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Cutting back on the amount of beef Canadians consume has been suggested in the media and public conversations online as a strategy to help save the planet. This recommendation may be based on the erroneous belief that Canadian land is inappropriately or inefficiently used in order to produce beef, but it certainly overlooks the positive impacts that a healthy beef sector has on the environment.

In fact, as you’ll read in the accompanying infographic,:

  • much of the land that cattle graze in Canada cannot be used for other purposes
  • sensitive grasslands, like the endangered Northern Great Plains, and endangered plants, animals and birds can be protected when managed by cattle producers
  • well managed grazing can also restore unproductive soils that have been degraded through improper management
  • most of the plants cattle eat and convert into nutrient-dense meat aren’t edible by humans; they are low quality forage and grains that aren’t high enough quality for human consumption and would otherwise go to waste
  • beef production in Canada provides a unique set of positive environmental and human health impacts that few other food products are capable of

Through the use of technology, innovation and sustainable management practices, Canadian beef producers continue to produce more with less. Research shows that the environmental footprint of Canadian beef production has decreased by more than 15% over the past three decades.

Download our infographic, ‘Beef’s Place in a Healthy Environment’ (PDF, 1396 KB)

Learn more:

Isn’t Beef Canada’s Ultimate Plant Based Protein? Environmentally, agriculturally and nutritionally speaking, Canadians need legumes and meat. – BeefResearch.ca

How Much Water Is Used to Make A Pound of Beef?: Facts about water use and other environmental impacts of beef production in Canada – BeefResearch.ca

New Research Shows Shrinking “Water Footprint” Of Canadian Beef Production: Overall it took 17% less water to produce a kilogram of Canadian beef in 2011 than in 1981 – BeefResearch.ca

New research clarifies Canadian beef producers’ true environmental footprint: Producing beef with 15% lower GHG emissions and using fewer resources – BeefResearch.ca

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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BCRC General Session – August 15th – 1:15 pm at the BMO Centre



Every time a beef producer sells an animal, they invest in research through a portion of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off. Producer dollars help to fund scientific studies and innovative developments that are advancing Canadian beef production and impacting farms and ranches across the country.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is excited to invite you to join us at an upcoming general session for a clearer picture your Check-Off investment and highlights of applicable beef research and innovations you can use to help keep your operation ahead of the herd.

The BCRC general session is held in conjunction with the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC), however conference registration is not required to attend the BCRC general session.

General Session Agenda
  • Economic and science-based decision making tools for producers: Tracy Herbert, Beef Cattle Research Council.
    • Looking for tools to help you determine when certain science-based recommended practices are applicable to your farm or would have a net benefit for your operation on a given year? Join us for an interactive demonstration of free economic-based decision-making tools for Canadian cattle producers. Do you have a particular tool you would like to see demonstrated? Answer our poll on Facebook or on Twitter to vote for the tools we demonstrate at the conference!

You’ll also hear recent examples of progress made in beef-related research, discuss the objectives to be tackled next, and meet some of the individuals leading the way, including:

  • The Potential Contribution of Beef Cattle to Antimicrobial Resistance: Tim McAllister Ph.D., Agriculture Agri-Food Canada Lethbridge
  • The Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network: John Campbell DVM, Western College of Veterinary Medicine
  • The Environmental Hoofprint of Canadian Beef Production: Kim Ominski Ph.D., University of Manitoba
Planning to attend CBIC? Don’t miss these sessions on August 14th! Bov-Innovation 1.0 Alternatives to Antimicrobials Location: Palomino D at 10:15 AM and 2:45 PM Speakers: Dr. Steve Hendrick and Producer Stephen Hughes

If you are a beef producer in Canada, you now require a prescription from a licenced veterinarian before purchasing a medically important antibiotic. While not every issue can be avoided, preventative measures can reduce the need for antimicrobials. During this session you will discover the strategies that can be used on your farm to reduce the need for antimicrobials and how this can benefit your operation.

Bov-Innovation 2.0 Dealing with Drought Location: Palomino D at 11:15 AM and 4:45 PM Speakers: Dr. John McKinnon and Producer Graeme Finn

In 2018, drought conditions negatively impacted beef production in Canada, and severely impacted in some locations globally. Projections suggest that the frequency and severity of drought will continue to increase in several areas that are already dry, such as the Southern Interior of British Columbia and the Prairie provinces.

