Your Reading List

NEWS ROUNDUP – for Oct. 5, 2009

FEEDING

SASKATCHEWAN FEEDLOTS LOSE A STEP — STUDY

Abundant feed, water and space are no longer all it takes to be competitive in the cattle industry. Saskatchewan, for example, has a highly competitive cow-calf sector, but that advantage no longer carries forward into other beef sectors, according to a new report by Informa Economics.

The study was commissioned by the province to document changes in the sector’s prospects over the last decade. Dennis McGivern, vice-president of the Memphis-based consulting firm, presented the results earlier this summer.

Overall the study indicates Saskatchewan is still a competitive place to raise beef, but the feedlot sector has lost ground. Ten years ago Saskatchewan’s huge feed grain surplus was seen a lever to expand cattle and hog feeding but packing capacity has not kept pace with the growth in feeding spaces. So while the province has the potential to be a low-cost zone for feeding cattle, the transport costs to reach packing plants trump the benefit of cheap feed.

“This puts fed cattle prices in Saskatchewan freight off southern Alberta and U.S. prices, creating a revenue disadvantage for producers at virtually every transaction level of the beef supply chain,” explains McGivern.

Nor is there much chance of a large plant being located in the province anytime soon. Scale has a lot to do with locating new plants and today there simply aren’t enough cattle in Canada to support another facility of the scale necessary to compete with Alberta and the northwest U.S.

Informa’s analysis examines strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Feed costs are an obvious strength for Saskatchewan. Feed costs averaged $14 per tonne under Alberta and were on a par with Manitoba during the 10 years between studies. Corn still gives the Americans a lower cost of gain but in recent years the demand for ethanol has hiked corn costs in some U.S. locations over Saskatchewan.

The value of Saskatchewan pasture climbed an average $33 to $332 per acre from 2000 to 2007 while Alberta pastures doubled in value from $570 and $1,032 per acre.

With the second-largest beef cow herd in Canada, and the ninth-largest in Canada and the U.S. combined, Saskatchewan has a good local supply of feeder cattle but still not enough to provide the scale needed to attract a large packer.

On the plus side producers are well supported by a strong applied research capacity within the province.

Long, cold winters and Saskatchewan’s wheat mentality are seen as weaknesses for livestock, as is the lack of risk management programs. Labour costs are another drag. Average farm wages are less than what is demanded in Alberta but more than what Manitoba and U.S. cattlemen have to pay. Provincial land and sales taxes are negatives, although the current government seems to be trying to do something about them. Politically

cally Saskatchewan has a relatively business-friendly atmosphere at the moment, according to the report.

At this time, McGivern concludes Saskatchewan’s strengths are best leveraged by the cow-calf sector and, possibly, backgrounding. Maintaining low-cost or near low-cost production of calves will help to offset a weak selling basis and give cow-calf producers equal or better net returns than their competitors. Enhancing live animal attributes to capture premiums throughout the production and marketing chain would also strengthen competitiveness.

The report also points to opportunities for backgrounders through expanded irrigation, feed grain variety development, improved herd productivity and adopting age verification and traceability. Dried distillers grains from ethanol production for use in beef rations are also more readily available in Saskatchewan than Alberta and Manitoba, notes McGivern.

POLICY

AGE-VERIFICATION NUMBERS ON PAR WITH LAST YEAR

Last month with the fall calf run underway, Alberta beef producers were being reminded that they are now obliged to obtain a premise ID number and age verify their cattle to comply with the province’s new livestock traceability regulations.

The Animal Health Act passed last year requires anyone who owns or keeps livestock, or operates a site such as feedlots where animals are to obtain a premises identification number from Alberta Agriculture.

The new act requires all cattle born in Alberta after Jan. 1, 2009 be age verified with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) before they leave the farm of origin.

The latest statistics put out by CCIA offer one measure of how producers have responded to mandatory versus voluntary regulations. At last count, the Canadian livestock-tracking system operated by the CCIA had registered 14,589 active livestock premises in Alberta, 5,117 in Saskatchewan 3,688 in Ontario and 2,862 in Manitoba.

By Aug. 31, 78 per cent of the 2008 Alberta calf crop — 1.571 million head — and 11 per cent of the 2009 calves had been age verified. The only other province that comes close to those totals is British Columbia where the cattlemen’s association paid producers $12 per head to age verify calves in 2008. (The payments were dropped this year.) About 74 per cent of B.C.’s 2008 calf crop had been age verified to the end of August along with 15 per cent of the 2009 calves.

Age verification is still voluntary in B.C. but the fact that most of the province’s beef calves end up in Alberta feedlots is an added inducement to ranchers to sign up their calves. The Alberta government is studying the ramifications of extending their mandatory traceability policy to out-of-province calves but as of our press deadline no decision had been made.

A notice on the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association website warns producers that age-verified calves shipped to auction markets now must be accompanied by a birth certificate. Buyers require a certificate to transport the calves.

