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Agriculture

Valour… the amazing story of an Alberta horse with an incredible will to live

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11 minute read

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves.” 

From Alberta SPCA

Watch Valour’s Amazing Story

 

The large, male horse runs with vigor when called for breakfast. Valour lives at an equine-facilitated healing ranch northwest of Edmonton where he doesn’t have to worry about food. When the human clients arrive at Infiniti Trails 4 Healing, Valour and the other horses on the ranch offer their soothing equine talents to help people relax and move energy around their bodies. It is a stress-free life for a horse that has endured his share of distress.

There was a time not too long ago when Valour could never count on his next meal. The Alberta SPCA was called out to a property in April of 2018 because neighbours had discovered skinny horses tucked away on a winter pasture far from the eyes of passersby. One horse was already dead and the others were in poor shape. Valour was one of those horses.

Valour at Equine-Facilitated Healing Ranch

“The first time I saw him, he walked up to me and put his head in my chest and he sighed,” says Alberta SPCA Peace Officer Karen Stevenson, who was the first to see the stallion.

Peace Officer Karen Stevenson

Peace Officer Stevenson found four horses that were still alive, but Valour was in the poorest health. She classified his body condition to be a one out of nine. He was so weak, Stevenson lead him out of the deep snow to conserve his energy.

“I was worried if he went down he wasn’t going to get up,” says Stevenson. “Valour stopped and placed his head on my chest and my heart broke. I knew this horse would probably die.”

The Peace Officer immediately started formulating a plan to get the horses out of the situation, but it takes a team of people and the right equipment to load and transport horses, and she didn’t have that with her. Stevenson had to hope Valour could survive one more night on his own.

“I took a minute and rubbed his head and he sighed,” recalls Stevenson. “I told him, ‘Fight like you have never fought before. Give me one more night, I will be back tomorrow with a lot of good people who are going to get you out of this nightmare’.”

Stevenson then started walking back to her truck. As she did, she looked back at the horse who was clearly heartbroken to see his new friend leaving.

“When I turned back, Valour was looking at me for a while and then he just dropped his head as if he was going to give up,” Stevenson explains. “In my five years with the Alberta SPCA, this was the hardest time I’ve ever had walking away from animals.”

Valour – April 2018

Valour Taken Into Protective Custody

A team from the Alberta SPCA arrived at the property the next morning to seize the horses and get them help. However, Stevenson’s heart sank when she first arrived and couldn’t find Valour. She was convinced he hadn’t made it through the night.

“I walked the field and then I saw the saddest picture ever,” says Stevenson. “He was standing in the willows trying to eat twigs and dry leaves.”

The next challenge was figuring out a way to get the horses into the trailer as the team did not know if they were halter broken. However, all it took was a pail of grain and a whistle and the horses came stampeding over.

“I had to run through the snow. I thought they were going to run me over. I have never seen horses so hungry.”

The four horses were transported to an equine veterinarian to begin the road to recovery. For Valour, however, the prognosis was still very dire. The paint horse was in rough shape.

Valour In The Days & Weeks After Being Seized

“They went right to the feed and it was four of them,” explains Dr. Melissa Hittinger, a veterinarian contracted by the Alberta SPCA. “But by that afternoon [Valour] went down and he stayed down for over a month, on and off.”

In the process, Valour developed extensive rub sores all over his body, and he was losing hair. Often in situations like this, horses are euthanized, but Valour seemed to have a fighting spirit. The medical team attached a harness to the stallion and would lift him back to his feet, hoping that he just needed a little time to regain his strength.

“In our experience with them, once they are down, they are done.”

“In our experience with them, once they are down, they are done,” explains Dr. Hittinger, referring to horses that go down. “With him [though] it was like, ‘Oh, thanks, I needed that,’ and then he just tootled off.”

There were a few times it seemed Valour would not recover. But each time the team contemplated euthanasia, they would find Valour on his feet. He was not willing to give up, so neither were they.

And slowly, Valour started to regain all the muscle he had lost. Slowly, the weight went back on. Slowly, the strength of a stallion came back and the personality of a vibrant horse emerged.

