Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 11

New animal care approaches for Calgary Stampede

May 23, 2013

Paul Rosenberg, is Vice President of Programing for Calgary Stampede

The world-class event continues to move forward with fresh ideas for managing welfare both on the ground and in the public eye

Few events have the worldwide recognition of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. That exceptional profile is what makes the Calgary Stampede such a focal point for the animal welfare issue.

As the 2013 Stampede approaches, NewStream Farm Animal Care visited with Paul Rosenberg, vice president of programing for a preview and update on the approaches planned around this year's version of the always dynamic rodeo, exhibition and festival.

The conversation touched on six key concepts that are shaping the latest thinking and progress related to animal care at the Stampede.

Courtesy: Calgary Stampede

1. The three Cs. The concept of "three Cs" is a big driver, says Rosenberg. Competence, confidence and communication are all pillars around which Calgary Stampede anchors its animal welfare activity.

"Competence boils down to prove it, and prove it again," he says. "We focus on continuous improvement through review, analysis and regular operational and risk audits of animal activities. We want to ensure we do everything possible to create safe conditions and incorporate high standards."

At the highly visible event it's critical this competence permeates throughout everyone involved in working with the animals. "Our values must be conveyed through the behavioral standards and actions of all of our staff, exhibitors and competitors. The animal handling skills and procedures of our people are transparent to 1.3 million visitors and millions more watching the broadcast at home."

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Crunch time for key Codes

May 23, 2013

Beef, pig and equine taking shape

The Codes are arguably the biggest development on the horizon that will impact livestock producers and their industry at an on-farm level, by setting an updated framework for Canada's approach to farm animal care.

Action on Beef Cattle Code. The two-month public comment period that began Jan. 8 wrapped up on March 8 and since then the Code Development Committee (CDC) has been in the process of considering the wide range of feedback received. Following the NFACC-coordinated process, the committee will now revise the Code as needed based on the feedback and then submit a final Code to NFACC. The Code is expected to be released this August.

Examples of priority welfare issues addressed by this Code include those related to painful procedures, feedlot health and morbidity, environmental and housing conditions and weaning. Learn more here.

Courtesy: Alberta Pork

Pig Code moving forward. The CDC on the Pig Code has submitted its draft Code to NFACC and it is scheduled to be released for the 60-day public comment period beginning June 1.

Examples of priority welfare issues addressed by this Code are those dealing with pain management, space allowance, sow housing and euthanasia. Learn more here.

Equine Code set for launch. This is the next Code that will be final and ready for release, which is anticipated during June.

For this Code, the priority welfare issues addressed include a number in the categories of housing, health, handling and training, feed and water, and feedlots.

Watch for regular updates on all the Codes in future editions of NewStream Farm Animal Care.

AMI champions welfare transparency with 'Glass Walls' project

May 23, 2013

Video tour of a pork packing plant is the latest release from this increasingly high-profile initiative

Proper animal handling
(Courtesy: Alberta Pork)

Is transparency the right game plan to build public trust on how animals are handled and slaughtered?

If 15,000 YouTube views within a few days, a wealth of cross-country news coverage and broad positive response from both within and outside the livestock industry are any indication, a new video release from the 'Glass Walls' project of the American Meat Institute (AMI) makes a very strong case for this approach.

The innovative project was developed by AMI to give consumers, media and others interested in animal welfare in the meat industry accurate information about how animals are handled and slaughtered in U.S. meat packing plants. This has included the production of 'video tours' showing the full process at typical large plants, from the time animals are unloaded on through to the completion of processing.

The video tours feature renowned animal welfare expert and livestock industry advisor Dr. Temple Grandin, who explains the animal handling and slaughter practices shown. A beef plant video was released in 2012 and a pork plant video has just been released in early May 2013. The beef video now has over 50,000 YouTube views and the pork one is on pace for similar exposure. In addition to widespread media coverage, AMI has received over 250 requests (and counting) from school teachers to obtain the video in DVD format for use in the classroom.

Click here to read the full story.

Looking behind the Glass Walls: Q&A with Janet Riley

May 23, 2013

Crunch time for key Codes

Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute (AMI)

Q: Take us behind the scenes. What were the key drivers of Glass Walls?

Riley: There were a few things coming together.

