What's in the news right now about the environmentally sound, socially responsible and
economically viable
beef value chain.


GRSB Connect for March 4, 2014

Dear GRSB Member, 

From Ruaraidh Petre
Executive Director Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

We are delighted to welcome a number of new members to GRSB this month, in the commerce and processing constituency Beef Products Inc and Tyson Foods, in the civil society constituency Operation Grassland Community from Canada and Hofmann Nutrition from Switzerland is joining as an observer.

I had hoped that we would be reporting on the release of our principles and criteria for public comment in this edition of GRSB Connect, however we had some good reasons to move the release date forward to the middle of the month. It is very important that our membership can stand behind the documents we publish, and that is particularly true for this first public release.

You all have the opportunity to send in additional comments until the end of business on Friday this week, and we will send out the version for approval by the end of business Monday 10th March. We will vote on the document on Wednesday 12th and on approval, it will be released to the public online with accompanying press release on Monday 17th March.

We will also be distributing a Q&A document to members in case you are asked questions as a result of the publicity surrounding the launch. Going forward it is important to focus on next steps following the development of our principles and criteria. A number of national roundtables are already working on this topic — GTPS in Brazil being the most advanced.

It is clear that developments subsequent to our principles and criteria need to be well grounded locally with a fully representative and inclusive group of stakeholders from throughout the value chain. GRSB needs to learn from each constituency and develop in ways that can support all stakeholders in order to be truly global and precompetitive.

Please contact me to participate in these discussions, or to introduce colleagues in different countries to national initiatives.


Roundtable Update

Join us in Brisbane, Australia for the semi-annual GRSB Executive Board meeting
April 15 -16, 2014

An optional tour of an Australian cattle property will be offered on Monday, April 14.

Meeting will be held at:
Hilton Brisbane
190 Elizabeth Street
Brisbane, QLD

CLICK HERE to make your hotel reservation.  Register before March 24 to receive the special room rate of $205 AUD/night.   Buffet breakfast is included with your room.

Member News

Issues for 2014
Dateline: 02/24/14, Source: Canadian Cattlemen

The severe winter weather across most of the country forced many producers to find innovative ways to dig out themselves and their equipment in order to tend to their livestock. Abnormally cold weather, extreme wind chill, snow accumulations and in some parts, ice and power outages, certainly posed a challenge but producers understand their responsibility to care for their livestock no matter the conditions. Hopefully the brunt of the severe weather is behind us for good now with calving season fast approaching.

Most producers are naturally inclined to innovate on the farm for a variety of reasons but always with the main goal of being a sustainable beef cattle operation. In order to run a viable operation the industry needs to be sustainable as well. These days there is a lot of focus on sustainability within the industry which is attracting a lot of attention from the media. There, sustainability is a buzzword with broad meanings depending on how and where it is used. At the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA), work is underway to define the term 'sustainability' as it applies to the beef cattle industry in Canada and globally. For the CCA, sustainability is comprised of the pillars: social, economic and environmental sustainability.

This is the approach advanced by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), an effort spearheaded by the CCA to facilitate a national dialogue to advance continuous improvement in the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the Canadian beef value chain. Work to define the term continues also at the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, of which CCA is a member.

In recognition of the role industry stakeholders and value chain partners can play in industry sustainability in Canada, the CCA will be presenting a new award during a special event at the CCA annual general meeting (AGM) in Ottawa, which will take place from March 4–7. The CCA created this new award as a way to publicly recognize and show appreciation for industry stakeholders and value chain members for their outstanding commitment to the sustainability of Canada's beef industry through innovation.

In the News

Marin Sun Purchase of Slaughterhouse Could be a Game–Changer for Sustainable Meat
Dateline: 02/24/14, Source: By Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

What started out as a nightmare for small cattle ranchers in Northern California could turn out to be the game–changer sustainable meat has been waiting for.

Rancho Feeding Co., the Petaluma–based slaughterhouse that closed down last week after recalling 9 million pounds of beef because some of it may have come from what the Department of Agriculture has described as "diseased and unsound animals," is being bought by Marin Sun Farms, one of the nation's pioneers in grass-fed beef.

