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Training The Next Generation

Jess Parsonage, Maple Creek, Sask., Adam Moseson, Wetaskiwin, Alta., and Jill Harvie, Olds, Alta., considered it an opportunity of a lifetime to participate in the first-ever Five Nations Beef Alliance Young

Ranchers Program held in Denver, Colorado, during the week of the National Western Stock Show in January.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), the Cattle Council of Australia, Meat and Wool New Zealand, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) of the U. S., and Mexico’s Confederacion Nacional de Organizaciones Ganaderas are members of the Five Nations Beef Alliance, established in the early 1980s as the Five Nations Beef Conference. The members meet regularly to collaborate on industry issues, such as eliminating non-science-based trade restrictions, and developing animal health and welfare and environmental strategies that won’t impede trade.

The Young Ranchers Program provides future leaders with an opportunity to build positive relationships, says Harvie, a rancher and a policy assistant with the CCA. On the heels of the success of the first Young Ranchers Program, the next is already being planned for Mexico in November.

If you are a beef producer between 18 and 35 years of age and are interested in this opportunity, keep in touch with your provincial industry association or the CCA for further details about how to participate in the coming months. The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA), Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), CCA and the Canadian Consulate in Denver, Colorado, sponsored the three young Canadian ranchers to attend the program at Denver.

Moseson, who runs a mixed grain, cow-calf and back-grounding operation with his parents, says it was great to be able to get all of these young individuals together to express their concerns because the challenges faced by young farmers are quite different from those experienced by established farmers.

He’s already taking an active leadership role in the beef industry having just been elected to his second term as an ABP director. It is a big commitment, he says, but like any other organization, you get out what you put in.

“If I want to be in the industry, I have to stay involved with it. The more contacts I have — domestic and international — in the different sectors, the better,” he says. The contacts he made during the Young Ranchers Program are as close as an email away.

Parsonage agrees that networking with others was a highlight of the week and maintaining those contacts is important. He’s definitely interested in keeping up with news and views about industry issues and hopes to become more involved in industry affairs as time allows.

Parsonage is a fourth-generation rancher. He and his wife Tanya raise and train working-ranch and barrel-racing horses and run a cow-calf and grasser operation. Their faith in the future of the Canadian beef industry is evident by the fact that they purchased their own ranch in 2006 despite the BSE trade crisis and resulting difficulties renegotiating the financing. It’s a heritage ranch near the Parsonage home

Some of the young ranchers on the program: back row (l-r): Adam Moseson, Wetaskiwin, Alta.; Jess Parsonage, Maple Creek, Sask.; Heidi Dennis, Canberra City, Australia. Front row: Jeff Homack, Willcox, Arizona; Fernando Gonzales, Nuevo Leon, Mexico; Oswaldo Chazaro, Veracruz, Mexico; Kimberly Rossi, Phippsburg, Colorado; Jill Harvie, Olds, Alta.; Estefania Arras, Chihuahua, Mexico.

place south of the historic Fort Walsh where his dad and brothers ranch.

Young ranchers round table

The inaugural Young Ranchers Round Table event was hosted by the Canadian Consulate on January 13. Parsonage says it was about how to make a better world for the cattle industry. The young ranchers from each country gave a speech on the challenges and opportunities of the beef industry in their country.

The Canadian and Mexican ranchers spoke about the impact of the U. S.’s mandatory COOL (country-of-origin labelling) policy, relating how it is one of the factors that has led to a decrease in exports to the U. S., which in turn has had a negative effect on the value of livestock and tightened up profit margins. The U. S. participants explained the initiative underway in Arizona, supported by government grants, to clear Mesquite shrubs and sow the land back to native grasses to support beef production. The Australians talked about their national livestock identification system and national database. The country’s traceability program has helped the beef industry succeed in the Asian markets, particularly Japan, which accounts for 25 per cent of Australia’s beef exports. The U. S. takes another 22 per cent.

“We learned that we all have the same struggles, even though we are from different countries.

“A few of the main problems are that the consumption of meat is down, cow herds are decreasing, and less young people are getting involved in the beef industry,” Parsonage says. “We all agreed that increasing the demand for beef worldwide is paramount.”

To promote the beef industry to consumers, the Young Ranchers Round Table adopted a project to produce a You-Tube video with clips showing the young ranchers from each

of the five nations on their own ranches talking about why they have a passion for being part of feeding the world by supplying a nutrient-dense protein.

The idea stemmed from a video produced by Harvie and the CCA for release on YouTube. It was viewed by more than 500 people during its first week online.

Highlights from the tour

Parsonage presented an overview of the week to delegates at the recent SCA annual meeting.

Their first stop was King Soupers, a case-ready processing plant that purchases boxed pork and beef from packing plants throughout North America and processes it into products such as steaks, shish kabobs, hamburger, stew meat and sausages. In responding to Parsonage’s question as to whether there is greater consumer demand for U. S. beef than beef from other countries, the King Soupers representative said consumers are just after the best price. Labelling the product in accordance with COOL regulations isn’t a big complication for the company — the computer is simply changed to label the beef with the correct information as it is processed.

The NBCA explained the need for Canadian cattle to keep the feedlots and packing facilities running in the U. S. The U. S. has capacity to feed 33 million head and is currently feeding 26 million. COOL isn’t popular with the NBCA because there is a feeling that this rule has over-burdened the U. S. cattle industry while disrupting trade with their top-two agricultural trading partners — Canada and Mexico. Consumers aren’t worried about the safety of beef, but they place a high priority on taste.

The group learned how the industry has increased the value of a carcass by $50 to $70 per head by creating new cuts, such as flat-iron, petite-tender and ranch-cut steaks from a chuck steak. They are now using the same idea to obtain more value from the chuck roll. Another initiative has seen recipes and calorie values placed on the label and promotions to market beef as a high-energy protein product.

The NCBA is very concerned about the activities of the Humane Society of the United States. With its focus being to destroy the meat industries, the society’s latest tactic is to reach the mainstream through churches and veterinarians. All sectors of the meat industry must work together to counter the attack.

Richard Brown, director of GIRA from London, England, was the keynote speaker at the International Livestock Congress. He predicts that the demand for beef will increase by 21 per cent during the next decade. Brazilians are currently winning the beef trade with 23 per cent of the world market, but they aren’t listening to customers, particularly the United Kingdom, which is demanding traceability. Animal diseases are viewed as a major threat to world beef markets and Brown is promoting traceability as a way to limit the impact. He also mentioned the prevailing “less meat, less heat” mentality at the recent climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Representatives from the cattle producers of the U. S. say the high cost of production is a major concern of producers. They have been purchasing products in volume, moving to later calving and feeding by-products to try to reduce operating costs.

The Young Ranchers visited three beef operations as well as the headquarters of JBS’s Five Rivers Feedyards, which is spread out over 13 feedlots in eight states. Another JBS company buys all of Five River’s fat cattle to market them to JBS and other companies to ensure that the feedlots are actually making a profit.

The main points that surfaced during the week were that most facets of the U. S. beef industry are not in favour of COOL. However, most are in favour of traceability because of its ability to help control and identify disease and its benefit in large world markets, Parsonage concludes.

He arrived home with a positive feeling that there are intelligent young people stepping forward to lead the beef industry. Countries need to work together to strengthen the industry in the face of obstacles such as animal diseases and animal rights groups, not “circle the wagons and shoot inwards” as one speaker from the NCBA put it.

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