Category Archives: Cattle

We love the crop farmers

Vegan’s will say they love crop farmers who grow their food. But I can’t even repeat here what they think of livestock producers. So to say the least they’re a little confused when a mixed farmer like myself shows up to the debate. Do they love me or hate me? Most often it’s hate mixed with encouragement to only grow crops. “Why don’t you just grow crops?” First off, not all of my land supports growing crops. This world isn’t full of perfect 1/2 mile by 1/2 mile blocks of flat land. Some of its hilly, rocky, forested, etc. This is where I run my livestock & let them graze it. The rest is rotated between hay & crops. A number of years in hay production for livestock followed by a number of years in crop production is good for the land. Crop rotation is a foundation in agriculture for healthy land and plants.

On top of that crops that don’t make it to human consumption standards can be fed to livestock. All the way from salvaging crops that didn’t make it to maturity (green). To feeding harvested grain of low quality (feed grain). Livestock can make use of this & on my farm it doesn’t even have to leave the farm sometimes (saving a bit of transportation).

I wrote this early on in the debate on #farm365,

photo

But still I will get asked, “Are you saying you need livestock to grow a crop?” No, just about everyone knows you can throw some seeds in the ground and they’ll grow. Anyone that grows a garden with no livestock knows this and this is probably where that question comes from. But agriculture on a larger scale (than a garden) needs efficiencies to remain profitable and these efficiencies come from livestock that will consume poor crops. Crop waste and low quality crops all need to produce revenue for the crop farmer to face another year.

I remember one specific conversation with a vegan who did not understand this simple concept. He stated he’d eat anything a crop producer grows. I showed him that picture and told him to enjoy his corn. His reply was “You feed that rotten $%@$ to your cows? That’s horrible” Horrible because he wouldn’t eat it, therefore it’s not fit for a cow? I don’t feed my cows salad from the grocery store just as I don’t mow my lawn and have it for lunch. Livestock can and need to process what we can not.

To illustrate this I made a couple of flow charts. From chatting with vegan’s, first is about the average understanding of agriculture as it pertains to them. Second is my best attempt to explain a basic farmers understanding.

Veganside

Farmside

Even that seems a little over simplified. But that’s the point. Agriculture is all intertwined and complicated. It’s not a simple case of just making a seed grow. Crops & livestock evolved together as agriculture. It’s not just a simple decision of tomorrow we all start growing crops. There will always be crop producers and livestock producers because they work together. Mixed farm seems to becoming a historic term and maybe that’s part of the problem. Some consumers now see crop farmers or livestock farmers, they don’t understand doing both. They see black and white. Ranches, Dairies, Hog Farms, Grain Farms, Vegetable Farms, Orchard’s, Sheep Farms are all so specific terms but they’re all farms. Historically one farm could have been all of those. So maybe we have to do a better job showing we’re all connected, we all stand together as agriculture, as farmers, almost as one single large historic mixed farm. Something #farm365 is accomplishing thanks in part to those attacking it.

Another Calgary Stampede and another press stunt from the Vancouver Humane Society

http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/we-don-t-rope-babies-for-entertainment-new-ad-campaign-opposes-calf-roping-1.865875

Every damn year.

“We think we have right on our side,” says Peter Fricker of the Vancouver  Humane Society.  “We think it’s self-evident that if you chase an  animal across an arena, rope it to a sudden halt at very high speeds, pick it  up, and throw it to the ground it will cause fear, stress and pain. We think  that’s completely immoral and inappropriate for the 21st century.”

I think this Fricker (I can think of a better name close to that) thinks too much.  You know what, if you don’t like it, don’t go.  Plain and simple.  Don’t come out to the press and try to tell people calves are like human babies, come on.  Don’t plant yourselves outside the stampede gates with signs and tell people they’re horrible for supporting the stampede because of what it believes is ok.  They’re roping them, something that’s been done for hundreds of years to work with cattle.  Yes, it’s the 21st century and guess what Fricker it’s going to be done long into the 22nd, 23rd and 24th.  So get over it and move on because it ain’t going anywhere.  You don’t like seeing it, don’t watch.

