Johne’s Disease: Cheap to Buy, Costly to Live With

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

“Biosecurity” often conjures up images of poultry or hog operations with truckers-report-at-the-gate signs, shower-in-and-out rules, and workers dressed in hazmat suits. The point of biosecurity practices is obviously to reduce the risk that disease causing microbes will enter or spread within high-health status herds or flocks.

It is much harder to implement high levels of biosecurity in beef operations. I’ve heard a cynic say that biosecurity only prevents diseases that are too big to fit between two strands of barbed wire. I stopped saying that when someone pointed out that most diseases aren’t coming through the fence. Most diseases are bought and paid for and come straight through an open gate along with the newly purchased cattle that are carrying them.

Let’s use Johne’s disease as an example. It’s relatively uncommon in Canadian beef herds but well worth avoiding due to its significant economic costs, animal welfare concerns and impact on the operation’s reputation. Cows with active Johne’s disease can’t absorb nutrients well. This results in chronic diarrhea and loss of body weight and body condition score. As with underfed cows, Johne’s disease results in later rebreeding, lighter calf weaning weights, and losing or culling cows before they have recouped their production costs. Continue reading

Dr. John Campbell receives 2019 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation

Calgary, AB – A leader in beef animal health and welfare has been awarded the 2019 Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation. Dr. John Campbell was honored tonight at the 2019 Canadian Beef Industry Conference, held in Calgary, Alberta.

L-R: Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director; Andrea Brocklebank, BCRC Executive Director; Dr. John Campbell, Award Recipient; Ryan Beierbach, BCRC Chair; Steve Hendrick, co-presenter and veterinarian at Coaldale Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Campbell is a professor and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. His work focuses on clinical research in beef cattle health management and the epidemiology of infectious diseases. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1985 and his Doctor of Veterinary Science in 1991 from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

Dr. Campbell has assisted producers, researchers, veterinarians, and policy makers across Canada with his numerous research projects on infectious diseases, such as respiratory disease and trichomoniasis, and industry-relevant issues, such as antimicrobial resistance and animal welfare. As the Head of the Disease Investigation Unit at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), he has led an effort to keep local veterinarians, provincial officials, and beef producers updated with the information they need to keep their cattle healthy.

Dr. Campbell was responsible for establishing the Western Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network and subsequently the national Canadian Cow-Calf Surveillance Network. Through this network, Dr. Campbell and his colleagues have been able to examine a variety of topics which help scientists from across Canada manage future research projects, identify emerging problems and evolving practices, and support beef producers as they manage production decisions in their herds.

“Dr. John Campbell embodies the spirit of cooperation and communication between academia and the cattle industry,” said Ryan Beierbach, Chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and producer near Whitewood, SK. “He maintains impactful and relevant research by staying actively engaged with cattle producers and is not afraid to get his hands dirty as he digs into the details to solve complex herd health and nutrition problems.” Continue reading

Announcing the Beef Researcher Mentorship Program 2019-2020 Participants

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is pleased to announce the participants in the 2019-20 Beef Researcher Mentorship program. Following an open application process, four researchers from across Canada have been selected. Each has been paired with notable leaders in the Canadian beef industry and given a travel budget for the coming year, which will provide valuable opportunities for greater engagement with Canada’s beef industry.

Mentee: Dr. Aklilu Alemu
Mentors: Brenna Grant and the Fleming family

Dr. Aklilu Alemu is a scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre. He is developing a Canadian whole-farm model called Holos that helps to implement a holistic approach in evaluating changes in management practices and its impact on total farm greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Alemu aspires to play a role in the development of sustainable cattle production strategies through practical research and technology transfer. Dr. Alemu began his career in Ethiopia with a Diploma and a B.Sc. degree in Animal Production and Rangeland Management, followed by an M.Sc. in Ruminant Nutrition at the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. in Animal Science from the University of Manitoba. Last year, he completed a postdoc at Lethbridge Research and Development Centre.

