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Crowd on hand for Stratton sales yard party

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More than 100 district farmers enjoyed an afternoon at the Stratton sales yard on Saturday to celebrate its 50th consecutive season.

Operated by the Rainy River Cattlemen’s Association, the yard has been the focus of beef cattle marketing in Rainy River District since its formation.

Also on hand for the party were Gord Hardy, president of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, and Jan Snively, OCA Policy Advisor.

Local MPP Howard Hampton and former local Liberal MP Ken Boshcoff also attended.

With the next cattle sale at Stratton scheduled for Oct. 3, there was a lot of crystal ball-gazing on what this year’s prices would hold.

With the strength of the Canadian dollar and the glut of alternative protein sources available to the consumer, as well as the massive supply of feed grains, Hardy speculated feeder prices could be softer this fall.

From a feedlot operator’s perspective, you can’t pencil a profit based on finished beef from what feeders had been going for earlier in the year, he noted.

Hardy thought that the future was rosier, though, as breeding cow numbers in North America were at the lowest level since 1951. And with the recession apparently ending, consumers once again would be enjoying the more expensive cuts of meat.

In an aside, Hardy noted the almost total lack of knowledge by today’s public on distinguishing between various beef breeds.

Executives in the packing industry, when questioned on their preferences, stated they “don’t care what the breed, they sell meat.”

One notable exception is Angus that different vendors, restaurants, and one major burger chain are using to brand their product, although executives have admitted they wouldn’t know an Angus from a Cornish White Giant.

Meanwhile, with the district abattoir under construction in Emo, its positive impact on area beef producers was noted.

With the price of fuel rising worldwide, it eventually no longer will be economically feasible to import food from around the world.

Producing food close to home will be the reality, said Hampton, reflecting on author Jeff Rubin’s current book, “How Your World is About to Get Smaller.”

Hampton noted the positive effect this will have for the future of district agriculture.

Emcee and local farmer Kim Jo Bliss echoed these sentiments, noting the push for “raised in the Rainy River District” initiative for branding area produce was being vigorously pursued.

Following the opening presentations, a delicious barbecue prepared by Deb Zimmerman and her crew was enjoyed by all.

The facilities at Stratton have undergone some major renovations in the past few years, noted Bliss, who led a tour of the yard.

The sales ring is now a “live” scale with all cattle weighed as they go through the ring, with the weight and then the selling price displayed electronically overhead.

Computers have replaced manual tally sheets and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags—implanted in an animal’s ear at birth—count, track, and age-verify individual animals as they enter the facility.

Most of the manual and potentially-dangerous work of identifying and tagging animals has been eliminated.

RFID tags also have been a major component of re-opening international borders to the movement of cattle since the advent in North America of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Most of the infrastructure at the Stratton sales yard has been replaced since its original construction.

Much of the penning is now steel, replacing the old wooden rails, though some of the alley gates still are the massively heavy wooden gates—giving testimony to the quality of the original construction.

“The improvements you see here are the result of volunteer efforts by area producers and businesses. It is an achievement and an asset we cannot let sit idle,” stressed RRCA president Ken McKinnon, lauding the contributions of the farm community.

On hand were a few of the original members of the RRCA, including Alvin Alexander, Moe Neilson, and Keith Neilson.

Area beef breeders also had a selection of their stock on hand in the pens, and took the opportunity to promote the points their breeding stock had to offer.

A massive Angus bull gave all a chance to demonstrate their grading skills.

For a loonie, you could buy a “guess the weight” entry, which was won by Delton Martin.

Brian Trump was the winner of the door prize.

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