SATELLITE SALES MOVING ONLINE
Canadian Satellite Livestock Auction (CSLA) will be phasing out its televised cattle auctions this year as it moves into full real-time Internet auction service with Xcira’s OnLine Ringman.
CSLA owner Blair Vold says the television broadcasts on Shaw Direct channel 299 will continue alongside the webcasts for some larger upcoming sales, but the plan is to switch completely to the Internet for CSLA and on-farm sales.
The company began broadcasting livestock auctions on a private satellite channel back in 1993 featuring video footage of cattle at farms and feedlots as an alternative to moving them through the auction markets. In November 2002 they broadcast the first live video cattle auction seen coast-to-coast in North America on the Lone Star channel.
That system served them well, however the rising cost of television service was eventually overtaken by the availability of better computers and the spread of high-speed Internet service in the countryside.
Vold was sold on Xcira’s OnLine Ringman web service after they handled Vold, Jones &Vold’s (VJV) first Internet auction of the Canadian Gold Show Alley pens from their Ponoka market last August. Since then Xcira has webcast all the VJV show-alley and regular sales from Ponoka, Dawson Creek and Stavely.
As of mid-January, CSLA was finalizing the details to begin direct Internet farm and feedlot sales of cattle. Regular CSLA sales will move from every second Friday to every Wednesday at 11 a.m., says Craig Jacklin, who handles the computer technology for VJV and CSLA. The sales will be hosted by VJV at the Ponoka market with CSLA selling the country cattle on its website, followed by the show alley pens on the VJV website. Fridays will be devoted to special sales.
OnLine Ringman is used by major auction companies such as Ritchie Bros. and Christie’s, to sell everything from farm and construction equipment to fine art. Last year they handled 15,000 sales. Xcira’s vice-president of marketing Howdy Jones says their contract with VJV was the first step in a new strategy to target livestock auctions worldwide.
Vold says the new format opens new options for buyers and sellers. An auctioneer is still in control of the sale as the audio and video streams across computers screens. Pre-approved buyers are able to bid real-time by phone, or on the Internet using the OnLine Ringman system. As in the past, settlement for cattle sold through CLSA is done through the auction market representing the cattle. If an Internet sale is done in conjunction with a live sale, the system instantly shows all Internet, phone-in and onsite bids on a large screen in the auction ring.
A mobile application is available for those who want to bid on the go from hand-held devices. The screen shows exactly what you would see on your computer and video and audio streaming will soon be available, Jacklin adds.
As in the past CLSA agents will come out to the farm to video and describe the cattle but VJV has introduced an option for producers to provide the information and video footage of their own cattle. It is posted in the sale catalogue on the website as soon as Jacklin receives it, so buyers can evaluate the cattle well before the sale.
For more information about CLSA’s new internet format, go to www.clsauctions.com, or contact Blair Vold at 1-403-783-0660.
For more information about OnLine Ringman and other Xcira products for the auction sector, visit www.xcira.com,
or call 1-813-621-7881.
JAPAN BUYING CANADIAN BEEF AT PRE-BSE LEVELS
Japan’s imports of Canadian beef and veal have rebounded to their highest volumes since 2003.
Imports in the first 11 months of 2010 reached 13,277 tonnes, valued at $67 million, up 81 per cent over the same period in 2009, according to the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF). Japan’s previous peak in Canadian beef and veal consumption came in 2001, at 29,000 tonnes, worth about $171 million.
Canada’s market access to Japan remains held to boneless and bone-in beef and offal derived from cattle under 21 months of age.
Strength in Japan’s currency and increased purchasing power among its consumers are partly responsible for the increased sales to this the third-largest beef-importing market in the world, says CBEF president Ted Haney.
European food marketing consultancy GIRA forecasts Japan’s beef imports will rise by 105,000 tonnes to reach 828,000 between 2010 and 2020.
“With anticipation and now great appreciation, Canada is experiencing very positive market growth into Japan,” Jeff Cline, senior program manager for international sales with agrifood giant Cargill’s Canadian beef packing wing, said in a release.
“Canadian industry, with the support of CBEF and government — and through collaborative relationships with (Japanese) customers — has expanded the number of end-use interests in utilizing Canadian beef,” he said.
Cline also cited the Canadian industry’s ongoing efforts to gather commercially viable cattle under 21 months of age, and its work in meeting and beating buyers’ expectations for quality and food safety.
Japan, CBEF notes, is one of the few markets that imports practically all its beef from high-quality suppliers in Oceania and North America, making it the second-largest importer of high-quality beef, behind the U.S.
While Canada’s sales to this market are growing its share of the business seems to have fallen off more than the U.S. share since 2003, according to a recent analysis by the Alberta Beef Producer policy analyst Fred Hays.
In 2002, before BSE, Canada provided about four per cent of Japan’s beef import demand, or just over 19,000 tonnes. The U.S. provided about 47 per cent, or just over 226,000 tonnes. In 2003, both Canada and U.S. dropped to zero. By 2008, Canada had regained about 5,000 tonnes, or one per cent of the total imports and the U.S. had 54,000 tonnes or 12 per cent.
Focusing on the period from 2006 to 2009 Hays looked at combined U.S. and Canadian sales in Japan. Over this period U.S. sales rose by a factor of 5.7 times and Canadian sales by a factor of 2.6. As a result, U.S. increased its share of North American sales in both high-value variety meats and beef and veal sales to 91 per cent from 85 per cent in 2006. Canada’s share shrank from 15 per cent to nine per cent.