First, there were some activist videos that we were trying to respond to. We wanted to tell media, "No, this isn't how we handle livestock in our plants." But we didn't really have anything to show them to prove what we were saying. So that was very frustrating. It became clear to me that we needed something to be able to show people, to say very clearly "This is how it really happens.'

At the same time, there was enormous demand brewing from consumers for greater transparency.

Another element was some information from the researcher Dr. Wes Jamison. He had concluded through his research that if you showed someone something like slaughter done properly and educated people, you could inoculate them against bad information. Because the reason they're very susceptible to some of the bad news made by activists is that they really don't have anything to evaluate it against. They haven't been in plants and they don't have an exposure to agriculture today. So we needed to give them that ability to think critically.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Drivers of Care: Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein (Part 1 of 2)

May 23, 2013

Insights on the big priorities for research and industry progress

Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein receives an award for animal care from Greg Bowie of Alberta Beef Producers

"How can we do things better?"

This simple, yet often powerful, question is one that has long fueled the innovative research mindset of Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein. It's a question that today she applies in working with livestock producers and their industry to find new opportunities for advancing farm animal care and managing this increasingly high profile issue.

She knows animal physiology and behaviour. She also knows the beef industry. A researcher in beef cattle welfare at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge, Schwartzkopf-Genswein grew up on a farm in southern Alberta that has been active in the feedlot business for over 40 years.

Her work has included a strong focus on animal welfare standards and reducing transport stress, as part of a broader research interest in pain and stress assessment and mitigation strategies associated with a range of management procedures. She has also conducted research in the area of feeding behaviour of beef cattle as it relates to morbidity including acidosis and respiratory disease.

Well recognized as a top technical advisor in these areas, she regularly provides expert advice to both provincial and federal producer groups on issues related to beef welfare and most recently co-chaired the scientific committee for the Beef Cattle Code of Practice. She is the recipient of the 2013 Award of Distinction from Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).

NewStream Farm Animal Care visited with Schwartzkopf-Genswein to gather insights on beef cattle welfare research today, the key priorities ahead and the questions and developments driving a new generation of progress.

Click here to read the full story.


May 23, 2013

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

Ag Canada research cuts catch industry by surprise

Hundreds of Federal civil servant positions were cut in early May and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was reportedly one of the hardest hit departments. Emails and social media flowing across the network soon showed that several significant animal welfare positions were among those lost.

The agriculture industry was caught off guard by the announcement and as this edition of NewStream closed, more complete details were emerging and industry was grappling with what it will all mean for industry and research. One clear theme to the initial industry reaction is amazement and head scratching about the rationale. With animal welfare a growing and key issue in sustainability and ultimately in trade and market development, losing that sort of capacity will hit hard at progress.

No doubt there will be more pushback to come on this one.

Animal activist group launches fundraising campaign

The anti-livestock Mercy for Animals Canada has launched an aggressive billboard fundraising campaign in May in cities across Canada. Billboards showing a puppy and a pig, another with a kitten and a baby chick had the message "Why love one and eat the other," and the supporting message "Choose vegetarian."

Farm animal welfare groups say they believe the public will look past the shock tactics used in the ads to see the campaign as the aggressive pitch for funds that it is. However, this is one of several activist efforts up and coming that continue to challenge the industry.

U.S. pork producers push back on sow stalls

The pork industry stance on sow stalls has taken on a decidedly different tone south of the border.

Under pressure from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Burger King recently announced its decision to join other retail giants in phasing out sourcing from production with sow stalls. The move drew a sharp reaction from the National Pork Producers Council.

"The National Pork Producers Council is concerned that such action will significantly increase production costs – and eventually consumer prices - force U.S. hog farmers out of business and lead to more consolidation of the pork industry, all with no demonstrable health benefits to sows," the council said in a release.

It didn't mince words in criticizing the influence of HSUS. "While NPPC respects the right of companies to make business decisions that are in their best interests, it seems that Burger King was bullied by an animal rights group whose ultimate goal is the elimination of food-animal production. The Humane Society of United States has no concern for the hog farmers who care for their pigs every day, for families struggling to purchase food or for the hog farms that likely will go out of business - costing rural America thousands of jobs - because of its campaign against America's farmers and ranchers."

The National Pork Board joined NPPC in reaffirming a position of "producer choice" on sow stalls. Canada has moved in a different direction with industry participating in Codes of Practice process and being more open to change over a reasonable time period. Needless to say it will be interesting to see how these two different approaches play out in the months ahead.




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