Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 was a great year!

Happy New Year, CAA members!

The end of a year brings a number of ‘best lists’… the best movies, political moments, technological inventions, sports plays, etc. of the prior 365 days. Well, I have always been a real fan of lists for how they represent our past and allow us to reference as we seek to grow and prosper in our future, so my final column for this year will be… guess what? A TOP 10 list of the highlights of your CAA through the year that was 2014.

Although this would be atypical of how I normally approach such a message, I am going to start off with our most significant challenge... our biggest problem... of 2014. I do this because, in honesty, this is the worst situation we’ve experienced since I started as your CAA servant 3.5 years ago.

I speak, of course, about our challenges working through issues with services regarding genetic testing, primarily the achievement of parentage verification. There is no way to ‘sugar coat’ this... it was an unmitigated disaster for far too long as we continually found ourselves failing you, our membership, in the provision of these essential services. It was because of this failure to adequately serve that the Board of Directors decided in June to postpone implementation of the new Parentage Verification policy for one year affecting sires (from which offspring are applied for registration) born on or after January 1st, 2015... moved now to 2016. There is a ‘bright side’ however; we worked through the performance issues and successfully transitioned to Delta Genomics as your new DNA technology provider. I can and will never be able to say this enough nor with adequate emphasis: THANK YOU for your patience and understanding through the better part of 2014. We are taking steps to assure we are never stuck in a situation of compromised service adversely affecting our membership again. So, hopefully, we have, as 4-H teaches us, “learned to do by doing” from this trying circumstance and that our recent history will NOT repeat itself... EVER AGAIN!

There! That’s the negative. And it truly was, for us in your national Angus headquarters, the only notable weakness in an otherwise fantastic year. Thanks to YOU, the folks we serve, it was a great year.

A couple of thoughts that don’t quite make the Top 10 list... Let’s call them the ‘honourable mention’ of CAA Highlights:

We survived major snow, wind and hail storms with little to no damage at all to your new national CAA headquarters. Having ‘survived’ more than a year in our new location, ‘Angus Central’ has stood up well and your Angus ‘home away from home’ continues to impress those who visit.

Last year, I listed a highlight that was completed this year. The ALMA-supported Genomics project which brought over $120,000 worth of DNA technology to our membership was a huge highlight for us and, with the final investment of this project utilized by our members until March 31st of this year, a lot of value was captured as a result of ALMA’s investment. As we said at the time, many thanks to the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency for providing the financial support for the project on which we worked with our great friends at Livestock Gentec.

Finally, attendance was up at almost every event held within our CAA fraternity this year, from the most ever at the Canadian Junior Angus Association’s 2014 GOAL Conference in Calgary, AB to more cattle through the Gold Shows than ever before: an increase of 2.6% from 2013 to 1463 total head shown – an average of 98/show. We processed results from more Zoetis HD50K tests than we planned for. Finally, since January, we have set a record almost every month for the most transfers. Once 2014 has completed, we will be touting a new record for the most transferred registered cattle in Canadian Angus history.

It seems that, as Angus breeders, EVERY year brings about some record, so I’ll refrain from listing any of these within the highlights. I’ll focus on new initiatives or achievements, or those sustainable ones that experienced substantial, notable growth this year.

So now... the Top 10 CAA Highlights of 2014:

10) As a member and industry educational and networking opportunity, our initiative with Certified Angus Beef (CAB) LLP, Carcass 101, has been a goal for a number of years now. We offered the first intake last June and are satisfied and inspired by the outcome and evaluations. Accordingly, we will be offering an enhanced Carcass 101 in June, 2015 again at Olds College, as well as a modified iteration at the University of Guelph with an additional partner.  We are proud of how Carcass 101 has created additional value through our Canadian Angus Rancher Endorsed initiatives.

