About this blog
The LCC News Blog is part of a communications effort for the 2011 Livestock Care Conference, hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC). Meristem has worked with AFAC on this effort for over 10 years, as part of AFAC's education mandate to transfer information from the conference to industry, media and others interested. The blog is delivered by Meristem editors Brad Brinkworth and Terry Hockaday.
Reprint requirements. This blog is built to be used by everyone. All items in the blog are available for reprint, and this is encouraged. Please provide reprint credit to "Livestock Care Conference News Blog" and if posted on the web, provide a live link to www.meristem.com.
Find more on AFAC website. Additional resources that are part of the LCC communications effort, including news releases, articles, print-quality photos and other materials, are available on the LCC web page of the AFAC website, at www.afac.ab.ca/lcc.
Closing thoughts on a great conferenceDate posted: April 11, 2011
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
Like memories define a good holiday, the test of the value of a good conference is the nuggets of observations that stick with you from presentations and general discussions. Here are a few things of note from Meristem editors attending the LCC conference.
Young people are better speakers. Throughout the conference young students and producers were involved in discussion. One thing that is clear is that young people today are much more comfortable and capable speaking in public. No doubt programs such as 4-H and the presentations required during college and university program can take some credit.
University of Calgary PhD student Christy Goldhawk who is completing her degree in Lethbridge with well known animal scientist Dr. Karen Swartzkopf-Gershwin, is a good example. Like most of the students she participated in the LCC discussion. Goldhawk has just been accepted into the Canadian Cattlemen's Association popular Cattlemen's Young Leaders Development Program youth mentoring effort.
The farm animal care community is growing. One person attending the conference was Marianne Patten from the east coast of Canada representing the mink breeding industry. Having mink breeders from one side of the country sitting alongside mainstream agricultural organizations from Alberta speaks to the growing scope of this community and the interest from the broader community geographically in growing knowledge.
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
Thanks for taking the lead. Alberta beef producer Dave Solverson, head of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association animal care committee, thanked the dairy industry for taking the lead on the new animal care Code of Practice. That comment was a good example of featured speaker Dr. Allan Preston's reminder to producers and industry of the importance of sticking together as an agricultural community and resisting the urge to make points at the expense of other industry segments.
Getting better at telling agriculture's story. There were many examples of how much more engaged the entire industry is in telling their story and also signs that there are still entrenched positions to be overcome in doing so. One person that did a good job of responding during the interactive session on reacting to a crisis was Ron Maynard, the PEI dairy producer who spoke on the new codes of practice for the dairy industry. It's obvious that the dairy industry has spent some time in training their people on communications and the benefit shows in how they handle telling their story more effectively.
The solid SPCA relationship. The relationship between the SPCA and the farm animal care community has not always been an easy one in many North American jurisdictions, but the award to Morris Airey of SPCA at the conference speaks to the effort both AFAC and the Alberta SPCA have made to getting on the same page with regards to farm animal care.
Broader media engagement. Several media including some mainstream daily media attended the LCC. Media's relationship with the farm community is not always warm or well accepted. But it is clear that agriculture needs to deal effectively with media to tell the story of farm animal care properly. AFAC makes a special effort to deal openly with media. A media advisory was sent to farm and general media, welcoming their attendance and offering assistance in connecting media with interviews. That speaks to the openness and confidence of AFAC and the agricultural industry they represent on issues of farm animal care. And it's an important reminder that while media don't always do their job the way audiences would like, that freedom of expression is one of the founding tenets of our country.
It takes a community. The saying is it takes a community to raise a child, and it certainly takes one to run a conference. Watching producers representatives carry out their duties at LCC is a reminder of the engagement required to be a board member of an organization such as AFAC and the range of skills and amount of effort to pull together an effective conference.
Homework for 2012Date posted: April 11, 2011
AFAC Chair Doug Sawyer
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
"A friend tells you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear."
This quote was referenced in the keynote address for the 2011 Livestock Care Conference, and it captured a critical part of what the event is about.
The conference put a spotlight on progress on a number of fronts. However, to spend two days at the event talking to people you realize the spirit of the conference is not just to celebrate accomplishments but more importantly to hone in on the opportunities to keep getting better.
