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2014 Livestock Care Conference Special Meeting Report

2014 Livestock Care Conference Special Meeting Report:
Table of Contents

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What do the latest trends and developments in farm animal care mean for producers, industry and other stakeholders? What is needed for Alberta and Canada to lead and succeed? That's the focus of the March 26-27, 2014, Livestock Care Conference featuring leading industry and international experts.

Inside LCC Blog

News from the Meristem editors covering the 2014 Livestock Care Conference. LCC News Blog items are available for reprint. Please credit "Meristem Land and Science" and include an active link to www.meristem.com.

New executive members for AFAC

Date posted: March 31, 2013

Brian Chomlak, new AFAC Chair

The 2014 annual general meeting of Alberta Farm Animal Care brought a change in the executive for the organization.

Brian Chomlak of Alberta Beef Producers takes over as chair, replacing Heini Hehli of Alberta Milk. Hehli remains on the board. James Jenkins of Western Stock Growers Association is the new vice-chair and Ite Veurink of Alberta Chicken Producers is new finance chair. Laurie Fries of Alberta Goat Breeders Association was elected director at large.

LCC 2014 photos available

Date posted: March 31, 2013

Media and industry communications people who would like to have photos of the speakers and student sessions at the recent Livestock Care Conference (LCC) can get them by contacting Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) or by contacting Meristem editors at .

The photos were taken by Megan Lemoine a photography student who runs her own studio, Nutmeg Photography. Lemoine was one of a large contingent of students participating in the conference. Student education is a cornerstone of the LCC and an important goal for AFAC generally.

Students and mentors at LCC 2014

Industry innovators showcase progress in action

Date posted: March 28, 2013

Joe Kleinsasser

Five presenters at the 2014 Livestock Care Conference were perhaps the most visible example at the seminar of the progress at the leading edge of farm animal care. The five, three producers, a small meat packer and an industry equipment supplier, described solid animal care developments being implemented today.

Based on questions and hallway conversations, all five presenters clearly made an impact with the audience. Here's a snapshot of their innovations and leadership.

Joe Kleinsasser, Big Bend Colony, Lethbridge, Alta. This colony pioneered the first furnished housing system for laying hens in North America. That system provides a more open, natural environment with scratch pads, nesting areas and perches. A search of more than 20 of these types of systems worldwide produced a system he believes is good for the birds and the producer.

Levi Hofer

Levi Hofer, New York Colony, Lethbridge, Alta. Hofer's colony has also switched to a furnished system in their laying operation. "As a manager I love it because I can communicate with my flock by adjusting the tools of producing an egg – feed, water, humidity, air quality, lighting. I can talk to those birds and they can talk back to me."

Cherie Copithorne-Barnes

Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, CL Ranch, Jumping Pound, Alta. Copithorne-Barnes is CEO of a heritage family ranch that calves out 1,250 cows, runs a backgrounding lot and farms a large crop base with many producer partners just west of Calgary. An energetic and capable spokesperson for the industry with international ranching experience she emphasized the importance of relationships. "Farm animal care is an important part of the quality of our product and our image with the public," she says. "It's something we do every day and we need to be spreading awareness of that."

Kevin Meier

Kevin Meier, Sangudo Meats, Sangudo, Alta. Meier and partners took over an aging small packing plant in this northwestern Alberta town because they knew it would close and that would mean lost jobs. But a badly outdated handling and cattle processing system needed a redesign. "We believe cattle should not be afraid of us or us of them," he says. With that objective in mind a completely new handling and processing system was designed that protects and calms animals. Today, it's a model that has attracted kudos from many including restaurant clients whose chefs who are invited out to see the facilities firsthand.

Kase van Ittersum

Kase van Ittersum, CAWI Canada. A leading supplier of new generation livestock housing van Ittersum draws on European personal and business roots to help producers design and install facilities. An example is new, sophisticated group housing for hog barns as a replacement for stall barns. "You can outperform stall barns if you do it right," he told the audience as he explained in detail new systems installed in Canada and around the world.

On the right track

Date posted: March 28, 2013

Dr. Terry Church

Industry veteran Dr. Terry Church delivered wrap-up comments for the conference.

Church is Ranch Manager at the Canadian Rocky Mountain Ranch south of Calgary, which raises over 300 bison and 250 Elk on 700 fenced acres south of the city. He has also been long involved as a livestock industry leader including with Alberta Farm Animal Care.

"There's a great deal of commonality in the program today," says Church. "We can see that people really want to connect with where their food comes from and they want to know their farmer.

"It's clear we're in a period of transition in animal care and management. We've come a long way and we're on the right track. There's been a tremendous evolution in animal welfare in my lifetime, including in my own attitudes, and this will continue. It's a good thing to see for the future of agriculture."

Award winners take the spotlight

Date posted: March 27, 2013

What's the face of farm animal care progress?

Two clear examples were winners of the AFAC Award of Distinction at Livestock Care Conference 2014.

