Sunday, 7 November 2010

Is the Beef industry in Ontario only 15 years from extinction?

Is the Beef industry in Ontario only 15 years from extinction?

November 2010 Rural voice magazine article
by John Beardsley

I continue to hear rumblings about the continuing lack of profitability in Ontario beef industry especially the feedlot sector. There is also a lack of fairness in how the industry is treated across the country. I thought the federal government would have been more farmer friendly, considering 70 percent of farmers voted for Harper (or against Martin????) last time out. I guess Harper figures he can take them for granted because they are his guys and gals. This is a dangerous political mistake as Ontario farmers are traditionally evenly split and I would think it could swing a lot of rural Ontario ridings like Larry Miller, Ben Lobb, Garry Schellenburger just to name a few in my neighbourhood.

Harper said he would scrap the CAIS (Canadian agricultural income stabilization) program when he was plugging for votes in southwestern Ontario last time out, but he just changed the name and added Agri-invest. Why he hasn't signed on to the risk management program I cannot fathom. When the over 55 year olds bail out of the industry there isn't a generation of new beef farmers waiting to take over. It is unfortunate because beef farming is actually very environmentally friendly, keeping fragile lands in grass and out of row crops. The beef and dairy industries continue to be the largest user of ddg's, the byproduct of ethanol plants which make ethanol profitable and greener. The carbon hoofprint of importing Alberta and U.S. (and the whole world's) beef is huge.

The standards used to raise beef in other parts of the world are not as high as they are in Ontario. Recent news stories have shown how little the Canadian food inspection agency of the federal government actually inspect imported food. Shouldn't all levels of government do much more in promoting Ontario beef as a safe secure protein source?

Hyland Seeds has been flying a large yellow balloon with the “Farmers Feed Cities” slogan emblazoned on it. Hyland has been actively lobbying both governments on the issue of properly supporting agriculture. It would be nice if Pioneer, Dekalb, Mycogen, Syngenta and Maisex would add their voices to this promotion. The seed corn companies should know how much corn seed the Ontario beef industry uses. At least this year's high corn yields will give the industry a bit of a boost in both farm feed costs and the cost of corn bought in.

The modern young farmers are much more business savvy than the generation they are replacing and, just like the traditional dairy industry, are rethinking the use of their equity. Why keep hitting your head against the wall of indifference and neglect thrown up by the provincial Liberals. Many have said "if you don't want us, then be honest and tell us; better still, buy us out like the hog industry and we can carry on with restructuring our businesses accordingly". Another huge inequity is that Ontario Beef has to compete against Alberta and Quebec beef. But the beef producers in those provinces have much better support from their provincial governments.

Unlike the dairy, goat, sheep, pork and poultry industry the beef industry has not had as great an influx of European farmers to take up the slack and keep the industry relatively younger. The few European beef farmers have largely gravitated to these other livestock sectors because of the ongoing low prices of beef and better future prospects. I say 10-15 years tops, and maybe sooner, and you may not be able to get Ontario beef in Ontario supermarkets. The local food movement cannot sustain the huge beef industry (yet??) and the economic spin-offs from the beef sector are huge. But Dithering Dalton is playing politics with the risk management program rather than embarrassing the federal conservatives by going it alone. I would love to hear from more beef farmers to let me know what you think. I think I am correct in my analysis though. “You don't know what you've got till it's gone” says Canadian singer Joni Mitchell in her classic song “Big Yellow Taxi”. I guess Dalton McGuinty and Harper would rather we pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Former Ontario Cattleman's association president Ron Wooddisse passed away this week

Former O-C-A President Passes
Thursday, September 23, 2010 2:21 pm

A past president of the Ontario Cattlemen's Association has died.
59 year old Ron Wooddisse passed away this week at his Palmerston-area home.
Wooddisse was president of the O-C-A for 2003 and 2004.
The Wellington County cattleman was also involved in delivering the Association's Verified Beef Production program and both it's Age Verification and RFID Reader Projects from 2007 to 2009.
Visitation is at the Moorefield Community Centre from 7-9 tonight then from 1-4 and 7-9 tomorrow.
The funeral for Ron Wooddisse is Saturday at the Drayton United Church.

