Bob Wilson is proud to do his part in promoting the Canadian beef brand
By Jennifer Jackson
“If we want to expect to be able to market our product and do the job we love, we need to provide a product that people can trust,” says Bob Wilson of Gilbrea Farms, located just north of Guelph. This belief is one of the main reasons why Wilson registered his feed stock operation in the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program – a way for the industry to come together for accountability.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Beef Cattle Research Council launched the VBP+ program in June of 2016, as an evolution of the original Verified Beef Production program. The voluntary audit program requires producers to comply with standard biosecurity, animal welfare, and land conservation and management guidelines.
While the VBP+ program was under development, Wilson offered his farm as a pilot for the auditing process.
“My experience in the auditing process has been very positive; (it’s) very open and encouraging, much like a coaching session.”
Wilson has always been supportive of branding opportunities such as the VBP+ program. He is especially excited for the opportunities the VBP+ program could create for the agri-food industry in connecting with consumers.
“In order for us to retain our market (on grocers’ and retailers’ shelves) we have to (provide) the consumer with what they think they want,” says Wilson. “I think its important we get involved and show that we (beef producers) are doing a good job, show what we are doing and why we are doing it.”
Wilson farms a mixed feeder stock and cash crop operation outside of Guelph. Wilson was first involved with the original VBP program, Quality Starts Here, in 2003.
The VBP+ program follows guidelines and standards as outlined in the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle. Wilson keeps this Code at hand amongst other cattle documentation required for the VBP+ program. “Record all individual animal or group treatments on a permanent record, including deaths/euthanization,” reads one of the lines on the VBP+ producer checklist.
Wilson uses a pistol grip syringe gun to ease the vaccination and treatment process. Producers who are VBP+ certified need to adhere to a range of best practices, including securing cattle properly to avoid bent or broken needles.
All cattle must have constant access to palatable water, according to the VBP+ program requirements.
Cattle must have access to a shelter in their pasture for inclement weather, according to the VBP+ program. Wilson uses a unique open and portable shelter system for calves. He finds the cows prefer the openness the shelter provides.
Environmental stewardship is a large component of the VBP+ program. “Cattle operation’s environmental farm plan provides awareness for stewardship and conservation practices,” reads the VBP+ producer checklist.
During Better Farming’s visit to Wilson’s farm, some of the cattle were curious to get a closer look at the new visitor. BF