Lets talk the Colorado Initative 16 or the PAUSE act.
PAUSE is a citizen led ballot initiative that would criminalize accepted animal husbandry practices, assigns an arbitrary lifespan to farm animals, considers fish livestock, and places slaughter restrictions on those same animals.
What does that mean for you? A lot – so lets begin to unpack it.
Lets start with the lifespan and slaughter requirements. The PAUSE initiative would assign an arbitrary lifespan to all livestock. They define “natural” lifespan as 20 years for cattle, 8 years for chickens, 10 years for turkeys, 6 years for ducks, 15 years for pigs, 15 years for sheep and 6 years for rabbits. Under Initiative 16, it would be illegal to butcher an animal until it has reached 25% of its “lifespan”. Cattle are normally butchered at 24 months – this would extend that to 60 months. This equates to an additional 27,000 pounds of feed, and cost about $1200 per animal. This would shrink the Colorado beef supply by 60% and cost the state $5 billion dollars in export sales. We would lose Japan as an export market – as they will not accept cattle over 30 months of age – costing Colorado $50 million in export sales to Japan alone.
All the efforts farmers and ranchers have made to be more sustainable and efficient are thrown out the window in this initiative. An additional 36 months of feeding cattle, not to mention 27,000 pounds of feed per animal is not realistic and it would drive agriculture out of the state of Colorado. Colorado raises 2.6 million head of beef, and Gunnison County specifically produces more than 3 million pounds of beef per year. These changes would cause the price of beef to sky rocket.
Price of protein in the state of Colorado would rise considerably. According to Travis Taylor, a Colorado State University Livestock Extension Agent, if we assume similar finish weights, he said the price of a pound of beef sold to consumers would increase $2 per pound prior to the inclusion of additional expenses incurred in the three years not including health vaccinations, transport, water consumption, and labor costs. 1 in 10 Coloradoans is food insecure – so why would we want a ballot measure that would only make healthy protein more expensive? Other food sources would see even more dramatic increases. Poultry – which is generally considered a cheap protein, would see the production cycle jump 11-fold – seeing even worse price increases than for beef.
Under Initiative 16, fish would now be considered livestock. The state runs hatcheries that use safe methods to collect fish eggs and milt which aids in the reproductive and health of many species. Colorado is home to four critically endangered breeds on the Western Slope: Humpback Chub, Bonytail, Colorado Pikeminnow, and the Razorback Sucker. These breeds rely on the hatcheries – and this initiative would make it illegal!
Food insecurity in Colorado doesn’t end our discussion – there’s more. PAUSE would criminalize accepted animal husbandry practices. It would change the statutory language to define common animal care practices as “cruelty to animals”. This includes spaying and neutering your family pets, assisting with a birth (like pulling a calf, or assisting in a leg back situation), pregnancy checking, artificial insemination, and fertility testing. All of these practices are accepted by the American Veterinary Medicine Association. You might be wondering why all of these things matter? Assisting with birth is pretty self explanatory. Just like humans, calves can present normally, with a foot back, backwards, upside down, or a variety of other ways. Ranchers can go in and get the 2nd foot, turn around a backwards calf, help pull a bigger calf that may be stuck, or even just help an extremely tired cow out. In some cases, cows need a c-section – and trained veterinarians can perform that procedure. Pregnancy checking is utilized by most ranchers so that we make make the best culling decisions for our operation. Most cow/calf operations will sell an open female in order to be most efficient with our feed all winter. Pregnancy checking also allows us to know when the cow will calve so we can be prepared to help her give birth if needed! Artificial insemination allows us to utilize genetics that would otherwise be unattainable. AI (artificial insemination) allows us to use semen from bulls from anywhere in the world for a fraction of the cost. It allows me personally to use world class bulls at a cost of $40 a cow, rather than purchase that same bull who might be worth $100,000. Using the best genetics available is part of the reason the U.S. beef industry is one of the most efficient and sustainable in the entire world.
As a rancher, I can personally tell you that each of us cares about the well being of our animals. Most of the beef producers in the state are certified with the Beef Quality Assurance program which helps us stay informed and up to date with the best technology and accepted handling practices. Ranchers work hard to produce quality products, and we are proud of what we produce. A measure such as PAUSE takes our accepted practices and makes them illegal – only making our job harder and less efficient. We cannot work to be the most sustainable and efficient with rules like these in place.
So now what? Open up a conversation with people – let them know how real the effects of this initiative would be. Any rancher would be happy to talk through our world – including me. You can join the coalition to fight this initiative at www.ColoradansForAimalcare.com. Most importantly, just reach out to a friend or neighbor and open up a dialog. Come have a beer with a rancher and you can learn what ranching is really about, and how very real the threat of this imitative is on our livelihoods.