 Brenna Grant
is the manager of Canfax Research Services (CRS). She grew up in SW Saskatchewan on a cow/calf, yearling grasser operation where her family still operates. She received a B.A. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Saskatchewan and a Master’s in Applied Economics from Montana State University.  She has been with CRS since 2007. Canfax Research Services focuses on global and long-term outlooks; performance measurement for marketing and research; economic and market research. Canfax Research Services completed the first economic assessment of the Canadian beef industry for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

The Fleming family own and operate Fleming Stock Farms located west of Granum in Southern Alberta. Duncan, Cecilie and their adult children Cooper and Ricki, along with her husband Justin Pittman, have a passion for Angus cattle. Duncan has worked in the purebred cattle sector for 45 years; as a breeder, a fitter and as a livestock judge. Cecilie is the founding Adult Liaison to the Alberta Junior Angus Association (AJAA) and was instrumental in empowering the youth to step up to the plate and take ownership of their area of the Angus industry. Cecilie has served the Alberta Angus Association for 6 years of which 3 years were as President. Currently Cecilie is a director of the Canadian Angus Foundation and the chair of the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program.

Mentee: Dr. Marianne Villettaz Robichaud
Mentors: Nathalie Côté and Giacomo Zoia

Dr. Marianne Villettaz Robichaud is an assistant professor in animal welfare in the department of Clinical Sciences of the Faculty de Veterinary Medicine of St-Hyacinthe at the University of Montreal. Her research interests are on-farm improvements of production animal welfare, early detection and prevention of diseases, and management of at-risks animals including veal calves and cull animals. She has a B.Sc. in Agronomy and M.Sc. in Animal Sciences from the University of Laval and Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Guelph. She recently completed a postdoc on the associations between cow welfare and economics with the University of Laval, University of British Columbia (UBC) and McGill University.

Nathalie Côté is the VBP+ Program Coordinator for the sustainable beef program for cow-calf and feeder production. She is also the coordinator of the Verified Veal Program, the On-Farm Food Safety Program for Milk Production and the Certified Quebec Grain Calf Program. Ms. Côté has a Bachelor’s degree in General Agronomy from MacDonald College, McGill University, and since 1993, has held various positions in the marketing and union life of the Federation of Quebec Cattle Producers (FPBQ). She has held the position of Quality and Environmental Management Advisor since 2001. Ms. Côté is regularly asked to take part in cattle production days and the training course for future agronomists at the University of Laval and McGill University.

Giacomo Zoia
has been working on the family farm since he was 10. After studying farm business management, he came on as a partner in the family business in 2016.  La Ferme Bœufs des Patriotes Inc. specializes in beef production and field crops. At full capacity, they produce 1000 head of beef per year. For the past two years, they have been specializing in beef heifer feeding. Animal welfare is a priority for them. They also produce corn, soybeans and wheat on 540 acres. On the farm, Giacomo is responsible for monitoring of the TMR, checking animal health and keeping records.

Mentee: Matthew Links
Mentors: Feedlot Health Management Services and Sean McGrath

Dr. Matthew Links is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan. Matthew’s research program is focused at the intersection of the computer and life sciences. During his university education Matthew pursued an interdisciplinary education that gave him a diverse background that runs from computer science through to veterinary microbiology. He has been involved in many genomics projects that touch on human, plant and animal health. The research program conducted in his lab is focused on both the wet-lab and computational methods required to understand the interactions between animals and the microbes that live in or on them. Matthew has a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Computer Science from the University of Saskatchewan, an M.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the University of Windsor, and a Ph.D. in Microbial Profiling Using Metagenomic Assembly from the University of Saskatchewan.

Feedlot Health Management Services
is a feedlot consulting service based out of Okotoks, Alberta. Feedlot Health works with feedlots and calf grower operations to determine ways to optimize production efficiency and overall animal health. Their innovation and research is designed to support data-based decision making for feedlot and calf grower clients. They work closely with pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, feed companies and other beef industry organizations.

Sean McGrath 
is a 5th generation rancher who together with wife Tanya and their family manage a 112-year-old operation breeding roughly 300 females each year and custom grazing another 200 pairs in the summertime. The ranch markets purebred and commercial cattle as well as grass finished beef and is structured around grazing. In 2014 the ranch was awarded the provincial and national TESA award. Sean also provides consulting services to the beef industry, primarily focusing on livestock genetics and ranch/range management. Sean writes for several beef industry publications and through his company markets electric fencing supplies, forage seed and range monitoring education and tools.

Mentee: Dr. Peipei Zhang
Mentors: Scott Entz and Cathy Sharp

Dr. Peipei Zhang is a research scientist under the postdoctoral research program with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lacombe Research and Development Centre. Her expertise is using next-generation sequencing technique to solve meat microbiology related issues. Peipei’s current research is mainly focused on the improvement of meat shelf-life using biopreservative strategies, understanding of the persistence mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria, for example, E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, in meat production chain and development of potential interventions to control pathogenic bacteria on meat. Peipei has a B.Sc. in Animal Science from Qingdao Agricultural University, an M.Sc. in Preventative Veterinary Medicine from Zhengjiang University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Science from the University of Tasmania.

