Benjamins noted that the sector had increased production by over five percent in 2015 and in 2016, and that the industry is still expecting further growth in 2017. The conference is hosted by the Poultry Industry Council and attracted more than 30 agricultural lending specialists from across the major financial institutions. Other presentations at the conference included reports from poultry sector partners, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and suppliers to the Ontario poultry industry.
Benjamins, who farms near Moorefield, Ontario, noted that there were five key arguments for ongoing industry growth in the Ontario chicken sector. They include:
- Chicken protein’s alignment with current and emerging consumer tastes;
- The industry’s size and scale in the Ontario market which fosters increased market and product innovation;
- CFOs strength in supporting strategies to expand the industry’s profit pools;
- The recent introduction of a chicken industry digital network (CFO Connects) which will improve efficiencies and analytical capabilities;
- Progressive supply management leadership that is focused on transparency, accountability and leadership.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn are the most important social media networks for companies to use because of their popularity and the level of engagement available on them.
“Social media creates conversation and community,” Mitchell said. “If you’re not already doing it, it’s time.”
Mitchell said consumers and industry allies are using social networks, but so are those opposed to farming, as well as elected officials and regulators, so it is important for egg companies to have a digital presence.
“Rebranding egg farming starts with mobilizing the brand of each individual egg farmer,” Mitchell said. “What are your brand attributes? What makes you unique? What benefit do you deliver that no one else does? How do you connect what matters to you to what matters to your customer?”
In order for companies to harness their digital presence, Mitchell offered some tips:
- Look for opportunities to engage on social media
- Don’t just push information, but converse with your audience
- Let the online conversation shape your content development and messaging
- Create relevant, compelling content, keeping in mind that visual content performs best
The RCC revelled 100 finalists competing for the coveted award earlier this week. These grocery products are the most impressive of all the new grocery products introduced in 2016.
Becoming a Canadian Grand Prix finalist can be a game changing experience for new products. Finalists receive direct and extensive exposure to key retailers, their buyers as well as consumers eager to try the celebrated new items getting all the attention and accolades.
To ensure products were evaluated exclusively on quality and innovation, new to this year's assessment was that all products introduced in 2016 had an equal chance of becoming finalists, regardless of when in the year they were introduced and the size of their distribution.
To become a finalist, a product needed to score at least 70% in judging.
Finalists and winners can use the Canadian Grand Prix logo on their packaging for two years. RCC also supports the awards with extensive consumer and trade support in Canadian Retailer.
Egg Creations Whole Eggs from Burnbrae Farms Ltd., was named a finalist in the food category. To view a complete list of finalists, visit: http://www.rccgrandprix.ca/content/2016-finalists
The winners of the 24th annual Canadian Grand Prix Awards will be announced at the Gala on May 31, 2017 following the second day of Retail Council of Canada's Store Conference, Canada Biggest Retail Conference.
RCC's Grocery Division represents Canada's largest grocery retailers, encompassing over 90% of all grocery sales. It is a source of information, advice and expertise on all matters affecting food retail, including food safety and recall, labelling, nutrition, health and wellness, product packaging, supply chain issues and environmental stewardship. READ MORE
The National Capital Region's Top Employers is an annual competition evaluating employers based on criteria like training and skills development, community involvement, performance management, and benefits.
EFC currently has 60 employees who work to represent more than 1,000 Canadian egg farmers and farm families.
EFC has built a reputation as a leading agriculture organization and as an employer that maintains a progressive and forward-thinking culture. Honours like the National Capital Region's Top Employer, being named by Waterstone Human Capital as one of Canada's Most Admired Corporate Cultures, and the Crystal Egg Award further echo EFC's commitment to its employees. READ MORE
This move marks the first time a major national quick service restaurant chain in the U.S. has extended an antibiotics commitment beyond boneless chicken to its chicken-on-the-bone menu items.
In addition to its antibiotics pledge, the brand has also made commitments that by the end of 2018, all core products will be free of artificial colors and flavors. Today, all KFC chicken is free of food dyes, and 100 per cent of the menu will be free of food dyes by the end of 2017, excluding beverages and third-party products. READ MORE
The letter makes reference to a number of changes, including the specific mention of “opening Canada’s protections on dairy and poultry imports.”
The letter also touches on government procurement, tax policy, intellectual property, and rules of origin for things like car parts, telecommunications and dispute resolution. It also suggests a mechanism to impose tariffs if imports flood in and threaten U.S. industry.
The U.S. Congress will now be involved in revising the list. The administration will then issue a formal notice that it wants to renegotiate the deal and spend a minimum of 90 days consulting lawmakers and industry. Formal talks with Canada and Mexico could begin this summer or fall. READ MORE.
