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JULY 2020

At a farm near Deerwood, MB. the barley crop has poked through and the cows/calves have come to check out the sights. Producers around Manitoba are watching with interest what the next few months will bring as they remain hopeful for crops to grow and be harvested as well as a strong market for the calves. Photo credit: Jeannette Greaves

COVID-19 upends cattle industry Manitoba cattle producers are bracing for a possible second wave of COVID-19 later this year after an initial wave this spring disrupted cattle sales and slaughter. The pandemic swept through much of Canada’s beef packing industry in April and May, shutting down Cargill, the country’s largest slaughter plant in High River, Alberta, and slowing work at several others. The concern now is whether the virus will return with a vengeance and upset the beef industry again, said Dennis Laycraft, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president. “With this unease looking forward, we’re wondering what we’re going to be dealing with this fall. Are we going to see a second wave of COVID-19?” Laycraft said. The Cargill plant was idle for 14 days, including 10 actual kill days, after workers tested positive for the COVID virus and several died. The disease also reduced operations at JBS Canada in Brooks, Alberta and Harmony Beef north of Calgary. Plants were back operating at near capacity by early June as pandemic restrictions eased and slaughter volumes rebounded. But the slowdown left a backlog of 130,000 fed cattle in Western Canadian feedlots that would normally have been processed. Plants will still be working through the summer to clear the backlog, said Laycraft. In the meantime, cash prices have recovered somewhat after collapsing during the early stages of the pandemic, according to Canfax Research Services. “With stronger cash prices, increased slaughter and larger fed cattle/cow exports, this week’s market

tone was slightly bullish,” Canfax said in a June 5 weekly market report. Canada’s beef exports are also strong, especially to Japan, Laycraft added. Year-to-date exports were up eight per cent as of late May. Still, the pandemic has had a major financial impact on cattle producers, said Carson Callum, Manitoba Beef Producers' general manager. “There definitely were producers in the province who took a financial hit. There’s also producers having to hold on to their animals longer because of the backlog that was part of those plant closures,” Callum said. “Here in the province we could be feeling the impact for the next number of months or longer, based on the challenges with processing capacity.” A federal government announcement made May 5 seeks to lessen the financial burden on producers forced to retain animals on farms because of the plant slowdowns. Ottawa is pledging up to $125 million for livestock producers toward a set-aside initiative to help offset extra feeding costs for livestock backed up on farms. The cattle and hog sectors will each get $50 million while the remaining $25 million is still undefined. Funding will flow through the federal-provincial Agri-Recovery program. The program is cost-shared 60-40 between Ottawa and the provinces. Ottawa says its share will be paid whether or not provinces participate with their share. As of June 22, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario had agreed to do so. In a June 9 interview with Cattle Country, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen said the province expects to receive $8.5 million of the $50 million share for cattle produc-

ers. He said Manitoba was negotiating with Ottawa on how to contribute its 40 per cent share. If Manitoba decided to do so, it would add another $2.5 million to $3 million. “It never is enough. It never covers everything. But it’ll at least help producers keep operating,” Pedersen said. Meanwhile, cattle producers are lobbying federal and provincial governments to improve business risk management (BRM) programs because of COVID-19 fallout. Laycraft said an industry review of AgriStability is underway. It’s expected one of the recommended changes will be to remove the program’s reference margin limit, which limits payouts to farmers. Producers often say the program does not work for them. As a result, only about a third of all farmers are currently enrolled in AgriStability. The figure is even lower for cattle producers. Another concern is the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program, which saw premiums for forward price coverage skyrocket when COVID broke out. Many producers feel premiums are often too high and coverage too low for the program to be worthwhile. MBP had asked the federal and provincial governments to this year cost share the price insurance premiums with producers, similar to what is done with crop insurance, but governments did not act on this request. Pedersen said his province is trying to improve some of its own programs to benefit producers. A report on ways to improve crop insurance coverage for forages is expected soon. The province is also considering changes to hunting regulations for bears and wolves.

President's Column

Young beef producers and COVID-19

Market Report

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MBP busy on COVID file and more CARSON CALLUM

General Manager’s Column By the time you will be reading this, I will have celebrated my one year anniversary with MBP. And what a year it has been. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know the staff, the board, and many members in this great Manitoba industry. I have also enjoyed connecting with likeminded individuals on a national level, to have important discussions of how to drive this industry in the best direction. I am motivated by all the positive collaborations I have seen over the past year in the industry, and know this will be very important in the agriculture sector moving forward. There have been many positive things to look back on this year for me, both in my personal and professional life. However, it has also had its challenges, whether it is a drought or snowstorm leading to a major feed shortage or other production challenges. Regulatory changes, such as those to the Agricultural Crown Land Leasing Program have caused concerns for lease holders. Public trust is always an important area to work on in the industry as well. There is

always a lot of work to be done by the board and staff at MBP, and we continue to work hard on our members’ behalf in these challenging areas. On top of these challenges, you throw on a global pandemic, and it really shows you what you are made of. I spoke of resilience in my first article last year. Well, these last few months have definitely been a time for our industry to have that attribute. Over the past few months, the beef industry, as well as many other sectors have been hit hard by COVID-19. Initially the main concern in our sector was the decrease in processing capacity due to major plant closures, both in Canada and the United States. An industry priority was to get these back up and running as quickly as possible, but ensuring the health and safety of the workers at the plants was the most important part. These facilities have been working tirelessly to ensure work can be conducted safely under current health guidelines, but also working to keep the value chain moving. I greatly thank everyone involved

in providing these essential services. Major plants in North America are getting up to capacity, and working through the backlog of animals waiting to move through the line. Though we have seen some positive movements on the processing side of things, we need to stay vigilant to ensure there isn’t another outbreak of COVID-19 that could cause supply chain disruptions again, including compounding a backlog of cattle awaiting processing. MBP continues to advocate for the Manitoba government to take part in the set-aside program, which the federal government announced funding towards on May 5 under the AgriRecovery framework. Also, we are advocating for the province to be open to further discussions on potential support needed this fall if there are further supply chain disruptions. Market volatility has been another major impact on the beef sector, particularly here in Manitoba. The prices at which producers had to sell early in the pandemic led to losses estimated at greater than $300/ head. MBP, other provincial cattle groups, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association are looking at what can be done for these impacted producers, and also ensuring that current business risk management programs

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(such as AgriStability) properly cover the losses incurred. The market volatility and uncertainty also greatly impacted the cost/ coverage levels of policies for the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP). MBP strongly advocated for governmental support to help offset these high premiums costs, and we are disappointed to see the provincial government does not plan to cost share these added costs. Although the premium cost and coverage levels improved in the last few weeks, there are still producers that it just didn’t pencil out for. Also, some producers that purchased at a high premium cost could have utilized a rebate, similar to the support provided by the Saskatchewan government. As we look forward, we will continue to advocate for tools and programs to help the industry get through this pandemic. With Manitoba going to in to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, more business openings are a good thing for the demand side of the equation for beef. The industry will just need to ensure the processing plants can work through the backlog so that

it doesn’t impact live prices this fall during the calf run. We will also continue to work on areas not related to COVID 19 such as agricultural Crown land changes and management of Wildlife Management Areas. Another area that we are very focused on is predation. Producers in the province have been trying to deal with predation challenges for many years. I am excited to get the livestock predation prevention pilot project fully underway, which MBP received provincial government funding towards. We are currently in the hiring process for the part time lead for the project. The project’s key activities will include conducting on-farm predation risk assessments and planning in consultation with producers, testing on-farm predation mitigation practices, and sharing information with producers about management practices and research project results. This project is an important step to delivering knowledge to the industry on ways to decrease negative wildlife and livestock interactions and the adverse consequences associated with them. With COVID-19 clos-

TESA Applications due to MBP by December 4 Manitoba Beef Producers is accepting applications for Manitoba’s Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA) until Friday, December 4, 2020. Since 1996, the Canadian Cattlemen Association’s (CCA) TESA has recognized producers who go above and beyond standard industry conservation practices, setting positive examples for other cattle producers and the general public. At the provincial level, the winning operation receives recognition for its outstanding contributions, which in MBP’s case occurs in conjunction with its annual general meeting in February. All provincial award recipients then move forward to compete at the national level. The national TESA recipient is announced in conjunction with the Canadian Beef Industry Conference and CCA SemiAnnual Meeting in August. Each TESA nominee exemplifies significant innovation and attention to a wide

range of environmental stewardship aspects of their farm operation. Such innovations extend beneficially to areas far beyond their land, including water, wildlife and air. All beef cattle operations in Canada may apply. Producers can either be nominated by an individual or organization, or apply themselves. Nominees and applicants compete for one of the provincial awards based on their province of residence. For more information and to access the application go to, or contact MBP for a copy. The form, along with all supporting documentation (such as letters of support, photos and/or videos), is to be submitted to Manitoba Beef Producers c/o 220-530 Century Street, Winnipeg, MB R3H 0Y4 by December 4, 2020. The application is to be emailed to . If you have questions, please contact the MBP office at 1-800-772-0458.





