ACFA MidYear Update

While we had hoped to update our members without using the word ‘covid’ by now, we have still been working hard for you all year, focusing on advocacy, member value, collaboration, and partnership.
See what we have been up to here:

Alberta Feedlot Hosts Vaccine Clinic for Employees and Community

It all started with a COVID-19 outbreak in March on VRP Farms in Picture Butte, Alberta. “It was an extremely trying time,” says Jolayne Farn, HR Manager of VRP. “Having 11 confirmed cases and 42 staff off work and quarantined showed us we never wanted to have to operate like that again. Even though we currently had strict control measures in place to help prevent COVID -19 from entering our facilities it still found us.”

Farn says it affected everyone from barn crew, pen riders to the management team and the business saw significant impacts. “1 lot had NO riders, 4 lots were out of commission and ensuring the cattle were fed each day, we were totally off the market for a week, no shipping, no bringing animals in. The affects staggered all the way into the next month,” Farn explains.

VRP Farms operates a number of feedlots and farms, a trucking division and the Roto-Mix business; their reach is far and contact tracing was a significant undertaking. Once vaccines became an option for Canadians, VRP got to work ensuring their employees were protected.

‘For the health and safety of our employees, our farm, and our community, we wanted everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” says Farn. VRP recently brought in 11 (SAWP) seasonal agricultural workers and were working with Calgary Catholic Immigration Society to obtain support on newcomer’s settlement support such as – SIN #, bank accounts, PO Box #s, drivers’ licenses etc. This led to the idea of vaccinating everyone on site to reduce travel and logistics coordination.

“We vaccinated about 55 people on site,” says Farn. “We opened it up to neighbouring feedlots and farms as well and it was great to see a couple of other operations join in on the day. We just want other producers to know that their foreign workers are as eligible as the Canadian workers and able to be protected as well.”

ACFA congratulates VRP for leading the way on vaccinating their team; for more information on VRP’s clinic, please contact ACFA.

 

Alberta’s ‘Shipwheel Cattle Feeders’ Recognized For Innovation and Sustainability Efforts

What do compost and bees and manure and fruit and fungus and worms all have in common? They are all part of the regenerative ag system at the innovative and holistic Shipwheel Cattle Feeders in Taber, AB.

Recently awarded an Alltech “Planet of Plenty Award”, Shipwheel was recognized as a farm that is furthering a world of abundance through nutritional and digital technologies, innovation and sustainable management practices in the agri-food sector.
“Everything we do on this land is to honour the past, the present, and to preserve and improve the land for future generations,” says Andrea Stroeve-Sawa, Manager of Shipwheel. Stroeve-Sawa is the fourth generation of the Holtman family and she explains that their holistic mindset and dynamic approach all started with her father, Blake Holtman. “In the early 80s, Dad attended an Allan Savory grazing workshop in Arizona and came home to transition Shipwheel from continuous grazing and cropping to adaptive multipaddock; the rest is history,” she laughs.

Since the grazing records begin in 1982, Shipwheel has improved from 2.36 stock days/acre to 93.5 stock days/acre in 2015. Yes, that 3862% increase is correct! Stroeve-Sawa believes that carbon sequestration is one of the biggest keys to soil regeneration and achieving emissions reduction globally and here at home. “If we can increase soil organic matter just 2% over 629 000 acres in Alberta, which is less than 5% of the farm land in the province, ag could be net zero,” she points out.

One way Shipwheel works towards this goal is by composting the manure and bedding from their feedlot. “Every tonne gets composted,” Stroeve-Sawa explains. “You will see a theme here – Dad is a lifelong learner. He took a course in composting and the next year we implemented it as a manure management strategy.” Once cleaned from the pens, the manure and bedding are windrowed, monitored carefully, and handled with a compost turner to ensure a high-quality end product. All Shipwheel land is soil tested regularly and has not required the nutrients from the compost so 100% of it is sold to neighbouring farms, greenhouses, and gardeners. “By doing this, we are actually improving the land around us as well,” Stroeve-Sawa adds. The holistic approach doesn’t stop at the fenceline; Shipwheel has also integrated integrated, natural practices on all their land, including the yard and garden. Vermicomposting (composting with worms), 3 flow hives of honey bees, pastured chickens, and a fruit orchard all work together to provide stability and profit in all seasons outside of the feedlot.

The feedlot itself sees continuous improvement as well. Once again, initiated by Andrea’s dad taking the initiative to learn something new, a visit to the infamous Bud Williams, followed by his personal visit to Shipwheel left a permanent impact on how cattle are handled on the farm. “His principles have been instilled in me and practiced on our place since the day Bud visited,” explains Stroeve-Sawa. “The principles have even allowed us to manage our animals without the use of prophylactic antibiotics on arrival.” Managing stress on the animals, reducing their cortisol levels ensures the animals is healthy, happy, and gaining efficiently.

