NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 3, Edition 4
Special Report: The Livestock Care Conference
New frontiers take shape in farm animal care
April 2, 2015
Fresh insights and ideas showcased at the Livestock Care Conference help set a new pathway for industry-driven progress
Social license has become a polarizing term - some love it, some hate it. But for livestock producers and their industries the bottom line is this represents the new reality. The issue of farm animal welfare is one of the central topics that brings both complex challenges and rewarding opportunities.
How can animal agriculture navigate this issue and build a framework for success? A wealth of perspectives were offered at the Livestock Care Conference, hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care and the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.
The next big challenge: Professionalizing animal agriculture
April 2, 2015
Strengthening focus on the human element and shifting to a professional mindset can drive leadership in farm animal welfare, says Dr. David Fraser.
Much of the debate on farm animal welfare changes has centered on major infrastructure shifts such as facilities improvements and housing approaches. However arguably the greatest challenge – and also opportunity – facing animal agriculture may lie not in the physical environment but rather in the mindset of producers.
The human factor is a powerful one in determining the quality of animal welfare delivered, says renowned expert Dr. David Fraser of the University of British Columbia. Recognizing this and taking steps to ensure a professional, responsible mindset among everyone involved in handling and managing animals may just be the most impactful way to effect strong and sustainable welfare advancement.
"Very different welfare outcomes occur in the same type of physical environment – why is this?" says Fraser, speaking at the Livestock Care Conference. "Of course it's because animal welfare depends on so much more than just the physical environment. It depends strongly on the quality of animal care that the animals receive. This in turn depends so much on the knowledge, skill and attentiveness of the producers and staff."
Buzzworthy: Three main "take home" messages
April 2, 2015
These themes set the tone for debate and discussion at the Livestock Care Conference.
What was the Livestock Care Conference about? One simple way to reference what was covered is the agenda of the meeting. But equally important and often more telling is the chatter that takes place in and around the conference, during session breaks and informal visits where a lot of the knowledge sharing occurs.
Here's a snapshot of several' buzzworthy' topics from the conversation both during and around the proceedings, which serve as key "take home" messages from the event:
1. Leadership takes commitment
Safe to say there would be strong support among all Livestock Care Conference participants for the target that Alberta, all provinces and Canada as a whole adopt a path of leadership and continual improvement in farm animal care.
However progress takes resources. And even the best ideas hold little value without implementation.
Views from the frontlines
April 2, 2015
Identifying the building blocks of a strong future
The Livestock Care Conference provided a showcase of ideas and insights from a range of speakers helping drive progress in farm animal care.
Here are a few examples among many, which provide a window on the trending thoughts and evolving issues in increasingly high-profile area:
"Our commitment is that Alberta continues to be a leader in animal welfare and that consumers around the world know that. Accessing new international markets for our agricultural products is a priority and animal welfare is key to market access."
– Jason Krips, Deputy Minister at Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
#KeepingItReal: Building bridges in 140 or less
April 2, 2015
Honesty and not faking perfection are critical to telling agriculture's story in a way that resonates with all stakeholders, says Cody Creelman
Eights seconds is a good bull ride. In the new age of Tweets, Vines and Snapchats, it's also about all the time needed to create a viral video or have someone form an impression – good or bad – about animal agriculture.
So how can everyone from ranchers to industry leaders use the rising power of social media for the greatest benefit? Providing a wealth of insights on this topic at the Livestock Care Conference was self-described "#MoreThanJustaCowVet," practicing beef veterinarian and storyteller Dr. Cody Creelman of Veterinary Agri-Health Services Ltd.
Here are a few highlights, among many, from his presentation:
Heart of a farmer
April 2, 2015
New video series takes viewers inside the world of farm animal care
One of the latest examples of how industry is harnessing the power of storytelling to educate the public on farm animal care is a new "Heart of a Farmer" video series, which was developed through the collaboration of Alberta Farm Animal Care with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and the FarmOn Foundation as part of the "Telling Our Story" Project.
The first video in this series was shown at the Livestock Care Conference, featuring beef producer and AFAC board member James Jenkins. It shows the emotional impact real stories can deliver. Check it out here.
April 2, 2015
Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors
The Livestock Care Conference serves as a window on current industry progress and interests in farm animal care. Two clear priorities are to provide hands-on training and to encourage the involvement of students and young people who bring renewal and fresh perspectives to the industry.
Low-stress handling, body condition workshops score big
Curt Pate from Montana teaching low stress cattle handling
As a representative of producer groups, Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) regularly receives requests for hands-on educational sessions. Two popular session topics recently requested were low stress handling and body condition scoring for cattle.
In response to this, AFAC set up an afternoon session in conjunction with this year's Livestock Care Conference to help train producers and industry personnel on these two topics.
Curt Pate, Montana-based stockmanship instructor, started out the day with a Low Stress Cattle Handling Workshop. Pate showed how to set up a handling facility and demonstrated methods to "train" cattle. "Most people don't think about training their cattle, they think about tricking their cattle," he told the audience of more than 50.
Pate's short-course of what he likes to describe as "competent, confident stockmanship" was followed by a session on cattle body condition scoring by Kent Fenton, a veterinarian with Feedlot Health Management Services.
Fenton explained why body condition scoring cattle is important. Scoring is also a good indicator of health status as 80 to 90 percent of thin cows have something that is making them thin, things such as disease or calving problems. Body condition scoring should also be one of the determining factors as to whether or not you ship the animal, he says.
The best times to use this tool is 45 days post-weaning and again at 90 days pre-calving, says Fenton. It's one thing to judge an animal by a picture, but another to actually get your hands on the animal, he says. He wrapped up his session with an invitation to everybody from the audience to come down to the squeeze chute and actually get their hands on some cattle.
"The introduction of live animal workshops was a huge hit at this year's conference," says Kristen Hall, Marketing and Communications Manager at AFAC, adding "hopefully it can be a continued feature in years to come."
'Generation Z,' students breathe new life into farm animal care
One of the real benefits of the Livestock Care Conference is the opportunity for networking. This includes an opportunity for post-secondary students to meet with a broad cross section of industry during a "Meet the Experts" session designed specifically for this purpose.
"Alberta Farm Animal Care strives to connect people who care about livestock in the agriculture industry," says Angela Greter, Acting Executive Director of AFAC. "This year at the 'Meet the Experts' session just prior to the Livestock Care Conference, we had student representatives from Grande Prairie Regional College - Fairview Campus, Lakeland College, Lethbridge College, Olds College, University of Alberta and the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine."
This session has been running at the conference for a few years now, but 2015 sported the biggest turnout of experts by far with over 35 industry experts in attendance, says Greter. What makes an expert? If you work in the agriculture industry and you have valuable knowledge to share with the post-secondary students, you qualify as an expert in this event. Veterinarians, farmers, ranchers, instructors, researchers, commodity organization staff, and inspectors were just some of the experts in attendance.
The students had several opportunities to play some icebreaker games with these experts in order to get to know them on a more personal level and then began the "speed networking" portion of the afternoon. Because there was such a huge turnout of experts, the speed networking had to move quickly. Each time the students moved to a different table, they had two minutes to get to know who they were sitting with.
Greter says "One of the most important things the students took away is that there is an extremely significant group of people who believe in the agriculture industry and the care, health and welfare of animals that are in that industry."