Cattle feeders get serious about dust

On February 11, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association hosted an information session in Picture Butte, AB, about the challenges of dust management in feedlots, laying out strategies to help operators control the common problem.  

Subject matter experts who presented at the session were Walter Ceroici, acting CEO of the Natural Resources Conservation Board in Edmonton, and Dr. Brent Auvermann, centre director and professor of agricultural engineering at Texas A&M University

Why dust is an issue for cattle feeders

During the hot, dry months of summer dust poses a constant challenge to feedlot operators. On the hottest days, cattle move little during the day, but in the evening, when the sun is low in the sky and temperatures cool, they start to move around. And when they move, they kick up the dust.

Dust is not just an annoyance for cattle, feedlot workers and their neighbours – it can also cause more serious issues. Dust can impact the health and performance of cattle, be a serious irritant for those suffering from respiratory problems, and in some cases can create a traffic hazard on nearby roads.

How to minimize dust

Applying water to pens and roadways has long been the most common technique used to minimize the dust raised by cattle in feedlots. Ideally, it should be sprayed onto dusty surfaces before the dust becomes a problem, but forecasting the correct time, and applying water in sufficient quantities, isn’t always that easy.

“This sounds straightforward,” said Walter, “but it can be challenging to determine the timing and frequency of pen watering in order to be effective. The volume of water required to control dust by watering varies with the depth of manure in pens. During extremely dry conditions there is no practical way to supply the amount of water needed to control dust without creating other issues such as odour, flies and pen floor damage.”

Some other methods of dust control include:

-Removing dry powdery dirt and manure from pens on a regular basis.

-Increasing stock density in pens during the dustiest times of the days.

-Planting windbreaks and other vegetative barriers to help stop dust from travelling.

According to ‘Dust Emissions from Cattle Feeding Operations,’ written by Dr. Auvermann, along with Sharon L.M. Preece, Ronaldo Maghirang and Steve Amosson, pen design also has a role in minimizing dust:

“The shape of a pen should allow for complete manure harvest from edge to edge. Pen surfaces should slope away from aprons, feed bunks, and water troughs at a 3 to 5 percent grade. They should drain separately into a runoff channel rather than into each other wherever possible.”

Roller-compacted concrete is another technique that cattle feeders have used successfully to keep dust to a minimum.

Having a plan

The Natural Resources Conservation Board of Canada, (NRCB), encourages feedlot operators to be aware of the conditions that contribute to dust, and of the options for dust control. 

They recommend every operation have a dust control plan, outlining strategies to mitigate dust, as well as response strategies in the event of a dust incident. The plan would typically outline available dust control methods, when those should be applied and how they should be implemented, as well as the responsibilities of individual workers in dust control.

“Operators who would like assistance, or to learn more about strategies to control dust for their operation are encouraged to contact their local NRCB staff,” said Walter.

Confused about how our food is produced? Here’s where you can find the facts

If you care about how your food is produced, but find it hard to sort between facts and rhetoric in the media, you’re not alone. 

Here are some trusted resources which will help you bypass the misleading, contradictory and sometimes even incorrect information out there about food production:

Meet the farmers who grow your food

The Real Dirt on Farming is a booklet produced by Canadian farmers to help connect you with the food you eat. In it you’ll meet some of Canada’s farm families and learn about the realities of their work. You learn things like the difference between growing crops conventionally and organically, why and how farmers use pesticides, animal housing and animal welfare, environmental sustainability and technology.

Each Real Dirt on Farming blog story explores a specific issue, such as eggs, health and safety and the environment. Stop by The Real Dirt on Farming and hear from some of the people who are on the ground producing our food. 

Helping food producers do it right

The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity is a research organization that provides food producers with resources, training and dialogue. That work helps them understand what consumers want, and helps consumers find answers to their questions.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Their We grow a lot more than you may think online brochure explores the variety of crops our farmers produce, and how they stay ahead of the world in terms of quality, sustainability and competitiveness.

Know your beef

When it comes to beef, several highly respectable organizations provide information about how beef is produced, nutritional information, facts about environmental impacts and more:

Canada Beef has a series of highly informative fact sheets about beef, recipes and articles. Wondering about antibiotic use, how to make the perfect roast, water conservation or food safety? You’ll be sure to find the answer here.

Alberta Beef Producers also have information on such hot topics as hormones, antibiotics and raising cattle ethically, as well as a section for educators.

For information on codes of practice for the care and handling of beef cattle, environmental regulations, innovation and sustainability, check out the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association website.

