Think you have a closed herd? Think again.

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Research and Production Manager with the Alberta Beef Producers.

 A surprising proportion of producers believe they run a closed herd.  The 2017 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey requested reasons why certain management practices were not employed on individual operations.  Out of the approximately 25% of respondents who did not vaccinate their cows and heifers against reproductive diseases such as IBR and BVD, over half of those reported that their reason for forgoing those vaccinations was because they had a closed herd.  Similarly, over 20% of respondents did not vaccinate their calves against respiratory disease (BRD), and 30% of those indicated having a closed herd was their main reason for not vaccinating.

This high rate of mistaken belief in having a closed herd is not just a Canadian phenomenon.  A 2019 UK survey of almost 1000 producers indicated that over half of those who stated they ran a closed herd had purchased cattle within the past two years.  According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) 2007-08 survey, over 88% of operations with 50 head or more brought new cattle onto their operations in the past three years. Continue reading

The Cost Benefit of Using Vaccines in Beef Cattle

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, fence line 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

Recommendations for Canadian Cattle Sales During COVID-19

The following list has been compiled to assist with guidance regarding COVID-19 and cattle sales.

These are recommendations that were made through consultation of the Public Health Agency of Canada website found here. This is not an exhaustive list and businesses should stay up to date on their government recommendations and regional requirements.

Download the PDF version here. 

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Can we Reduce Castration Pain in Week-Old Calves?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Calving season is upon some of you and just around the corner for many more. Half of those calves will be castrated. Research has shown that it’s best to castrate calves at the youngest practical age to minimize pain and speed recovery. The 2019 “Adoption Rates of Recommended Practices by Cow-Calf Operators in Canada” study indicated that over half of cow-calf producers in Ontario, nearly 70% in Atlantic Canada, and over 90% in Western Canada reported castrating calves before 3 months of age. Within the last decade, practical, affordable, effective pain control products like meloxicam have become available (i.e. Metacam, Rheumocam, Oral Meloxicam, Meloxidyl). These can help reduce the pain of knife and band castration in calves as young as 2 months of age. Up to a quarter of cow-calf producers in Western Canada and Ontario report using pain control, depending on when and how they castrate calves.

But research shows that week-old calves show fewer physiological or behavioural signs of castration pain than older calves. I used to think that very young calves were simply more pain tolerant. It’s probably more complicated than that. For one thing, a newborn calf has just spent 9 months connected to their mother’s life support system. Like a cold tractor, it can take some time for the newborn’s systems to “boot up,” stabilize, and become fully operational. The pain response may be part of that – the calf may feel pain, but not fully able to respond to it, sort of like a human patient with “locked-in” syndrome who’s paralyzed and unable to speak but still fully conscious. On top of that, birth is a physically taxing experience for both the cow and calf. The newborn calf may simply be unable to respond to the additional stress or pain of castration. Continue reading

Proper management key to minimize risk of calf scours

Get cow-calf pairs out onto clean ground, such as fresh pasture, and give them as much space as possible. That’s how Ryan McCarron sidestepped a calf scours outbreak on his eastern Nova Scotia farm in 2019.

 McCarron, who farms with family members at Antigonish, about 160 km northeast of Halifax, became alarmed when a few calves became sick and died early in the 2019 spring calving season.

“It was a frustrating situation,” says McCarron. “Calves were getting sick, we treated them but several still died. Something had to change.”

Necropsy examinations showed the dead calves had picked up a harmful strain of E. coli bacteria, likely from fecal contamination of the soil in the yard next to the barn, which led to the serious and fatal cases of scours. Continue reading

Prevent external parasites from bugging your cattle Webinar March 12, 2020



External parasites can reduce weight gains, cause losses in milk and meat production, produce general weakness, cause mange and severe dermatitis, and create sites for secondary invasion of disease organisms. This webinar will discuss methods on how to prevent and treat external parasites on cattle.