Over the first five years of the program, more than 300 rural charities have received almost $1 million thanks to farmers. The fascinating stories of the farmers, the charities and their connections to the community paint a colourful portrait of rural Canada which will now be shared on the Canada's Farmers Grow Communities blog.
"Farmers are often unsung heroes in Canadian history," says Kelly Funke, public affairs manager for Monsanto Canada. "But farmers deserve credit for their contributions. That's why we created this program, and why we've now added a blog to our website to further highlight the stories behind the farmer heroes and their chosen charities."
The list of charities can include almost any non-profit organization based in rural Canada. Winners have included 4H clubs; rural daycares; libraries; volunteer fire departments; hospitals; schools; ag societies; senior centres; and other community facilities.
Farmers who are considering an application are encouraged to visit the Canada's Farmers blog at http://canadasfarmers.ca/blog/ for inspiration and to think about their own local charities or non-profit organizations. It takes just five minutes to apply and be entered into the random draw.
Once again in 2017, two $2,500 grants will be awarded in each of 33 different territories across the grain growing regions of northeastern B.C. (Peace River district), Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces. Applications are open now through September 30, 2017. And anyone can suggest a charity for a farmer to discover! Simply visit www.CanadasFarmers.ca where complete contest rules and an online application form are available. Winners will be selected by random draw on or about Nov. 1, 2017 and notified by Nov. 15, 2017.
Jan. 25, 2017 - 4-H Canada and Syngenta Canada are pleased to announce the national winners of the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er video contest. 4-H’ers from across Canada were asked to create a short video, either as a club or as individuals, demonstrating their pride in being a part of the 4-H program and reflecting the wide variety of Canadian 4-H clubs, projects, communities and age groups.
The videos submitted during the contest entry period in November—coinciding with National 4-H Month—highlighted the common values and central experience of 4-H in building responsible, caring and contributing young leaders, and the sense of pride and accomplishment they all feel as 4-H’ers.
“Congratulations to all of the winning 4-H clubs and 4-H members who did such a wonderful job of showing their enthusiasm and excitement for 4-H in their videos, making this contest a great success,” said Shannon Benner, CEO of 4-H Canada. “Thanks to Syngenta and the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er initiative, 4-H youth across Canada have had incredible opportunities to grow their knowledge of the important work of pollinators and show leadership in their communities by supporting the creation of pollinator-friendly habitats.”
Approximately 3,800 votes were cast during the online public voting period. The winning entry received a GoPro HERO5 camera. The first and second runner-up entries each received an Apple iPad mini 2 and the remaining top ten entries received a selfie stick. Each of the top ten entries also received 4-H Canada branded items to continue displaying their 4-H pride in their communities.
Proud to Bee a 4-H’er – Winning Video Entries
- 1st place - The Pas Helping Hands / 4-H Manitoba
- 2nd place - Aidan Tully / 4-H Manitoba
- 3rd place - Colton Skori / 4-H Alberta
- 4th place - Comox Valley 4-H Calf Club / 4-H British Columbia
- 5th place - Boots N Bridles 4-H Club / 4-H British Columbia
- 6th place - Irishtown 4-H Club / 4-H New Brunswick
- 7th place - Caroline Carpenter / 4-H New Brunswick
- 8th place - 4-W 4-H Club / 4-H Alberta
- 9th place - Hillmond 4-H Beef Club / 4-H Saskatchewan
- 10th place - Jocelyn Kerr / 4-H British Columbia
Since 2014, close to 100,000 seed packets have been distributed across Canada, through the generous support of Syngenta, giving 4-H’ers and others the opportunity to create pollinator-friendly habitats and to enjoy the outdoors.
“The addition of the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er video contest in 2016 was a fun and fitting way to cap off a successful year of activities that saw more than 120 4-H Canada clubs from coast-to-coast-to-coast support the important work of pollinators. The enthusiasm that 4-H’ers brought to their Proud to Bee a 4-H’er activities was on full display in their video submissions,” says Dr. Paul Hoekstra, Stewardship and Policy Manager with Syngenta Canada.
Syngenta support for Proud to Bee a 4-H’er is through its Operation Pollinator program, which is focused on research and other initiatives that contribute to enhanced biodiversity and habitat in support of healthy pollinator populations.
To watch the winning videos, please visit www.youtube.com/4HCanada.
“Not that long ago we thought the major sources of uncertainty dogging Canadian agri-food trade had been resolved”, says Al Mussell, Agri-Food Economic Systems research lead and co-author of the policy note. “That is quickly being proved wrong. We had not expected US trade policy to turn protectionist, and in the interim a number of other major trade issues have arisen”.