Our own blog also has plenty of helpful information for consumers. Look under topics such as environment, animal care or food safety to find facts about Alberta beef.

Mark your calendar for the Alberta Beef Industry Conference

The Alberta Beef Industry Conference is less than two months away, taking place at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel from March 12-14, 2019.

The event is one of Canada’s largest beef conferences and trade shows, and provides an opportunity for the industry to come together to learn, to network and to discover the latest products and innovations.

As one of the five hosts of the conference, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association is delighted to work alongside Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Auction Markets Association, Alberta Livestock Dealers and Order Buyers Association, and the Western Stock Growers’ Association.

Once again, there is a line-up of speakers who have a wealth of industry or subject expertise to share. We look forward to hearing their insights on the industry’s most pressing issues. Here are some of the highlights:

Brad Wall: Western Canada’s Economy: Risks and Opportunities; Offense and Defense 

Brad will speak about the current political landscape and its impact on Western Canada.

Amber MacArthur and Marty Seymour: If the Future is Different Than the Past, is Your Business Ready?

Learn what your business needs to do to adapt to changing times.

Chief Clarence Louie: Cowboys & Indians – Causing Disruption to Create Economic Prosperity

Hear how he turned a bankrupt band into a multi-faceted corporation that employs hundreds of people.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner: Sustainability in Beef – the Nexus Between Productivity and Environmental Performance

A look at environmental mitigation opportunities, especially in the areas of carbon emission reductions, welfare and health.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois: The Rise of the Conscious Carnivore? The Good, the Bad, and the Awfully Ugly

Advice on dealing with the vegetarian and vegan movements.

Marie-Noelle Desrochers: Trade Agreements That Matter for Canada

An insider’s perspective on governments’ approach to trade matters and the impact it has on the Canadian beef industry.

Brett House: Global Economic Outlook Amidst Rising Uncertainty

What’s ahead for the global economy.

Brett Stuart: Global Beef & Protein Outlook

A view of the global beef landscape, including international trade and health issues.

Brian Perillat: CanFax Market Update

The beef industry’s supply and demand dynamics, and current Canadian price trends.

Art Douglas: 2019-20 Weather Forecast

The upcoming forecast, and a discussion of the impact weather patterns have on the beef industry.

The ever-popular Danny Hooper returns as master of ceremonies, and comedian John Hastings will be entertaining us during the Taste of Alberta dinner on Wednesday evening.

Mark your calendars for another not-to-miss event – you can register here.

Canada’s Food Guide leaves room for beef on the table

With the release of Canada’s updated Food Guide earlier this week, beef producers are happy to see that Health Canada recognizes a place for beef in the healthy diet.

Some of the highlights of the new guide focus on healthy eating habits, such as cooking at home, limiting intake of processed foods, and drinking water rather than sugary drinks.

In its visual plate model, Health Canada suggests a diet consisting of half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter whole grains and one quarter proteins. It recommends choosing plant-based proteins more often, but in combination with other foods such as lean meats. 

Meats and plant-based foods are better together – the nutrient value of both foods increases when consumed as part of a meal. For example, the absorption of iron increases over 150 per cent when meat and legumes are combined on the plate.

Beef and other meats are among the most nutrient-rich sources of complete, quality proteins. To get a comparable amount of protein from plant-based foods would require consuming considerably more calories.

Many Canadians are overfed but undernourished – even though dietary trends show a decrease in meat and dairy consumption, consumption of processed and other nutrient-poor foods is on the rise. Health Canada’s recommendations to make healthier choices are aimed at encouraging Canadians to eat mindfully, and to eat a wide variety of healthy, nourishing foods.

All food production systems come with their own impacts and benefits. To replace Canadian beef with another protein source could, in fact, mean higher caloric and environmental impacts from other foods. Cattle feeders support consumers taking action on food waste reduction through sustainable food choices. Beef is a good example of a sustainable food choice because Canada is an exceptional place to grow beef and has one of the most sustainable agriculture systems in the world.

Real, unprocessed food

Because beef is typically eaten as part of a complete meal, rather than in isolation, it fits nicely with Health Canada’s recommendation to eat a variety of healthy foods and to limit highly processed foods.

When combined with vegetables and whole grains, a delicious portion of lean beef makes a complete, balanced meal. 

Preparing beef for a healthier diet

Beef is an excellent source of many essential nutrients including iron (in the bio-available heme form), zinc, vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, niacin and selenium. It also contains good fats such as ruminant trans-fats, which are linked to health benefits.

