Attention Institutions: BCRC Call for Proposals for Research Chairs

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) invites proposals from leading research institutions for the establishment of Research Chairs. The deadline is October 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM MT.

Currently, a shortage of scientific experts and research capacity in some areas of beef, cattle and forage research are hindering the ability to conduct priority research that supports improvements in productivity and demand and responds to emerging issues. To fill these gaps, the BCRC is exploring options to establish Research Chairs in key areas with investment of Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off funding in partnership with other funders.

To procure the strongest opportunities for capacity development and encourage matching investments, Research Chair concepts will be considered through an open call for proposals.  The BCRC welcomes proposals that work towards the achievement of its three core research objectives:

  • To enhance industry competitiveness and reduce production costs, priority outcomes are to enhance feed and forage production, increase feed efficiency, and decrease the impact of animal health issues and production limiting diseases.
  • To improve beef demand and quality, priority outcomes are to reduce food safety incidences, define quality and yield benchmarks supporting the Canadian Beef Advantage, and improve beef quality through primary production improvements and the development and application of technologies to optimize cut-out values and beef demand.
  • To improve public confidence in Canadian beef, outcomes are to improve food safety, strengthen the surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance, develop effective antimicrobial alternatives, ensure animal care, demonstrate the safety and efficacy of new production technologies, improve environmental sustainability and measure the beef industry’s environmental benefits.

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What Makes Soil Healthy?


Photo credit to Cover Crops Canada

Soil health has been defined as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living system, within ecosystem and land-use boundaries, to sustain biological productivity, maintain the quality of air and water environments, and promote plant, animal, and human health”. The challenge with this poetic definition is that, while it does describe the functional abilities of soil, it does not provide quantifiable values or measurements. There are no metrics to determine what makes soil healthy or to help identify the current soil health status (i.e. is it healthy or does it still need work?).

Although most producers can agree that soil health is important, actual measurable values of what makes soil “healthy” will vary from farm to farm. Numerous research projects across the globe are working on gaining a better understanding of soil health and what that means for individual operations but have yet to come up with specific, global parameters other than the definition provided in 1996. This challenge makes sense – consider Canada for instance. Values for pH, salinity, water infiltration, and organic matter vary significantly across the country and what is considered “good” in one area may not be considered valuable in another region. Continue reading

Attention Researchers And Extension Agents: Deadline For BCRC LOIs Is 2 Weeks Away



The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) invite letters of intent (LOIs) for research projects as well as for technology transfer and production economics projects. The application deadline for these separate but concurrent calls is August 7, 2020 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of these two targeted calls is to achieve objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. These calls are made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces, along with funds provided and administered by ABP. Producer check-off funds allocated to approved projects will need to be leveraged by other industry or government cash contributions. Match leverage funding does not have to be confirmed at the time an LOI is submitted but must be in place prior to BCRC contracting an approved project.

Target outcomes have been clearly defined for both calls 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. Please refer to the target outcomes listed within the Call for Letters of Intent documents linked below before deciding whether to submit an LOI.

All call-related information can also be found at www.beefresearch.ca on the Forms and Downloads page.

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Bov-Innovation will Come to You this August in a New Online Format

Like everyone this year, the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and its industry counterparts have had to adjust their planned events. The BCRC is pleased to make their Bov-Innovation 2020 sessions available to even more producers and industry stakeholders with a free, virtual series open to anyone who registers for the Canadian Beef Industry Virtual Conference.  The conference is co-hosted by partners including the BCRC, Canada Beef, the Canadian Beef Breeds Council (CBBC), the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA). The door is open for this online event which will take place on August 11-13, 2020.  Links to recorded sessions will also be available to registrants to watch later at their convenience.

As part of the conference, Bov-Innovation will take place on Wednesday, August 12, 2020 and will include a virtual tour, a live question and answer segment, demonstrations, and more. Bov-Innovation is designed for producers with sessions focused on practical ideas, tips, and practices that are supported by science. There are two sessions this year, a Virtual Silvopasture Tour and a segment on Acing Your Next Feed Test: Continue reading

Feed Grains for Beef Cattle: New Web Page

Feed grains, such as corn, barley, oats, and wheat, are important for Canadian beef production. Cereals are used as forage, including silage, swath grazing, or baled green feed, however cereal grains are a particularly attractive energy and protein source for the feedlot sector because of their high nutritional value, competitive pricing, and ready supply. Continue reading

Meet the Council: Willingness to Adapt is Key for Managing Canadian Beef Operations

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is made up of producer members from across Canada, representing and appointed by each of the provincial beef organizations that allocate part of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off to research. The number of members from each province is proportional to the amount of provincial allocation to research.

