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News Roundup – for Dec. 6, 2010

FEEDLOTS

NAMAKA FARMS APPROVED FOR SASKATCHEWAN FEEDLOT

After some controversy, Namaka Farms of Strathmore, Alta. received the go-ahead to build a new feedlot on land it owns near Outlook, Sask., when the council for the RM of Rudy approved a discretionary development permit for a 24,000 animal-unit intensive livestock operation at a special meeting on October 28. One animal unit covers 1.5 feeder calves, giving the proposed feedlot a maximum capacity of 36,000 head, which would make it the largest lot in Saskatchewan.

The decision came on the heels of a petition by 66 ratepayers seeking a referendum that had blocked an earlier council vote on the application. After some checking RM administrator Trent Michelman confirmed the provincial planning act did not allow for a referendum. “The legislation makes it clear that the decision had to be made by council,” he said. “Based on information presented over the past several months, council decided that the land-use development may proceed.”

The public will have another opportunity to comment at the next step in the process when the feedlot seeks approval under the Agricultural Operations Act from the agriculture department. The act governs livestock operations over 300 animal units and it requires a geotechnical study of the site and management plans that show how the feedlot plans to control waste and runoff from contaminating local ground and surface water resources.

After that the application is forwarded to the Environmental Assessment Branch, the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and the ministries of highways, occupational health and safety, municipal affairs and the local municipality for comment and another round of public input.

Once the province approves the application the final decision will rest with Namaka Farms owner Stuart Thiessen. As of early November he was planning to continue working through the process. “The definitive decision will come once we know all the costs and conditions,” he said. “It must look like a reasonable business venture before we will proceed.”

Thiessen is a fourth-generation farmer and the third generation on the family farm in Strathmore, which includes a 25,000 feedlot operation.

4-H

BEEF DAY IN DAUPHIN

If there is ever to be a Beefville in Canada, Dauphin, Man., would be a shoo-in for the honour. This city of just over 10,000 people is the place to be each Labour Day Friday when four heifers are displayed at various businesses to get everyone hepped up about beef.

What began as a way for the local McDonald’s restaurant to support the regional 4-H beef show and sale in 2005 and for the six clubs in the region to show their appreciation, has grown to become a huge promotion and fundraiser for 4-H and, in turn created awareness that the area’s beef business is alive and well, says Jack Bremner, president of the regional 4-H beef show and sale.

On 4-H Beef Day four of Bremner’s Charolais show heifers were weighed at the local elevator and penned individually in front of each sponsors’ business. Each of their customers that day were given one free ticket to guess the weight of the heifer outside and win a side of beef. The 4-H clubs sell additional one-dollar tickets at each location.

The sponsors purchase the locally grown beef and Bob Humberstone of Dauphin Meat Processors has donated the cutting and wrapping every year.

The local radio station and newspaper donate advertising spots to the promotion, which Bremner sells to other sponsors who use the opportunity to promote their business as well as 4-H Beef Day. Along with the media outlets, Riet-Syd Equipment and Dean Cooley Chevrolet joined McDonald’s and Dauphin Meat Processors in the promotion.

“That’s all you hear about for three weeks before 4-H Beef Day. It’s a real drawing card for the businesses, too.” Bremner says. “The displayed animal in front of McDonald’s across from the mall on the way into town attracts a lot of attention. The owner says traffic through the restaurant doubles on 4-H Beef Day.”

The event had its beginning when Doug Dooley, the former owner of the local McDonald’s restaurant, approached Bremner about donating $1,000 to the regional 4-H Beef show and sale. The idea of displaying the heifer and holding a weight-guessing contest at McDonald’s came about as a way for the 4-H clubs to show their appreciation for this significant donation. But, it didn’t end there — Dooley also purchased the side of beef for the prize.

The new owner, Rhin Oliver, continues with the tradition of making the annual $1,000 donation. The promotion has raised $14,000 for 4-H since 2005 which has funded 4-H clinics and bought equipment and supplies for the regional show and sale held every long weekend in July.

“It would be great to see other clubs pick up on it and take it national,” says Bremner.

The sponsors also donate prizes for a raffle that this year included two tickets to Dauphin’s CountryFest music festival, and a $400 fair package from the Dauphin Agricultural Society. All 4-H clubs in the region start selling the raffle tickets in the spring and the proceeds go to fund their own activities for the year. The winning tickets are drawn during Beef Day.

With the raffle, the weight-guessing contest and McDonald’s annual donation, the clubs raised $4,260 this year.

For more information or to issue a Beef Day challenge to the Dauphin 4-H, contact Jack Bremner at 204-638-7268.

BREEDING

HEIFER DNA PACKAGE RELEASED

Merial’s Igenity division has launched a new DNA package wrapped up in a single price of $20 to help commercial and purebred producers make those all-important decisions on replacement heifers. The replacement heifer product includes an analyses of five economically important traits — fertility, maternal calving ease, average daily gain, quality grade and tenderness.

