We often see headlines about how human lifestyle and dietary choices (particularly beef consumption) can impact environmental sustainability. These headlines are often about greenhouse gases, but water use has become a part of this conversation as well. Vilifying headlines and simple, partial arguments are interesting and emotional; that sells papers and gets clicks. Complex, science-based facts about the positive impacts cattle have on the environment and the need for both crops and cattle across the country’s diverse landscape are less exciting, but here they are:
Beef cattle use water
Make no mistake – it does take more water to produce a pound of uncooked, boneless beef (over 1,800 gallons/6814 liters) than to produce a pound of dry peas (178 gallons/674 liters), dry beans (488 gallons/1847 liters) or dry lentils (577 gallons/2184 liters), or any other protein crop, but this is only one of many pieces of information to consider. The pastures and feed crops that beef cattle eat account for nearly all (99%) of the water used in beef production.
Does that mean that the land used to raise cattle should be converted to crop production? Not necessarily. There are many reasons why not all land is suitable for cultivated agriculture and why raising beef plays an important role in sustainably feeding the population. Continue reading
Allowing cattle access to clean water can improve herd health, as well as increase weight gain and backfat. A 2005 study reported that calves whose dams drank from water troughs gained on average 0.09 lbs per day more than calves whose dams had direct access to the dugout. Because water and forage intake are closely related, as cows drink more water they also spend more time eating and therefore produce more milk for their calves. Calves with access to clean pumped water were on average 18 lbs heavier at weaning time. A separate study in 2002 found that calves, with dams drinking clean water, gained 9% more weight than calves Continue reading
In 2016, the Beef Cattle Research Council’s (BCRC’s) Science Director received 10 letters like this:
“Dear Dr. Bergen…. My name is Emma. I am in 6th grade at Rime Street Elementary. My class found out on vegsource.com that it takes 2,500 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef. Another site said 25,000 liters…. all these different answers are confusing. My social teacher also showed us a video named Cowspiracy, but it didn’t help. Do you have a dependable answer?”
Eleven-year-olds aren’t the only ones asking these questions. So are consumers, retailers, and others. When the facts aren’t available, exaggerated opinions often fill the gap. A quick google search provides more answers with less consistency. Numbers vary from 100,000 liters/kg (BioScience 47:97-106), 43,000 liters/kg (BioScience 54:909-918); 25,000 liters/kg (Cowspiracy), 16,975 liters/kg (waterfootprint.org) to 15,000 litres/kg (The Economist). A Canadian research team is providing the facts to help us answer these questions, and to help us know how to do better. Continue reading
December 14, 2017
Canada’s beef industry has dramatically reduced its water footprint over the past several decades, and that trend is expected to continue, a new study has found.
The amount of water required to produce one kilogram of Canadian beef has decreased by 17% from 1981 to 2011, due largely to enhanced efficiency in how feed crops for beef cattle are produced, as well as enhanced efficiency in raising beef cattle and producing more beef per animal.
These results are from the most comprehensive and sophisticated study ever done assessing the water footprint of Canadian beef production, conducted by researchers at the University of Manitoba and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Lethbridge. It involved extensive data integration, modelling, and assessment of numerous factors associated with the water footprint of Canadian beef over a 30-year period, using the data-rich principal census years of 1981 and 2011 as the reference. Continue reading
More than most livestock, beef cattle production takes place in the natural environment.
Those who live in rural areas and spend most of their time outdoors considering Mother Nature and managing their livestock and land as best they can understand that it’s common sense to protect the health of the land and water for themselves and their neighbours.
When enjoying peaceful moments watching cattle and wildlife on pasture, smelling rain or seeing plants change throughout the seasons, it’s difficult to understand why some people think that Canadian beef production is damaging the environment.
As a beef producer, what do you need to know about the environmental footprint of Canadian beef production? Continue reading
This year’s BCRC webinar topics include winter feeding, results of the latest National Beef Quality Audit, managing forages and other production practices.
View and register for our upcoming webinars below. To register for all of them at once, register for any one of them and select the option to be automatically registered for all remaining 2017-18 beef webinars.
We recommend registering for all webinars that you’re interested in regardless of whether you can attend during the date/time listed. By registering, you’ll receive reminders to attend the live event plus receive a link that allows you to watch the recording at any time. It’s no problem if you register and miss the live event, however joining live is recommended as it gives you the opportunity to interact and ask questions.