We need to start ad campaigns promoting people to not donate money to the Vancouver Humane Society because they waste money on stupid shit like this instead of spending it on the animals in need.  Dog food, cat food, no, let’s spend money on an ad campaign bashing an event in another province.  Sad.  Just plain sad.

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How disappointing, “U.S. to appeal WTO’s COOL ruling”

Well decision made I guess,

U.S. to appeal WTO’s COOL ruling | Canadian Cattlemen.

And it was only a few weeks ago I happened to be listening to CNN on my satellite radio while making my way across the province.  I listened to President Obama announce the complaint filed with the WTO against China and their “rare earth elements”.  Saying,

If China would simply let the market work on its own we would have no objections, but their policies currently are preventing that from happening and they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow

But right after, he appeals the ruling handed down by the WTO saying that COOL restricts market access.  Makes no sense.  It’s pretty obvious that COOL does not let the market work on its own.  Pretty hard to cry foul while breaking the same rules.  Now this will drag on into the summer with appeals being  put together by bureaucrats, wasting more money out of beef producers pockets on both sides of the border.  Like I said before.  You want to know where your beef came from?  Then go buy it from a farmer’s market or local butcher that buys locally or from a farmer that sells it.  Someone that can tell you exactly where it was raised and more importantly how it was raised.  Not some stupid sticker on the package required by the USDA that really tells you nothing.

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Calgary’s cowtown image ain’t so cow or town anymore

Calgary, aka Cowtown.  Sure maybe years ago that was the case but that title should be taken away now.  Google search of cowtown gives me Calgary’s Wikipedia page as second result.  I know other cities around lay claim to that title like Fort Worth, Texas and others.  But in Canada cowtown lies solely to Calgary.  Anyway where was I.  Right, cowtown.  The other day I was reading a good article about how the cattle industry shaped Calgary’s formation.  I like old history books and articles on stockyards and packing plants.  This one explained the old stockyards location forming the eastside of Calgary over the years it was in operation.  The slaughter houses all contributing to Calgary’s growth.  The formation of the Calgary Stampede.  Calgary was once cowtown.  But look at it now.  The stockyards were swallowed up by city growth and pretty much forced to relocate out of the city.  They’ve been replaced with warehouses and special shops.  The packing plants slowly closed one by one, till the last one closed up shop just last year.  Not much was written, just that it closed and honestly with it, Calgary’s last remaining link to cowtown.  What’s left?  The Stampede?  Thousands of city dwellers going out to get mini donuts and watch salesmen try to sell non-stick pans while their kids ride the midway rides?  Sure there’s still the rodeo and chuckwagon’s but it all seems so much like a show put on for Calgary now.  A reason for the city to dress up in jeans and rolled up side cowboy hats that sit in their closets 11 months out of the year.  To go watch rodeo and have no clue what’s going on.

At least places like Fort Worth keep its history.  The stockyards district in Fort Worth.  The honoring of its past by saving it.  That’s cowtown.  What does Calgary do, pave it over and then fakely dress the city up every July.  Or in the case of its packing plant, turn it into a farmers market/theater with hardly any mention of its history.  Let me quote its website,

This unique building from the 1920s is nestled in the heart of the city near trendy Inglewood. Many weekend visitors say “It’s an important part of their community and essential to Calgary,” which is evident when you see hundreds of families and friends visiting their favourite cheese shop, local baker, butcher or leather shop.

Unique building.  Try, the historic Canada packers slaughter-house.  But no, just a unique building in Calgary.  A true cowtown would honour that and memorialize it.  And surround that area, where the stockyards once stretched, nothing but industrial area.  Wiped clean of anything related to cattle.  No plaque, no designation, nothing.  I’m sure in the not to distant future the now closed XL packers, the last remaining will be torn down and replaced with warehouses or a strip mall of some sort.