 "We're going to completely rewrite the program of how animals are handled, we're going to be a totally new business," says Evans, a fourth–generation cattle rancher who began growing grass–fed beef back in 1998 on his family ranch in west Marin County.

 "David is basically rescuing North Bay ranching," says cattleman Mike Gale of Chileno Valley Ranch, located just west of Petaluma. "All of us who work with pasture–finished animals are grateful to him. This is really the hope of the future for sustainable ranching."

Now, if Marin Sun's purchase goes as planned, not only will those ranchers keep their conveniently located slaughterhouse, but they'll also have access to butchers who can craft individual cuts of meat from whole carcasses, marketers who can help sell and distribute the meat, and even a buyer for any meat they can't sell to their own customers. And it will all be done on a sustainable basis.

"We aren't going to be in the commodity market at all," Evans says. "This is going to be all niche–market meat –– all sustainably produced, quality product."

Another Drought Victim — Grass–Fed Beef
Dateline: 02/25/14, Source: By Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

How hard is the drought hitting California farmers? Here's one more example –– Marin Sun Farms, one of the pioneers of grass-fed beef, is going to start feeding some of its cattle on grain. There's just not enough grass to keep them alive.

"We kept thinking we'd be fine, but we didn't get any rain and we didn't get any rain and we just reached a breaking point where we decided we had to pull out this other marketing plan," says Marin Sun owner David Evans, who has been raising grass–fed beef on his family's fourth–generation Marin County ranch since 1998.

The company's marketing director, Jeff Bordes, says the decision was wrenching. "Marin Sun Farms has been built on 100% grass–fed beef since it started. It definitely has been a tough move for us. What this drought has done is really force us to diversify our program when we’re facing seasons like this winter. It was either do this or go out of business."

Grass–fed beef comes from cattle that have been fed only grass and hay –– most beef cattle are fed grass for the majority of their lives but fattened up on grain in feed lots before slaughter. Fans of grass–fed beef prefer it because they say it has health and environmental benefits.

Marin Sun will still offer grass–fed beef when it is available, and it is going to offer special color–coded packaging to make it clear to its customers what they are buying. Grass–fed beef will be packaged in green wrapping, beef from pastured animals supplemented with grain and hay will be in yellow wrapping, and pen–raised animals feed on hay and grain will be in black wrapping.

Anya Fernald, owner of Belcampo Meat, another sustainable beef purveyor, is feeling the drought too, but she says she's sticking to her grass–fed guns. Even if that might mean shipping 2,000 heads of her Northern California herd to wetter grazing grounds in the Dakotas. And she's aggressively culling her herd to get the numbers down.

"This drought has been devastating for us," she says. "Our production costs have more than doubled. We try to have 100% nutrition coming from our own grasses, and also have hay that we grow for reserve fund. In this case with the drought, we've gone through that reserve and have had to buy hay from the outside. But if you're buying organically certified hay, there's not very much out there.

"We're just trying to be out of the box and figure out to make this work. But the big question is 'Is this the new normal?'"

Fewer Cattle Numbers & COOL Claim Another Packer
Dateline: 02/20/14, Source: By Steve Kay, Beef Magazine: Meat Matters

The shrinking U.S. cattle herd and mandatory country–of–origin labeling (COOL) have claimed another packing plant casualty. Yet cow–calf producers appear to have little appetite for expanding their herds, and the impact of COOL on cattle imports is likely to continue for at least another year. Thus, the beef industry should brace itself for the closure of another sizeable plant this year.

National Beef Packing announced on Jan. 31 that it will close its Brawley, CA, beef processing plant on April 4. The plant has struggled with a declining supply of fed cattle and faces operating losses for the foreseeable future, says National's majority owner, Leucadia National Corporation.

The declining cattle supply largely reflects the big reduction last year in imports of Mexican feeder cattle. The reduction was due to the impact of COOL and a recovery in pasture conditions in Mexico. Southwest feedlots have historically depended on a steady supply of Mexican cattle, so last year's reduction tightened the overall cattle supply.

