Producer groups to take over livestock brand inspection

Efficiency, flexibility sought | Inspection cost expected to remain at $2 per head

Saskatchewan livestock organizations will take over brand inspection in the province Jan. 1 through a new non-profit corporation.


Five producer groups have formed the Livestock Services of Saskatchewan Corp. (LSS) to deliver inspection services previously offered by the provincial government.


The 41 full-time equivalent staff working in the inspection service will transfer to the corporation.


The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA), the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association, the Saskatchewan Horse Federation and Livestock Marketers of Saskatchewan own the new company.


Agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said the government has committed funding for five years until LSS is on its feet.


“They need to be able to make payroll,” he said.


The province announced last year that it wanted out of brand inspection. It was the last province to move to the private model.


Stewart said Saskatchewan was “a poor fit” when it came to co-operating with other provinces. It was also the most expensive at $2 per head, compared to $1.25 in Alberta, and was losing money.


He said LSS should be more efficient and flexible.


“I don’t think producers will notice any change because of this,” he said.


SSGA president Harold Martens said efficiency and flexibility will likely result from new policies such as not sending out a brand inspector for just two or three head. Instead, producers would have to bring cattle to a certain location for inspection.


Hiring will no longer be done through the Public Service Commission, which Martens said will allow LSS to hire more quickly.


As well, providing service to Manitoba, which doesn’t have its own livestock inspection, has not been a break-even business.


“Efficiencies will be built in as we begin to develop our own pattern.”


Jason Pollock, former chief executive officer of Canadian Western Agribition and a rancher near Maple Creek, Sask., has been hired as the acting CEO.


Martens said the process of taking over from the ministry has taken 18 months because it turned out to be complex. Issues such as who pays to store records or when staff are required to testify in cattle theft cases had to be worked out.


“There were surprises to all of us in this,” he said.


The current cost of inspection, which is $2 per head, isn’t expected to go down, he added.


There may be opportunities in the future to co-operate with other provinces to provide a western Canadian inspection service, he added.

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