Health Canada recommends using herbs, spices and seasonings to add flavour, without adding salt or sugar. Check out the delicious recipes to be found at Think Beef and Alberta Beef where you will find inspiration for a healthy, delicious meal that fulfills the recommendations of Health Canada’s Food Guide.

You can learn more about the nutritional benefits of beef in ‘4 reasons you should include beef in your health, balanced diet’

4 reasons you should include beef in your healthy, balanced diet

Every day we here about a new fad diet. One urges us to eat no meat, another recommends  eating only meat. Meanwhile, another cites the importance of good carbs, while others tell us to cut out carbs altogether. It’s confusing to say the least.

Despite all these fad diets, the voices of nutritional reason advocate moderation and balance.

If you’re worried that you should cut out red meat for the sake of your health, here are four reasons to make beef an integral part of your nutritious, balanced diet:

#1 Protein

Meat is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein, containing all eight of the essential amino acids needed for the growth and maintenance of our bodies. Plant protein sources such as beans, lentils and nuts are considered to be incomplete, because they do not contain all the essential amino acids.

Protein is essential for growth, energy, maintenance and repair, and animal derived proteins such as meat, fish, eggs and milk are the best sources.

#2 Fat

Red meat contains a combination of saturated fats, unsaturated fats and ruminant trans-fats, which all have a role in a nutritious diet. Here’s what you should know about these fats:
– The notion that saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels has been disproven.
– Consumption of saturated fats can raise HDL (or good cholesterol) in the blood stream.
– Lean beef contains more unsaturated fats than saturated.
Ruminant trans-fats, unlike their manufactured counterparts, are not considered unhealthy.
– Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a ruminant trans-fat, is linked to various health benefits, particularly regarding weight loss.

Thanks to enhancements in cattle breeding, production and beef trimming practices, today’s beef is leaner than ever. On average, today’s Canadian beef has less than 8g of fat (per 100 g), when trimmed of external fat.

#3 Vitamins and minerals

Red meat contains many of the vitamins and minerals our bodies rely on:
B12. Found only in animal derived foods, this is an essential nutrient for blood formation, brain function and the nervous system.
Iron. The iron found in meat is in the heme form, which is absorbed readily by the body. Not only is heme iron only found in meat, but it actually improves the absorption of the non-heme iron found in plant-based foods.
Zinc. Important for body growth and maintenance.
Selenium. An important trace element.
Niacin. Also known as vitamin B3, it helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
B6. Important for blood formation.
Phosphorous. Essential for body growth and maintenance.

Beef also contains many other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts. People who don’t consume meat run the risk of having deficiencies in many essential nutrients.

#4 Other compounds

Some other natural compounds that you will benefit from every time you eat beef include:
Creatine – an energy source for muscles.
Taurine – an antioxidant amino acid important for heart and muscle function.
Glutathione – an antioxidant found in most whole foods, which is particularly abundant in meat.
L-Carnitine – an amino acid thought to aid with heart health, diabetes control and weight loss.

Worried about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a sterol found in animal fats. It is produced naturally by the body and has many functions, but an excess is linked to heart disease. Dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol and is not considered a health concern. Moderate consumption of saturated fats has also been cleared of raising cholesterol.

Lean meat has even been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol.

Worried about heart disease?

Many studies have attempted to prove whether beef contributes to the likelihood of heart disease and the results have been inconclusive. Some have found a connection and others have found no connection. 

It has been speculated that many health-conscious people avoid red meat because of health claims in the media, and those people tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and fibre and also to exercise more. While meat eating could be a marker for unhealthy behaviours, that is not to say that it doesn’t have an important role to play in a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

Worried about cancer?

There is some evidence that eating large amounts of overcooked, or well-done meat, fish or poultry could increase the risk of cancer. This could be because overcooking produces heterocyclic amines, a class of cancer-causing substances. 

There is no link between cancer and the consumption of properly prepared meat, fish or poultry.

The health benefits of beef summarized

A healthy, balanced diet should include a variety of nutritious foods, all eaten in moderation. This includes beef, which is a source of many important nutrients, including complete proteins, vitamins and minerals, all of which have a crucial role in building strong, healthy bodies.

Now that you know eating beef should be a healthy part of your balanced diet, check out this blog post on the environmental impacts of beef production. You might be surprised what you learn.

A year of speaking up for cattle feeders

As advocates for our province’s cattle feeders, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association champions their interests, freeing them to concentrate on what they do best – producing premium beef for the world.

This past year has been another busy one. Here are the major projects the association has undertaken:

International trade

ACFA worked closely with the National Cattle Feeders’ Association to advance swift passage of several Canadian trade deals:

– Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which replaced NAFTA.

