Today, day 19 of Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan, brings us a guest post from a cattleman we can all learn from, Brad Wildeman. He has been heavily involved in shaping the agriculture and cattle industry in Saskatchewan. He has also been the head of a very successful, integrated feedlot and ethanol plant, PoundMaker Ag Ventures. Brad could be (and is by many) called a visionary in Ag. So it’s wonderful to see so much of his vision written in this post. Enjoy!!
I have been privileged to be involved in agriculture, and particularly in the cattle industry, almost all my life. Over the years, I have seen many changes and for the most part they have been positive even though change is sometimes hard to accept or embrace.
The adoption of new farming practises and harnessing the potential of new technological tools has improved yields, financial returns and increased the health of the land. Gone are the days of the prairie duststorms caused by over tillage. Capturing and conserving the moisture from fall and winter precipitation through minimum or no-till farming has allowed for good yields even on dry years that in the past would have resulted in crop failure. New cropping options, improved varieties, and the precise use of fertilizers and crop protection products have all been very positive improvements to farming practises.
Those improvements haven’t been limited just to grain based agriculture. New methods of grass management, utilizing new winter feeding regimes, and better cattle genetics has increased the productivity and financial returns of the cattle industry as well. Improvement in animal health products and the increased adoption of preventative vaccination programs has reduced morbidity and mortality within the herd. And although we haven’t harnessed all the opportunities available through adopting new technology yet, I see progress being made every day.
Perhaps the biggest change I see is the effort by the cattle industry to implement programs and procedures that allow us to promote our products as safer, more sustainable, and more accountable to our consumers. The demands of the consumer for transparency and accountability, and advocating the benefits that a healthy cattle industry can provide to everyone is a critical component of continuing to make a living in this industry. Our efforts in traceability, adoption of animal care standards, our participation in sustainability roundtables, the implementation of the Verified Beef programs, and the creation of Cattle Young Leaders and other mentorship initiatives that are training new advocates to communicate with consumers at their level of understanding and concern are all very positive steps. Organizations like Farm and Food Care are important avenues to creating and maintain this connection to consumers who don’t understand our business and make judgments on what they may see or hear on social media.
Social license and sustainability are the new drivers that will shape how we do business in the future. Just doing the right thing isn’t good enough unless we can prove accountability. Then taking this message to the masses is critical to changing the paradigm of modern day agriculture from the “factory farm and profit at all cost” vision to that of a socially and environmentally sensitive industry that is committed to feed an ever increasing population while preserving, and potentially enhancing, our impact on the planet.
These are tough goals but I believe we are on a winning strategy and I applaud the efforts of all those involved. It has brought out a passion for our industry that encourages optimism for the future. The key is to sustain this momentum as the stakes are high.