The beef industry still remains divided on the concept of mandatory age verification. One camp says it doesn’t cost anything but a producer’s time and it may bring increased returns from the marketplace from buy-

ers interested in age-verified calves. The other side says markets, not government regulations, should drive producers’ decisions as to whether or not they age verify their animals.

Age verification by registering animal birth dates in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s national database is voluntary for beef producers across the country except in the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, where mandatory age verification is required by provincial legislation. Quebec producers use their own database company, Agri-Tracabiliti Quebec (ATQ), for animal identification, age verification, premise identification and movement tracking. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also recognizes documentation from breed associations.

The Ontario Cattlemen’s Association reinforced its desire for mandatory age verification as a national program with a resolution carried at this year’s annual meeting. A motion to this effect was first carried at the 2006 annual meeting, at which time the provincial government asked industry to exhaust all other options before considering the regulatory route.

At the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s annual meeting this June, some members and guests voiced their support for age verification by birth dates as long as it’s not mandatory and common sense prevails. Others strongly felt that it should be mandatory.

In Canada, there are currently two accepted methods of identifying the age of cattle: age verification by birth dates and dentition (mouthing). A third method, A-40, is a visual assessment based on a carcass-grading ossification evaluation. It was proposed by the U.S. as a means of determining whether carcasses would meet the Japanese requirement of 20 months or less because dentition is not an effective way of evaluating whether the carcass fits this category.

What’s trump?

Richard Robinson, CFIA’s national manager of tracing, grading and establishment registration agrees birth date information, when available, is more accurate than dentition. But that doesn’t mean birth certificates trump dentition.

“There is no regulatory requirement on the plant operator to use available birth date information, although the expectation was that it would normally be the case,” he says.

Robinson’s colleague, Dr. Sirinder Saini says CFIA merely develops policy, and current Canadian policy states birth dates or dentition are satisfactory measures of age. It is up to plant managers to decide how they meet the policy requirement, and train their employees accordingly.

When dentition is used plant staff assess the teeth first and the CFIA inspector verifies their findings. Industry is not charged for this service.

When birth dates are used the vet in charge is reponsible for verifying the document. If he’s satisfied age is verified then all is well. If he finds a reason to question the documentation on an animal, the carasseses in that lot are held until the document is verified. If it can’t be verified then the inspector falls back on dentition to determine age, and the producer may be paid a visit by a government auditor.

Similarly, if the birth certificate has been approved by an inspector but a fifth permanent tooth shows up above the gum line during a head inspection, the animal will be deemed over 30 months and discounted.

So there are times when teeth trump a birth certificate.

Complete information on this process is available on the CFIA’s website at

ASSOCIATIONS

BIG SCREENS BEING TESTED

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have installed two large, flat screen televisions in two Alberta markets in a search for new ways to get their message across to producers.

The first screens were set up at the Perlich Bros. auction mart in Lethbridge and Vold Jones Vold in Ponoka to test out the idea.

The programming is streamed to the monitors over the Internet by CCA staff and includes news and information from the CCA and ABP, market reports and regional prices from Can-Fax, plus price reports and bulletins from the local market.

The second phase of the project will see TV screens rolled out to 25 auction markets in select Alberta and select markets in other provinces.

Federal and provincial funding is being sought to extend the service nationwide.

FEED

GO FOR NITRATE-SAFE SILAGE AND GREENFEED

Producers intending to make silage or bale greenfeed from crops that have been frozen in the field need to take time to ensure that the feed is nitrate safe.

ers interested in age-verified calves. The other side says markets, not government regulations, should drive producers’ decisions as to whether or not they age verify their animals.

Age verification by registering animal birth dates in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s national database is voluntary for beef producers across the country except in the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, where mandatory age verification is required by provincial legislation. Quebec producers use their own database company, Agri-Tracabiliti Quebec (ATQ), for animal identification, age verification, premise identification and movement tracking. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also recognizes documentation from breed associations.

The Ontario Cattlemen’s Association reinforced its desire for mandatory age verification as a national program with a resolution carried at this year’s annual meeting. A motion to this effect was first carried at the 2006 annual meeting, at which time the provincial government asked industry to exhaust all other options before considering the regulatory route.

At the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s annual meeting this June, some members and guests voiced their support for age verification by birth dates as long as it’s not mandatory and common sense prevails. Others strongly felt that it should be mandatory.

In Canada, there are currently two accepted methods of identifying the age of cattle: age verification by birth dates and dentition (mouthing). A third method, A-40, is a visual assessment based on a carcass-grading ossification evaluation. It was proposed by the U.S. as a means of determining whether carcasses would meet the Japanese requirement of 20 months or less because dentition is not an effective way of evaluating whether the carcass fits this category.

What’s trump?

Richard Robinson, CFIA’s national manager of tracing, grading and establishment registration agrees birth date information, when available, is more accurate than dentition. But that doesn’t mean birth certificates trump dentition.

“There is no regulatory requirement on the plant operator to use available birth date information, although the expectation was that it would normally be the case,” he says.