The closure will be a big blow to feedlots in the region, some of which joined forces to invest $78 million to build the plant in 2001. But the plant later lost money and the owners sold it to National in mid–2006. Cattle feeders will now have to send cattle to the JBS plant in Tolleson, AZ; to Cargill’s plant in Fresno, CA; or all the way to Texas.

Tesco to Sell Scotch Beef to the Scots
Dateline: 02/20/14, Source: By Richard Ford, The Grocer

Tesco is to offer shoppers Scotch beef across 100% of its own–label fresh beef ranges in its Scottish stores.

Tesco said the move "reinforces our standing as the Scottish beef industry's biggest customer," adding: "Our dedicated Scottish sourcing office works with over 160 Scottish suppliers, so we hope customers in our Scottish stores will really enjoy the best of what Scotland has to offer," said Richard Marris, commercial director of fresh foods at Tesco.

Expansion of Beef Cattle Herds Possibly on the Horizon
Dateline: 02/20/14, Source: By Jennifer Stewart, Imperial Valley News

Recent record-high cattle prices and lower feed costs could offer producers the profit incentives they need to start expanding their herds after U.S. beef cattle numbers at the start of this year reached their lowest point since 1951, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says.

The nation's beef cattle herd has been declining for many years, with the most recent phase beginning in 2007 when high feed prices led to large financial losses for producers. Since that time, major beef-production areas also have been dealing with drought. But if lower feed costs and high cattle prices hold steady, producers could start to slowly grow their operations.

"While the incentives have turned positive, they have not been in place long enough for the industry to begin registering signs of expansion according to U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers," Hurt said. "The rebuilding of the beef herd is expected to take multiple years."

Hurt said two main factors are driving increased beef profit potential. The first is that small herd numbers have kept beef supplies low. The second is that U.S. corn, soybean and forage crops returned to more normal yield levels, bringing with them more abundant feed and lower feed prices. The combination has resulted in record-high prices for fed cattle and calves this winter.

While the USDA's most recent cattle inventory report showed that the number of replacement heifers held back for breeding is up about 2 percent, that increase isn't likely enough to grow beef cow numbers this year.
Whether the national beef herd grows or declines in the coming months and years will depend, in large part, on cow slaughter numbers, Hurt said.

"Some cow/calf operations will see 2014 as the golden opportunity to get out with record-high cow prices," he said. "But the greater tendency will be for producers to hold on to the cows for the profitable opportunities that are expected over the next three or more years."
Drought still has its grasp on large areas of beef–production regions.

But even with the challenges, Hurt said there seems to be plenty of expansion incentives over the next few years.

USDA Estimates 16% More Beef Cows in 10 Years
Dateline: 02/21/14, Source: By Wes Ishmael, Beef Magazine

"The livestock sector is slowly recovering from high feed prices and drought in the Southern Plains of the U.S. over the last few years. Improving returns have provided incentives for increased production in the livestock sector," say analysts with USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) in the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2023 released last week. "As a result, total U.S. red meat and poultry production is projected to rise over the projection period, as is per–capita consumption of red meat and poultry."

In fact, the latest report projects the nation’s beef cowherd to grow by 4.7 million head in the next decade – from 29.0 million head January 1 this year to 33.7 million head.

Although many would welcome such a bolstering to the industry's infrastructure, for what it's worth, that kind of growth seems overly optimistic. Though feed prices are lower, replacement cattle prices are historically high, making it difficult to carve out more margin, especially with increased equity risk and price volatility.

That said, along the way to a larger herd, ERS analysts explain, "…Lower beef cow inventories and expected heifer retention are expected to lead to declines in beef production through 2016. Production then rises in the remainder of the projection period as returns support continued herd expansion."

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Beef Quality Assurance Certification Available Free Until April 15
Dateline: 02/21/14, Source: South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, Farm Forum

Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. is again sponsoring Beef Quality Assurance online certification until April 15.