The policy note takes stock of the range of developments in US trade policy under the new Trump Administration, the implications and alternatives for Canadian agri-food, and the consequent demands on trade and domestic agricultural policy. It highlights both bilateral shifts and multilateral issues that will reshape domestic and trade policy and require Canadian attention.
“We face a problem of breadth and depth”, says Douglas Hedley, Agri-Food Economic Systems associate and co-author of the policy note. “The sheer number of prospective trade complaints and defensive actions coming from the US could swamp our capacity to effectively analyze and mount a successful defense; this may be a strategy of the new US administration”.
Mussell says, “a retrenchment of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, potential renegotiation of NAFTA, a prospective US border tax, and US trade complaints raised against Canada will drive Canada to consider alternative markets. This puts more pressure on CETA and prospective new trade agreements with Japan, China, and perhaps others to provide markets for our agri-food products. It will also require alignment between domestic agricultural policy and this new trade environment”.
“At the same time, a WTO Ministerial meeting is scheduled for later this year, in which domestic support for agriculture is likely to be a key element," Hedley adds. Canada will be pressed to advance its agenda for reduced agricultural support globally and to deal with its own sensitivities. This will further draw upon our trade policy capacity”.
The Independent Agri-Food Policy Note can be accessed at www.agrifoodecon.ca.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has completed a three-year study and released the Dairy: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 and Poultry and Egg: Labour Market Forecast to 2025. These studies examine two of Canada’s most significant agricultural industries, which together account for 55,500 jobs, or 15 per cent of the total agricultural workforce.
Through consolidation, automation and other efficiencies, the dairy-cattle industry has shed more than a third of its workers since 2009, employing 39,900 as of 2014. However, despite this reduction in the size of the workforce, an additional 3,400 jobs went unfilled due to a lack of available domestic workers. This labour shortfall cost an estimated $71 million in lost sales.
While the labour demand is expected to continue to decline as a result of a stable market for the industry’s products, the labour supply is also predicted to shrink. As a result, the industry will continue to experience a labour shortage, with manager and owner-operator jobs at the greatest risk of going unfilled. Of the 1,100 jobs forecasted to go unfilled by 2025, 90 per cent will be jobs at the manager and owner-operator level, which will result in a skills shortage as well as a labour shortage.
For the poultry and egg industry, the research included farm operations engaged in breeding, hatching and raising poultry for meat or egg production, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, partridges and pigeons. Similar to the dairy industry, a leveling of demand for poultry and egg production and improved industry productivity will limit the demand for labour, while a shrinking supply of domestic labour will widen the industry labour gap. In 2014, 15,600 people were employed in the poultry and egg industry and an additional 250 jobs went unfilled due to a lack of domestic labour. These shortages cost the industry an estimated $6 million in lost sales. By 2025, 15,900 workers will be required, and 1,100 jobs are at risk of going unfilled. As with the dairy-cattle industry, manager and owner-operator jobs will be the most difficult to fill.
Both industries will be significantly impacted by retirement, with nearly one-third of the dairy workforce and nearly one-quarter of the poultry and egg workforce expected to retire by 2025. Finding Canadian workers with the right skills and experience is the greatest barrier to recruitment for both industries, despite the fact that they often offer attractive work conditions, including full-time, year-round employment located relatively close to urban centres. Both industries also have voluntary turnover rates that are below the sector average, which means that fewer employees choose to leave their jobs.
Unless these industries can find additional sources of labour with the right skills and experience, they will suffer from a critical gap at the managerial and leadership levels that could inhibit their ability to thrive.
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area.
The Dairy: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 and Poultry and Egg: Labour Market Forecast to 2025 reports can be downloaded at http://www.cahrc-ccrha.ca/agriLMI.ca. The study data was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1034 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders; 80 phone interviews; six focus groups for a total of more than 100 participants; and seven webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 100 participants in total.
The LMI research was funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.
The compensation rates, program guidelines and application forms are available at www.ontario.ca/predation.
The Framework, “Veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use – A Pan-Canadian framework for professional standards for veterinarians,” was developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical stewardship advisory group of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) in collaboration with the Canadian Council of Veterinary Registrars (CCVR).
It provides a template of professional standards, which may be used by provincial and territorial veterinary regulatory (licensing) bodies when developing their own regulations, guidelines, or bylaws relating to veterinarians’ professional responsibilities in providing oversight of veterinary antimicrobial use.