Whether in the form of pasture, stored forage, or supplements, feed is the largest variable input cost in cow-calf operations. A big challenge is to feed the cow in a way that meets her current and future nutritional requirements for maintenance, lactation, and reproduction as cost effectively as possible. This challenge is obviously much greater during drought, when feed is scarce and expensive. This session will uncover ways to prepare your operation to lessen the impact of dry conditions on cattle and forages.

Public Trust Panel

The Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency is facilitating a main stage panel discussion at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC) on August 13, highlighting more of your check-off dollars at work.

The panel, including BCRC Science Director Reynold Bergen, will focus on public trust, and more specifically how check-off dollars worked in advance of and in response to Canada’s Food Guide changes and the EAT-Lancet report. The audience will have a chance to engage with the panelists and moderator through a Q&A session and are encouraged to ask questions and comment.

The Agency is also opening up the virtual floor to questions via social media in advance of the panel, so tag your questions #cbiccheckoffpanel, and follow them at @cdnbeefcheckoff on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use your favorite platform to submit a question, and video questions are encouraged!

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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VBP+ NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
July 12, 2019

The Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program, under the umbrella of the Beef Cattle Research Council, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), welcomes the investment of $602,250 from the Canadian Agriculture Partnership (CAP) Agri-Assurance program, announced Wednesday by Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Marie-Claude Bibeau.

These funds will be directed to multiple VBP+ activities, including

  • training platform modifications to meet educational demands by producers for continuous improvement in sustainability,
  • increased database capacity and functionality by automating processes where practical and ensuring growing demand is met while adding value and minimizing the cost of the verification process for producers,
  • advancing assessments of equivalency with existing industry programs to provide more value to producers who move through the verification process, and
  • developing a system to determine the impact of training on changes in sustainable production practices.

“By advancing the development of our training resources for cattle producers, enhancing our database capabilities and establishing equivalency with similar quality assurance programs and training platforms, Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) services will be cost-efficient while delivering the greatest value to all Canadian beef producers,” said Cecilie Fleming, Chair of the VBP+ Management Committee and a cattle producer near Granum, Alberta.

The expansion of the VBP+ program to meet growing demands and continue advancing sustainability efforts by the industry are expected to increase market demand and consumer confidence in the beef sector.

This funding is part of a recent announcement by Minister Bibeau at the Calgary Stampede of an $8.3 million investment for six projects in Canada’s beef value chain. Of that, a total of $1.7 million is directed to two of the CCA’s operating divisions: $602,250 in funding for VBP+ and $1.1 million for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

For more information contact Shannon Argent, VBP+ Business Manager at argents@beefresearch.ca or call 403-818-7415.

– 30 –

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This guest post is written by Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, a research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge focused on tick populations and arthropod vectors of livestock disease. The following is an updated version of an article we first published on the BCRC Blog in 2017.

Recently, a connection between the bite of the lone star tick and allergies to red meat products was established. The “red meat allergy” is often framed as an emerging and alarming public health issue. Although the allergy symptoms can be severe, the incidence is relatively low, even throughout the southeastern United States where the lone star tick is well established (meaning a presence of reproducing populations).

The red meat allergy was first identified in Australia with several hundred cases diagnosed since 1985, and was recognized in thousands of people in the southeastern United States over the last couple decades. This allergy also occurs in people from several other countries around the world. Based on reported cases, it appears that allergy to red meat in the USA is about as common as allergy to peanuts, occurring in only 0.1% of the population. Those who are affected can have very serious and even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions after eating red meat products.

The source of the red meat allergy was a mystery until 2007 when doctors realized that a large proportion of the people that were diagnosed also reported tick bites weeks or months prior to experiencing symptoms.

When a tick attaches to a person or animal (“host”), it will feed on blood for several days if not removed. During this time it injects saliva directly into the host’s bloodstream. Ticks have a few tricks up their sleeves and some of the salivary compounds act as an anaesthetic so the host cannot feel the tick bite. Other compounds injected by the tick alter the host’s immune response. Susceptible people produce antibodies to carbohydrates (sugars) in the tick’s saliva that are different than the types of carbohydrates found our bodies. One to three months after being exposed to the tick, the host’s primed immune system can produce antibodies to a similar carbohydrate called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, more commonly called alpha-gal, which is found in cells of non-primate mammals. The production of antibodies to alpha-gal can lead to allergic reactions in people (“alpha-gal syndrome”).