9) One year ago, we were preparing for the February 1st commencement of mortgage payments on your new national headquarters. We had budgeted for it and were confident that we would be able to handle these payments without challenge to our monthly cash flow. I am so proud to be able to say that, at the end of this first year of an additional $22,000+ payment each month, your CAA is not only able to manage the new expense but we did so without dipping into reserves or a single dollar from our line-of-credit. Although the cost-benefit of an office complex as a fixed asset was my first task upon starting my employment with the CAA on Canada Day, 2011, as an (agricultural) economist by education, being able to implement the projections with no shock or surprize is a definite highlight of 2014. There is that saying about the “most carefully laid plans” so typically going awry; well, for us, not THIS plan... not THIS time!

8) In early 2014 we started offering EPD-blending which gives us daily updates based on submitted data to every animal in the CAA Herd Book. We heard our members input that two or three evaluations each year were not current enough, particularly when our friends in the American Angus Association have a weekly update. Our new ‘in house’ capabilities to generate not only daily EPDs but genomically-enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs) assure our members’ information is truly current, even ‘cutting edge’ based on TODAY’S data. We continue to enhance how we offer Member Services to and for you and are always excited to ‘make real’ your suggestions leading to greater efficiency or ease for you and your fellow CAA members.

7) I include this every year, but here it is once again... the 2014 National Convention. One notable difference this year, and a real highlight, was the amount of “Young Breeders” in attendance as well as the number of honoured guests we were able to fete. Please note the site of our 2015 National Convention: Radisson Hotel & Conference Center Calgary Airport EastDescription: Description: https://maps.gstatic.com/intl/en_ca/mapfiles/transparent.png (6620-36 Street NE, Calgary, AB T3J 4C8 ‎- (403) 475-1111). We desperately hope to see you there!

6) Undertaking the Female Longevity and Sustainability Project, with unprecedented support from Provincial Associations and the Canadian Angus Foundation. This project comes about as a result, again, of input from the membership on the need to assure structural correctness through the creation of objective standards in hoof, leg, udder and teat phenotype and their heritable genetic predictor. Our “Research & Special Projects” intern, Matt Bates, completed the initial phase of this project and we are looking at various grant and partnership opportunities for the next, or genetic investigation, phase. We will be working on this for some time to come, but, again, we are so proud when we can take requests and feedback from the membership and work towards the creation of new member value based on your ideas.

5) The continued success of the Foundation’s “Building the Legacy” sale, which broke $120,000 in donations this year; who thought just 2.5 years ago that we’d triple the donation from the 1st to 3rd sale?! The generosity of our members continues to humble and amaze me and we owe such a debt of gratitude to all the donors of semen, embryos, experiences, good and services. Of course, we need to ‘tip our hats’ to those who donate a ‘Pick of the Heifer Calf Crop’ each year like Wilbar Cattle Co., South View Ranch and Young Dale Angus who join the esteemed ranks with past donor LLB Angus. These folks INSPIRE us and we must acknowledge their contribution to the future of our breed.

4) In September, 2013, Corinne Gibson, President Elect (at that time) of our Board of Directors demanded that we do better with turnaround time on member work submitted by mail, fax, e-mail and drop-ins. It had become cultural for your CAA to have periods of backlog in July, August, September and October that moved into the 20-30 day range, or 4-6 weeks behind when the work first arrived. At Corinne’s urging, I pledged a turnaround time to the Board of Directors that was vastly less than we’d ever achieved historically and, in fact, less than our standard ‘10 working days’, or two weeks, for most of the year. We only failed to meet my stated objective for the month of March due to a change in staff and still we were at 7 days when our standard pledge has always been at 10 days with the exception of July to October. Save for our delays and challenges due to genetic testing, I am so very proud of the reduced turnaround time that our Member Service Team has provided with top shelf service. In November, when we surveyed you for Customer Satisfaction, you rated an 87.3% Satisfied  result and I am very proud of this level. Knowing that just shy of 10% indicated our customer service must be better, we will spend the next year working to better serve that 10% as well as trying to increase the number of ‘Highly Satisfied’ members.

