NewStream Top 10: Popular farm animal care stories last year
Posted: January 15, 2015
As we kick off our coverage of the farm animal care sector in 2015, here's a look back on some of the key stories that generated buzz and interest last year. They provide a collective window on many of the trends and developments driving change that will produce major ripples in the months ahead.
10. Vet community steps up animal welfare profile
As the world of farm animal care continues to evolve in the new landscape of sustainability, various interests both within and outside the veterinary community are looking at the role of veterinarians with a different language and a different perspective.
It's all part of a new environment and new lexicon taking shape. Among the latest indications is a new statement, "The essential role of veterinarians in protecting animal, human, public and environmental health," delivered jointly by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).
9. Calgary Stampede targets animal care leadership
Calgary Stampede is a unique player in the world of animal care. It sits at the intersection of centuries of western heritage and a modern, largely urban society with rising expectations.
It has become a highly visible focal point of debate on the animal care issue. It has also taken a proactive stance as a leader – managing a pressure cooker of expectations while introducing clear initiatives that are making a difference.
8. One producer's journey to next generation poultry housing
Lethbridge, Alta. egg farmer Levi Hofer is like a lot of today's poultry producers. He has one eye on the present, the other on the future.
Like others in his industry, he has an opportunity to change his production system as part of normal business practices. In Hofer's case, at least some of the production facilities at the New York Hutterite Colony where he is egg flock manager were starting to age, so replacement or updating needed to be considered. But that needed to be done in a way that meets consumer and industry demands.
7. Two-stage weaning reduces calf stress
Two southern Alberta ranches are among those who have found a two-stage calf weaning program is not only much less stressful for livestock and improves rate of gain, it also makes for a much quieter weaning week.
The two-stage weaning system involves processing calves about a week before the actual weaning day to apply a commercially available plastic guard, or nose-flap in the nose of each calf. It is a small plastic plate, about the width of the muzzle and three inches deep, that just clips into the nostrils, similar to the plastic closers found on many bread bags. The Canadian-made flaps are marketed by the Saskatchewan company Quiet Wean.
6. Battle for the moral high ground
It's a powerful cocktail: religion mixed with rhetoric and emotional appeal. It's also a reality in today's animal welfare debate, says Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, executive director and ethics consultant for Worldview Resources International.
Some animal rights activist organizations are using religion as a powerful tool to wage war against the livestock industry, he says, and producers and their industry need to recapture the moral high ground in raising livestock to ward off that threat.
5. Verified Beef Program moves ahead on new modules
It's been a very active year on the sustainability front for Canada's beef industry. One of the most intriguing aspects was the announcement that the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program, the established on-farm food safety program for beef producers, would add new modules as part of the industry's efforts to anchor a new generation of on-farm sustainability.
4. Crossing the finish line on the Pig Code
It's one thing to say industry needs an updated Pig Code. It's quite another to actually get that done.
The task has not been easy. The lightening rod issue of sow stalls threatened to hijack the process. A perfect storm of industry challenges have made the timing difficult. And once a draft Code was achieved the process was flooded with feedback from a public comment period process that dwarfed all other updated Codes in the sheer volume not to mention emotion of responses it garnered.
So there was no small feat in the recent announcement late that farm animal care stakeholders made strong progress to forge agreement on the tough issues toward finalizing the renewed Code.
3. Big changes in pressure from animal activists
A lot has changed in the past few years on the animal activist challenge facing the Canadian livestock industry.
Paul Hodgman has seen it firsthand. He has spent a lifetime in the livestock business and today serves as a strategic lead with a business called the Ag & Food Exchange (AFX). It is a fee-based privately run, specialized information and consultation bureau developed with initial financial support from government and now operates based on support from the livestock and food industry.
2. Will the market pay more for welfare?
It's a deceptively simple question that encapsulates many complex and difficult realities for livestock producers and their industries.
Several key viewpoints were offered during a recent major webinar on animal welfare and the food industry, presented by World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility.
The high-tech session, connected via both the web and in-person TelePresence conferences in four Canadian cities – Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver – featured an expert panel that delved into a number of hot button topics. It started by quickly honing in on perspectives around the 'Will the market pay?' question.
1. Piercing the veil on sustainability
Sustainability means many things to many different people and organizations, says Cameron Bruett. To a social non-government organization (NGO), it's about labour rights. To an environmental activist group, it's about the carbon footprint of livestock. To the producer at the base of the food chain, it's an often confusing and threatening term meaning more pressures, scrutiny and risks to economic viability.
But what is true sustainability, really? Is it something producers and their industries should be afraid of? How can the issue be managed to be more about opportunities and less about challenges?
A wealth of insight was provided by Bruett at the 2014 Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) Future Fare event. As the Chief Sustainability Officer for JBS USA and president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, he brought an authoritative and often frank, no-holds barred take on the fast-shifting landscape around this issue.
Your turn. What ideas or concepts stood out for you in 2014? What will drive progress in 2014?
We welcome your feedback.