"The conference is a good place to get a feel for what we've done and how we're doing," says AFAC Chair Doug Sawyer. "It's also a place where we get our homework assignments."
Here are some examples, identified by the speakers, targeted as key areas for further progress leading up toward next year's conference.
Codes of Practice. New Codes of Practice under development serve a number of roles. They set a standard for care and handling of livestock. They serve as a valuable self-assessment tool and training document. They are something producers and industry can point to when asked about what practices they follow. Two key challenges were identified for this area:
Leadership. Dr. Allan Preston left few stones unturned in his keynote address, which had a strong theme on the type of industry leadership required to take farm animal care progress to the next level. A few keys he identified:
Students "talking poster" presentation
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
Connecting with the public. Two interactive sessions – one on social media and one on responding to crisis - challenged participants to think about how they can be more effective ambassadors and communicators for their industry. Key thoughts included:
Engaging students. Several sessions on the day prior to the main speaker agenda focused on student development. Many commented on the importance of getting students more involved in farm animal care progress, and viewed these sessions as a stepping stone to more initiatives that strengthen this component. Among suggestions:
In the news: How do we handle crisis on video?Date posted: April 8, 2011
Dr. Clover Bench and Dr. Dan Weary
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
We've all watched crisis unfold on television. We've seen how people handle tough questions. While it's often easy to play armchair quarterback, it's a different story when you're the one on the other end of a reporter's query. Ratchet the pressure up big time when your answer can impact your industry and your livelihood.
So what's the right approach when bad, or often downright appalling, treatment of livestock is captured on video and splashed across the 6 o'clock news?
The over 150 people attending the 2011 Livestock Care Conference got a taste of that and an opportunity to share ideas, in an interactive session, "In the News: Animal Welfare Crisis Caught on Video." Dr. Dan Weary of University of British Columbia led the session, with help from a number of facilitators including Dr. Clover Bench and Dr. Craig Wilkinson of the University of Alberta, along with Dr. Ed Pajor of University of Calgary, and Doug Sawyer and Dr. Duane Landals from the AFAC board.
"The hope is that today's session will provide some good food for thought," says Weary. "Having an open conversation about this is a good way to gauge our preparedness and identify what our needs are, as stakeholders in the livestock industry."
The format included viewing several videos and role playing from both public and industry points of view. Here's a few of the key thoughts that came out:
Participants were encouraged to keep the conversation going beyond the conference and continue to bring feedback and ideas to AFAC either directly or through their organizations. "One thing hopefully the exercise did was show there are many important things to consider," says Weary. "There is no doubt there is value in thinking ahead about how you can respond."
Tweets, tips and bringing the farm to the computerDate posted: April 8, 2011
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
Whatever you feel about social media, there's no denying it's a huge factor in today's world. Communications specialist Lilian Schaer rattled off some staggering numbers at the Livestock Care Conference:
Schaer talked tools and tips for using social media, along with a big dose of food for thought on the pluses and minuses of different options and approaches. One insight that seemed to spark a lot of the coffee break chatter after her talk was a caution on being careful what you tweet about, particularly if you represent an industry or organization.
"Keep in mind the Internet is in ink, not in pencil," says Schaer. "This is very true of Twitter. Once you put something out on your Twitter feed, there's all kinds of software out there that will pick it up and re-post it. Even if you delete it off your original Twitter page, it's still out there somewhere else."
So what's a good rule of thumb, particularly if what you put in cyberspace represents an industry or organization? "Basically, if you don't want to see something on the front page of the Globe and Mail, don't put it on Twitter," says Schaer.
Used right though, social media has heaps of potential she says. "Often we hear people in our industry say that 'people don't understand' or 'the media got it wrong.' Social media is one of these tools that can take away these filters. I'm not going to stand here and tell you that social media is going to be the solution to all our communications problems, but it does present you with some alternatives if you're interested in starting to build that direct connection."
Preston shoots straight on targetDate posted: April 8, 2011
Dr. Allan Preston
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
In two words, Preston impressed.
