What kind of advice can an Angus breeder in the Maritimes give to a breeder in Alberta? If their management practices are similar enough, they might be about to find out.
Participating long-term breeders will be paired off with industry newcomers this summer in a mentorship program announced at the Canadian Angus Association’s annual meeting here in early June.
“This isn’t one where perhaps you qualify, perhaps you don’t,” association CEO Rob Smith said. “It is as simple as, if you want someone to help provide you with management expertise, spiritual guidance, the way forward to help you become one of those greatest Angus and seedstock producers in the country, we will help to put you with someone who can help you take those initial steps.”
The association has said the program will support breeders during their critical first five years, increase social ties within the membership and provide member resources to support long-term health of the industry.
Nathan Marin, CAA new-generation breeder development director, says operational matches will be prioritized over distance between farms, although the association hopes farm visits will be possible.
“It’s basically just a resource for young breeders to go down the road that they want to go down,” Marin said. “If there’s maybe somebody who’s a little more interested in, say, grass-fed cattle, low-energy-type cattle, we’ll try and match them up with somebody who’s running the same program.”
The program will include professional development workshops and resources for up-and-coming breeders.
Participation is currently limited to association members, although Smith has said he hopes to eventually open it to commercial producers.
“We recognize the, not only responsibility, but the obligation that Canadian Angus has to play in our national herd and in support of our national cattlemen,” he said.
A 2016 study by Canfax on behalf of the association estimates that between 64 and 67 per cent of Canada’s cow herd is at least half Angus.
The focus on mentorship has been at least partly driven by a sudden increase in membership.
The jump ends a five-year declining trend. From 2010 to 2015, membership fell from 2,634 to 2,225, recovering to 2,346 in 2016.
The association also hit a six-year record in registered cattle in 2016. About 62,400 calves were registered last year, up from 55,400 in 2010. Transfers fell to 21,200 in 2016 from 21,700 the year before. Smith noted, however, that bull transfers had remained largely the same, and attributed the drop to members keeping their registered females. This has fed into herd increases, he said.
The association plans to pursue a brief needs assessment with each of its new members over the next year and will include information on the mentorship program.
The program is still in its first stages, Marin said, although CAA members have expressed some interest.
“It happens right now,” he said. “There are young people who go to older breeders right now and get advice from them all the time. I’ve got lots of friends in the industry my age who have been doing that with older, successful, breeders forever. There’s maybe just some younger folks who are new to this industry who, maybe, don’t have access to those people.”