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Agriculture

Canada’s Feedlots Facing an Uncertain Future

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Canada’s Feedlots Facing an Uncertain Future

The coronavirus has taken a huge toll on the North American meat industry. As the virus continues to claim the lives of workers and workplace conditions become unsafe, many meat processing plants simply haven’t been able to adequately staff their facilities. Subsequently, many plants and feedlots — including leading brands in Alberta — have temporarily shut down operations.

Other big names that haven’t experienced outbreaks in their facilities have managed to remain open or at least reopen and function at a lower capacity. However, even these cattle feedlots and processing plants are facing an uncertain future as the pandemic drags on.

A Dip in Demand

In addition to facility outbreaks, a dip in demand for pork, poultry and beef has also resulted in major setbacks for feedlots and slaughterhouses. Since officials issued stay-at-home orders three months ago, restaurants and butchers haven’t been ordering as much meat from big-industry meat processors. Instead, with no guests to serve or customers to whom they might sell prime cuts, these businesses have dramatically cut their orders.

Of course, the meat industry wasn’t expecting this sudden decrease in demand. As cows continued to birth calves and inventory built up in feedlots, these companies were left with no other choice than to cull thousands of animals per day and discard the carcasses. Obviously, this represents a massive amount of waste as well as a huge loss of profit.

Selling Calves

Many small farmers and large industrial developments also worry they’ll lose money this fall when it comes time to sell calves. These cow-calf operations usually generate a decent amount of revenue when the economy is good. In light of recent events, however, market conditions aren’t exactly prime for selling calves.

Moreover, as feedlots reach and exceed maximum capacities, the animals will most likely become more anxious. This increase in stress levels will negatively impact their immune systems and, ultimately, the quality of meat that comes from them. Consequently, this fall’s herd may not be as healthy as the last, meaning they’ll sell for much less and leave feedlots and meat processors in the red.

Assistance and Adjustments

Early last month, the Canadian government announced it would provide $252 million in federal assistance to the agri-food sector. The vast majority of this federal aid will go to processing plants in hopes of better-protecting workers and helping facilities function at full capacity once again. Still, as long as demand is low, it’s unlikely the industry will bounce back quickly — even with financial assistance. At best, this money will help keep the industry afloat until restaurants and eateries fully reopen.

Additionally, meat processing plants that have remained open or resumed operations are beginning to consciously cut their inventory and production output to meet the decrease in demand. While this will help the meat industry, it may cause issues for fast-food chains and restaurants that may experience shortages as a result.

Is the Worst Yet to Come?

Over the past few weeks, some major meat processors and cattle feedlots have begun to reopen. Already, they’re back to processing 60,000 cattle per week. However, prices aren’t rising for consumers, thus showcasing the resiliency of the Canadian food system. In the coming months, bottlenecks should stop and business should be able to return to normal — as long as a second and third wave of coronavirus cases don’t sweep the nation.

In the future, the meat industry might invest more in expanding local and regional food supply chains. This way, if Cargill, National Beef, JBS and Tyson — which own more than 80% of the beef supply — shut down again, small ranchers could provide meat for their communities. Thus, the industry wouldn’t face such an uncertain future if another pandemic were to occur.

Canadian Federal Government Taking Measures to Reduce Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

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Agriculture

How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand

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How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand

Many changes occurred around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Canada, while schools and businesses closed, consumers flocked to the supermarkets to buy essentials.

Perishable goods flew off the shelves, resulting in limits being placed on items like dairy and poultry. The standard distribution system schedule put in place for dairy products could not keep up with buyers’ increased shopping.

While retail demand from grocers skyrocketed, orders from the foodservice industry plummeted. This has resulted in unforeseen fluctuations in the dairy market.

Hotels, restaurants, schools and eateries are closed or operating at limited capacity. As a result, there is now an enormous surplus of milk that has nowhere to go. Farmers are not equipped with storage spaces to accommodate the excess supply. Unlike agriculture products like potatoes, milk has to be sold immediately or risk spoilage.

Cows will continue producing milk, regardless of fluctuations in the market. While farmers have the option to reduce the size of their herd or change diet or nutrition, these things could prove detrimental when the market stabilizes.

The Supply Management System

A supply management system controls production quotas and imports for Canadian dairy, chicken, turkey and eggs. It was established in the1970s to coordinate production and demand while simultaneously controlling imports. By operating under this method, prices are stabilized for both producers and consumers.

A national agency represents each industry, and they are in charge of setting production levels that match provincial demand. Farmers in each province are allocated production quotas that are meant to prevent surpluses or shortages.