The Alberta Beef Producers put out a bulletin last month when Taiwan stores began pulling U.S. beef off their shelves after Ractopamine (Optaflexx) was detected through regular testing. This was the first time Taiwan banned beef from the U.S. since it resumed imports in 2009.
Ractopamine is a drug used as a feed additive to promote leanness in pigs and cattle. The feed additives Paylean for pigs and Optaflexx for cattle, produced by the U.S. company Elanco Animal Health contains ractopamine hydrochloride.
Ractopamine was first approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1999, and has also been approved in more than 20 countries, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand. However, Ractopamine is banned in 150 other countries, including the European Union (EU), Taiwan, China, and Malaysia, which prohibited its use in 2002.
Ractopamine in feed for animals is responsible for dramatic muscle growth — promotes growth and lean meat yield. It is not a steroid or hormone, but rather a compound known as a beta-agonist. Only a trace amount of Ractopamine need be added for a marked increase in protein growth and decrease in fat deposition in animals. In North American feedlot studies it has improved feed efficiencies up to 15 per cent with a $3 to $8 per head return.
In Canada it is covered under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Medicating Ingredient Brochure (MIB) for use in cattle with no requirement for any withdrawal time.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is in the process of changing its standards for residues of Ractopamine and related products. However, Taiwan has no plans to review its own policies until Codex makes its changes.
This can have implications to Canadian beef exports to those countries that presently ban the product. At present, they will not deal with beef or pork that has been fed with the additive and will ban any product where they detect it. Although the countries that permit its use do so with scientifisupport, that is not good enough for the 150 countries that do not want it.
The ABP says this can cause some problems for processors and food companies exporting beef to these regions where they want to ensure that their products are Ractopamine/Optaflexx/ Paylean free.
ANOTHER ROUND OF SRM PAYMENTS SOUGHT
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has once again joined forces with Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Meat Council to put in a funding request for the new federal budget to cover a second year of processor compensation to offset the disposal costs of specified risk material (SRM).
Recent improvements to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) disposal protocols should lower the per-head cost in the second year to $27.50 from $31.70 last year, bringing the total request down to $17.2 million from $25 million last year.
The first year of the program proved successful in terms of having more 30-month (OTM) cattle processed in Canada instead of the U.S. Canadian buyers used the compensation to offset some of the extra costs due to Canada’s BSE policies and bid up the price of cows on this side of the border.
Ultimately, the CCA says the objective is to bring the cost of processing OTM cattle in Canada more closely in line with the cost in the U.S. Some improvements have been made in the technology but the promised cost reductions from these changes are at least a year away. Thus, says the CCA, a second year is warranted.
TRACEABILITY FUNDS UP FOR GRABS
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is offering $20 million over the next three years to auction markets, feedlots, backgrounders and just about anyone who operates a site where large volumes of livestock are commingled. Fairs and exhibitions, animal assembly yards and any other “high-risk” high-throughput facilities are also invited to file an application for funds under the Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative (LATI) starting April 1.
Payments are capped at $100,000 but the applicant must pay 20 per cent of the eligible costs.
LATI is intended to cover some of the costs necessary to improve the level of “quick and effective tracking” of animals as they move through these sites.
Eligible costs range from infrastructure planning and construction, environmental assessments to the purchase and installation of scanning and handling equipment and staff training. Anything paid for before the project is approved may not be covered.
The money comes from the federal Agricultural Flexibility Fund, which has $500 million to spend before 2014 to reduce costs of production, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation and respond to market challenges.
For more details go to www.agr.gc.ca/LATI.
NATIONAL FORAGE GROUP MAKES A START
The year-old Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (CFGA) held its first annual meeting in conjunction with the Canadian Forum on Forage and Rangeland seminar in Winnipeg just before Christmas.
CFGA executive director Wayne Digby was pleased with the support shown for the fledgling national lobby group. “There was no longer talk of whether such an organization was necessary; instead people were talking about what our organization needs to do.”
It was agreed that memberships in the national association will come from five areas: the provincial forage councils, overseas exporters, U.S. exporters, user/producer groups (such as the national beef, dairy, sheep, equine, bison and wildlife organizations) and individual patrons, institutes and businesses with an interest in forages.
“The user/producer committee will be significant because it is made up of representatives from the major commodity groups who will help us focus in on how forages are currently being utilized and how we can help improve the use and management of forages,” Digby says.
There was also a feeling that the association should have a general forage market development committee focused on domestic production and sales, U.S. exports and overseas markets. An export strategy is still being worked on.
Digby says the CFGA is already starting to fill the role of a national source of information about forage products and availability for importing countries.
The association still needs to develop mechanisms for gathering export market intelligence.
Key lobbying issues at the moment centre around transportation barriers and policy. The cost of transporting forages into overseas markets coupled with container allotment issues puts Canada’s growers at a significant disadvantage to U.S. growers, says Digby.
CFGA communications manager Cori Arbuckle announced the group’s new website at the meeting.
Members indicated a need to quickly prioritize the industry’s research recommendations in collaboration with the major user groups, the research community, extension services and forage councils.
The finance committee has a draft business plan in place — now it’s a matter of getting out and recruiting new members. The meeting accepted a structure for industry participation with three areas of annual sponsorship: platinum ($10,000), gold ($5,000) and silver ($2,500).
For more information try the website at http://www.canadianfga.ca.