ca) who described the attributes of Canadian beef to domestic and international media. Chef Remy Cousyn (from Calories Restaurant in Saskatoon) featured a dish called Prairie Steak and Eggs. The main ingredient was a 4oz Canada Prime ribeye medallion that every journalist had the opportunity to taste. Many were spotted returning for seconds.

Another dish, prepared by Chef Daryle Ryo Nagata of Vancouver's Pan Pacific Hotel, was Congee with Braised Beef Short Ribs. Congee is a sort of rice porridge very popular in Asia that gets its flavour from other ingredients such as meats, mushrooms, green onions, etc. The Japanese reporters in particular took many photos and video of Chef Nagata preparing this dish with Canadian beef.

We hope that this positive exposure will find its way to chefs, both professional and amateur, around the world who will want to try these and other recipes using Canadian beef.

“We appreciated the participation and support of Minister Ritz in showcasing Canadian beef at this international event,” Toews said.

Representatives from the Canola Council of Canada, Canada Beef Export Federation, Canadian Pork Council, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Canadian Horticulture Council and Vincor Canada, were also on hand.

The event was part of the federal government’s on-going work to expand and re-invigorate international markets.

“Our Government is proud to showcase the high quality food that our farmers produce because we know consumers at home and around the world want to buy it,” stated Ritz. “We will always maximize every opportunity to promote Canadian agriculture. We know that increased international trade will stimulate economic growth and deliver benefits to all Canadians.”

In 2008 Canada exported $42.8 billion worth of food and agriculture to 195 countries.


Building momentum in New Zealand

The CCA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Confederacion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas (CNOG), fresh from a leadership meeting at the NCBA annual convention in January, are now at the 5 Nations Beef Alliance conference in New Zealand.

The three leadership groups join the Council of Australia and Meat and Wool New Zealand in Kari Kari, New Zealand Feb. 15-17th. The 5 nations will collaborate on a variety of issues, including eliminating non-science based trade restrictions and developing environment, animal care and welfare strategies that will not impede trade but carry many advantages to existing producer systems and technologies.

Look for updates on this meeting in future issues of Action News.


Growing Forward OFFS funding assists some provinces with Verified Beef Production program

The Growing Forward On-Farm Food Safety funding has arrived out west and judging from the reaction in Alberta, producers are more than mildly interested about what the program offers them.

“The work plans are just starting to come in and we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries,” said Betty Vladicka, the On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) Program Manager at Alberta Agriculture.

The federal-provincial Growing Forward program provides support to producers to help them implement Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)-recognized OFFS practices in their agriculture operations. The Verified Beef Production (VBP) program, the OFFS program of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, is the approved program for the cattle industry.

Producer projects supported by the program are on a cost-shared basis which varies from province to province. For instance, in Alberta the grants cover 70 per cent of eligible expenses for approved activities, up to a maximum of $5,000 per applicant. In B.C., the cost-sharing formula is 90 per cent to a maximum of $3,000. However both funds are expected to have a high demand and producers should get their applications in early.

Alberta, B.C. and Quebec are the latest provinces to announce Growing Forward OFFS funding. They join programs already announced in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to assist with VBP implementation. Prince Edward Island has signed agreements for funding, and there’s no word yet from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. The province of Ontario remains deficit in this type of assistance to commodities. Although there is a program available, little funding has reached beef producers and there is no funding for workshops.

Although participating provinces have their own specifications and funding level commitments, there are some commonalities. B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, PEI and Quebec all offer partial support for equipment purchases and partial VBP audit costs. In addition many of the programs cover some traceability equipment and/or software and biosecurity plans at a higher amount. Some provincial governments require an on-farm validation audit to be eligible for partial equipment purchase assistance.

In Alberta, Vladicka noted it’s important for producers to tie in the VBP angle to their work plan application, such as what hazard or what standard operating procedure for VBP is being addressed by this activity. “If it’s just saying, ‘I want to buy a squeeze’ and the rationale is food safety, (that’s) not good enough,” she said.

Many provinces have developed eligible equipment lists for on-farm food safety, which in most cases includes the former lists developed for the prior funding program. It may or may not include chutes with neck extensions, animal health software, calibration devices/scales for medicated feed, thermometers, and individual animal scales. Producers are well advised to check with their provincial Verified Beef Production program coordinator to get all the details.  

A list of coordinators is available at www.verifiedbeef.org under VBP Across Canada or contact their provincial cattle association.


Auction Mart pilot project update

A pilot project designed to provide producers with easy access to pertinent industry information at the local auction market is now being rolled out to 22 sites in Alberta. The program, a joint effort of the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and the CCA, will serve as the template for a larger pilot to be rolled out to the provinces at a later date.

Large, flat screen television monitors that display market data streams and industry information slides are now installed in auction marts across Alberta. The large screens enable producers to view easy to read news from ABP and the CCA, cattle prices from CanFax, drought information and weather maps unique to each regional area, Alberta Agriculture information and local auction mart sales information.

This innovative project was built from the ground up and while operational is still viewed as very much a work in progress. The feedback is already rolling in and ABP and the CCA are listening to suggestions from participants as to how to improve the system. This feedback will help the CCA meet its goal of creating a tool valued by producers as well as achieve its vision of having the screens in use in auction marts across Canada.

The CCA will fund one-pilot project in each province. We are drawing on the Alberta experiences in developing and deploying the auction mart system with the intent of creating a blueprint for interested provinces to reference as they implement the system.

Communications staff from the CCA and ABP will be presenting this information at the CCA Annual meeting in March and share, from an implementation viewpoint, what worked and what didn’t from the Alberta perspective.

System improvements have been a constant since the pilot program launched last fall with Vold Jones and Vold Auction Co. in Ponoka and Perlich Bros. Auction Mart in Lethbridge.
The monitors for the Alberta project were made available at no cost through funding from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.


Johne’s Disease Fact Sheet

As you’ve read recently in Action News, Johne’s disease (pronounced Yo-knees) increases feed and replacement costs in beef herds. It is difficult to diagnose, impossible to treat, and current vaccines do not provide full protection from the disease. However, research funded by National Check-Off dollars has identified several on-farm management considerations that may help to prevent or control the risk of Johne’s disease in cow-calf operations.

Link to this fact sheet to learn more about on-farm management factors that influence the risk of Johne’s disease on cow-calf operations.

CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Terry Grajczyk, Jill Harvie, Reynold Bergen.
Contributors: Lori Creech, Alberta Beef Producers.
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel.

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