The allergic reaction occurs 2 to 10 hours after eating red meat (beef, pork, and lamb, but not chicken or fish), or other animal products, such as gelatin and milk. This is generally much longer delay than most allergic reactions, which are typically more immediate. Symptoms can be relatively mild with hives and swelling but can also end up as a severe anaphylactic reaction that requires a shot of epinephrine. To confirm that the allergy is to red meat, doctors use a test that detects antibodies to alpha-gal. For some people, the reaction can become less severe or even be eliminated over time if they prevent further exposure to tick bites.

Almost all cases of alpha-gal syndrome in the USA occur in areas where the lone star tick is present. None of the tick species that are currently established in Canada appear to cause the allergy.

The increase in the number of red meat allergy cases, which spurred the recent media reports, may be partly due to changes in lone star tick populations. In some regions the ticks are becoming more abundant. They are also spreading into new areas, with increasing reports of individual ticks and established populations the in northeastern states, including Michigan, Minnesota and New York. So, it’s likely that the tick will continue to move northward, but this would be limited by the availability of suitable habitat for tick development and survival. A recent study1 predicts that the most southern parts of Ontario and Nova Scotia may have suitable habitat to support lone star tick populations in the next few decades.

It is important to also be aware of the lone star tick because it actively seeks out hosts and can also transmit a long list of human and animal pathogens, including those that cause serious diseases, such as Heartland virus disease, Bourbon virus disease, southern tick-associated rash illness, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, tularemia, and theileriosis. Fortunately, these pathogens are relatively rare and the bacteria that causes Lyme disease cannot be transmitted by the lone star tick.

Several provincial and national surveillance programs are monitoring the presence of ticks in Canada. Lone star ticks are generally collected in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and more commonly in Ontario; the majority are from people or dogs that spent time in areas of the USA where this tick normally occurs. Occasionally, single lone star ticks are collected directly from the vegetation, or from animals or people. These ticks most likely hitched a ride on migrating birds and fell off a few days after attaching.

There still is no evidence that the lone star tick has become established in Canada, and it is only occasionally reported on animals or people. This difference between reported occurrences of a tick and establishment of a population is very important when considering the level of risk to people and how to manage it.

So, what does the “red meat allergy” mean for the Canadian public and beef industry? Currently, the chance of encountering a lone star tick is extremely low. Also, a relatively small proportion of the human population is susceptible to developing an allergy to red meat and few ticks are infected with pathogens. Awareness and tick bite prevention continue to be the most important steps to take in response to ticks while enjoying the great outdoors.

For more information and images of the lone star tick see the Tick Encounter website: http://www.tickencounter.org/tick_identification/lone_star_tick

For information on prevention of tick (and mosquito) bites, refer to this article from the Canadian Paediatric Society: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/preventing-mosquito-and-tick-bites

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has more information on the red meat allergy: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/meat-allergy

References

  1. Raghavan, R. K., A. T. Peterson, M. E. Cobos, R. Ganta, and D. Foley. 2019. Current and Future Distribution of the Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum (L.) (Acari: Ixodidae) in North America. PLOS ONE. 14: e0209082.

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Rejuvenation of Hay and Pasture page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, ensuring that information remains freely available online. Completion is expected by Spring 2020. 

Rejuvenation of a forage stand, whether hay or pasture, involves using one or a combination of methods to increase productivity with a shift towards higher yielding forage species that provide improved nutritive value for livestock.

The first step in deciding whether to rejuvenate a forage stand is comparing the potential productivity with the current status of the pasture or hayfield. This will help determine if, and what, improvements or management changes are needed.

A stand assessment starts with evaluation of the current plant population. What desirable plant species are present as compared to undesirable plants? Are there invasive species? Poisonous plants? Are there large areas of bare ground and evidence of erosion? Conducting a pasture or range health assessment is an important first step to identify best options for rejuvenation.

Evaluating Your Management System

  • When does grazing occur?
  • What stocking rate is applied?
  • Frequency and level of utilization?
  • Are rest periods provided and are they long enough?
  • What is the timing and frequency of hay cuts?