“Canadian veterinarians have a national and international responsibility to protect public health by contributing to the fight against antimicrobial resistance,” says Dr. Troy Bourque, CVMA president. “By working towards harmonizing veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in Canada, we are optimizing our stewardship practices in animal and public health, maintaining access to and effectiveness of antimicrobials for the treatment and prevention of disease in animals and upholding to the integrity of the veterinary profession.”
The Framework describes the professional obligations for veterinarians as ‘suggested standards,’ provides a definition of the Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship (VCPR), and describes the professional obligations to be met by veterinarians when prescribing an antimicrobial drug.
In addition, the Framework makes several recommendations on outstanding issues, including surveillance of antimicrobial use and distribution, and continuing education opportunities for veterinary professionals on antimicrobial stewardship.
The veterinary profession in Canada will continue to be engaged in discussions on the oversight of the use of veterinary antimicrobials at provincial and national levels.
The Framework was developed after consultation with key stakeholders from the veterinary and human health communities, producer groups, and regulators from across Canada.
The framework document has been completed and distributed to all regulatory bodies and CVMA members. It is available for download from the CVMA website at www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/pan-canadian-framework .
Using 360 cameras and virtual reality technology, the new FarmFood360° website gives Canadians the chance to tour real, working farms and food processing plants, all without putting on boots. It’s the latest version of the highly successful Virtual Farm Tours initiative, which was first launched in 2007.
“Canadians want to know more about their food, but they are also increasingly removed from its production,” says Ian McKillop, chair of Farm & Food Care Canada. “Changing technology also means they are looking for and finding information in different ways.
“FarmFood360° keeps pace with both these factors; it uses modern technology to immerse them right in the process, and address their questions in the most compelling way possible.”
Farm & Food Care partnered with Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. and Dairy Farmers of Canada to add three new tours to the FarmFood360° website – a dairy farm with a Voluntary Milking System, as well as two individual milk and cheese processing facilities. Visitors can access these tours on tablets and desktop computers, as well as through mobile phones and VR (Virtual Reality) viewers. Interviews with the farmers and plant employees involved in each business have also been added.
Both dairy processing facility tours were created in partnership with Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. Steve Dolson, chair of Gay Lea Foods, says “Farm & Food Care has created an accessible and practical way for us to open the doors to two of our processing facilities – locations that are usually restricted to ensure food safety and quality.”
“Gay Lea Foods is pleased to provide this unique opportunity for Canadians to see how milk from family farms is transformed into the milk, cream and cheese they know and love.”
Michael Barrett, president and CEO of Gay Lea Foods, added “we are tremendously proud of our employees and happy to highlight the passion, care and dedication that goes into the wholesome products our company is known for.”
As an original partner in the first Virtual Farm Tours project, Dairy Farmers of Canada again worked with Farm & Food Care to film a dairy farm using Voluntary Milking System in Prince Edward Island. These tours compliment the two dairy farm tours already on the site – featuring farms that use both free stall and tie stall milking technologies.
“Using new technology to bring farm life to Canadians is both exciting and a critical part of food production,” says Wally Smith, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada. “This modern platform is a great way of doing just that. These immersive tours open barn doors to show the passion and care our farmers put into the food they produce.”
This national initiative is being launched with a newly rebranded and interactive website, www.FarmFood360.ca. The site features all 23 farms originally featured on the Virtual Farm Tour platform plus the three new virtual reality tours. Additional tours will be added later in 2017.
“Much more” soon started becoming a reality and on Jan. 11th, the now 33-year-old Chilliwack, B.C. dairyman, hay salesman and cattle dealer and his wife, Marie (26), became the B.C. & Yukon Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017.
In 2006, TNT Agri Services turned into TNT Hay Sales as Baars started selling hay, first to local horse farms and then to local dairy farms.
“We sell a lot of hay to different dairy farms,” Baars says. Not long after, the young entrepreneur expanded TNT to include cattle sales. When Farm Credit Canada offered him a large loan with “no strings attached” in early 2011, Baars used it to start his own dairy farm.
“I had enough money to buy quota for 15 cows,” he recalls.
Two years later, Marie’s grandmother asked if they would manage her 160-cow 80-acre dairy farm in east Abbotsford. The Baars agreed on condition they could buy it.
“We amalgamated our small herd with her larger herd and have been steadily improving the facilities over the past few years,” Baars reports.
His entrepreneurship did not stop there. Last year, he purchased additional hay-growing acreage in Greendale and joined up with two partners to buy a 472-acre 100-cow dairy in Manitoba.
“We have already grown that farm by 20 per cent,” Baars says.
He has also served as a director of both the Mainland Young Milk Producers and the B.C. Young Farmers. Baars’ entrepreneurial spirit even extends itself to his recreational activities. Gary and his father-in-law have begun holding Cornfield Races twice a year, inviting friends and neighbours to race beat-up cars on the farm.