Alberta Johne's Initiative

The award for Communications went to Alberta Milk for the Alberta Johne's Initiative.

Prevalence surveys estimate up to 50 per cent or more dairy herds have at least one cow infected with Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP). Because the sensitivity of most JD tests depends on the stage of infection with MAP, most surveys underestimate the true prevalence of MAP-infected cows and herds. The financial impact on herds infected with this production-limiting disease is dependent upon the prevalence of infected cows in the herd.

The objective of the initiative is to increase the awareness of Johne's Disease in the Alberta dairy industry and encourage the implementation of best management practices that will reduce the risk of the entering the herd, or spreading within the herd if MAP is already present in one or more animals. By the end of 2013, 61 per cent of Alberta's milk producers had completed a Johne's disease risk assessment and 74 per cent had submitted environmental manure samples for testing.

Trevor Prout of Alberta Chicken Producers

Alberta Chicken Producers

The Award for Communications went to Trevor Prout, Producer Programs Manager at Alberta Chicken Producers. As part of a host of innovations, Prout and colleagues spearheaded the implementation of an auditable Animal Care Program to uphold the standards of the Canadian chicken industry's on-farm animal care.

Certification under the Animal Care Program is now a mandatory condition of a producer's license to market chicken in Alberta and all registered chicken farmers in Alberta are certified.

'Getting real' to get real results

Date posted: March 27, 2013

Frank Novak

Frank Novak is a proud Alberta pork producer. He believes in the dignity of raising animals for food. He supports the concept that farmers are here to serve the people with the products they desire. Most important, at a time when farm animal care is rising in profile, he believes in agriculture taking charge of the conversation with customers and managing this issue openly and clearly to build a strong future.

"Producers need to take the stage and become champions," says Novak, Chair of Alberta Pork, speaking at the 2014 Livestock Care Conference. We cannot hide in the background."

Novak sees the wisdom in a quote from Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, executive director and ethics consultant for Worldview Resources International, who advised pork producers to "Be confident enough about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are doing it, to let other people in to see what you do and watch you work."

"You need to not just talk the talk, but walk the talk," says Novak. "That's what we've aimed to do with our operation and with our industry."

This mindset has never been more important, particularly for pork producers in Western Canada, he says. "The largest U.S. producer is bigger than all the production in Western Canada. The top three producers in the U.S. are bigger than all of Canada. We're in a commodity market that is extremely volatile. We can't compete on scale and it's not easy to succeed. So what we need to do is find innovative ways to offer value to customers. We need to listen to what's important to them and show them we are providing what they want."

For Novak's own operation, this approach includes being proactive in telling the story of the farm philosophy and practices. A big part is talking animal welfare and how this is a top priority.

"This is all part of our need to find a competitive structure. We need to find novel ways to do business and manage risk. This involves having knowledge and product based production and a team approach to management. We also need to challenge ourselves to stay ahead of the curve on market demands - animal welfare is a critical aspect."

Breaking down the consumer mindset

Date posted: March 27, 2013

Michael von Massow

Words matter. Language matters. But agriculture can't combat the animal welfare issue with simple marketing tactics, says Michael von Massow. Honest conversation that truly speaks to what matters to consumers is the key to making true inroads for a stronger relationship.

Consumer research indicates the demand for food is changing, says von Massow, a professor in the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph.

"The good news is consumers think we're doing a good job with animal welfare. The bad news is they have no idea what we're doing. The good news would be better if they did."

Agriculture sectors have a responsibility to be proactive - to engage and help close that awareness gap, he says. "There's a temptation to say 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.' But critics of agriculture are making statements and driving the consumer perceptions. It's important we get out there and tell our story."

Science is just part of the conversation, he says. "Science can tell us what we can't do. It can't tell us what we should do. While science can inform the process, it can't be the only thing."

Effective communication is two-way process that starts with listening, he says. "We need to get to the spot where they're asking the questions and we're providing the answers. This is becoming more important as the animal welfare discussion becomes more mainstream."

Teamwork and consistency is a major asset in how industry engages, he says. "I think there's a real opportunity and real value in talking with one voice."

The power of taking ownership

Date posted: March 27, 2013

What's the best way for agriculture to get People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) off it's back? . The answer may surprisingly simple, says Dr. Tim Blackwell, lead veterinarian in disease prevention with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development.

"It's easy to get rid of PETA if we thank them for bringing issues to our attention, own up to our mistakes and fix our mistakes," says Blackwell, speaking at Livestock Care Conference 2014.

That may seem counter-intuitive, particularly when dealing with an organization adept at undermining agriculture and using any isolated incidence to paint the industry as a whole negatively. But to Blackwell it's about being professional and may just take away the ace card PETA likes to play.

"Stockpeople are professionals. And when things go wrong, professionals face up and own up," says Blackwell. "Let's not get away from that. Let's say clearly what we stand for and fix our own problems."