Although largely out of a land manager’s control, soil moisture is the most important variable when rejuvenating a forage stand. Moisture status of a pasture or hayfield from the previous growing season as well as forecasted precipitation must factor into the choice of timing and method of rejuvenation. With adequate soil moisture, particularly under irrigation or in high rainfall areas, rejuvenation options become less risky and more cost effective.

If a forage stand does need rejuvenation it is critical to identify the reason for decline in productivity. Is grazing mismanagement a factor? Is fertility lacking? Has management not been adjusted to account for dry conditions? If the cause is not eliminated and management practices adjusted, any positive effects of rejuvenation will be short-lived.

  REJUVENATION OPTIONS (used alone or in combination) If YES, then consider the following:
Are there undesirable species that need to be controlled?
Is there still an adequate density of desired plant species?
Is the density of desired plant species too low?
Is the density of desired plant species too high and the stand needs to be thinned in order to increase productivity?

To learn more about forage and pasture rejuvenation health visit the new web page.

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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Calving distribution is the percentage of calves born in each 21-day cycle throughout the calving season.

As the calving season ends and producers switch gears toward breeding season, there is an opportunity for producers to evaluate their calving distribution and the impact it has on their bottom line. Now is the time for farmers and ranchers to incorporate any changes they want during breeding season, such as when to pull their bulls from pasture, that will affect next year’s calf crop.

Each time a cow is not bred during a 21-day heat cycle, it can cost up to 39 lbs of weaning weight (assuming an average daily gain on calves of 1.85 lbs/day). Having more calves born in the first 21 days of the calving season allows producers to market larger, more uniform groups of calves and increase their profit potential.

The standard industry target is to have at least 60% of females calving within the first cycle, followed by 25% calving between 21-42 days, 10% between 42-63 days and the remaining 5% calving in the fourth and final cycle. An ideal distribution could be 70-20-10 with a condensed breeding season of three cycles (63 days).

How does the industry target compare to actual calving distributions on farms across the country? The 2015/16 Ontario Cow-Calf Production Survey, for example, showed on average 5-10% of all females calved after 63 days or three cycles. The 2013/14 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey reported similar numbers with a calving distribution of 55-30-10-5. Recent data on calving distributions in Atlantic Canada is unavailable.

To see what your current calving distribution is, and what the impact on your revenue would be if you move to the industry target of 60-25-10-5, or a condensed breeding season of three cycles (63 days) at 70-20-10, check out the new “Value of Calving DistributionTool. As with all decision-making tools, you must consider the balance between any increased revenue with the cost of achieving that outcome.

Heavier weaning weights are the most immediate benefit from more calves born in the first cycle, however having more cows bred early can also affect cow longevity. Research from the Western Beef Development Centre found that over 16 years, from 2001 to 2017, heifers that calved earlier had greater pregnancy rates, remained in the herd longer and produced one more calf in their lifetime than those that calved in the later periods (Daalkhaijav et al 2018). Heifers calving in the first 21-day cycle produced 18.2% and 27.3% more pounds at weaning, generating an additional $773 to $1160 in calf revenues over their lifetime. According to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry it cost $962 per cow wintered in 2016; therefore, a heifer would need to wean five consecutive calves to cover her development costs. In the WBDC study only the heifers the calved in the first 21-day cycle met this threshold (Daalkhaijav et al 2018).

For producers to see an improvement in their calving distribution next year, they need to understand the factors at play in their existing scenario and determine if and how they will adjust their breeding season decisions now.

References:
Fine-Tune Your Breeding for Extra Money https://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/beef/print,fine-tune-your-breeding-for-extra-money.html
R. A. Cushman, L. K. Kill, R. N. Funston, E. M. Mousel, and G. A. Perry. Heifer calving date positively influences calf weaning weights through six parturitions. J. Anim. Sci. 2013.91:4486–4491. doi:10.2527/jas2013-6465
Daalkhaijav Damiran, Kathy Larson, LeahPearce, Nathan Erickson & H.A.(Bart) Lardner. 2018. Effects of Heifer Calving Date on Longevity and Lifetime Productivity in Western Canada. Sustainable Agriculture Research; Vol. 7, No. 4 https://doi.org/10.5539/sar.v7n4p11
R. N. Funston, J. A. Musgrave, T. L. Meyer, and D. M. Larson. 2012. Effect of calving distribution on beef cattle progeny performance. J. Anim. Sci. 2012.90:5118–5121. doi:10.2527/jas2012-5263
Mousel, E. M., Cushman, R. A., Perry, G. A., & Kill, L. K. (2012). Effect of heifer calving date on longevity and lifetime productivity. Available: http://www.appliedreprostrategies.com/pdfs/2012ARSBC_04MouselProceedings.pdf, accessed May 30, 2019

