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Another Crazy ‘Corner’ Week

From the email bag… Among the fan and hate mail that comes into Cattleman’s Corner there is often some back and forth between writers and readers about points that have been raised. Seldom does anything get vicious but everyone needs to make their point. Here are some notes back and forth from readers and columnist Christoph Weder about comments he made on a couple topics in his Spirited View column. And also see below an interesting comment from Alberta producer Cicely Knodel.

WHAT WORKS FOR YOU…

First, Manitoba producer Ron B. comments on Weder’s support for late spring/early summer cavling: “Hi there, I usually read your writeup in Grainews although I often don’t agree with it,” writes Ron B. “You use the methods that work well for you due to location and your situation, but so do many others whose cattle raising techniques may vary from yours. Using different methods does not make them wrong and you right. This is why I read articles where the philosophy may differ from mine, maybe I can learn something. You might do well to be more open-minded on the topic of raising cattle. Good luck with your calving season, mine’s done (that’s what works for me). Ron B.”

And Weder sent this reply: “Appreciate your comments Ron, I agree that there are many ways to do things, however doing them profitably is another question,” says Weder. “Never mind the feed cost differences between winter and spring calving cows, there are also huge differences in terms of labour and overhead between these two situations. Although many don’t like to account for time and labour in their operation we do, we also have to account for the feed and the diesel needed to manage a herd through the winter months. I am glad that winter calving is profitable for you, unfortunately the stats show for most it is not. Glad to see you had a great calving season. Christoph”

THE RESEARCH SAYS…

And on another topic Bill Sanders, Technical Manager for Intervet, developers and marketers of the feed ingredient Zilamax took issue with a comment Weder had in his March 23 column on the product.

Weder wrote in this column: “Take for example Zilmax a recently new feed additive in the Canadian market place that is suppose to make fat cattle look like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone during their glory days. “Recommendation was to feed for the last 20 days because that is when you will get the biggest bounce, 20 –30 lbs.” However there are no free rides, yes you will get extra carcass weight and better feed conversion but you will also create beef that comes closer to the tenderness of shoe leather as the product is known for reducing marbling and decreasing the tenderness of beef.”

Sanders wrote saying in part “… Christoph: I follow your articles and adventures. It seems that you may have misspoken about Zilamax… I’m sure that the truth is as important to you as it is to me.” Sanders also provided a company news release on Silamax as well as a related article that appeared in the U. S. based Feedstuff Magazine.

In a response, while Weder says he drew part of his assessment from “an interview in the Western Producer with a so called industry expert“ he went on to say “I don’t doubt that there is evidence that backs your claims, especially when it comes out from the maker of the product. There is however also other scientific studies that have shown decrease in tenderness and palatability by trained sensory analysis. I quoted what was said in the Western Producer at a beef syposium that said technology is great but there are no free rides on anything. For what you can gain you always tend to loose in some other related way. Zilamax may increase carcass yield but it is proven to lower marbling and tenderness — those are fact. A lot depends on the cook, but fatty meat is usually more forgiving of a poor cook and if you ask consumers what there number one beef with beef is and that is tenderness. Why would we as industry want to use products that decrease it even more. The only reason you do that is because you would believe that you will win in the end by being lowest cost provider, which I know is a loosing battle.”

In the Intervet news release on a beef sensory study (a meat quality study with assessment of taste and tenderness) Intervet/Shering-Plough Animal Health says:

“The most recent consumer-sensory research reinforces consumer-sensory data Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health released in 2006, prior to the commercialization of Zilmax, which found consumers had a positive eating experience with beef from Zilmax-fed cattle. The new study involved more than 2,300 consumer evaluations of striploin steaks with various aging periods and quality grades of beef from both Zilmax-fed and non-Zilmax-fed cattle.

“Prior to the commercialization of Zilmax, significant consumer sensory data was collected to review product quality of beef from Zilmaxfed cattle. The research indicated consumers find little difference in beef tenderness and overall acceptability of beef from Zilmax-treated cattle and current beef products.

“More than 550 consumer evaluations demonstrated equal consumer acceptability for 14-day aged steaks from Zilmax-and control-fed cattle. These consumers rated both Zilmax-and control-fed beef for overall acceptability (94 per cent versus 92 per cent respectively) and tenderness acceptability (93 per cent versus 89 per cent respectively). There was no statistical difference in how consumers rated tenderness acceptability and overall acceptability of beef from Zilmax-fed cattle versus control cattle.

“Overall, the results from the two sensory studies on beef from Zilmax-fed cattle yielded similar results. When Zilmax is fed the recommended 20 days, it can aid the industry in producing safe, quality beef more efficiently.”

CANADIAN BEEF

And on an unrelated topic, some time ago, Dean Layman of Woodrow, Sask. wrote: Christoph: I’m still enjoying all the write-ups you put in Grainews. When I get the Grainews I look for two people, Christoph Weder and Boyd Anderson. Your recent column “Seeing through the fog” made me think of a question I could never find an answer to.

Back when the great girls from Mortlach started picketing places in Moose Jaw that didn’t sell Canadian beef my sister in Nanaimo started checking stores out there and found that she couldn’t buy Canadian Beef, only off shore. Just after talking to her about this I was at a Natural Valley meeting (poor investment) and they said that two thirds of the beef sold in Canada is off shore. They also claimed that if we didn’t import off shore beef we could consume all the beef we produce in Canada.

The answers I could never find were: Is two thirds of the beef sold in Canada off shore? And if so why don’t we stop importing and help our own beef industry?

The Farm: Last spring was looking very dry so we tried getting some more pasture for our herd. We couldn’t find any so in May my wife Leah, youngest son Shelby and I sold our cattle. My dad Leroy and oldest son Shaylor kept 60 young red and black Angus cows. If we didn’t sell in May we would of had to sell all the cows in July because it was very dry and the pastures couldn’t produce. With keeping a purebred herd we can expand very quickly when we buy more pasture, not before.

Dean Layman Woodrow Sask.

P. S. Keep writing the good articles, they make people in the cattle industry think a little.

And Weder’s reply:

Thanks Dean, I appreciate the letter. To answer your question, yes there is offshore beef that enters Canada. In the West most of the time it goes into food service or manufacturing and you do not see it in the retail a lot of times although I have seen it in Vancouver and on the Island. Ontario and Quebec is a different ball game. Again food service and manufacturing bring in considerable amounts and there is also a lot of US beef that comes into retail. That said, we also export to the U. S. Could Canada be self sufficient in beef production? Yes. Will we need as many cows? No. So it’s our industry’s choice. The reason this beef comes in is because of price. However, to raise prices here and to control imports we would have to mold our industry to look like the dairy industry, and somehow I do not think that will happen. The truth is if our industry contracts any more we will pay the price with the loss and momentum of what we had built for the last 20 years.

Christoph.

SOMETHING STINKS IN EDMONTON…

And in Alberta, in a matter that doesn’t involve Christoph Weder, producer Cecily Knodel of Seven Persons near Medicine Hat writes to

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