Robinson’s colleague, Dr. Sirinder Saini says CFIA merely develops policy, and current Canadian policy states birth dates or dentition are satisfactory measures of age. It is up to plant managers to decide how they meet the policy requirement, and train their employees accordingly.

When dentition is used plant staff assess the teeth first and the CFIA inspector verifies their findings. Industry is not charged for this service.

When birth dates are used the vet in charge is reponsible for verifying the document. If he’s satisfied age is verified then all is well. If he finds a reason to question the documentation on an animal, the carasseses in that lot are held until the document is verified. If it can’t be verified then the inspector falls back on dentition to determine age, and the producer may be paid a visit by a government auditor.

Similarly, if the birth certificate has been approved by an inspector but a fifth permanent tooth shows up above the gum line during a head inspection, the animal will be deemed over 30 months and discounted.

So there are times when teeth trump a birth certificate.

Complete information on this process is available on the CFIA’s website at

ASSOCIATIONS

BIG SCREENS BEING TESTED

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have installed two large, flat screen televisions in two Alberta markets in a search for new ways to get their message across to producers.

The first screens were set up at the Perlich Bros. auction mart in Lethbridge and Vold Jones Vold in Ponoka to test out the idea.

The programming is streamed to the monitors over the Internet by CCA staff and includes news and information from the CCA and ABP, market reports and regional prices from Can-Fax, plus price reports and bulletins from the local market.

The second phase of the project will see TV screens rolled out to 25 auction markets in select Alberta and select markets in other provinces.

Federal and provincial funding is being sought to extend the service nationwide.

FEED

GO FOR NITRATE-SAFE SILAGE AND GREENFEED

Producers intending to make silage or bale greenfeed from crops that have been frozen in the field need to take time to ensure that the feed is nitrate safe.

ers interested in age-verified calves. The other side says markets, not government regulations, should drive producers’ decisions as to whether or not they age verify their animals.

Age verification by registering animal birth dates in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s national database is voluntary for beef producers across the country except in the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, where mandatory age verification is required by provincial legislation. Quebec producers use their own database company, Agri-Tracabiliti Quebec (ATQ), for animal identification, age verification, premise identification and movement tracking. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also recognizes documentation from breed associations.

The Ontario Cattlemen’s Association reinforced its desire for mandatory age verification as a national program with a resolution carried at this year’s annual meeting. A motion to this effect was first carried at the 2006 annual meeting, at which time the provincial government asked industry to exhaust all other options before considering the regulatory route.

At the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s annual meeting this June, some members and guests voiced their support for age verification by birth dates as long as it’s not mandatory and common sense prevails. Others strongly felt that it should be mandatory.

In Canada, there are currently two accepted methods of identifying the age of cattle: age verification by birth dates and dentition (mouthing). A third method, A-40, is a visual assessment based on a carcass-grading ossification evaluation. It was proposed by the U.S. as a means of determining whether carcasses would meet the Japanese requirement of 20 months or less because dentition is not an effective way of evaluating whether the carcass fits this category.

What’s trump?

Richard Robinson, CFIA’s national manager of tracing, grading and establishment registration agrees birth date information, when available, is more accurate than dentition. But that doesn’t mean birth certificates trump dentition.

“There is no regulatory requirement on the plant operator to use available birth date information, although the expectation was that it would normally be the case,” he says.

Robinson’s colleague, Dr. Sirinder Saini says CFIA merely develops policy, and current Canadian policy states birth dates or dentition are satisfactory measures of age. It is up to plant managers to decide how they meet the policy requirement, and train their employees accordingly.

When dentition is used plant staff assess the teeth first and the CFIA inspector verifies their findings. Industry is not charged for this service.

When birth dates are used the vet in charge is reponsible for verifying the document. If he’s satisfied age is verified then all is well. If he finds a reason to question the documentation on an animal, the carasseses in that lot are held until the document is verified. If it can’t be verified then the inspector falls back on dentition to determine age, and the producer may be paid a visit by a government auditor.

Similarly, if the birth certificate has been approved by an inspector but a fifth permanent tooth shows up above the gum line during a head inspection, the animal will be deemed over 30 months and discounted.

So there are times when teeth trump a birth certificate.

Complete information on this process is available on the CFIA’s website at

ASSOCIATIONS

BIG SCREENS BEING TESTED

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have installed two large, flat screen televisions in two Alberta markets in a search for new ways to get their message across to producers.

The first screens were set up at the Perlich Bros. auction mart in Lethbridge and Vold Jones Vold in Ponoka to test out the idea.

The programming is streamed to the monitors over the Internet by CCA staff and includes news and information from the CCA and ABP, market reports and regional prices from Can-Fax, plus price reports and bulletins from the local market.

The second phase of the project will see TV screens rolled out to 25 auction markets in select Alberta and select markets in other provinces.

Federal and provincial funding is being sought to extend the service nationwide.

FEED

GO FOR NITRATE-SAFE SILAGE AND GREENFEED

Producers intending to make silage or bale greenfeed from crops that have been frozen in the field need to take time to ensure that the feed is nitrate safe.

Comments

explore

Stories from our other publications