Volume 4 Issue 10 • April 11, 2011

In This Issue ...


Let's talk about issues

The federal election campaign has begun. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) has issued a number of recommendations for candidates seeking election to Parliament to help Canada's beef and cattle industry achieve a sustainable future. The CCA recommendations address crucial issues in the areas of market access, competitiveness, environmental management and business risk management.

Cattle producers need Government to work cooperatively with the sector when making policy changes and to ensure that producers have reliable programs to help manage their business risk. The CCA recommendations for candidates are intended to compliment the numerous activities the CCA undertakes throughout the year to communicate its priorities to Government.

An abbreviated version of our position paper is included here. The full list of CCA recommendations and rationale is available for download at: www.cattle.ca.

Improved access for Canadian beef to foreign markets
More than 40 per cent of Canadian cattle and beef production must be exported, yet many tariff and non-tariff barriers remain. The CCA places a high priority on market access and encourages candidates to continue efforts on multiple fronts to eliminate trade barriers.

The CCA recommends utilizing resources in a targeted manner to achieve the following highest priorities:

Country of Origin Labelling in the U.S.
Since 2008, the U.S. mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) requirement to label meat with the country where the animal was born has resulted in discrimination against Canadian livestock. A WTO decision on COOL will be given shortly following the election which hopefully will move the issue toward a resolution. The resolution Canada is seeking is very limited and would involve treating all animals processed into meat in a U.S. facility either being eligible for a U.S. origin label or being subject to voluntary labeling.

The CCA would ask MPs in the 41st Parliament to remind their U.S. counterparts that if the COOL dispute is not resolved, and Canada is authorized by the WTO to implement retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, that Canada will be strategic in its targeting of American products.

Business Risk Management for Cattle Producers
Canadian beef producers experienced several unavoidable multi-year disasters from 2002 through 2009, that neither AgriStability nor Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) were designed to address.

The CCA supports national agriculture programs that are delivered consistently across all jurisdictions. Programs should minimize the risk of adverse impacts on international and inter-provincial trade, minimize distortion of market forces and minimize influence on business decisions.  Programs must not disrupt the competitive imbalance between agriculture sectors or regions.

The CCA believes that Alberta's Cattle Price Insurance Program is a forward-looking, market-based, insurance-style program that allows producers to manage price risk.  The CCA will encourage the 41st Parliament to develop the national consensus needed to implement a national cattle price insurance program with governments and producers sharing the premiums.

We have several recommendations related to areas where the CCA believes costs of government regulation could be improved or new unnecessary costs could be avoided. Research in the area of agriculture will be a key component in ensuring the competitiveness of the cattle and beef sector into the future. Several other recommendations are made with respect to cross border regulatory cooperation, the impact of government biofuels policies on the competitiveness of cattle producers, and environmental sustainability.


Canadian Beef and the Environment

Canada produces 3.5 billion pounds of beef annually. Consumers continue to spend the most dollars on beef with 42 per cent of protein expenditures in 2010. Many of these beef-loving consumers are likely unaware that the responsible production practices used to produce delicious Canadian beef have an environmental component built into them. With Earth Day (April 22) fast approaching it is appropriate to focus on the environmentally beneficial aspects of Canada's beef and cattle production system.

CanFax Market BriefsEnvironmental stewardship is compatible with or inherent in modern beef and cattle production practices. Rangelands and pasture play a huge role in maintaining plant biodiversity, wildlife habitats, watersheds, and reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gases (GHG). Canada's world-class efficiencies in cattle production continue to decrease the carbon footprint of our beef.

Feedlot practices that improve growth performance and feed efficiency also have environmental benefit by using, for example, less feed per pound of beef and thus reduced manure output. The numbers reflect that we're doing more with less: between 1977 and 2007 Canadian domestic slaughter decreased 20 per cent while beef production increased 11 per cent (domestic slaughter only). During that same period, Canada marketed 10 per cent more slaughter cattle but produced 39 per cent more beef (includes live slaughter cattle exports to the U.S.) The gain in marketings reflect that Canada increased its cow herd from 1987 to 2005.

The Canadian beef and cattle industry enjoys some internationally-recognized advantages that could help to differentiate it from competing industries and countries. A clean and environmentally-friendly production system is one of these advantages. Here's how the industry contributes to a healthy environment and how the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is working to quantify these benefits:

Healthy soils and grasslands
Responsible beef production practices contribute to healthy soil and grasslands. Canada's prairie rangelands evolved under grazing by bison and elk, and later provided excellent rangelands for ranchers drawn by the attractive climate. Thousands of years of organic matter accumulated in the roots of native grasses also meant that even the arid parts of the southwestern prairies produced fabulous crops for the sodbusters that arrived on the railroad. But a few years of crops and summerfallow on dry, sandy soils depleted the organic matter, and the lack of stabilizing root mass left the sandy land susceptible to the drought and wind erosion that typified the Dirty Thirties.

