Environmental Goods and Services: More Questions than Answers

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

11_cv_IMG_2961The beef industry takes pride in how forage, grazing and beef production benefit the environment. These environmental goods and services (EG&S) include carbon sequestration, plant and wildlife habitat, reduced soil erosion, watershed recharging, scenery, etc. While consumers pay for beef, the EG&S are free.

For instance, many ducks need grasslands and wetlands to nest and raise their young. Grasslands and wetlands also act like a sponge that absorbs excess moisture in wet years. A lot of grassland has been cultivated and/or wetlands drained to grow crops. This may have contributed to overland flooding and crop losses in recent wet years. If producers had been paid to preserve these grasslands and wetlands in recognition of the EG&S they provide (i.e. wildlife habitat and flood mitigation), would there have been fewer flood compensation payments? Continue reading

Bov-Innovation, unique extension sessions for beef producers, set for August 16

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is once again pleased to help power a unique event this summer. Bov-Innovation is scheduled to take place during the Canadian Beef Industry Conference, August 15-17, 2017 at the BMO Conference Centre on Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta.

beef extension presentationBov-Innovation is focused on sharing practical tools, innovations, and ideas that feedlot and cow-calf producers can readily implement on their operations. Speakers include scientists and industry experts alongside producers who have adopted technologies and methods. This year the audience can participate in three different Bov-Innovation sessions:

  • Genomics: Putting theory into practice for commercial cattle producers” with Matt Spangler, PhD, Extension Beef Genetics Specialist from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who will explain how producers can leverage genomic technology on their cattle operations.
  • Feed For Thought: Using feed analysis to balance rations and manage for mycotoxins” with a producer alongside John McKinnon, PhD, Beef Industry Chair from the University of Saskatchewan. This session will cover mycotoxins, nutritional requirements, and incorporating lab results to fine tune animal production parameters.
  • Dollars, Sense, and Fertility: Economic and reproductive factors of replacement heifer development,” presented by Kathy Larson, Western Beef Development Centre, and John Campbell, DVM, Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

These topics Continue reading

Making Dollars out of Sense

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

14_cwcv_IMG_2758_cAside from price insurance (in provinces where it is available), cow-calf producers can’t do much to control the price they receive for their calves, so managing input costs is often the biggest opportunity to improve profitability. The Western Beef Development Center has found that annual production costs differ by at least $100 per cow between the 25% lowest cost producers and the average producer. A 2015 Quebec report found a $79 per cow per year difference between a group of cow-calf operations with the highest margin and the average. In PEI, annual cost of production between the 10% highest and lowest cost operations differed by $660 per cow.

During BSE, drastic times called for drastic measures, and input costs were often cut as much as possible. But this may not be the best strategy for today’s more normal conditions. If it’s not done carefully, reducing inputs can harm profitability.

Feed is responsible for the biggest costs, including land, fuel, seed, and fertilizer to establish, grow, manage and graze or harvest pasture or winter feed. Investments to increase forage and feed yield and/or quality, through Continue reading

Ontario cow-calf survey deadline extended

ontario cow-calf production surveyOntario cow-calf producers, if you have not yet filled out the Ontario Cow-Calf Production Survey, you now have until May 31st.

The survey is 76 questions in length and should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. If at any time, you do not wish to answer a question you may leave it unanswered. If you don’t have an exact date or number for any of the questions asked, a best-estimate will suffice.

PLEASE COMPLETE THIS SURVEY ONLY ONCE, ONLINE OR VIA MAIL.

Every Ontario cow-calf producer is encouraged to complete the survey.

The purpose of the overall project is to gain a better understanding of the management practices, economics, disease rates and rate of technology adaptation on Ontario cow-calf farms and determine how well Ontario producers compete in Continue reading

Producing more with less for the world market: Raise your beef IQ

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As the Earth’s population increases and middle income classes rise in several developing regions, so does the demand for high quality protein.  In 2015, 1.22 million tonnes (carcass weight) of Canadian beef was produced for the world. That number rose to approximately 1.3 million tonnes in 2016, and is forecast to grow.

With ongoing research and adoption of new technologies, Canadian beef producers can sustainably increase production and help meet the global demand.

A recent study found that Continue reading

Copper deficiency takes heavy toll

Water testing can help prevent a wreck in reproductive performance

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Garret Hill, Duval, SK. Photo courtesy of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

Garret Hill couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Cattle had plenty of grass, clean water, a standard mineral mix in front of them, they appeared to be in good condition, yet conception rates among cows and heifers on his family’s central Saskatchewan ranch were declining.

This problem came to a head about six years ago. Their area around Duval, about an hour north of Regina, had experienced a succession of particularly wet growing seasons. There was plenty of grass and a relatively deep (150 foot) well on the farm supplied water to the herd as needed during the year.

“We didn’t know what was wrong,” says Hill, who along with brother Greg and other family members today run about a 1,000 head cow-calf operation. “But at that time we had about one-third of the cow herd open and it seemed to be increasing by about five per cent per year.  The problem was getting worse.” Continue reading

Better water = bigger calves: Raise your beef IQ

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A water source that is safe, palatable, and readily available is essential for animal survival, but there is also clear evidence that the accessibility of water impacts the productivity of cattle.

Dugouts are a common water source for range cattle in western Canada. When dugout water is pumped into troughs, pre-weaned calves gain more weight.

In a study done at the Western Beef Development Centre, cow-calf pairs were provided either direct access to a dugout or access to troughs of untreated water pumped from the same dugout.  Calves with cows that drank from the troughs gained on average 0.09 lbs per day more than calves with cows that only had direct access to the dugout. Pumping water resulted in an extra 18 lbs of weaning weight per calf during the trial. Continue reading

Attention researchers: SCAIDF call for proposals

scaThe Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association (SCA) has opened a call for proposals through the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association Industry Development Fund (SCAIDF). The deadline to provide research applications and any supporting documents is 5:00 pm CST on Friday, May 19th, 2017. 

More information on the SCA’s call for research proposals, including research priorities and application documents, can be found on their website: http://www.saskbeef.com/research.html.

For more information contact:

Marianne Possberg, MSc
Beef Production Specialist
Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association
production@saskbeef.com
Phone: 306-585-2333

Questioning the beef industry’s water use

April 22nd is Earth Day. Earth Day is recognized globally by people from all walks of life as a way to foster environmental respect and celebrate conservation.

cattle beef water useCattle producers across Canada chose to make their living as stewards of the land and certainly appreciate and depend on a healthy environment.  Earth Day is an excellent time for all of us in the industry to celebrate environmental achievements, and cultivate discussion about further advancement.

Let’s ask questions, seek answers and talk about how we can make continual improvements related to greenhouse gas and manure management, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, nutrient cycling and more.

Water conservation is a hot topic. As concerns rise about depletion of water resources both locally and globally, livestock production and other agriculture sectors are often criticized for water use.

What can the Canadian beef industry do to conserve water?

First we need to Continue reading