Beef Cattle Research Council

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Beef Cattle Research Council - Value of Research

Retrieved: July 2, 2020 - 12:59 PM

Research and innovation are key to driving competitiveness in the Canadian beef cattle industry and increasing consumer demand for beef products on a global scale. Funding for research by producers through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off is important for leveraging government investments. Combined contributions create opportunities for research projects to answer the questions and develop the technologies necessary to continually find better and more efficient methods of producing high quality beef and beef cattle. Research has the opportunity to create numerous benefits for producers, processors and consumers. 

Improving Competitiveness

New or better ways of producing cattle and beef can improve producers’ bottom lines. Examples include improvements in carcass weight, feed efficiency and post-weaning survival rates. 

Over the past 45 years, carcass weight has increased by an average of seven pounds per year due to improvements in genetics and production methods. The increase from 842 lbs in 2008 to 897 lbs in 2017 represents a revenue gain of $180.2 million to industry (assuming the 2017 fed cattle marketings of 2.864 million head and composite cutout value at $262/cwt)A 50 lb increase in average carcass weight would reduce animal slaughter numbers by 6%. 

Similarly, feed conversion efficiency has improved by 30% over the past 30 years; a further 1% improvement in feed efficiency would save the feedlot sector $11.million annually. Further improvements are critical to keep beef production competitive with other animal proteins 

Further improvements in such areas are of priority for the BCRC.

Consumer Confidence

Applied beef and cattle research can also contribute to industry competitiveness and sustainability through improved consumer confidence and science-based regulation. Examples include the areas of antimicrobial use and resistance and the increase in the use of pain control drugs. 

Antimicrobial use and resistance have received considerable negative, inaccurate attention from the media, activist groups and legislators throughout North America. Research funded by the BCRC and conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with commercial feedlots has demonstrated that fewer than 1% of the antimicrobial drugs used in feedlot cattle are of very high importance in human health. This explains why 2% or less of E. coli samples isolated from feeder cattle, cattle entering abattoirs and retail beef have resistance to these drugs. More recently, a 2018 research project funded by BCRC and conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada concluded that antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes are unlikely to flow from cattle to people through the environment when antibiotic use, manure and runoff are appropriately managed. This information has been used in communications with the policy makers and governments, including an appearance before the Standing Committee on Health in the spring of 2011.  

More producers are adopting pain management practicesDehorning, branding, and castrating calves have historically been considered routine calf-hood management procedures in Canada. While necessary, how and why these procedures take place are an area of continued interest for the industry. Dehorning, branding, and castration are painful. Studies show that the use of pain control products during castration has increased significantly since 2014. In 2014 relatively few products were available and only 4% of survey respondents were using them. By 2016, a similar survey found 80% of producers were using pain control at castration. Attention has been placed on pain management during such procedures with recommendations and requirements in Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle. Research funded through the second Beef Science Cluster was instrumental in ensuring recommendations in Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle were scientifically based and founded In Canadian beef research not other species and management conditions.  

Return on Investment

An independent study evaluating economic benefits from the National Check-off shows that Canadian beef cattle producers' funding of research activities delivers a 34.5:1 return on investment. 

The extremely high return to research was mainly attributed to research being historically underfunded, and the fact that applied research tools are directly available to producers. 

2016 Study (PDF) 

2016 Study Q&A (PDF) 

Impact on Canadian Economy

Advancements in Canada’s cattle industry also positively impact the nation’s economy. The Canadian beef industry represents the second largest single source of farm cash receipts, with cash receipts from cattle and calves totaling $9.4 billion annually over the last five years (2014-18 average), representing 16 per cent of total farm cash receipts, contributing $18 billion to GDP annually, and generating an estimated 228,000 jobs in Canada, with every job in the sector yielding another 3.56 jobs elsewhere in the economy. In addition, for every $1 of income received by beef industry workers and farm owners, another $2.08 is created elsewhere. Consequently, advancements in research that positively contribute to the growth and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry are beneficial to the broader economy. 

Opportunities for the Future

Canada is in a position to respond to global growth in beef demand, supported by favorable production and regulatory conditions, and a continued focus on overall industry competitiveness. Future growth in productivity to enhance competitiveness depends in large part on investment in research that helps the industry manage costs and increase efficiency. 

Research will also play a critical role in supporting the industry’s Canadian Beef Advantage and value proposition to provide high quality grain-fed beef and be a global leader in animal health and food safety. 

Research will continue to be the underpinning for the industry to take a leadership role in informing regulation and advocacy areas such as food safety, animal health practices, animal care and the environment. Research will play an increasingly important role in the area of expanding beef exports and trade, to inform science-based regulations and trade agreements. 

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