R.M. of Albert, Cameron, Whitewater, Edward, Brenda, Winchester, Morton

R.M. of Elton, North Cypress, North Norfolk, Cornwallis, Oakland, South Cypress, Victoria, South Norfolk

R.M. of Woodlands, Rockwood, St. Andrews, Rosser, St. Francis Xavier, Springfield, Tache, Whitemouth, Lac du Bonnet, Brokenhead, St. Clements, LGD of Alexander, Pinawa

R.M. of Shell River, Shellmouth,Hillsburg, Boulton, Grandview, Gilbert Plains, Ethelbert, Mossey River, Dauphin, LGD Park




R.M. of Riverside, Strathcona, Argyle, Lorne, Turtle Mountain, Roblin, Louise, Pembina




R.M. of Wallace, Woodworth, Daly, Pipestone, Sifton, Whitehead, Glenwood






R.M. of Bifrost, Gimli, Fisher, Armstrong

R.M. of Portage la Prairie, Cartier, Grey, MacDonald, Dufferin, Thompson, Roland, Morris, Stanley, Rhineland, Montcalm

R.M. of Russell, Silver Creek, Rossburn, Ellice, Birtle, Shoal Lake, Strathclair, Archie, Miniota, Hamiota, Blanshard






R.M. of Richot, Ste. Anne, Hanover, De Salaberry, La Broquerie, Franklin, Stuartburn, Piney, LGD Reynolds



R.M. of Harrison, Clanwilliam, Rosedale, Glenella, Saskatchewan, Odanah, Minto, Langford, Lansdowne, Westbourne, LGD Park

ing mostly every major gathering in the near future, it has changed the way we can advocate with the general public. One exciting communication we have done in the last few weeks was a MBP commercial airing during CTV Morning Live, which has a large urban audience. This commercial featured beef producer Andre Steppler and his family, touching on the important balance of cattle and the environment. This is a valuable message to deliver to consumers, especially with all the negativity related to beef and the environment pre-COVID. We look forward to new ways to deliver our great industry message to the public as we get in to the summer months. It’s hard to say what will happen this fall, as I don’t have that much needed crystal ball in front of me. However, we can hope that this summer here in Manitoba, there are better weather conditions for pasture/hay growth than the previous couple years. Also, that calf prices look good. Stay safe, and try to enjoy the nice summer we do have here in Manitoba. Carson


R.M. of Siglunes, Grahamdale, Eriksdale, Coldwell, St. Laurent



R.M. of Lawrence, Ochre River, Ste. Rose, McCreary, Alonsa


MANITOBA BEEF PRODUCERS Unit 220, 530 Century Street Winnipeg, MB R3H 0Y4

Ph: 1-800-772-0458 PH - (204) 772-4542 FX - (204) 774-3264


POLICY ANALYST Maureen Cousins


R.M. of Minitonas, Swan River, Mountain, The Pas



Deb Walger




Trinda Jocelyn



Advocacy related to COVID-19 continues Well, the Red River Ex may have been cancelled, but we continue to ride the COVID-19 pandemic rollercoaster, dealing with all the ups and downs that have gone with that. After a period of decline at the start of the pandemic, the markets appear to have stabilized at the time of writing in mid-June, although forecasting remains uncertain. There is a significant backlog of cattle awaiting processing after operations at plants (especially in western Canada) were slowed or temporarily curtailed due to the pandemic. On the positive side consumer interest in and demand for our product has remained strong and elements of the economy, such as restaurants, are starting to reopen. And our trading partners continue to accept Canadian beef. No one can say for sure what the future holds, but as an industry, we continue our advocacy efforts around short and longterm matters related to the pandemic. Since writing my last column in May, MBP’s directors and staff have been very busy driving home to governments the pandemic’s impact on our sector. MBP has had regular contact with the Hon. Blaine Pedersen, Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development and his staff as the situation evolves. There have been letters and calls to Members of the Legislative Assembly, Members of Parliament, government staff, municipal councils, and to others like the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce to identify initiatives we believe could help. Thanks to those of

you who completed the form letters targeted at elected officials that we had developed outlining the concerns. Some of the things we have been seeking include, but are not limited to: having the pandemic deemed a natural disaster under AgriRecovery to hep flow immediate aid to producers; getting changes to AgriStability to make it more responsive; and, making modifications to the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) in light of the spike in premium costs that has affected affordability. So where are we at? On May 5 the federal government announced it is providing $50 million as part of an AgriRecovery initiative toward a set-aside program for the cattle industry to help manage livestock that have become backed up due to the disruptions at the processing plants. AgriRecovery initiatives are usually cost shared 60-40 between the federal and provincial governments. The federal government said it will provide its 60 per cent share regardless of whether individual provinces decide to make their 40 per cent contribution. MBP has asked the Manitoba government to provide 40 per cent, but we are still awaiting a decision as I write this. Alberta has moved on its set-aside program and other provinces are examining this as well. While the set-aside initiative is important, there are also concerns about the effects of the pandemic in the marketplace for cowcalf producers in the weeks and months ahead. MBP believes it is important that

DIANNE RIDING President's Column

government programs remain flexible and responsive to address emerging considerations. On the business risk management (BRM) program front, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, supported by the provincial associations, continues to seek changes to AgriStability as we know the program is not as responsive to the cattle industry’s needs as it could be. Our industry is seeking the removal of the reference margin limit, the elimination of the $3 million payment cap, raising the payment trigger to 85 per cent, and the swifter processing of interim claims. It has been announced that for the 2020 program year, the governments of Canada and Manitoba have agreed to increase the interim payment rate from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of estimated final benefits. For more details see eng/?id=1574359523000 Due to the steep spike in premiums for WLPIP, MBP lobbied the federal and provincial governments to cost share the price insurance premiums with producers, as well as to extend the enrolment deadline. Having affordable, bankable and respon-

sive BRM tools is critical to the success of cattle operations. While the deadline to enrol in the calf program was extended to June 18, there was no agreement to cost share the premiums. This was disappointing. MBP worked with Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to host a webinar on WLPIP to help raise awareness of this important tool. The federal and provincial governments have rolled out programs to help individuals and businesses deal with the effects of the pandemic. While some of these are not as responsive as the agriculture sector needs, producer should look at them to see what may or may not work for your operation. For information about provincial programs go to https:// infomanitobans/index. html and for federal programs go to https://www. inance/e conomic-response-plan.html . While these programs generally focus on the economic challenges associated with the pandemic, it’s very important we also think about the mental health piece, be it our own, or that of a family member, friend or

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neighbor. These are stressful times. Although we are sometimes uncomfortable reaching out to ask for help ourselves, or to offer help to someone else, please consider doing it. In this edition of Cattle Country you’ll see a couple of articles on a study recently released by Farm Management Canada that looks at farming and mental health, especially when it comes to how we manage our operations. MBP was pleased to provide funding for this project as we know that stress can have a significant impact on producers and their families. The weather is once again not being our friend. In some areas insufficient moisture is leading to poor pasture conditions, limited forage growth and raising concerns about feed supply availability as we think about next fall and winter. Excess moisture in other areas is a challenge. MBP has already written to the provincial government asking that Wildlife Management Areas be opened for haying and grazing. MBP is still awaiting word as to when the provincial government will open up the public consultation on the first right of renewal on agricultural Crown land leases, as well as awaiting the release of the study that has been undertaken in recent months on Manitoba’s forage insurance offerings. Although there are no

fairs and festivals in which to participate this summer, MBP has still been undertaking various communications activities. This includes running advertisements on CTV Winnipeg promoting Manitoba’s beef industry. There will be a summer radio advertising campaign targeted at listeners in Winnipeg and area. And MBP produced a video for social media thanking those working on the front lines in the processing plants for their efforts in getting our product onto the plates of our consumers. MBP has also begun the process to refresh its website to make it more user friendly and inviting, both for producers and for the general public who stop by seeking recipes or to learn more about our industry. Looking ahead, MBP is looking at how to hold its fall district meetings as the requirements related to the pandemic on matters such as gathering sizes, social distancing and so on means that the traditional way of holding meetings is now under the microscope. We want to ensure that producers are informed of what’s going on, but we also need to do it safely. Stay tuned for more details in the weeks ahead. All the best with your summer activities and keep in touch as your feedback is so important in helping to inform our activities.



