I had a note recently from Greg Hemming of Esterhazy, Sask. talking about the practice of spaying heifers. It isn’t really a new concept. I remember going to a demonstration day, maybe 10 years ago, put on by Pfizer, I believe, which showed it was a fairly simple process and then if you implant the cattle afterwards you get more bang for your buck.
Greg Hemming thought it would be a useful procedure for beef producers to use. I in turn asked Cattleman’s Corner columnist Dr. Roy Lewis for a few thoughts on the process. You
can see his column on page 21.
Roy, essentially says spaying can have merits, but the trick is to find a young vet, with a strong arm, who knows the procedure.
Greg Hemming asks if anyone has any thoughts or comments on spaying he would like to hear from them at Box 1295, Esterhazy, Sask. S0A 0X0 or phone 306-745-3795.
IT HAPPENED OVER WINNIPEG
A federal MP was seated next to a young 4-H beef club member on an airplane headed for Saskatoon, when he turned to young girl and said, “Let’s talk. I’ve heard that flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”
The 4-H member, who had just opened her public speaking handbook, closed it slowly and said to the total stranger, “What would you like to talk about?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said the MP. “How about global warming or universal health care,” and he smiles smugly.
“OK,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics. But let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff — grass! Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?”
The MP, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.”
To which the ranch girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss global warming or universal health care when you don’t know shit?”
Two Alberta women, who have been champions of livestock care, were recently recognized with Awards of Distinction at the Livestock Care Conference, in Red Deer, Alta.
Susan Church and Pam Miller were recognized for their contributions to the livestock industry by the Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).
Church, who served for 15 years as the manager of AFAC through to 2009, was honoured with an Award of Distinction for Leadership. This award honours those who set the bar higher for expectations regarding animal welfare, and demonstrate leadership and commitment in doing so.
Miller, who for over 14 years has been the voice that answers calls and responds to callers of the ALERT Line, 24 hours a day, was honoured with an Award of Distinction for Communication. The ALERT line is a confidential call line set up by AFAC for anyone to report livestock care concerns, with an aim to assist before animals are in distress. The award for communication honours those who take a strong, active role in “getting the message out” about livestock care issues in an honest way that builds trust and credibility.
AFAC has long hosted the Livestock Care Conference as a leading education and awareness event in support of ongoing knowledge and progress in livestock care. More information on AFAC and the Livestock Care Conference, including additional feature articles capturing key information and perspectives from 2010 presentations, is available at
Changing Trends In Agriculture
Ed Pajor, professor of animal behaviour and welfare, presented his views on trends and issues facing the livestock industry at the recent Livestock Care Conference, presented the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association in Red Deer.
THE “SHOW ME” STAGE
The rapidly increasing focus on farm animal care, not just by producers but by retailers, consumers, activists and markets, has been happening for years now, says Pajor, who is with the University of Calgary’s Veterinary Medical Faculty. It’s a consistent trend both domestically and globally. It’s also quickly moving to a new stage of expectations to “prove” good practices.
“The new level is about showing — not just practicing — responsible care,” he says. “As a result, we’ve seen a rapidly growing focus on standards and processes of verification at many levels, both globally and locally. It’s not just about the future of animal agriculture, it’s happening now.”
The shift includes several key drivers.
“Pull” economy taking shape. One of these is a change in the economic model for agriculture markets from a traditional “push economy,” where producers compete with each other on issues of price and quality to a new “pull economy,” where consumers or retailers demand a certain product at a certain price.
“That’s a big change,” says Pajor. “Agriculture is one of the last economies to become a pull economy. What that results in is retailers and consumer groups start to dictate practices such as how animal agriculture products are produced.”
Rise of verified standards. With consolidation there are fewer retailers, which speeds the pace of change, he says. The big retailers live in a “culture of standards” that is expanding from traditional focus areas such as quality control and food safety to cover additional factors such as environment and social conditions, such as labour practices. Attention is now turning to animal welfare practices.
“If you want access to their part of the chain, you need to meet their criteria. Their criteria tend to mean standards that are third party certified.”
Global trade heavyweights taking notice. The evolution toward verified standards, including for farm animal care, is happening worldwide and is increasingly a focus of legislation and trade. Europe in particular is pushing hard to have welfare incorporated into international trade agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The issue is also a major focus for the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and even the World Bank, which is incorporating animal welfare standards into its terms for supporting agriculture in developing countries.
Increasing factor in market access. Adding to this is the new or emerging adoption of standards by virtually all major players at the retailer and processing levels, as well as producer level initiatives such as codes of practice and quality assurance programs.
All of the factors are resulting in strong movement on the farm animal care issue on many fronts, says Pajor. “The big thing I see is animal welfare playing an increasing role in market access. We need to pay attention and think about how that is going to impact our initiatives and how we do business.”
LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS HAVE CRITICAL ROLE TO PLAY
Livestock industry groups such as farm animal care councils have helped to champion responsible farm animal care and lead discussion of practical, manageable ways to meet increasing demand for verification. Industry certification and quality assurance initiatives at producer, processor and transport levels have also played a leading role.
This progress has proven critical and should be continued, says Pajor. “Standards and verification should not be feared. Done right, they can support better management and efficiency at the production level, strengthen markets, and overall be a ‘win-win-win’ for producers, retailers and consumers.”
An independent study evaluating economic benefits from the national check-off (NCO) shows that Canadian beef cattle producers’ funding of research and marketing activities has delivered strong return on investment — and compared to other commodities falls squarely within the range of values reported for other regions and commodities and is higher in some cases.
The NCO is the mandatory $1 per head levy collected from beef cattle producers when they market their cattle. It solely funds research and marketing programs, providing revenue for the Beef Cattle Research Council responsible for the industry’s national research program; the Beef Information Centre which handles domestic and U. S. marketing; and the Canada Beef Export Federation which develops export markets in Mexico, Asia and more recently, Russia and the Middle East. The NCO does not provide any funding to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association which is funded separately through provincial organizations.
The first of its kind study was initiated by the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency, also known as the NCO Agency, to obtain relevant, current analysis of the effectiveness of NCO-funded expenditures on producers’ economic well being. In addition to providing core funding for research and marketing, the NCO is leveraged to attract on average, $6 for every