The cattle industry has had a large impact on the social stability and economic development for the Nechako Region.
Cattle-ranching has been a part of the region since before the railroad arrived in 1914.
Today, the industry is the second largest industry in the Nechako Valley.
“It’s amazing and many people do not realise how large the impact the industry has in this area,” Shirley Moon from the Nechako Valley Regional Cattlemen’s Association said.
In 2015, $39 million in cattle were traded through the livestock Co-op yards in Vanderhoof and it’s expected that the beef demand will rise approximately 20 per-cent by 2023.
This in turn, brings a promising opportunity for increased beef production in the Nechako Region according to Moon.
“Diversification of the local economy is essential to healthy communities.”
But what seems to be the main challenge for cattle farmers in the Nechako region today?
“It is the importance of fibre supply to the cattle producers in the region,” Moon said.
According to the association, since the 1960’s when shavings had no value to the local mills, farms used shavings for livestock bedding.
During the 1980’s, the Regional Cattleman’s Association landed an agreement with the Plateau division of Westar to obtain shavings used for cattle bedding.
A facility was built so that shaving could be loaded at the mill site and the association then charged a fee to producers to cover the cost of construction but and in 1988 all costs were covered and excess funds were distributed to local charities.
But in 2002, the loading facility required upgrading. The NVRCA borrowed funds to help with the renovation.
Cattlemen at that time were second in line for shavings due to two plants, including a premium pellet plant, having first dibs.
Today, because of the emergence of more pellet plants and bio-energy industries, the cattle industry has felt the effects.
According to the association, the benefits of using shavings for bedding cattle are eminent.
“Comfortable clean cattle are healthier, they gain weight. Shavings also help alleviate stress and increase feed efficiency,” Moon said.
Clean cattle also reduce the risk of e-coli contamination. Shavings keep calves warm, dry and comfortable and the mother’s milk bag is cleaner with the use of shavings reducing the risk of spreading disease.
If calves have cleaner bedding, they gain weight more efficiently and in return, the financial benefits are far greater.
Moon says that cattlemen have been bumped down the list and are now finding themselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to securing a regular fibre supply.
“The cattle producers in Nechako Valley require a long term secure supply of shavings for bedding helping to provide good animal husbandry and producing quality product to markets while maintaining profits,” Moon said.
“We are not looking for free or reduced cost shavings. We are willing to pay full market value. We just want access to a small percentage of the shavings and we want a secure long term supply to ensure a healthy and sustainable cattle industry far into the future.”