Recommendations for developing an Ontario path forward for deadstock
By Lilian Schaer for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation
A new report for Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC) has set forward a list of recommendations for managing on-farm livestock mortalities in Ontario.
Topping the list is the establishment of a coordinating body to oversee deadstock management in the province, coupled with continued investment by both industry and government to support that organization’s activities.
The other recommendations suggest working with waste management companies on potential solutions, reviewing current regulations to ensure they are scientifically sound, and streamlining regulations related to deadstock across multiple government agencies.
Ontario is a large and diverse province, meaning there is no single or simple solution for the industry that will work for all livestock commodities in all geographies. Deadstock, however, is a global issue and Ontario is hardly alone in grappling with how to best manage it from a One Health perspective in a way that protects human, animal and environmental health.
“The livestock sector is a key pillar of Ontario’s economy, environment and food security, and solutions need to support livestock producers regardless of species or location,” says LRIC CEO Mike McMorris. “Deadstock has been a challenge for our industry for decades and we are hopeful that this report, coupled with the interest of stakeholders to work together, will help us achieve a longer-term solution.”
The project was launched last year by LRIC with funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in response to a request from Beef Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Sheep Farmers, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Veal Farmers of Ontario, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture for help in finding practical and sustainable solutions to the livestock mortality issue.
Study lead Jennifer MacTavish consulted with approximately 70 individuals and organizations over the course of the project and completed an international scan as part of the research.
Both Ontario farmers and the provincial government prefer to use rendering wherever possible, but escalating costs have made on-farm pick-up uneconomical across a large part of Ontario, and steadily increasing regulatory requirements are making it harder for rendering companies to operate profitably.
Regulations impacting handling and disposal of on-farm mortalities lie within five different provincial acts and 12 different organizations touch deadstock in some way, resulting in no real coordinated approach to the issue.
“The recommendations in the report are focused on moving the industry towards a more coordinated approach to managing on-farm mortalities. We need to build adaptability to geographical and species differences with a focus on One Health,” says McMorris.
The report recommends the establishment of a coordinating body to ensure ongoing, full-sector development and implementation of solutions. To avoid adding another layer of bureaucracy, it is recommended to approach an existing organization or interested group of individuals, companies and organizations to immediately begin work on the issue. Initial funding could be provided by industry and government.
The role of this new coordinating body would include tasks like prioritizing and funding research needs, providing financial offsets for farmers in some regions and investing in key stakeholder infrastructure where needed, offering input on regulatory changes, supporting waste management companies in navigating the regulatory landscape, developing business cases for disposal options, evaluating the feasibility of different organizational models to ensure a sustainable approach to deadstock management services and more.
It could also coordinate pre-competitive conversations with stakeholders on how to manage surge capacity, develop a matrix that considers the impacts of rendering capacity issues on the sector, and build contingency plans for situations where rendering capacity is limited.
“Most importantly, however, this organization would lead the building of relationships across the sector so regulation and problem solving can be approached in a collaborative way,” notes McMorris, adding that there are several organizations representing livestock farmers with successful histories of working cooperatively with government, including Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council, LRIC and CanLead.
Underpinning sustainable deadstock management is continued investment that supports farmers with disposal needs, particularly ensuring ongoing, uninterrupted collection. It also includes activities like on-farm euthanasia training, building a business case for the benefits of deadstock to a circular economy, and assisting farmers and other stakeholders with planning and critical infrastructure costs.
Work with waste management companies
The coordinating organization could help waste management companies work more collaboratively with government and the livestock industry to build business cases for making use of deadstock as an input instead of treating them like a waste stream. Waste management companies also need help navigating the regulatory landscape around deadstock, particularly when looking at growth opportunities.
Review existing regulations
The report recommends a review of existing regulations to ensure they are scientifically sound, streamlined across regulatory agencies and capable of enabling the industry to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by deadstock in relation to a circular economy.
A meeting of 30 deadstock stakeholders earlier this year that included producer groups, government, renderers, waste disposal companies and others resulted in a request to form a working group to tackle the issue.
This working group recently met and broadly agreed that new deadstock funding opportunities through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance could be used to potentially determine centralized collection sites and explore technology solutions for better collection coordination.
It was also agreed that there is need for greater producer education and outreach around deadstock management, including the economics and risks of on-farm disposal versus rendering.