– The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which broadens access to Asian markets.

– Opening markets in China for Canadian bone-in-beef products, including the creation of a pilot project to export fresh and chilled beef to China.

– Positive changes to the Restricted Feeder Cattle Program at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and postponement of changes to the CFIA Manual of Procedure that would have stalled trade with China.

Labour

To address the chronic labour shortage, ACFA reached an agreement with the Alberta ministry of Labour to facilitate faster and more direct applications for temporary foreign workers, as well as relaxed education, language and income requirements.

ACFA continues to work on this crucial program.

Taxation 

Lobbying for fair taxation has been a top priority. Efforts include:

– $75,000 in funding to appeal Lethbridge County Livestock Head Tax.

– Successfully advocating to drop proposed changes to the taxation of family owned corporations.

– Seeking rebates for carbon tax paid by agriculture.

– Successfully advocating for improved allowances and deductions from federal corporate income tax for capital investment (i.e., new Accelerated Investment Incentive).

Government consultation and submissions

ACFA regularly consults with municipal and provincial governments to represent our members’ interests. This year, ACFA:

– Urged a return to full funding for veterinary schools at the universities of Calgary and Saskatchewan.

– Called for improved regulations for winter manure management.

– Consulted on an Animal Health Pathfinding initiative for Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness.

– Attended the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) annual meeting, and met with the European vaccine bank.

– Worked with the province and Alberta Veterinary Medical Association on the dispensing of antimicrobial products.

Next week, we will explore upcoming priorities for 2019. In the meantime, we wish you a happy new year.

The rising cost of hiring temporary foreign workers puts cattle feeders at risk 

Many of Canada’s agricultural producers rely on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to help keep their operations running. Even though they would prefer to hire from within the domestic labour pool, there are three main reasons why it is hard for them to find local workers:

1. Farm work is often seasonal, and many Canadian candidates choose to seek year-round work elsewhere.

2. The work can be extremely physical and strenuous, which limits the number of people interested in, or able for, such work.

3. While baby boomer farmers are retiring, young people are leaving rural areas for cities, creating a labour gap.

The agricultural industry collaborated to create a Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Workforce Action Plan and have urged the government to adopt their recommendations for addressing the labour crisis.

Why new changes to the temporary foreign worker program will impact cattle feeders

In October 2018, the Alberta government changed the prevailing wages for temporary foreign workers.

For example, the minimum wage for the NOC (national occupational classification, or occupational group) that includes specialized livestock workers and supervisors has increased from $18.43 per hour to $21.63 or more, across the province. That’s a wage increase of more than $3 per hour.

These minimum wages are in addition to other requirements such as supplying housing for workers, so the total cost of hiring a temporary foreign worker can quickly become prohibitive for agricultural producers, even though they desperately need help.

The Agriculture Industry Labour Council of Alberta (AILCA) has written a letter to the federal and provincial governments asking for support, because it is concerned that proposed changes to two programs intended to help farmers with a worker shortage will make it even harder to access labour. You can read more about that in ‘Alberta’s agricultural leaders ask government for help with labour crisis’.

To learn more about the agricultural labour crisis, read ‘12 must-know facts about the agricultural labour shortage and why it matters to Canadians.’

Helping students choose careers in agriculture 

Canada’s farmers are experiencing a chronic labour crisis. While they struggle to find workers from a dwindling labour pool, young people leaving rural schools often head to urban centres in search of opportunities.

Organizations such as Inside Education and Agriculture in the Classroom dedicate themselves to bringing agricultural education into the grade school curriculum. Their hope is that by providing students with information on the opportunities in rural areas, more young people will consider a future in agriculture, or in an agricultural secondary education program.

The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) sees this and other learning options as valuable for the future of the cattle feeding business. 

Another program, Alberta Education’s Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) is offered to students in grades 5 to 9. As a career development program, it helps students explore their interests and passions, developing learning experiences based on potential careers and occupations.

The program is based on 14 learning outcomes, and students are taught vital skills such as problem solving, planning, decision-making, collaboration and more. Teachers are given the freedom to source their own materials and create lessons that relate to the interests of their students.

To help them create the most engaging and relevant programs, teachers have access to a suite of CTF Challenges, or student-focused learning experiences. Examples include Water for Life in which students explore local watersheds from various perspectives, or What’s your Business?, in which students design, create, market and sell a product, performance or service.

Teachers also have access to external resources, such as those offered by Ag for Life.

