by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A halt to operations at Quebec’s Levinoff-Colbex cull cattle plant is a blow to Ontario cattle producers, but it is “not the end of the world,” says Dave Stewart, executive director of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association. A Dairy Farmers of Ontario spokesperson echoed Stewart’s remarks, saying the closing is unfortunate but not unexpected.
Operations were halted at the producer-owned plant at St-Cyrille-de-Wendover on Monday with an announcement that implementation of a fiscal recovery plan had been postponed.
“Obviously,” Stewart says, “it’s an important market participant for us, so it’s not great for beef farmers that they are closing.” He added that beef cattle cull rates are lower at this time of year when most herds are on pasture.
Stewart says there are alternatives, including Cargill in Guelph and the U.S. market where processing costs are lower because they don’t have to follow the same standards for removing Specified Risk Materials (SRM). These are tissues such as brains and spinal chords that scientists have determined contain the most risk for having concentrations of prions linked to bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE). In Canada, these tissues must be carefully removed and separated when processing animals over 30 months of age.
“I noted there are going to be efforts at refinancing (at Levinoff-Colbex),” Stewart says, “and I really wish the producers success in their efforts.” However, Stewart added, “the lack of harmonization of SRM rules puts Canadian plants at a competitive disadvantage to the U.S. plants.”
“Our rules,” Stewart says, “are more stringent and costly than the U.S. rules and actually the culls can go across the border and be culled more cheaply.”
Following the 2008 closing of the Gencor Foods plant in Kitchener, the Quebec plant became the main cull packer for Ontario producers. Ironically, the Gencor closure was also related to higher costs of production in Canada. A Gencor news release at the time complained that, “Regulations enacted in the United States for SRM are much less rigorous than the regulations established in Canada.” BF