Manitoba gets livestock price insurance

Manitoba hog, cattle and sheep producers have an opportunity to participate in a livestock price insurance program starting this spring.


Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz and his counterparts in Sask-atchewan, Alberta and British Columbia unveiled the Western Livestock Pilot Insurance Program (WLPIP) in January.


Manitoba agriculture minister Ron Kostyshyn didn’t participate in the initial announcement because provincial byelections were underway in the province.


“This insurance program is new territory for the Manitoba livestock sector and something producers have been asking the province to pursue,” Kostyshyn said in a statement while unveiling the Manitoba portion of the program Feb. 13. 


“We are pleased to partner with the other western provinces and the federal government to make it a reality. Through WLPIP, producers will now have a new way to manage price risk.”


The insurance plan is based on Alberta’s Cattle Price Insurance Program, which producers use to insure 900,000 of the province’s three million cattle. It provides a floor price for livestock and protection against volatile price swings. 


Manitoba Beef Producers, which has lobbied for livestock insurance, is pleased the province is officially on board.


“MBP has been asking for a program like this for some time. This new management tool will reduce the cost of risk and will put beef production on a more level playing field, when compared with other commodities,” said MBP president Heinz Reimer.


“The combination of the new livestock price insurance and the revisions to forage insurance that was announced this past fall will give beef producers a strong and bankable risk management package. This could fundamentally change beef production in Manitoba.”


MBP received more positive news in early February when members approved an increase in the provincial checkoff.


Effective July 1, Manitoba cattle producers will pay $3 per head to fund MBP programs. 


Reimer said the increase is needed because MBP had cut back its activities, particularly meetings.


“We’ve been having more conference calls. Conference calls are great, but when you have bigger issues you don’t seem to get everything done,” he said. 


“(Plus) the outreach to producers and industry … we had to pull back in the last year because we were short one staff person.”


Last year, the provincial government terminated the voluntary $2 checkoff for the Manitoba Cattle Enhancement Council, a now de-funct agency that had a mandate to expand slaughter capacity in the province. The removal of that levy has lightened the check-off burden on producers.


The number of beef cows on Manitoba farms has declined in recent years, dropping from 471,500 in July 2011 to 443,700 in July 2013, according to Statistics Canada. 


The province had more than 600,000 beef cows in 2008.


Reimer said a few producers are expanding their operations in Manitoba, and the recent announcements may encourage more investment within the cattle business.


“Especially anybody new. This is a big help for them.”