It's an appraoch that has merit, says Kay Johnson-Smith of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, who also presented to the conference. "Animal rights activists want conflict. They don't want the conflict to go away. Because that would mean losing their funding base. It would mean losing press coverage."

Feeding the fire can play into their hands, she says. "They live by creating and exploiting conflict. Ultimately their goal is to put a wedge between you and the typical consumer."

Taking ownership is also critical when it comes to communicating, says Johnson-Smith. "We need to make sure the activists are the ones telling our story and that we are. Don't let them frame the issue. We have a great story to tell. We have to tell that story."

Tim Blackwell
Kay Johnson-Smith

Olson: Social license critical to the future

Date posted: March 27, 2013

Hon.Verlyn Olson

As the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Verlyn Olson cuts a broad swath across the areas related to sustainability that affect agriculture. In the sector and beyond there is a common bond that captures both the challenges and opportunities ahead.

"One aspect I hear about regularly is social license," says Olson, in his welcome address to the 2014 Livestock Care Conference. "It is a dominant theme in every area. In agriculture, it speaks to consumers wanting assurance and people wanting the opportunity to know how our food is produced."

Addressing this issue head-on is essential, he says. "We need to be aggressive on issues like social license. It's critical to our competiveness and to ability to maintain and build markets."

It's an era where collaboration and teamwork has never been more important, says Olson. "The partnership between Alberta Farm Animal Care and the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association is a good example. We need to work together."

Media advisory: You are welcome at LCC 2014

Date posted: March 26, 2013

One of the sure signs of the growing interest in farm animal care is the amount of media coverage on various topics. What once was of interest mainly to farm trade and industry media may now be of interest in broader, mainstream media. And in today's globally connected world, what happens in Canada is often of interest to media and industry in other countries.

That's why one of the founding principles of the Livestock Care Conference (LCC) is to make sure that media are welcomed. Each year, media are invited to attend or participate in whatever way makes sense for them, says Lorna Baird, executive director of Alberta Farm Animal Care, host of the LCC.

"For one thing, we provide information that media and industry or organizers can use," says Baird. "News releases, news features, the LCC News Blog and selected photos are all available in a Special Report available through a link at the AFAC website www.afac.ab.ca."

Media are encouraged to attend personally. A Media Advisory is sent to selected media across Canada and internationally inviting them to attend and explaining how and where they can get assistance.

Finally, media, including industry organization communications people, can customize their own experience by using a combination of their own and provided information.

"This conference attracts some of the best speakers on leading topics so it is a simple way for media to gain a better understanding of developments and issues," says Baird. "We welcome their questions and participation."

Delivering a leading-edge conference

Date posted: March 21, 2014

Heini Hehli, AFAC Chair

The world of farm animal care is entering a new era of unprecedented change. One of the advantages for Canada is the approach of working together among different stakeholder groups across the farm animal care community. An important part of the LCC is the opportunity to bring these groups together to share knowledge and ideas and identify new approaches to progress. That's a critical part of delivering a leading-edge conference, says Heini Hehli, Rimbey, Alta.-area dairy producer and Chair of Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).

"It's an important time in farm animal care with new developments and expectations," says Hehli. "The Livestock Care Conference is a place where producers and other stakeholders can come together to learn, share knowledge and support continual improvement and leadership. We welcome everyone with an interest in farm animal care to attend and contribute to the discussion."

The agenda this year has a strong focus on hot topics ranging from activist activities to consumer perceptions to leading examples of how producers and industry are taking charge.

Preview some of the agenda highlights here:

Capturing highlights of LCC 2014: The LCC News Blog

Date posted: March 20, 2014

It's a time of change, innovation and opportunity in farm animal care. The Livestock Care Conference (LCC) is one of the best places to get an overview of many of the key developments and what you need to know.

This LCC New Blog is designed to help capture highlights and perspectives around the event, slated for March 26-27 in Edmonton. It also serves as a hub linking to other LCC 2014 communications resources.

LCC is designed for everyone from industry leaders and individual producers to researchers, industry, students, government and other stakeholders with an interest in farm animal care.

The annual conference is hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in partnership with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA). If you haven't already registered for LCC 2014, there's still time. Get details here.

As Meristem Land and Science editors, we have enjoyed being part of the communications effort for LCC for many years. We also produce the NewStream Farm Animal Care digital news service, which includes an e-newsletter component distributed to farm animal care stakeholders (Sign-up free to get on the distribution list here.) Watch for a special NewStream edition on LCC highlights following this year's conference.

The 2014 LCC is shaping up to be among the best yet, with hot topics, top speakers and what promises to be intriguing and engaging discussions. We look forward to helping bring you information and insights on the proceedings, and hope to see at LCC 2014.


LCC 2014 is hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC), in partnership with the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. Learn more about the conference here.

LCC News Blog LCC News Blog is sponsored by AFAC.