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Beef and forage highlights to hit Manitoba communities

Producers have a one-stop shop for beef commodity group and forage news as Beef Days starts its week-long tour

Ag Days is over, but Manitoba’s Beef Producers has its own round in the spotlight starting today.

This year’s Beef and Forage Days will cover five stops from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. The tour starts in the Interlake with Eriksdale before moving to Ste. Rose and Minitonas in the following days. Holland will host the event Feb. 1, while Vita will close out the week.

“It’s a good opportunity to get out and, this time of year, a good chance to talk to producers and kind of give them an opportunity to network, give them an opportunity to hear some perspectives from different people,” Brian Lemon, Manitoba Beef Producers general manager, said.

Manitoba Beef Producers, Manitoba Agriculture, the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association and Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiatives research farm are once again driving forces behind the week.

Event lineup will include updates from those groups, market information and seminars on improving pasture production.

“It’s really good because we’re looking into a lot of research — looking at, not only just forages, but cover crops and any type of plants growing in the soil to improve soil health and incorporating the animals into that rotation and hopefully improving our soil health in the future,” said Andrea Hamilton, Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association board member.

Hamilton expects fungi to come up in conversation during the week. The MFGA commonly argues that perennial forage gives a better environment for fungi, allowing soil to build a better fungal-bacterial balance.

Lemon says he expects veterinary drug changes to crop up during the usual Ask the Vet section.

Health Canada has cracked down on antimicrobial use for livestock in general, following the launch of a national framework on antimicrobial resistance in 2017.

About 73 per cent of antimicrobial drugs are used in both animals and people, the national health agency says.

The first changes have already been felt. Starting in November, producers using own-use rules to ship veterinary drugs from the U.S. may have had trouble getting back over the border. The CFIA wiped clean the list of approved drugs, requiring producers and commodity groups to petition for drugs to be returned to the list.

More changes are on the way. Starting in December 2018, “medically important” antimicrobials will require a prescription from a veterinarian.

Meanwhile, commodities like chicken are already on track to phase out antimicrobials.

“They’re not targeting us,” Lemon said. “We’re just caught up in the wake of, really, a global, global issue around antibiotic resistance. So, we’re really having to do our part to be responsible.”

The producer group added premise ID and manifests to the Beef Days schedule. Manitoba is tightening traceability, and producers will soon need a manifest to unload cattle at a feedlot, MBP has said. The same rules apply any time cattle are moved via trailer, including movement from one pasture to another on farm.

In practice, the requirement reinforces the need for premise ID, since paperwork asks for the ID of both the departure and arrival point when moving cattle.

“We really need to drive that message home,” Lemon said. “We’re moving to a place where animal movement reporting, premise ID, is really going to become more front and centre with the regulators and so, as an industry, we need to show that we’re doing our part.”

The CFIA and Canadian Cattle Identification Agency says that more traceability will help fight livestock disease by tracking animals, as well as the locations and other herds they came in contact with. Traceability has also begun to tie into sustainability, with the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot using BIXS to track verified cattle through Cargill’s certified sustainable food chain.

As of November 2017, about 45 per cent of beef producers in Manitoba did not have a premise ID.

About the author

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Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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