Scott Entz
has spent his entire career, over 30 years, with Cargill and in various roles within the meat industry. He has held the leadership role for Cargill Meat’s North American Engineering team, Information Technology, and led Cargill Further Processing Meats business. During 2007-2008, he worked out of Cargill Corporate in Minneapolis as one of 24 Cargill leaders from 82 different businesses around the world that evaluated the viability and developed a strategy to leverage common processes and systems across Cargill Inc., resulting in the launch of what is the largest project in Cargill’s history, spanning over 10 years. In 2008, he moved back to Alberta and into the role of Vice-President and General Manager in High River.  Other roles in industry currently include Executive Board member of CMC and past president, participating in Beef Industry’s Strategy advisor board, and various role supporting ALMA.

Cathy Sharp
has been involved with beef organizations for the past 14 years. Sitting as a delegate on the Alberta Beef Producer Organization she was involved with the marketing and promotion committee, zone coordinator and board member. Cathy is not only involved provincially but nationally as well. She is a board member and executive board member on the Canadian Cattleman’s Association and has chaired the Audit Committee and Value Creation Committee in recent years.  Currently she co-chairs the newly created Food Policy Committee and sits on the Foreign Trade Committee.  During her tenure on Beef Cattle Research Council the Growing Forward 2 Science Cluster Research projects were finalized. In 2015 Cathy had the opportunity to be a mentor for the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program.  Cathy really values what she has learned and the many friendships she has made throughout Canada.  Helping to make the beef industry stronger in Canada is challenging but so rewarding.

The Beef Researcher Mentorship Program provides upcoming and new applied researchers with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the needs of the beef industry in practical and meaningful ways. Participants are paired with innovative cattle producers and other industry professionals for a one year mentorship along with a travel budget to attend industry meetings, producer workshops, and farm tours. The program complements similar programs in existence but for which some researchers may not be eligible. Funding is made available in part through the technology transfer initiative within the Beef Science Cluster.

Learn more about the Beef Researcher Mentorship program, including highlights from past participants, at

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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,, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at

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


New Web Page: Extended Grazing

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

Methods to extend the grazing season, including stockpiled perennial forages, use of annual forages, crop residues, and bales left in the field, have considerable economic and environmental benefits over traditional winter-feeding systems. Well managed systems reduce or eliminate labour, feed harvesting, transport and delivery, and manure handling. These systems also allow for flexibility in returning nutrients back to the land instead of concentrating animals in pens. However, the ability to implement a winter grazing system is dependent on a number of variables including water availability, snow conditions, provision of shelter, and forage use by wildlife.

As with all winter management scenarios, caution is required when managing calves, young cows, thin cows and cows with calves, as they require higher levels of energy and management than mature dry cows.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the economic and environmental benefits of extended grazing systems. Costs of production are reduced compared to more traditional winter feeding in confinement, along with benefits to the environment and agronomic performance due to improved soil fertility and forage yields. Barriers for adoption expressed by producers include too much snow, lack of a winter water source, cold weather, feed waste, animal welfare and animal performance, all potential risks which must be carefully monitored and managed.

Extended grazing methods include:

  • Stockpiled perennials
  • Grazing annual small grain cereals
  • Swathgrazing
  • Corn grazing
  • Brassica crops
  • Grazing crop residues
  • Bale grazing

For any type of extended grazing system to be successful, good management is needed to keep cattle healthy and in good condition. Forage quality, fencing, water and shelter are important elements that need to be carefully planned.

To learn more about extended grazing 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,, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at

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

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

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) announced in June that we invite 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 objectives in the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. These new calls for research and technology transfer LOIs are made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces. Continue reading

Beef’s Place in a Healthy Environment: Infographic

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) Continue reading

Join Us Next Month in Calgary!

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. Continue reading

VBP+ welcomes $602,250 CAP funding to support program advancement


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.

Continue reading

The Red Meat Allergy: A Canadian Perspective

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. Continue reading

Rejuvenation of Hay and Pasture: New Web Page

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on is gradually being added to (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 to include the valuable content from, 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.

Continue reading