Healthy Minds, Healthy Farms BY ANGELA LOVELL A new report on farmers’ mental health says that 62 per cent of Canadian farmers experience mid-level stress and 14 per cent high stress levels. The goal of the Healthy Minds, Healthy Farms study, commissioned by Farm Management Canada (FMC), in association with a number of farm groups, including Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP), was to improve understanding of the relationship between farm business management practices and farmers’ mental health. “Many Canadian farmers are already at a mid-stress score and some at a high stress and the unknowns due to COVID-19 have compounded the issue,” says MBP General Manager, Carson Callum. “The report shows how important it is to recognize that mental health has a tremendous impact on producers’ day-to-day activities on the farm, as well as on their family life, and emphasizes the need to develop strategies and tools for producers to help them deal with these challenges.” Beef producers feel additional stress from public scrutiny Researchers conducted an extensive literature review and surveyed over 1,700 farmers, held 14 inperson focus groups across Canada, and interviewed 72 farmers and others in the agricultural industry. Three out of four farmers rated market unpredictability, workload pressures and financial concerns as the top three stress factors. In addition to these, beef producers also see public trust as a major stressor, saying

they face public scrutiny and criticism from activist groups. Beef producers also cited climate and certification policies, which add costs to beef production and reduce the global competitiveness of Canadian beef as other stressors, as well as the potential for disease outbreaks like bovine tuberculosis. The report highlights four key recommendations for supporting farmer mental health and farm business management, the first being to continue to raise awareness of the importance of farmers’ mental health. The second recommendation is to improve mental health literacy for farmers and others who support them. “One of the things that came out of this process was the need to create that circle around a farmer so that they’re not making decisions alone,” says Denise Rollin, Project Manager with FMC. “Encouraging advisors and those who are in contact with farmers to take mental health literacy training is important, as is trying to create that circle with advisors, sales people, family, with people outside of farming that farmers can depend on whether it’s from a business or personal perspective.” Focusing on risk management and preparedness Delivering business management advice that focuses on risk management and preparedness as a means of facing uncertainty, is a recommendation that resonates loudly with Manitoba Beef Producers, says Callum. “It’s really important to communicate the connection between mental

health and farm business risk management (BRM), and how it can impact producers’ mental health,” he says. “With BRM programs the focus is often on the economics of trying to reduce risk, but its also about providing a sense of security that producers are doing something to reduce the potential risk for the farm and controlling some of that risk can help decrease some of that mental stress on them and their families.” Rollin says that highlighting the need for more business and risk management advice in the report helps FMC continue to improve on some of the programs it already offers in this area. As an example, FMC recently launched AgriShield, its Risk Assessment and Planning platform, which will hold workshops across Canada over the next three years. Farmer-specific supports needed The fourth recommendation recognizes the need for more farmer-specific mental health support services. “I do believe that we should be focusing more on mental health services specifically for producers,” says Dianne Riding, MBP President, who also believes it’s important for producers to look out for each other, especially in difficult times. “Sometimes we all need to reach out to each other and hopefully, our friends or family can help guide us to the next level,” she says. “Through COVID-19, I’m a livestock producer so the self-isolation was not that hard because we’re calving cows. The hard part was not being able to visit the neighbours for a cup of coffee, so the next best solution has been

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to pick up the phone and check on people and make sure they’re OK. Sometimes when you make that call, or you get that call, it happens to hit on a day when you really need it.” Young farmers (under age 40) also reported feeling high stress levels and were less effective at coping with it, and were also less likely to adopt business management practices than older farmers. The young farmers surveyed said they were also more likely to sleeping less, or to not attend social or family gatherings due to stress, which is concerning because these changes in behaviour may further impact their mental health and leave them ill-equipped to manage their farm. “Compared to those 60 and older, farmers under 40 indicate that they are less likely to adopt positive coping strategies when under a great deal of stress. This includes seeking information and making informed decisions in a timely manner. These results demonstrate that young farmers in particular may benefit from additional business support,” says the report. “This stood out for us because you would assume that young people can pick up things quickly, they are more used to technology and so on, but many young farmers are also transitioning to running the farm, and that’s often a stressful situation,” says Rollin. “I think it’s also a reflection that younger people may be more aware of their mental health state, they understand their feelings more and recognize when they are under stress.” Industry needs to work together The report emphasizes the importance of mental health services for farmers and provides a good basis for the industry to work together to address some of these challenges, says Callum. “It can help guide many BRM programs as we move forward as we think about the human aspect of managing risk, not just the financial or economic component, and it demonstrates the importance of having many different players across the ag sector involved in these collaborative, open discussions, including government, industry associations like MBP, farm advisors, mental health profes-

sionals and farmers.” “We feel the report is a good reflection of the industry as a whole and there is a great opportunity within here for lots

of different groups and people to find a recommendation that they feel like their organization can do better on and run with it,” says Rollin.



How is COVID-19 affecting our young beef producers? BY ANGELA LOVELL The current COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for many businesses and individuals, and Manitoba’s beef producers are no exception. For young beef producers, especially, that uncertainty, along with some of the tangible effects of closed packing plants and unpredictable markets, is forcing them to make some tough decisions as they plan for summer and fall. Tyler Fulton, a young producer who operates a 600-head cow-calf and backgrounding operation south of Birtle, says there’s a lot of uncertainty over cash flow, market timing and prices, and he’s already had to make changes to his crop plan and lost some income on spring heifers he sold. “We still had about 300 yearling heifers that we needed to sell this spring, and we effectively got stuck with them as the virus developed when the buyer backed out because they didn’t have pen space for them,” says Fulton. “We did end up moving the animals, but they sold for about 20 per cent less than I had originally negotiated. We fed them all winter and added an extra 200 lbs on them and did it for nothing because we got paid the same price on a per calf basis as if we’d sold them last fall.” Fulton was also getting ready to convert about 200 acres to organic oat production, but because he ended up selling fewer spring heifers, and is hanging on to more cows he would normally cull because cull prices are lower, he has planted that 200 acres to feed to make sure he can feed a larger herd this winter. Kyle Campion operates Belle Creek Stock Farm near Pipestone with his parents and had just bought 60 more January-calving cows last fall to keep expanding his personal herd, and admits he’s now a bit concerned about what they will be worth this fall. Certainly, any future expansion plans for him personally or the farm are on hold for a while. The family have a 450-head cow/calf operation and also run an 800-head feedlot, and because they overwinter their calves, they had sold them this spring just before COVID-19 began impacting cattle prices. Campion says they are basically doing what they do every spring, seeding so they have feed for the winter and while hoping it’s going to be a year like any other, anticipating the adjustments they will have to make if it’s not. Their strategy has been to educate themselves and keep informed about what’s happening, reading up on developments from experts and scientists and listening to other producers and consumers. What are young producers most concerned about heading into fall? Looking ahead to this fall, the biggest concern for a lot of producers is what the market prices will be, and that’s influenced by a lot of things, not least of all processing capacity. As of mid-May there were an estimated 150,000 animals backlogged for slaughter with the temporary closure or slowdown of major packing plants in Alberta and eastern Canada, which is going to take time to work through, even if they get back to full capacity soon, and will have a knock-on effect for all beef producers. “Even if the packers go beyond their historical capacity, it’s not feasible for them to work through that backlog in this calendar year,” says Fulton. “If I’m a feedlot, and I’m still dealing this fall with animals that should have been marketed two or three months ago, the first action I’m going to take is not buy fall calves, and/or be very cautious about what price I’m paying for them.” Wilco Van Meijl had already sold most of the farm’s calves before COVID-19 hit the Canadian beef industry, so although they have clean pens at the moment, they are not oblivious to the effect that stalled or reduced processing capacity could have on their farm going forward. “With such a glut of animals to get through, that has ripple effects,” says Van Meijl, who operates a 450-head cow/calf operation with his wife, brother and sister-inlaw and his parents at Rapid City. “So, we have a lot of anxiety and apprehension about what things might look like for us from a pricing standpoint down the road.