Beef Quality Assurance or BQA is a national program funded by the beef check off. The program raises consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry. Producers have embraced BQA because it is the right thing to do and certification is the next step to show your commitment to producing the best beef possible and to gain consumer confidence.
The cost of BQA certification is normally $25–$50, but from now until April 15, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. will defray the cost of certification or recertification.

According to Dr. Jerry Woodruff, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., "One of the challenges that beef producers face is having all their employees become BQA certified. BIVI's partnership with BQA helps offset some of those expenses, and we encourage producers and their employees to take advantage of the online training programs."

The BQA online certification programs are developed and managed by the independent Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. The programs are customized for cow/calf, stocker, feedlot, and dairy operations. These easy–to–use modules teach sound management techniques that can be applied to individual operations. They can also help cattle operations tell their story to consumers who might not understand all of the safety measures cattlemen take while producing food for the table.

Again, the online BQA programs are free courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, but only until April 15. Start today by visiting www.BQA.org/team or www.BIVI-BQA.com.

Quality Matters
Dateline: 02/24/14, Source: By Gant Mourer, Oklahoma State University, CattleNetwork.com

No matter what business you're in, quality brings value to your product. It's no different in the beef industry except the definition of quality may differ slightly from producer to producer or segment to segment. Calves that have the genetic potential to gain and gain efficiently would by most be considered the second most important trait a calf can have from a commercial producer's standpoint. The most important trait being, that a calf is healthy and maybe more specifically alive.

Producers have the resources and information available to make genetic decisions to meet any environmental or market demands they choose. Many producers have also spent years selecting for their genetics but if they don't manage calves well in the short term it will be all for not and quality will then be lacking.

If a calf does not remain healthy it will never reach its genetic potential. The most critical point in life of that calf is at weaning and how that calf is handled at that time. Bovine Respiratory Disease is the #1 production problem costing the beef industry over $900 million dollars annually (Chirase and Greene, 2001). The fact of the matter is that we have the ability to do something about it.

Management practices coupled with good nutrition and parasite control on the ranch can keep a calf gaining and adding value.

Abbott Commits $320m Under Drought Aid Package
Dateline: 02/26/14, Source: Beef Central

Farmers suffering through the crippling drought will be able to access greater government assistance sooner as part of a $320 million drought support package announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Primary Industries minister Barnaby Joyce just minutes ago.

Mr Abbott used the launch to characterise the drought as a 'natural disaster', creating a distinction between government support in this case, and earlier calls for financial support from SPC Ardmona and the vehicle manufacturing industry.

Under the comprehensive package announced this morning, the Government will bring forward income support arrangements for farmers and their families. More generous criteria for accessing income support will be made available to farmers and graziers from March 3, instead of 1 July, as originally planned.

"Farming is a very significant part of our economy and will play a critical role in our economic future," Mr Abbott said during the package launch in Canberra this morning.

Production Dip as Aus Meat Booms
Dateline: 02/27/14, Source: By Annabelle Beale, Stock & Land

Decreased supplies out of New Zealand could see Australian sheep and lamb exports surpass the world's largest sheepmeat exporter this year, according Meat & Livestock chief economist Tim McRae.

During his presentation to about 420 livestock producers at the MLA Meat Profit Day in Hamilton last week, Mr McRae said following an exceptional year in 2013 that saw crippling drought matched with record breaking exports figures, Australia's long–term meat and livestock industry outlook was bright.

Last year saw the highest number of cattle slaughtered since 1978, equating to 8.34 million head, up by 1m, to produce the 1.1 billion tonnes of beef exported.

After a record supply and export year in 2013, overall production volumes are expected to drop back in 2014.

However, export markets will continue to increase their share of production–maintaining the long–term trend and underpinning an expected price rise.

Register NOW for Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards and NIAA Annual Conference
Dateline: 03/03/14, Source: NIAA News Release

The NIAA Annual Conference theme is "The Precautionary Principle: How Animal Agriculture Will Thrive." It will be held March 31-April 3 in Omaha, NE. An optional Omaha Ag Tour on Monday, March 31st will kick off the conference and includethe Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), the Department of Animal Science at the University of Nebraska, Smithfield Farmland and Prairiland Dairies.