A self described, "burned out country vet and part-time cowboy, masquerading as a senior bureaucrat," Dr. Allan Preston is a veterinarian, cattle producer and Assistant Deputy Minister of Agri-Industry Development and Innovation for Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.
He was also the keynote speaker at the 2011 Livestock Care Conference. And he came as advertised: outspoken, lots of wisdom, not afraid to challenge. Clearly he is also a passionate believer in farm animal care progress Here are a couple nuggets from his talk.
Aim high, time is now. "All of us in the room have been and still are animal welfare advocates," says Preston. "But the reality is, as commodity organizations and even professional organizations, including veterinary organizations, we haven't made as much progress as we could have. We live and work in a social and political environment where less than two percent of our population has any real connection to the farm and the other 98 percent are driving the agenda for us. I firmly believe we still have the opportunity to be the leaders, but now is the time to accelerate that role."
Ample opportunity - let's capture it. "It's not enough to say we're doing good things, we have to show it," says Preston. "The consumer is hungry for this information. There is ample opportunity for producers to prosper and profit by producing animal welfare attributes the consumer is asking for. I think the only challenge we face is trying to overcome some of our entrenched attitudes, some of our concern that traceability in particular - tracing back to the farm - will somehow cause us some problems. In my humble opinion it will in fact help us to an enormous degree."
See more of what Preston and other featured speakers had to say here.
Great people: What it's all aboutDate posted: April 8, 2011
The world of farm animal care is fast-moving and diverse. Codes of Practice, regulations, research, technology, and countless other elements play a role. What makes it tick though, is people. If you're at the Livestock Care Conference, you quickly realize great people are one of the true advantages the livestock industry has going for it as it looks to meet the challenges ahead.
A few of the best examples of this are the three people honoured at LCC with Awards of Distinction. We talked with each of them to get a quick snapshot of how they view the state of animal care today.
Dr. Clover Bench. Clover grew up Silicon Valley but early exposure to agriculture set her on a life path leading to this year's award. "My personal story ties through to many of the initiatives we're doing now at the University of Alberta," says Bench. "For one example, this year we started a Collegiate 4-H club. A big part of that is to help bridge students, including both urban and rural students, into agriculture and animal science. And once they're here, the program is not just nutrition and physiology anymore from a livestock perspective. More and more, there is a behavior component and students are required to know about animal welfare."
Morris Airey. Morris is the recently retired former Director of Animal Protection for the Alberta SPCA, who worked closely with AFAC for a number of years. "I believe there is a much more pronounced focus on animal welfare," says Airey. "Today I feel a much more open receptiveness from the industry people, especially the leaders in the industry, to bring welfare to the forefront and to talk openly about issues that arise and their need for continued improvement. There's no doubt the industry is on track and has shown leadership. It's great to see."
Dr. Steve Mason. Steve has had a long and prolific career focused on knowledge transfer, particularly in the dairy industry. "To give credit where credit is due, much of my work in the area of dairy animal welfare has been initiated and/or supported by the province's milk producers through Alberta Milk," says Mason. "Future progress in improving farm animal care will depend upon such strong, continuing support from livestock producers."
Read more about the award winners here.
Showcasing and connecting with the next generationDate posted: April 7, 2011
Participants in the meet the experts session.
Top left to right: Dr. Dan Weary of University of Alberta, Tamara Hockley of Olds College, Genevieve Wallace of Olds College, Christy Goldhawk of University of Calgary; and Natalie May, Nicole Mudryk, Erin Soles and Dr. Craig Wilkinson, all of University of Alberta. Bottom left to right: Diego Moya from Spain, currently at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Lethbridge; along with Dr. Clover Bench, Breanne Chmilar and Amy Kachurowski, all of University of Alberta.
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
What's the future of farm animal care? One window on where things are headed is the perspective of students looking at careers in everything from veterinary medicine to animal-care related research and education opportunities.
The 2011 LCC kicked off with a few student-oriented sessions that both showcased the knowledge and perspectives of the next generation, while providing them with opportunities to connect with farm animal care experts and industry.
