"This is the first time that all of the [Canadian beef sector] organisations have come together and supported as a whole" under a formal strategy, although there have been isolated efforts before, Kevin Boon, general manager of the British Columbia (BC) Cattlemen’s Association told GlobalMeatNews.
The crux of the five-year industry-led National Beef Strategy, which was formally launched in January and is now under way, is to gain efficiencies and better utilise funds: "The strategy works under four pillars – connectivity, productivity, competitiveness and beef demand," Boon said.
"While connectivity is communications, for which there was no goal set as there is no baseline, the other three have goals to increase [efficiency] by 15%, 7% and 15% respectively," Boon said. "Baselines in all of these exist and are being further compiled to be sure we are able to measure the outcome."
Gloria Jewison, of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) added: "Results-based reporting will be put in place to demonstrate the value of the programs and research being carried out on behalf of industry."
The strategy will be managed by industry organisations, including the CCA, marketing organisation Canada Beef, the Beef Cattle Research Council, Canadian Beef Breeds Council, the National Cattle Feeders’ Association and the BC Cattlemen’s Association, among others.
Meanwhile, tough competition and shrinking cow herds have had a toll on the industry: "Our main competitor is the USA," noted Boon, and yet Canadian cattle producers have been steadily sending livestock "south into the US to be slaughtered and processed", he added. "Also, we are at a definite disadvantage in labour costs to many other countries who export to the same markets as us."
According to national statistical agency Statistics Canada, beef cow inventory, as at 1 January 2014, had dropped to 3.9m head from close to 4.4m in 1999. Implementing new technology, such as genomic information at the farm level continues to be a major challenge for the beef cattle sector, Canadian Beef Breeds Council executive director Michael Latimer said. Canada positions itself as a producer of high-quality genetics and beef, so it is "important to use all tools available" in order to stay competitive globally, Latimer said.
So the strategy proposes measures such as: lobbying to gain preferential and equal access in key export markets for beef, live cattle and beef cattle genetics; encouraging the adoption of superior genetics in commercial herds; improving animal health and welfare; and developing a national total quality management system, among many others.