The Canadian beef industry’s water footprint is shrinking

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

New research shows shrinking “water footprint” of Canadian beef production

NEWS RELEASE
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

New video: What beef producers need to know about environmental footprint

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

Registration open for 2017-18 BCRC webinars

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

Another Look at the Costs and Benefits of Swath Grazing

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.

06_fdg_IMG_4292Well-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

Attention researchers: Quebec-Ontario Cooperation for Agri-Food Research Competition

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

Drought Management Strategies

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

Take in the BCRC Presentation August 17th in Calgary

beef extension presentationEvery 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

Environmental Goods and Services: More Questions than Answers

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

11_cv_IMG_2961The beef industry takes pride in how forage, grazing and beef production benefit the environment. These environmental goods and services (EG&S) include carbon sequestration, plant and wildlife habitat, reduced soil erosion, watershed recharging, scenery, etc. While consumers pay for beef, the EG&S are free.

For instance, many ducks need grasslands and wetlands to nest and raise their young. Grasslands and wetlands also act like a sponge that absorbs excess moisture in wet years. A lot of grassland has been cultivated and/or wetlands drained to grow crops. This may have contributed to overland flooding and crop losses in recent wet years. If producers had been paid to preserve these grasslands and wetlands in recognition of the EG&S they provide (i.e. wildlife habitat and flood mitigation), would there have been fewer flood compensation payments? Continue reading

Producing more with less for the world market: Raise your beef IQ

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As the Earth’s population increases and middle income classes rise in several developing regions, so does the demand for high quality protein.  In 2015, 1.22 million tonnes (carcass weight) of Canadian beef was produced for the world. That number rose to approximately 1.3 million tonnes in 2016, and is forecast to grow.

With ongoing research and adoption of new technologies, Canadian beef producers can sustainably increase production and help meet the global demand.

A recent study found that Continue reading