To earn the 2017 award from judges Rick Thiessen (2004 BC & Canadian Outstanding Young Farmer), Mark Sweeney (retired B.C. Ministry of Agriculture berry and horticulture specialist) and Kurt Bausenhaus (KPMG), the Baars outpointed Jeremy and Tamara Vaandrager of
Vaandrager Farms in west Abbotsford.
After managing several egg farms for other owners, the Vaandragers obtained a 3,000 bird quota in the 2010 B.C. Egg Marketing Board new entrant lottery. In the six years since, they have increased their quota holdings to 6,000 birds and are in the process of converting their farm from a free-run operation to an aviary.
“Aviaries have become common in Europe but it is still a relatively new system in North America,” Vaandrager notes.
The BCOYF program is sponsored by the BC Broiler Hatching Egg Commission, Clearbrook Grain & Milling, Farm Credit Canada and Insure Wealth. To be eligible for the award, applicants must be under 40 and derive at least two-thirds of their gross revenue from farming. They are
judged on the progress in their agricultural careers, the sustainability of their farming operations and involvement in their industry and community.
Gary and Marie Baars will represent B.C. at the national OYF competition in Penticton, B.C., in November. The national competition is supported by AdFarm, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Annex Business Media, Bayer Crop Science, BDO, CIBC, Farm Management Canada and John Deere.
Top Drivers“There are certainly other factors that could influence Canadian agriculture, such as the global economy, the investment landscape, commodity and energy prices,” says Gervais, speaking to his top five agriculture economic trends to watch in 2017. “The Canadian dollar, however, has been a major driver for profitability in the last couple of years and could have the biggest influence on the overall success of Canada’s agriculture industry in 2017.”Gervais is forecasting the dollar will hover around the 75-cent mark and will remain below its five-year average value relative to the U.S. dollar in 2017, potentially making the loonie the most significant economic driver to watch in Canadian agriculture this year.
The low dollar not only makes Canada more competitive in agricultural markets relative to some of the world’s largest exporters, but it also means higher farm cash receipts for producers whose commodities are priced in U.S. dollars.
A low Canadian dollar will keep the demand for Canadian agricultural commodities healthy, which is especially important considering the higher projected supply of livestock and crops. This means potential revenue growth, especially considering a likely rebound in livestock prices off the weakness observed in the second half of 2016.
“A lower Canadian dollar makes farm inputs more expensive, but the net impact in terms of our export competitiveness and cash receipts for producers is certainly positive,” Gervais says. “Given the choice, producers are better off with a low-dollar than one that’s relatively strong compared to the U.S. dollar.”
Food processors are also better off with a low Canadian dollar, which is partly the reason behind the strong growth in the gross domestic product of the sector over the past few years. Canadian food products are less expensive for foreign buyers, while it is more difficult for foreign food processors to compete in the Canadian market, according to Gervais.
“The climate for investment in Canadian food processing is good, given the low dollar and growing demand in the U.S.,” Gervais says. He projects that exports of food manufactured products to the US could climb five per cent in 2017.
A lower-than-average U.S. per Canadian dollar exchange rate supports foreign sales of agribusinesses as more than 90 per cent of all exports are made to the U.S., and compensate for a weaker demand due to the recent downturn in the U.S. farm economy.
“The dollar’s impact on agribusinesses is complex and not as consistent as it is on producers and food processors,” said Gervais, noting that strong farm cash receipts due to a weak loonie are generally good news for agribusinesses, since they can expect sales to producers to increase with rising revenues.
But he also notes that “a weak loonie raises the price of inputs like fertilizers or equipment, making them more expensive for producers, which may impact their purchase decisions.”
For an in-depth analysis of the impact of the Canadian dollar and Gervais’s four other economic drivers to watch in 2017, visit the FCC Ag Economics blog post at www.fcc.ca/AgEconomics
But, when I asked her what she thought of two on-farm animal welfare breaches that made the mainstream news last fall, her shoulders sagged slightly and a small sigh escaped from her lips. I was taken aback.
“Sorry,” she said as she collected herself. “It’s just that there’s so much good being done out there that doesn’t make the news but agriculture is a slave to its exceptions.” We carried on chatting for a little while and by the end of the conversation, she was back to her usual bubbly self, but that one brief moment of resignation startled me – perhaps because it was so out-of-character.
I think any farmer who strives to do what’s right grimaces when an undercover video surfaces. We cannot deny that Code of Practice violations will occur from time to time on Canadian farms – and yes, poultry operations too. What we can do, is acknowledge and correct those breaches. We can train personnel, instil respect for the animals in our care, reprimand and penalize as necessary and learn lessons from what happened.
