There is a lot going on in the Beef world and we are trying to give you a snippet of what’s happening outside your door this week.
1. The British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association is leading a pilot program to help stop wildfires. A handful of ranchers are going to be grazing cattle in concentrated areas near homes and community infrastructure where the cattle will eat the grasses that dry over the summer and cause wildfire risk.
The ideas is that by having the cattle eat the dry grass, the new green growth will help stop the wildfires because it won’t burn. The pilot program will move cattle around Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland and Cranbrook and keep them corralled in certain areas for two to three weeks.
The B.C. government contributed $500,000 in 2019 to help launch the pilot project. Targeted grazing is not a solution to all fuel management challenges, the province said in a statement at the time, but “it is a powerful tool when used in combination with other methods, such as prescribed burning and selective tree harvesting.”
Amanda Miller, an ecologist who’s working as a researcher on the grazing project, said the idea stemmed from the severe 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons, which each saw more than 12,000 square kilometres (about 4,633 square miles) of forests and land burn.
The hope is that the pilot project can serve as a model to scale up across B.C. in partnership with the province, ranchers and local communities.
2. In northern California, wolves are forcing ranchers to come up with non-lethal ways of dealing with a lone wolf. The wolf known as OR-103 is attacking cattle herds—specifically calves. To many, the solution would be to kill the wolf. However, ranchers are up against the wall because of the strong legal protections offered to wolves in California.
In California, it’s illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap or captures wolves unless they after a human. Ranchers, can hang red flags from electric fences to spook wolves, set off strobe lights, sires or recordings of gunshots and people screaming. However, it’s not enough. Many landowners are being forced to change their own routines and attempts to keep their animals—not just cattle but goats and dogs safe as well.
It’s a situation with no clear winner. The laws are clear, no one can shoot a wolf unless there is a human attack but it’s also not a good situation for the livestock owners who are losing calves due to attacks.
3. Cattle ranchers are struggling with another environmental issue—drought. But also forced to struggle with maintaining conservation habitats.
Cattle ranchers Mike and Kathy Landini, have about 2,000 acres on their ranch, known as Divide Ranch, in Elk Creek, near Willows.
"We knew we didn't want to live in the Bay Area. From the time I was a kid, I knew that it wasn't where I belonged," Kathy Landini says.
The family has been there over 20 years and has seen the ups and downs of maintaining the land. They say keeping the grass healthy is the key to success for their cattle and for the wildlife.
California is undergoing its third drought year in a row, and ponds that scatter over the Divide Ranch have gone dry. Even with some solid storms in October and December, it’s not enough for the animals.
In the shadow of the Mendocino National Forest, Elk Creek oven receives less rain. It’s known as a rain shadow. Earlier storms this winter season have brought some rain to the area, allowing for the grass to green-up quickly.
The Landini’s say they will continue to rotate their grazing cattle and save some taller grass for later in the season, but when it comes to the water situation, they will need to find greener pastures in Oregon.
“They all go by truck. They'll go by semi, and those semi loads went from $900 to $1,600 in the last 10 years. So, (it) adds up. Every cow is costing more to get her there and get her home,” says Mike Landini.
4. The UK-Australia trade deal could be a problem for United Kingdom farmers. Some are warning it could mean an influx of meat from animals reared with lower welfare standards.
The UK-Australia trade deal could allow Australian farmers to flood the market with inferior products including beef and lamb, taking a heavy toll on the environment, undercutting UK farmers, and lowering animal welfare standards, the government has been warned.
The zero-quota, zero-tariff deal agreed with Australia will increase UK farmers’ exposure to “unfair competition with outdated, cruel, and unsustainable farming practices the UK has already moved away from”, according to an analysis by a coalition of organisations.
Despite the government’s objective of “not compromising on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards”, the analysis, by groups, including WWF, Compassion in World Farming, Greener UK, RSPCA, Sustain and Which?, said the deal contains “no safeguards” for environmental protections or animal welfare, and “weakens existing safeguards” on food safety.
5. And last but not least, how does the market news influence risk management plans? The Farm Progress PANEL respondents shared their next move after last week’s big USDA report.
The question we asked: "Today's report puts soybeans above corn, how do you see that impacting your risk management plan?"
Just over one-quarter of respondents – 28% - shared they're going to price more of their 2022 crop soon. It's not uncommon to wait for this report before deciding how much more of a current-year crop to price. For this group, the March 31 report was a nudge to lock in a price on more of this year's production.
Nearly one-third – 31% - are standing pat, noting they're not going to price any of their crop before harvest. Some of these PANEL respondents could be sitting square in drought-parched areas where questions of just how much production they'll have weigh on their risk management plans. The drought map is an underlying decision tool that is impacting many risk management plans these days. The March 31 report did not move this group to price any crop yet.
For more details, check out the story here.