Drivers look after cattle
Re: “Proper animal transport guidelines good investment for livestock producers,” by Barbara Duckworth (WP April 2).
As a livestock driver, I took offence to some of the comments.
I drove truck many years ago and have since been involved with the transportation of livestock from Western Canada to Ontario and Quebec, and then transporting cull cows from Quebec back to Ontario for close to 20 years.
In the article, Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein of Ag Canada mentions cancer, eyes, weak or lame, and bad udders. As far as our company is concerned, my drivers are instructed to not load any of these animals, and if an issue comes up they have the shipper call my office.
We are a long-haul carrier of livestock. My drivers take pride in how they handle cattle and how the cattle are delivered to a farm, a producer or directly to the plant. We have 25 cattle drivers and the majority of them have five years or more experience. Some have more than 20 years.
Schwartzkopf-Genswein also mentioned bedding in the trailers. We put a minimum of 25 bales of straw in our trailers. In wintertime there will be 30 or more. When we are loading calves in the fall from sales yards we have a minimum of 30 bales and will, in most cases, put on another three to four bales at Thunder Bay to freshen up the trailer.
Thunder Bay is where we stop to feed and water cattle on the way to Ontario or Quebec. We take a minimum of 10 hours feeding as we have Hours of Service Rules we have to follow. In many cases we are stopped 12 to 16 hours.
She also mentioned –30 C temperatures, and yes, the past two years it has been extremely cold, but we board in the trailer according to the weather conditions. The same as in hot weather — most drivers will drive in daytime.
When it is extremely hot they will feed and water at Thunder Bay for minimum of 10 hours. When they have to stop they will try and stop in areas that may be close to lakes along the Trans Canada, especially from the Manitoba border to Ontario, as in most cases it is cooler.
She also mentioned the 28-hour rule in the U.S. You can travel a long way in the U.S. compared to travelling through Ontario at an average of 47-48 m.p.h, since there is a big difference in the roads in the U.S.
I know the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is talking about changing the rules, and I know we currently have 48 hours without feed and water. I have no problem if they were to say 36 hours maximum with livestock on the trailer, but if we follow the 28-hour rule in Canada like the U.S., it will stop most of the movement to Ontario and Quebec, as we, in some cases, would have to feed and water two times to get them delivered.
(The article also said, “Drivers in a large survey reported that animals were kept waiting for as long as 15 hours on a trailer at a border crossing. The longest wait to be offloaded at a packing plant was 12 hours.”)
I do not believe the part as far as waiting at a plant in Canada for up to 12 hours. We go into plants here with livestock and the most we have ever waited with fat cattle on is maybe an hour.
If that was an issue, CFIA would be all over someone in regards to scheduling into the plants. There has been the odd time that if a plant broke down you might have to wait a couple hours, but I know last year that happened and they sent us to a stockyards to unload before two hours waiting.
The code is out of date, but there are still lots of drivers who do care about animal welfare as part of their job. Within our company, if you don’t want to take care of them and learn from our mentors and older drivers, then you will not be working here.
It does not matter if it is cull cows, fat cattle, calves off the cows in the fall, 300 lb. started Holstein calves in -30 C or 30 C, we can transport them safely to their destination. I think also some responsibility has to fall on the shipper. He needs to sign the shipping manifest to say he is responsible for livestock before the driver picks them up.
We offer a training school and we do have driver trainers who also train drivers to haul livestock.
These are some of my concerns.
It was laughable to read federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz stating, “I cannot stress enough that amendments to the plant breeder’s rights act allow for farmers to retain the right to save, clean, and store seed for their own operations.”
This is misleading nonsense. Look at the minister’s record.
This is the same minister who promised farmers a vote to decide on the future of the CWB single desk. This is the same minister who told a Commons committee meeting that he was never invited to a single desk CWB directors meeting and less than three minutes later into that meeting had to recant, and state that he had actually been invited to a CWB directors’ meeting but had refused to attend.
The minister also states, “the legislation has the support of all relevant farm organizations.” Ironic that The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, Keystone Agricultural Producers, and the Alberta Federation of Agriculture were not even mentioned. The “relevant” farm groups Ritz mentioned were his usual puppets, some of which receive funds from the federal government and others which have industry representatives dominating their boards.
Aside from Ritz, does anyone else believe his cheerleaders are really farmer organizations?
The minister fails to mention that farmer-saved seed was enshrined in the previous act as a right, but now it will be dealt with as a privilege in a not-yet-written regulation. This regulation can be changed by the minister without a review of the Act. Do you think the seed companies’ lobby will be trying to accomplish this?
The minister also conveniently forgets to mention that end-point royalties, which are the fees farmers may have to pay under this new legislation when they sell their seed to an elevator company, will raise farmers’ costs. Farmers can expect to lose control of their seed pool. How long will it be before farmers have no choice but buying packaged seed and inputs from their “new” seed suppliers?
The minister has set the wheels in motion for the canola seed model to be forced on us for wheat, barley and other grains. How long will it be before we pay $600 a bag canola prices for wheat and barley seed? Can per-acre technology use agreement fees and company spies be far behind?
I just hope farmers can remember who they can thank for this!