But let us not forget that there’s another side to the coin. As well as recognizing when things have gone wrong, it’s equally important to acknowledge things done right, and applaud the many shining examples we own in this industry of sustainable farming. We congratulate not because they are exceptions, but because they are – happily – instances of the trending norm. As an industry, it’s essential to remind ourselves of that.
So, on that note, in this issue we are delighted to tip our cap to Farmcrest Foods Ltd. (Farmcrest) of Salmon Arm, B.C., recipients of the 2016 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award. As you read on, you’ll discover how Farmcrest is dedicated to continual learning and improvement, takes responsibility as stewards of a sensitive land area and works to ensure that employees are treated like family. The operation is a true model of sustainability in all of its forms.
Owners Richard Bell and Alan Bird will receive $2,000, and a farm gate sign as well as the award itself. We congratulate them on their achievement.
In closing, I would also like to take the time to first acknowledge all of the applicants for the award. Your dedication and commitment to your own longevity and that of the industry is commendable.
I would be remiss as well, if I didn’t acknowledge our Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award judges this year – former Canadian Poultry editor, Kristy Nudds; Valerie Carney, poultry research scientist and technology transfer coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry; and Al Dam, provincial poultry specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The quality of the applicants was exceptional and selecting our winner was no enviable task. Your thorough review process and willingness to give time to the selection of our winner is appreciated.
Recognition, also, to would-be sponsors of the cancelled Canadian Poultry Sustainability Symposium: Big Dutchman, Clark Ag Systems Ltd., Chicken Farmers of Canada, Cobb-Vantress, Egg Farmers of Canada, Farm Credit Canada and Walbern Agri Ltd. Thank you for your support.
The enterprise was started in 1999 and is owned by Richard Bell and his brother-in-law Alan Bird, whose families both originate from Ireland and came to Canada looking for new opportunities. In addition to Richard and Alan, members of three generations of the families currently help out on the farm, including Richard’s father Cecil (a retired farmer), brother Henry and sons Henry Jr. and Jack.
The operation includes: a hatchery and poultry barns (in addition to growing their own birds Farmcrest also contracts 16 new entrant growers to supply chicken to their processing plant); feed mill; processing plant; rendering plant (renderings are not used on the farm but sold for animal feed); enclosed mechanical composting for bird mortality, and crop production (200 acres of owned land and 400 acres of leased land farmed with potatoes, sunflowers and soybeans). Farmcrest also has its own poultry retail store. In total, the operation employs 45 people.
The farm itself is situated on soils ranging from clay and loamy clay to sandy loam with some peat areas in a relatively flat river bottom area near Salmon Arm, B.C.
“It is also very close to Shuswap Lake,” Bell explains. “We therefore need to be very careful with the amount and type of nutrients applied to this well-drained area to prevent runoff.”
Farmcrest’s regular nutrient management practices include using a concrete pad (contained to prevent runoff) for manure storage. There is also virtually no runoff of nutrients from the fields (and little odour) as manure is worked in with a disc or ploughed under immediately after application.
“We only apply the manure to the fields needing it for the seed that is being planted,” Bell notes. “Our soil health has improved steadily in the last five years since these measures were put in place.” No commercial fertilizers are used.
Farmcrest has an environmental farm plan and has used expert advice from a certified crop advisor since 2011. In 2013, Farmcrest also began a working relationship with Poultry Partners, a team of technicians, production specialists, veterinarians and nutritionists based in Airdrie, Alta., which offers a variety of agricultural industry services. The firm supported Farmcrest’s nomination for the sustainability award through a letter of recommendation - as did the British Columbia Chicken Marketing Board.
“They’ve done an excellent job farming intensively in a very ecologically-sensitive area,” Shawn Fairbairn, Poultry Partners general manager says. “They have committed to improve soil fertility, optimize production and most importantly, reduce chemical and pesticide use and virtually eliminate synthetic fertilizer to ensure the surrounding ecosystem remains undisturbed. There is on-going monitoring and testing of the manure, soil and crops to ensure their goals are being reached. The investment in new equipment to allow for less soil disturbance and odour when poultry manure is applied is one example of their forward-thinking.”
Fairbairn also notes that farm equipment is continuously upgraded at Farmcrest so that the most precise technology is used with the most fuel-efficient engines. “By growing about 85 per cent of all the feed ingredients their chickens consume, they have dramatically reduced the carbon footprint of their operation,” he adds.
Farmcrest also uses moisture and pH meters for soil testing to understand when conditions are optimal for manure application.