Presentations and thematic discussions during the two-day conference will include "Let Them Eat Precaution— How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture" with John Entine , American author and journalist; senior research fellow at the Center for Health & Risk Communication at George Mason University and founder and director of the Genetic Literacy Project; “When Precaution Becomes Paralysis” with Ronald L. Stotish, PhD. President and Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty Technologies, former Executive Vice President for R&D at MetaMorphix, Inc. and former Vice President for Pharmaceutical Research and Development at Fort Dodge Animal Health.

"Animal Biotechnology: Innovation Stifled by Inaction" presented by David Edwards, PhD. Director, Animal Biotechnology, "Science–Based Metrics for Sustainable Outcomes in Agriculture" presented by Marty D. Matlock, PhD, PE, BCEE Executive Director, Office for Sustainability, Area Director, Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Arkansas and "The Precautionary Principle - Turning Prejudice into Policy" presented by Mark Walton, PhD., Chief Marketing Officer – Recombinetics will be highlights of the General Session.

Species Committee, Issue Council and business meetings will be held throughout the conference, with leadership briefings and a special welcome and introduction by Lt. Governor of Nebraska Lavon Heidemann.

NIAA and USAHA present a "Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards" Thursday, April 3, immediately following NIAA's Annual Conference in Omaha. The agenda will include an overview of Trichomoniasis history and management, the economic aspects of Trichomoniasis and its effects on US cattle herd, a field perspective and the science behind harmonization and sample handling, collection, shipping and lab protocols.

A panel on "Harmonization and State Rules and Regulations" will be the highlight of the afternoon session, followed by a presentation on "Validation of Data, Pooling, Cost to Producers" and an Open Forum Discussion.

The Joint Forum is included in the full registration for the NIAA Annual Conference or can be attended separately.For more information or to register, click HERE.

US Postpone the Decision on Beef Imports from Brazil
Dateline: 02/27/14, Source: BEEF Central Market Briefs

The US government has postponed the final decision on allowing imports of fresh and frozen Brazilian beef for a further two months, after long–term negotiations dating back to 1999. The major concern for US senators and producers is the risk of Foot–and–Mouth disease being introduced to the country, while consumers are mainly concerned with the quality of the product.

The final decision by the US government should be released at the end of April, and if approved, 14 Brazilian states will be authorised to export fresh and frozen beef to the US.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil has no specific quota and in order to avoid the out–of–quota tariff (26.5pc) will share access under the "other countries" quota of 65,000 tonnes. According to the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, it is expected that US total imports of fresh and frozen beef from Brazil will average around 40,000t per year.

Decoding the New National Beef Code of Practice
Dateline: 02/27/14, Source: By Nancy Noecker, Beef Watch, Canadian Cattlemen

For the Canadian Beef Industry the National Code of Practice is new. But for beef producers, dealing with the environment isn't!

The first chapter of the new code looks at Animal Environment, followed by Feed and Water, Animal Health, Animal Husbandry, Transportation, and Euthanasia. It makes a logical progression for explaining the industry practices to the consuming public. This article deals mainly with the first chapter.

Some producers have been a little scared off by comments about the code such as "it's a 60 page book!" However, if you take a look at the code, the summary of the six chapters and producer requirements fits on six pages. The rest of the book is made up of an easy to read lay out (where the producer requirements are highlighted in yellow boxes), a glossary, a list of good industry contacts, and some recommended Best Management Practices.

Work through the code one chapter at a time. When you decode it into manageable pieces it isn't nearly as daunting. Much of it you may already be doing or can easily achieve. The rest you can plan for how to implement. Then try to use those changes to improve your returns by lowering your cost of production or getting more for a welfare–managed branded product.

The beef industry itself will continue to change as the code gets implemented. Proactive producers will use this code to help market their beef to consumers, with an assurance of how much we care for our animals, and how we do it.

Call to Make Beef Profitable
Dateline: 03/01/14, Source: By Jenny Bartlett, Farm Weekly

It is time consumers started paying the price for quality produce.