“We are always asking ‘What else can we do? How can we go further, do more?’ and then we go out and learn how to make improvements,” concludes Stroeve-Sawa. “We want Shipwheel, this land, and these animals all to be around for a long time to come.”

Korova Feeders Adding Innovative Sustainability Technology

“We believe in growing high quality food right here in Alberta in the most sustainable way possible,” says Kendra Donnelly of Korova Feeders in Acme. Korova is developing a new productive system that will serve as a model for other feedlots in Alberta. The innovative system involves the integration of Rolled Compacted Concrete (RCC) for pen floor surfacing and an onsite pioneering bio-digestor technology to upgrade manure as a feedstock to produce biomethane. This project is anticipated to achieve emission reductions from avoided organic waste decomposition and the production of renewable natural gas (RNG) from waste to displace fossil natural gas. “The change in RNG pricing and the introduction of Clean Fuel Standards (and other policy by provincial and federal governments) is another main reason for why we think bio-digester may work in feedlot sector,” adds Donnelly.

Emissions Reduction Alberta sees the same potential and value in the project as Korova does and recently awarded them $5 million towards the $20,400,000 project. A GHG reduction of 0.73 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e)/head/yr is expected, totalling approximately 25,000 tCO2e for around 34,000 cattle at the feedlot.

Korova Feeders has already implemented RCC technology on their feedlot, so the manure will be more usable to the biodigester than manure from a standard feedlot. RCC was developed in the 1960s, but its application in the feedlot world is still relatively new. The benefits for cattle health, feedlot efficiencies and environmental performance are all being studied, but feedlots using the product have already observed:

– Reduced pen dust, which improves air quality, as well as water quality in the dugouts near the pens

– Reduced loss of clay every time a pen is cleaned. This means less pen maintenance, and also reduces the emissions created by trucks hauling away manure mixed with clay and

– Less mud in pens gives cattle more room to roam and promotes foot health.

“Sustainability is our ultimate motivation across our family businesses; we continue to be innovative to find opportunities for circular systems like the new production system where we can utilize our waste (manure and other organics) for fuel production, heat utilization, nutrient management, water recycle all while producing high quality beef, fruits, and vegetables,” says Donnelly. “It’s a dream, but we are seeing it come to life across the world with innovative technologies being paired with multiple types of production systems.”

 

Learn about the benefits of roller compacted concrete from ACFA member KCL Cattle here

 

 

Alberta producers welcome the consensus on AgriStability proposal, long-term BRM solutions remain needed

Following the March 25th Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) meeting, 11 of Alberta’s producer organizations are pleased the Ministers of Agriculture have come to a consensus on part of the proposed changes to AgriStability, which includes the removal of the reference margin limit, retroactive to 2020, and extending the program enrollment deadline to June 30, 2021. The producer organizations thank Minister Dreeshen, alongside provincial and territorial counterparts, for coming to an agreement on the proposal.

The federal government proposed changes to AgriStability on November 27, 2020, which included the removal of the reference margin limit and increasing the compensation rate from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, adding $170 million dollars to the AgriStability program nationally. Today’s announcement includes $95 million of interim improvements to AgriStability that will benefit Canadian farmers and ranchers over the next two years leading up to the renewal of the next policy framework in 2023.

While this news is welcomed, Alberta’s producer organizations understand a decision to increase the compensation rate from 70 per cent to 80 per cent was not agreed and remains open for discussion. This portion of the federal offer includes an additional $75 million per year of support for Canadian producers. We continue to encourage the provincial and territorial Ministers to consider accepting this part of the proposal, bringing additional support to Canadian farmers and ranchers.

Alberta’s producer organizations appreciate the provincial and federal governments coming to a consensus and extending this year’s AgriStability enrollment deadline from April 30 to June 30. Today’s decision gives farmers and ranchers an enhanced AgriStability program that will inevitably increase enrollment and increase payouts to producers in the short-term.

This press release is written collaboratively by a number of Alberta’s agriculture producer and commodity groups including Alberta Barley, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Beekeepers, Alberta Canola, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, Alberta Federation of Agriculture, Alberta Pork, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, Potato Growers of Alberta and Alberta Wheat Commission. These 11 groups represent a cross-section of Alberta’s diverse agriculture industry.

Alberta producer organizations encourage the Government of Alberta to accept the current AgriStability proposal

Following a statement by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau and the Honourable Jim Carr on the federal government’s proposed improvements to AgriStability, 11 of Alberta’s agriculture commodity and producer groups are requesting the Government of Alberta to accept the proposed changes.

Alberta’s producer groups agree the changes will provide immediate improvements to the program for producers’ benefit. While they recognize the proposal is not a long-term solution, these improvements offer interim changes while working towards long-term enhancements to the suite of business risk management (BRM) programs.

