Reminder: Mentorship program applications due May 1st!

Applications for the 2019-20 term of the BCRC Beef Researcher Mentorship Program are now being accepted.  The deadline to apply is May 1, 2019.

Four researchers were selected to participate in the program this past year. Each was paired with two mentors – an innovative producer and another industry expert – for a one year term (ending July 31, 2019). Each of the researchers have reported very successful and valuable experiences through the opportunities provided, including:

    • Establishing partnerships with industry and other researchers to further their research programs
    • Meeting several producers and industry leaders with whom they ask questions and have meaningful discussions about cattle production, beef quality and safety, and the Canadian beef value chain
    • Attending industry events and touring farms and ranches to better understand the impacts, practicalities and economics of adopting research results

The BCRC is excited to continue the program and invite applications from upcoming and new applied researchers in Canada whose studies are of value to the beef industry, such as cattle health and welfare, beef quality, food safety, genetics, feed efficiency, or forages. A new group of participants will begin their mentorships on August 1st.

The Beef Researcher Mentorship Program launched in August 2014 to facilitate greater engagement of upcoming and new applied researchers with Canada’s beef industry.

Learn more about the program and **download an application form at: http://www.beefresearch.ca/about/mentorship-program.cfm**

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Exceptional Forages for Marginal Lands

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


Side Oats Gramma photo courtesy of Agriculture Agri-Food Canada

Tame forages often outperform native species in head-to-head comparisons under optimal growing conditions. This may not be the case on “marginal land,” with its tougher environments, poorer soil, rougher topography, harsher climates, and precipitation extremes. Beef production is expected to rely more and more on marginal land, at least while returns from cash crops exceed those from cow-calf production.

Beef Cluster research led by Mike Schellenberg (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Swift Current), Eric Lamb (University of Saskatchewan) and a team of graduate students has been examining Western Canadian native plants since 2009. Some results from this study were published in 2018 (“Mixtures of native perennial forage species produce higher yields than monocultures in a long-term study”; Canadian Journal of Plant Science 98:633-647).

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Reminder: Nominations for Outstanding Researcher due May 1st



The Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation is presented by the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) each year to recognize a researcher or scientist whose work has contributed to advancements in the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry.

Nominations are welcome from all stakeholders of the Canadian beef industry and will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of beef producers, industry experts and retired beef-related researchers located across the country.

Nominations will be kept on file and re-considered for up to two additional years. In such cases, the nominator will be contacted each year and given the opportunity to revise the nomination.

To be eligible, nominees must be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants actively involved in research of benefit to the Canadian beef industry within the past 5 years. Benefit to the industry must be evident in a strong research program aligned with industry priorities, a demonstrated passion and long-term commitment through leadership, teamwork, and mentorship, involvement in ongoing education and training (where applicable), and active engagement with industry stakeholders.

Nominations for the 2019 award will be accepted until May 1, 2019.

The 2019 award will be presented at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in August.

Past recipients of the Canadian Beef Industry Award for Outstanding Research and Innovation are:

Learn more and find the nomination form at http://www.beefresearch.ca/about/award.cfm

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Stored Forages: Hay, Greenfeed and Silage

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 Stored Forages 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.

Feed is the major input cost in cattle production, therefore producers must evaluate the cost of production for all stored forage systems.

The objective of harvesting any type of forage for storage is to preserve resources produced in the summer months in order to provide winter feed for livestock when grazing is not feasible or accessible. It is essential to harvest forage at the appropriate time, based upon nutritional quality, forage yield and climatic conditions, and then to store it properly to reduce losses.

Stage of plant maturity at cutting is the most important factor influencing hay quality. Young, vegetative forage is higher in protein and energy than older, flowering material. As forages mature, stem is increased in the total forage mass and the leaf-to-stem ratio is reduced. As a result, fibre increases while protein and digestibility decreases. Continue reading

Alfalfa is nothing to fear with simple, proper management

Editor’s note: The following is part 2 of two-part series. See part 1.