The following is part one in a series to introduce you to this group of innovative thinkers that set BCRC’s direction by sharing practices, strategies, or technologies that they have integrated into their own operations.

Although located in different regions across the country, the following three producers all agree that being able to change and adapt is key when implementing new practices on their operation.

Rotating Wintering Sites in Treed Landscapes

Dean Manning – Nova Scotia

Dean and his family have a mixed farm in the Annapolis Valley near Falmouth, Nova Scotia. There they raise vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets and have a herd of 80 Angus crossbred cattle. Farming in this unique area, alongside all forms of agriculture from greenhouses and wineries to dairy and hogs, has provided the Mannings with opportunities and challenges. With a limited land base that is surrounded primarily by housing developments, the Mannings realized that to produce more they had to become more efficient as expansion is not an option. The advantage is that land is very productive, and the moisture received makes for favourable growing conditions for forages and other crops. Continue reading

Attention Researchers: Emissions Reduction Alberta has announced the $40 million Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge



Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) has announced the $40 million Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge. This funding opportunity will accelerate innovation in support of long-term competitiveness and stimulate growth in the critically important agriculture, agri-food, and forestry sectors. It provides near-term capital to innovators, while also identifying opportunities and solutions for longer term economic recovery, investment attraction, job creation, and emissions reduction.

The $40 million Food, Farming, and Forestry Challenge will assist farmers, ranchers, industry, innovators, and more as they work to ensure sustainable food and fibre supplies and navigate the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovation will lead to lower production and processing costs for food and fibre, leverage nature-based solutions to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and more. Continue reading

Corn Silage in Backgrounding Diets

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.

Recent columns indicated that corn’s potential to produce 50% higher silage (and starch) yields than barley may offset its 30% higher growing costs, provided the right corn hybrid is selected for the local growing conditions, and provided growing conditions cooperate. The higher starch content of corn silage also means that feedlot diets may need to be re-examined. If corn silage is supplying more starch to the diet, perhaps backgrounding diets can feed less barley grain, or maybe cattle can be backgrounded to heavier weights with a shorter grain finishing period, provided growth rates, feed conversion and carcass grade aren’t adversely affected.

Karen Beauchemin of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Lethbridge) recently published a Beef Cluster study examining whether replacing barley grain with corn silage in backgrounding diets impacted animal performance and carcass characteristics (Effects of feeding corn silage from short-season hybrids and extending the backgrounding period on production performance and carcass traits of beef cattle, doi:10.1093/jas/sky099). Continue reading

New Webpage: Forage Species



Forages are a major feed component for the cow-calf and backgrounding sectors of the beef industry, and are made up of grasses, legumes, forbs and shrubs. Eighty percent of a beef animal’s diet over its lifetime comes from forages.

Climate, local soil conditions and management objectives determine the best forage species and variety for each planting area and application. Forage crops add to the diversity and beauty of landscapes, provide habitat for wildlife, can play a role in soil improvement and water conservation, reduce erosion, and contribute to the carbon cycle as a carbon sink.

Most cultivated grasses grown in Canada, referred to as tame species, are introduced species from Europe or Asia that have been bred and adapted to perform in Canadian conditions. The unique characteristics that various species have will provide an advantage over other species under different growing conditions. Some grasses have superior adaptation to soil and climate conditions such as heat, drought, flooding, cold, salinity and acidity. The fibrous root systems of grasses stabilize soil and reduce erosion. Continue reading

Hooves not Harrows – Harnessing Cow Power to Rejuvenate Forages

As forage stands age, plant species composition shifts and production declines over time. There are many different methods of rejuvenating or renovating forage stands and strategies vary in intensity, effectiveness, and cost. Breaking old stands and re-seeding forages, while effective, is among the most expensive rejuvenation methods. More producers are opting to improve their older tame pastures and re-seed legumes using a key resource they already have on hand – their cattle herd.


Nerbas Brothers Angus use rotational and stockpiled grazing on their Manitoba farm. Photo courtesy of Twitter.com/NerbasBrosAngus

Arron Nerbas with Nerbas Brothers Angus explains how they take a “hooves not harrows” approach to improving older pastures. “We just try and use grazing as much as possible to take the mechanical component out of it,” explains Nerbas, who operates on his family’s multigenerational farm near Russell, Manitoba.

On Nerbas’ purebred and commercial Angus cow-calf operation, they have no cover crops or annual species and rely solely on perennial forages. Their goal is to try and graze as long as they can each season, and minimize the number of months they have cattle on winter feed, which is typically provided through bale grazing. Continue reading