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Canada’s National Beef Strategy has four goals that our industry aims to achieve by 2020. For the past year this column has explained how research is contributing to a 15% increase in carcass cut-out value (the Beef Demand pillar), a 15% improvement in production efficiency (Productivity), and a 7% reduction in cost disadvantages compared to Canada’s main competitors (Competitiveness). The fourth goal (Connectivity) is about improving communication within industry and with consumers, the public, government and partner industries. Research contributes science-based information to underpin fact-based communication, policy and regulation, as well as extension (also known as technology transfer) activities to translate research results into improved on-farm production and management practices.

Extension used to be a core mandate for governments and universities; they all had extension staff, held field days and published producer-focused bulletins. Some researchers are still active in extension, but most institutions have shifted their focus to scientific research and technology development. The private sector has filled the extension gap in spots, especially where there is a clear profit motive for the company or individual doing the extension. This often works best when there is a product to sell, like a nutritional supplement, vaccine, or electric fencer. It is more challenging for the private sector to justify extension when the product is a management practice that is hard for a company to charge for, needs to be highly customized to suit individual operations, or primarily benefits the customer. Examples include low-cost winter feeding, crossbreeding, rotational grazing, and low-stress handling. Private sector extension can also be difficult with practices that benefit the overall industry but might not directly or immediately profit any specific individual (e.g. some animal welfare practices, antimicrobial and environmental stewardship). The BCRC tries to fill those gaps.

The BCRC’s first dipped its toe into extension when we co-funded www.foragebeef.ca in 2002. This initiative was spearheaded by AAFC’s Duane McCartney and became a comprehensive forage resource that Alberta Agriculture maintained as a standalone website. Consequently, the BCRC didn’t develop competing forage resources when we created our www.beefresearch.ca as a credible, one-stop-shop for beef and cattle research, production and management information.

Times change though. In 2018, Alberta’s government decided that it couldn’t maintain www.foragebeef.ca as a separate website. The BCRC was presented with three options. One was to leave www.foragebeef.ca alone but not maintain it, letting it gradually erode as links got broken and content became outdated. A second was to transition some select content onto Alberta Agriculture pages. A third option was to incorporate www.foragebeef.ca into www.beefresearch.ca. That’s the option we chose, with support from the Alberta government via the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre. That’s why you’ve been directed to www.beefresearch.ca if you’ve looked for www.foragebeef.ca lately.

The BCRC has an archived copy of the www.foragebeef.ca content, and we are gradually updating, repackaging, and transferring it to the Forage and Grasslands section of www.beefresearch.ca. This will take time, given the amount of information involved. Our first step was to conduct web analytics to learn which www.foragebeef.ca topics are most popular. We’re using that information to prioritize the topics we update and edit. For example, the www.foragebeef.ca Drought Management page was recently updated and posted on www.beefresearch.ca.

The way things look today, drought will be on the minds of a lot of producers attending the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC) in Calgary on August 13-15. The CBIC is co-hosted by the BCRC, Canada Beef, Canadian Beef Breeds Council, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Cattle Feeder’s Association. The CBIC’s Bov-Innovation session is a popular workshop full of tips and ideas that producers can take home and adopt. Bov-Innovation pairs an expert explaining the science behind best practices with a leading producer explaining how they have adopted these practices to benefit their cattle and their profitability. This year’s topics chosen from producer suggestions are:

  • “Dealing with Drought” will pair Dr. John McKinnon with Graeme Finn (Crossfield, Alberta) to address the challenge of cost-effectively meeting the beef cow’s current and future nutritional requirements for maintenance, lactation, and reproduction when feed is scarce and expensive, while still endeavoring to maintain a healthy forage stand.
  • “Alternatives to Antimicrobials” will see Dr. Steve Hendrick of the Coaldale Veterinary Clinic and rancher Stephen Hughes from Longview, Alberta discuss strategies to reduce the need for antimicrobials on your operation, and how this can benefit you.