Valour’s Progression Over The Summer of 2018

Valour Heads To New Home

Valour’s impressive recovery meant that he was now ready to move to a permanent home. The decision was made to send him to Michele Keehn to use at her equine-facilitated healing ranch. The horse who embraced the help of so many people was now ready to start paying it forward.

“He’s very aware. He’s… always watching what’s going on,” says Keehn. “He’s very vibrant and strong, curious, but very sure. He’s got this sureness about himself, this confidence.”

Valour During Equine-Facilitated Healing Session

On this day, Valour has a special visitor. Peace Officer Karen Stevenson has come to see the horse she rescued, and the environment he now lives in. She is fighting back tears as she sees a horse that is very different than the one she feared would not survive the night one year earlier.

Emotional Reunion

As Stevenson walks out of the barn, she slowly walks up to Valour and puts her arms around his neck. She whispers to him, “Hi buddy. I told you I would get you better. I told you to fight hard and that we would get you a better life. You did so good, you did so good. You did it.”

This is a surreal moment for the veteran Peace Officer. She rarely gets to see the animals she saves once they have arrived at the caretaking facility. Most animals are gifted to organizations that find new homes for them and Alberta SPCA Peace Officers are not a part of that process. Stevenson is soaking up this opportunity to see how much her efforts make a difference.

Karen & Valour – April 2019

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves.” 

“They survived a horrible, horrible situation. They survived on nothing; on twigs and leaves,” recalls Stevenson.

And while this moment is both emotional and rewarding, Stevenson is quick to deflect the accolades.

“It wasn’t just me, it was everybody [at the Alberta SPCA],” Stevenson says. “It was everybody who comes to work every day. It was everybody who puts in hours and hears sad stories and just works tirelessly to get this result.”

On this day, Valour appears proud to be showing off his new home. At one point, he lies down and rolls in the dirt, and then quickly pops back up. It’s a bold reminder of how far Valour has come, from a horse so thin and weak he could not stand, to a horse that jumps to his feet with ease.

He seems to be soaking up the attention. And Stevenson is enjoying watching him live his best life.

“I can guarantee you that every peace officer who starts their day tries to make stories like this happen,” says Stevenson.

And she whispers to Valour, “Enjoy it buddy, you deserve this. You fought so long and hard. Enjoy it.”

It’s clear Valour has every intention of doing just that.

Before & After

April 2018 Shortly After Being Seized
April 2019 at Equine-Facilitated Healing Ranch

Make A Donation Today

The care and recovery for neglected horses is expensive. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to support the important work of the Alberta SPCA.

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Agriculture

New agri-processing tax credit to attract large-scale investment and diversify Alberta economy

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Capitalizing on value-added agriculture

Alberta is introducing a new agri-processing tax credit that will help attract large-scale investment, diversify the economy and create jobs for Albertans.

As provinces and states across North America look to capitalize on the potential of the agri-processing industry, Alberta will build on the province’s competitive advantages by launching a new tax credit program in spring 2023. The program will ensure Alberta maintains a competitive edge over other jurisdictions and is able to maximize the number of opportunities that help grow the economy and create jobs.

Budget 2023 will introduce the Alberta Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit to provide a 12 per cent non-refundable tax credit to support this growth and attract investment. To be eligible, corporations must make a minimum capital investment of $10 million in value-added agri-processing in Alberta.

“Agriculture has been a key part of Alberta’s economy for more than 100 years and I’m excited to see this tax credit program roll out so that it continues to be a key part of our economy in the future. Alberta’s agricultural producers play an important role in feeding the world and I look forward to seeing further innovation and growth in this sector.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

“Alberta has the fundamentals to take our value-added agriculture industry to new heights and meet the increasing global demand for food. The new agri-processing tax credit will allow us to attract large-scale agri-food projects that will help grow our industry, increase opportunities for primary producers, create jobs and feed the world.”

Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation

As Alberta’s oldest industry, agriculture is foundational to the province’s economy and identity. Incentivizing large capital investments will ensure the sector remains strong for generations to come and capable of adapting to the economy of the future.

“The Alberta Agri-Processing Investment Tax Credit further positions Alberta as an attractive place to do business. By supporting this quickly evolving and increasingly competitive sector, this government is further encouraging investment that will create jobs and grow Alberta’s economy.”

Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance

“With the introduction of the agri-processing investment tax credit, Alberta has positioned itself to attract more large-scale sector investments than ever before from companies like mine. This is the right way for Alberta’s agri-food sector to support diversification, create jobs, compete and win.”

Rich Vesta, CEO, Harmony Beef

“Alberta is widely recognized in the business community for its competitive tax rates, skilled workforce and strong primary agriculture sector. By offering a 12 per cent tax credit to agri-food processors making a minimum investment of $10 million, Alberta is maintaining its status as a top destination for value-added agricultural projects.”

John Heimbecker, owner, Parrish and Heimbecker

“Population growth, a changing climate and increased costs of food are all indicators that food security will be a growing challenge. The new agri-processing tax credit program is a great incentive that will continue to highlight rural Alberta as the home of an innovative agriculture industry that plays a vital role in supporting food production.”

Paul McLauchlin, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta

Quick facts

  • Food manufacturing sales reached a record $20.1 billion in 2021 and the sector employed 22,400 Albertans.
  • The food manufacturing sector was the largest manufacturing industry in the province, accounting for 23.8 per cent of total provincial manufacturing sales in 2021.
  • Global demand for food is expected to increase by up to 56 per cent by 2050.
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Agriculture

Why the News Block on the Plight of Dutch Farmers?

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Michael AmundsenMICHAEL AMUNDSEN  

God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland. This truism has guided Dutch identity and its republican virtue. When the ingenious Dutch reclaimed land from the sea it was for farms and these farms and farmers have fed the Dutch people, Europe and the world for centuries.

The picture displayed here is Paulus Potter’s famous work The Bull.

Created in 1647, Potter was 22 when he painted it and not quite 30 when he died. Renowned for its massive size, detailed realism including dung and flies and as a novel monumental picture of an animal, The Bull is understood as a symbol of the Dutch nation and its prosperity.

The Dutch Golden Age resulted in part from the creation of the Dutch Republic carved out by overcoming Spanish rule in the Netherlands. The little Dutch Republic became a global naval power and cultural force. The Dutch were classical liberals and believed in individual liberties like freedom of religion, speech and association.

The Dutch Republic was noted for economic vibrancy and innovation including the emergence of commodity and stock markets. The newly minted bourgeoisie spurred the first modern marketplace for artists to sell their work and freed them from the necessity of commissions from the Church and aristocracy. This is reflected in the subject matter of much Dutch Golden Age art with its depiction of everyday life. Potter’s painting is from this era.

But his work reveals another truth. The Dutch Golden age was impossible without its farms. Food is the foundation of any successful civilization, which is why the news that the Dutch government plans to shut as many as 3,000 farms for the sake of a ‘’nitrogen crisis’’ is so puzzling.

As Natasja Oerlemans of the World Wildlife Fund-Netherlands recently stated, ‘’We should use this crisis to transform agriculture.” She went on to state that the process will require several decades and billions of euros to reduce the number of animals.

So, what in fact is the issue with nitrogen and Dutch farming?

The nitrogen crisis is a bureaucratic and muddled affair which is now and will increasingly impact all of Dutch society. In 2017 a small NGO, Mobilisation for the Environment, led by long-time environmentalist Johan Vollenbroek, went to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to challenge the then current Dutch practices that protected natural areas from nitrogen pollution.

In 2018, the ECJ decided in a court ruling that the Dutch legislation, which allowed business to compensate for increases in nitrogen emissions with technical measures and restoration, was too lenient. The Dutch high court agreed with the ruling. In so doing almost 20,000 building projects have been put on hold, stalling the expansion of farms and dairies, new homes, roads, and airport runways. These projects are valued at €14 billion of economic activity.