Calgary, with it’s “white hatting” ceremonies and its simple cowboy hat logo on its welcome signs that say “Heart of the new west”.  Maybe they should stop and think about the old west for a bit.  The old west that they’re destroying through being the centre of oil and gas development.  The expansion of the city lifestyle out into ranching country, breaking up large ranches into small acreages.  Cowtown?  Hardly.

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What happened to winter

It’s March already, what happened to winter?  Sounds like this warmer weather is all over North America this winter.  Little snow and warm weather.  I can’t really remember any winter like this.  We got warm weather with no chinook winds or arch.  Just plain warm, calm and warm.  Very odd.  I understand all the meteorologists have their reasoning for it and apparently in other parts of the world, they got a colder winter and more snow than usual.  I’m not a big one on global warming.  Overall it seems to be getting warmer right now but in the longer world history, temperatures have gone up and down on their own.  Last winter was more normal but years before have been a little light on snow.  This year though is definitely different and I can’t help but be a little irked by it in that it was so different.

Some of the agriculture groups here are already predicting doom and gloom.  From increased insects and pests to the obvious lack of moisture for crops to take off in the spring.  Maybe it’s just the normal push to sell crop and hay insurance.  I don’t like to predict much of anything.  I believe almost all the predictions for this winter were for very cold temperatures and lots of snow which was obviously completely wrong.  We could still get a blast of winter this spring but I don’t think it’s going to change the overall outlook of this winter.  Besides, you’ve gotta take ranching day by day and right now it’s pretty nice for getting into calving season.

Can’t help but think of Corb Lund’s song “The Truth Comes Out”

Yes, Corb’s in the CD player quite a bit in my rigs.  But he’s right with this song.  Things are changing.  We can’t deny it.  You go up north you’ll see the permafrost melting.  Corb talks about the cougars.  We’re heard more and more stories of people seeing them in the river valley pastures.  I did that blog on the wolves.  We used to only see wolves out on the land next to the green zone.  Now they’ve moved into more settled areas and we see tracks through pastures and hay fields miles from the green zone.  And it goes on and on.  Maybe it’s the oil, gas and forestry pushing into their wilderness but maybe it also has something to do with the weather.  Makes you wonder where we’re heading?  Guess best bet is still just to take it day by day.  Oh look, little snow, good for calving.

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Country of origin labeling M-COOL – The March Deadline Approaches

Alright, onto this.  I’ve realized most of the sites and people here are American so this one may hit home.  I’ve already read one blog on this and I’ve been wanting to do my take on it since the appeal deadline for the USDA is fast approaching.  I just read an article in The Western Producer that has had some of the smartest things I’ve heard yet on this whole issue,

http://www.producer.com/2012/03/u-s-report-favours-harmonization-in-meat-sector%e2%80%a9/

Finally someone’s getting this across.  And it’s part of the “Beyond the border” agreement between Canada and the United States back in December.  Finally some sense is coming back to this.  According to federal ag minister Gerry Ritz from the article,

For all intents and purposes for the beef industry, the border doesn’t exist. There is a free flow of cattle back and forth.

I want to post a comment I made on another blog a few days ago before this article came out,

I’m from Alberta and we’re on the other side of that labeling.  Labeling that’s labeled us different from the U.S beef supply.  I travel down to Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado a bit.  The Rocky Mountain range.  I feel as at home there as I do in Alberta.  It’s all western traditions, western ranching, western lifestyle.  But this labeling has drawn a line through our western ranching family.  A political line on a map that runs across the rockies.  Ranching doesn’t run east/west like the border.  Ranching runs north south with it’s heart in the foothills of the rockies.  Lines that divide and define that just don’t make sense.

