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The top 5 cattle feeding posts of 2016

We’ve been publishing our cattle feeders’ blog for a full year now – and as 2016 draws to a close, we thought it would be fun to look back and see which posts were the most popular. Here’s the list of the top five blog posts of 2016: Read more

Enjoy some holiday fun with our cattle feeders crossword puzzle

With just three days to go until Christmas, we thought we’d have a little fun with this week’s blog post.

If you’ve been following our blog this year, you won’t have any problem with this crossword puzzle – just print it out to complete it. Scroll down to find the answers, and be sure to explore our blog for more information:

Cattle feeders crossword puzzle

Across

2) ACFA is the association for Alberta’s cattle ____________
4) The number of ‘pillars’ on which our social licence to operate is founded
6) The province that is the hub of Canada’s cattle feeding industry
7) A predominant cause of farm injury
9) Acronym for the tags attached to cows’ ears

Down

1) One of the possible keys to solving the agricultural labour crisis
3) The town where Alberta’s first feedlot was founded
5) The vacancy rate for on-farm jobs (per cent)
7) Feedlot cattle stand on these in wet weather
8) The percentage of Canada’s beef that is processed in Alberta

Cattle feeders crossword puzzle

How did you do? If you didn’t find all the answers, check below for the correct ones. In the meantime, we wish you a wonderful Christmas, with all the joys of the festive season.

Across Answers

2) FEEDERS
4) FOUR
6) ALBERTA
7) MACHINERY
9) RFID

Down Answers

1) TECHNOLOGY
3) STRATHMORE
5) SEVEN
7) MOUNDS
8) EIGHTY

Beef and hormones: should Canadians be concerned?

These days we hear a lot in the media about the use of hormones in food production. In fact, ‘hormone-free’ has become a common advertising theme. This week on this blog, we’re taking a look at why food producers use hormones, and whether Canadians have any cause for concern. Read more

What do you know about cows and GHG emissions?

You may have heard people say that cattle contribute to global warming due to their gassy digestive process — but what does that actually mean?

Read more

How technology could help agriculture’s labour crisis

As we’ve seen in earlier posts on this blog, Canada’s agriculture industry is experiencing a chronic labour crisis.

According to labour market information (LMI) research conducted by The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), the vacancy rate for on-farm jobs is seven per cent, which is the highest vacancy rate of any of Canada’s industry sectors. Read more

3 feedlot myths busted

What happens to cattle once they reach the feedlot? Because this stage of the cattle rearing process is conducted largely ‘behind closed barn-doors’, there are many misconceptions and a great deal of misinformation about what actually goes on. Read more

The beef industry and sustainability: how are we doing and where could we improve?

In previous posts on the blog we’ve talked about the contribution the beef industry makes to Canada’s economy; about beef exports, young people in agriculture and more. These are all subjects that matter to Canadians.

The central issue of all these topics is ‘sustainability’ – our ability to operate profitably and for the long-term, without being harmful to people or the environment. That poses some big questions for us as an industry. How are we performing when it comes to our industry members, our animals, our environment and our consumers?

That’s why, in 2014, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) commissioned the National Beef Sustainability Assessment (NBSA) and Strategy. The two-year study assessed the environmental, social and economic performance of the Canadian beef industry, right from ‘farm to fork’, and identified areas where we could improve.

According to Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, chair of the CRSB, “we have created a sustainability benchmark to enable us to start measuring, and to be able to tangibly see, what we’re doing well and where we need to improve. We now have a national report that’s been measured coast to coast and encompasses all the components to the sustainment of the entire beef industry.”

The most inclusive model of its kind

“We created completely new models, for instance for biodiversity and carbon sequestration,” said Cherie. “It is the first, and most inclusive of its kind worldwide, and is now an internationally recognized model.”

A summary of the methodologies and results can be found in the newly released assessment and strategy report (PDF). In this post we’re going to take a look at some of the areas where room for improvement has been identified, and where goals have been set.

Environmental assessment

Alberta cowsFrom ranching right through to feeding or processing, our industry uses water, land and feed; our operations consume resources and release substances into the air and water. Cattle also release methane into the air as food ferments in their rumen, or stomach.

On the other hand, the beef industry also provides many benefits, such as sequestering carbon in the soil in the form of manure, providing natural habitat for biodiversity and maintaining wetlands on the landscape.

