December 2008 Archives
According to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) November/December newsletter Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is so far costing Canadian cattle feeders and cow/calf producers about $90 per head.
There is really no ‘good news’ scenario to this situation. COOL refers to legislation introduced in the U.S. earlier this fall, that requires all meat – beef, pork poultry, bison, lamb – produced from animals born, raised and fed outside of the United States to be labeled and displayed as such by U.S. meat retailers.
The net result of having to segregate these animals and meat through the U.S. food chain is that fewer and fewer meat packers and retailers want to be bothered with Canadian-raised animals. And if they do, it is at a considerable discount.
The CCA is monitoring the situation and trying to keep producers up-to-date and aware, but there is little that can be done. The CCA says there may be opportunity for a legal challenge to COOL but that would be a long and costly process.
If you get to the CCA website at www.cattle.ca and click on the COOL update link, you can get a very clear picture of the situation.
There are five labeling classification under COOL: Classification ‘A’ refers to labeling of meat from cattle born and raised in the U.S. ; ‘B’ refers to Canadian born feeders fed in the U.S. (for a period of time); ‘C’ refers to Canadian-fed cattle imported for immediate slaughter; ‘D’ refers to foreign meat imported into the U.S. labeled ‘Product of Canada; and ‘E’ refers to labeling of ground beef products. COOL does not apply to meat used in foodservice or processed foods.
As of the December 23, 2008 update, only two large U.S. packers, two mid-size U.S. packers and one small U.S. packers were accepting C classification cattle. The CCA reports that starting in January Cargill will be accepting B classification cattle at its Fort Morgan, Colordao and Plainview Texas plants, but no more C cattle. Tyson is no longer accepting C Class cattle.
A more detailed explanation is found in the CanFax report on U.S. packer procurement policies on the CCA website.
The CCA monthly newsletter is also available on the CCA website.
Not that I am a wise old historian, but I really can’t think of a time in recent history anyway, where the beef industry, the agriculture industry, or the whole economy in general has been in such a state of turmoil.
Who and what is going to survive through 2009?
It is too easy to fall into the negative and depressing thinking that the above headline suggests. This is frustrating, this is awful, woe is me, the sky is falling, etc.
I don’t have a yard full of cattle that are barely worth the cost of production to worry about. I don’t have to figure out if there is a profitable crop I can grow on 5000 acres of these snow-covered fields next spring.
But sitting here in my warm office on a cold December morning, I have no guarantees that I will be doing what I am doing this time next year. I hope so, but you never know. Six months ago did you know General Motors would be broke?
And I can only suspect that in the last few months we have probably lost 15 to 20 percent of the value of what little savings and investments we did have. Freedom 55 just got slid a little further off into the future.
Have we hit bottom or how much further…how much worse can the situation get?
I don’t expect us all to hold hands and burst into song, but the truth is regardless how bleak, depressing, frustrating things get, the sun will come up tomorrow morning.
We can’t change yesterday, we don’t know what tomorrow brings and we have no control over it anyway. You do the best you can today.Enjoy what we have, and be grateful for what we have. “Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun!”
Have a good holiday season and know too that 2009 will be a good year.
Here are some facts about the Canadian beef industry, you probably didn’t know – and these come via Neil French, a beef specialist and instructor at Olds College.
Largest cattle producers – Assuming on any given day there are a little over a billion head on cattle on the planet, India has the largest cattle herd in the world with about 279.7 million head or roughly 27 percent; Brazil is next with 166 million head, or 16 percent; China is third with 145 million head, or 14 percent; the U.S. is fourth with 98 million head or 10 percent; and the E.U. is fifth with 88 million head or 8.5 percent. Canada is 11th with about 14 million head, which is about 1.5 percent of the global herd. And we’re talking cattle here, not just beef animals.
A comment from Neil “When the Canadian cattle inventory goes up five percent it seems like a big deal and if we have border issues it is. In the world scene, if Canada increases its beef output by five percent it changes world production by only .1 percent. If Canada increased its beef supply by 50 percent it would change world beef production by only one percent.”
Largest exporters – The largest beef exporting country in 2002 was Australia with about 21 percent of the world market, followed by the U.S. with 16.5 percent of the world market, and Canada in third with about 15 percent of world market. According to Canfax figures for 2007 that has shifted, with Brazil leading world exports with about 25 percent of the market. Australia is in second place with about 18 percent of the market, and Canada is still in third place, but with about 10 percent of the world market.
Biggest importers – In 2002, the U.S. was the largest importer of beef in the world with about 25 percent of imports, followed by Japan with 12 percent of imports. In 2007 the U.S. was still the largest importer at 28 percent, however Russia was in second place with 12 percent. (While we often see TV images of a poor infrastructure and an outdated economy in Russia, the fact is that the booming Russian oil industry has created more millionaires and billionaires in Moscow than in Alberta.)
Canadian beef customers – In comparing figures for 2002 and 2007,the U.S. is still Canada’s largest customer for beef (who knows what 2009 will look like). The U.S. imported 266,000 metric tonnes of beef from Canada in 2002 and that increased to 298,000 metric tonnes in 2007. Mexico is No. 2 importing about 27,000 metric tonnes in 2002, with a big increase to 40,000 metric tonnes in 2007. Japan was the third largest importer in 2002 importing about 8,000 metric tonnes, but by 2007 Canada’s third largest beef customer was Hong Kong and Macau importing about 15,000 tonnes. Japan is gone.
