The cost-benefit of using vaccines: bovine respiratory disease



Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) is one of the costliest health issues facing the beef industry today. While a lot of research on BRD has been focused at the feedlot stage, the disease is also the most common cause of death for nursing calves older than three weeks.  BRD can impact any producer, including those who retain ownership of their calves to background, feed, or finish cattle.

Research by USDA ARS Meat Animal Research Center that tracked the annual incidence of BRD in pre-weaned calves over a 20-year period found that the annual incidence varied from a low of 3% to a high of 24% with an overall annual average of 11%. On average, the mortality rate of calves suffering from pre-weaning BRD was 13%.

Several large studies have linked BRD to seasonal peaks. Nebraska researchers collected several years of data on 110,000 calves and found two seasonal peaks in the incidence of BRD. One peak occurs from birth through around 20 days of age, and another takes place when calves reach 70 to 100 days of age. Other studies have shown a similar pattern. The most common age group reported as having BRD were calves between one to 4 months of age.

Once calves are affected by BRD, there are both immediate and long-lasting effects on performance. Studies have shown that calves challenged by BRD could weigh up to 36 pounds less at weaning than their healthy herd mates (Wittum and Perino, 1995). Continue reading

Unintended Consequences

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

I once spent a summer working for canola breeders. Some used traditional selection, while others were experimenting with transgenics. One traditionalist was known to say “sticking a new gene into a plant and expecting it to grow better is like throwing a new gear into a watch and expecting it to keep better time. It’ll probably get worse”. This article isn’t about canola or genetics, but it is about time and unintended consequences. Specifically, it’s about the timing of the breeding and calving seasons.

Canada’s cow-calf sector has moved towards fewer, larger beef cow herds. Calving later, on pasture has been a widely adopted strategy allowing producers to expand their cow herds without a proportional increase in equipment, labor, and facilities. When John Basarab led Alberta’s Cow-Calf Audits in the late 1980’s and late 90’s, breeding often started in May and calving started in late February. In contrast, 70% of the producers responding to the 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey started breeding in June or July to calve in March or April.

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The Cost Benefit of Using Vaccines: BVD



Vaccination is a proven tool for disease prevention. Vaccination recommendations vary by region and by farm as the environment, production, and management practices can increase or decrease the amount of risk cattle are exposed to. Disease exposure occurs in numerous places including community pastures, fenceline contact with neighbouring cattle, auction markets, and breeding cattle, such as bulls, purchased from other herds. However, vaccinating breeding females for reproductive disease and calves for respiratory disease are recommended practices across Canada. A vaccination program should be developed in consultation with a veterinarian who can determine which ones are necessary for your area.

In western Canada, one in ten producers surveyed are not vaccinating their cows for infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) and bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVD) (Waldner et al., 2019) and more than a quarter of producers do not vaccinate cows for other reproductive diseases (Beef Cattle Research Council, 2019). One third of Ontario producers do not vaccinate their cows for BVD and far fewer vaccinate for other reproductive diseases. In Atlantic Canada, 27% of producers reported not administering general vaccinations. This leaves herds vulnerable. Continue reading

Registration Open for the 2019/2020 BCRC Webinar Series


Webinars for beef producers
This year’s webinar series will cover a range of topics from feed testing to external parasites and other practical, science-based information for Canadian beef producers.

Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_GuHDnU5NTU2EU2-uzDtp0Q 

You can register for as many (or all!) of the webinars you’re interested in at once. After you click the link above, be sure to scroll down to see and select for all eight (8).

See topics and descriptions below.

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Replacement heifers – Money, management, and momentum


Photo submitted by Brian Trueman

Do you raise your own heifers? Or do you prefer to purchase your replacements? Regardless of your choice, developing heifers costs money and requires careful management.

Ideally, replacement heifers will go on to become long-term producers in the herd sothoughtful selection is critical. “Each producer has different resources and goals when they make the decision of whether they want to buy or retain heifers,” said Kathy Larson, a University of Saskatchewan economist. “Part of that decision needs to involve cost of production,” she advised during a recent BCRC webinar.

Continue reading

On-Farm Antimicrobial Surveillance Moves a Step Closer

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

As long as cattle continue to get sick, cattle producers will need antimicrobials to help them recover. At the same time, it’s common to hear activists, regulators, consumers and/or retailers call for livestock producers to stop using antimicrobials altogether, reduce antimicrobial use, or demonstrate that antimicrobials are being used responsibly. Solid, reliable data demonstrating our industry’s antimicrobial use (AMU) practices and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) prevalence on an ongoing basis are key to maintaining consumer and public confidence in Canadian beef production practices.

The Public Health Agency of Canada monitors antimicrobial resistance in healthy beef cattle, pigs and poultry arriving at abattoirs as well as retail meat through the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS). CIPARS has also had on-farm programs to collect antimicrobial use (AMU) and resistance (AMR) data for poultry and grower-finisher swine for several years. Continue reading

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.

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Join Us Next Month in Calgary!

BCRC General Session – August 15th – 1:15 pm at the BMO Centre



Every time a beef producer sells an animal, they invest in research through a portion of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off. Producer dollars help to fund scientific studies and innovative developments that are advancing Canadian beef production and impacting farms and ranches across the country.

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is excited to invite you to join us at an upcoming general session for a clearer picture your Check-Off investment and highlights of applicable beef research and innovations you can use to help keep your operation ahead of the herd.

The BCRC general session is held in conjunction with the Canadian Beef Industry Conference (CBIC), however conference registration is not required to attend the BCRC general session. Continue reading

The Red Meat Allergy: A Canadian Perspective

This guest post is written by Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, a research scientist at AAFC Lethbridge focused on tick populations and arthropod vectors of livestock disease. The following is an updated version of an article we first published on the BCRC Blog in 2017.

Recently, a connection between the bite of the lone star tick and allergies to red meat products was established. The “red meat allergy” is often framed as an emerging and alarming public health issue. Although the allergy symptoms can be severe, the incidence is relatively low, even throughout the southeastern United States where the lone star tick is well established (meaning a presence of reproducing populations).

The red meat allergy was first identified in Australia with several hundred cases diagnosed since 1985, and was recognized in thousands of people in the southeastern United States over the last couple decades. This allergy also occurs in people from several other countries around the world. Based on reported cases, it appears that allergy to red meat in the USA is about as common as allergy to peanuts, occurring in only 0.1% of the population. Those who are affected can have very serious and even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions after eating red meat products.

The source of the red meat allergy was a mystery until 2007 when doctors realized that a large proportion of the people that were diagnosed also reported tick bites weeks or months prior to experiencing symptoms. Continue reading