BCRC webinars are available and free of charge thanks to guest speakers who volunteer their time and expertise to support advancements in the Canadian beef industry, and through the Knowledge Dissemination and Technology Transfer project funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster.
Recordings of all of our past webinars can be found on our webinars page.
2017-18 BCRC Webinars:
Refining corn grazing recommendations – October 12, 2017, 7:00pm MT
Speaker: Bart Lardner, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at the Western Beef Development Centre
Thinking about turning your cattle out on corn? Want to be sure you are up to date with the latest corn grazing recommendations? Join us to Continue reading
This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Well-managed swath grazing has well-known economic benefits for producers. But research results from a study funded by the Beef Science Cluster showed that it can have environmental benefits as well. Dr. Vern Baron and coworkers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lacombe Research Station recently published Swath grazing triticale and corn compared to barley and a traditional winter feeding method in central Alberta (Canadian Journal of Plant Science 94:1125-1137) and Effect of winter feeding systems on farm greenhouse gas emissions (Agricultural Systems 148:28-37).
What they did: A five-year winter feeding study was conducted in central Alberta (2008-09 through 2012-13). Angus x Hereford and Red Angus x Charolais cows were fed barley silage, barley grain, barley straw and hay in confinement, or swath-grazed on triticale or corn for 120 days. Confined cows were Continue reading
Proposals are invited for the 2017-2018 Quebec-Ontario Cooperation for Agri-Food Research Competition.
Letter of Intent Submission deadline: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. EST
Research Priority Areas
This call for proposals is focused on climate change. Proposals are solicited that will generate new knowledge and/or technologies in the following areas:
- Research to evaluate climate change impact on soil health and develop best practices
- Research to determine climate change impacts on food processing and food safety including development of adaptation and mitigation strategies
Who May Apply
Universities and non-profit, non-governmental applied research centres are eligible to apply. Each application must be submitted jointly by a research institution based in Quebec and another based in Ontario.
Other public or private research institutions and organizations can contribute to the project as research team members or partners/co-funders. This includes colleges, government departments, industry associations and businesses.
How to Apply
The competition consists of a two-stage application process, and each project requires a co-lead from an Ontario and Quebec institution. The application form, as well as the competition guide with complete program and submission details, is available at: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/research/onqc_research/index.html
Due to the current drought conditions in several parts of the country, we’ve pulled this article from our archives. It was originally posted in July 2015.
For timely timely information on weather and climate relevant to the agricultural sector in Canada, visit Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Watch webpage.
Whether in the form of pasture, stored forage, or supplements, feed is the largest variable input cost in cow-calf operations. A big challenge is to feed the cow in a way that meets her current and future nutritional requirements for maintenance, lactation, maintaining a successful pregnancy, giving birth and getting rebred within 80-85 days of calving as cost effectively as possible. This challenge is obviously much greater during drought, when feed is scarce and expensive.
Aside from moisture, one thing that will help keep you and your cows from experiencing a wreck this summer is knowledge. We’ve pulled together a good list of resources that can help you and your herd get through the drought.
So pour yourself a coffee or an iced tea, and delve into the links below. After a few hours of reading, you’ll likely have a few new plans to keep your cows and grass in good shape, and to keep from shelling out more money for feed or vet bills than need be this year and down the road.
Let us know if the information you’re seeking isn’t here, or if we’re missing some valuable information you’ve found elsewhere so that we can add those links to Continue reading
Every time a beef producer in Canada markets an animal, he or she invests in research – through a portion of the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-off. Those producer dollars help fund scientific studies and innovative developments that are advancing Canadian beef production and impacting farms and ranches across the country.
What does that mean …for you, your herd and your industry?
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is excited to invite you to an upcoming presentation to get a clearer picture of beef research in Canada.
Join us Thursday, August 17 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta. The BCRC presentation will be held in the Palomino Room A-C from 1:30 – 4:30pm.
You’ll hear recent examples of progress made, discuss the objectives to be tackled next, meet the individuals leading the way, and take home new ideas to help keep your operation ahead of the herd. Top researchers will be in attendance to discuss Continue reading