The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) welcomes today’s announcement by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Minister Gerry Ritz of $14 million in funding for the Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster under Growing Forward 2. Joint industry and government commitments to the second Beef Science Cluster will total $20 million, including $5 million in funding from the research allocation of the National Check-off and direct investments by provincial governments and provincial beef industry groups. Funding will be directed to 26 research studies to be completed by March 31, 2018.
The second Beef Science Cluster will build on the successful momentum of the first. Investments are focused on a portfolio of research that contributes to the industry’s ability to meet the growing global demand for high quality, safe beef through responsible and profitable production practices that support a sustainable future for the Canadian beef cattle industry. Investments in the second Science Cluster will lead to several benefits.
To maintain or improve competitiveness in the production of beef cattle, research examines issues related to animal health, feed efficiency and feed grain and forage production. One research activity under the second Science Cluster will implement a longitudinal disease surveillance network for cow-calf operations in western Canada that could be readily accessed to provide timely and efficient answers to a variety of emerging research questions, such as biosecurity practices, economics of production limiting diseases, animal welfare practices, antibiotic use, and herd nutrition and management.
Another study will develop barley and triticale varieties with a focus on enhanced feed quality, yield and disease resistance for both grain and annual forage production. The project will also work to develop a collaborative program between public plant breeding programs in western Canada with other international centers.
Investments in research are critical to support science-based policy, regulation and trade. For example, antimicrobial use and resistance have received considerable negative, inaccurate attention from the media, activist groups and legislators throughout North America. Research within the second Science Cluster will evaluate the potential contribution of beef cattle to antimicrobial resistance. Findings of this study help to identify appropriate on-farm intervention points for the control of antimicrobial resistance with greater relevance for human health therapeutics, therefore improving food safety along the food supply chain. This research is important in continuing the leadership role that the Canadian beef industry has taken in promoting good antimicrobial stewardship within feedlot production systems.
Another research study will study the effect of age and handling of beef cattle on pain, as well as pain mitigation during routine management procedures. The study will provide the scientific knowledge required to make sound, practical management recommendations that may be included in the national Beef Code of Practice, and abate public pressure that can lead to unsound recommendations. This research is timely as public pressure mounts and the only related research currently available was conducted on dairy calves, which may not relate to beef cattle because of significant differences in typical production methods.
Results of beef research are necessary for science-based public education and advocacy to address public concerns in modern beef production, including environmental impact and animal welfare practices. One study will define the environmental footprint of the Canadian beef industry with recognition of the role of cattle production in the provision of healthy ecosystems, the ability of beef cattle to convert low quality forages into high quality protein for human consumption, that pasture lands are major stores of carbon, and that grasslands preserve wetlands and provide habitat to many species at risk. The report findings will make an important contribution to presenting a balanced perspective of the environmental footprint of beef production at regional, national, and international levels.
Programs that support the Canadian Beef Advantage value proposition that Canadian beef is a high quality, safe, responsibly produced product deemed superior over our competitors’ by consumers is also a priority to the industry and government. Another National Beef Quality Audit will measure improvements made since the previous audit, as well as ongoing defect issues in order to identify areas that require production or research improvements to increase the value of the carcass. Another example is the continuation of work initiated under the first Beef Science Cluster that will lead to improved education for packing plants on effective food safety procedures that are practical and cost-effective.
Research programs must be cognizant of the value of maintaining professional capacity to conduct long-term research. In the Canadian beef industry, research capacity related to forage and grassland productivity is of particular concern. Several research studies proposed under the second Science Cluster will focus on training and mentorship as a major part of the forage breeding, establishment or utilization program.
While beef producers have demonstrated that they are eager to adopt new innovations when it makes sense for their operation, technology transfer has clearly diminished in recent years due in large part to government cuts in extension professionals and programming. In order to reconnect the lines of communication between researchers and industry stakeholders using limited resources, a long term Knowledge Dissemination and Technology Transfer strategy was developed and initiated under the first Science Cluster. During the second Science Cluster, the BCRC will continue to deliver regular communication to industry through its new extension website, www.beefresearch.ca, and expand their efforts through mediums such as videos, webinars and cost of production decision making tools. A greater emphasis will also be placed on promoting and enabling the engagement of researchers with industry.
Stay tuned to the BCRC Blog for details on each of the 26 research studies funded by the second Beef Science Cluster.
The research program under the second Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster was established through an extensive process initiated by the development of a comprehensive National Beef Research Strategy. The development of the national strategy was led by the BCRC and the national Beef Value Chain Roundtable and involved the participation of key stakeholders and major beef research funders across Canada. It gained the commitment of the major funders to coordinate funding to achieve short, medium, and long-term outcomes in alignment with industry’s priorities. The desired research outcomes proposed under the second Beef Science Cluster are directly aligned with those established under the National Beef Research Strategy.
While considering funding approval of research activities under the second Science Cluster, the BCRC’s staff and Council sought guidance and expertise from the industry’s leading research experts. A Science Advisory Panel appointed by the BCRC offers research expertise from across Canada in a range of research areas. Independent peer reviews were also solicited for each research proposal.
New research investments build on the success of the Beef Science Cluster under Growing Forward 2
BCRC Blog – January 28, 2013
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