Farming is intensive in the Netherlands because it is a small country with high population density. According to Science magazine ‘’Dutch farms contain four times more animal biomass per hectare than the EU average.’’ But they also point out that ‘’Practices such as injecting liquid manure in the soil and installing air scrubbers on pig and poultry facilities have reduced ammonia emissions 60% since the 1980s.’’

These mitigating systems are seen as insufficient in light of the court rulings. Ammonia is part of the nitrogen cycle and is a byproduct of waste from farm animals.

The great concern of environmental bureaucrats is the so-called ‘’manure fumes’’ from livestock waste. Like methane from farting cows, manure fumes are the big thing and katzenjammer of the movement on meat and dairy.

Dutch farmer Klass Meekma, who produces milk from the goats he raises said recently, ‘’The nitrogen rules are eagerly being used by the anti-livestock movement to get rid of as many livestock farms as they can, with absolutely no respect for what Dutch livestock farms have achieved in terms of food quality, use of leftovers of the food industry, animal-care, efficiency, exports, know-how, economics and more.’’ Meekma’s goats produced more than 265,000 gallons of milk in 2019.

In many ways, Dutch farmers are the victims of their own success. Because Holland is small, farmers have needed to be innovative in the use of space which accounts for the higher levels of ‘’animal biomass’’ compared with other European countries. Success in agricultural practices and food production has produced profits and a strong economic sector for the Dutch economy. Remarkably, the Netherlands is the second largest food exporter in the world.

The biggest push against Dutch agriculture comes from the climate change community and minister for nature and nitrogen Christianne van der Wal. She said in a letter to politicians in 2021, “There is no future (for agriculture) if production leads to depletion of the soil, groundwater and surface water, or degradation of ecosystems.” She has announced new restrictions to cut nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, to meet international climate action goals.

Nobody wants runoff from farms harming streams and wildlife. But the focus on manure fumes; that is, nitrogen and ammonia seeping into the atmosphere and impacting the climate seems far more tenuous. Primeval Europe was like Africa’s Serengeti, teeming with huge herds of ungulates like aurochs. Did their farting and waste ruin the climate?

The climate is changing. The climate has always changed. Bronze Age Europe, a particularly fecund cultural period, was markedly warmer than today.

It is curious that the farming sector is the focus of rollbacks while other polluters are being treated differently. Farmer Meekma states,

“Since then (the court rulings) our country has a so-called nitrogen crisis. It’s ludicrous that the national airport Schiphol Amsterdam and lots of industrial companies have no nature permits, and farmers are now being sacrificed to facilitate these other activities.”

“It’s a real shame how farmers are being treated in the Netherlands. They are being pushed out to make room for industry, aviation, transportation, solar fields and housing of the growing numbers of immigrants.’’

Most of the “saved” nitrogen emissions from government plans will be used to offset the increased emissions from building 75,000 houses. Only 30 percent will lead to real emission reductions.

Dutch Prime Minister and WEF luminary Mark Rutte acknowledged that the move on farming would have “enormous consequences. I understand that, and it is simply terrible.”

There are many historical examples of political pressures on farming as harbingers of disaster, from Ukraine in the Soviet Union to Zimbabwe. Both were breadbaskets and exporters reduced to famine. Controlling food production is something that political ruffians always want to achieve. The nitrogen crisis is a struggle of urban ideologues versus traditional lifeways and rural self-sufficiency. Due to the war in Ukraine and supply-chain disruption from the covid pandemic, many people around the world are facing starvation. This is not the time for Europe to harm its best agricultural producer.

Dutch farmers are hip to when a nudge becomes a shove. The anti-meat ideologues want humans to subsist on grass cuttings and Bill Gates’ lab-made gunk. Dutch farmers feed the world. Their plight is ours as well.

The nitrogen crisis has the waft of so much bullshit.

Author

  • Michael Amundsen

    Michael Amundsen, PhD, is an academic and writer who has taught at universities in Europe and the United States. He has contributed to the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor and many other publications.

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