Volume 9 Issue 3 • April 22nd, 2013

In This Issue ...

 

Cattle production and Earth Day

Anti-animal agriculture groups often use Earth Day as a platform to promote their anti-meat agendas through misinformation campaigns. What is often overlooked is the ability of well-managed cattle operations to deliver ecosystem services that benefit the environment and society as a whole.

Canada produced 2.91 billion pounds of beef in 2012 and consumers continue to spend the most dollars on beef with 42 per cent of protein expenditures in 2011. On this Earth Day, and any day of the week, consumers can continue to enjoy eating beef with pride, knowing that modern production practices maintain and improve the environmental integrity of grassland ecosystems to sustain working landscapes, conserve biodiversity and promote vibrant rural communities.

There are many beneficial aspects to cattle production. Cattle grazing utilizes land unsuitable for growing seeded crops. These grasslands not only provide forages to feed cattle, they provide habitat for hundreds of species of birds and wildlife. Wetlands are protected on grasslands, ensuring habitat for waterfowl and other species. Grasslands also act as a filter to groundwater and, as research has shown, sequester an immense amount of carbon, 'potentially enough to fully offset the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by the beef industry.' (Beauchemin et al 2011). Research also shows that production of GHG's by cattle has decreased significantly mostly due to improvements in feed and feed conversion rates. 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.

Research conducted by Ducks Unlimited Canada clearly shows that ducks nesting in landscapes predominated by perennial cover are more successful than those nesting in landscapes with a high proportion of annually cropped land. Last July, the first-ever report on the State of Canada's Birds said well-managed grazing provides natural habitat for Canada's birds. The national report examined the human influence on Canada's bird populations since the 1970s, and the negatives and positives driving the trend. Cattle grazing is recognized as a positive practice that can help to preserve habitat for birds. The report also let Canadians know that their lifestyle choices can help grassland birds. "Including bison, beef and other range-fed meat in your diet encourages the retention of pasture land," it said.

Many initiatives like MULTISAR and Cows&Fish are currently underway to ensure that the beef industry is at the forefront of leadership in sustainability. The CCA Environment Committee, chaired by rancher Lynn Grant, aims to develop science-based information tools, programs and policies that help to ensure that Canada's beef cattle producers continue to be the best environmental stewards while maintaining a dynamic and profitable industry. Some of the CCA's efforts include:

The CCA is involved in these efforts on behalf of Canada's cattle producers, who have the greatest vested interest in ensuring their land is managed in a sustainable manner. Many ranching families in Canada have been on the same farm for over 100 years and plan to pass it onto the next generation as it was passed onto them. Thus ensuring that the land is cared for in the most prudent manner possible is at the forefront of producers minds. For cattle producers, every day is Earth Day.

 

Approval of irradiation in Canada: update on CCA Petition

It is anticipated that in the coming week the CCA will submit the requested paperwork to Health Canada to reactivate the process for approval of beef irradiation in Canada. The CCA's original petition was submitted in 1998 and although the scientific review was completed with a positive recommendation from Health Canada, the final steps (Canada Gazette II) were not completed. 

While ongoing efforts were made by CCA since this date in regards to the petition to amend the regulations, the request for this additional documentation was recently made by Health Canada.

The path towards approval in Canada has been a long one, particularly relative to the equivalent U.S. approval process that was completed more than a decade ago. However, the history of milk pasteurization serves as a reminder of the time required for adoption and consumer acceptance of an approach that has ultimately been recognized as a pillar in Canada's public health system. The first milk pasteurizer in Canada was installed at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto in 1908 and three decades later Ontario reportedly became the first large jurisdiction in the world to mandate pasteurization of milk.

The recent support of irradiation by the Consumers Association of Canada indicates that the benefits of this technology are starting to be recognized. Support from the industry, government, the scientific community and the medical profession will be required to support consumer education initiatives. The arguments advanced by opponents of irradiation today are almost identical to those used at the start of the last century against milk pasteurization. The benefits of pasteurization and irradiation are also similar to the extent that some have advocated that the term "cold pasteurized" be used instead of the term "irradiated" on packaging. Further updates on the CCA efforts will be provided in subsequent issues of Action News.

 

Understanding AgriStability's role in the risk management tool kit will help producers decide

Canfax Market Briefs

The deadline to enroll in AgriStability for 2013 is April 30. Many producers are likely automatically enrolling. Some others may well be letting their enrolment lapse. Ryder Lee, CCA's manager federal provincial relations, has talked to several producers that are frustrated with AgriStability. With the trigger being lowered there is a chance that more people may opt to skip signing up for AgriStability in Growing Forward 2.

