CAMROSE, Alta. — Bison producers are focusing on transportation issues, potential drought and market expansion as top priorities as they head into spring.
Speaking during the Wildrose Bison Convention March 15 in Camrose, Terry Kremeniuk, executive director of the Canadian Bison Association, said new transportation rules introduced by the federal government could be problematic.
“They could have somewhat of an impact, and we want to make sure it doesn’t affect us in a negative manner,” he said.
The rules take effect in February 2020, reducing travel-time requirements from 48 hours to 36 hours for ruminants without feed and water.
Kremeniuk said the time reduction could prove challenging for producers who are located further away from markets.
“Through time, the market will figure it out,” he said.
“There are always going to be some bumps in the road.”
Steven Lunty, chair of Bison Producers of Alberta, said he’ll be watching the weather, potentially anticipating another drought.
“It’s going to be wait-and-see. We got less snowfall, but the winter was generally good. Now all we need is rain in the spring,” he said.
“Droughts usually don’t last one year and then they are done. You feel the effects for two or three years, depending on your pasture management and how the ranch is set up.”
Kremeniuk said he is also hoping the bison industry can expand its markets.
He said the United States and Europe are the industry’s main customers, but he hopes more growth occurs in Europe because of the new trade agreement.
“Since the 20 percent tariffs were removed, our exports there have increased, but we want them to increase more,” he said.
There is also potential to expand into Japan, but he said it will take time for growth, given the country isn’t familiar with bison and has stringent regulations.
“We have to make sure they are comfortable with the parameters they put on us, and we have to make sure we meet them,” he said.
“Bison roamed the plains of North America for centuries, but the industry is only about 35 years old. We’re relatively small but the potential is huge.”
Kremeniuk said producers will also be watching the federal government’s plans to introduce traceability, which will likely have a large impact.
As well, producer groups will continue to make local consumers more familiar with bison.
“We need to get that knowledge of bison out there, informing people what the meat is all about and how we raise them,” Lunty said.
“We have an open farmgate. If people want to come and see, they are more than welcome.”