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2017: Cattle feeders’ year in review

This past year saw a number of challenges arise that gave cattle feeders cause for concern, such as changing legislation and regulations, taxation, and trade. At each step, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) has played an active role in advocating and negotiating for our members.

Here are some of the major projects we worked on in 2017:

Strategic plan

In March, ACFA board members, staff and industry partners met to renew the organization’s vision, mission and strategic plan. Here is a summary of the outcome of those talks:

Vision: Champion a sustainable cattle feeding sector in Alberta.

Mission: Pursue innovative and collaborative solutions for a thriving Alberta beef industry

Strategic priority #1: Build ACFA membership by delivering value to our members.

Strategic priority #2: Engage with the provincial government to strengthen the health of the cattle feeding sector in Alberta.

Strategic priority #3: Collaborate with partners to advance the industry.

Strategic priority #4: Strengthen ACFA governance.

Advocacy

There were many issues affecting cattle feeders in 2017 in which ACFA played an active role in advocating for our members’ interests. These included:

    • The Lethbridge County head tax which would severely impact cattle feeders in that area, resulting in feedlot closures.
    • The provincial carbon levy which could add costs by as much as $6 to $7 per head.
    • Federal income tax changes that will harm the viability of family-owned corporations.
    • Infrastructure needs, which are not receiving adequate provincial or federal funding.
    • Labour shortages, ongoing issues with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and proposed changes to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP).
    • Farm safety, employment standards and the Employment Standards Code.
    • Trade, and access to new markets for cattle feeders.

Outreach

ACFA’s communications with stakeholders and the public included:

    • Key provincial government ministers, decision-makers, MLAs and MPs.
    • Members, industry and the media.
    • Feedlot tours for educators, students, and government officials.

Watch for status reports, as we continue to stay on top of these issues throughout the coming year.

The Top 5 blog posts of 2017

Thanks for reading our blog this year. We hope you’ve enjoyed the information we’ve shared about how Alberta’s cattle feeders operate, the innovations they’ve introduced and the challenges they face.

As we head into 2018, we’re looking back at the most popular blog posts from 2017. Here are the posts most read and shared by you, our readers:

New program customizes farm safety for feedlots. Cattle feeding is a unique industry, and the requirements of a feedlot safety program cannot be met by standardized programs. In this post, we explained a safety program that feedlot operators can customize to their own operation.

5 feedlot issues to watch for in 2017. Transportation, traceability, trade, safety and infrastructure were all flagged as important issues for Alberta’s cattle feeders, and which we covered in posts during the year.

Why Lethbridge County cattle feeders could be leaving via new roads. This was one of several posts discussing proposed legislative or tax changes that could impede the profitability of cattle feeders.

Meet the team: Ryan Kasko, vice-chair of the board. In 2017, we introduced Ryan as our vice-chair, and this year we look forward to having him serve as our new Chair. Martin Zuidhof will become the Past Chair. The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association is fortunate to have such committed and knowledgeable individuals serving on its board.

Canadian beef in demand: feeding the European market and why it matters. The importance of international trade to Canada’s beef industry has been a theme throughout the year. In this post, we introduced one of the few Canadian feedlots that produces beef that meets the requirements of the European market.

We’re glad you enjoyed these posts, and we’re already hard at work planning a great series for 2018. Stay tuned – and in the meantime, Happy New Year!

Cattle feeders’ Christmas crossword puzzle

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas filled with plenty of fun, family, friends and good food. In the spirit of the season, we’re having some fun with this week’s blog post – print out and fill in the crossword puzzle below to find out how much you know about the business of cattle feeding.

Hint: the answers can all be found on the website, but if you have any trouble tracking down the answers, just click the link in each clue for the information you need.

Cattle feeders’ Christmas crossword puzzle:

Across

3. Grasslands help the environment by sequestering _______________
5. Burger restaurant that proudly supports Canadian beef and is helping build a verified sustainable program
6. A greenhouse gas emitted during the digestive process of cattle
8. Award-winning veterinarian (first name)
9. One of ACFA’s four strategic priorities
10. An under-serviced market that is crucial to the growth of Canada’s beef industry

Down

1. New beef processing plant where innovation is setting new standards
2. An organization dedicated to teaching students about agriculture
4. First name of ACFA’s CEO
7. Trade deal between Canada, U.S. and Mexico that has produced a strong, integrated beef industry

crossword puzzle

Did you find all the answers? If you’re missing any of the answers, you’ll find them below. In the meantime, we wish you all the best of the season. See you back here in the new year!

 

Across answers:

3. Carbon

5. McDonalds

6. Methane

8. Joyce

9. Collaboration

10. Europe

 

Down answers:

1.Harmony

2. InsideEducation

4. Bryan

7. NAFTA

The 7 stages of beef cattle production

That delicious Canadian beef meal you’re enjoying is the product of a series of businesses and producers, each of whom plays a distinct role in the process. Here’s a quick rundown of the steps taken, and the hard-working players involved, in bringing beef to your table.