You’re also invited to join us on the afternoon of Thursday, August 15th, as the BCRC explains how research and technology transfer is impacting farms and ranches across Canada. Examples of innovation and progress will be shared as well as ideas of future objectives and research priorities. Conference registration is not required for the Thursday open house.



Registration for the CBIC is now open and producers are encouraged to register soon. Participants who register before June 15th will take advantage of a reduced rate and guarantee their spot at this event. Information on the full conference, as well as registration, accommodations, flights, and agenda can be found at www.canadianbeefindustryconference.com. We hope to see you there!

The Beef Research Cluster is funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada with additional contributions from provincial beef industry groups and governments to advance research and technology transfer supporting the Canadian beef industry’s vision to be recognized as a preferred supplier of healthy, high quality beef, cattle and genetics.

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is typically welcome and encouraged, however this article requires permission of the original publisher.

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The Beef Cattle Research Council and Alberta Beef Producers invites letters of intent (LOIs) for research projects as well as LOIs for technology transfer and production economics projects. The application deadline for these separate but concurrent calls is August 9, 2019 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of these two targeted calls is to achieve specific objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. These  calls for research and technology transfer LOIs, expected to occur annually for research and bi-annually for technology transfer and production economics, are made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces.

Approved projects, funded by Canadian cattle producers through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off, will be required to use the industry funding to leverage additional funds from government or other funding organizations to fulfill project budgets.

Through extensive consultation with research teams and industry stakeholders to identify critical needs and key areas where the BCRC and ABP can have the greatest impact, target outcomes have been clearly defined for both calls. Please refer to the target objectives listed within the documents linked below before deciding whether to submit a LOI.

Research Funding Application

Research projects one to three years in length may be submitted. Projects will commence no earlier than April 1, 2020 and must be completed by March 31, 2022. Extended durations are discouraged but may be granted on a case by case basis when clearly justified. Researchers early in their career are encouraged to apply as a principle investigator. Priorities include Beef Quality & Food Safety, Feed & Forage Productivity, and research to support Improvements in Productivity. Refer to the documents below for more information.

Technology Transfer and Production Economics Funding Application

A separate but concurrent call for LOIs is focused on technology transfer and production economics.Proposed projects up to three years in length may be submitted. The BCRC will provide a maximum of 50% of the project budget, with a maximum BCRC contribution of $50,000 per project. Refer to the documents below for more information.

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

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Cover crops, also referred to as polycrops or cocktail crops, are receiving a lot of media hype for their potential for grazing and claims related to reduced inputs and improved soil health. Jillian Bainard, PhD, has been studying cover crop parameters like productivity, soil health, grazing nutrition, and weed control, through her research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Swift Current, SK. “A lot of people are trying cover crops so we want to understand from a research perspective what’s happening, and whether we can pinpoint some of these benefits that have been suggested,” Bainard explained during a recent webinar presentation.

Cover crops can address many problems, however they require thought and planning to optimize their potential.

Producers often look to cover crops to improve productivity. Bainard’s research demonstrated that some cover crop mixes had greater production compared to single-species crops (ie. monocultures) even under stressful conditions. Different functional groups, such as cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, legumes, or brassicas, also had a positive effect on production; as the number of groups in a mix increased, production did as well. Bainard did caution that extreme moisture fluctuations will impact plant growth accordingly and that real-world field variables may reduce productivity. For example, a cover crop mix may yield well on lowland areas yet perform poorly on uplands within the same field. “Not all mixtures will perform the same, and success will depend a lot on how well each crop does in a specific soil and environment,” Bainard added.

Lowland and upland performance of same cover crop mixture. Photo credit Charlotte Ward, Saskatchewan Agriculture

The nutritional aspects of cover crops depend largely on what is included in the mix. Many polycrops improve or at least maintain forage quality when compared to monocultures. Bainard found that some mixes had higher protein and lower neutral detergent fibre (NDF), both of which are beneficial to grazing cattle. In general, cover crop mixes also had increased levels of micronutrients such as copper, calcium, iron, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, however feed testing is recommended to make sure the nutrients are present in the right balance. Mixes that contain a lot of Brassica species can potentially have toxic levels of nitrates and sulfates, posing a risk to cattle.

