Volume 4 Issue 12 • May 9, 2011

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In This Issue ...


Waiting for post-election next steps

Now that the Conservative Party of Canada has its majority win, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) is eager to get the momentum going again on many important files forced into a hiatus due to the election. However, several Parliamentary formalities must occur before the government returns to work. The first formality saw Harper on May 4 pay a visit to Governor General David Johnston's official Ottawa residence to inform the Governor General that the party is prepared to form a government.

The next step will be the swearing in of the Cabinet.  In 2008, the election was on October 14 and the Cabinet was sworn in more than two weeks later on October 30. Of course, we hope this will be done as soon as possible, but it will happen at the Prime Minister's determination.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister is likely already reviewing the makeup of the Cabinet and deliberating on how best to fill the six vacancies. Two of the vacancies come as a result of retiring MPs Chuck Strahl at Transport and Stockwell Day at Treasury Board. The four other vacancies are due to MPs being defeated in the May 2 federal election, including Lawrence Cannon at Foreign Affairs; Jean-Pierre Blackburn at Veteran Affairs/Minister of State (Agriculture); Gary Lunn at Sport; and Josee Verner at Intergovernmental Affairs.  Existing Ministers may remain in their current positions or may be moved around according to the Prime Minister's wishes.

The proclamation by the Governor General that dissolved Parliament set May 30 as the date to resume sitting for Parliament's 41st session. There is speculation that Parliament could return as early as May 16. This would see a convening of Parliament a week earlier than the last scheduled day set for the return of the writs (ie: May 23). There was no definitive word at press time regarding an earlier start.

Once Parliament resumes, the first task will be to elect a Speaker. The previous speaker, Peter Milliken, retired and is no longer an MP. There were several Deputy Speakers in the previous session who may put their names forward. The second main event will be the Speech from the Throne where the Government will set out its priorities for the upcoming session.

Also unknown at this point is the makeup of the various standing committees of Parliament. Looking at the membership of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food from the last Parliament, there were 12 members that included six Conservatives, three Liberals, two Bloc Quebecois and one New Democrat. All these members, except one of the BQ, were re-elected on May 2. We do know that the balance in the Committee will change to reflect the change in the overall House seats. The two most likely scenarios would be seven Cons, four NDP, one Lib, and one BQ for a total of 13 committee members or six Cons, four NDP, and one Lib for a total of 11 members. Either way, the Conservatives will have 50 per cent plus one.

Once all of these procedural steps are concluded, we would not be surprised if Parliament holds a very short spring session to pass the Budget and perhaps introduce legislation on a couple of priority items, then recesses for the summer on June 10.


RFID tags put under the microscope

CanFax Market BriefsRFID tag retention issues are a source of persistent complaints. The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) has a quality control process in place that producers can use to report tag-related issues when they arise. By filling out the CCIA Tag Quality Control form available at www.canadaid.ca, producers can assist the CCIA in finding solutions to common tag-related problems, including retention issues.

Comprised of a dozen questions, the quality control form is aimed at narrowing down the potential causes around tag-related complaints. For instance, fences, bale twine and bale feeders are all identified risks, as they are known to catch tags. Improperly applied tags, often a result of using the wrong applicator and/or not following the manufacturer's instructions, is another common root cause of the tag-retention problems producers encounter.

Paul Laronde, the CCIA's Tag and Technology Manager, said tags that are put in correctly don't fall out if they don't get snagged on anything. When there are problems, "it's that sort of collision between cows, tags and the management of cattle," he said.

Sometimes other factors, like exposure to parasiticides or UV rays that deteriorate the plastic, may be at play. No matter the case, Laronde said tag retention, defined as any tag loss, is the single biggest complaint he hears from producers.

All tag-related complaints are managed by Laronde. It's his job to quantify the complaints and find solutions for tag-retention issues. In addition to dealing with producer complaints, Laronde is involved in various audits of the six CCIA-approved tags to ensure the manufacturers are maintaining tag standards and that the tag itself stands up to the rigours of a range of environmental exposures.

All of this information helps the CCIA to build statistics around tag-retention issues. By building these statistics, Laronde has more tools to go back to the manufacturer and, where applicable, identify problems with their product and seek solutions.

As part of the tag-complaints process, Laronde follows up with producers and asks for samples of the problem tags. Due to his background in tag manufacturing and distribution, as well as livestock traceability, he said he can tell a little bit about what's gone wrong from examining the tag. A tag broken in a certain way usually indicates it was snagged and broken on bale twine or fencing.

In other instances, where it's clear the plastic has deteriorated, that's a plastics issue and the fault of the tag. Laronde brings them to the attention of the manufacturer in the interest of finding a solution.