Meet the experts. A meet the experts session was designed to help students share personal stories and viewpoints with several farm animal care experts. It was led by Dr. Dan Weary of University of British Columbia, along with Dr. Clover Bench and Dr. Craig Wilkinson of University of Alberta.
"It's all about connecting with the students and giving them a comfort level with the pathways they are considering," says Weary. "It's an opportunity to exchange experiences, knowledge and ideas. We learn as much from the students as they learn from us."
The students included a cross section of undergraduate, masters' and PhD students from institutions including University of Alberta, Olds College and University of Calgary. The students had a chance to try some public speaking and share stories on their backgrounds and career aspirations, while hearing about the experiences of the experts. A lot of viewpoints, advice and encouragement were exchanged, in what promises to become a staple session of future Livestock Care Conferences.
Photo credit: Brandy Dahrouge
'Speed dating.' The next session was a 'speed dating' format that brought in a cross section of producers and industry to interact with the students. Students were paired at each table with an industry representative, and given five minutes to talk shop and ask questions before shifting to a different table.
"An important part of this is for students to put a face to the different people involved in the livestock industry," says Dr. Clover Bench. "Whether they're talking with a livestock producer, a veterinarian or a researcher, they have a chance to develop a real connection that they will remember after the conference. Any industry is ultimately about people. This is a chance to foster that human connection that is so valuable."
Student posters. An evening reception featured research posters developed by students. Erin Soles and Nicole Mudryk of University of Alberta delivered a presentation some of their work as a "talking poster," providing insight on the differences and merits of different animal welfare standards and marketing approaches. In addition to supporting student engagement with industry, the student poster session was also designed to highlight some examples of the good work the students are doing.
Sponsors make it happenDate posted: April 4, 2011
The Livestock Care Conference is building on a rich tradition as a premier industry educational event, now running over 10 years and counting. This year's conference has a new format with new features, made possible by the strong support of a number of industry sponsors, says AFAC Executive Director Lorna Baird.
"We're grateful for their support," says Baird. "Sponsors allow us to put more into the conference, to keep up the momentum that has been established while introducing fresh new components. We encourage people at the conference to thank the sponsors who are in attendance."
Sponsors for the 2011 Livestock Care Conference include the following 16 companies and organizations:
No doubt the rising importance and profile of farm animal care progress to the livestock industry is one top reasons sponsors consider LCC worthy of their support.
A few great reasons to attend LCC 2011Date posted: April 4, 2011
AFAC Chair Doug Sawyer
With a new format and new features for 2011, there is plenty to look forward to for the Livestock Care Conference. Here are a few snapshots:
Top forum on farm animal care. The LCC has run annually for over 10 years and has developed a strong track record. AFAC Chair Doug Sawyer says its success is due to the industry that supports it, the leading experts who speak at it and the wide variety of attendees who ensure every event is an excellent forum for discussion and debate, both in and around the meeting.
Temple Grandin wins big at Emmys. A longtime friend of AFAC and Alberta's livestock industry, the renowned livestock handling expert was the subject of an HBO movie that won seven Emmy Awards in 2010. She has spoken at many LCC events over the years and while she won't be here this time her influence as always will be front and centre in many of the perspectives and examples of progress featured.
Celebrate leaders. One of the most important parts of LCC is the presentation of AFAC's annual Awards of Distinction. These are awarded to recipients who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to farm animal care progress.
One-stop shopping. It's a sophisticated and fast-changing world. At times it is hard even for those directly involved in the livestock industry to fully appreciate what the trends and developments in farm animal care mean for Canadian livestock producers and their industry. That's why LCC organizers have worked to make this conference one place where the many of the best of these developments are showcased.
Get color commentary on the codes. Jackie Wepruk, general manager of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), provides a play-by-play of recent progress toward the development of updated national Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals.
There still time to register for the April 6-7 event. Visit www.afac.ab.ca/lcc for details.
Building the next generation of farm animal careDate posted: April 4, 2011
Dr. Dan Weary, University of British Columbia
Where are we headed in farm animal care? One of best ways to get a preview of the future is to listen the perspectives and ideas of the students and young professionals who represent the next generation in this fast-evolving area.