An overall goal to achieve air quality improvement (reductions in odour, ammonia and particulate matter inside and outside the barn) has been achieved by ensuring an optimal level of nitrogen is available to the birds. Ingredient and feed sampling are conducted on a regular basis to track this, and tests to track soil nitrogen levels are also completed annually. Because of all this monitoring and adjustment (not to mention an on-farm feed mill that makes immediate changes in the ration possible), Farmcrest has seen improvements in bird growth as well as air quality and soil improvement.
No irrigation is used at Farmcrest, and as much water as possible is conserved through the use of an ‘air chill’ system in the processing plant, nipple drinkers in the barns and a misting system for barn disinfection. Farmcrest has built 14 new poultry barns in the last five years, and Richard says their goal with each build is to be as energy efficient as possible. This includes the use of R60 insulation, LED lighting, high-efficiency electric motors and radiant tube heating.
Farmcrest was the first in its region to grow grain corn and now non-GMO grain corn. This led to the operation breaking new ground on a national level by being the first poultry operation in Canada to market non-GMO chicken (verified through nongmoproject.org). Poultry Partners assisted with further development of products. “[Farmcrest] listened to their customers and have proactively responded to the demand that was there in their local market. This has been extremely good for their business and the long-term financial viability of their operation.”
Fairbairn describes the Bird and Bell families as having a “tangible passion” for poultry and farming. “We love working with clients that are ‘hands-on’ and engaged,” he notes. “And the folks at Farmcrest are extremely engaged. Their work ethic and commitment to the environment and their local community is easy to grasp when you spend time with them. They are big believers in continuous learning and improvement. There is on-going reinvestment in all aspects of their operation to allow for improved welfare, safety and production efficiency for the birds, workers and the food they produce.”
The fact that the Farmcrest owners directly work alongside their employees every day has created, in Fairbairn’s view, a culture of hard work and high standards. “It is also unique to see three generations of family all working together towards a common goal,” he notes. “The youngest generation is actively involved in working and planning and will be well prepared to continue the legacy of this agri-business. The owners are always looking for new technologies and ideas. They literally travel the world to attend trade shows, farm tours and crop production events to ensure they are on the leading edge of agriculture. As a consulting group, we are extremely fortunate to have a client like Farmcrest.”
Bell says he feels honoured that Farmcrest has won the 2016 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award. “It is very much a team effort,” he notes. “I wish to thank my staff and our team for their dedicated efforts each and every day.”
Visit farmcrestfoods.ca if you would like to read in more detail about the business.
According to the report, leading Canadian farm businesses in the top 25 per cent financially out-perform those in the bottom 25 per cent by a wide margin: a 525 per cent increase in return on assets (ROA), 155 per cent increase in gross margin ratio, and 100 per cent increases in return on equity (ROE) and asset turnover.
“This is the first time we clearly see how specific business management practices positively affect a farm’s financial outcomes,” says Agri-Food Management Institute (AMI) executive director, Ashley Honsberger. “Management matters and this study illustrates just how much of an impact the top habits
The study, commissioned by AMI and Farm Management Canada, included 604 farms of all types and sizes, and farmers of all ages, nationwide, in the grains and oilseeds, beef, hogs, poultry and eggs, dairy, and horticulture sectors.
The leading driver of farm financial success is continuous learning. Farms in the bottom 25 per cent are three times less likely to seek out new information, training or learning opportunities.
Number two is keeping finances current so that key farm decisions are made based on an accurate financial picture of the business. Farms in the bottom quartile are three times more likely to have financial records that are months behind and are also almost three times more likely not to monitor their cost of production.
The third driver of farm success is seeking the help of professional business advisors or consultants. Farms in the top quartile are 30 per cent more likely to work regularly with a farm business advisor or team of advisors.
Four other drivers also ranked highly: having a formal business plan, knowing and monitoring cost of production, assessing and managing risk, and using budgets and financial plans.
Of the 55 poultry and egg farmers surveyed nationwide, 69 per cent felt the financial health of their farm was a little or much better now compared to five years ago.
The top 25 per cent of poultry and egg farms shows a five per cent ROA compared to 0 per cent in the bottom 25 per cent; 37.7 per cent gross margin ratio compared to 0 percent; 15.6 per cent ROE compared to 15.4 per cent; and 13.6 per cent asset turnover compared to 10.1 per cent.
Poultry and egg farmers lead the pack. Thirty-six per cent have a formal business plan, well ahead of the 25 per cent average of all other farmers, 36 per cent have a financial plan with budget objectives, which again is higher than the average of all other farmers at 33 per cent, and 26 per cent have a formal human resources plan, considerably more than the 17 per cent average of all other farmers.
