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May 10, 2022

Opinion: For the common good of the cattle industry

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was provided by an Alberta rancher for the April edition of ABP, our quarterly print magazine.

I feel compelled to write in response to Will Verboven comments in the January 2022 edition of Alberta Beef Magazine.

Verboven accurately states the history of ABP since its inception in the late 60s. When created, our industry looked much different from current times. Cattle feeding in Alberta was done on a much smaller scale, commonly on the operations that calved the cows. Today’s industry is two generations removed from the founding of our ABP. In the current realm, cattle feeders and cow calf operators often lack contact with and understanding of the other sector. There is truth in the cow operator sometimes knows little about what happens with the calves after dropped at the market. Just as guilty is the cattle feeder who thinks calves come from a telephone; all he needs to do is make a call and the animals show up in the feed yard receiving area. The separation of the cattle sectors – cow calf and cattle feeders – has led to current ABP dysfunction. Coupled with a refundable check off, status quo is clearly impossible.

Verboven is promoting a separate check off organization for the cattle feeding sector, while ABP continues to represent the cow calf side. I have grave concerns that this structure would provide two well-funded organizations with the means to be in perpetual conflict. There are very few issues in the cattle business where the cow calf sector and cattle feeders have inherent conflict. If slaughter value is maximized, and total production costs minimized, both sectors will benefit. The health of the other sector is all important to both sides. Without a healthy cow calf business, feed yards are out of business when there are no calves to buy. Without cattle feeders there are no buyers at weaning. We are not each other’s enemies; we are reliant on one another.

The solution is yet another rework of ABP structure. Checkoff becomes non-refundable once again. Half the board is elected by operations that birth calves. Half the board is elected by operations that add value to cattle. Outfits that do both choose which side of the board their votes will elect. Cattle feeders could no longer claim they do not have influence at the ABP board that is equitable to their check off paid. As cattle feeders are much smaller in numbers than cow calf operators, this structure does mean that a small group of people will elect half the board. I realize that this is not pure democracy and expect marketing council would need to make changes to accommodate this structure within the law. Transitioning to this structure is no easy feat. ABP and ACFA will lose identities of us and them. We will all be at the same table for the common good of the entire cattle business.

Brent Heidecker, Alberta rancher


This piece was first published in Volume 2 Issue 2 of ABP Magazine (April 2022). Watch for more digital content from the magazine on ABP Daily.

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