Beef production in Canada – Western Canada dominates beef production in this country. In 2002, about 40 percent of the beef herd was in Alberta, 25 percent in Saskatchewan, 12 percent in Manitoba, nine percent in Ontario, and six percent
In B.C. In 2007, Alberta still had about 40 percent, but Saskatchewan had increased to 30 percent. On the feeding side, 71 percent of Canadian cattle are fed in Alberta, with nine percent in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and 18 percent in Ontario.
- Did I happen to mention that Hereford and Hereford-cross cattle consistently (99.9 percent of the time) produce AAA and prime carcasses, with an 85 percent meat yield, are the most flavorful and most tender, are the most docile, have the highest feed efficiency, have 99 percent conception rates, do best on plain straw, and can be trained to close the gate behind them when they leave a field. I bet a lot of you didn’t know that. (Actually I made most of that up, but since the Canadian Hereford Association offered me a seat at a recent beef school I thought I owed them a really good plug).
Bart Lardner, who conducted research at the WBDC’s Termuende Research Farm, near Lanigan, Sask., told producers attending the Western Canadian Grazing Conference in Edmonton, that putting calves on barley or millet swaths held cost of production to 63 to 87 cents per head per day, respectively. While, a group of calves back grounded on a more conventional hay and supplement ration in a feed yard cost $1.17 per head per day to feed.
Performance wise calves on the golden millet swaths gained 1.3 pounds per day, calves on the barley swaths gained 1.9 pounds per day, and dry lot calves gained 1.6 pounds per day.
On top of the feed and yardage cost savings, Lardner said nutrients in the manure left by calves over wintering on pasture added about 35 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
Lardner points out his figures are based on a research farm situation, but says the study does show the potential of swath grazing as an economical option for back grounding calves.
For more details on Western Beef Development Centre research visit their website at www.wbdc.sk.ca
I just got back from the Canada Beef School at Olds College, so please call me for any facts and definitive answers to questions about the Canadian beef industry you may have. Heck, I’ll even make it global – call with any questions you have about beef on the planet. I now have all the answers.
Seriously, it was a great three days at the school. This was the seventh school that Olds has staged - they usually run it twice a year. It is an excellent learning opportunity for cow/calf producers, feeders and any one interested in learning how the beef industry in Canada runs. In my business, we writers are notorious for writing about things we know nothing about. Well, now, for me, a few more pieces of the puzzle are in place. There isn’t an awful lot of information about daily beef herd production issues. But, as they say, this school is a look under the hide. What happens after the animal leaves the feedlot?
So it is about carcass quality, carcass grading, and meat cutting. What are the primal cuts and how are they broken down into retail cuts? What are the challenges (and options) that packers and retail cutters face in trying to present good quality beef to consumers. (Photo at right, Allan Wilson, beef producer from Bentley, AB gets serious with a primal cut.)
here was a lot of good information and discussion about factors affecting meat quality and carcass quality on the farm or ranch. What can producers do to hopefully produce cattle with more of those AAA Yield Grade 1 carcasses? And there was also discussion about whether cow/calf men and women should be striving to produce those AAA carcasses. What is the most economical and the most marketable grade?
And it isn’t just classroom time. You’re in there like a dirty smock (not a good analogy to use when we’re talking about cutting meat and proper hygiene), but you can be up to your elbows learning what’s involved in inspecting and grading carcasses, and then wrestling these sides on to the cutting table and getting hands-on training on how to properly cut meat.
There were about 20 of us in the class. Most where cow/calf producers, although there were a couple feeders, one representative from Loblaws (President’s Choice) foods in Ontario, an animal health company rep, and me.
Jim Hansen, an Alberta Agriculture beef specialist based in Cardston, came across a similar school in the U.S. a few years ago and brought the idea back to Canada. Working with Olds College, they developed a course outline, course materials, and lined up well qualified, and knowledgeable instructors to deliver the course.
Working with Jim to organize and deliver the course is Brad McLeod, co-ordinator and instructor of the meat program at the college. Then over the three days you hear from several specialists like Neil French, college instructor; Kellie Jackson a food safety specialist; Mick Price, retired beef specialist University of Alberta; Sandy Stafford, a provincial meat inspector; Richard Heninger, with the Canadian Beef Grading Agency; Russ Horvey, a former beef specialist with Alberta Agriculture; Pat Ramsey, a current beef specialist with Alberta Agriculture; Susan Church with Alberta Farm Animal Care; and Duane Ellard, with the Beef Information Centre, to name a few.
You’ll read more about these and other instructors and their topics in the coming issues of Grainews.
I had thought about going to this school for some time, but every time I got serious, the class was full. This fall, I had the good fortune of being offered a seat in the classroom by the Canadian Hereford Association (CHA). The Canadian and Alberta Hereford Associations were main sponsors of the November 2008 school. The Alberta group supplied the cross bred steers that made the ultimate sacrifice to provide the carcasses the class learned on. And the Hereford associations also covered the costs of some great sweat shirts for the whole class. If you ever need to go to an event that requires you wear an item of clothing with a carcass meat-cutting chart on it, then this is the sweat shirt you need.
It was just by coincidence that we learned at this school that Hereford and Hereford-cross cattle consistently (99.9 percent of the time) produce AAA and Prime carcasses, with an 85 percent meat yield, are the most flavorful and most tender, are the most docile, have the highest feed efficiency, have 99 percent conception rates, do best on plain straw, and can be trained to close the gate behind them when they leave a field. I bet a lot of you didn’t know that. (Actually I made most of that up, but I thought I owed CHA a really good plug).
The school was great. Unfortunately, unless they start running it on a weekly bases, it will be difficult for many producers to get in because it is so popular, but it is worth a try. For more information on the next course call 1 800 661 6537 Ext. 4677 or visit their website at: www.oldscollege.ca