Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 19

Perspectives on Canada's progress

October 17, 2013

Courtesy: Calgary Stampede

Viewpoints highlighted at the National Farm Animal Care Conference offer a snapshot on the key opportunities and challenges for livestock producers and their industry.

Big opportunities. Tough challenges. New approaches to building a roadmap to the future.

The rising activity, dialogue and debate around farm animal care today features plenty of these elements and more. A great place to get a window was the recent National Farm Animal Care Conference, Oct. 9-10, 2013 in Ottawa.

NewStream Farm Animal Care was there. Here's a small sampling among the many important perspectives offered during the two-day event attended by over 140 stakeholder representatives from across the country.

Cost sharing is critical

"The issue of cost sharing can be a sore spot for the industry. We are talking to retailers and food service but so far no one is really coming to the plate to say 'our consumers want this and we will pay for it'. If that was the case, converting to new systems would be easier as incentives would be there. But that's not what we're hearing. And there are no positive signals from governments either. Perhaps there will be assistance with research but overall, governments are not stepping up to help the industry. We need to address this because forced conversions will have farmers exit the industry and that is not the objective of the Code. It's not in anyone's interests to close facilities in Canada and fill the gap with imported product that doesn't have our standards, including welfare standards."

– Catherine Scovil, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Pork Council. The public comment period for the recently drafted updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs drew over 4,700 comments with the vast majority focused on the lightning rod issue of sow housing.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Caution urged in shipping cull cows

October 17, 2013

Courtesy: Canada Beef Inc.

Fall is a key time to get the message out

Canada's beef producers have built a strong track record in transporting beef cattle safely and effectively, but the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) says one part of the industry that needs more attention is cull cows.

Reynold Bergen Science Director of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) told the Canada Beef meeting in Calgary recently that the industry needs to be proactive on communicating the importance of managing transportation of cull cows. And fall of the year is a critical time to get that message out.

The industry has been more vigilant at measuring the health and wellbeing of cattle during transport, says Bergen, but when problems occur and the numbers are evaluated the group that clearly shows to be the highest risk group is cull cows. There is information on this in the animal welfare section at the BCRC website www.beefresearch.ca website that outlines this, he says.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Q&A: The science of sow housing

October 17, 2013

Courtesy: Alberta Pork

Perspective from Lee Whittington, President/CEO, and Dr. Jennifer Brown, Research Scientist - Ethology, with the Prairie Swine Centre Inc.

The previous edition of NewStream Farm Animal Care featured the findings of review on the science of sow housing by the Prairie Swine Centre, which focused on the "groups or stalls" question. (See the story, "Groups or stalls: Prairie Swine Centre weighs in" here.)

In Part Two below, PSC's Lee Whittington and Dr. Jennifer Brown offer further perspective on the review and its findings.

Q: Why did Prairie Swine Centre tackle the gestation stalls question?

Lee Whittington: The Prairie Swine Centre is a non-profit research corporation created 21 years ago and linked to the University of Saskatchewan. Our role is to look at science and technologies that assist commercial pork production.

Obviously today there is a recognized media pressure to shift away from stalls and for more producers to incorporate group management systems. There's a tremendous need to understand the effect that shift will have on individual pork producers and their farms. Prairie Swine Centre has a responsibility to meet those evolving production system needs by anticipating the right questions to research and develop solutions.

Click here to read the full story.

Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) drives forward

October 17, 2013

The leading training and certification program is broadenings its scope

A new generation of progress supporting the safe and humane transport of livestock in Canada is underway with the launch of the Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification program.

"Hundreds of transporters, shippers and receivers, and others, are trained and certified through CLT every year," says Geraldine Auston, Project Coordinator of the CLT Certification Program. "This is a major step forward to ensure this progress continues for many years to come and that more people across the country can participate."

Here's a rundown of the key details:

Building on success. The former Certified Livestock Transport training program was originally developed through Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in association with its sister animal care associations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. CLT was started in May 2007 and has enjoyed tremendous success and industry engagement at the regional level. This has included recognition of CLT as an innovative, pioneering program of its kind internationally and a leading example of industry-driven leadership in livestock welfare.

Click here to read the full story.


October 17, 2013

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

The A&W fallout: What does it mean for welfare?

The reaction to the A&W "no hormones, no steroids" campaign has been interesting to watch. It stands as an example of what happens when food companies attempt to incorporate a specific aspect of livestock production management into their brand image. And while the specific practices targeted here are not directly animal welfare related, this ongoing case study surely contains some valuable lessons for the welfare issue.

One message often repeated by many farm animal care stakeholders, including retailers and food companies, is that welfare should be a non-competitive issue. It's about working together to improve transparency and find collective approaches for continual improvement. Not about gaining a competitive advantage or directly pitting one type of production against another.

It bodes well for the farm animal care issue that food industry giants such as McDonald's Corporation have bought into this concept. This advantage will no doubt be critical to maintain for future cooperation and collective progress.

Bucking the trend: Canada gets new chair in swine welfare

Courtesy: Prairie Swine Centre

In the months following major Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research cuts, including to key animal welfare related positions, it is encouraging to see fresh approaches helping to shore up Canada's expertise and resources.

A major milestone was reached this week when industry fundraising achieved 50 percent of its target to establish a National Chair in Swine Welfare. The proposed Chair in Swine Welfare, an industry-wide initiative, has been gaining momentum with six provincial pork associations, and four pork processors committing to the five -year program to develop a dedicated team of researchers focusing on swine welfare. The Prairie Swine Centre and University of Saskatchewan have lead the charge to rally this support.

The Chair application will go forward soon to NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) as an IRC (Industrial Research Chair), a program that benefits industry development of applied and early discovery research. The program provides 50:50 matching funds to the industry financial pledges, for approved research programs.

Dr. Sandra Edwards, Professor and Chair of Agriculture, Newcastle University, UK has been selected as the successful candidate for the chair position.




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