Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) leaders have been asked to pay more attention to problems facing Manitoba’s livestock producers.
“I’d like to see KAP try to create more awareness in the future when it comes to livestock issues and at least mention it more often,” George Matheson, Manitoba Pork Council’s KAP representative, said during KAP’s general council meeting April 11.
Matheson moved a resolution, which was later passed, asking KAP leaders to “familiarize themselves with the needs of the livestock sector and be more vocal in addressing livestock issues…”
Matheson, a hog producer from Stonewall, suggested KAP district executive members try to engage with local livestock producers. If livestock producers miss a district meeting some should be contacted to get their concerns and bring them to KAP meetings.
“I’ll admit I left the AGM (in January) quite dismayed at the lack of information (and) discussion in regards to livestock issues,” Matheson said.
Livestock in passing
Matheson noted that earlier when Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn addressed general council he referred to livestock in passing as a market for Manitoba corn.
“I can’t help but think that individual came here thinking he is speaking to Keystone Ag Producers and that’s primarily grains and oilseeds,” Matheson said. “And Keystone Ag Producers has a lot of clout and what’s important to Keystone Ag Producers is important to this province so that is why I’d like to see KAP more vocal in regards to livestock issues.”
Ste. Rose du Lac farmer Rob Brunel said farm issues “ebb and flow.” During the BSE crisis KAP was criticized by some for being too focused on that problem, he said.
Les Felsch, who farms at Ridgeville, said grain transportation dominates farm policy right now. He added that a commodity group also represents most livestock producers whereas grain farmers only have KAP.
Starbuck farmer Chuck Fossay said it’s a matter of finding a balance.
“We need to be careful we don’t tread on toes and people start talking to KAP about livestock issues when they should be talking to Manitoba Pork or Manitoba Turkey or Manitoba Beef,” he said.
Supply-managed livestock and pork are among KAP’s 22 group representatives. Manitoba Beef Producers, formerly known as the Manitoba Cattle Producers Association, pulled out of KAP in 2008. The association said KAP did not adequately represent cattle producers’ interests.
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However, some livestock issues were discussed earlier in the meeting.
Brad Roger, president of HAMS (Hog Administrative Marketing Services), said Maple Leaf in Brandon is only killing 65,000 pigs a week instead of 90,000 because it can’t get enough local pigs due to the Manitoba government’s ban on building new barns.
“There are opportunities out there if we can build some barns,” he said. “Manitoba Pork Council believes that 20 to 30 finishing barns would look after the weanlings that now are being transported to the U.S.”
(To be most efficient Maple Leaf needs another 1.3 million hogs a year to kill, Manitoba Pork general manager Andrew Dickson said later in an interview.)
Treherne farmer Dallas Timmerman told the meeting cattle prices were high with one farmer reportedly getting $10,000 for eight cows.
The bad news, said Minto farmer Bill Campbell, is that the cattle industry will require a lot of new investment to keep cattle farms going.
“We have seen a generational gap with people who will do this,” Campbell said. “We don’t see the youth being involved in livestock enterprises in the southwest.”
The window for new farmers to enter the cattle industry may have closed, Campbell said, adding that cow-calf pairs are selling for $2,500 to $3,000 — double year-ago prices.
“Livestock prices are good but we’ve got a lot of history to make up,” he said.