Wilco Van Meijl had already sold most of the farm’s calves before COVID-19 hit the Canadian beef industry, so although they have clean pens at the moment, they are not oblivious to the effect that stalled or reduced processing capacity could have on their farm going forward. Photo credit: Van Meijl family

That’s been the major impact on our operation to this point.” There is also vast uncertainty about what future beef demand curves will look like, especially for high value cuts that traditionally went to the restaurant industry, which has been hard hit by the crisis. “What are consumer behaviours going to be? We were driving towards 50 per cent of meals being eaten in restaurants, so as restaurants have backed off, and there’s been a big shift to grocery, how will the industry deal with that when we get back to “normal”, and what does that look like from a demand standpoint,” says Van Meijl. “What’s that whole carcass value going to look like as we move through opening up of the economy?” As well, with every province, and the United States at different stages in relation to re-opening of their economies, that’s likely also going to have an impact on demand curves. “How does that all come down to the farm gate?” says Van Meijl. “I think everyone’s concerned about what does this mean to my bottom line. Just like a restaurant owner is saying, how does this effect my bottom line?” Are young producers using more risk management tools? For many beef producers, business risk management (BRM) tools have become even more essential to their operations this year. Fulton, who is vice-president of Manitoba Beef Producers and has also worked for 15 years as the Director of Risk Management for a hog marketing cooperative, is a big advocate of BRM tools and uses the Western Livestock Price Insurance program (WLPIP) and AgriStability on his ranch. Fulton says a tweak to AgriStability this year has made it a more effective tool for livestock producers than in the past. In the past, if a producer had livestock price insurance, and had a claim and payout, there was a reduced chance that he or she would see a benefit from AgriStability if they had been compensated through livestock price insurance, Fulton explained. “This year, the proceeds from private insurance programs (like WLPIP) no longer impacts your AgriStability claim,” he says. Van Meijl’s ranch has been using WLPIP for a number of years and enrolled again this year, and says the deadline extension for the program beyond May 31 definitely helped given the uncertainty and volatility this year, which has also meant premiums have been a bit higher. About 30 per cent of the Campions’ herd is currently insured under WLPIP and they were considering increasing it to 60 per cent.

As well, producers can use WLPIP and AgriStability for cash advance programs. “A cash advance program provides the means to be able to weather any cash flow hurdles,” says Van Meijl. “It allows you some flexibility from a marketing standpoint, so that’s why we’re looking at AgriStability as well.” The problem of lack of equity Young producers often have less equity than established producers, and that can make access to financing difficult. “Where young producers typically run into challenges is because they are tight on equity and so they always have to generate enough cash to make their commitments,” says Van Meijl, who works with a lot of young producers in his off-farm job at Farm Credit Canada. So, has COVID-19 made that situation even worse, and how is it affecting producers’ day-to-day operations, or transition and expansion plans? Fulton has put replacement of a couple of tractors on the back-burner for this year. “There’s no major equipment replacement going to be happening just because cash flow is so tight and there’s just a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not we would be able to meet those debt obligations,” he says. 43-year-old Fulton, and his wife, Dorelle, recently bought out their parents’ stake in the family operation and is understandably concerned about meeting his obligations to them and the farm, but says he feels fortunate to be in a better situation than some young producers who aren’t as established and have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic. “We’ve been farming here for 13 years now, so we’ve built up a bit of equity and both have off-farm jobs so we’re in good shape, but the current situation can’t help but weigh on you. It completely changes the landscape which you use to view decisions. I just don’t see how the whole economy is not going to have a long recovery because how could you not be cautious?” Van Meijl and his wife are still expanding their herd and have been growing fairly aggressively, so cash is always tight and their off-farm incomes are important. Although not flush with equity, they had bought some land a while back that has appreciated in value and provided a bit of a buffer from an equity standpoint, but he is concerned that COVID-19 could put the brakes on expanding further. “If calf prices do fall considerably, and we sell more head to get the cash flow we need to make our commitments, there will be less room to expand,” says Van Meijl. “To me as a young producer, without that backstop of equity, with commitments to make, if my Page 6 



StockTalk Q&A Feature

brought to you by Manitoba Agriculture Resource Development, Livestock Extension Branch


Production Extension Livstock Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture, Dauphin

Q: I am concerned that my stored hay for my beef cows is going to be limited this fall and winter. Is there a strategy that I can put in place now to prepare for a hay shortage? A: Many pastures in the province have been overgrazed, and as a result, productivity will be lower and fall and winter feeding may have to start sooner. This year’s growing period is a good time to reflect on your fall and winter requirements and assess what management decisions need to be made to remain profitable. Remember that each operation is different and there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Here are some positive actions that can be taken to help forage stands remain productive: 1. Grazing livestock on pasture is certainly the most economical method of reducing costs in your operation. It is important to carefully look at the current pasture condition to determine how soon the pasture might run out, and when winter feeding will need to begin. This will help you estimate how much winter feed will be required. 2. Using past records, estimate the length of the grazing season, and estimate the per cent shortfall in dry areas. To maintain pasture, periods of rest and recovery are needed. Optimum grazing days are attained by leaving 50 per cent residue on your pastures after each graze. 3. Create a paper inventory of hay yields and expected annual forage yields. Balance this to your animal numbers and the predicted length of the grazing season. 4. Balance any shortfall by looking for additional pasture, selling off animals, or supplementing pasture with hay or grain. This will allow your pasture to improve without continued hard grazing. 5. If the hay or silage volumes are below critical levels, consider purchasing annual crops from neighbours who might be willing to let go of a field because of problems with plant stand, weeds, or other issues. Also, watch for oppor-

tunities such as hail damaged crops. This will give you more flexibility on winter feed supplies, or provide another source of high quality feed for the winter feeding period. If moisture is adequate, seeding annuals such as oats or millet in Manitoba can be done into the first part of July. 6. To take advantage of best quality, cut alfalfa at 10 per cent bloom at first cut, even if yield is light. Cutting hay early is more soil moisture efficient and often provides a good second cut. However, if the first cut is left to full bloom, the alfalfa plant consumes a lot of moisture, only producing fibrous low energy, low protein in the stalks and very few high quality leaves. Feeding high quality first and second cut hay, blended with poorer feeds such as straw (as a roughage source), is more economical in the end. High quality stored alfalfa is the cheapest protein source available, and many rations are short on protein during the winter feeding period. Targeting to harvest hay at a high protein level can eliminate this shortfall. a. Quality of alfalfa drops quickly, ideal alfalfa at 20 per cent Crude Protein, 30 per cent Acid Detergent Fibre, and 40 per cent Neutral Detergent Fibre, can drop to 17 - 34 - 45, in only five to six days during the harvest period. Therefore, harvesting at the appropriate time is crucial. b. Since 1995, the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association has been conducting forage testing, otherwise known as the Green Gold Program. It has been used to help predict Hay Day – the date when pure alfalfa stands are at optimum quality (150 Relative Feed Value). This has been an invaluable resource for producers to highlight when their hay field may be ready to cut for optimum quality. For example, in 2017, the optimum Hay Day was June 14, where there was an early start to the growing season, with optimal conditions for growth. In 2019, however, we had a very dry and cool spring, causing stress to the plants. As a result, Hay Day was forecast to be June 5, nine days earlier than 2017. For up-to-date area forecasts, visit the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association website at 7. Working with your local nutritionist, feed test early in the fall, and ration balance all feeds to meet the feed requirements of your animals. This

The Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services provides free, confidential telephone and online counselling to farmers, rural and northern Manitobans. Our counsellors are here to listen and to help you work through any issue you may be struggling with: farm, family, financial and other. Call 1-866-367-3276 or chat with us online at

will allow you to forecast feed shortfalls early, secure other feed sources and blend feeds to overcome shortfalls. Reduced forage yields during dry conditions mean a declining plane of nutrition for cows and calves. This in turn means increased expenditure for grazing, poorer body condition on cows, and in turn, higher wintering costs. More open cows and later conceptions can result, so making defined decisions in a timely manner will pay off later on. During dry conditions, the farm manager must minimize the damage to stay profitable. Wellplanned grazing systems and winter feed planning to match the requirements of the animals will result in greater forage production and better animal performance. For further assistance, contact your local livestock specialist. We want to hear from you For the next issue of Cattle Country, a Manitoba Agriculture forage or livestock specialist will answer a selected question. Send your questions to The StockTalk Q&A Feature for Cattle Country is brought to you by Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development. We encourage you to email your questions to our department’s forage and livestock team, who have a combined 200 years of agronomy experience. We are here to help make your cattle operation successful. Contact us today.