The study examined the environmental performance of the Canadian beef industry in the following areas:

  • Climate change
  • Fossil fuel depletion
  • Air
  • Land use
  • Biodiversity
  • Water
  • Meat waste

Some of the main goals for our industry identified by the study are:

  • Reduce the greenhouse gas footprint for every kilogram of Canadian beef produced. Some of the ways this is being done are through optimized diets, manure management, increased carbon sequestration and genetics.
  • Enhance biodiversity on lands managed by beef producers. A need was identified for greater awareness of, and research into, the relationship between beef production, habitats and biodiversity.
  • Reduce the effects that the beef industry has on rivers and watersheds. Beef producers continue to encourage the completion of the National Wetland Inventory, and support knowledge and innovation in areas such as water use efficiencies, and the health of our rivers and waterways.
  • Reduce meat waste. Efficiencies at the processing stage, and improved packaging were both identified as areas where improvements could potentially be made.

Social assessment

rider herds cattle in feedlotThe social part of the study covered three main areas:

  • Working conditions
  • Animal health
  • Antimicrobials

The following goals were recommended:

  • Continue to promote farm safety, as well as a culture of diversity, inclusion and transparency.
  • Promote excellence in animal care, through the beef code of practice, including in such practices as transportation, pain control and branding.
  • Support and further develop best practices regarding antimicrobial use. This includes proper use in order to avoid resistances, as well as public education on the importance of responsible use of microbials for healthy animals.

Economic assessment

Producer viability and consumer resilience were the main areas of focus for the economic portion of the study. The two main goals that came from this were:

  • Increase the financial viability of beef producers in Canada with knowledge, efficiency and innovation.
  • Increase demand for beef within Canada by more effectively communicating the sustainability performance of the industry.

Moving forward

Cherie explained that the assessment will be an ongoing process, with updated surveys so that progress can be monitored.

This is a living document. It’s just a snapshot, and it will change for the next go round

“When you take a look at all the components of producing a pound of beef,” Cherie continued, “it’s given us the ability to really focus on the individual stages and see exactly how we can improve. It gives operators goals to focus on that are specific to their own part of the beef chain.”

If you would like more detail on the results of the assessment, the goals or the action items that will help us to achieve those goals, check out the National Beef Sustainability Assessment and Strategy Summary Report (PDF).

The evolution of the cattle feeding industry: 7 decades in our history

As we’ve seen in previous posts, such as ‘Feedlots 101: everything you need to know about cattle feeding in Alberta’, this province is the hub of Canada’s beef industry.

Although ranching in Alberta started as early as the 1860s, cattle feeding didn’t develop as a distinct sector until much later than that. Here’s a very condensed history, showing how cattle feeding has evolved over the years: Read more

How people in 58 countries enjoy Canadian beef

In an earlier post on this blog we explored the contribution Alberta’s beef industry makes to our province’s economy. We explained that exports make up an important part of that contribution, because we produce more beef than Canadians eat.

To learn more about beef exports, and where they go, we spoke with Rob Meijer, former president of Canada Beef. “Many agricultural commodities, like beef cattle, have a high dependence on exports,” said Rob, “and every year, Canada exports approximately 45 per cent of its beef production.”

Canada’s main beef export marketsCanadian Beef Exports 2015

Canadian beef is shipped to 58 countries, but 71 per cent goes to the United States. China, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong together represent another 24 per cent (source: Canadian Cattlemen’s Association).

Market growth

The good news for Canadian beef producers, and for the economy, is that the first half of 2016 saw an 11 per cent increase in exports, by volume. “These increasing export volumes have been supported by larger domestic beef production which is up nine per cent so far this year,” said Rob.

“While new markets do occasionally open to Canadian beef,” he continued, “what is often more significant to the industry is the expansion or liberalization of trade with existing markets. For example, on June 28th of this year, Mexico announced that, effective October 1st, the full range of Canadian beef products will be eligible for import. Then, on July 8th, Taiwan reopened its borders to boneless and bone-in beef from cattle under 30 months of age.”

Both Mexico and Taiwan had previously banned imports of Canadian cattle and beef, after the 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The resumption of trade is a testament to the fact that the Canadian beef industry produces safe, high quality beef.

Why beef exports matter

Rob explained that exports allow producers to add value to their products by giving them access to customers who use different parts of the carcass than Canadian customers do. “In fact, over the last 10 years, export markets have added an average of $510 per head of additional value,” he said.

For an industry that contributes $33 billion worth of sales of goods and services, either directly or indirectly, to the Canadian economy, it’s clear that exports represent a valuable part of the business. And of course exports allow millions of people across the world to enjoy our beautiful Alberta beef!

QUIZ: How well do you know your beef?

You probably know that Alberta is the hub of Canada’s beef industry. And that feedlots play a huge role in the production chain. But what don’t you know? Take our quiz and find out just how much you do know about the business of cattle feeding:

How did you do? Remember, you can find the answers to all these questions in our other blog posts. A great place to start is ‘Feedlots 101: everything you need to know about cattle feeding in Alberta’.