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Just Like Home

As I write this column in the early morning hours, I’m looking out over the skyline of Calgary, Alberta. I was fortunate to have been asked to come to Calgary by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association to participate in a Canada-U.S. Agricultural Trade Program that takes place every year. I had visited with others in years past that had been invited and represented Wyoming Stock Growers Association and, remembering their positive comments about the experience, I took no time in saying yes when asked.

I have been to Calgary once before, years ago, and have always heard about the Calgary Stampede and how it rivals Cheyenne Frontier Days. I had no idea what I was getting into. Now days, Calgary is a booming city of 1.2 million people and Canada’s center for energy. The sleepy cow town has exploded. 

Every year, the Canadian Consulate Generals from Denver and Minneapolis ask ag organizations from the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states to send someone to represent them at this conference, and the Canadian government picks up the tab. If asked, why would anyone say no? This year, there were four of us attending, and our hosts were the leadership of the Alberta Cattle Producers.

We couldn’t have been treated nicer. Aside from the cattle producers, there were people from the Canadian and Alberta Departments of Agriculture. Meeting them for the first time, you pick up a slight accent we don’t hear in Wyoming. After getting to know them and discussing raising livestock, it’s just like being at home. 

The first morning, we all had a roundtable discussion of the issues both countries face concerning raising cattle and, of course, Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) came up. Both sides agreed the issue was out of our control and now in the hands of higher ups and moved on to other issues. 

After listening to the Alberta cattle producers, I soon realized they sounded just like cattle producers back home in Wyoming. They may not have the national government overreach we do in the States at this time, but one would have thought these were Wyoming producers we were visiting with.

Canada and the U.S. are really tied together in trade – billions of dollars worth. In the western half of the country, the U.S. imports a lot from Canada, and in the eastern half, Canada imports from the U.S. 

The energy boom in western Canada, especially in Alberta, is huge. They have all the same issues as we do in Wyoming.

One difference I noted was that the Alberta Cattle Producers were funded by a three-dollar beef checkoff. This checkoff is collected every time the cattle are inspected or at every transaction, but it can be refunded if the producer wishes. Producers say that large feedlots do request it. 

Also, there is no membership in the organization. Every cattle producer belongs. 

Their cattle numbers are way down, like ours, but they are not rebuilding as of yet. Some say they may not. It is also a great grass year, like we have in Wyoming. We toured a ranch with a 7,000 head feedlot and a forest permit. Cattle identification is mandatory, and they have it down. Traceability is not a issue up here. They highly recommend the U.S. joins in. 

They have federal lands issues similar to ours, and they even have some wild horses up north. 

One hears more references to having had to put on long underwear last week from ranchers up north, but really, it is just like home.