Cattle breeding: This is the first step in the beef production chain, and can take place naturally or through artificial insemination. Cattle breeders work to raise cattle with specific and superior genetics that can be sold to cow-calf ranchers. There are about 10,000 breeders of registered beef cattle in Canada. Our national herd was originally built on traditional British breeds such as Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn and Galloway. French breeds such as Charolais, Simmental, Limousin and Maine Anjou were introduced later.

Cow-Calf Ranching: Cow-calf producers keep a herd of cows that are bred annually to produce a crop of calves. These cow-calf pairs are raised on pasture. 

Auction Markets: This is where cattle are bought and sold. There are many different types of sales.  Some sales are cow-calf pairs that can be purchased by ranchers. Feeder calves that are ready for finishing are bought by cattle feeders. Cattle are also purchased at auction by beef processors. Every year a Canadian Auctioneer Championship is held by the Livestock Markets Association of Canada (LMAC) to enable auctioneers to improve and showcase their unique skills.

Cattle Feeders: Cattle feeders typically purchase feeder calves anywhere from 600-900 pounds. These cattle enter a feeding operation where they are fed a high energy ration of forage and grain such as barley, wheat, or corn. Cattle can spend anywhere from 60-220 days at a feeding operation until they reach market weight of 1,400 to 1,500 pounds. In 2016 Canada fed 2.7 million cattle, and produced three billion pounds of beef. Most of these cattle came from modern feedlots that use modern production technologies to improve quality, enhance environmental sustainability, and build the international competitiveness of Canada’s beef industry.

Beef Processing: The meat-packing industry handles the processing of cattle and the harvesting of beef, as well as the packaging and distribution of beef products.

Retail: The end beef product is sold by packers to the final consumer through grocery stores and other retail outlets.

Export: Approximately 39 per cent of Canadian beef goes to export markets, such as the US, Asia, and Europe.

Food Service: This includes any business, institution or company that prepares meals outside the home for resale, and includes restaurants. 

All of these “sectors” in the beef value chain are supported by a variety of industry associations and organizations that help look out for the interests of their members and collaborate to grow and strengthen Canada’s beef industry. Check the interactive image to learn more.

Meeting with MPs helps foster understanding of cattle feeders’ issues

One of the primary mandates for both ACFA and NCFA is to act as an information source for government policy makers, and to build champions for Canadian agriculture and agri-food. 

Every year, when Parliament breaks for the summer, we get the opportunity to reconnect with MPs as they return to their constituencies. On Aug. 22, NFCA’s Bryan Walton, president and CEO, and Casey Vander Ploeg, vice-president, met with MPs and feedlot operators to discuss a number of pressing issues facing cattle feeders.

Who attended the meeting

The meeting was attended by Rachel Harder, MP for Lethbridge, Glen Motz, MP for Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner and John Barlow, MP for Foothills.

In addition to Bryan and Casey, the ACFA’s members were represented by feedlot operators James Bekkering, Leighton Kolk, Rick Paskal, Cody Schooten, Shane Schooten and Larry Sears.

Important industry issues to watch for

Meetings such as this provide an opportunity for a semi-formal conversation about the issues and concerns of cattle feeders. This gives their representatives in Parliament the information they need for informed and balanced decision making. Some of the issues discussed at the meeting included:

1) Trade. Always a top priority, the agenda included updates on the following trade issues:

    • Trade with China. John Barlow provided a report on a recent Governor General’s Mission to China, which he attended. In addition, a recent agreement to expand U.S. exports to China has left Canada behind, and the need for the federal government to secure the same access for Canada was discussed.
    • NAFTA, and its importance to the cattle feeding industry.
    • Trans-Pacific Partnership, which needs to be altered and rebooted since the U.S. has pulled out.

2) Labour, and the chronic agriculture labour shortage both in Alberta and throughout Canada.

3) Rural Infrastructure.

4) Transportation Regulations.

5) Canada Food Guide.

As with any such meetings, we are confident this meeting provided government officials with a better understanding of the issues facing Alberta’s cattle feeders, and how to support them as they continue to feed Canadians and contribute to the economy.

You can read more about the cattle feeders’ top issues in ‘5 feedlot issues to watch for in 2017’.

Why a new safety audit will help feedlots operate safely

Alberta’s feedlot owners work hard to ensure that their operations are safe – for their employees, animals and the environment.

In recent blog posts, we have described how programs such as ACFA’s Alberta Feedlot Safety Program and the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s (CAHRC) Agri HR Toolkit are helping cattle feeders build comprehensive, effective safety programs. But how can business owners be sure they are implementing those programs correctly and fully?