The above obituary was from farm news

Ron was president during the BSE crisis and helped keep the OCA and provincial politicians on an even keel. I can only imagine the extra stress the BSE crisis would have added to the position, a thankless one at the best of times. I always appreciated Ron's forthrightness . Often blunt often controversial but always what he strongly felt. He gave a great interview and good sound bite clips for radio. He helped advance the Ontario Beef industry in a difficult period.He will be greatly missed

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

That is a lot of green

That is a lot of Green.

June 2010 rural voice article by John Beardsley

When it comes to crops grown in Ontario, corn remains the highest value crop, generating close to 900 million dollars a year. You might be surprised to find out what the 2nd highest value crop in Ontario is. A study conducted by Jim Fisher at the Kemptville campus of the University of Guelph shows the forage industry (grasses and legumes for hay) as providing the second largest field crop value to the agricultural industry, second only to corn. Forages are contributing $647.7 million per year to the agricultural economy. That is 2/3 the size of the corn industry and about 30% larger than the soybean industry. This includes values for forage sold and fed. The benefits to subsequent crops from improved crop rotation and nitrogen release as well as soil cover and soil improvement were not included in these figures.

These remarkable facts were just some of what I learned from the Ontario Forage Council Website This group of volunteers that make up the forage council labour tirelessly for this important though often overlooked part of Ontario Agriculture.

When corn soybean and wheat prices were in the dumpster, hay was the one bright spot in the crop mix. Growing hay as a cash crop was looking very attractive. Recently the shine has come off exporting hay to the U.S. market. The rising Canadian dollar and the economic meltdown have put a crimp in the American horse industry; this plus the low milk prices being paid to the US dairy farmers have reduced the demand for Canadian hay. The Forage Council has been instrumental in trying to find new markets for Canadian forages such as the Middle Eastern oil-rich states. These arid countries haven’t got the water to grow hay, yet they love their horses and the governments in that area have a strong focus on food security. On a recent fact finding mission to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia by the Canadian Forage and Grassland Association (the Ontario forage council is a founding member of this national group) they also found a huge potential market for Canadian hay to supply. With the burgeoning urban populations and a rapidly dwindling water table these countries have greatly restricted irrigation. In return they have provided subsidies for farmers to be able to buy hay for their livestock. The Ontario Forage Council Manager Ray Robertson says there are some obstacles to be overcome; for example, freight rates, as costs from Canadian ports to the Middle East are 38 percent higher than from U.S. ports. Also the specification for hay is 12 percent moisture. It may be a challenge to get 12 percent hay under the Ontario field conditions. Robertson says research is required to determine if 14 percent hay will resist mould in sealed containers at sea during the ocean voyage.

Forages are still a valuable feed crop right here for the cattle industry and increasingly for sheep and goats. But because hay is a feed crop it doesn’t receive any check-off money like corn and soybeans. Its value to agriculture is often underestimated. The Forage council brings all the participants of the industry together to be a one stop shop for forage information. By getting the forage seed companies, input suppliers and researchers and end users together they can determine research priorities that will most benefit producers.

Another focus of the council is getting the latest information out to producers. Their next informational event is going to be the Ontario Forage Expo. So mark July 7th 2010 on your Calendar. This is the fifth year for the expo. This year it will be held at the large family dairy farm of Evert Veldhuizen Jr, in Oxford county just outside Woodstock. This will be an outdoor event so that haymaking and forage equipment can be displayed as well as a trade show. The expo runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is being run in co-operation with the Oxford Soil and Crop Improvement Association, so you know the live demonstrations of the latest and greatest in haymaking and forage harvesting equipment will be useful and informative.

With all the finger pointing about green house gases and potential pollution it is time to promote Ontario’s forage crops as a vital part of the green economy. The public needs to know that forages and grasslands promote positive environmental impacts on soil and water conservation, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat. Forages as a perennial crop remain growing and improving soil structure for 3 to 4 years for a hayfield and 5 to 30 years (or longer) as a pasture. Cash crop farmers can do themselves and their land a real favour by planting a cover crop following corn and soybeans. Whether you are growing forages for feed or for a cash crop, isn’t it time you got the most out of this green crop to add some green to your bottom line?