COVID effects  Page 5 gross product is worth less, right, then I might have to go into contraction mode to be able to make my commitments, and then you feel like you’re going backwards and no one likes that.” What will the future look like? 20-year-old Campion is concerned that going forward, there might not be too many of his peers in the industry. “I don’t want to see it, but I can see the number of young producers go down,” he says. “Last year we had feed shortages and high feed prices going into the fall, then throw in COVID-19 and the impacts its had on us, and there is a lot of stress in trying to manage and stay profitable, so I can see a lot of the younger producers shying away from the industry, which is not what we need going into the future.” That said, Fulton believes that the beef industry’s self-reliance and investment in its culture will see it through this crisis, as it has through many prior, but he also can see fewer operations in the future and some further implications to communities and the environment. “I think there will be implications to the rural landscape, small towns could get smaller and

there could be impacts on wildlife and ecosystems associated with the beef industry,” he says. “If we see a significant shrink in our industry, these are negative consequences that are really difficult to recover from.” While COVID-19 continues to stress the beef industry, it also provides some learning opportunities, says Van Meijl. “We have to listen to our consumers and as we move on in this, to understand what we, as the beef industry, have learned from this crisis,” he says. “We need to recognize where there’s different opportunities to make shifts when these things happen and share that story with the supply chain. I think it’s important to look at this as creating energy because if it sucks all your energy out, it’s easier to sell the herd. It’s harder to find a solution and adjust to being nimble with how you do things. How do you change what you thought you knew? That’s the way we’re looking at it and we’re open to anything. We’ve been selling our calves direct over the last number of years and have been listening to the people buying our cattle so we can look at how do we make our product better or make it more of what our consumers want.”



COVID-19 continues to upend markets RICK WRIGHT The Bottom Line COVID-19 has changed the cattle industry; every cattleman in the “supply chain” has been affected, regardless of size. On top of that, every service provider to the cattle industry has also faced challenges during this crisis. The financial implications from the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years and some of the businesses may never recover. With many of the provinces starting to ease their COVID-19 restrictions, it may be easy to forget that COVID-19 is still here, and the disruptions it has caused in commerce are far from over. As I put pen to paper, it is the middle of June, and we have just experienced a short term rebound in the fed cattle prices. Beef packers in the USA are back to near normal capacities of 640,000 cattle per week. In Canada we are back to nearly 85 per cent capacity. The gap between fed yearlings and fed calves coming to market is nearly closed, with most of the yearlings having already been processed. Packers in the west were bidding on cattle for delivery the following month, eastern packers had filled the gap and were buying two weeks out. These signals suggest lower prices in the immediate future. With the harvest numbers close to normal, and the carcass weights coming in at 35 to 50 pounds per head heavier than last year, there is no shortage of beef in the food chain. With the increased steady supply of beef available, box beef prices in the wholesale business have started

to drop significantly. This in turn has prompted the packers to start dropping their prices to the feedlots, and the worst is yet to come! With the opening of some of the restaurants, we can expect an increase in the food services demand, but overall beef sales will not increase due to that. Food service demand will take away some of the current robust demand at the retail stores. The key to sustainable wholesale prices is export demand. COVID-19-related disruptions at the packing plants have created a backlog of fed cattle ready for market starting in March. As of June 1, 2020, Canada had an estimated backlog of 125,000 market ready cattle waiting to be harvested. In the USA, depending on estimate information, they were a minimum of 800,000 to 1,000,000 fed cattle behind. On January 1, 2020, Canadian sources reported that there were 100,000 more feeder cattle on feed in Canada than the previous year. Exports of feeder cattle to the USA as of June 1 are down over 45 per cent from last year. We already were aware that the peak of fed cattle deliveries in Canada would arrive in mid-July, August and September. Price projections for those months were volatile before COVID-19. The reality is that the backlog of fed cattle is expected to grow over the summer months, not decrease. Unless we are able to market a larger number of live fed cattle into the USA, it may take until the end of the year to clean up the surplus of fed cattle in Canada. The packers know that the cattle are going to be there and there is nothing to stop the prices from falling to March levels. The other factor is the predicted “second wave” of COVID-19 for the fall. Despite the many improvements made at the packing plants to increase worker safety, the processing industry is still very vulnerable to a major outbreak of an infectious disease.

This puts a black cloud over the fall feeder market predictions. If the feedlots cannot get their finished cattle moved in a timely fashion, pen space could be a problem. In the early fall, cattle feeders prefer the yearlings off the grass rather than wet nosed calves. Once the yearlings are cleaned up, the demand for calves increases. In Manitoba, we depend on the backgrounding lots to purchase calves during the heavy deliveries in later October and November. The Ontario feedlots that have been great supporters of the Manitoba cattle market were later getting their finished cattle sold and later than normal buying new inventory that in many cases will not be ready to market when the calf run starts in the fall. If you remember last fall, wet weather conditions delayed harvest and poor pen conditions kept the backgrounders off the market until mid- November. If the lack of pen space comes into play this fall, we will see the Americans take a large number of feeders from western Canada. If that happens, producers will not be happy, as the USA price is currently lower than the Canadian feeder cattle market. The good news for the fall is the predicted cheaper corn price in the south. The price predictions of under $3.30 per bushel makes feeding cattle attractive. With gas prices under pressure, the demand for ethanol is also lower, which will mean less DDGs available on the market. The expected volatility in the cattle market over the next few months will make any type of accurate market predictions very difficult. If the inventory numbers are correct, then it is quite possible that we could see the lowest fed cattle prices since BSE. If that is the case, then the best we can hope for in the fall would be last year’s prices. I hope I am wrong, but the fundamentals suggest otherwise. Until next time, Rick

Intercropping in corn for winter grazing BY DR. MARY-JANE ORR

MBFI General Manager

Cattle working their way through snow and standing corn continues to be more common across Manitoba. Corn is a versatile feed source shown to have lower winter feeding costs in fuel, equipment, and labour when grazed standing in a multi year project at Manitoba Beef & Forage Initiatives (MBFI) led by Shawn Cabak of Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MB ARD). Additionally, the high biomass production and stand height provides some winter weather shelter. Concerns to consider in corn grazing include overloading on grain, potentially high residue waste, and meeting crude protein requirements of the class of cattle. These challenges to date have been managed through utilizing electric fencing to strip grazing approximately a three-day allocation and supplementation with good quality grassalfalfa hay. Intercropping high protein forages in the corn stand is an exciting management option to meet livestock feed requirements and build soil health through increased plant diversity and grow-

ing season. No clear consensus has been identified so far on a combination for grazing corn with intercropped forages. Field studies and producer experiences ranging from Manitoba to Alberta, and United States Midwest to date have shown positive, neutral, and negative yield impacts on corn stands. Similarly, the success of establishing intercrops to generate enough yield to offset hay supplementation has had mixed results. Competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight capture can result in yield drag for the corn productivity and or failure of the intercrop to establish and thrive. In the case of winter grazing standing corn an added challenge is the intercrop’s susceptibility to lodging and snow cover. Intercropping with corn was a hot topic at the December 2019 Dakota Innovation Research & Technology Workshop, and the 2019 field season saw small plot studies carried out by the University of Manitoba’s Yvonne Lawley and Emma McGeough, and by the Westman Agricultural Diversification Organiza-

tion. The Peace Country Beef & Forage Association (PCBFA, 2017 Annual Report) small plot trial in Alberta evaluated six different companion crops and a complex mixture with corn. The corn and intercrops were seeded together and harvested to-



gether in early September, modelling silage production. PCFBA observed relative to monoculture corn, the corn – crimson clover and corn – faba bean companion crops showed yield advantages. In a MBFI staff led on farm demonstration, alter-

nating test strips in 30-inch row corn were maintained as monoculture corn or planted with Melquatro Italian ryegrass, yellow sweet clover, Hungvillosa hairy vetch, and Akela forage rape. The intercrop mixture was seeded following incrop glyphosate control in

hybrid corn at the V5 stage. Yield and quality sampling were completed November 12th, 2019 to capture available winter forage. Starting in December, the 5-acre demonstration field at Brookdale Farm was strip grazed as one field. Page 9 





July 23-25/2020 - Brandon, MB


October 28-31- Brandon W/ Angus show on the 29th

Manitoba Angus Association P: 1-888-622-6487

Watch the website for updates on upcoming events or cancellations •



Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce (Photo credit: Elisabeth Harms)

Get outside and get cooking! BY ELISABETH HARMS Now that summer is finally upon us, we can sit outside and enjoy the weather. Many of us have felt the strain of being inside for so long and have been waiting for the day where we can spend time outside; whether it’s gar-

dening, planting or simply reading a book. There are also lots of us who have been just waiting for the perfect summer evening to crank up the barbeque to cook dinner outside. I want to share with you a few of my favourite barbeque ideas as the summer stretches ahead of

us, providing us with lots of opportunities to enjoy them. First on my list is a good skewer or kebab — they are versatile in flavour and easy to make. These kebabs use sirloin tip, which has been cut up into cubes and marinated for about two hours. This

particular cut of meat is naturally slightly tender, so you do not need to rely on the marinade to achieve tenderness for you. The flavours in the marinade include garlic, rosemary, and red wine vinegar, all of which complement the beef nicely. Once you’ve marinated the beef, start

Verified Beef Production Plus Workshops are being delivered by webinar during the evening • Webinars take place in the evenings so producers aren’t taken away from their daily chores. • The interactive webinars are delivered using web based video conferencing software. • Participants can interact during the presentations, hear the presenters, and ask questions or make comments in real time. • Also available via app for iOS and Android.

