On November 30th, the Trudeau government delivered its 2020 fiscal update, entitled ‘Supporting
Canadians and Fighting COVID-19′, to Canadians. While the fall fiscal update has traditionally been simply
an economic snapshot of the country’s fiscal state, this year’s update (237 pages) resembled that of a
‘mini-budget’.

Our National Cattle Feeders’ Association have summarized this fiscal update, highlighting the areas of importance to agriculture, although they are slight.

Government of Canada Federal Fiscal Briefing – December 1

A note from Alberta Health Services to Alberta’s cattle feeders

A note from Alberta Health Services to Alberta’s cattle feeders

 

Since the beginning of November, we have seen an increasing trend of feedlot operations with COVID-19 across the South Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS). This includes cases within support industries such as feed supply and trucking. This aligns with increasing illness in all of Alberta, impacting nearly every sector. To date, in the South Zone, five feedlot operators have had confirmed clusters (more than one case) of COVID-19 illness on their farm.

 

Why does this matter to you?

  • COVID-19 can affect any demographic, any age and any sector, despite all best efforts
  • While illness may be mild for many, for some, it can be very serious
  • Increasing community spread can lead to more outbreaks in vulnerable settings such as care facilities, where risk of serious complications and death are higher
  • Increasing spread may jeopardize the health system, affecting staff and services
  • Illness on feedlots in workers can have a significant impact on operations, which can impact business continuity and animal welfare

 

Key areas to focus on:

 

  • Staff Rooms – this is where individuals tend to let their guards down. It is important to have measures in place at all times in the workplace. People share snacks (common trays, condiments) and have prolonged visits in close proximity in these spaces. We have seen many instances where a team of staff who share the break room unknowingly spread to colleagues, just by having lunch or coffee. People with COVID-19 are infectious (able to spread the virus), 48 hours before the onset of symptoms. With the holiday season upon us, it is common to have oranges, trays of treats, pot lucks and other activities that bring people together. It is important to remember to keep your distance from your colleagues, they are not considered your cohort. They are like the rank steer that does not want to be caught to be treated. Try to schedule or take breaks at different times, wipe down surfaces after each use and reduce any shared items as much as possible.

 

  • Vehicle Sharing – Another common source of spread is when you carpool with a colleague, head to town for supplies or travel on the feedlot in a truck/tractor for more than 15 minutes. This is where those additional measures like masking or face coverings are an asset. You should be masked when in close proximity (within 6 feet) with a colleague for more than 15 minutes, cumulative in a day.

 

  • Treating cattle, handling or moving animals in tight spaces (chutes, alleys, barns) – The virus can spread without masking protection of both workers (nose and mouth) in this situation. Outdoors is generally a lower risk activity, but those closer proximity interactions, where there may be more exertion (breathing heavy) is when aerosols can go farther.

 

These are situations where AHS Public Health South Zone have seen transmission within feedlot operations. As feedlots are important to our agriculture industry and economy, prevention and best management before a case occurs is easier than contact tracing, isolation and quarantine after. We know that no producer wants to spread illness to their most important asset, their staff.

 

Feedlot operators need to be documenting (and making available when requested) the policies and procedures you have implemented on site. Local health services will require this information when conducting contact tracing and other COVID-19 related inquiries. AHS needs this information to ensure anyone potentially exposed receives the correct guidance.

 

At minimum, operators should be able to provide: Names, addresses, phone numbers, date of last shift, roles and positions of staff, workers and visitors who were potentially exposed to an infectious case while they were at that location

 

Each feedlot also needs to be prepared to respond to symptomatic workers or confirmed cases of COVID 19. It is necessary that feedlots have detailed protocols and procedures as well as a comprehensive written Rapid Response Plan to assist AHS in their worksite investigation.

 

Vital documentation:

 

  • Date of reported illness
  • Date of last shift
  • Role and Duties
  • Potential close contacts
  • Crucial roles and contingency plans
    • Ex: If regular staff cannot feed animals, who completes the job and how
  • Employee health and safety measures
    • Masks/face coverings where distance cannot be maintained, sanitization, shift work, distancing policies, etc. Hand hygiene
  • HR Policies
    • Employee symptom reporting and isolation plan
    • Sick leave policy
  • Visitor protocols

 

Specific information and detailed planning for each of these points and more can be found in our comprehensive COVID 19 Feedlot Protocols and Guide.

 

There are also several good resources within this document like this Feedlot Emergency Planning tool, HR Guidelines, and much more.

 

For more information, please contact your ACFA

Cattle Feeders’ Represent Agriculture on Economic Recovery Council

Between your elected volunteer Board of Directors and our staff, the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association represents its members with seats on many significant boards, committees, and panels.