That's why a big part of this year's updated Livestock Care Conference format is designed to showcase "generation next" and tap their viewpoints. Two key components of this are featured on the Wednesday, April 6, agenda, which begins at 2 p.m and runs into the evening:
"Meet the expert" interactive session. A special session, free for students, with an opportunity to talk farm animal care progress and issues with Dr. Dan Weary of the University of British Columbia. The goal is to bring together students, veterinarians, government, enforcement, producers and researchers interested in animal welfare and creating connections. The session offers students a look into the life of a renowned expert, a glimpse at current research focuses, with lots of networking opportunity.
Student poster presentations. In the evening, following AFAC AGM and dinner, another session will feature research posters presentations by top students from the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. The posters will highlight the students' work and interests, with plenty of fresh knowledge to stimulate discussion.
Tackling the big questions: LCC has the answersDate posted: April 4, 2011
Dr. Ed Pajor, University of Calgary
The Livestock Care Conference is a place where some of the leading experts and industry leaders in this area have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and dig into some of the big questions producers and their industry are asking.
Here's a snapshot of just a few:
"When are we going to get paid for doing the right things?" Dr. Allan Preston has some ideas. He's viewed the issue from a unique perspective. As a long-time veterinarian and cattle producer. As an outspoken commentator on industry issues. As ADM of Agri-Industry Development and Innovation for Manitoba. Preston gives his perspective on why marrying animal care and economic benefits is the key to progress, and how to make that happen.
"Who's really in charge in farm animal care?" Big food companies? PETA? The public? Farmers? The answer used to be simple. Today's it's complex. Many different groups have a role and understanding where they're coming from is key for livestock producers to take ownership and control their own destiny. Several LCC speakers will offer their unique perspectives from the front lines of the debate.
"How do we respond to crisis caught on video?" There is always a risk of a bad player who does not represent the industry getting filmed in the act. When inflammatory video footage goes public, there's only so much time to respond appropriately. What's the right thing to do? LCC participants will get a crash course in an interactive session, "In the News: Animal Welfare Crisis Caught on Video," facilitated by Dr. Dan Weary, a Professor and NSERC Industrial Research Chair at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Ed Pajor, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Calgary will co-facilitate.
There's still time to register and be a part of LCC 2011, April 6-7 in Red Deer. Visit www.afac.ab.ca/lcc for details.
Welcome to the LCC News BlogDate posted: March 30, 2011
Lorna Baird, AFAC Executive Director
The Livestock Care Conference. The world of farm animal care is a rapidly evolving one and this is where insiders gets together to talk shop. From Alberta, other provinces and beyond, they come for the presentations from farm animal care leaders, to share ideas or network in the "meetings around the meeting."
There's no shortage of hot button issues these days in farm animal care. From welfare audits to the rise of animal care in marketing strategies. From Codes of Practice to the role of social media. From dealing with crisis to the understanding the market value of farm animal welfare.
The Livestock Care Conference is simply one of the top and most relevant sessions of its kind. This "LCC News Blog is designed to capture some of the flavor and highlights of this event.
Check out this space and come back often for regular updates on how plans are shaping up, as well as for straight-from-the-conference news and notes once the event is underway.
For those of you who have attended LCC in the past, you know what you have to look forward to. The conference has run annually for over 10 years. Its success is due to the industry that supports it, the leading experts who speak at it and the wide variety of attendees who ensure every event is an excellent forum for discussion and debate.
The 2011 session promises to build on that legacy with a new format and new features. One of the fresh faces quarterbacking things is AFAC Executive Director Lorna Baird, who in just a year over a year in the position is enjoying working on behalf of the Alberta livestock industry.
She says the LCC remains AFAC's signature event and a great place to foster the knowledge and ideas that lead to progress. "The people who come to our conference share two things: They care about farm animals and care about our industry," says Baird. "It's a place where everyone from producers to community members can get an annual check-up on how we're doing, and learn from one another to keep getting better."
As Meristem editors helping to cover this event, we're looking forward to the conference and to sharing our observations in this blog.
If you haven't already registered for LCC 2011, visit the LCC web page at www.afac.ab.ca/lcc for details.
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