Webinars will take place on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. • Webinar may be cancelled on a given week due to a lack of registered participants. • Pre-registration is required. • Contact Melissa Atchison at (204) 264-0294 or email: for details.

How to register for webinars or LIVE workshop • To sign up to attend a webinar or the LIVE workshop, please contact Melissa Atchison at (204) 264-0294 or email • Alternate times and days can be arranged based on producer demand.

soaking your skewers so they don’t burn when you are ready to cook. When you’re ready to build the skewers, pick any veggies you prefer to accompany the meat; onions, peppers, and cherry tomatoes work nicely, but feel free to substitute for mushrooms, zucchini, or eggplant. When you’re ready to get cooking, preheat your barbeque to 400F. Once ready, you will want to cook these skewers on direct heat, for about 15 minutes. You will get nice grill marks and a bit of char on the edges of the meat. Next is something a little bit different but could definitely become a great summer meal: grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. Skirt steak is a bit of a different cut of beef but is most similar to flank steak. If you are unable to find skirt steak, you can definitely substitute it for flank, but the recipe’s method may change slightly. The two best parts of the meal are: the skirt steak, which is incredibly naturally tender, and the chimichurri sauce, which makes use of some lovely fresh garden herbs like parsley and oregano. Because the skirt steak is so tender, it doesn’t need a marinade — simply salt and pepper them before placing them on a medium-high barbeque (about 400F). Again, you want to cook these pieces of meat on direct heat for only a few minutes a side. Finally, I can’t do a favourite barbequed meal list without including burgers. They are a staple at many barbeques, and when we are able to have gatherings again, they are

a crowd-pleaser. Burgers can be incredibly versatile, not only with flavours you can add to the burgers themselves, but also with the toppings. When making the patties, you can include fresh herbs like parsley or oregano, or you can simply add steak spice to them. Both will complement the beef well. Make sure to add an egg and some breadcrumbs to make sure they hold their shape while cooking. Burgers will be best if you can make them a couple hours before cooking and you can let them sit in the fridge to firm up. This also allows the flavours to meld and overall, you’ll have a much tastier burger. When cooking, heat your barbeque to a medium to medium-high, making sure it’s not too hot. If it does get too hot, this could cause flare-ups and your burgers might cook unevenly. If you’re concerned about flareups, have a spray bottle handy while cooking. There is no limit to your burger topping ideas either. Cheese, bacon, tomatoes, onions, blue cheese…the list is endless. Use what you like! I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to create some really tasty and fun meals the whole family can enjoy this summer. I also hope by the end of the summer, we may be able to share some of these fabulous meal ideas with friends and family, even if we still have to maintain physical distancing. Stay well! Many of these recipes can be found on, or you can visit for other inspiring ideas.



How COVID-19 could be devastating for Canada’s shrinking grasslands BY ANGELA LOVELL Just like other Canadians, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of the 60,000 families that raise beef in Canada, but the impacts of potentially losing farmers and ranchers because of the pandemic extends beyond our food supply, and threatens what little remains of Canada’s native grasslands. That was the message from the beef industry and conservation groups participating in the recent online discussion, Feeding the Future: COVID-19 impacts to the beef industry – increased risk for Canada’s grasslands, hosted by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). Parallels to BSE The current pandemic has many parallels to the BSE crisis of the early 2000s, when more than 26,000 farmers and ranchers left the industry in the years that followed, and over five million acres of grasslands were converted to crops. The same could easily happen with COVID-19 warned Karla Guyn, CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) “History has shown that the potential of an economic fallout within the beef industry is a risk we can’t afford to take,” she said. “Memories of the BSE crisis, that shook the Canadian cattle industry, are a powerful reminder why. For many, farming no longer represented a profitable and sustainable way of preserving their land. This kind of widespread loss has a distinct and damaging effect.” Not only is this bad news for farm families and the beef industry, it’s also potentially devastating for the native grasslands in Western Canada, one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, 70 per cent of which have already been lost, and which continue to be lost at a steady rate. Grasslands filter water, help prevent flooding and drought, store and sequester carbon and more than 60 species at risk depend on this habitat. Grassland bird species have declined by 57 per cent since the 1970s and conservation groups have a long history of working with beef producers and other landowners to preserve these ecologically sensitive grasslands. “Today some of the country’s most important habitats continue to be managed and conserved by farmers and ranchers. We count them among our most important environmental stewards,” said Guyn. “So, as we witness the debilitating effects this pandemic is having on them, we are concerned. Simply put, the actions that impact grasslands,

wetlands, cattle and wildlife all go hand in hand. Without a successful beef industry, conservation in Canada will not continue at the rate or scale at which it’s so desperately needed.” Investing in processing What is lacking, says Dr. Sylvan Charlebois, is support for agriculture, particularly the livestock sector, through infrastructure investments and the supply chain. “We need to think about the financial viability of the industry, and the supply chain support,” said Charlebois. “In Canada, we often adopt a supply chain view on how to feed people, how to service markets. We grow things as best we can and then we figure out a market for it. Today, it’s very difficult to make agriculture sustainable unless you adopt a true demand chain management philosophy. In other words, everything starts with the consumer. This is what the CRSB is all about, it’s a supply chain focused initiative from farm to fork and that has a lot of merit, especially with what’s happening today.” Charlebois believes that investment in vertically-integrated processing capacity could be a good strategy to help keep the beef industry viable in the aftermath of COVID-19. “Rules are dictated by demand right now, and you have to adapt, and the one way to do that in a strategic way today is by investing in processing,” he said. “With what has happened over the last 11 weeks, if you don’t make processing the centrepiece of your strategy, ranchers will be the first ones to pay for it. We have seen that several times across the country in the last few weeks.” Incentives to reward ecological services Incentivizing the conservation and management of grasslands and other sensitive habitat could also help keep producers on the land and managing these areas for the benefit of the public good, says Bob Lowe, CCA President. “The ranching industry produces more than just beef, like carbon sequestration and [maintaining] wildlife and bird habitat, which we produce for free and which benefits everyone in the country,” he said. “If we could get rewarded for that, that would put the beef industry on par with growing canola. If you look everywhere else in the world, that happens. It doesn’t seem to happen very much in Canada.” To develop robust programs that support conservation and other ecological services by ranchers, we first need to properly value our natural assets in Canada, said Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada.

Intercropping continued  Page 7 No change in body condition was observed over the 31 days of grazing for 49 dry gestating cows. Corn forage (whole plant) yield indicated a trend to lower yield with the intercrop, 10,994 lbs compared to 13,150 lbs dry weight per acre in the monoculture corn. However, the difference in yield was not greater than the observed field variation. In contrast, corn forage crude protein trended higher when grown with the intercrop, 9.8 per cent compared to 8.1 per cent in the monoculture corn forage. All plants established in the intercrop mix and combined forage yielded between 748 lbs to 1,673 lbs dry weight per acre, compared to the monoculture weed biomass of

611 lbs dry weight per acre. The intercrop forage had an average of 21 per cent crude protein and 64 per cent total digestible nutrients. Seeding into the corn at the V4 to V6 stage minimized competition of the intercrop with corn but did result in moderate corn shading out of the intercrop mixture. Despite the promising intercrop yield and feed quality, an early fall snowstorm lodged and buried the intercrop to the point that the cows did not actively seek out the forage to graze. While not meeting the goal of supplementing winter grazing in 2019, the intercrop did perform well as a cover crop between the corn rows. Looking forward to the 2020 growing season at MBFI, the corn inter-

cropping trial has been planted with 60-inch row spacing strips in contrast to 30-inch row monoculture corn with the same plant populations per acre for winter grazing. A mixture of winter triticale, Jeanne Italian ryegrass, Berseem clover, plantain, chicory, Melquatro Italian ryegrass, yellow sweet clover, Hungvillosa hairy vetch, and Akela forage rape will be seeded in the 60-inch row space at the V4 to V6 stage in the corn. Demonstrating 60inch row spacing is an opportunity to test managing plant canopy structure to maximize sunlight capture for plant productivity. Bob Recker of Waterloo, Iowa raised the question in 2017 of if it was possible to manipulate the edge effect yield benefit of increased

sunlight by doubling the in-row plant population. The 60-inch row space is opened to lower canopy plants to capture more sunlight on the same acres as 30-inch row corn. Through on-farm trials with Cedar Valley Innovation and subsequently Practical Farmers of Iowa, a takeaway message has been the 60-inch row intercropping shows promising trade offs if the goal is to incorporate grazing and build soil health. Thank you to Pride, Pickseed, Pioneer, Brett Young and Legend Seed for their ongoing support of corn seed in the Extensive Winter Grazing demonstration, and to Imperial Seed, Northstar Seed, and Pickseed for the their contribution to intercropping seed in 2019 and 2020.