Weed control is another documented benefit of cover crops. Species such as forage radish, turnip, barley, and triticale especially demonstrated strong weed suppression at the Swift Current site. Staying on top of weed control can be a risk of seeding polycrops however, particularly if the crop is performing poorly, if moisture is limiting, or the optimum window for establishment was missed. “Your ability to select a herbicide or other form of control is going to be really difficult,” explained Bainard, because mixes usually contain broad-leaved and grassy species.

Photo credit Jillian Bainard

Many producers report on-farm improvements in soil health and appearance, however this has been hard to quantify in research because soil properties change over a very long time. While significant benefits have yet to be documented, some cover crop mixtures have shown slight increases in soil aggregation, which can lead to improved moisture retention. When it comes to inputs, Bainard cautions producers that lower input use may be a valuable goal, however cover crop mixes are unlikely to maintain fertility in a zero-input situation. More work is being done to determine how cover crops perform at lower input rates.

Research and reality are proving that cover crops have many rewards but carry some risks as well. With careful planning and management, additional research, and a network of knowledgeable people willing to share their experiences, cover crops and grazing will continue to integrate and innovate.

Watch the entire webinar here.

Read more on our cover crops topic page.

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The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

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When you don’t know the quality of feed on an operation, maintaining animal health and welfare can become significantly more difficult. Visual assessment of feedstuffs is not accurate enough to access quality and may lead to cows being underfed and losing body condition or wasting money on expensive supplements that aren’t necessary.  Two new decision-making tools on this page, developed by the Alberta Beef, Forage and Grazing Centre, will help you use feed test results to flag potential nutritional problems, and identify the comparative economic value of different feeds based on their quality.

Why feed test?

  • Avoid sneaky production problems, such as poor gains or reduced conception caused by mineral or nutrient deficiencies or excesses;
  • Prevent or identify potentially devastating problems due to toxicity from mycotoxins, nitrates, sulfates, or other minerals or nutrients;
  • Develop appropriate rations that meet the nutritional needs of their beef cattle;
  • Identify nutritional gaps that may require supplementation;
  • Economize feeding, and possibly make use of opportunities to include diverse ingredients;
  • Accurately price feed for buying or selling.

Collecting feed samples

It’s critical to collect a feed sample that is representative of the feed ingredients that you are testing. Any feed type that will be used to feed beef cattle can and should be analysed, including baled forages and straw, by-products, silage, baleage, grain, swath grazing, cover crops, and corn.

Feed quality will change as the feeding season progresses. Samples should be taken as close to feeding or selling as possible, while leaving enough time for the results to come back from the lab.

*New* A Tool for Evaluating Feed Test Results

This tool evaluates the ability of a single feed to meet basic nutritional requirements of different classes of cattle in different stages of production under normal circumstances. It is not intended for use in ration balancing, but rather to alert you to potential issues with individual feed ingredients. Suitability of the feed is indicated by a color-coded response. Green indicates that the nutrient is adequate to meet nutritional requirements. Yellow is within +/- 2.5% of TDN requirements, +/- 5% of CP requirements and 0.05% below mineral requirements. Red indicates the feed does not meet animal requirements.

One of the major benefits of feed testing is preventing costly and devastating problems before they start. Every season is different and some years there is an abundance of high-quality forage. Other years, there is a lack of available feed, or perhaps there is an abundance of low-quality forage, grain, or grain by-products available that may look economical but can potentially pose significant risks if a feed analysis has not been performed or understood.

Feed is often bought on weight (e.g. by the ton or by the bale) with little consideration of the economic value of feed quality.  Especially when feed supplies are tight, comparing the economic value of different feed sources on a quality basis will help you stretch your feed dollars further while ensuring animal requirements are met.  Another new tool on this page will help you do just that.  Enter your feed test results to get the estimated “economic” value of the feed compared to your choice of reference feeds. The higher the value, the higher the cumulative content of TDN and CP of the targeted feed, and thus the higher the feed value.  The results will tell you which feeds have the best potential from an economic perspective to be used in the final formulation of a ration.

Learn more about feed testing and test drive the new calculators

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

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