The UFA Cattle Trail at the Stampede features a live and interactive exhibition of the beef cattle industry in Canada. It focuses on the entire beef production chain from pasture to plate, and aims to give the public some insight on where our food comes from.
The live cattle exhibit showcased different breeds of cattle in a pen to demonstrate how GrowSafe technology allows researchers and producers to determine individual animal food intake vs. growth more accurately. Visitors enjoyed trying out the interactive auction mart and cattle-sized weigh-in chute. The miniature feedlot set-up demonstrated industry innovation and processes that ensure the safe and efficient production of beef. The feedlot exhibit also touched on the different types of feed and at what part of the growth cycle to yield the highest daily gain. Other parts of the Cattle Trail focused on animal welfare, medicine and transportation, and a large display showed the benefits of eating beef and how it can be prepared to provide a healthy and tasty protein option every day.
The goal of our Livestock Gentec booth was to highlight the importance of genomics in breeding better cattle—which raised a lot of interesting questions from visitors. People were curious about how to select which traits via genomics and how it might affect the cattle’s health and meat quality. A number of visitors expressed concern about humans eating meat from an animal with genetic abnormalities. There was also a lot of interest in how DNA testing works, and from what samples types we can obtain via DNA for testing. People were intrigued at how accurate high throughput DNA testing can be and how much information can be obtained from a relatively small DNA chip.
Due to our positioning next the feedlot setup, we received a lot of questions about the use of hormones and antibiotics on animals. Most people were initially leery about the use of hormones and antibiotics on cattle due to the negative ad campaigns and misinformation on the internet. However, when the use of antibiotics was explained to them from the angle of animal welfare, efficiency and sustainability, almost all of them left with a more positive view. We also stressed that Health Canada sets a very stringent limit of the level of these substances allowed in consumed beef, which are far below the amount that could pose a health concern. Most people were pleasantly surprised at how much producers care about their animals’ welfare and living conditions.
We also received a lot of questions about Angus beef and the Angus brand. It was very interesting to hear a good proportion of people assume that Canada only produces Angus beef or that Angus beef is the direct representation of Triple A meat. Some assumed that the only way to choose good quality beef is to look for the Angus brand. Many are unaware that Certified Angus beef is a brand, and that a lot of the good beef in grocery stores is not Angus. We had some very in-depth conversations about why each breed has different traits that producers might want: e.g. maternal traits and marbling in Angus, overall larger sized and more docile behaviour in Herefords. I brought up the use of cross-breeding cattle and how increased heterosis will yield a much healthier animal. We also included how Envigour HX ™ could help producers determine what breed composition they have in their herd and how they could use the tool to help determine if they have achieved their breeding goals. We spoke to a couple of aspiring producers from abroad who were interested in bringing some North American cattle seedstock and breeding into their population.
The overall theme of conversations at the Cattle Trail was one of education and interaction. Visitors were inspired by the showcase and willing to strike an open conversation on any question about the beef production and the beef industry. Most people were concerned about how the foods on their plate affect their health. The major topics of conversations circled around food safety, nutrition and animal welfare. I gathered that the general public find food production rather confusing. As industry representatives, we should create more awareness through public exhibitions like the UFA Cattle Trail or social media to engage people in open discussions about our food-processing pipelines and shedding a positive light on the use of science to improve food production, safety and sustainability
Olds FutureFarm Expo
By Janelle Jimenez
The objective of the Olds FutureFarm Expo was to help producers bring technological advancements to their farming operations. As such, it included many demonstrations, tours and agriculture-based seminars over a three-day period (July 6-8, 2017); and over 100 exhibitors were set up indoors and outdoors to market their products ranging from the business side of farming to the application of future-forward techniques and tools. Companies involved with bioremediation and sustainable farming technologies including the use of microbial inoculations and bacterial catalyst to open up previously unusable land for farming were strongly represented. There was also big focus on using drone technologies.
The winner of the Canada 150in150 competition (Delta placed second) gave a thrilling presentation on a project that used the waste grain from beer production to grow edible mushrooms. He demonstrated how he was able to grow a specific strain of mushrooms in a fraction of the time they take to grow in nature. In total, 23 seminars took place, with other themes on drone navigation to help manage farms and survey land accurately, the use of continuous-charging battery-power systems, and carbon tax credits. There was also discussion regarding pest control, farm energy management, indoor aeroponic farming, and the pros and cons of GE/GMP alfalfa.
A number of educational tours also took place. The brewery tour took participants through the Olds College teaching Brewery and the hops crop, and allowed participants to taste the locally-brewed beers. Participants also toured the botanical gardens and constructed wetlands, where over 20 acres of wetland used to demonstrate the treatment of water runoff from the college campus.
The second tour gave information on a research project using RFID-based (ID tags that transmit data using radio frequency) data acquisition software that tracked animals’ food intake to learn about feed conversion into muscle. Another project examined how thermography can help detect bovine respiratory disease, with the goal of commercializing the technology and increasing cattle value in the industry.
As at the Cattle Trail, Ying Yee and I did our best to interact with visitors, and generally the feedback on our presentations and messages was very positive. Many people were interested in the upcoming Cow Forage Gentec Tour at the Lacombe Research Centre.
Overall, the event offered a great variety of interesting and useful themes that of great interest to the agricultural community.