That’s where auditing comes in. We spoke with Nick Schefter, senior safety coordinator with Critical Hazard HSE Ltd., to learn about the next step for feedlot operators’ safety programs.

Why audits matter

Nick explained that an audit is a valuable chance to make sure safety program implementation is on track.

“We come in to ensure they have understood and introduced every element of the program correctly, and that it is being implemented fully across the operation. We review all the processes put in place and we look at documentation to make sure they’re filling it out. For instance, if vehicles are supposed to be inspected weekly, we check whether that’s happening and being properly documented.”

Why feedlot owners care about safety

The Alberta Feedlot Safety Program is widely supported in the industry because it covers everything from employee health and safety to environmental protection and emergency response. It is the first program to help feedlot operators create a safety program customized to their industry.

Many cattle feeding companies have implemented the ACFA’s Alberta Feedlot Safety Program. “These companies are leaders in the industry when it comes to safety,” Nick said.

Implementing the safety program and passing regular safety audits prevents injuries and fatalities so everyone returns home safely from the feedlot. 

If you’d like to read more about farm safety, and cattle feeders’ initiatives, check out these blog posts:

Happy birthday Canada! Celebrating Canada 150

In two days, our country will celebrate its 150th birthday. Happy Canada Day to all Canadians from sea to sea.

Whether you spend Canada Day celebrating with friends and family or hard at work, we’d like to thank cattle feeders across Canada for their contributions to our country. Here’s to the next 150 years!

Canada Day

Infographic: How does Alberta produce world-class beef?

Canadian beef – and Alberta’s in particular – is internationally recognized for its quality and taste. But what are the key difference makers in Alberta beef production? What sets our province apart?

Take a look at our infographic below to gain a better understanding of how Alberta’s cattle feeders produce world-class beef. For more information, check out our overview of beef production in Alberta.

Beef production in Alberta:

Beef production

Emissions research part 2: helping cattle feeders reduce their impact on the environment, and on their neighbours

Last week on this blog we talked about a research project that is helping us understand the greenhouse gas emissions from feedlots. We explained why the project was needed and what it studied.

This week we continue our conversation with Dr. Sean McGinn of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to find out how the study will help Canada’s cattle feeders minimize their impact on the environment.

Early results

The study showed that 14 per cent of the ammonia emitted at feedlots is redeposited in the immediate vicinity of the feedlot, and reemitted into the atmosphere.  “That 14 per cent is a large amount considering a typical feedlot emits one to two tonnes of ammonia per day,” said Sean. However, it is worth noting that the amount of ammonia in the soil decreased by 50 per cent over a distance of just 200 metres.

Sean explained that the implications of this depositing and reemitting of ammonia is a mixed bag of good, bad and indifferent:

    • Improved crop production – if ammonia falls in soils that are low in nitrogen it can actually reduce the need for fertilizer and increase crop production.
    • Damage to ecosystems – when ammonia is deposited to a natural ecological surface – where plants have adapted to a specific nitrogen content in the soil – the loading of these ecosystems with ammonia can disrupt the plant composition.
    • No effect on feedlot odours – ammonia concentrations are often thought to contribute to feedlot odour, but the concentrations, even close to the feedlot, are well below the detection threshold concentration (as documented by atmospheric health studies) – feedlot odour is not related to ammonia release.
    • Neutralizing of atmospheric acids – when ammonia is emitted into the atmosphere, it can be transported long distances where it has a role in neutralizing atmospheric acids.
    • Potential for exacerbating respiratory problems – where the acids are in high concentration (associated with cities) and where animal agriculture is established, there is an accumulation of fine aerosols that causes respiratory problems for people living in the area. This can be seen in the Fraser Valley of B.C.

Moving forward

Feedlot operators are serious about operating sustainably and responsibly. With new measurement tools in place, it means our industry is better placed to minimize its effects on the environment, and also to help inform public policy.

As Dr. Karen Koenig, another researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, explains in her article, ‘New methane and ammonia mitigation options in the pipeline’, there are immediate changes feedlot operators can make to reduce the ammonia emissions from their operations:

    • The amount of ammonia emitted from manure can be reduced by changing the amount of crude protein fed to cattle.
    • There are also new forages available that contain substances known to bind nitrogen in manure. “In research we look for win-win results that not only benefit the environment, but also increase efficiencies,” Sean noted. “The retention of valuable nitrogen in manure can result in a savings of thousands of dollars each day in fertilizer costs, while helping reduce atmospheric dispersion.”

To learn more about the research project, check out part one of this series, and be sure to read this earlier blog post, ‘What do you know about cows and GHG emissions?’.

From oil and gas to bovine gas, measuring GHG emissions is an important part of setting targets

We know that livestock contribute to GHG emissions. What we don’t know for sure, is exactly how, or to what degree. In this blog post we’re taking a look at a recent study designed to close some of the gaps in our knowledge.

Read more