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News Roundup – for Aug. 15, 2011

COWBOY POLITICS

IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

Land-use and environment issues once again dominated the debate at the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA) annual meeting in Prince George this summer.

The devastation from the mountain pine beetle infestation that now affects some 43 million acres of B.C. forests has raised the ever-present danger of wildfires and resulted in increased logging in areas that aren’t typically suited to harvesting as logging companies try to salvage lumber from these sites.

While there has always been communication between ranchers and loggers in the past, the companies are now using contractors to trench and mound logged areas in preparation for replanting without involving local ranchers. It’s extremely difficult to gather and move cattle through these areas, and quite impossible to do so without damaging newly planted trees.

During their meeting the cattlemen decided to press the province to require consultation in these cases to avoid creating an unsafe work environment and to consider letting natural succession take its course on land not particularly suited to forestry operations. The BCCA will also ask the government to prohibit tree planting on grasslands and wetland meadows.

The BCCA will lobby for the government to implement measures to prevent and respond to wildfires in a timely manner, including the establishment of clear lines of communication so ranchers are made aware of firefighting activities in order to know when and where to move their cattle.

The cattlemen would also like to see landowners and tenure holders compensated for wildfire losses not covered by federal policy or affordable insurance such as the loss of range improvements, cattle and cattle health.

Another issue is the revision of the century-old Water Act. The BCCA wants to ensure that the new act grandfathers stock-watering provisions and creates a water reserve for agriculture, so when an agriculture producer gives up a water licence, the allotment is retained for agriculture use.

Other resolutions call for cattle prices insurance and pasture forage insurance similar to programs available in other provinces; maintaining public service meat inspectors at provincial plants; surveillance, education and stiffer penalties for reckless ATV riders that damage range; funding for stack yard fences; an exemption from the provincial carbon tax on fuel for farm use; and expanding the hunting and trapping seasons in regions where wolves prey heavily on livestock.

The BCCA also decided to ask the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to open negotiations with all provincial beef associations to increase the $1 nonrefundable national checkoff on cattle.

BCCA president Judy Guichon says the B.C. ranching task force has proven to be far more successful than anticipated when it was first announced two years ago.

Representatives from the BCCA and departments of Agriculture, Environment, and Forestry, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNR) meet four times a year to identify and remove unnecessary red tape from regulations that hinder the industry and keep the concerns of producers in front of the bureaucrats as they go about updating much of B.C.’s existing legislation.

IN SASKATCHEWAN

At their June annual meeting the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association voted to support the formation of a provincial livestock patrons assurance fund patterned after the Alberta fund and a BVD awareness strategy.

The last year has been one of transition for the SSGA which is planning to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.

As general manager Chad MacPherson explains 2010 was a challenging year due to the loss of $100,000 in core operating funding from the provincial checkoff after the administration of the checkoff was transferred from the province to the new Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association in August of 2010.

The SSGA like other groups now applies for funding on specific projects to continue its work on the conservation of native prairie and species at risk as well as youth consumer education at Agribition and other exhibitions.

A number of resolutions dealt with landowner surface rights, traceability and SSGA funding from the cattle-marketing deductions fund. A change in the constitution reduced the number of active members needed to activate a zone from 25 to 12, and the quorum for the board meetings from 12 to nine.

Newly elected president Harold Martens of Swift Current says the board’s strength is in its diverse representation from across the province with representation from the feeding and marketing sectors as well as cow-calf producers and a strong show of support from young producers and purebred breeders.

“We have positioned ourselves to set policy for the Saskatchewan cattle industry and will make representation to all of the federal and provincial agencies that our members ask us to go to,” he says. The board’s priorities for the upcoming year include working with others to set up a patrons assurance fund and cattle price insurance program, dealing with the provincial government on conservation easements on Crown land, making their views known on the new Growing Forward plan, and helping educate fellow producers about BVD and IBR and the value of vaccination programs.

