Reproductive Failure in the Beef Herd: Causes, Effects and When to Intervene – Webinar December 2nd



Reproductive failure can pose a significant threat for cow-calf operations, particularly when an issue affects a large portion of the cow herd such as early pregnancy loss. This panel of veterinarians will share case studies of reproductive wrecks on beef operations and how these operations overcame and solved the problem.


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When
Wednesday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm MT

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

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Do Cattle Bacteria Contribute to Antibiotic Resistance in Human Medicine?

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

E. coli live in the digestive tracts of warm-blooded animals and birds. Most are harmless, some are beneficial, and some (like E. coli O157:H7) can be very dangerous. E. coli are also involved in antibiotic resistance.

“Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase producing” (or ESBL) E. coli are a major concern in human medicine. These bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics used in both human and veterinary medicine. Ordinary E. coli can cause urinary tract or bloodstream infections in people. They’re usually quite easy to treat with antibiotics. But if ESBL E. coli are responsible, the infection can’t be easily treated with antibiotics, and the illness can be much worse or even fatal.

E. coli rarely causes disease in feedlot cattle. But ESBL E. coli are still a concern, because antibiotic resistance genes are often located on “mobile genetic elements” that bacteria can trade with each other, even with completely unrelated bacteria. So antibiotic resistant BRD bacteria like Mannheimia, Pasteurella or Histophilus can spread their antibiotic resistance genes to each other, or possibly to E. coli. That’s like a border collie developing horns after a day of herding Herefords. Continue reading

Beef Cattle Nutrition: New Topic Page



Through the action of a diverse microbial community in the rumen, cattle have a digestive system that allows them to digest roughage, like hay and grass, and concentrates such as barley grain or dry distillers’ grains. Feed costs, including both grazed and conserved feed, are the greatest expense associated with beef cattle operations. Since nutrition is often the most important factor influencing reproductive performance, managing feed resources at a reasonable cost to consistently achieve high reproductive rates will help ensure profitability for beef cattle operations.

Key Nutrients Required by Cattle

Cattle require energy, protein, water, vitamins and minerals in suitable amounts to provide adequate nutrition. Young, actively growing forages and legume blends can often meet the nutritional requirements for normal growth and maintenance of cattle herds. Mature pastures, crop residues, or other low-quality forages may have reduced nutritive value, requiring supplementation of protein, energy or additional vitamins and minerals to maintain optimal health. Certain nutrients are required in the daily ration, while others can be manufactured and stored in the body. Continue reading

Don’t be Lame – New Web Page with Resources for Preventing and Managing Lameness in Beef Cattle

Not all lameness is caused by foot rot. Getting a proper diagnosis is the key to determining the appropriate treatment and management for any lameness condition. Lameness can affect any type of cattle including feedlot animals, breeding bulls, range cows, or animals confined to a corral. It limits an animal’s interest in eating, drinking, or breeding resulting in lower weight gains and conception rates, making it an animal health and welfare concern, as well as a production and economic issue.

A 2019 study
reported that lameness is the leading cause for health treatments in breeding cows and bulls. However, diagnosing lameness isn’t always straightforward as the condition can be caused by multiple inter-related factors. Another recent feedlot study analysed health records from 28 different western Canadian feedlots over a ten-year period to determine common lameness conditions. Overall, lameness was diagnosed in 4.4% of steer and 4.7% of heifer placements. Comparing diagnoses by class of cattle, 4.9% of calves were diagnosed with lameness compared with 4.0% of yearlings. Of the lameness diagnoses, foot rot was most common at 74.5% of lameness cases, followed by joint infections at 16.1%, then lameness with no visible swelling at 6.1%, followed by lameness due to injury 3.1%. Continue reading

Prevent External Parasites from Sucking the Life Out of Your Herd

External parasites, such as lice, ticks and flies, live on and feed off their host animal. Parasites can cause stress and irritation, reduced weight gain, and production losses in beef cattle, and can also be a vector for diseases. They can pose a problem any time of year for beef producers, however, as winter approaches and cattle start to spend more time in close quarters, parasites such as lice can be a challenge.

Why does it seem like parasites persist in beef herds even after a control product has been applied? What is integrated pest management? What are practices that farmers can do to optimize control? Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Kateryn Rochon, PhD, from the University of Manitoba gave an overview of Canadian parasites, and addressed common concerns during a recent BCRC webinar. Continue reading

A New Approach to Cost of Production Benchmarking

This is Part Three of a three-part series (see Part One and Part Two).

Editor’s note: this article is also available in French. Download the translated version here. 

When getting a clear financial picture for your operation, basic record keeping often isn’t enough. That’s why it’s essential to know your cost of production.

While many aspects of the industry are uncertain, thankfully there is the opportunity to examine what can be, for the most part, controlled – your cost of production.  As a producer, the ability to measure and manage those components of your operation that are within your control is a powerful tool. Why not take advantage of that tool by signing up to participate in an upcoming focus group?

