Narrowing in on Johne’s Disease

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

Johne’s disease is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, or MAP) that was discovered in 1895 by a heavily bearded, bespectacled bacteriologist from Dresden named Henrich Albert Johne. When a cow develops persistent, watery, smelly hosepipe diarrhea, and progressively loses weight and body condition even though her appetite is normal and she isn’t running a temperature, she may have Johne’s disease. But it can be hard to know for sure.

Young calves, which are more susceptible to infection than older animals, are often infected with MAP through colostrum, milk or manure. The animal will look perfectly normal, while silently shedding MAP in its own colostrum, milk or manure for a few years before full-blown signs of disease appear. As a result, Johne’s disease is often compared to an iceberg – by the time you see an obviously sick animal, there will be a much larger hidden population of MAP-infected cattle that haven’t become sick yet. Continue reading

Bull Selection: What are you looking for?

Editor’s note: The following is part two of a four-part series that will help you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth. (See part one).

Bull selection is one of the most important decisions for cow-calf producers, with implications for short- and long-term profitability of the operation. The choice of bull can be immediately seen in the subsequent calf crop.

If the operation retains heifers and/or bulls, the genetics in the selected bull will be passed down to subsequent generations. Introducing new genetics is a permanent change to the herd, compared to the temporary nature of supplements or management practices. As such, bull selection can be seen as a long-term investment into the operation.

Research in the area of beef cattle genetics has been growing significantly. There are opportunities to improve profitability through sire selection. However, with a multitude of traits, breed differences, operational goals, and management practices, bull selection is a complex decision. Continue reading

Bull Selection: Breeding programs that suit operational goals

Editor’s note: The following is part one of a four-part series that will help you to evaluate different breeding programs, which bulls are optimal for your herd, and how much they’re worth.

There are a range of different beef operations in Canada, and there is no one breeding program that is optimal for all operations. Breeding programs will be determined by operational goals and the management practices that fit those goals.

Here are some examples.

A producer that sells weaned calves at auction may choose a crossbreed program with high calving ease and a focus on performance gained from hybrid vigour; or they may prefer the uniformity of a purebred program with reputation premiums.

A producer that retains heifers and is looking for maternal replacements may be focused on maximizing the performance through inbreeding and outcrossing within a single breed; or they may develop FI crosses with higher reproductive performance and longevity.

These choices may be limited by the number of breeding fields available or the number a producer is willing to manage. There are a variety of breeding programs available, and effective sire selection requires an understanding of the characteristics of the available genetics as well as your own operation. Continue reading

Grazing Management

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 Grazing Management webpage, 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.




Effective grazing management on pastures not only ensures high forage yield, sustainability, animal health and productivity, all of which impact cost of production, it also benefits the pasture ecosystem.  Innovations in pasture management give producers greater control to support the environment (e.g. biodiversity) but also allow them to better use pasture resources for food production.

Pasture is a critical resource in the cattle industry. An effective management plan requires clear understanding of forage production, realistic production goals, effective grazing strategies and timely response to forage availability and environmental changes. Managing grazing lands so that they are productive and persist over time requires knowing when to graze certain species, if they can withstand multiple grazings/cuttings within a single year and how much recovery time is needed to prevent overgrazing. Continue reading

Adaptive Grazing Management and How it Can Increase Your Pasture Productivity Webinar: February 12



Adaptive grazing is a flexible grazing system that increases the productivity and performance of pastures. This system can benefit all types of operations and management intensities by mimicking the disruptive manner of natural grazing patterns through the use of grazing and rest periods.



Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete. Continue reading

How to Increase your Odds of Having Healthy Calves



Calving is a natural process, but sometimes disease, weather, and many other factors can cause stress. How can beef producers best prepare newborn calves to get a healthy start? What are some effective ways to enable calves to be resilient against bugs like bacteria, viruses or other pathogens they will encounter? How can farmers and ranchers manage disease if and when it strikes?

“Having healthy calves takes planning,” said Dr. Claire Windeyer, Assistant Professor in Cattle Health at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Program. Windeyer shared a number of useful ideas during two previous webinars, Management During Calving Season for Healthier, More Productive Calves and Managing Young Calves to Prevent Disease. Many practices can be implemented on-farm immediately and there are links below to particular segments of the video. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolution: Get Better Grades

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

Youthful carcasses from feedlot-finished cattle are graded for yield (amount of meat in the carcass) and quality (marbling score). Federal grading began during World War II to ensure quality standards during wartime price controls. Canada’s last major beef grading change occurred in the early 1990s, when Canada added quality grades to the grading system.

Canadian and US beef quality grades are quite similar (i.e. A vs. USDA Standard, AA vs. USDA Select, AAA vs. USDA Choice and Canada Prime vs. USDA Prime), but Canadian and US yield grades currently predict different things. Canada’s three yield grades predict “lean meat yield” (the percentage of red meat in the entire carcass). This essentially estimates the edible part of the carcass, at least for those consumers who trim the external and seam fat from their steaks and roasts and drain their ground beef. In contrast, the US has five yield grades (YG1 to YG5) that predict the “retail yield” of the four largest primal cuts (chuck, rib, loin and round) that make up 81% of the beef carcass. Unlike Canada’s lean meat yield, US retail yields account for the fact that beef sold in retail stores still carries some fat trim, as well as regular, medium and lean ground beef. The differences between Canada’s lean yield and US retail yield grades has caused some confusion and frustration in cross-border trade.

On January 15, Canada will change from three “lean meat yield” grades to five “retail yield” grades. Because both the definition of yield and the number of yield grades are changing, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research & Development Centre worked with commercial packers in Canada to assess how the distribution of Canada’s yield grades may change when the new system is adopted. Continue reading

Veterinary insights from across Canada: Webinar January 15

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm



Here’s your chance to ask burning vet-related questions! A panel of veterinarians from across Canada will discuss some of the most common issues they see in their region, including pink eye, foot rot, reproductive issues and more!



Registering on your smartphone? After you click ‘I am not a robot’, scroll up until you find the task to complete. Continue reading