Editors Note: The first part of this story begins with a column/ blog called “The world is watching” which I wrote in mid-March (it follows below). It made the point that different people and agencies are watching the livestock industry. That column prompted a response from Manitoba farmer Bernie Brandt who talks about his own farm production practices. His comments follow below as well. It is all good food for thought.
HERE’S THE BLOG:
“I was just reading the Vancouver Humane Society newsletter which announced its Raising the Barn awareness program ( www.raisingthebarn.ca) aimed in part at getting consumers to stop or at least reduce meat consumption.
The campaign focuses on pretty well every type of meat production — beef, chicken, pigs — and is pushing for five freedoms in livestock production.
Animals should have:
Freedom from hunger and thirst.
Freedom from discomfort.
Freedom from pain, injury or disease.
Freedom to express normal behaviour.
Freedom from fear and distress.
The campaign has a heading that says, “Cattle are crammed into feedlots where they are fattened on food that makes them sick.”
The campaign also urges consumers to buy organic meat, poultry and eggs as a better alternative as organic producers are viewed as using more humane production practices.
Along with animal welfare issues, the VHS website also plays heavily on the environmental impact of agriculture, which may catch the attention of consumers who still like to eat meat.
One message on the website says:
“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.
“When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for nine per cent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 per cent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.
“And it accounts for respectively 37 per cent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 per cent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
“Livestock now use 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 per cent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.”
I don’t know if all the facts are true, but it is a pretty direct and compelling message available to a total B.C. Lower Mainland population of about 2.5 million people, many of whom have no idea what a farm looks like.
BERNIE BRANDT WRITES
We farm land around the Ste. Anne/Blumenort area of Manitoba. Our operations are just north of Blumenort. We used to be certified for organic chicken production on part of our operation, but had to discontinue because the company we sold to could not sell the meat for a profit. We have since not recertified.
I always tell people we farm conventionally and practice the “least intervention” necessary on our total farming operation. We feed hogs and chickens some antibiotics at the beginning stages, which are mixed by the feed mill according to CFIA protocol. These antibiotics have no withdrawals necessary before processing, but regardless, we do withdraw use well before we ship the animals. We have not used any other antibiotics on the farm in animal diets for many years. I discussed this with our vet and he said he could not remember the last time we did. He has been our vet for at least 15 years.
We grow hogs, chickens, and crops on our farm. Our farm is a family farm and would be large by Canadian standards. Four families make a good living from our farm; well above the average income of Canadians for all the employees.
Interesting article (the blog)! Should we raise our chickens and hogs outside all year? Even in spring and summer the animals would not have all the freedoms mentioned in your article in their growing cycle. We do provide all these freedoms in our confined raising facilities especially freedom from discomforts (environment).
We do not inject antibiotics into chickens or hogs on our farm.
All sick or poorly growing animals are culled on a daily/weekly/ bi-weekly basis, depending if it is chicken or hogs. Whenever we suspect a disease problem we call in a veterinarian for advice. It has been a number of years since we last had to do this.
We have an independent crop consultant to check our fields and we do not apply chemicals unless he recommends it be done.
My son and I spent one month in Peru last fall and I think almost all of their animals were suffering from a number of the freedoms that your article mentions. With virtually all animals we saw — be it pigs goats, donkeys, and cattle — we could see ribs from all sides. It was sad how they were tethered to trees and poles and the ropes had caused calluses to form around the body and legs.
Organically raised meat is misunderstood by many. We raised organic chickens for a while, but had to quit because the consumer was not willing to pay what it cost to produce them. The carbon footprint was huge. Some of the ingredients had to be transported 2,000 miles before they arrived at our feed bin. With the trip to Peru, I think we realized that many humans also lack many of the animal freedoms mentioned in you write up! In our affluent society we need to get our perspective right; many of the Peruvian people were happy just to have food (organic was not a question).
We need to critically look at our wasteful uses of resources and realize that there are many people that just want food. Therefore the question is; is it even morally right to want higher cost organically grown food?
NOTE FROM UKRAINE
Editor’s Note:And all the way from Ukraine, former Saskatchewan livestock specialist Allen Hingston sent this comment about The World is Watching blog:
“The (Vancouver Humane Society) website will get read by many while the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association website, with the truth, will never be seen. As I said in one of my recent blogs, it is that sort of thing that drives people to become Conservative and Republican, even when their concern for social justice would say otherwise.”
Allen Hingston (You can read more of Allen
Hingston’s views on Ukraine and world in general at: http://dablogfodder. blogspot.com ) Did you hear about the elderly farm couple from Grenfell, Saskatchewan who finally sold a malt barley crop at a reasonable price so they could afford a cruise. Unfortunately the weather was stormy. They were standing on the back of the cruise ship watching the storm, when a wave came up and washed the old man overboard. They searched for days and couldn’t find him, so the captain sent the woman back to Saskatchewan with the promise that he would notify her as soon as they found something.
PEARLS OF WISDOM
Three weeks went by and finally the woman got a fax from the boat. It read: “Ma’am, sorry to inform you, we found your husband dead at the bottom of the ocean. We hauled him up to the deck and attached to his jacket was an oyster and in it was a pearl worth $50,000. Please advise.”
The woman faxed back: “Send me the pearl and re-bait the trap.”
NEIGHBOUR’S BULL PERHAPS?
In response to a request for any stupid livestock photos, Owen Boyachek of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba sent this picture, taken a couple years ago, showing a calf with its head stuck in a cottonwood tree.
Owen explains: “The summer of 2009 I went checking pastures and found a cow bawling and bawling and she hadn’t been sucked for a long time. I followed her, fearing her calf had been killed by lightning, or blackleg, or a hungry wolf.
“Behind the pond bank, I found this stupid SOB with its head stuck in a gnarly old cottonwood. The calf survived, but the tree didn’t.
“P. S. I suspect the calf is from my neighbour’s Simmental bull. My Charolais or Limo calves would NEVER do anything like this!”
(Editor’s note: So if you have any goofy livestock or goofy people with livestock pictures, please email or mail along and you too can be one of the best looking people like Owen, who will soon be sporting a new Grainews cap.)
SALES RESULTS WILLABAR RANCH 12TH ANNUAL LONG YEARLING BLACK ANGUS BULL SALE FEBRUARY 22, 2011 CLARESHOLM, AB 35 SEPTEMBER VIRGIN LONG YEARLING BULLS, GROSS $121,345, AVERAGE $3,467 HIGH SELLING LOT, WILLABAR PENDLETON 16W SOLD FOR $6,250 TO H. LAVERNE LOHR, SPRUCEYVALE ANGUS, ERSKINE, ALTA. LAZY S RANCH BULL POWER 2011 JANUARY 29, 2011 MAYERTHORPE, ALTA. RED &BLACK SIMMENTAL, AVERAGE $ 4,661 RED &BLACK ANGUS, AVERAGE $3,264 RED &BLACK BEEFMAKERS, AVERAGE $3,738 177 BULLS, GROSS $728,001 AVERAGE $4,113
the world is wat ching