“If we ever had declines in our investments [by the amount we see species like grassland birds decline] it would be headline news,” he said. “We have natural assets that are not properly valued and we need governments to do this so that they are properly valued, the contributions that ranchers are making and the expenses that they absorb in doing so are properly monitored in the system, so when we have declines it works as a gear in the economic system as well, so that we are addressing it. It’s a much larger challenge to solve but that’s what overlies this.” More support for programs that reward producers for maintaining and enhancing grasslands is needed from both the industry and government, says Anne Wasko, CRSB Chair. “Certainly, at the CRSB we look for support in terms of the science and the research that we do to provide the datapoints that the industry needs, things like a robust report on land conversion, understanding land use intensity and its impact on biodiversity. That’s some of the work that we do, but more and continued support would be great,” she said. “And the bottom line is that to preserve grasslands that our industry utilizes, we need to support programs that reward conservation. These are some key areas that we are working on, but further support beyond what we do as an industry at a government and legislative level would certainly be welcome.” Kevin Teneycke, Regional Vice-President for Manitoba with Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) agrees that payments for ecological goods and services presents an opportunity to financially recognize beef producers’ conservation efforts and the public benefits they provide, but would like to see a change in focus to an outcome-based model. “One of the changes in focus should be towards the payment for the provision of the service and not a payment for a practice,” says Teneycke. “We have had a focus on paying for a practice and not paying for an outcome, and sometimes that payment for a practice comes with a requirement to change something. In the true essence of payment for an ecological good or service, that payment should be based on what the producers are providing, what public goods and benefits are being provided.” An example is the development of carbon markets to provide payments to producers for carbon sequestration on their lands. A healthy beef industry is vital on many levels, concluded Lowe. “A healthy beef industry is not only important for our food supply, food security and rebuilding our economy, but it plays an important role in sustaining iconic landscapes and the wildlife that call them home,” he said. Manitoba Livestock Cash Advance Inc.

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This little calf has well covered himself with fresh straw, preparing for a nap. Photo credit: Jeannette Greaves






Panels & Gates Handling systems



Due to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic (and the related closure of high schools and postsecondary institutions) MBP has decided to push the application deadline for its 2020 annual scholarships into November instead of the usual June intake deadline. This application process is for students who will be undertaking post-secondary studies in the 2020-21 academic year. Manitoba Beef Producers is pleased to make available six $500 scholarships annually for MBP members or their children attending a university, college, other post-secondary institution or pursuing trades training. Preference will be given to those students pursuing a field of study related to agriculture or to those acquiring a skilled trade that would be beneficial to the rural economy. Completed applications and supporting documents must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. Friday, November 6th, 2020. A selection committee will review the submissions. Winners will be notified by December 11, 2020. The scholarship criteria is as follows: Eligibility: • Must be at least 17 years of age as of January 1, 2020. • Must be an active Manitoba beef producer or the child of an active Manitoba beef producer. Note: This can include beef producers returning to school after a period of time in the workforce. • Post-secondary program or trades training must be a minimum of one year in duration. Items You Are Required to Submit: • Completed application form; • A typed 600-word (maximum) essay discussing “What the beef industry means to my family, my community and Manitoba.â€? Also include the reasons you enjoy being involved in agriculture.*; • A copy of your transcript (either high school, or a recognized college, university or trade school); • Proof of enrolment in a recognized institution (current transcript, or your acceptance letter, or a letter of intent indicating your intended institution and field of study). • A list of community involvement (e.g. 4-H, community clubs, volunteer work, etc.); and, • The names of two references, including their addresses and telephone numbers. Submissions and ALL documentation must be sent no later than 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 6, 2020 to: Manitoba Beef Producers Scholarship Committee 220 – 530 Century Street Winnipeg MB R3H 0Y4 Fax: (204) 774-3264 E-mail:

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For more information, please contact Manitoba Beef Producers at 1-800-772-0458 or email

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*Scholarship winners’ essays will be published in MBP’s newspaper Cattle Country.

Ava i l a b l e @ F e d e ra t e d C o - o p A g C e n t r e s



Developmental programming BY DR. TANYA ANDERSON, DVM

The Vet Corner

Developmental programming is a concept whereby events happening to the cow during critical stages of development of her fetus affect that unborn calf throughout its lifetime. Future production of the calves can be affected by herd management during gestation. It is known that proper nutrition during pregnancy will improve subsequent progeny performance and health in both the feedlot as well as in replacement heifer programs. But, there are also influences from the environment and the genetic makeup of the cowherd which impact metabolic efficiency and the ability to adapt to environmental conditions. This article is going to discuss what is currently

known about the impact of first trimester nutrition - the late spring/early summer feeding program for spring calving beef herds. Subsequent articles will discuss the impacts of nutrition during mid and late gestation. Maternal nutrient delivery during pregnancy programs the growth and development of both the fetus as well as the placenta. While adequate nutrition programs are vital to optimize health and production, there is now evidence to suggest that moderate stress created by suboptimal nutrition may help promote the development of adaptive responses in offspring replacements making them more suited for use in limited nutrient environments such

as lower quality pasture grazing systems. This could certainly explain why newly purchased cattle may fail to perform in their new environment despite being of similar genetics such as being homozygous leptin gene carriers. Placental development and function are altered through maternal nutrition. After implantation at day 21 of pregnancy, the placenta becomes the sole lifeline for the fetus. Defects in the placental growth (or alterations in placental programming) will thus alter fetal growth and development. Fetal organ development continues up to six months gestation and it is during this time that nutrient imbalances can negatively impact organ development. From a practical standpoint, this means that, during a drought

year or if adverse pasture grazing, nutrient deficiencies can impact the development of the fetal organs. Changes in the digestive system or muscle development can make the unborn calf more energetically “thrifty” and able to thrive in a lower energy environment. These animals, when exposed to a nutrient-rich environment (such as a feedlot) tend to be very “easy keepers”. If pushed excessively, these calves are more prone to metabolic disease such as rumenitis, liver abcessation, intestinal bacterial overgrowth and laminitis. Although becoming more feed efficient is desirable, if a young fetus is subjected to maternal nutrient restriction, any available nutrients are prioritized to the developing organs in order of importance for surviv-

al - the brain, liver and placenta. Muscle fibre number and type are sacrificed meaning smaller muscle size, decreased marbling and changed connective tissue content thus negatively affecting carcass weight, grade and tenderness score. In contrast, overfeeding energy during early pregnancy is associated with excess marbling. Thus, despite the fact that fetal and placental growth are minimal during the first 50 days of pregnancy, the many critical events that take place, including fetal organ and placenta development, appear to be susceptible to poor maternal nutrition. Another important point is that not only does maternal nutrition during early pregnancy affect fetal development but also even pre-breeding nutritional plane and

body condition at breeding, has dramatic effects on embryonic development and developmental outcomes. Underfeeding prior to breeding and extending into the first trimester of pregnancy results in the early birth of underdeveloped but normal weight calves that experience high mortality rates. This can occur even if maternal nutrition is optimal during later gestation. Research is ongoing and there is now promise that dietary supplementation with specific amino acids, vitamins and pharmaceuticals to target specific developmental stages in the fetus may help enhance future genetic programming. For now, minimize the negative consequences of developmental programming by ensuring that maternal nutrition is optimal year-round.