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

When
Thursday, March 12th at 7:00 pm MT

  • 6:00pm in BC
  • 7:00pm in AB and SK
  • 8:00pm in MB
  • 9:00pm in ON and QC
  • 10:00pm in NS, NB and PEI

Continue reading

Top tips for a smooth calving season



The most important day of a calf’s life is the first one. There are some key factors that play a role in whether or not a baby calf gets off to a good start and research has demonstrated that the first 24 hours of life are critical in order for a calf to survive to weaning and beyond.

Interventions – follow-up care is important

Dystocia, or calving complications, pose a health risk for both the newborn calf and the cow. While dystocia can be partially managed with careful breeding choices and culling practices, proper nutrition, and managing for a body condition score of 3 (on a scale of 1-5) before calving, difficult deliveries can still occur.

Every scenario is different, however once a water bag appears, a calf should hit the ground within one hour for cows, or up to one and a half hours for a first-calf heifer. If this doesn’t happen, intervention may be needed, especially if no progress has occurred for thirty minutes, the cow stops pushing, or there are other signs of trouble. If there is a problem, a water bag may not always appear, so be observant of other behaviours that signal labour, such as tail switching, restlessness, the appearance of membranes or discharge, or a kink in the cow’s tail.

Continue reading

Improving your vision for the 2020 production year: New tools for on-farm record keeping in cow-calf operations



Are you curious about which areas of your operation are excelling? Or which areas of your operation that might need some work?

Are you interested in record keeping but not sure where to start?

Successful farm management begins with accurate and up to date records. The process of record keeping allows the farm manager to collect and save data so it can be analyzed and used to make better decisions and turn information into actions.

It is important for producers to identify what information is needed to support you in making management decisions. While collecting, maintaining, and analyzing records requires an investment in time, the ability to make decisions based on a known history of your particular farm is valuable. Dr. Harlan Hughes’ analysis of North Dakota cow/calf operations showed that those actively using their own farm data tended to have lower unit costs of production per pound of calf weaned. The operations that were using their own data were also the most profitable over time. The more information producers gather on their operations, the more efficient the knowledge and management of your herd becomes.



Continue reading

Transportation Regulations are Changing

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


Photo Credit to Agriculture Agri-Food Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will start phasing in its enforcement of Canada’s revised livestock transportation regulations on February 20. One of the most significant changes for cattle transporters is a reduction in the maximum time in transit before cattle must be off-loaded for feed, water and rest. Currently, cattle can be transported for 48 hours before a mandatory five-hour feed, water and rest stop. There is one exception; if a truck is less than four hours from its final destination when it reaches the 48-hour mark, it can continue to its destination without a rest stop. On February 20, this changes to a maximum of 36 hours before an eight-hour feed, water and rest stop, with no four-hour grace period. This change will likely have the greatest impact on feeder cattle and truckers travelling from Western to Central Canada, and cattle travelling from Central to Western Canada for slaughter.

Continue reading

Buying Power: Bull Selection to Improve Your Bottom Line

If it hasn’t happened already, soon your mailboxes and inboxes will be filling up with catalogues for this year’s bull sales. How can you identify which bull is going to work best for your operation? Purchasing the best bull for your operation’s needs starts with good record keeping to identify your operation’s strengths and weaknesses. From there you can work to narrow down your search based on your breeding system, genetic goals and budget. The following tips can help guide you in the process of purchasing your next herd sire.

It’s not one size fits all when it comes to bull buying.

Breeding programs will be determined by operational goals and the management practices that fit those goals. A farm that auctions their calves at weaning may choose a crossbreeding program with high performance, while a farm that direct markets their beef may prefer the uniformity of a single breed.

There are many different types of bulls available, and effective sire selection requires an understanding of the available genetics as well as your own operation. Aiming for complementarity of the bull’s genetics to your current cow herd and fit with your operational goals will contribute to increased revenue and reduced costs. Continue reading