Alberta’s producer groups express urgency on the matter as the April 30, AgriStability enrollment deadline nears. Accepting the current proposal would offer Alberta’s producers meaningful changes that will serve as a bridge to the next policy framework in 2023.

On November 27, 2020, the federal government proposed changes to the AgriStability program by removal of the reference margin limit and increasing the compensation rate from 70 per cent to 80 per cent, adding $170 million dollars to the AgriStability program nationally.

Alberta’s producer groups have supported the proposed changes in the short-term while expressing the need for long-term enhancements to BRM programs for Canadian agriculture producers. Alberta producers are looking for clarity and collaboration between the provincial and federal governments to heighten the effectiveness of the current BRM tools available to them.

This press release is written collaboratively by a number of Alberta’s agriculture producer and commodity groups including Alberta Barley, Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Beekeepers, Alberta Canola, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, Alberta Federation of Agriculture, Alberta Pork, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, Potato Growers of Alberta and Alberta Wheat Commission. These 11 groups represent a cross-section of Alberta’s diverse agriculture industry.

 

Cattle Feeders’ Donate To Food Bank in Lieu of Government Events

Recently, ACFA sent the following message to MLAs, outlining our donation to the food bank on their behalf:

 

Deal MLAs and Election Officials,

2020 saw some changes in how we, as farmers and agricultural organizations, were able to interact with you, our local government. Despite the lack of in-person events and meetings, we still  accomplished many positive things on behalf of both our members and your constituents.

Usually, we would gather at a dinner, at meetings, or on our farms to celebrate those accomplishments, and discuss further visions and goals for our dynamic Alberta beef industry. This year, however, we had to forego these celebrations, but we still wanted to show our appreciation and give back.

Please click the thumbnail above to view this short video on how we have made a donation to provide Alberta families with Alberta beef on your behalf.

We look forward to continuing to work with you, growing our agricultural industry and community into the future,

 

Greg Schmidt

Chair

Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association

 

Janice Tranberg

President and CEO

Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association

2020 Annual Report

2020 was different for everyone, to say the least.  Our annual report is a look at how we managed both the changing world, and the day to day business of working for our membership.

Read the complete report here or by clicking an image

 

 

 

An Inside Look at How NCFA Works For You in Ottawa (Even In a Pandemic)

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) serves as a unified voice for Canada’s fed cattle producers. NCFA is governed by an eight member Board that includes seven directors appointed by our provincial member organizations (including Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association), plus another director representing the Canadian Cattlemens’ Association (CCA).

NCFA maintains an effective and ongoing presence in Ottawa through a highly dedicated team of consultants who lend their expertise and advice on our various political, regulatory, and trade issues. One of these consultants, Cathy Jo Noble, offered us an inside look at how they work for you in Ottawa, and how 2020 was a little bit different:

NCFA has organized federal lobby days in Ottawa since 2013. The goal of the lobby day/week is to increase the profile of NCFA amongst political decision makers and raise NCFA priority issues for their members.

The lobby days have (usually!) entailed of the NCFA Staff, NCFA Directors and Provincial Staff conducting a ‘blitz’ of in-person meetings on Parliament Hill with MPs, Senators and political staffers. Previous lobby days included a MP breakfast in the Parliamentary restaurant followed by a day of meetings. During these days, teams were formed (combinations of producer directors and staff) and these teams would deliver consistent key messages to the political decision makers on NCFA priorities.

This year because of the pandemic (meaning MPs/Senators/Staffers were not in Ottawa and travel restrictions were in place for Directors/Staff) we held a virtual lobby week. Over the course of a week (October 20-26) – NCFA teams met virtually with political decision makers to present NCFA priorities. Over 25 meetings took place that week, which built upon over 15 virtual meeting NCFA staff had held over the summer and fall.

Targeted decision makers were the ‘home’ MP of NCFA Directors, Ministerial staff, Parliamentary Secretaries, Opposition Critics, Senators and Parliamentary Committee members. Ensuring a balance of COVID urgent topics were balanced with ongoing issues, the key priority issues raised were: BRM Reform, Labour, Infrastructure, and Trade.

Follow up told us that the decision makers appreciated:

1) speaking to cattle feeders directly (not just staff)

2) the detail and clarity of the briefing note

3) the clear and limited number (focused) asks

4) hearing directly about experience of cattle feeders throughout the pandemic

Even though we had to get creative this year, we were able to effectively connect Canada’s cattle feeders to those responsible for the policies that govern our industry.

Let’s see what 2021 brings!

Cattle Feeders Launch Strategic Action Plan to Benefit Members

ACFA recently undertook a strategic action planning session to ensure we continue to deliver more value to our members every day. Learn more about how we plan to do that here.

Strategic Action Plan Video from Alberta Cattle Feeders on Vimeo.