Video: How research can help with challenges in the beef sector

Whether our industry thrives is determined by the profitability of raising cattle and consumer demand for Canadian beef. Grain prices, which are projected to continually rise, and gradually declining red meat consumption per capita in Canada yet expanding markets overseas will be major influences in the future of the Canadian beef sector. How will government funded research and innovation help to overcome long term challenges?

The following presentation outlines Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research capacity and partnerships, describes examples of noteworthy research underway, and explains how that work can help benefit the industry.

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Economically increasing forage production

If you’re in need of more hay or pasture land, your options are to:

  1. Purchase hay from another producer
  2. Buy or rent more hayland or pasture acres
  3. Rejuvenate the acres you’ve got through
    • Chemical fertilizer,
    • Organic fertilizer, and/or
    • Incorporating legumes
  4. Re-establish acres by tilling and reseeding

Which option is the most economical?

We’ve conducted a review of past research on increasing forage production with a greater focus on hay production for winter feed. Here’s the highlights of what we found: Continue reading

Cold Enough for You?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission.

Red Deer, Alberta had three times as much snow as normal last November and December. This winter brought more snow and cold to the rest of Canada as well. Canfax reports that low temperatures contributed to a 35lb drop in Western Canada’s January carcass weights compared to January 2013. If low temperatures can impact bedded feedlot cattle sheltered by a porosity fence and fed a high energy finishing diet… how has it affected your cows?

Cold and wind: In 1970, the University of Alberta showed that cows could tolerate -26oC without increasing their heat production, provided they were in good condition, had a good hair coat, a good diet, and there was no wind (Can. J. Anim. Sci. 50:563). But wind changes the picture considerably. Cows need to produce 20% more heat at -20oC with an 8mph wind than at -26oC with no wind, and nearly 30% more heat at -20oC with a 12mph wind. Continue reading

When is artificial insemination more economical in beef herds?

Although artificial insemination (AI) of cattle has been possible for 60 years, this technology has not been used widely in the Canadian beef industry.  Genetic evaluation of beef bulls has improved considerably in recent years, making bull selection more objective and reliable.  Sexed semen, expected progeny differences (EPDs) and the ability to select for specific traits identified through DNA markers are now available. Recent scientific studies have also greatly increased our understanding of reproductive function in cattle and have improved our ability to regulate their reproductive cycles.

The true costs of natural service are often underestimated. Buying bulls rather than semen packages is less economical in some cases, even with commercial cattle.  By evaluating the costs and benefits of natural service versus AI, producers can determine which program (or combination) will Continue reading