Tag Archives: Cattle

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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The beginner farmer and rancher

It’s so hard to start farming today. Land costs, machinery costs, just costs. I’m so grateful for where I am but I can’t help but worry about the future. How is the next generation going to get into this? How can they? And when I see the so called programs put out to help them, it just makes me shake my head. AFSC has what they call their Beginner farmer loan. I’ve seen this at tradeshows I’ve gone to when I visit their booth. I’m not going to go completely into it but it basically gives a reduced interest rate for the first 5 years of the loan. Great. But let’s think what that really does. After those first years are over, the program’s done. So what does that encourage you to do? Start big and grow fast to make the most of the program. I started my ranch small and built it up over time. And by time I don’t mean 5 years. Hell, in the first 5 years I mostly just learned what not to do. But maybe that doesn’t work anymore. But I can’t understand putting a timeline like that and selling it to people starting out. It’s just things like that get to me. They promote it as helping young farmers. That’s not helping them. Why doesn’t the government come out with something useful. Something simple that really supports people that want to get into farming. They have these Growing Forward programs for various approved projects. You can get part of the cost covered if you qualify. Why not do that for those wanting to get into farming in the first place? For those that are qualified, cover part of the cost of starting out. Some of the max amounts for projects are up to $30,000. That could go a long way for someone starting out. I look at some of the kids that I hire on occasion to help me out. They’re so good with cattle and so energetic. But when I ask them about their future, it’s always the same, there’s no way they can financially start out on their own with the cost of everything. So they get their full time job in the oilfield and just get their ranching fill on their days off helping me. They say the average age of the Canadian farmer is 52 and rising. Guess I’m still bringing the average down for now. But with no one able to get in, what’s going to happen? I hate seeing all these well qualified potential ranchers having to go work in the oilfield because there’s no support for them to do what they’d be best at.

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Horse People and Cattle People

“Horse People”, why does that need to be a term?  Those of us in the general livestock world understand, there’s just plain “Horse People”.  Those that just have horses and think they’re somehow special for that reason.  I belong to and follow some forums, some based on cattle and some on horses.  I read and post occasionally.  But its observing and comparing the two that’s so interesting.  The cattle people are for the most part all so friendly.  Sharing and discussing cattle.  Talking prices and weather.  Then there’s the horse forums.  To quote Austin Powers “Spectacles, Testicals, Wallet and Watch”.  Where do I even start.  The conformation nazies that pick apart everyone elses horses.  The anti-slaughter wingbats cursing out anyone that believes different and telling the breeders they’re the most evil beings on earth for over-populating the horse world.  The ones that keep their horses blanketed and stalled thinking everyone else is abusing their horses.  The people obsessed with papers and lines.  And of course the know it alls.  Can’t forget the know it alls.  “Horse People”.  Why?  Then there’s real world.  I attend cattle sales fairly regularly for feeders in the fall and the occasional horse sale to look at some potential new saddle horses.  Cattle sale, we all visit, joke with each other, discuss prices and such.  Horse sales, whole other ball of wax.  Rudeness seems to run abound.  Last sale I went to I witnessed a horse owner yelling at one of the auction employees because their horse was put within sight of a stud.  Wasn’t even beside it’s pen, just within sight to make them act up.  It’s a horse auction, that’s what happens.  It’s not a horse auction just special for your damn horse.  But no, demanded their horse be moved to a special pen far away from any studs.  I made a mental note of the horse’s number and watched it later be sold to the meat buyer for the going rate.  Would it had been any different if it hadn’t been moved, NO.  “Horse People”.  And that’s just one experience I’ve had at horse sales.  Makes me not really want to go to horse sales anymore, just so I don’t have to be around these “Horse People”.  I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting older and less tolerant of this new society.  I’ve often said I can’t wait to be the old guy in the rocking chair on my deck, complaining about the world.  But I think I’ll find my saddle horses online from now on but they’ll have to have one requirement.  They must also own cattle or some other kind of livestock so I’m not dealing with “Horse People”.

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