Unlike annual crops, perennial grasses devote much of their energy into root stores that allow them to survive the winter. This root mass stabilizes the soil, reduces soil and water erosion and promotes aeration and water filtration. The roots eventually die, decay, and contribute to soil organic matter. It's economical, natural, effective carbon sequestration. Appropriate grazing management supports healthy grassland and soil ecosystems by maintaining plant vigour, and minimizing encroachment by brush, weeds, and other invasive species. Healthy grasslands also encourage biodiversity by providing a natural habitat in which native plants, insects, birds and wildlife can co-exist and thrive alongside cattle.

Under the Beef Science Cluster, the BCRC is funding research to breed more drought tolerant forages, develop forage seed mixtures that work in different regions of Canada, and to identify rotational grazing practices that will improve forage stand longevity, productivity and the efficiency of beef production.

Clean water
Does it really take 3.3 gallons of water to make 1/4 pound of hamburger? This estimate is based on the average daily cattle water consumption, combined with the amount of edible beef in the average beef carcass. It is sometimes taken out of context in an attempt to paint the beef industry as wasteful. Doing so actually misses a much more important point.

Cows use water, but they don't use it up – water cycles. Only a very small fraction of the water consumed is retained in the body. Most of the water that cattle drink continues to cycle in the environment. So the beef industry has a very important role in ensuring that feedlots and cattle wintering sites are sited so that runoff does not enter watercourses until particulate contaminants have had a chance to settle. Efforts to minimize nutrient loss also ensure that valuable organic nutrients are available for use as organic fertilizer on cropland.

Under the Beef Science Cluster, the BCRC is funding research to develop forages that use water more efficiently, as well as research to identify whether feeding cattle corn, wheat or triticale distillers' grains impact the N and P levels in sandy and clay soil when manure is applied at rates between 0 and 100 tons per acre.

Clean air
A 2008 article in The American Prospect asked "Are Cows Worse than Cars?" The clear answer is "NO". In the early 1900's, it took between three to five years to produce an 843 pound beef carcass in Western Canada. Today, it takes less than 24 months. Combining those numbers with recent Canadian research regarding the impact of diet on GHG production indicates that modern practices can produce the same amount of beef in much less time, with only one-third to one-half as much methane.

Environment Canada statistics also show that between 1990 and 2008:

Cattle cannot make use of the methane that is produced in the rumen, so methane represents a loss of feed energy. So it stands to reason that more efficient cattle also produce less methane. Research from the University of Alberta indicates that cattle with a 6.5:1 feed:gain ratio produced 25 per cent less methane than cattle with an 8:1 feed:gain ratio.

Under the Beef Science Cluster, the BCRC is funding studies to develop a more reliable DNA test for feed efficiency, as well as research to determine whether infrared thermography measurements, hormone and metabolite levels or feeding behaviour can help to decipher the physiological mechanisms underlying feed efficiency in cattle.

The CCA website has more information about completed, ongoing and new Beef Science Cluster projects.


Cattlemen's Young Leaders 2011 mentorship recipients announced

The Cattlemen's Young Leaders (CYL) Development Program has selected its 2011 national mentorship recipients. The 2011 CYL candidates will be paired with a mentor for an eight month mentorship in the CYL program.

The 2011 CYL mentorship recipients are: Jeff Braisher and Haley Rutherford (British Columbia); Ellen Hondl, Mark Lyseng, Kelsey Brandon, Becky Fenton, Lindsay Smith, Virgil Lowe, Christy Goldhawk (Alberta); Allison Porter, Tara Mulhern Davidson, Sarah Anderson, Sheldon Kyle, Ryan Beierbach (Saskatchewan); Cody Krentz (Manitoba); and Amanda Rosborough (Ontario).

CYL Chairman Brad Wildeman congratulated the 2011 mentorship recipients and thanked all 24 finalists for participating in the selection process, held earlier this month in Edmonton. All told, the 2011 CYL program attracted 50 applications from across Canada.

Launched by the CCA in 2010, the CYL program provides industry-specific training and mentorship to assist the beef industry into the future. This program provides a combination of formal and informal opportunities to learn from existing beef cattle industry leaders.

CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Reynold Bergen, Brenna Grant, Jill Harvie
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Tracy Sakatch

To sign up for CCA's “Action News”:
Visit www.cattle.ca and click on “Sign-up for Action News”.

For more information, contact:

CCA Communications at feedback@cattle.ca or visit our website at www.cattle.ca

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is the national voice for nearly 83,000 Canadian beef cattle producers.

Head office:
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Phone: 403.275.8558   Fax: 403.274.5686

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