A recent example of this is Board member Kendra Donnelly’s appointment to the Premier’s Economic Recovery Council. The Economic Recovery Council was appointed to provide insight and expert advice on how to protect jobs during the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent collapse in energy prices. The council will also focus on strategies for long term recovery from the crisis, including efforts to accelerate diversification of the Alberta economy. (Full details and list of council members here)

“Being appointed to this committee has given me the opportunity to advocate for agriculture directly with the Premier, working to ensure everyone at the table sees the value agriculture brings to the entire economy,” says Donnelly, owner and partner at Korova Feeders Ltd.

Working on the panel alongside notable Albertans like Clive Beddoe – former chair and principal founder, WestJet, and Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper – Canada’s 22nd prime minister, Donnelly says she works to represent all of agriculture as well as agri-food, value-add, and our entire supply chain within the industry.

Similarly, ACFA’s President and CEO Janice Tranberg sits on the Business Council of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry panel, which is an advisory council created to tackle issues and provide advice up through the Premier’s Economic Recovery Council that Kendra sits on.

“The business leaders on the Business Council of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry panel understand the value of agriculture and its important role in building Alberta’s economic recovery. It is our role to make sure these opportunities are realised and implemented by our provincial government,” emphasises Tranberg. “Having a direct line to the premier’s roundtable with Kendra sitting at the table has been, and will continue to be immensely important for delivering our message.”

The Ag and Forestry Panel recently created a strategic action plan outlining how agriculture can lead in Alberta’s economic recovery. “The Council’s primary focus is to build a program for long term support, financing, and infrastructure,” Donnelly explains. “I put a lot of effort into demonstrating the value of ag in carbon offsetting and on other environmental issues as well.”

Read the comprehensive strategic action plan here

As always, we encourage you to reach out to ACFA; we are working for you when we are represented on boards such as this and we welcome your input and feedback.

Reach us:

cattlefeeders.ca

403.250.2509

Facebook

Twitter @cattlefeedersAB

 

2021 Budget Submission

Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) has been offered the opportunity to provide input into the Government of Alberta’s 2021 Budget, which will be released in February 2021. We submitted the following recommendations, based on how agriculture is a vital component to building economy.

 

Recommendation 1

Pursue meaningful improvements to Agri-Stability by removing the $3 million cap on payments or increasing it to at least $20 million, eliminating ‘reference margin limiting’ and increasing the payout from 70% to 85%.

 

Recommendation 2

Take a proactive and comprehensive approach to labour challenges in Alberta’s agriculture sector to ensure the fed cattle industry, and all of agriculture, has timely access to the necessary skilled labour needed to build the rural economy.

 

Recommendation 3

Establish a dedicated line item in the budget for investments in rural infrastructure, particularly high-speed internet, rural roads and bridges.

 

Recommendation 4 

Ensure the success of rural Alberta and confined feedlot operations by modernizing the provincial property tax assessment and overall taxation system of farmland to reduce the implementation of unfair municipal taxes; and ensure that AOPA serves as the final word on permitting of confined feeding operations.

Read the complete 2020 ACFA Budget Submission here

Cattle Feeders Urged to Utilize Remaining Set-Aside Funds

$2.6 million. To date, that is the liability for animals on set aside. According to AFSC “the number of head that will be accepted into the program and the liability associated with those additional animals will depend on the bids received and accepted for weeks that are open for bidding.” Last week, 3,415 head were accepted with an average bid price $1.72.

When COVID first caused a backlog in our processing supply chain, the basis remained positive, hence not many bids being accepted into the program. Today, the basis is negative and the potential for acceptance much higher.

“I really encourage people to watch the program,” says John Lawton of Titan Livestock, a cattle procurement and risk management firm. “We are fortunate to have this in place when the basis gets wider than historical number. This is essentially adding a third bidder to the market to control the basis.”

AFSC says “It’s difficult to say how much funding is still available in the program, as there are many variables at play within the program. The federal and provincial governments will determine when the program ends (which will occur on or before March 31, 2021) and the entirety of the program funding may not be used.”

Therefore, ACFA wants to encourage you to use the program now.

“If your cattle are a fit, it allows you to get help feeding them for those last 60 days and also helps our industry to control supply,” says Lawton.

Weekly bid process steps

  • Friday: Enrolled producers are notified about the upcoming bid process that begins the following Monday morning at 9 a.m.