This is the view of Northcliffe beef cattle producer John Della Gola. Mr Della Gola has been involved in the beef industry his entire life and said he had never seen it as tough as it was currently. He even questioned whether the beef cattle industry in WA had a future.

The Della Golas run 7000 cattle, of which 3000 are lotfed and 1000 sold off grass in spring and Mr Della Gola said it was becoming almost impossible to make a living solely off beef cattle production.

"We are wholly and solely beef producers, we don't have a second income that can help us along in the hard times," he said. "It makes it especially hard to compete with other dual–income farmers when buying cattle. Cattle prices are continually being forced up and because those farmers are subsidised by their other income they can afford to pay those prices, but we can't."

Mr Della Gola said their fuel bill last year was $40,000 more than the previous year because of the low Australian dollar. "We are getting 10-12 cents a kilogram less for our beef than last year and store cattle are 10–40 per cent dearer," he said. "So our business has had to absorb a cost of $40,000, and we are already running at low profits. We were losing $30–$40 per animal and we are not prepared to do that for the consumer anymore."

Mr Della Gola said consumer education needed to become a focus and now was the time people started paying for quality produce. "It is wrong that as an industry and a business we have to pay to keep the consumers in cheap meat," Mr Della Gola said.

Cattlemen Enter the Fifth Dimension
Dateline: 02/05/14, Source: High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal

The fifth dimension is more than a musical group it is a new way of looking at the cattle industry. Mike Nichols, U.S. Cattle and Equine Technical Services for Zoetis and Robin Falkner, managing veterinarian for cattle and equine technical services for Zoetis explained this concept during their presentation at the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention Cattlemen’s College.

The first four dimensions as they impact decisions in the cattle business are cost, return on investment, efficiency and time. As described by Nichols and Falkner the fifth dimension is community. Specifically Nichols and Falkner wondered how do the actions of a single producer affect the larger beef community.

Nichols tells a story about a trip he tool recently with his family. As they were passing a large feedlot his daughter said, "if that is where our beef comes from I am not sure I want to eat beef." He said her comment made him look at the feedlot in a new way, not just as a cattle feeding operation but as the place were his food was produced. The feedlot had a dust problem which at times caused traffic to slow down on the major highway next to the feedlot.

If his daughter, who has been exposed to the beef industry all her life, had a reaction like that Nichols wondered if other people, who have no connection to the beef industry, had the same reaction as they passed that feedlot. Nichols said nearly 73,000 cars a day passed by this feedlot. For many people in those cars this may be their one and only exposure to the cattle feeding industry.

Falkner said producers needs to think of their operations as a billborad advertising the beef industry and the impact it can have on people who drive by their farms, ranches, or feedlots. Producers need to think about their individual actions and how they might impact the beef community in general.

"People judge how much we care by what they see," Falkner said.



MLA: Meeting the Market
Dateline: 03/03/14, source: By Matthew Cawood, The Land AU

OPINION: There isn't much love for Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) on show among the submissions to the Senate inquiry into management of grassfed cattle levies.

Unhappiness with the profitability of the beef industry, its leadership and poor seasons have, in many private submissions, been wrapped up into one reeking bundle and labelled "MLA".
Since 1998, the story goes, MLA has collected about $1.6 billion in funding. Over that period, cattle prices have fallen in real terms, costs have risen, and Australian per capita consumption of beef has fallen. Some say MLA "needs a bomb under it" - some want the bomb to be lethal. But before stressed-out producers light the fuse, some perspective might be useful.

Beef producers aren't the only contributors to MLA: Grassfed cattle levies contribute a third of MLA's revenue. In 2012-13, $54.2m of a total $162.2m. Cash begets cash.

Should cattle producers stop paying a levy, government and other agencies would stop making matching contributions.

MLA doesn't adequately represent individual cattle producers: MLA has 41,460 grassfed cattle levy members. Only about a fifth of them have registered for full MLA voting rights, and only half of those who register actually exercise their right to vote. Producers have several vehicles for making their voices heard.  MORE…

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