As one of only a handful of Ontario graduates from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program (CYL), I had the chance to apply for this international travel opportunity competing amongst my peers from across the country. We were asked to create a social media campaign to highlight why beef cattle production is a good career choice for young people. My four-part video clip entry landed me one of four spots to attend the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. The other winners were from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and B.C. respectively.
The goal of the trip was to build relationships with our U.S. counterparts, which is crucial especially given how integrated the Canada-U.S. beef supply chain is. That and it was also timely with ongoing trade talks – NAFTA and TPP.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) organized a good portion of our stay taking us on tours of the JBS Packing Plant located in Greeley, CO., one of the largest processors of beef in the world. Other tours included visiting Leachman Cattle, one of the world's most respected seedstock operations to learn about their program using the most advanced breeding and selection tools to raise profitable cattle. While we were there, we got to see a selection of bulls that they are testing for performance. From there, our group toured Colorado State University’s research farm where we saw cattle handling systems designed by Temple Grandin and GrowSafe – Canadian technology being used at the facility. GrowSafe measures feed and water intake of cattle on an individual basis.
While the trip was meant to be educational, there were elements of fun too. One of the highlights was a Budweiser tour where we got to see the famous horses from the Super Bowl ads and the Dalmatians, while sampling beer.
The formal part of the trip was a tour and discussion at NCBA headquarters, which was moderated by the Canadian Consulate. There we got a briefing on trade talks and some of the top lobbying issues facing the beef industry on both sides of the border. It gave the Canadians a glimpse into the inner workings of the policy process but also how NCBA conducts its affairs from their “war room”, where issues around beef consumption are closely monitored on big screens, to how they communicate with their membership with their very own TV studio.
In addition to the tours, we had leisure time to take in the shows and the auctions that took place at the National Western Stock Show. I spent much of my time helping the Blake Family from Listowel, Ont., getting their cattle ready for exhibition. It was neat to see some familiar faces at the show.
Reflecting back on my trip here are some of my takeaways:
• Cattle shows continue to play an important role for cattle breeders in order to market their genetics. I showed cattle in 4-H, but my family was never big into showing. I was reminded of the incredible amount of time and expense that it takes to exhibit cattle at shows.
• I was struck by how much money was being invested into cattle. For example, at the Hereford sale it grossed $1,063,500, and the sale average was $29,541.
• There are still a lot of horn genetics being used in the U.S. where in Canada we have moved to polled genetics.
• The agriculture industry is a small world, but the cattle business is even smaller. Even when traveling outside of Canada, I ran into people that I knew.
• When touring the NCBA office, it was neat to see how they monitor consumer chatter on social media around beef consumption and also how they manage policy issues for lobbying government. I think we can apply some of the things that we learned there here in Canada and they were certainly noted by CCA representatives.
When we listen to or read about trade issues in the news, it is often framed as “us against them”. The beef industry is heavily integrated and we need each other in order to thrive economically. The trip helped us to better understand current issues, including electronic logging for truckers in the U.S., which is something that Canada is looking at as well. It is a complex issue that has ramifications for the livestock sector on both sides of the border.
The trip was about building relationships. We toured around with NCBA officials and young cattle ranchers in the U.S. The CCA is being strategic in laying the groundwork for succession of leadership by offering exposure to policy issues and allowing young producers in Canada to develop connections in the U.S. which will position us well into the future.
The Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program is accepting applications until March 31, 2018. Semi-finalists will participate in round table discussions at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference being held in London fromvAugust 14-16, 2018.
More information can be found at