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) will develop benchmarks for specific production systems and ecoregions across the country. Scenarios will be developed for what future farms could look like utilizing the 5% Rule to identify where incremental improvements could be made around productivity, input costs, and output prices. Each production system will have its own set of limitations and opportunities where greater focus may be beneficial. Continue reading

Everything Old is New Again – Treating Chronic Mycoplasma

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

Cattle were ideally created (or evolved) to consume and digest high fiber diets. Whoever (or whatever) was responsible for designing the rumen so elegantly probably should have paid more attention to the respiratory tract.

The design of the bovine respiratory tract makes it easy for BRD bacteria like Mannheimia, Pasteurella, Histophilus and Mycoplasma to move deep into the lung and find places to hide and makes it hard for the animal’s immune system to counterattack them. The bovine lung is so susceptible to infection and damage that it has been used as an “animal model” of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans.

This is a problem because cattle need a lot of oxygen. Cattle need nearly three times as much oxygen as a similar-sized horse just to stay awake and lie around. But the horse has nearly three times more lung capacity than the steer. Lung damage is one of the reasons that BRD hits cattle so hard, so fast. Continue reading

Vaccination of the Beef Herd: New Topic Page

Vaccines stimulate the immune system of the animal to produce antibodies.  Antibodies (or immunoglobulins) are proteins created by cells in the blood or in various lymphoid tissues that can be found in the intestine or upper respiratory tract. These specific proteins help to destroy various infectious organisms that can cause disease. Cattle also produce antibodies when they are naturally exposed to infectious organisms.

Vaccines are certainly a primary component of our modern herd health programs, but it is important to remember that they rarely provide absolute protection and other management components such as biosecurity, nutrition and environmental management also play important roles in protecting the herd from infectious diseases.

When cattle are exposed to infectious pathogens, the immune system is stimulated to respond to these infections. It takes time for this complex machinery to respond to a pathogen when it is initially exposed to the antigen (either through vaccination or natural infection). As a result, antibodies aren’t created in time to prevent disease from occurring on initial exposure. However, the immune system is able to “learn” and develop a specific response to a pathogen (a disease-causing agent) such as a particular bacteria or virus or parasite. This is important because when an animal is exposed to the disease for a second time, the immune system has memory cells that are programmed to respond to antigens they have previously encountered. Continue reading

Calculating Net Returns from Preconditioning Programs

Low calf prices, low feed costs and good grass conditions make hardy arguments for retained ownership. Depending on the market in your area, it could make economic sense to hold on to calves a bit longer this year. The Beef Cattle Research Council’s Preconditioning Calculator is a decision-making tool designed to identify economic opportunities and risks from adding a preconditioning program to traditional management.

The BCRC preconditioning topic page provides an overview on the advantages of preconditioning for animal health. Preconditioned calves may return higher gross revenues because they sell at higher weights. They often have lower cost of gain at the feedlot, improved feed efficiency, require fewer treatments and have lower death loss; for these reasons, preconditioned calves may be sold with an added premium. These higher revenues may however come with added costs.

The disadvantages of preconditioning? It costs more to retain ownership, through added feed and labour. Greater input costs don’t necessarily mean margins will shrink though. The balance of net returns will depend on both the cost of retained ownership as well as the projected price at a later sale date. These are unique to each operation.

Deciding if preconditioning makes economic sense? That’s where the decision-making tool can help. The calculator provides a summary of estimated net returns and projected breakeven price premiums based on your costs for up to three different preconditioning programs. While the length of preconditioning programs can be adjusted in the calculator, typical time periods are 30, 45 or 60 days. The tool has a built-in database going back 10 years for price projection comparisons. Continue reading

Networks Make The Dream Work

This is Part Two of a three-part series (see Part One and Part Three).

Editor’s note: this article is also available in French. Download the translated version here. 

As the industry has been rocked by COVID-19, volatile market prices and uncertainty have occurred. There is an opportunity for producers to examine what they can control – their cost of production. During the boom years when prices are high it is easy for costs to get out of hand. You may be considering changes to your operation but are not sure where you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) will develop benchmarks for specific production systems and ecoregions across the country. Scenarios will be developed for what future farms could look like utilizing the 5% Rule to identify where incremental improvements could be made around productivity, input costs, and output prices. Each production system will have its own set of opportunities, limitations, and areas where greater focus may be beneficial. Consider cattle operations with different production systems:

  • A beef operation in the east is considering raising dairy-beef but is uncertain about the costs and management changes needed to succeed.
  • A small, land-locked operation may be utilizing multiple income streams from multiple different commodities to manage risk. The focus is on using each acre in different ways throughout the year to generate revenue.
  • A large, specialized operation may be focused on economies of scale in purchases and sales and efficiencies in labour productivity.

When looking at competitiveness and profitability, each region needs to evaluate the limitations and opportunities unique to them. Is land, labour, or capital the limitation? Will the biggest impact for the operation come from reducing input costs, or improving productivity, or increasing price? Continue reading