An opportunity for agricultural producer groups

Alberta Education has encouraged external stakeholders to become involved in creating CTF Challenges based on their own industry or sector. Templates are provided to help create suitable challenges. Some examples of industry-specific challenges include marketing, vehicle maintenance and energy.

ACFA is working to produce a variety of challenges which will relate the cattle feeding business to curriculum-based outcomes and provide insights into the opportunities that exist in the industry and the different skills required.

Some of the other resources and programs available to teachers and students can be found on ACFA’s Education and Training Programs page.

Why rural infrastructure must be a government priority

Our farmers rely on rural roads and bridges  to bring in supplies and get their products to market – but a lack of government funding to maintain and rehabilitate that infrastructure is working against them.  

There are three primary types of infrastructure – municipal (local roads and bridges), provincial (secondary and primary highways) and federal (railways and ports). The problem lies at the municipal level.  Local governments do not have large tax tools like personal income tax, corporate income tax, and sales tax.  Their taxing power is limited to the property tax. In rural areas, where the population is small, municipalities simply do not have the funds required to sufficiently maintain local roads and bridges.  

More and more, business is also being conducted online, but rural areas have limited access to consistent, reliable internet. This service needs to be extended to remote areas so that agricultural producers can benefit from the reach and efficiencies of digital commerce.

How municipalities are managing

Because municipalities are not receiving the financial support they require from senior level governments, some are taking radical measures.  Examples include the ‘livestock head tax’ imposed in Lethbridge County, recategorizing intensive livestock production from ‘agricultural’ to ‘commercial’ or ‘industrial’, and creating exclusion zones where agriculture activities are not allowed.   

Solutions

1) For rural infrastructure to adequately support farmers and rural residents, provincial and federal governments must provide adequate financial support. Rural infrastructure is just as important as urban projects such as transit or green initiatives.  

2) The taxation system for farmland in Alberta has not been updated in decades. Assessment does not capture farmland used for intensive livestock production, and the values attributed to cultivated land are inaccurate because new technology has made previously less productive land more productive.

Since the 1920s and 1930s, consecutive federal and provincial governments have invested billions of dollars in irrigation including headworks, canals, and reservoirs.  If there are no roads and bridges to go along with that, we will not maximize the return on these billions of dollars of historical investment.

Without the infrastructure to get product to market, investment in agriculture will slow. But high quality, public infrastructure will stimulate investment and support agriculture.

You can read about other issues affecting Alberta’s cattle feeders in ‘Pressing cattle feeders issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip’. 

Revised NAFTA agreement a relief to Canada’s beef producers

Image Credit: KCL Cattle Company Ltd.

After more than a year of negotiations, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement on NAFTA. The new, proposed agreement is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

The agreement is good news for Canadian beef producers, as it preserves the duty-free trade in live cattle and beef, which has benefited all three partners under NAFTA. The existing rules of origin and the mechanisms for fair dispute settlement also remain intact.

Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) issued a statement on the new agreement: “We welcome an agreement to renew NAFTA. Free and fair trade has made our agri-food exporters globally competitive. We’re very pleased that free and fair trade of North American agri-food products will continue.”

The U.S. is Canada’s largest trade partner for beef and live cattle, and the new agreement ensures that will continue. “USMCA gives the Canadian beef industry critically important ongoing access to our largest markets: U.S. and Mexico,” said Bryan Walton, ACFA’s president and CEO. “This is an integrated industry here in Canada and free trade in North America benefits producers in all three countries.”

Why diversification still matters

The uncertainty over NAFTA has been trying for Canada’s beef producers, and it has highlighted the need for Canada to expand its global reach and forge new trading partnerships.

Trade with Asia recently received a boost with the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Speedy ratification of this deal is of the essence for Canadian producers to ensure Canada is on the ground floor when it comes to securing lower tariffs with other partners. 

Europe is another market that provides export opportunities to Canadian beef producers. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is designed to encourage free trade between Canada and Europe, although Canada doesn’t currently fill its quota for beef exports because there are not enough Canadian packing plants qualified to send beef to Europe.

“The most important thing that we got out of reaching this USMCA agreement is we’ve removed most of the cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over the Canadian economy and discouraging investors from moving forward,” said John Weekes, former chief negotiator for NAFTA.

The pursuit of an ambitious international trade agenda is one of the key tenets of Canada’s National Beef Strategy, which is designed to ensure that Canada’s beef producers are positioned to weather challenges and take advantage of opportunities. You can read more about that in ‘4 reasons the National Beef Strategy is important to Canada’.