Dear GRSB Member,

I had an interesting few days over the past week, visiting FAI Farms near Oxford and North Wyke research station near Okehampton in Devon. Both have been involved in the business of ruminant sustainability for many years, and have learned very useful lessons to pass on. In both cases I visited their innovative facilities, as well as picking up valuable messages regarding the role of ruminant livestock in farming and grassland systems.

One example of a useful way of thinking about the role of ruminants is in terms of the resources that they convert into high value human food that we cannot make use of in other ways (see a paper here on redefining efficiency of feed use). Remember that grasslands require grazing to cycle nutrients, water and to sequester carbon. 70% of all agricultural land is grassland, prairie or savannah incapable of producing crops – messages about the important positive role of ruminants in these systems do not reach consumers concerned about the environment, and it is essential that they do so.

As you will no doubt have heard, Canada has cleared a new label for Zilmax, using a targeted lower dosage (story below). This announcement led to some negative press against the use of pharmaceuticals in beef production, underlining the need for the industry to have responses demonstrating the scientific basis for releases. While consumers and activists who supply skewed stories to them may not be interested in the complex stories behind the headlines, it is essential that those of us involved in sustainability understand the science of issues comprehensively and do not base decisions on hearsay.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Sustainability News

Canada Invests in Research on Sustainable Beef Production

Dateline: 02/09/15, Source: The Cattle Site

Canada is to invest more than C$3.1 million to support applied research and develop information and resources focused on sustainable beef production through the federal and provincial governments.

Precision Feeding Key to Sustainable Livestock Production

Dateline: 02/17/15, Source: By Jane Byrne, Feed Navigator

The compound feed industry needs to get behind initiatives that foster precision feeding on small farms in developing markets to help optimize use of on-farm ingredients backed by commercial feed mixes to plug nutritional gaps, says the FAO.

Members in the News

The Heretic: Livestock Is the Only Hope for a Dying Planet says Allan Savory

Dateline: 02/18/15, Source: By Stett Holbrook, Bohemian

Biologist Allan Savory doesn't face incarceration, but he's been subjected to plenty of scorn for his belief that livestock, lots of them, are the globe's only hope to roll back the interrelated crises of biodiversity loss, desertification and climate change. Fifty years ago is when the Zimbabwean–born biologist began his inquiry into the causes of desertification and habitat loss in Africa. His conclusion? Removal of livestock from the land has hastened, not reversed, its decline. The solution, he says, is more livestock, mainly cattle.

"We have no option left but the use of animals," he says. "There isn't an alternative."

Going Deforestation–Free: Can It Protect Our Forests?

Dateline: 02/13/15, Source: By Tenise Whelan, The Guardian

Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world's largest pulp and paper producers, wants to go deforestation–free. The company has worked with Greenpeace and TFT to develop its zero–deforestation programme, and invited Rainforest Alliance to evaluate progress thus far. That evaluation was just released, and the news is that APP suppliers have stopped destroying natural forests.

Bion Moving Forward with Sustainable Brand

Dateline: 02/12/15, Source: CNN Money

Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc., a provider of proven comprehensive livestock waste treatment technology, has retained a former United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) auditor and current quality management system consultant to assist Bion with the development of its application for acceptance into USDA's Process Verified Program (PVP). The USDA PVP provides companies that supply agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services.

In November 2014, the Global Roundtable of Sustainable Beef held a summit meeting in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where leadership (including McDonalds, JBS, Cargill, and others) established five principles for sustainable beef production, covering a wide variety of issues from environmental impact to animal health and food safety. Both McDonalds and Walmart, two of the largest distributors of meat and dairy products in the world, have recently announced initiatives focused on environmental sustainability.

Sustainability Help For Beef and Sheep Farmers

Dateline: 02/16/15, Source: The Sheep Site

Seventy sheep and beef farmers from around the country are gathering in Wellington this week to equip themselves with the skills and knowledge they need to negotiate sustainable land and water management regulations in their own regions. Beef + Lamb New Zealand has facilitated the conference given the growing need for sheep and beef farmers to be represented on their local catchment groups and working with their Regional Councils to ensure sheep and beef farmers' voices are heard as decisions on farming within limits are developed.

Sustainability at the Heart of Beef Cattle Genomics

Dateline: 02/17/15, Source: The Cattle Site

Time and effort spent on improving genomic accuracy is driving the long term sustainability of cattle production and has enabled the industry to leapfrog a generation of cattle. In an interview with TheCattleSite, Dr Kent Anderson of Zoetis genetics said: "We really want for cow/calf producers to be more sustainable long term and by matching the genetics in their cows to the environment and the feed resources they have and at the same time being mindful of what the consumer wants." He added that the costs of genomics are becoming "more sensible" relative to the value created. Zoetis has partnered up with a triad of Angus organisations; the American Angus Association, Angus Genetics Inc and the Certified Angus Beef Brand. Watch Video Interview HERE.

Sustainable Cattle in Kenya Pay Off

Dateline: 02/12/15, Source: By Charlotte Kaiser, Tree Hugger

This year, The Nature Conservancy's NatureVest program helped NRT to scale up the Livestock to Markets program with a $3.5M impact investment into a new entity, NRT Trading. The Nature Conservancy is considering another investment in NRT–T of similar scale in the coming months.

This social enterprise subsidiary of NRT will be an incubator for programs like Livestock to Markets throughout the regions where NRT is working with communities—an area of over 31,000 square kilometers. The investment in LTM will enable the purchase of 10,000 animals annually, up from just over 1,000 a year under the grant–funded model. NRT–T will also build a second abattoir and invest in other capital improvements to enable it to expand its reach to 1.2M acres of community land. The Peter Hawkins Dobberpuhl Foundation made this investment possible through a $7M commitment to The Nature Conservancy.

FarmSchool Shares Information on Sustainable Farming

Dateline: 02/13/15, Source: The Reporter

Soul Food Farm, the Pleasants Valley flower, olive and herb farm, and agri–destination announces FarmSchool, a new educational outreach program. The mission of FarmSchool is to share information being discovered throughout the world about sustainable farming and the importance of rich, viable soil. The first program topic is "Grazing on Grasslands, 101," from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 1.

Allan Savory, founder of the Savory Institute, will speak about the importance of revitalizing grassland ecosystems, and how this is one of the keys to reversing the damages we have done to the soils of the world. Nicolette Hahn–Niman author, environmental attorney, and rancher, will speak about cattle grazing and its role in revering the damage caused by industrial livestock production. Her newest book, "Defending Beef"', offers a compelling argument about the role of proper cattle ranching plays in healthy air, soil, and water.

Federation of State Beef Councils Supports Dollar Increase to Beef Check–Off Program

Dateline: 02/16/15, Source: Rapid City Journal

A big topic of discussion during the four–day Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show was the work of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group (BCEWG) and the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which would increase the checkoff assessment by one dollar to achieve a national rate of $2/head of cattle for each transaction.

How Will Elanco's Integration Shape the Cattle Sector?

Dateline: 02/12/15, Source: The Cattle Site

Two major animal health players integrated last month – but what does this mean for the cattle health? According to Elanco's President of North American Operations, Rob Auckerman, Elanco's acquisition of Novartis gives the company a "much more global footprint", broadening its portfolio and allowing ventures into new areas and consolidation in familiar fields. This will mean increased innovation, services and technical support. Watch 4–minute Video Interview HERE.

Attack on Meat Has Industry Seeing Red

Dateline: 02/15/15, Source: By Chase Prudy, Politico

The meat industry is sharpening its knives over a small federal committee that issued sweeping nutrition advice that essentially told Americans to drop the burger and grab a handful of kale. The beef and pork associations spent months sweating as the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee worked on developing a large book of nutrition advice that would not only encourage Americans to eat less red meat but single out the livestock industry for contributing to environmental problems.

NZ Farms Most Dangerous Workplace

Dateline: 02/19/15, Source: By Jill Galloway, Stuff NZ

More workers are killed and injured on farms than any other industry, making farming more dangerous than forestry WorkSafe New Zealand says. And an industry leader says farmers could do with an attitude change. Safer Farms is a multi–year programme designed to help farmers manage health and safety risks.

Speaking to about 50 farmers and members of Federated Farmers, Beef and Lamb New Zealand, and DairyNZ , Worksafe senior adviser Bryan Williams said 41 farmers had died in the past two years, with one in five suffering injuries that put them off work. That was four times the number of fatalities in either forestry or construction.

Wal–Mart, Under Pressure, Boosts Minimum U.S. Wage to $9 An Hour

Dateline: 02/19/15, Source: By By Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Nathan Layne, Reuters

Wal–Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said it would raise entry–level wages to $9 an hour, a 24 percent increase from the U.S. minimum wage that some employees now earn, succumbing to longstanding pressure to pay its workforce more. The world's largest retailer said the increases would cost it $1 billion and impact 500,000 employees, or about 40 percent of its workforce, although the hike falls short of what some labor groups have been agitating for.

Canada Clears New Zilmax Label

Dateline: 02/18/15, Source: By Erica Shaffer, Meat + Poultry

Health Canada's Veterinary Drugs Directorate recently approved an expanded product label for Zilmax. The updated label allows for component feeding, an alternative method of administering Zilmax using a targeted lower dose, according Merck Animal Health, Summit, NJ. Merck also included a maximum rate in complete feed. Merck temporarily suspended sales of Zilmax in the United States and Canada to conduct a scientific audit that monitored the process of feeding Zilmax to cattle. The beta–agonist drug promotes "increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency and increased carcass leanness in cattle," according to Merck.

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Global News

KMC to Buy Livestock From Narok Farmers

Dateline: 02/13/15, Source: AllAfrica

The government is in the process of providing funds for the Kenya Meat Commission to buy livestock from farmers in Narok county this dry season. Livestock PS Fred Segor said KMC will buy the livestock at Sh180 a kilo. He urged farmers to take advantage of the opportunity to offload their livestock and use the money for other economic activities instead of leaving the animals to die in the drought. Segor urged farmers to keep animals they can easily manage, instead of many that eventually die from drought and diseases.

Selling the Sacred Cow: India's Contentious Beef Industry

Dateline: 02/12/15, Source: The Atlantic

The Hindu reverence of cattle—particularly the cow—is well–known. Census data shows that nearly 80 percent of India's 1.2 billion population are Hindu. Most Hindus worship the cow and abstain from eating beef, so it might come as a surprise that India has become the world's second–largest beef exporter. India's beef industry says all its beef comes from buffaloes, a claim challenged by right wing, religious, and animal rights groups. While it's true that cow slaughter is banned by most Indian states and the export of cow meat is against the law, the acceptance of the cow's sacredness is not uniform throughout India and it's likely that cow meat is sneaking into the buffalo beef market. The export numbers don't match up, and it's suspected that cow meat is being snuck out.

Tech Could Save Northern Beef

Dateline: 02/14/15, Source: By Matthew Cawood, Farm Online

In 2015, the northern beef industry operates much as it did in 1985. Roll forward another 30 years, though, and it's likely that the tools and techniques of beef production will look very different.

There's two reasons for accelerated change. One is pressure on costs of production. As many producers have learned over the past few years, the margins in beef have become so slender as to be often invisible. No political magic is going to change global market forces: the only way stretch those margins again is to produce more beef for less.

Mad Cow Infection Considered an Isolated Incident

Dateline: 02/14/15, Source: By By Alex Mccuaig, Medicine Hat News

The latest case of mad cow disease confirmed Friday has both the government and beef industry reassuring ranchers and consumers this is an isolated case found in an animal before it reached the food chain.

"We have a very fulsome testing procedure. We don't change from our controlled risk status … so we don't see this interfering with any of our trade corridors at this time," federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the case. Canada works under international protocols that allow for up to a dozen cases a year of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Ritz said in Calgary. "We have stayed well below that."

Teys Looks at Closing Abattoirs

Dateline: 02/17/15, Source: By Mark Ludlow, Stock Journal

One of Australia's largest meat processors says it is contemplating closing abattoirs because the industrial relations system overruled an agreement that its workers agreed to but was opposed by the industry union. Teys Australia – which has been in a long battle with the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union over an enterprise agreement – said last week's loss in the Federal Court had forced it to consider closing the plant in Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, which would result in 800 job losses.

Beef Industry Code of Practice Launched

Dateline: 02/19/15, Source: By Joel Durkin, Farmers Guardian

Beef farmers are now covered by the industry's first voluntary code of practice aimed at making farmer–processor relations more transparent. The code, which will not cover price, has been backed by the NFU and British Meat Processors' Association. It commits all processors signed up to give clear information to suppliers about abattoir terms and conditions of trading. But the National Beef Association (NBA) claimed regulatory enforcement would be more beneficial in making sure contracts were honoured properly within the beef supply chain.

Beef Code of Practice Not Backed by Scottish Unions

Dateline: 02/19/15, Source: By Joel Durkin, Farmers Guardian

The voluntary code for processors was launched on Tuesday by the NFU and British Meat Processors Association in an attempt to increase transparency in the beef supply chain following the industry's severe downturn last year. But Scottish beef industry chiefs said there was not the same demand for a voluntary code as there was south of the border, although suggestions have been raised farmers and processors will look to further improve relationships in future.

2 Important Trade Issues on the Front Burner for U.S. Beef

Dateline: 02/18/15, Source: By Joe Roybal, BEEF Magazine

Consider that 95% of consumers reside outside U.S. borders, and as consumer incomes grow, the tendency is to eat higher on the protein chain. That puts high–quality, grain–fed U.S. beef in a tremendously positive position for the long term. That's why it's so important that a pair of issues on the trade agenda be resolved quickly. One is trade promotion authority (TPA); the other is a contract dispute with dockworkers that is crippling West Coast shipping.

The Beef Industry Wants Cattle Producers to be More Efficient

Dateline: 02/18/15, Source: By Lee Hart, Grainews

A new project across the Canadian beef industry has set as one of its goals to help producers increase overall beef production efficiency by 15 per cent over the next five years. The recently announced National Beef Strategy is a collaborative effort among key sectors of the livestock industry. It actually has a number of goals, but for the cow–calf sector the objective is to get more pounds of beef on the ground without directly having to add more cow numbers to your herd.

University Pledges Commitment to Sustainable Ruminant Production

Dateline: 02/06/15, Source: University of Bristol

The University of Bristol has been instrumental in establishing the Global Farm Platform, an international programme on sustainable ruminant production, contributing to food security, sustainability and poverty alleviation. The initiative currently comprises 15 leading universities and research institutes across six continents, with funding from the Cabot Institute, the Worldwide Universities Network, the Global Innovation Initiative and individual member institutions. The Global Farm Platform uses a worldwide network of model farms to develop transformational solutions to challenges confronting sustainable ruminant production and promote their adoption.

Beef Industry Turns Around in NT

Dateline: 02/21/15, Source: By Neda Vanovac, AU News

In a turnaround for Australia's cattle industry, more than 300,000 head of cattle will soon be exported as boxed beef from a new $100 million facility opened in the Northern Territory. The industry had bounced back since 2011's live export ban to Indonesia following revelations of animal cruelty, he said. "It was only a couple of years ago that the northern cattle industry was plunged into the pits of despair; there had been an arbitrary suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia that was causing so many NT cattle people to stare into the abyss of ruin," Mr Abbott said. "I am pleased to say that today that trade is booming as almost never before."

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