As a secondary highlight, 69.1% of the CAA membership supports the new Parentage Verification policy becoming effective for sires from which purebred calves will be registered and who are born on or after January 1st, 2016. It is always good when democracy works which it does when ‘the people’ speak. You spoke and your preference has been shared with the Board of Directors for their current and future reference and information.

3) In February, we debuted our CAA Communications Strategy, including a new member communication platform. In the Member Renewal / Winter/Spring Calving Inventory packages mailed to every member of the CAA last January, we asked each member what your communication preferences are. We have been tabulating these results throughout the year and updating every member file with this important… and required… information. We dubbed 2014 our “Year of Member Communications”, and the year culminated in the launch of AC-TV earlier this month, which has been viewed over 600 times in its first two weeks of broadcast. We fully realize that a complete transition to electronic communications does not satisfy the needs of a number of our members (about 250) and that is why we have your preferences determined; so we can reach you in one of your Top 3 preferences for being communicating with. Please make no mistake… the electronic interface for sharing information and even creating engagement and feedback, is only going to become more profound in its influence on how we do what we do. But it is our mandate that EVERYONE receive our information and this will remain until our generational shift is complete. Or YEARS yet!!!

While such ‘highlights’ of ‘best’ lists are typically of accomplishments you might expect the CAA to have played an active role in, #2 on the list is one we have no role whatsoever in making happen, but a highlight that we are positively delighted in observing, reacting to and joining in with your celebration as members of the global cattle and beef value chain. For # 2 is…

2) The escalation of prices for all classes of beef cattle, from feeder calves to bred females, across both commercial and purebred sectors. We are in a period of record prices with more revenue than a Canadian cattleman has ever sold their fats, calves, culls, bred cows and heifers and bulls for… EVER!!! We couldn’t be happier to see the smiles and positivity emanating from you and the rest of our CAA membership. I guess there is merit to believing that we see “all good things to those who wait”! Producers have been waiting a long time to get rewarded for their hard work and top quality cattle… and that reward is most certainly here now, and, based on the analysis of my fellow agricultural economists, are expected to remain for some time to come… like, YEARS!

And, in this period of unprecedented prosperity for Canada’s cattle operations, this does lead directly to the highlight of 2014 for the Canadian Angus Association. The #1 Highlight of 2014 is...

1)      Creation of the next 5-year CAA Business Plan, entitled “Enhanced Member Services: Building Our Future… Yes We Can!”. While details about this plan are included elsewhere in this e-news, I am so proud of our CAA Board of Directors for their foresight, strength and generative thinking leading to this new ‘roadmap’ for our business operations for the years 2015-2019. There is much to come and much more we look to you and your fellow members to provide input toward and regarding. This Business Plan relies heavily on cooperation and collaboration with the membership so please get involved when you see the opportunity to do so.

So those are our highlights for 2014. What do we most look forward to in 2015? Well, here is a start to the list…

a)      Your CAA enacting the Board’s Ownership Linkage / CAA generational consultation plan for 2015 per the new Business Plan;

b)      Re-launching our website in the first part of 2015 and are excited to have it better reflect the needs of our membership;

c)       World Angus Secretariat in Durango, Chihuahua and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico next October;

d)      Continued strength and excitement in our cattle business with prices that allow cattlemen to not only realize profit but consider expansion or creative means of succession.

Do you agree of disagree with anything on our list of highlights? We always welcome your thoughts, opinions, input and requests. This is, after all, YOUR Association and, as President Corinne Gibson says every time I hear her speak to her fellow members, “We not only want to hear from you, we NEED to hear from you.”

Please accept my personal best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year in 2015. May your calving be uneventful, your sales be richer than you imagine, your moisture and heat as plentiful as you want, and your health be perfect. I think its going to be a great one, so let’s go forth and grow Canadian Angus!!!



Posted by Karla Ness Feedback: cdnangus@cdnangus.ca