BREEDING

ACROSS-BREED EPD ADJUSTMENT FACTORS RELEASED

USDA researchers at Clay Center and Lincoln Nebraska recently released their across-breed adjustment factors for 18 breeds. These factors are used to give equivalent expected progeny differences (EPD) for different breeds to a base Angus EPD for birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, maternal milk, marbling score, rib-eye area, and fat thickness.

The scientists point out it is critical that the adjustment be applied only o spring 2011 EPDs. Older or newer EPD may be computed on different bases and, therefore, could produce misleading results.

Adjustment factors can be applied to compare the genetic potential of sires from different breeds. Suppose the EPD for weaning weight for a Limousin bull is +42.1 and for a Hereford bull is +44.0. The across-breed adjustment factors in the table are -1.5 for Hereford and 0.9 for Limousin. Then the adjusted EPD for the Limousin bull is 42.1 + (0.9) = 43.0 and for the Hereford bull is 44.0 + (-1.5) = 42.5. The expected weaning weight difference when both are mated to another breed of cow, e.g., Angus, would be 43.0 –42.5 = 0.5 lb.

DRUGS

MERCK RENAMES ANIMAL HEALTH DIVISION

Merck’s animal health division, formerly known as Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health has been renamed as Merck Animal Health in the U.S. and Canada, and MSD Animal Health in the rest of the world.

The division generated global sales of $2.9 billion in 2010.

The name change follows the joint announcement in March by Merck and sanofi-aventis that ended plans to form a new animal health joint venture due to the complexity of implementing the proposed transaction.

PROGRAMS

ONTARIO RISK MANAGEMENT MEETINGS SCHEDULED

Details of Ontario’s Risk Management Program (RMP) will be rolled out in meetings across the province during August and September.

Agricorp, the provincial ag program delivery agency, is expected to have applications available by early September with an enrolment deadline of October 14, although that is unlikely to be a hard-and-fast date.

The RMP is meant as a companion to the joint federal/provincial produc- tion insurance and AgriStability programs. The province will fund RMP at the full amount of its usual 40 per cent share.

Specifically, it treats RMP payments as an advance on the province’s 40 per cent share of a producer’s AgriStability payment, in which an eligible producer would keep the greater of the two payments. The 60 per cent federal share of the AgriStability payment is unaffected.

Dubbing 2011 as the RMP’s “transition year,” the province waived farmer premiums for the 2011 program.

To take part, producers will need to enrol their production in RMP, sign up for AgriStability (voluntary for 2011 only, because the deadline has passed) and have a Premises ID number.

The Cattle RMP will require producers to enrol all their eligible production in one of three categories: cow-calf, backgrounder or feedlot. Producers in 2012 and beyond can opt to make either one upfront premium payment, payments twice per year (for cow-calf producers) or quarterly (for backgrounders and feedlot).

Cattle RMP premiums will also be calculated by comparing support levels and market prices using historic, current and future data. The minimum premium charged will be $25 under each of the cattle program categories.

The RMP support level for cattle and other livestock will be based on cost of production multiplied by a farmer’s chosen coverage level — 100, 90 or 80 per cent.

In the cow-calf category, payments will be calculated twice a year (end of June and end of December), while in the backgrounder and feedlot categories, payments will be calculated weekly and paid quarterly.

Producers may also transfer cattle to the next program category without a sale. A producer who finishes cattle from birth will be able to submit a certifi ed weigh slip to Agricorp to trigger a payment instead of waiting until the animal’s final sale.

For the 2011 program year, payments to cattle producers will be calculated by pro-rating support levels and market prices against the available allocation, the province said. Producers will need to apply in the fall and report actual pounds produced and sold by category from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2011 and projected pounds produced and sold or transferred by category from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011.

An initial payment will be made in December and a final payment will follow using actual sales or transfer information for Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011. Payments will be then adjusted based on final participation rates.

In July Ontario’s Ag Minister Carol Mitchell cited the lack of support from Ottawa for this program and a proposed dialing back on funding for AgriStability as the reasons why she refused to sign off on the new Growing Forward ag policy framework at the last federal/provincial ministers’ meeting.

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