  • Monday: At 9 a.m. the bid process begins. Eligible producers will be required to supply:

    1. Premises ID
    2. Lot Number(s)
    3. Number of Eligible Animals in each Lot
    4. Animal Type – Heifer or Steer
    5. Average net weight of the Lot must average 1,300 lbs for heifers or 1,400 lbs for steers at the date the bid is submitted
    6. Bid amount
  • Wednesday: The bid process for that week closes at noon.

  • Friday: By noon, all eligible participants are notified if their bids for that week were accepted or rejected.

 

For complete program details visit the AFSC AgriRecovery page here

Dust Suppression – Our Social License to Operate May Be At Risk

Posted on a public bulletin board in Southern Alberta, this note may be a sign of regulations to come if we don’t take action now cautions Leighton Kolk of Kolk Farms Ltd. near Iron Springs, AB, who found the note. “Excessive dust affects more than the neighbours; dust can cause health issues for both cattle and worker as well,” says Kolk.

Kolk points out that dust suppression is not currently regulated in Canada, but our neighbours to the south have severe regulations to follow in order to avoid fines and even operation limitations. Washington feedlot operator and Washington Cattle Feeders’ Board member Bill Easterday said: “We realized that almost all of our local dust regulations are a result of complaints and we realized that air quality regulation is here to stay and that we needed to be proactive, not reactive.”

Currently, the Natural Resources Conservation Board of Canada (NRCB)’s Compliance and Enforcement operational policy emphasizes “education and voluntary compliance as the first and preferred approach to bringing an operation into compliance with the act or conditions attached to the operation’s permit.” They state that “If there is an immediate risk to the environment, the inspector may issue an emergency order. In rare circumstances the inspector may initiate prosecution, if required.”

“If we work as an industry to voluntarily reduce dust proactively, it will be much better than a costly legislated law put into place by authorities,” adds Kolk.

Dust suppression doesn’t have to be costly or labour intensive; there are several management practices that can reduce dust without significant resources.

It is recommended to focus on the pens themselves first. Cattle moving around as the day cools is generally the largest cause of dust movement. In pens, the most common dust management tactics are:

Pen Maintenance

  • Scraping pens regularly reduces manure and excess feed that get ground into fine dust.
  • It is recommended to leave 1-2 inch surface layer of compacted soil/manure.
  • Alberta Ag and Forestry states: “The removal of accumulated manure, bedding and deteriorated pen base is the most effective approach to managing pen dust.”

Water Application

  • Applying water should being in advance of dust becoming an issue.
  • Maintain a balance between dust control and creating mud.
    • The surface manure in the lot should be maintained at 25-35 percent water to minimize the dust and odours.
  • It is recommended to water in the evening.
  • *In California research, properly sprinkled feedlots generated up to 18 times less dust than untreated lots.*

Animal Density

  • Concentrating animals in the pen can limit dust by increasing the moisture level in the pen from manure and urine.
  • However, there can be issues such as:
    • inadequate bunk space,
    • possible increased disease transmission,
    • possible lower gains, and
    • if weather conditions change, mud could become an issue.

External to the pens, maintaining roadways and increasing shelterbelts and protective treelines can also contribute to dust reduction in the pens and yard.

For more details or specific management strategies, please use these resources:

 

NRCB Dust Control Fact Sheet

Alberta Ag and Forestry: Managing Feedlot Pen Dust

Fugitive Dust Control Plan and Best Management Practices for Cattle Feeding Operations – Washington Cattle Feeders’ Association with the State of Washington Department of Ecology

ACFA contributes to stakeholder letter to Premier about the implementation of MELT for farms

ACFA, along with many other crop and livestock boards and commissions, recently submitted a letter to Premier Kenney outlining concerns with the implementation of Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) for farms.

The collaborating organizations are asking Premier Kenney and the Government of Alberta to find solutions to ensure voluntary compliance.

Our organizations are willing to engage with the Government of Alberta to find workable solutions to achieve high voluntary compliance.

These asks include:

–  Adjusting the MELT deadlines for farmers and farm workers because of the significant disruption on timelines caused by the pandemic.

– Treat agriculture extension drivers who completed their preMELT Class 1 licence before the lockdown the same as Transition drivers. Grant these extension drivers the same 2-year probation period and grandfather the Class 1 licence to those with a clean driving record.

– Reduce the cost barrier for the Class 1 MELT program with alternative approaches

These issues and the complete letter can be found here:

Transport Regulation Update

New transport regulations require more vigilance from producers

Producers must ensure cattle are fit to travel and communicate all details to transporters before their animals leave the farm.

Complete article here

ACFA Board Member Voted Vice-Chair of Canadian Beef Check off Agency

Congratulations ACFA Board Member Jeff Smith being voted Vice-Chair of the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency.