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

Executive Director's Message

This week please take note of the save the date for the 2nd Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, taking place in Banff, Alberta, from 4th–7th October. We look forward to focusing on the progress being made on the ground by national roundtables and their partners, hence the title “Building on Experience, regionally and globally". Banff is a beautiful venue and we are expecting a high level of information sharing and participation, so I hope that you will be able to make it.

Our member profile in this edition features Laurie Marker, who has undertaken pioneering work in Namibia to conserve cheetahs in their natural habitat, alongside cattle ranching which is the main land use in the arid lands of Southern Africa. Laurie is a rancher herself, so she knows exactly what the challenges of managing calving are when there are hungry predators about. Finding a balance between the livestock and the wildlife is essential in the conservancy where she ranches, and dogs have proven invaluable in protecting stock from predators.

You will notice renewed interest in greenhouse gas issues following on from COP21 and a number of initiatives that seek to reduce emissions from agriculture. It is good to see farmers benefiting from some such initiatives in Australia where government payments help to justify investments that provide a financial return while increasing productivity and storing carbon. Ranchers and farmers the world over have the largest potential carbon sink in their hands – the soil, and improving productivity while increasing soil carbon is a win for everyone.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
Global Conference on Sustainable Beef
October 4-7, 2016
Banff, Alberta

Name: Laurie Marker
Title: Founder/Executive Director

Company: Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)

Q: How did you become involved in the cattle industry?

A: I have been doing research on cheetahs since the mid 1970's and went into cattle ranching in the mid 1990's. I have gone into the business as a conservationist to share and research the practices that I've used to live with predators harmoniously without killing them.

Q: How does your work at CCF connect with the work of GRSB?

A: I believe that there are sustainable ways of cattle farming, or farming with livestock of all sorts, and that's what I've spent the last 25 years in the Namibia doing – looking at that sustainability. In particular, researching the effects of top predators and the health of the ecosystem. Learning that GRSB had just begun, I actively pursued them and wanted to become a member.

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US, Canada and Brazil Working Towards Global Beef Sustainability Framework
Beef Central | February 19, 2016
While the Australian beef industry continues down the path of developing its own beef sustainability framework, the Brazilian, Canadian and US beef industries are progressing the development of their own national sustainability frameworks under the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

More Meat, Less Methane: Beef Cashes In on Carbon Economy  
Shan Goodwin, Farm Weekly | February 9, 2016
Australia's red meat industry has been one of the first off the blocks to make the emerging carbon economy pay dividends, with operations the nation over now building emissions abatement measures into management plans. The consensus so far seems to be that where these measures can be incorporated into productivity–boosting strategies, the additional income to be made from government funds set aside to lower emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) warrants involvement.

Beef Industry Steering Group to Guide Sustainability Practices
Jamie–Lee Oldfield, The Weekly Times | February 9, 2016
Working out what sustainability means for the beef ind¬ustry will be the first task for a newly appointed Beef Ind¬ustry Steering Group. A 10–member committee appointed by the Red Meat Advisory Council and to be funded by Meat and Livestock Australia was announced last week, tasked with developing a framework for sustainable production.

So You Want to Be A Sustainable Rancher? 7 Steps to Make It Happen
Bryan Weech, BEEF Magazine | February 11, 2016
There is a philosophical argument raging across the beef industry concerning sustainability. The two opposing views are these: The first camp has the opinion that "the beef industry is already sustainable and all that needs to be done is for ranchers to tell the industry's positive story better." This argument is usually punctuated with a statement something like…"after all, my family has been ranching for (insert a number of generations here).

The second camp has a train of thought that goes something like this…"beef production provides many important benefits (i.e. those already mentioned above). However, continuous improvement of the sustainability of beef production is important. A lot has been done to improve sustainability, but more can and should be done to ensure continuous improvement. Every operation's situation is different so there are no cookie cutter answers to the important question of where to begin and what to do. However, there are some general guidelines that will help any rancher wanting to become more sustainable.

Sustainable Intensification of Tropical Agro–Ecosystems
FIBL | February 11, 2016
Sustainable intensification of tropical agriculture is crucial, but how to achieve it is a matter of debate. In a new publication, FiBL researchers highlight the major knowledge gaps in agricultural research and policy that must be addressed to develop adequate governance and regulatory frameworks for sustainable agricultural intensification.

Vermont Considers Ground–Breaking Regenerative Agriculture Bill
J.S. McDougall, Huffington Green | February 15, 2016
Soil is so hot right now. Between the "4 per 1000 Initiative" launched by France during the COP21 conference this year...to last Sunday's New York Times article from Stephanie Strom, "Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past,"...to Patagonia's #CarbonFarmer campaign, it seems that soil is finally getting the attention it deserves. It does, after all, play a vital role in all of the earth's natural cycles.

Interest in Soil Health Gaining Traction
Gene Lucht, Iowa Farmer Today | February 11, 2016
Suddenly, soil is cool. When farmers, researchers and others got together for a soil health conference this past week, the crowd was thinned a bit by blustery winter weather conditions, but there was no hiding the fact that talking about building better soil is becoming a major topic of discussion in the agricultural world.

Global Agricultural Transition Under Way to Boost Resilience to Climate Change and Reduce Emissions
LPAA News Release | December 1, 2015
Governments and food and agriculture organizations joined today at the Lima–Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) focus on Agriculture to respond to the urgent climate challenges facing agriculture with cooperative initiatives that will protect the long–term livelihoods of millions of farmer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is one of the sectors most seriously affected by extreme climate but it also accounts for 24 % of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which cause climate change. The initiatives focus on four key areas: soils in agriculture, the livestock sector, food losses and waste, and sustainable production methods and resilience of farmers.

Offsetting Methane Emissions from Ruminants
Ruaraidh Petre, Executive Director at Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef | February 11, 2016
"It is widely recognised that defining trade–offs between greenhouse gas emissions using "emission equivalence" based on global warming potentials (GWPs) referenced to carbon dioxide produces anomalous results when applied to methane. The short atmospheric lifetime of methane, compared to the timescales of CO2 uptake, leads to the greenhouse warming depending strongly on the temporal pattern of emission substitution."
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Namibian Communal Farmers And The Markets
OMURAMBA Case Study Dissemination | PDF
A case study on the Omuramba village, a crush pen and cattle trading in the Kunene region of Namibia. A Project between GRSB members and partners Solidaridad and MeatCo with Danish Coop.

At a 'Vendusie', you can usually find just about anything, from a 'fleamarket', fresh vegetables, kapana (grilled meat) and people socialising. The regular assembly at the Omuramba Crush Pen, where trading of cattle, goats, and other goods takes place, can be classified as a 'Vendusie'.

From the outset, it can be stated that easy access to a crush pen and auction place can be considered a major advantage to the small farmers and their families because they no longer need to travel over long distances to reach livestock auctions. The roles are now reversed – butchers, abattoirs procurement teams, speculators and private buyers are now taking it upon themselves to travel to the Omuramba Crush Pen for livestock trading.

NCBA: CattleFax 2016 Industry Update
Randy Blach, The Cattle Site | February 10, 2016
Tracy Brunner, Kansas cattle producer, was officially elected to succeed Philip Ellis as NCBA president. Brunner, a fourth–generation cattleman from Ramona, Kan., expressed optimism about the organization's momentum, saying he would continue to build on the organization's success of the prior year. It's an honor to take the reins of NCBA for the next year," said Brunner.
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Roughage Reduces Abscesses, But Is It Cost Effective?
Western Producer (subscription) | February 5, 2016
Liver abscesses negatively affect profitability at the individual animal level, but an Alberta veterinarian says there can be a surprisingly positive correlation at the population level.

Dr. Eric Behlke of Feedlot Health Management Services in Okotoks, Alta., said a 2014 study of 837,405 head slaughtered in Alberta found that two percent of the cattle had severe liver abscesses, three percent had minor abscesses and 95 percent were clear.

Input Sought from Beef Producers
Monica Lamb–Yorski, Williams Lake Tribune | February 9, 2016
Beef producers are being asked to give input on the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef's (CRSB) first draft of its sustainability "indicators" for beef operations. "For some time our roundtable has been committed to developing a framework," said Monica Hadarits, community engagement manager with CRSB. "This is the first time we are going out to the public with a 60–day consultation period." All comments will be reviewed, and a written response to each comment will be posted on the organization's website following the consultation.

Russia Signs Meat Deal with Uruguay
Vladislav Vorotnikov, GlobalMeatNews | February 12, 2016
Uruguay will supply Russia with high–quality beef, following the recent agreement to reduce import tariffs. The deal comes after three years of negotiations and is expected to significantly boost Uruguayan export of beef to Russia. The issue of FMD vaccination could significantly constrain the export potential of Uruguay's beef industry to Russia, but according to a recent report from the Agricultural Ministry, Russia currently imports 80–90% of its breeding cattle, so Uruguay could benefit in this area.

Could CSIRO Redeployments Kickstart Australian Innovation?
Mick Keogh, Beef Central | February 12, 2016
The proposed redeployment of CSIRO staff from climate modelling to other areas with a focus on encouraging national innovation needs to be considered with the above issues in mind. It also needs to be considered against a backdrop of there being at least fifty major programs underway around the globe to develop and refine global climate models, many of these in nations with much larger science budgets that Australia.

Beef Battle: Proposed State Beef Checkoff Draws Mixed Responses
Trevor McDonald, Hannibal Courier–Post | February 12, 2016
A statewide proposal for a new beef checkoff is drawing mixed responses from beef producers and farmers groups as the referendum for the measure draws near. Missouri beef producers will have the chance to vote for a state beef checkoff — a $1 fee that is charged per head of cattle — in April. Beef producers already pay the same amount for a federal checkoff fee. Supporters said the state proposal will boost market development, research and advertising efforts within the beef industry, strengthening the market as a whole and providing customers with the beef products they liked best.

TPP Would Be 'Death Knell' for Industry, R–CALF Leader Says
Capital Press | February 18, 2016
Under TPP, meat packers could slaughter foreign–sourced beef in the United States and have it be considered a U.S. product, shipping it to other countries duty–free, said Bill Bullard, CEO of R–CALF in Billings, Mont. R–CALF represents independent cattle producers.

"The TPP is a license for the multi–national meat packers to steal from you, your good name, your image, your reputation and affix your good name, image and reputation on beef from animals sourced anywhere in the world with a USA label," Bullard said.

Will The Trans–Pacific Partnership Rally Cattle Markets?
Wyatt Bechtel, Drovers CattleNetwork | February 5, 2016
Trade has been top of mind for beef producers this past year as export volumes dropped and cattle prices have fallen. A rally could be around the corner with the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) being signed by 12 member countries on Thursday. The trade agreement might be one of the biggest opportunities to turn–around a sliding cattle market.

Hungry Jack's Hormone–Free Burgers – Is It a Ploy? 
Anthony Colangelo, The New Daily | February 16, 2016
Fast food franchise Hungry Jack's has announced its beef patties will be produced without added hormones, but livestock and science experts have doubted the motives of the burger giant. On Tuesday, Hungry Jack's revealed that it would no longer sell beef given Hormone Growth Promotants (HGP), but it might be little more than a marketing ploy.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) listed HGP as the "naturally occurring" hormones trenbolone, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which are injected into local cattle. "HGPs are used safely in Australia," FSANZ said. "The hormones come in small implants placed under the skin on the back of the ear, slowly releasing a low dosage, usually over 100 to 200 days, depending on the product used."

How Ethiopia Can Overcome the Worst Drought in 50 Years  
Daniel Speckhard, Time | February 11, 2016
In the West you can hear a collective groan: Not Ethiopia again. The news coming out of the East African nation is of theworst drought in 50 years.

Fortunately, this is no rerun of the 1983–85 famine that gave us the Live Aid benefit concert for the country, which elevated famine to the international stage and screen and helped secure humanitarian aid. Far more than the music industry has invested in Ethiopia since then, including the U.S. government, helping Ethiopia make impressive strides in fighting poverty, fostering economic growth and improving infrastructure.

Unfortunately, Ethiopia's current crisis threatens to obscure news of its impressive growth..

Treating Cover Crops Like Cash Crops  
Chris Bennet, Drovers CattleNetwork | February 9, 2016
Initially planting cover crops solely for erosion protection, Taylor transitioned to soil health covers, and recently to grazing covers in tandem with cattle rotation. On Taylor's ground in Phillips County, Ark., livestock are the vehicle to building higher potential soils.

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