Five-year beef plan seeks boosts in demand, efficiency

A new strategy from national and provincial cattle producer and beef marketing agencies has set five-year percentage benchmarks for the industry’s productivity, added value and cost-effectiveness.

Canada’s beef sector groups on Wednesday formally released their National Beef Strategy, a guiding document for “how the organizations can work together to best position the Canadian beef industry for greater profitability, growth and continued production of a high quality beef product of choice in the world.”

Specifically, the strategy calls for a 15 per cent increase in carcass cutout value, a 15 per cent increase in cattle production efficiency and a seven per cent decrease in “cost disadvantages” against Canada’s main beef export competitors — all to be reached by 2020.

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Martin Unrau, a MacGregor, Man. producer, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association past president and co-chair of the National Beef Strategic Planning Group, said the plan “will build on and strengthen the foundational pieces of existing work that have enabled the beef industry to grow to date.”

However, he said, the new plan will do so “in a manner which will be more responsive to current and future needs,” allowing “chronic issues” such as industry infrastructure and capacity to be dealt with “more holistically,” for programming to help boost beef demand and “bridge to where industry wants to be in the future.”

Rising worldwide demand for protein has granted the sector “an unprecedented opportunity to increase demand for its beef products,” the planning group said Wednesday, but noted “significant challenges” including tight cattle supplies, reduced marketings and competition for arable land.

“The need for industry to push itself is now,” Unrau said in the group’s release.

With cattle marketings today at their smallest level since the early 1990s, paying to reach the goals of the strategy may take additional checkoff dollars, the strategy documents note.

Achieving such goals, the strategy says, would take a projected national checkoff (NCO) investment of about $19 million, or $2.50 per head.

With a $3 provincial checkoff and $2.50 NCO, at 2014 calf prices, producers would be putting 0.43 per cent of revenues into policy, research and marketing, of which 0.19 per cent would be earmarked for research and marketing. At 2014 fed cattle prices, the investment would be 0.27 per cent for policy, research and marketing, including 0.12 per cent for the latter two programs.

Compared to other ag commodities, the strategy group said, beef checkoff investments are “relatively low,” noting the turkey, dairy and chicken industries put up 2.1, 1.46 and 1.2 per cent of what they bring in for revenues respectively. On the other hand, weaner and finisher hog operations put up 0.07 and 0.09 per cent respectively.

“Loyalty-based”

To boost carcass cutout value, the strategy calls for development of the Canadian Beef Advantage (CBA) as the “most recognized and loyalty-based beef program in the world,” in part through development of a new National Total Quality Management System and Supply Chain Strategy.

Also, it calls for work to reduce both tariff and non-tariff barriers in export markets, gain “equal or preferential access” in key export markets and eliminate any remaining BSE-related export market access barriers.

Exporting beef products that are in greater demand outside Canada, the group noted, could add over $400 in value per animal.

The strategy further calls for work to “enhance the public image” of Canada’s beef industry with emphasis on “positive industry benefits, and improvements in environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, and food safety practises.”

To reduce the Canadian beef sector’s “cost disadvantages,” the strategy calls for a “supportive regulatory environment” including regulatory co-operation with trading partners; enhanced research capacity; and improved access to “competitively priced” inputs such as feed, forages and animal health products and to “affordable skilled labour.”

The strategy also calls for the sector to maintain the industry’s “social license to operate” through “validating production practices and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement in areas of public concern.”

To boost production efficiency, the strategy seeks research and development work on improved forage, grass and feed productivity, improved animal health and welfare and improved cattle performance through selection for “desired traits.”

A two per cent increase in reproductive efficiency, the group notes, translates to a $16.50 decrease in the cost of producing a calf — and a 30 per cent increase in forage production would result in a 15 per cent decrease in cow-calf level production costs.

“Reputation management”

Among its non-quantifiable targets, the strategy also calls for the sector to “enhance industry synergies (and) connect positively with consumers, the public, government, and partner industries.”

That includes “delivery of timely, concise and effective crisis communications” plus development of a “reputation management strategy” and improvements in the industry’s “ability to speak with a common voice.”

On the regulatory side, the strategy added, that includes engaging government and regulatory agencies to “build and maintain long-term relationships.” — AGCanada.com Network

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