The study also showed that 69 per cent use supply chain relationships to add value, which is significantly higher than the 49 per cent of all other farmers.
Honsberger advises farmers considering making business management changes to divide a large task into smaller steps, such as using the off-season to attend education events or meet with a business advisor.
A resource for farmers, dubbed “Pledge to Plan” can also help with business management activities for each season, support tools, and stories of producers who’ve already gone through the process. It’s available at pledgetoplan.ca.
The study was funded through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
About the Agri-Food Management Institute
AMI promotes new ways of thinking about agribusiness management and aims to increase awareness, understanding and adoption of beneficial business management practices by Ontario agri-food and agri-based producers and processors.
The answer to that question may just hold the key to the future of research. The days of independent, species-specific research may be changing to a new model, bringing together not only different livestock species but also different sectors of research and industry.
“It’s time to start thinking outside the shell,” said Tim Nelson, “and think very big.” Nelson is the CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) – a new hive of cross-disciplinary research based in Guelph, Ont.
The new network is an assembly of Ontario Livestock and Poultry Organizations that are betting the future of agriculture on well designed and directed research. Their mission is to provide, “a single portal through which collective investment in livestock and poultry research conducted in Ontario, is able to generate the best possible outcomes and return on investment for our sector and the Province.”
Times are changing, explained Nelson. Funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food is holding steady but overall investment in poultry research is declining and industry funding is flat. Government funding is pulling back at a time when their target outcomes are moving to a focus of creating jobs, although Nelson has high hopes with a new government that believes in science.
That’s not the only change. The agriculture and food industry is changing too, looking for economies of scale. Industry is relying less on publicly funded research to pursue their goals of efficiency, while large corporations in areas such as genetics and pharmaceuticals continue to consolidate and do their own research.
Meanwhile research priorities are also changing. “We’ve gotten good at producing eggs,” said Nelson. In 1951 a hen would give us 150 eggs; in 2006 that number had risen to 325 eggs, using only 1.4 kg of feed compared to 3.4 kg. The feed to gain ratio in broilers has dropped from 6:1 to 1.6:1. “Do we still need to be doing this,” he asked?
Society is changing too, said Nelson, and their push for change is powerful. Many suggested production practices have no science to guide them. It’s one thing to ask to ban cages but what do the birds need in alternate production systems such as aviaries to ensure they’re getting a better deal?
At the researcher level, one measure of success is the number of patents issued, which potentially may delay transfer of technical information, adding to cost and reducing the desire of the industry to invest in late-stage research.
What opportunities can cross-disciplinary research create in this changing environment?
Nelson makes a strong case for collaboration.
When it comes to addressing societal needs, for example, Nelson suggests that the ‘silo’ model just doesn’t work. Social and ecological problems are far too complex. In response, research ‘clusters’ are becoming more common, allowing for the spreading of costs and creating a synergy to address common interests. Nelson cautions though that they need to be more than a grouping of researchers in one building, each working on their own projects. Just calling a grouping of researchers a ‘cluster’ doesn’t necessarily follow his definition of cross-disciplinary research.
So what does? Let’s consider what topics are important to poultry research right now. Nelson has condensed them to three areas: animal welfare, antibiotics in feed and food safety. None of these are what he calls “single discipline issues”. Each has components that could be cross-funded by more than one sector, working in collaboration.
Could solutions to treat salmonella in pigs, for example, also be applied to poultry? Why not to dairy and beef as well? The advantages of shared research are clear: costs can be spread, bigger industry funding can be leveraged to better government funding, more tech transfer will be encouraged and private investment will be exposed to more opportunity.
But what about the language? Will researchers talking in ‘pig language’ be able to communicate with those talking ‘chicken’? Nelson says yes, once an early solution gets to the point where it needs to diverge it will need individual attention. “This is a paradigm shift,” said Nelson, which may not apply to all research but it is a way forward that will help the agriculture industry.
Nelson wants to target the resources of LRIC at what he calls the ‘Blue Sky/ Discovery stage’: “Start thinking about opportunities early.” LRIC is there to find commonalities in research, searching proposals and issues to find common ground.
“Cross-disciplinary research is already a reality; cross-sectorial research will become a reality,” said Nelson. “It will become a necessity.” Don’t be shy, he says, talk to LRIC and find out who else would benefit from or fund your work.
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PIC Research DayWed May 10, 2017 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Western Meeting of Poultry Clinicians and PathologistsWed May 17, 2017
B.C. Poultry SymposiumThu May 18, 2017
Turkey Academy 2017Thu Jun 01, 2017 @ 8:30AM - 02:30PM
Canadian Meat Council 97th Annual ConferenceMon Jun 05, 2017