Volume 3 Issue 9 • October 12, 2010

In This Issue ...


CCA annual fall Parliament fly-in

After a long Parliamentary summer recess, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) wasted no time in resuming its engagement with MPs to advocate on behalf of Canada’s 86,000 beef cattle producers. The CCA Country Picnic on Parliament Hill is a popular annual event that this year attracted nearly 600 people including more than 150 MPs and 30 Senators.

Canfax Market BriefsThe Sept. 28 event provided the opportunity for 15 CCA and provincial cattle association representatives to interact with key lawmakers and update them on our various policy needs.

All told, the CCA and provincial cattle reps held nearly 20 private meetings with individual MPs to
discuss issues in greater detail. This included a meeting between the CCA President Travis Toews, Vice-President Martin Unrau and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

The gist of the messaging from cattle producers is that although optimism is picking up and cattle prices are improving, not all parts of the country are sharing equally. Accordingly, we need progress on a number of federal government files to realize the full potential for the Canadian cattle industry in the coming years. 

We complimented Minister Ritz and International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, regarding their efforts on market access barriers and identified our top priorities for further progress in the year ahead. 

We noted the Specified Risk Material (SRM) disposal funding in the 2010 Federal Budget was working and that a second year is required to bridge the gap until technology investment projects currently in development can come on line. We highlighted the deficiencies of the current business risk management programs for livestock producers and had some excellent conversations about creating a new national cattle price and basis insurance program.   

The CCA thanks the Canadian Meat Council for paying for the delicious slow-roasted Canada AAA Strip Loin served at the 2010 CCA Country Picnic on Parliament Hill.


e+v grading camera gets the green light

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved the use of e+v Technology GmbH Beef Instrument Technology to be used as a grading aid within the Canadian beef grading system.

The latest in computer grading technology, the e+v approval marks the first major advancement in the Canadian system since the Computer Vision System (CVS) camera was introduced in 1999. The new technology enables improved grading accuracy under current grading regulations.

Canfax Market BriefsMark Klassen, the CCA Director of Technical Services, initiated the approval process by working with the manufacturer to secure equipment for testing and worked with the team of scientific and industry experts on the research.

“The CCA has long been an advocate of computer vision grading because of the potential for the machine to make numerous measurements in the very short period of time currently available to grade each carcass,” said Klassen.

Generally, graders have around 15 seconds to evaluate a carcass on a moving rail and may use visual estimates or a yield ruler to capture the measurements.

The e+v grading instrument is a stationary machine that photographs and analyses the rib eye area between the 12th and 13th ribs of each carcass as they pass by on a moving rail. At present, three packers in Canada have a moving rail - XL Beef in Brooks, Cargill High River and Cargill Guelph, all of which have installed the instrument. The e+v technology is already approved for use in the U.S. and is installed in more than 20 American packing plants. The camera has essentially become the North American Standard, said Klassen.

At present, the computer grading camera measures grade fat, rib eye width, rib eye depth, calculation of a lean yield percentage, lean yield grade and a marbling score. In some situations, such as where it is difficult for the camera to get an accurate reading, a grader can overrule the camera's grading.

The technology is objective and assesses marbling under the same light and at the same distance from the rib eye based on minute calculations of red and white pixels within the traced muscle. This will reduce the variability inherent with human assessment, said Cindy Delaloye, General Manager of the Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA).

Another advantage of the new technology is that the information can be stored, shared and further analyzed.

Klassen noted that the full potential of computer vision grading can only be realized by making the information captured by the instrument available throughout the supply chain.

The new Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) enables the individual carcass data to be shared back down the supply chain with all previous owners of the animal if those owners are enrolled in BIXS. Therefore, cow/calf producers participating in BIXS can use carcass information to aid in genetic improvements and bolster marketing efforts, feedlots can fine-tune their operations and packing plants can better sort their product in order to meet customer demands. Klassen is confident that over time, this will contribute to enhancing the quality and yield of Canadian beef.

The newest computer grading equipment is an exciting advancement in improving grading accuracy and gathering data. However, before cameras are put to use, packing plants must request to use the equipment for grading, the CFIA must approve installation and the CBGA must establish protocol.

Klassen suggested the majority of Canadian cattle could be graded using the new system once the required approvals can be completed at the three plants that currently have the equipment.

For smaller plants that do not use a moving rail, the current technology is less feasible. The CCA is exploring opportunities to develop a portable camera which could be employed at smaller plants.


The forecast calls for extreme weather, says climate change expert

In a year where monsoon-like weather has plagued producers, it might come as a shock to some that climate forecasting models predict longer and more frequent droughts on the Prairies. According to Dr. Danny Blair, a climate change expert from the University of Winnipeg, increasing water scarcity will be a major issue in Western Canada in the future, where extreme variability in the weather will continue to be the norm - albeit on a much larger scale.

“The agriculture community has always been very skilled at dealing with this adversity but the message is to prepare for even more variability in the future,” Blair said recently at a conference in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Blair noted that 2010, characterized by a high amount of precipitation on the Prairies, is not representative of what experts expect in the future. Increasing water scarcity, which will greatly diminish the capacity for irrigation, is anticipated as seasonal temperatures are expected to continue to warm. However, Blair suggested drought will be the bigger story decades from now. “With drought comes the opposite, and that is you can expect large rain events in the future,” he said.

Rather than being contradictory, Blair told the audience of agricultural writers and communicators this is just the sort of extremes producers will have to adapt to. “Our message is that you have to get ready for more scarcity of water and extreme weather events,” he said.

The predicted change in weather will pose an enormous challenge to farmers. The greater range of extremes will increase the impact of agriculture and pose a greater risk to the economy of the region.

While there are far too many variables to confirm the weather decades from now, generally speaking, Blair said climate change experts can emphatically say that it’s going to be warmer in Western Canada.

The data can’t say with certainty what the summer will be like on the Prairies from a precipitation point of view. But from an annual point of view, winters and springs will be wetter and summers will be drier, he said, “and that’s not good for agriculture.”


Getting better with age?

A research paper from the September 2010 edition of the Canadian Journal of Animal Science indicates that aging does not improve the tenderness of all beef cuts. In ‘Extended Ageing Time and Temperature Effects on Quality of Sub-Primal Cuts of Boxed Beef,’ researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research Centre confirmed that aging improves the tenderness of the striploin, blade eye, chuck tender, and eye of round. On the other hand, aging had no effect on the inside round, and actually made the outside round tougher. Click here for a preliminary summary of that project.


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CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, 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 90,000 Canadian beef cattle producers

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