Ontario beef farmers look for abattoir solutions

Source: Farmtario.com

Access and funding for abattoirs, capacity increases and risk management program changes topped the want list of Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) members during its recent annual meeting.

Why it matters: Lack of access to capacity and abattoirs within reasonable distance has plagued the industry for years, but COVID-19 has highlighted the need for better options to serve the livestock industry.  

Five of the 19 resolutions put forward at the BFO virtual annual general meeting dealt with the need for increased capacity access and for new or updated and expanded abattoirs.

The issue of cull cows flooding the market because of dairy farm incentive days, and straining a system, which already limits beef cattle capacity and levies penalties for animals 30 months or older, was first up in the abattoir/capacity line-up. 

“If there’s any way we can have a discussion with the dairy industry to try to level the amount of cattle going out all at once,” said Bill Jeffery, of Perth County, speaking to the resolution. “I’m hoping that it may spark a little more discussion between the BFO and DFO (Dairy Farmers of Ontario) about the beef industry because they are part of our industry.”

The resolution was hotly debated, with calls to remove the inaccurate wording around incentive days triggering an influx of cull cows and support for increasing communication between the two sectors. 

The motion carried, but barely, with 56 per cent in favour.

The need for government-funded mobile abattoirs and abattoir capacity to alleviate processing bottlenecks and increase expansion potential for new producers was the focus of Brent Cadeau’s resolution.  

The Thunder Bay farmer said introducing mobile abattoirs to underserviced areas would address some of the carbon tax issues, animal welfare and transportation issues while creating new businesses and revenue streams.

While some argued the up-front investment would be cost-prohibitive and the logistics of providing a one-stop-mobile-shop for slaughter, hanging and processing the animals on-farm would be a nightmare, others supported the initiative.

Tom Wilson said he faced a three-day wait for a market-ready cow needing euthanization because the mobile processor was already booked solid. 

The market must be there and be lucrative, said Wilson, if the processor is working six days a week.

“They (mobile abattoirs) have full units, they do the kill, the processing and some drop a trailer at your location to cool the carcass and then return the next day to complete processing,” Cadeau said.

He said mobile abattoirs would eliminate the five-hour one-way trip to the abattoir and provide alternative options to process a downed market-ready animal on-site and not take a complete loss on it because of transportation regulations.

“I know that it’s not just the direct-market guys that are really concerned about this,” Cadeau said. “Feedlots are probably also really concerned.”

The motion carried with 86 per cent in favour.

A resolution brought forward by Muskoka/Parry Sound/East Nipissing to lobby the provincial government for funding support to help small and start-up abattoirs with staff training and infrastructure upgrades carried with 98 per cent support.

A late resolution asking the BFO to establish and run provincial processing plants within interested counties, either through purchasing existing facilities or building new to maintain marketing options and meet the supply-demand for local beef, was struck down with 82 per cent against the motion.

Eighty-two per cent of members supported the resolution asking for large-scale funding assistance from the government to increase the operating capacity at small, medium and large scale abattoirs. 

Furthermore, the resolution called for mothballed abattoirs to reopen to alleviate the backlog of cattle needing processing and facilitate small farms to meet the growing demand for locally produced and processed Ontario Beef. 

Risk management program a concern

Members also voiced their concern about beef farmers’ Risk Management Program (RMP) payments routinely being pro-rated due to funding limitations, further highlighting the need for additional funds to be allocated for livestock producers within the program.

Lambton County members put forward a motion to have the BFO lobby for increased livestock farmer funding within the program, which carried with 95 per cent support.