How to get new feedlot calves settled and gaining quickly; advice from producers, veterinarians and feedlot consultants

Getting calves settled, keeping them healthy and getting them gaining involves serious management that considers many variables. A successful program to keep these calves healthy and growing should involve co-operative consultation between the feeder, herd health veterinarian and the livestock nutritionist. Stress on calves is the number one offender and the degree of stress can vary widely between calves and loads of calves. If not managed properly, freshly weaned calves heading to a feed yard can be very susceptible to pneumonia and other illnesses.

While herd health veterinarians and feedlot production specialists can each have slightly different approaches to getting new feeders ramped up to the intended full-feed ration, all have a common starting point — get calves unloaded into a receiving pen, don’t over crowd them, make sure they have access to good quality grass hay, are drinking water, the lot is well bedded, and the cattle get a few hours of rest before processing.

It sounds like a simple enough plan when introducing newly weaned calves to the feed yard. But, to successfully get calves eating and gaining, ideally from day one, takes both planning and management. Continue reading

What’s in your (stock) water?



Beef producers often worry about having too much water or not enough on their farms. However water quality, particularly in fluctuating stock water sources, may go unnoticed. As the summer wears on, evaporation, low rainfall, and consumption can cause the quantity and quality of surface water to dwindle. Meanwhile, hot and dry conditions cause cattle to be at their peak water demand.

“Poor quality drinking water is often a factor that limits intake,” said Leah Clark, livestock specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “When we limit intake we limit production,” she explained in a recent webinar, adding that poor stock water quality can impact animal performance through reduced gains and decreased reproductive success. In severe cases, water quality issues can lead to disease and death. Testing stock water may be particularly important during a drought, when minerals and nutrients can become concentrated as water tables drop in surface or ground water.

Recent producer surveys indicate most Canadian farmers need to test water more often. In western Canada, 59% of producers reported they don’t test their water, and only 17-41% of Quebec and Ontario producers reported testing water once every five years.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

New Web Page: Extended Grazing

Editor’s note: Relevant and up-to-date information that had been available on Foragebeef.ca is gradually being added to BeefResearch.ca. (More information). The new Extended Grazing page, which is previewed below, is one example. Further webpages will be added or updated on BeefResearch.ca to include the valuable content from Foragebeef.ca, 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. Continue reading