Sask. ranchers buying price insurance

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said he’s pleased with the enrolment numbers after the first offering of livestock price insurance.

About 1,100 policies had been taken out as of June 4 after 1,449 producers signed up for the pilot Western Livestock Price Insurance Program announced in January.

About 1,000 of the policies were for calf price insurance.

“This is approximately 15 percent of the marketable calf crop and, I would say, excellent uptake for the first year of a brand new program,” Stewart told the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association convention, where he announced the numbers.

The industry had been asking for price insurance for the past several years. Alberta had its own program, and earlier this year the pilot for the other three western provinces was announced.

Stewart said the industry was right to push for the program and is obviously ready to participate.

“The cattle industry is usually pretty conservative about adopting new programs,” he said.

“I think we’ll see dramatically increased uptake in years to come.”

Alberta producers took some time to warm up to the program, and Stewart expects Saskatchewan producers who were on the fence will watch to see how it works.

“They can lock in these good prices for a very reasonable cost, and I won’t say it’s a no brainer, but it’s obviously a good program when you study the details of it, and I think a lot of producers will be taking a closer look at it over the next year.”

Fifteen percent of the calf crop represents 100,000 calves.

Meanwhile, the province has also established a goal in its growth plan to increase revenue from livestock production by 25 percent from 2012 to 2020, which would bring livestock cash receipts to $2 billion annually.

Stewart said the opportunity and capability exist.

“We’ll just encourage the industry with good programming and livestock price insurance and some research assistance and whatever we can do to work for that goal,” he said.

Grant Zalinko, the province’s livestock development manager, said expanding the feeding sector as part of that goal will be a challenge, but the goal is realistic.

Cash receipts in 2012 from cattle and calves were $994 million.

Hog receipts were $261 million, dairy $170 million and poultry meat $106 million. Eggs, bison and lamb also contribute to the overall total.

“We’re looking to develop programs and services that encompass all,” Zalinko said.

The first quarter of 2014 is already showing stronger cattle and calf receipts, year over year, he added.

Stewart also announced two research projects at the convention:

A project managed by Canadian Cattlemen’s Association will assess the economic, social and environment aspects of the beef industry. It will determine the areas of proficiency, set targets and practices for improvement and help determine future research priorities.

A project managed by the Canadian Beef Breeds Council will focus on genomics. The council will work with individual breed associations to teach producers how to use genomic tools with a view to increasing uptake by the industry.

“This program makes it easier for our producers to evaluate which traits in breeding stock would actually improve their individual herds,” Stewart said.

“We have great purebred genetics and this is an effort to help commercial producers to incorporate the best genetics into their operations.”

The federal and provincial governments will provide $200,000 and industry will contribute $800,000 to the projects.

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