Photo supplied by Ryan Boyd

The secret — if it is a secret — to pasturing cattle on alfalfa is to follow a few simple management steps to reduce the risk of bloat, say producers from across the country, who for years claim good success by including the forage legume in pasture mixes.

Straight alfalfa stands can be managed quite well, but most producers today are favouring alfalfa/grass forage blends. They are very productive, produce excellent rates of gain on cattle, help to reduce the bloat risk, and also provide important biodiversity. Biodiversity benefits the cattle in providing a range of crops that mature at different times and can handle varying growing conditions, as well as biodiversity to benefit soil health.

The main “not to do” message is don’t turn somewhat hungry cattle into a pre-bloom high percentage stand of alfalfa and leave them to selectively graze the lush leaves. If there is a heavy dew or rain as well, it creates a perfect storm for bloat.

The key “to do” messages include making sure cattle move onto alfalfa pastures with a full gut and the forage stand is dry. Introduce them to lusher forage gradually by limiting the amount of area they have access to in a day, and force them to eat the whole plant including stems and not just leaves. Other “to do” strategies that some producers use — supply a bloat-control agent in cattle drinking water, make some dry hay available as well, as the fibre in hay reduces the risk of gas build up in the rumen, and include low-bloat forage legumes such as sainfoin in the pasture mix.

It is important to apply some basic management principles to capitalize on the benefits of having alfalfa in a grazing program. As grazing research summarized in Part 1 has confirmed over the years, not including alfalfa in pasture mixes can be like leaving money on the table.

Here is what producers from across the country had to say about how alfalfa is managed in their grazing programs: Continue reading

Fear of bloat costs more money than actual cases of bloat do

High protein forage can increase rates of gain, benefit soil

Editor’s note: The following is part 1 of a two-part series. Stay tuned for alfalfa grazing tips from cattle producers from across the country in part 2.

Respect it, but don’t fear it. That’s the message from cattle producers and beef specialists alike who through years of experience and research appreciate the value of grazing cattle on pure or percentage stands of alfalfa.

Properly managed alfalfa makes good pasture with several added benefits, including:

  • Improved weight gains on all classes of cattle (gains of 1.5 to 2 or more pounds per day can be expected);
  • adding fertility to the soil with a nitrogen-fixing crop;
  • creating a hedge against poor forage production during dryer growing seasons; and
  • increasing plant biodiversity to benefit soil health.

Yes, there are circumstances when turning cattle into a lush stand of alfalfa at the wrong time and perhaps with the wrong class of cattle can result in bloat. But paying attention to a few production and management principles can greatly reduce the risk of bloat and provide producers the opportunity to capture the benefits. Continue reading

Feeling Better About Castration

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

When Canada’s 2013 Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle was being developed, some participants felt it should require pain control for castration at all ages, like the dairy code. The producers and researchers on the beef Code committee were confident that pain control was beneficial for feedlot bulls and dairy calves but were concerned that there was no research showing whether nursing beef calves and individually-housed dairy calves respond to castration or pain relief the same way.

In the end, the 2013 beef Code required that castration be performed by an experienced person using proper, clean, well-maintained equipment and accepted techniques. Producers are expected to seek guidance from their veterinarian on the optimum method and timing of castration, as well as the availability and advisability of pain control drugs for castrating beef cattle. Calves must be castrated as young as practically possible, and pain control is required when castrating bulls older than six months of age. Continue reading

What happens when the manure hits the field?



Nutrients from agriculture can be lost to the atmosphere as gaseous emissions such as ammonia, nitrous oxide, nitric oxide and dinitrogen.  Other forms of nutrients, such as nitrates, may also be lost by leaching down into soils and possibly entering aquifers, or as organic molecules and solutes that can runoff into surface waters. These nutrient losses can pose risks to the environment and public health, and to society in general and because of this, the livestock sector is often under public scrutiny for its role in nutrient management. Producers who improve their on-farm nutrient management methods stand to benefit by reducing fertilizer use through incorporating nitrogen-fixing legumes, or extending their grazing to minimize manure spreading costs and gaseous losses.
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