Producers who use Igenity’s services for profiling have free access to a software program designed to help sort and rank their animals based on the traits that are most important to them. For example, fertility and average daily gain traits are likely to be top priorities in selecting females that have the genetic potential to grow quickly and efficiently and breed on time, suggests technical services director Dr. Kevin DeHann. Not only do replacement heifers take time and money to develop, but those you select will help to define the genetic direction and profitability of the entire herd for years to come.

For more information, visit www.igenity.com and select Canada, or call 1-888-637-4251.

FENCING

B.C. FENCING APPLICATION DEADLINE DEC. 31

Time is of the essence for B.C. livestock producers who want to get in on the 2011 construction year for the province’s new five-year highway and railway fencing program. Applications must be received by December 31.

The program for fencing along Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 highways and railways is totally funded by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), however producers must apply,” says Debby Fisher, program manager for the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA). Applications received by the December 31 deadline in each of the five years will be evaluated and prioritized based on program criteria set out by the BCCA and Ministry of Natural Resources Operations (former Ministry of Forests and Range).

Private landowners and tenure holders on crown land who have livestock are eligible. The fencing must be part of a complete fencing system to contain livestock and must be built to MOTI specifications. The accepted projects will be tendered out for construction and producers may bid on the tender.

There is an estimated 700 km of fence remaining to be installed. Some 600 km was covered during the original three-year fencing program that expired in 2007. The value of secure fencing along highways and rail corridors in terms of public safety and preventing livestock losses was the BCCA’s platform for its successful lobby to have the program extended.

POLICY

SOAKED SASK. CATTLE PRODUCERS GET HELP

Rain-soaked livestock producers in Saskatchewan are now eligible for provincial funding to pay for reseeding pastures and haylands damaged by excessive rain or getting emergency feed to livestock between June 1, 2010 and August 1, 2011.

The province’s new Feed and Forage Program (SFFP) pays $30 per acre to reseed hay, forage or pasture land wrecked by excess moisture to perennial forages. Producers who own, lease, custom-graze or custom-feed beef and dairy cattle, bison, elk, horses, sheep, goats, deer, reindeer, caribou, llamas and alpacas are eligible for funding. Forage producers can also claims reseeding payments.

The transportation component pays 10 cents per head per loaded mile to haul cattle, cattle, bison, elk and horses to alternative feed sites, and four cents per loaded mile for sheep, goats, deer, reindeer, caribou, llamas and alpacas. The minimum haul is 15 miles.

If feed is hauled to animals the program pays 22 cents per tonne per loaded mile for silage, hay, straw, greenfeed and concentrates such as feed grain or screenings.

SFFP payments are aimed at livestock producers so crop farmers receiving funds from the Canada-Saskatchewan Excess Moisture Program are not eligible. The maximum payment is $50,000 per applicant and applications will be accepted until Sept. 30, 2011. More details are available from provincial offices orwww.agriculture. gov.sk.ca.

Meanwhile producers next door in Manitoba who faced conditions just as wet as in Saskatchewan were still waiting at press time for a promised announcement from their provincial government.

“What’s hard for many of our producers is that they’ve been experiencing flooding hardship over the last number of years,” says Jay Fox, the president of the Manitoba Beef Producers. “Our situation is nothing like Saskatchewan. We have been hit hard this year, but for many of our guys, they’ve been hit hard for three or four years in a row. They have exhausted every avenue and this year will bust them.” At press time no announcement was forthcoming from the province.

Prior to the Saskatchewan announcement the federal government agreed to defer income taxes on the sale of breeding stock for one year to producers in rain-soaked regions of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Producers who reduced their breeding herd by 15 per cent due to wet conditions can defer 30 per cent of the income from the net sales for one year. Those who cut their herd by 30 per cent or more can defer 90 per cent of the income from these sales on their 2010 tax returns.

Manitoba Beef Producers vice-president Ray Armbruster was appreciative of the federal help but notes it doesn’t do much for feedlots in Manitoba that were just as badly hammered by the rains. The MBP proposal to the province asks for per head payments for cow-calf operations and feedlots to offset some of the cost of damage to feedlots pens and lost gain due to muddy conditions.

POLITICS

MANITOBA PRODUCERS REJECT MANDATORY BRAND INSPECTION

After a year to think about it Manitoba cattle producers decided they really don’t want mandatory brand inspection after all.

This perennial question in Manitoba met its sternest rejection to date at the Manitoba Beef Producers (formerly the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association) annual meeting in Brandon last month.

The ruckus actually got going last year after producers at the 2009 annual meeting passed a late resolution put forward by Canadian Cattlemen’s Association vice-president Martin Unrau asking the MCPA to lobby the province for “active brand inspection.”

Seeing the cost of brand inspection is at least partly paid for by producers it was felt there was a need to confirm this decision with more discussion at regional zone meetings. The branding question also featured prominently in advertising for the 2010 annual meeting.