Alright, now COOL.  Country of origin labeling.  Actually M-COOL Mandatory country of origin labeling, which is where the problem lies.  That simple word, Mandatory.  Now I understand most of my potential readers will be Americans that may not have ever visited Canada.  Here we have labels but they’re all marketing gimmicks.  You’ll see large signs in stores, “Alberta Beef” or “Western Canadian Beef” or “Canadian Beef”.  Marketing.  Now I don’t necessary agree with that because there’s no backing that up.  Most of the one’s that advertise Alberta Beef, I’m sure aren’t 100% Alberta beef.  But at the same time I don’t think there should be a rule making them prove it.  Honestly, if consumers really want beef that you know where it comes from, buy it from a small local butcher shop that has it processed locally and can show you that.  Or even better find a rancher that sells their own beef locally.  There are lots of them here in Alberta that have their beef provincially inspected to sell within the province.  Many are quite successful at it.  Once the government gets involved all it does is drive up costs.  Cost to the packers, feedlots and producers because in the end, they’re the ones that will end up paying for all this.

If you want to label beef, label it by what it was fed.  Corn fed, grass-fed, barley fed, etc.  Because then consumers can pick based on taste rather than what pretty coloured flag is on the package.  Like I said in my reply.  I travel down to the western states quite a bit.  I eat American beef, I visit with American ranchers.  We’re all the same and the vast majority of the beef that is affected by this law is Canadian beef.  According to that article,

Moens said this bill was the first of its kind in the world.

Country-of-origin labelling is usually done to increase product value, he added, but the American law added only costs.

Sorting cattle and hogs was expensive for processors, increasing the costs of imported cattle by an estimated $45 to $59 per head while the cost for handling U.S. cattle was just an extra $1.50 per head.

The costs created a strong incentive for processors to buy only American product rather than pay for extra segregation, paperwork and labels.

That’s just not right.  And obviously the WTO saw the same.  I look forward to hearing if the USDA will appeal or like this article says maybe M-COOL will be drastically changed for the better and the U.S and Canada can move closer to a unified beef market.

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Ranching and wolves

I’ve been hearing that more municipalities are instituting some sort of bounty on wolves.  I’ve heard anywhere from $150 up to $300 a wolf.  First let me say that I think wolves are amazing animals.  They are truly awe-inspiring to be seen in the wild.  But they are a predatory animal and at times prey on livestock.  Anyway it’s no surprise, these counties have been flooded with letters about how horrible that is and to not kill these majestic creatures.  Most I’m sure from those not involved in ranching and facing the challenges of wolves with cattle.  Just bothered by the idea of killing wolves.

It’s impossible to deny the fact that wolves are becoming more prevalent and destructive to the ranching community.  Wolf kills have been steadily on the rise the past few years.  Now a lot of wolf advocates will say the number of wolf kills is low by statistical data.  But in reality you need a certain percentage of the carcass to prove it’s a wolf kill.  So in most cases there isn’t enough of the carcass left to prove and thus count it as a wolf kill in statistical data.  Most of the time all ranchers find is a kill site.  So we can’t definitely know the number wolves take a year but it’s high.  Wolf advocates will also tell ranchers they need to institute predator control by using donkey’s or llama’s.  But what they forget is most ranches use dogs to work the cattle.  Helping move them from pasture to pasture.  If you have a predator control animal it’s going to go after the dog.  Even just having a donkey on the property could cause issues with dogs. 

Honestly the list goes on and on as to how to quote, “live with wolves”.  But they still don’t agree with controlling the wolves population by hunting.  It’s done for deer, moose, elk and other wild game animals to keep their populations in check, why not wolves?  The only difference is there’s not much incentive to go after wolves.  For hunters anyway, obviously ranchers have an incentive but often not the time.  So by offering a bounty you provide an incentive to go after them to control their populations.  We already know they’re on the rise.  Left unchecked, what is there to control wolves?  They’re at the top of the food chain and have no natural enemies.  So if we keep feeding them beef what’s to stop their population growth without predatory actions on them?  When they start attacking my cattle, they’re attacking my livelihood.  Wouldn’t you defend your livelihood?

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City people and cattle liners, why?

