Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 3

Straight talk for the New Year

January 10, 2013

Doug Sawyer

Doug Sawyer highlights five factors to add to your watch list for 2013

It's a fact as clear as the rising sun on a crisp New Year's Day morning over Doug Sawyer's Pine Lake, Alberta, area ranchland. As 2013 kicks off, there's no doubt the issue of livestock welfare has ascended to become a big and likely permanent part of the emerging "sustainability file" for global agriculture.

"There's no doubt that's where it is," says Sawyer. "There's going to be more talk. More focus. More questions and expectations for our industry to deal with. But there are also opportunities for us to manage this issue well and come out ahead."

Sawyer, who was recently re-elected as chair of Alberta Beef Producers, has had the opportunity to develop a better read than most on the pivotal year ahead and the dynamics involved around the livestock welfare. The cow-calf producer has a long history of involvement in sustainability issues, including work on livestock welfare through his years of service – including several as chair – with Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).

Always a straight shooter with a common sense perspective, Sawyer took time from his ranch duties to discuss some top-of-mind thoughts.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

The 30,000 foot view: Bold new steps on the global agenda (Part two)

January 10, 2013

What's happening around the world that matters now for Canada, with colour commentary from UBC animal welfare expert Dr. David Fraser

David Fraser

The world is stepping up its game in farm animal welfare.

In part two of this look at key global developments, University of British Columbia animal welfare expert Dr. David Fraser highlights an innovative effort gaining steam in Canada, along with European and South American progress.

(Missed part one? Click here to view)

National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council

On the home front, a key big-picture development that also promises to hold substantial profile on the global radar is the activity of Canada's own National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council.

What it is. This group, a mix of government and industry representatives and experts, was formed as an advisory council to the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Regulatory Assistant Deputy Ministers of Agriculture Committee. It has focused on coordinating the development of a national strategy on all aspects of farm animal health and welfare.

Click here to read the full story.

Drivers of Care: Q&A with Clover Bench

January 10, 2013

Insights on the big questions in farm animal welfare and what fuels today's research

Dr. Clover Bench

The Drivers of Care series is designed to harvest fresh insights and perspectives from some of today's leading drivers of farm animal care progress. This edition features Dr. Clover Bench of the University of Alberta.

Bench wears many hats. She runs a busy research program, teaches and mentors students and is heavily involved in industry and public outreach. Bench also has a lifetime of experience with youth 4-H Clubs and has worked to build a strong connection between university students in her faculty and youth 4-Hers in the province. What binds all of her professional activities is a focus on farm animal behaviour and welfare.

Bench is also a board member of Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) and is widely recognized in the province for her role as a strong and active communicator on farm animal welfare.

From the perspective of your program, what have you noticed about how farm animal welfare research is evolving today?

Bench: My research program takes an ethological approach to the study of food animal production systems, focusing on animal behaviour. We study the behaviour of food animals in their environment in order to improve animal well-being.

Click here to read the full story.


January 10, 2013

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

Codes and the pork industry

Codes talk is heating up in the pork industry. A good window on what's happening comes from Bernie Peet, the veteran pork industry journalist. Peet brings a unique blend of on-the-ground production experience in North America and intentionally, along with communications skills as a respected writer and editor with Western Hog Journal. Writing in his regular column in Alberta Farmer Express, Peet covered the discussion of Code of Practice for Care and Handling of Pigs at the recent Saskatchewan Pork Symposium.

He says delays in the release of the Code for pork are not surprising given the challenge of getting groups of hog producers, industry representatives and people from human societies to agree on standards for pig welfare.

There's no doubt proposals on sow housing will have the most financial impact on producers and will not be popular when the industry has been in a long-term squeeze for the past five years, he says. However a move by the industry itself to set the agenda and take action on the issue, rather than be forced to change by animal welfare groups or retailers will be better for producers in the long term.

The Codes have been a popular discussion at many meetings in all sectors and NewStream Farm Animal Care has carried several articles on the ongoing discussions. View "The Codes 101" here.

Think like a boy scout

The old boy scout motto of "Be Prepared" has likely never been more important for the livestock industry on the animal welfare front.

The last few weeks have brought broad media coverage from animal welfare pressure groups and that pressure will only increase.

For example, a Reuters news report carried broadly in media outlined a new tactic by the Humane Society of the United States of going straight to investors by buying shares in major pork producers, Tyson Foods Inc. and Seaboard Foods.

A relatively small investment in shares will allow the group to introduce shareholder proposals in a bid to engage shareholders and force farmers to change production approaches such as stopping the practice of housing pregnant sows in gestation stalls. The Humane Society in on record as saying it will not be afraid to use tactics such as undercover videos, social media campaigns and shareholder activism.

Canada's livestock industry continues to work to ensure it is responding responsibly and effectively to these pressures. One of the best examples is the work done by Crystal Mackay, Executive Director for Farm and Food Care Ontario. A strong voice for animal agriculture on issues such as animal care, food safety and the environment she has been speaking widely advising agriculture on how to be prepared.

She'll bring her message of telling agriculture's story to the Banff Pork Seminar Jan 16 and 17, 2013. It's a good blend of common sense and blunt advice that will be necessary to meet the challenge of these activist groups and build trust with consumers and the general public.

Comment period starts for Beef Code

The new draft Beef Code is out of the gate.

Beef producers are invited to provide their input on the new draft Code of Practice for the Care and handling of Beef Cattle. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) announced the launch of the public comment period from January 8 to March 8, 2013.

Producers can view and provide comments here, through the NFACC website. Watch for more details on the Codes in future NewStream Farm Animal Care editions.




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