The newly minted president of the Manitoba Beef Producers sees a number of challenges facing the province’s cattle industry in the coming year.
Trevor Atchison, a rancher from Pipestone and longtime director, was chosen to replace outgoing president Ray Armbruster at the group’s annual general meeting last week.
Chief among his concerns going forward is the continuing decline in the Manitoba cattle herd, which he fears will lead to reduced services as auction marts close and feed dealers move on to greener pastures.
“As an association, one of our priorities is how do we keep operating in the way that we are with reduced funds?” said Atchison.
Because MBP is supported by checkoff dollars, fewer animals produced and sold crimps the group’s resources.
Solutions to the same problem in other jurisdictions have seen local associations encourage more donations in the form of cash and the proceeds from livestock sales, as well as more aggressive pursuit of industry sponsorships to defray the cost of hosting events.
“In the end, we may have to look at checkoffs,” said Atchison, who added that any proposed increase would have to be discussed by the board and MBP members.
“We don’t want to go there, but we have to keep operating at the level we’re at.”
MBP managed to record a surplus in its audited financial statements over the past year by cost-cutting measures such as doing more of its regular board meetings via conference calls, and choosing not to hire a new field representative.
Further cuts may come in the form of less travel by executives, staff and directors, as well as reduced sponsorships of events.
“Everything is on the table until that budget is finalized,” said Atchison.
Although cattle prices have been on an uptrend in recent years, tighter environmental regulations due to arrive in 2013, and repercussions from the flood of 2011 and outstanding compensation claims in some areas will continue to dog the local industry, he added.
On the bright side, is the hope that the appointment of a bovine tuberculosis co-ordinator, Dr. Allan Preston, will see progress achieved on that front, said Atchison.