Key recommendations outlined in forage insurance review Stakeholders provided valuable input into review: Pedersen

• CATTLEX offers a complete Order-Buying service and covers all Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan Auction Marts. • CATTLEX buys ALL classes of cattle direct from producers. • CATTLEX is interested in purchasing large or small consignments of Feeder Cattle, Finished Cattle, Cows and Bulls. For more information and pricing, contact any of the Cattlex buyers: Andy Drake (204) 764-2471, 867-0099 cell Jay Jackson (204) 223-4006 Gord Ransom (204) 534-7630

Clive Bond (204) 483-0229 Ken Drake (204) 724-0091

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• identifying areas where the admin- well as other insurance providers. More than 1,200 producers currently istrative burden for insureds can be minihave forage insurance through MASC, mized, • reviewing the index-based insur- insuring more than 272,000 acres. This ance approach used in other jurisdictions represents about 18 per cent of the more which relies on weather or satellite-based than 1.5 million eligible acres of forage in Manitoba. technology, and The Forage Insurance program is part • working more closely with industry to inform producers and increase aware- of AgriInsurance, a joint program of the ness of the MASC Forage Insurance pro- Government of Canada and the Province grams. of Manitoba under the Canadian AgriculThe review was conducted using a tural Partnership. number of different methods, including For more information, and to view a the EngageMB portal, focus groups and copy of the review, visit: interviews with producers, insur- Sale Thurs., Feb 1 MASC Butcher 9:00 am; ance agents, agricultural specialists, in- proactive/2020_2021/forage-insuranceBredasCowreview-May-2020.pdf. Sale 1:00 pm dustry associations, financial advisors, Tues., Feb 6 Feeder Sale 9:00 am


stakeholders and look forward to making improvements to the program where possible.” The review was initiated to get a better understanding of the purchasing decisions of Manitoba producers in terms of forage insurance products available to them. Several key recommendations were made and immediate action items will be undertaken by MASC prior to the next insurance year. Some of which include: • exploring new methodologies to assign coverages to new insureds, • determining if the effect that disaster years have on future coverage can be minimized, • establishing insured values that better reflect the price of hay in claim years,

20202018 Summer Sale Schedule Winter Sale Schedule

Government of Manitoba News Release June 19, 2020 After extensive engagement with the public, the Manitoba government released details of a review on forage insurance programs offered by the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC), Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen announced today. “Regardless of the type of crop, producers are faced with tough decisions on what products make the most sense to help manage risk,” said Pedersen. “It is important to get feedback so that we have a clear picture of what products they need to support their success in the agricultural industry. We’re pleased with the input we received from the many invested

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ALL PRESORT SALES WILL BEinBROADCAST LIVEcow ON THE Presorts MUST be booked advance. Bred salesINTERNET. must be Presorts MUST be booked in advance. cow sales must be pre-booked and in by NOON on Bred Wednesday prior. pre-booked and in bypapers NOON on Wednesday prior. Age verification must be dropped offAge withverification cattle. papers must be dropped off with cattle.

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Impacts of corn supplementation for overwintered beef cows during mid- to late- gestation BY CHRISTINE RAWLUK

National Centre for Livestock and the Environment, University of Manitoba

Over the course of a ‘typical’ Manitoba winter pregnant beef cows can be exposed to long periods of cold and fluctuating weather patterns, including precipitation as both rain and snow. Highly variable weather and extreme weather events leading to flooding and drought over the last several years in Manitoba, and elsewhere on the prairies, have resulted in periods of decreased forage availability or forage of lower quality for feeding during the winter months. Nutrient deficiencies can occur during the winter-feeding period if forages do not meet the increased nutrient demand that coincides with decreased temperature and increased fetal growth during mid- to latestages of gestation. Feeding low-quality forages, which may be deficient in both energy and protein, could amplify possible adverse nutrition-related impacts. Periods of compromised nutrition during gestation can have lasting

impacts on offspring, including compromises to carcass quality. Proper nutrition is important for both the cow and the developing fetus. The fetal growth stage is important for lifetime muscle development, as the number of muscle fibres is set at this stage and does not change after birth. Research has shown that nutrient restriction during gestation can result in reduced muscle fibres, muscle mass, and marbling. On the flip side, researchers have measured increased carcass weights of steers from cows fed higher quality forage during late gestation. Research has also shown potential benefits to both cow and calf by supplementing poor quality forages with various feedstuffs to improve the nutrition profile. For example, research at North Dakota State University (NDSU) showed that forage intake by cows and calf weight at birth both increased when corn DDGs were added at 0.3 per cent of body weight. However, less is known about the long term impact


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on calf growth and carcass outcomes of supplementing pregnant cows with an energy-based source such as feed grains. What was done To address this lack of research evidence, University of Manitoba animal scientists Kim Ominski, Argenis Rodas-Gonzalez and Emma McGeough, through a unique collaboration with scientists Kim Vonnahme and Kendall Swanson at NDSU, fed low-quality forage diets to cows during mid- to late-gestation to determine if supplementation with an energy source resulted in lasting positive impacts on their calves. The cow feeding trial took place at NDSU. Fortyseven cows of predominantly Angus breeding, and all multiparous, were selected from a larger herd artificially inseminated and confirmed to each be carrying a single male fetus. All cows on trial were provided with a base diet of 45 per cent hay, 45 per cent straw and 10 per cent sugar beet concentrated separator by-product during gestation days 110 to 153, which was adjusted to 60 per cent hay/30 per cent straw/10 per cent beet concentrate for days 154 to 265. For the 24 cows receiving the supplemented diet, dry-rolled corn was added to the base diet at 0.2 per cent of body weight on a dry matter basis. This conservative addition rate was chosen to avoid possible changes to feeding behaviour and intake that have been observed at higher rates of supplementation. To determine the effect of corn supplementation on cow and calf performance, cow feed intake, body weight and body condition score, as well as calf weight were

Photo credit: A. Rodas-Gonzalez

Vaccinations by needle-free injection an option for cattle producers Multiple University of Manitoba studies have shown needle-free injection is as effective as using a needle and syringe for delivering common vaccines. In this University of Manitoba - North Dakota State University collaboration, calves vaccinated against BVDV were followed through to slaughter to confirm there was no lasting damage to tissues that could potentially reduce carcass value. Earlier UM research showed that needle-free injection was effective for vaccinating calves against bovine viraldiarrhea virus, as well as Clostridium chauvoei which is the organism responsible for blackleg in cattle. What is needle-free technology? As the name suggests, this system does not rely on needles to inject the vaccine. Needle-free injection systems deliver vaccine through the skin into the tissue in a high-pressure stream, providing a consistent dose with each delivery. The key advantage of this technology is the elimination of the risks associated with using needles - broken needles, disease transmission, and needle pricks to the user. measured at select times. Research findings and takeaway message This research, which was recently accepted for publication, revealed that additional energy supplied with corn supplementation improved the energy status of the cows, resulting in increased cow body weight and body condition score change. These cows had more forage meals yet spent less time eating those meals per day, and consumed less forage per meal and per day. Total dry matter intake did not differ for cows fed either diet, indicating that the reduced forage intake was offset by corn grain intake. Calf birth weight was not influenced by the supplementation of corn during gestation. It is likely there was not a great enough difference in energy status between cows in the two dietary treatments due to the low supplementation rate to have an impact. As well, research has shown the effects of supplementation on calf birth weight are highly variable and depen-

dent on many factors. Although the supplementation rate used in this study was not sufficient to have lasting effects on calf growth, corn supplementation at low levels during gestation can benefit cow energy status and also decrease the amount of forage needed. These benefits to cow nutrient and energy status are even more important when weather or other challenges result in limited forage availability or low forage quality at a time when cow nutritional needs are higher, which commonly occurs during the course of a Manitoba winter. Next steps This study is the first phase of a comprehensive evaluation of the offspring from gestation through slaughter to determine if there are impacts on cow and calf performance in the short term, subsequent impacts on calf growth and development, and on carcass outcomes. At the end of the first phase, weaned calves were transported from NDSU to Manitoba

Beef and Forages Initiatives for the second phase of the study. This second phase continued through to slaughter to determine if there were any impacts of cow dietary treatments on progeny carcass quality once slaughter weight was attained. Significant research dollar cost-savings were achieved by layering an additional trial on this base study design which evaluated needle-free vaccination strategies at different periods during the lifetime of the progeny. This research was funded by Manitoba Beef Producers, the Governments of Manitoba and Canada through the Growing Forward 2, Growing Innovation-Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative, Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiatives Inc., NSERC, Mitacs, as well as multiple NDSU-secured sources. Results of the second phase of the nutrition study will be made available once finalized.

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