Q&A on conventional production of Canadian beef

Updated with additional links July 4, 2018

Do growth promoting, antimicrobial or other veterinary drugs affect the food safety of Canadian beef?

Veterinary drugs are regulated by the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. All veterinary drugs go through a Health Canada approval process before they are licensed for use.  The Health Canada Veterinary Drug Directorate (VDD) evaluates and monitors the safety, quality and effectiveness, and sets standards for the use of veterinary drugs to ensure that, when used according to label directions, they are safe for both animals and humans.

For a more detailed explanation of the veterinary drug approval process in Canada, visit Continue reading

Try these weaning techniques for more productive calves this fall

It won’t be long before it’s time to wean calves so that cows can head into winter in good body condition.  The abrupt separation of calves from their dams is the most common approach to weaning, but it’s also the most stressful, and calves that experience a lot of stress underperform.

It’s easy to see why weaning is stressful on calves; sudden deprivation of milk and social contact with mothers, being handled for vaccinations, changes to feed and water sources, and transportation to a different environment with unfamiliar pen mates is a lot for young animals to cope with. The stress calves experience through weaning depresses their immune systems, making freshly weaned calves the most susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) infections. Stressed calves also have lower feed intakes. Listening to their bawling, seeing them pace in their pens and dealing with sick calves is no doubt stressful on producers too.

This article outlines some ideas to keep stress at a minimum during weaning.  Understanding the principle of low-stress weaning allows producers to wean calves in whatever ways work best on their operation while enjoying the benefits of reduced incidence of disease in calves, reduced costs and time spent on treatments, better weight gain, and a quieter barnyard. Continue reading

Ergot spotted in Western Canada -keep an eye out

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers.

The cool, wet conditions across parts of the country this spring, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, may have created the perfect environment for ergot.  While virtually unheard of a decade or two ago, veterinarians and researchers agree that problems with ergot are clearly on the rise in the prairies.

What is ergot?

Ergot is a plant disease caused by the Claviceps purpurea fungus.  Although traditionally associated with rye and triticale, ergot also affects wheat, barley, and a variety of grasses including bromegrass, quackgrass, wheatgrass, orchardgrass, wild rye, and bluegrasses. Continue reading

Q&A on the science that informed a renewed Beef Code

Following an extensive process that began in 2010, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle is now available. The Beef Code is an important tool for the Canadian beef cattle industry to educate producers and to support the industry when challenged by animal care concerns. The previous edition of the Beef Code was published in 1991.

The renewal process was led by National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and followed the NFACC code development process set out for the different species of farmed animals. Continue reading

Sustainable Beef

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

“Sustainability” means different things to different people. To some, it means being able to pass a healthy business on to the next generation. To others, sustainability is about caring for the environment. Some define sustainability as maintaining society’s approval and confidence in how cattle are raised and beef is produced. They’re all partly right. Sustainability is like a three legged stool, supported by economic viability, environmental soundness and social responsibility. The stool won’t be very well balanced unless all three legs are roughly the right size.

In many cases, improvements in one aspect of sustainability contribute to improvements in other aspects. For example, economic viability and environmental responsibility appear to be very compatible.

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Save costs by fine-tuning mineral supplementation: two new videos

If animals’ mineral needs are not met, the results are costly, including decreased performance, disease resistance and reproduction. Mineral requirements for cattle depend on their weight, age, and expected performance (maintenance vs. weight gain vs. pregnancy) and mineral supplementation needs also depend on the feed, water and soil chemistry around the herd.

The two latest episodes of the Beef Research School feature Dr. John McKinnon, Beef Industry Research Chair and professor and researcher of cattle nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan. In part one, Dr. McKinnon explains the symptoms of mineral deficiency, how to choose a mineral feeding program that suits your herd, the economic advantage of investing in supplements, and tips for preventing over or under-consumption. Continue reading

Do DDGS affect feedlot cattle health?

Corn, wheat and other grains contain 68-70% starch, 10-13% protein, 2-4% oil, 2-3% fiber and 2% minerals. Bioethanol production only uses the starch from the grain. Therefore, the protein, oil, fiber, and minerals are much more concentrated in the dried distillers’ grains with solubles (DDGS) by-product than in the original grain.

DDGS may be incorporated into feedlot diets depending on cost and availability. Feeding DDGS may have positive or negative impacts on animal health. The increased sulfur concentration in DDGS may increase the risk of polioencephalomalacia (PEM), a nervous disorder that has been observed in both high grain diets and high sulfur diets.

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