All RFID tags get tested against CCIA standards before they are approved. The standards, approved by the CCIA board, were last revised in 2006. Laronde said the CCIA is at present reviewing the standards for performance and for testing, so the overall quality of the tag improves. The elevated performance standards will include testing the quality of the plastic including accelerated aging related to UV and chemical exposure, which wasn't done before.

To ensure the current standards are being met, all approved tags undergo an annual audit. This involves purchasing all the approved tags and taggers at the retail level and testing them in a lab setting. The tags are tested for electronics, physical strength and readability, with the manufacturer paying for the test.

A separate post-processing audit involves going to a packer and picking up batches of tags that have been retired off animals. Laronde goes through the retired tags one at a time, scanning each one to make sure they work.

Last year, the audit discovered a brand of tag where the cap wore off because the pin was too long. The cap issue created a problem because it meant the stud could be pulled out and the tag reapplied to another animal, which is against the rules. The post-processing audit enabled Laronde to go to the manufacturer with an identified problem, and have them find a solution so they could continue to meet CCIA tag standards.

"I think it shows leadership from us to be able to sit down with a manufacturer and say, we're watching, here's what we've determined, and we need to have a resolution to this," he said.

The CCIA also has a tag retention trial underway. The goal of the trial is to understand what the tag retention rate is across Canada. The trial uses all the CCIA approved tags and a professional group out of community pastures in Saskatchewan will be doing the tagging. The trial will be strictly controlled to remove all the variables and will involve a statistician to ensure the test is statistically relevant, Laronde said.

The trial will involve animals from Ontario west, and the group will be tagging calves, the retained animals and steers. This means there will be a group monitored for two years and another group monitored for five years or however long those animals are around. That will take all the variables out and give baseline retention for cattle in Canada using the approved tags.

Of course, the CCIA is looking at the tags themselves. Currently, all approved tags are round with round backs on them. The CCIA has gone to manufacturers to encourage them to look at something different. As a result, a couple of new tags are being tested that are a different style and look like they might offer some answers to the retention issue, Laronde said without divulging design specifics.

"We're working to make the situation better," he said.

Although progress is not going to happen overnight, what is clear is that producers want tags that stay in, period. Laronde noted that being offered replacement tags doesn't really sit well with producers because the time and effort involved in retagging an animal is viewed as a drain on production.

"I'm now hearing in situations where there is value-added information, so age verification information attached to that tag, there is some value to that in most cases, and when they lose the tag they lose that premium if the packer is offering it," he said.


Deadline for 2011 ILC Student Program Looms

Time is running out to take part in the 2011 International Livestock Congress (ILC) student program, which provides eligible diploma, bachelor and graduate students with a first-hand look at Canada's beef cattle industry, its current issues and opportunities.

As part of the ILC Congress -- a premier industry event with expert speakers whose analysis, insight and perspective bring clarity to the many complex issues that shape Canada's beef industry -- the ILC student program offers an unparalleled opportunity for youth in the beef industry.

To be held in Calgary August 7-11, 2011 the ILC is hosted by the CCA and the International Stockman's Educational Foundation. The 2011 ILC provides the backdrop for the student program, which offers participants the opportunity to meet the leaders of the industry, learn about current issues, network with other students across Canada and the world, and potentially meet their future employer. Students have until June 1 to apply for a Travel Bursary to this premier event.

Christy Goldhawk, one of 20 agricultural students from Canada and around the world sponsored to attend the 2010 ILC student program, said the program provided a number of invaluable experiences. She would "most definitely" recommend the ILC student program for both Ag and non-Ag students.

"It is an excellent opportunity to learn about a major industry in Canada," she said. "The ILC experience most definitely exceeded my expectations. I had heard excellent recommendations about the program; however the industry connections that were made and conversations with individuals active within the beef industry and within my areas of interest were truly appreciated."

Goldhawk also valued meeting other young individuals with similar interests in the industry and said that attending the ILC student program reinforced her decision to pursue opportunities within the beef industry.

The 2011 ILC student program is looking for individuals who exhibit leadership qualities and initiative, are business-oriented, open to learning and sharing ideas, and are passionate about seeing success in the beef industry. The program is offered to diploma, bachelor and graduate students who are looking to be a part of the industry as primary producers, service providers and researchers.

With the June 1 deadline less than a month away, now is the time to sign up for the program. To apply or for information go to: www.ilccalgary.com/html/student.html.


Carbon Capture and Storage. It's Low Tech, and it Works

Cattle have received more than their share of bad press in recent years because of the methane released when they chew their cud. But that's only one side of the coin; carbon is also removed from the atmosphere as an indirect result of the beef industry. Root growth is a natural form of carbon sequestration. Perennial forages have a more extensive root system than annual crops, and the fact that grasslands and pastures are not cultivated means that this carbon stays stored in the soil as organic matter. An early BCRC project was designed to study some of the factors that influence the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by cattle on pasture, as well as the amount of carbon stored in the soil. Click here to read more.

CCA Action News

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

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

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