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Calving Issue Cover

So many must agree with us that the cover on the CATTLEMEN calving special is wonderful! Thanks to the Debney family and your formatting for this special bit of wonder.

DON AND BRENDA DOWELL TROCHU. ALTA.

Picked up the 2010 calving special last night and the cover picture immediately caught my attention.

Perhaps I have been inundated with biosecurity messaging lately and over-sensitized, but the picture of the baby and newborn calf was provocative when considered in the context of articles between the covers and I speak primarily of the zoonosis — things like salmonella, Q fever and Johne’s. There are of course other things like E. coli O:157, campylobacter, cryptosporidia, capable of being transmitted by the newborn still wet with fetal fluids.

Just wanted to bring it to your attention in case others pick up on the mixed messages about biosecurity. Cute picture but probably something we shouldn’t promote.

RON CLARKE DVM STONY PLAIN, ALTA.

Wrong wolves targeted

With excitement and anticipation I opened your January 2010 issue headlined “Bringing wolves out into the open.” Ah, I thought, stories about food-retailer and beef-packer profiteering. At last the mainstream cattle media was focusing on the large and growing gap between what consumers pay and what farmers get. I turned the page.

The first story I came to was “Learning to live with less.” Ah, I thought, a story about the deteriorating plight of family farm cattle producers forced to shoulder prices that are, adjusted for inflation, the lowest since the Depression. Alas, I was mistaken. Instead of focusing on farmers’ decreasing incomes, the story focused on the declining income of the Alberta Beef Producers organization, forced to deal with farmers’ checkoff refund requests.

Undeterred, I carried on, looking for a story about the wolves in the system.

I found many production stories: branding, manure hauling, E. coli, yet another one on feed efficiency, etc.

Then I came to it, the story I thought I was looking for. Headlined “Industry has big four,” I thought I’d found CANADIAN CATTLEMEN’s exposé on retailer and packer power and profits. Nope. The story, by American Steve Kay, did focus on packers — U. S. packers — and did note high profits in that sector. But Kay was congratulatory, not accusatory. He related that number-four U. S. packer, National Beef, made a record profit in 2009, and that the other three made healthy profits as well. In all, the U. S. packing sector seems to have captured about a billion dollars in profits, after paying all expenses and six-and seven-figure managers’ bonuses. Astutely, Kay noted that packers’ “solid profits in 2009” are “because packers replaced their battle for market share with managing and optimizing margins.” I think that translates to: packers stopped bidding aggressively for cattle in order to increase profits. Hmm, the only wolves in Kay’s story were clothed in meticulously tailored sheep’s clothing.

Then I came to it (and did I feel stupid) a story on wolves—real wolves, with fur and scary eyes and big teeth. It hit me: CANADIAN CATTLEMEN was focusing on the four-legged varmints, not the two-legged ones. The magazine’s story on wolves cited farmer losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those are serious; if a large chunk of such losses fell on one operation, that ranch or farm would be bankrupt. But the real money missing from the system — the two or three billion dollars per year disappearing into retailer and packer profit statements — is a loss 10,000 times larger than that attributed to four-legged wolves. Given the large magnitude of that loss, and because I know CANADIAN CATTLEMEN is dedicated to bringing the truth to family farm cow-calf ranchers and farmers, I eagerly await the February and March and April editions of your fine publication and broader coverage that focuses on all the predators currently circling the Canadian herd.

DARRIN QUALMAN, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH NATIONAL FARMERS UNION

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