These frustrations usually fit a couple of themes. The first is frustration. The phrases "just paying my accountant" or "if it hasn't paid out in the last ten years then it isn't likely to pay out in the next ten," come up frequently.

The second stream of people considering dropping AgriStability coverage are those that see it as a risk management tool they no longer need. These cattle producers have taken steps to lower the risk of their operations; more land to grow enough feed even in a drought year, diverse crops, diverse locations, off-farm cash flow generating jobs or other undertakings. These different ventures often end up cancelling out each other (one is up when another is down) so AgriStability is less of a factor for their operations.

Aside from the steps above where farmers manage risk there are risk management programs. Crop insurance (both grain and forage) is designed to offset production risk (weather, disease, who knows what). Price insurance for cattle is designed to cover a market swing (revenue risk) at the time of expected sale. Although there is a price component of crop insurance a drop in production is required to trigger a payment. There is no specific program that covers expense risk (e.g. price of grain skyrockets after feeders are bought or a drought makes hay double in price).

With the changes to AgriStability insurance programs are the main risk management tools producers have to manage usual fluctuations their operation may face (cash generation or equity are the other things used to handle downturns). AgriStability is now designed to only kick in when severe events occur. One might call it a disaster program that covers three different risks: revenue, production and expense.

And that is an important point. When a disaster strikes, don't expect AgriRecovery to kick in. AgriRecovery is only for the areas that AgriStability and AgriInvest and AgriInsurance do not cover. These programs in some manner cover revenue downturns, production shortfalls, and cost increases. This is why there has been dissatisfaction with AgriRecovery. It is only supposed to help with one-off issues these programs do not cover to help cover the cost directly related to get production rolling again.

Producers considering dropping or ignoring AgriStability need to make sure they are doing it for the right reasons, said Lee. Farms have changed considerably over the last decade. If a producer's reference margin is starting to look reasonable then the coverage AgriStability can deliver is also increasing. If a producer's farm or ranch was changing in size or makeup over the last decade what happened then may not be a good indicator of what will happen (program wise or otherwise) in the future.

AgriStability will kick in less now than it was designed to before, either as AgriStability or CAIS before it. The cost of having the coverage has been reduced accordingly. Producers should consult with their accountant and make sure they are making an informed decision. Ignoring a program that covers revenue, cost or production disasters at a cost of $315 per $100,000 of coverage is something to be very sure about. Of course accounting costs increase the cost of coverage but just because AgriStability may kick in less often doesn't mean it is something to automatically drop.

The people at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (and CCA's Lee) would like to hear from producers if they are not in AgriStability. This program is expected to be the bedrock for producers when disaster strikes. If people are not involved then AAFC and CCA need to know why. The program is designed to respond to severe events. If people are not in it because they have chosen to handle those events without AgriStability, then that is their choice. If they are not in because of a misunderstanding of any aspect of the program then that is worth exploring. Producers can email Lee at rlee@cattle.ca.

 

Three-part video series on antimicrobial resistance and the Canadian beef industry

Antimicrobial use and resistance have received considerable negative, inaccurate attention from the media, activist groups and legislators throughout North America.  There are many misconceptions about how or why antimicrobials are used in beef cattle, as well as false assumptions about whether they contribute to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections in humans.  In fact, the Canadian beef industry has demonstrated very prudent use of antimicrobial drugs that are important to human health. The overwhelming majority of antimicrobial drugs used in cattle are of a class that are never used in human medicine. The Public Health Agency of Canada's Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) program continually monitors trends in antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance. Research has shown that resistance to drugs of 'Very High' and 'High' importance in human health is extremely low and has not increased during the past 10 years.

A three-part video series by the Beef Cattle Research Council, in partnership with RealAgriculture.com and supported by ALMA and the Saskatchewan ADOPT initiative, explain what antimicrobial resistance is, how it develops, and why it's a concern for the beef industry. Featuring leading industry experts, the videos help to debunk common misconceptions, summarize research findings and plans for further studies, and explain producers' vested interest in using these veterinary drugs responsibly. Click here for links to the videos…

 

CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: Fawn Jackson, Ryder Lee, Mark Klassen, Tracy Sakatch
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Matthew French


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The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is the national voice for Canada's beef cattle industry, representing 63,500 beef farms.

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