One estimate of the cost from Saskatchewan brand inspectors who inspect Manitoba cattle bound for their province suggests producers would have to pay about $2 per head on every animal marketed in the province to pay for the service. A number of producers at the meeting found that too high a cost to prevent a relatively small number of thefts each year.

Past president Joe Bouchard was one of those. “The facts and numbers don’t support brand inspection in Manitoba,” he said in opposition to the concept.

As of September 1 this year the RCMP had confirmed reports from Manitoba producers of 50 to 60 head of stolen cattle. But as MBP president Jay Fox pointed out this number is far from conclusive. “Without brand inspection how do we know our losses,” he wondered.

Without brand inspection Fox said Manitoba has become a dumping ground for stolen cattle from other places. “That affects our trade with other provinces,” he said.

Vice-president Ray Armbruster worried about the extra cost that would result in the province with two traceability systems operating side by side and he thought producers should be asked if they want to pay for this redundancy.

In the end those supporting mandatory brand inspection were defeated by a wide margin.

FINANCE

ALBERTA EXTENDS FEEDER LOANS

The Alberta government has amended the Feeder Associations Loan Guarantee Program to allow two new pilot projects to expand the financing options available to producers.

Members of the 53 local co-operative associations in Alberta can finance 100 per cent of the cost of feeders by depositing five per cent of the value into a pooled security account held by their association.

The province is now testing two new loan packages. Members of feeder associations offering the Under the Equity Loan Project can access the added equity in their accounts on a monthly basis. Currently, members cannot touch their equity until the livestock are sold and the entire loan is paid off.

Associations offering the Supply Chain Financing Project are able to extend the term of the loan guarantee on animals right through a supply chain until the beef is sold at retail. Producers who retain ownership of livestock to market meat products at the wholesale or retail outlets often require financing for slaughter/processing costs, along with the feeder cattle financing. Currently loans end with the sale of the animal.

To accommodate this change the associations will be able to offer revolving operating loans, rather than straight long-term loans.

ENVIRONMENT

METHANE FORMULA NEEDS WORK

A new Canadian-led study, testing the equations used to estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) output from dairy cows, shows they are inaccurate and need to be fixed soon if cattle farmers are going to have to adjust herd GHG releases.

Scientists from the University of Guelph, the University of Manitoba and Wageningen University in the Netherlands looked at the data used to formulate widely-used equations to predict methane production and compared it to actual methane emissions from dairy cattle. Nine of the equations either over-or under-estimated the cows’ output.

The models used to assess on-farm management don’t account for dietary changes

In fact, most equations don’t use any dietary data. They simply estimate methane production based on feed intake or milk output.

For example, the authors said, the widely used IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) equation, which predicts methane production based on energy intake of the cow, can’t distinguish if a higher energy intake is due to the cow eating more or a higher fat content in the ration. The distinction is important — higher feed intake increases methane production, a rise in dietary fat decreases it.

Such poor predictions of variation in observed values may introduce substantial error into GHG calculations and lead to incorrect mitigation recommendations, the authors said.

They are now working on more accurate models to predict methane production, based on the fermentation going on in the rumens of real cows.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) currently says livestock worldwide are responsible for about 18 per cent of all GHG emissions. On dairy farms, the FAO estimates, about 52 per cent of emissions are in the form of methane.

Given that methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a GHG, accurate estimates of total GHG emissions depend a great deal on the accuracy of these predicted methane emissions per cow, the authors note.

MARKETING

ALBERTA UNVEILS FEEDER PRICE INSURANCE

Cattle backgrounders in Alberta are the second group eligible for a provincial price insurance program meant to insulate against price risk, basis risk and currency risk.

Launched last month, the voluntary Cattle Price Insurance Program-Feeder (CPIP-Feeder) is meant to complement the CPIP on finished cattle offered in 2009.

Where CPIP-Fed is calculated to reflect the risks of feedlot finishing in Alberta, CPIP-Feeder uses a forecasted, market-driven price to insure cattle being prepared for market, with a settlement index based on an 850-pound steer. The Agricultural Financial Services Corporation administers both programs.

Producers can choose from insured indices and per-cwt premiums for policies ranging from 12 to 36 weeks in length. Past and current premium tables and settlement indices are available online at https://www.afsc.ca.

By matching policy length to the expected time of sale of the cattle, the producer gets a floor price on the cattle. If the cash market when the policy expires is below the coverage, the producer is paid on the difference. The highest insured index is about 95 per cent of the forecasted price.

Where CPIP-Fed’s settlement index is calculated using the finished steer and heifer average from Canfax, the CPIP-Feeder settlement index uses data gathered from participating auction markets in Alberta, to calculate the average price of an 850-pound steer.

The settlement index is calculated from prices on 750-to 950-pound steers sold on Alberta markets in lots of three head or more. A slide is then applied to calculate the average price of an 850-pound steer.

Producers won’t have to market their cattle to claim a payment. While the intent is to match claims to actual cattle sales, producers can claim a payment up to four weeks before the policy expires.

Details are available from AFSC at 1-877-899 (2372) or online at www.AFSC.ca.

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