New rest-break rule a challenge for eastern buyers

But reviewing the rules is a good thing because cattle transport is being scrutinized, says veteran cattle buyer

New transportation regulations that cut maximum time cattle can be confined in a transport trailer could have a major impact on buyers such as Ken Schaus.

The 48-hour limit is being cut to 36 hours under the new rules (although there’s a two-year transition period which started Feb. 20 when the regulations came into effect).

“The 36-hour rule, without any extension, concerns me a bit,” said Schaus, an Ontario feedlot operator and order buyer who has been bringing cattle from Western Canada for decades.

“We can bring pretty much any Manitoba load to Ontario now without feed, water, or rest. From Brandon, it’s pretty much 36 to 38 hours (to Schaus’s facilities) the way we do it now, and not expect a poor outcome from that load of cattle.”

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With the new regulations, a load of cattle loaded in Brandon at 8 a.m. would hit the rest stop at Thunder Bay in about eight hours. It’s another 24 hours to his facility at Elmwood, which is cutting it close.

“There will be times when cattle can be loaded and get to Ontario in 36 hours,” he said. “But if there’s one hiccup, like a mechanical problem or accident, and that load gets held up for four hours, what’s going to happen when that driver shows up with a load of cattle that have been on for 38 hours? Nobody knows that yet.”

Nevertheless, reviewing the rules is a good thing, added Schaus, who is a member of the working group set up by the National Farm Animal Care Council to review the cattle code of practice.

“To think the general public isn’t watching (when cattle are transported), they are,” he said, adding there are groups who believe cattle should not be hauled any more than eight hours.

The sector needs to demonstrate that cattle are being transported properly, and there are issues that need to be addressed, he said.

“When I start seeing calves being loaded in the West with 64,000 pounds going to a feedlot in southern Alberta, I think there’s an issue there,” said Schaus. “Just because the trailer can legally scale, it doesn’t mean the animals can handle it.”

When having cattle transported, Schaus insists on having 30 square bales spread on the trailer floor. Using just 15 or 20 bales is not adequate, he said.

“We might save another $100 to $125, but all we’re doing is creating hardship for those cattle,” he said. “We can’t afford to do that as an industry anymore. I think there is a problem of people trying to save money in the wrong places.”

About the author

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Jill Burkhardt

Jill Burkhardt, her husband, Kelly, and their two children, own and operate a mixed farm near Gwynne, Alberta. Originally hailing from Montana, she has a degree in Range Management from Montana State University. Jill’s agricultural passions are cattle and range management but she enjoys writing and learning more about all aspects of farming.

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