The original quotas were based on consumer needs pre-pandemic. As a result of these unforeseen events, farmers must now adjust to the new Canadian dairy demand. Here are four main ways farmers can adapt to the changing times.

  1. Dump the Milk

Producers say that discarding raw milk is inevitable at this stage. Farmers are reporting that they have been asked to take turns dumping milk. Although they’re paid for it, the waste could amount to as much as 5 million litres every week.

This disposal method is unsustainable and should only be utilized while the market is above capacity. Cows must continue to be milked to keep them comfortable and healthy, and production must continue to ensure product availability in retail stores.

  1. Donate to Food Banks

Rather than dumping milk, some farmers have begun donating to food banks to support Canadians in need. While this is a positive form of dispersing the milk surplus, it has the potential to overwhelm food banks that may not have the storage capacity to support this influx.

Additionally, the raw milk provided from farmers must be processed, which complicates the standard donation process.

  1. Improve Operations

Dairy farmers should focus on improving operations to become more efficient and cost-effective. Many producers have begun investing in updated equipment and robotics to save time and money.  Competition is set to increase as a result of import growth projected for the next decade. To maintain a market edge, operations should be improved and simplified wherever possible.

  1. Expand or Retire

In 2019, the Canadian federal government announced an aid package valued at $1.75 billion to compensate supply-managed dairy producers over an eight-year period. The Dairy Direct Payment Program is one part of this aid package and provides $345 million payments as compensation during 2019 and 2020.

The aid package was proposed as a result of import shifts. The Canadian government has opened part of its domestic market to foreign producers as part of several free-trade negotiations. To adapt to increased competition from foreign products, Canadian producers should plan to expand their operations or retire. Larger farms will be able to sustain demand while simultaneously upgrading their methods to be constantly improving.

Smaller producers may not be able to afford the necessary production updates to keep up with competitors.

Future Demand

These are unprecedented circumstances. As schools, businesses and restaurants reopen, dairy demand will increase. With indoor capacity requirements and shifts in consumer trends, consumption levels will undoubtedly continue to fluctuate.

While farmers should take steps to dispose of surplus responsibly, they should not halt production or decrease their operation size.

Read more from Emily Folk

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.

Canadian Federal Government Taking Measures to Reduce Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

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Agriculture

COVID-19 takes down Agri-Trade 2020

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Agri-Trade Equipment Expo cancelled for November 11th – 13th, 2020

Agri-Trade Equipment Expo announced today that they made the difficult decision to cancel their 2020 show that was to be held November 11 – 13 at Westerner Park. Although Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy guidelines do allow for trade shows to take place, considering all factors, Agri-Trade felt they had no choice but to cancel the show.

Agri-Trade worked closely with all stakeholders to come to this decision.  They all worked together to do what they felt was best for their exhibitors during this pandemic. Corporate policies have introduced restricted travel that would impede both exhibitor participation and attendance for the event.

“With so many concerns around the current situation with COVID-19, many companies have implemented restricted travel policies. With a significant number of companies having to cancel, we felt that the show would not be representative of the Agri-Trade brand.  This was not a decision that was made lightly, we left no stone unturned as we were making this decision.” said David Fiddler, Agri-Trade Expo Show Manager.

“We know that in a normal year, millions of dollars of business takes place and almost $300 million in economic impact is created as a direct result of the show. We recognize that many people and businesses will be impacted by this decision. We appreciate the Government of Alberta, and Alberta Health Services for providing an environment that would allow tradeshows such as Agri-Trade to be a part of Alberta’s recovery plan.” said Rick More, Chief Executive Officer, Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.

“After hundreds of event cancellations over the past six months, we wanted to try everything we could to safely and successfully host Agri-Trade, once we were given the green light for tradeshows by Alberta Health Services. But as we monitor the environment and the ongoing challenges and feedback from exhibitors and stakeholders, we feel that the risks outweigh the reward in pushing forward this year.” Mike Olesen, Chief Executive Officer, Westerner Park.
The Agriculture community is resilient and has already persevered through a number of challenges this 2020 plant and harvest season. Agri-Trade looks forward to once again being the place to do business in Agriculture in western Canada in November of 2021.

Since 1984 Agri-Trade has been a joint venture of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce and Westerner Park, attracting farmers and ranchers to view the newest equipment, technologies and the latest information to boost productivity and profit their operations. Agri-Trade is one of Canada’s premier indoor/outdoor agricultural equipment expositions and is considered to be one of the best Farm Equipment Shows to do business in North America.
If you are looking or more information on Agri-Trade Equipment Expo please be sure to follow them on social media or stay up to date at www.agri-trade.com

For media inquiries contact: David Fiddler, Show Manager 403-304-5719 or [email protected].

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september, 2020

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