Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: What does our industry look like coming out the other side of the pandemic?

The most recent plant to open is in Westwold but they are only taking cull cows

It has been said by many that the pandemic has just sped up or enhanced trends in the food industry that were already there.

This week I want to comment on some trends that are affecting us whether we are producers of food or consumers.

If you want to get a beef slaughtered and cut up in a plant that has been inspected and is regularly inspected along with the meat being processed, then you probably are waiting over a year to get a place in the line up. And your trip to the slaughterhouse will take you two or three hours.

The most recent plant to open is in Westwold but they are only taking cull cows for the near future. Their main business is shareholders cattle, with custom work for others being secondary to this main business.

There has been a feasibility study and business plan done for a new plant in the Williams Lake area and apparently someone is looking at the possibility of a plant close to Quesnel.

Neither of these will help us in the short term. Good luck to them in launching these new businesses.

Large and medium scale processing of chickens has been hampered by the cost of being pandemic risk averse in their operations. This trend has sped up when several plants had been getting more and more specialized. For example, consumers are wanting smaller and smaller turkeys so newer plants are gearing up for small birds only as an efficiency measure.

READ MORE: The road home from Lhoosk’uz (Kluskus)

This is happening at the same time as some producer marketers have markets for pieces of turkey. Cut up birds should be bigger to make the cuts large enough meet the demand. Yet few plants will or can process these big birds.

Recent articles in the Vancouver papers have indicated that farmers who are direct marketers of meat in BC have been going out of business because of the distance to abattoirs.

Critics will say that government needs to support local processing if it wants B.C. product to be available to B.C. consumers. Specifically, what that support will look like is not clear.

Even though food prices have risen in the neighbourhood of seven per cent since the beginning of the pandemic, that is not enough to support smaller meat processors.

Mainstream farm media continually feature articles of genetic improvements to enhance growth and keep costs of production low, or improve immunity to foreign diseases.

More, better technology is the cry. One piece of technology that might help ranchers would be the DNA testing which can be done in the field to determine the paternity of a calf. Knowing which bulls sire enough calves to pay their way as herd sires might be verify helpful. Studies have shown that in a large herd with many bulls, some breed 50 cows and others may breed next to none.

With a cow to bull ratio averaging 20- or 25-to one, quite a saving can be made by eliminating the “non-productive” bulls.

Another as yet unfulfilled promise is that of “no till” or “minimum till” seeding equipment that can seed into existing older or undesirable fields and pastures thus saving the cost of plowing, disking, harrowing seeding and packing at a cost of about $300 or more per acre.

There are at least three books out there on “lean farming” but I can’t comment on how lean ranchers can go until I look at these suggestions. I know many think they have shaved costs as much as they can. I believe that.

So, we have to find new cultural practices that either improve production or efficiency. One does have to have a sharp pencil to figure out which way to go on investing in new technologies.

Read more: RANCH MUSINGS: The road home from Lhoosk’uz (Kluskus)

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

Cariboo

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Williams Lake Trail Riders Arena is slated to have a new roof installed this spring after funding from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trail Riders Arena, stable stalls, to get new roof at Stampede Grounds

Some of the stalls currently aren’t able to be rented out due to leaks in the roof

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read