by SUSAN MANN
That’s an increase of $2 per animal compared to the amount offered in the previous two years of the program, which is sponsored by the OCA and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
OCA project coordinator Ron Wooddisse says the $5 credit more than offsets the price of the tags. And age verified calves are “likely worth more money, not less, when you go to sell them.”
The program’s organizers want to increase enrollment in the program: in 2006-2007, 125,000 calves were registered, well short of the goal of registering 200,000 over the two years.
“Hopefully we’re going to do more than that in 2008,” Wooddisse says.
The goal of the program is to get more beef cattle ready for the Japanese market, which only accepts products from cattle less than 20 months and requires their age to be verified. Another goal is to ensure cattle from 25 to 30 months of age are identified as being that age so they “don’t get docked as being over 30, which is a huge discount at the plant,” he says.
Dan Darling, a cow/calf producer from Castleton, says the program is working for him.
He says it makes his calves more valuable to the finishers who buy them. “They have information and they know if they get those cattle to a certain weight by this time that those cattle will be eligible for the export market.”
Darling has participated in the program since it was established in 2006. He admits it was initially a bit slow using dial-up Internet to access the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency in Calgary. But implementing the calves’ ages “was a pretty simple process.”
All farmers should participate in the program, Darling, an OCA board member, recommends. “There’s no reason not to. All cow-calf producers know when their calves are born.”
In addition, cow-calf producers want to take advantage of everything they can to get the best price for their calves. “This is just one more tool they can use to get that.”
To participate, farmers need to fulfill a few requirements: verifying their calves’ age; obtaining Canadian Cattle Identification Agency ear tags; arranging for a veterinarian-approved vaccination protocol; and taking the Verified Beef Production on-farm federally approved food safety course offered by OCA.
Farmers can do the age verification themselves or the OCA has age verification technicians that are available to help free of charge. In some cases tag dealers will actually do the age verification for farmers, Wooddisse says.
Calves born in 2007 that weren’t enrolled under the previous Market Access Program are eligible for a $3 per animal credit. Calves sold for dairy purposes can’t be enrolled. BF