It’s articles like this that I read tonight in the Western Producer that just make me shake my head and wonder why,

Producers must provide answers

Accountability paramount | Experts call on industry to lead charge for animal welfare research

Posted Feb. 23rd, 2012by Robert Arnason

PIPESTONE, Manitoba — Canadian cattle producers are urged to pay more attention to the issue of livestock transport because consumers are certainly doing so.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association vice-president Martin Unrau recently said at a town hall meeting in Pipestone that federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz’s office receives more letters on livestock transport than any other issue.

“This is where the consumer sees the animals,” Unrau said at the meeting, which is part of a new communication effort to help the CCA connect with cattle producers.

“We have to be accountable to the public…. The perception has to be that we look after our cattle very well in transport.”

A Ritz spokesperson confirmed that the minister’s office received more than 200 letters on the topic last year.

Unrau’s comments were made weeks after dozens of animals died when a commercial cattle truck collided with a train north of Carberry, Man. That type of incident may be a random occurrence, but the related headlines and television news stories can potentially alter the public’s perception of livestock production and transport.

Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, who studies the transport stress of farm animals for Agriculture Canada in Lethbridge, said it’s hard to control the emotional reactions of Canadian motorists when they drive by a trailer filled with cattle, pigs or chickens.

Nevertheless, Canada’s cattle industry must be prepared to deal with the related questions and concerns, she added.

“If a customer has a question, they have a right to ask it. It’s going to look far better for the industry … if (it) can answer some of those questions honestly with some knowledge and science behind it,” she said.

One concern is the length of time that cattle are kept inside trailers.

Canadian regulations allow cattle to be transported for 52 hours without stopping for food or water, but animal welfare organizations such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) have argued that’s much too long and too stressful on the animals.

In its 2010 report on Canada’s farm animal transport system, WSPA referred to a Harris/Decima poll that said the public feels the same way.

The poll found that 96 percent of Canadians felt it is at least somewhat important to limit transport times to reduce animal suffering.

Unrau said reducing the maximum time inside a trailer would severely affect Manitoba cattle producers because the province is many hours from slaughter plants and major feedlot operations.

While he conceded that reducing the maximum time makes sense for animal welfare, he also said no one really knows the appropriate length of trip for a cold and vast country like Canada.

Animal welfare experts in Canada such as Schwartzkopf-Genswein are studying the issue, but there are many unanswered questions:
■ is it better to unload animals during a trip to provide food and water?
■ should food and water be provided on the trailer?

Schwartzkopf-Genswein said it may seem obvious that stopping for food and water or providing food and water onboard makes sense for animal welfare, but those questions lead to other questions.

“We’re not even sure if off loading for feed and water even helps the animals…. (Would) they even drink the water because it’s different to them?” she said.

“Is welfare better if they are provided with feed and water? Probably. But what do we do when it’s – 30 C and the water freezes?”

The livestock industry needs to find the answers or someone outside the industry may impose a set of regulations for livestock transport in Canada, Schwartzkopf-Genswein said.

200 letters? Seriously?  What is this world coming to?  Should food and water be provided on the trailer?  Honestly?  We’re taking this seriously?  Yes, I understand having a cap on the number of hours in a trailer.  Obviously you keep them in there long enough with nothing, they’ll die, so obviously.  But seriously.  It’s all a case of humanizing livestock.  These people driving in the city see a large livestock trailer packed with cattle and think that must be horrible because they imagine themselves in that situation.  Then ironically most of them pile onto a city bus or train at probably a higher density rate then the cattle liner.  Give me a break.  Why can’t people just look at it and go, you know what I don’t understand why they do that, I’m going to ask someone that’s involved in it to find out the reasons they do it that way.  Then I can make a reasonable and knowledgable decision on it.  NO!  They look at the trailer and go, That’s horrible, I’m going to write a letter to the Agriculture minister about how horrible and disturbing this is to me in my daily commute to witness this.  Maybe we should go back to cattle drives and get them writing letters that we’re tying up traffic.

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