5 tips for grazing corn this fall and winter

Corn grazing is becoming more popular across Canada because producers can grow more biomass on less land. If you are planning on grazing corn this winter, here are 5 tips to help you make the most of the corn grazing season:

Ease cattle into grazing corn
If this is the first time you are grazing corn, it may take some time for cattle to realize what they are supposed to do with the tall stalks. It is a good idea to slowly transition cattle from summer pasture to fall corn grazing. Regardless of how familiar they are with grazing, the rumen also takes some time to adapt to the new feed source. One way to do this is to provide access to only a couple days’ worth of feed and also supply cattle with an alternative feed source such as a bale of hay to help them through the transition period.

Limit cows to 3-4 days of feed
Inevitably when cattle are turned out, they will eat the best (more palatable) parts of the plant first, which is the cob. If cows Continue reading

Drought management strategies

Editor’s note: Due to dry conditions in many 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 this list. Continue reading

Producers share ideas for developing safe and relatively economic pastures with greater longevity

While the old nursery rhyme says Mary the contrary used several odd techniques to get her garden to grow, Canadian beef producers are relying more on new forage varieties, new forage blends and new management approaches to not only produce more grass, but also help to extend the grazing season.

Producers are looking for different things from forages — that includes varieties that come into production early and hold their quality later, varieties and species that tolerate drought, others that don’t mind wet feet, legumes that have high production but minimize the risk of bloat, and grasses, legumes and even annual crops with the versatility to be grazed, baled or silage — these are among the features being evaluated and incorporated into forage mixes across the country. Continue reading

How quickly do water systems pay for themselves? New calculator available

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

Getting the most out of your corn silage: Webinar March 28

Join this webinar to hear the latest recommendations on making and storing corn silage. The recommendations provided in this webinar will be from western Canadian research but tips will also be applicable to producers in Eastern Canada.

When
Wednesday, March 28 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 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here.

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?
If you plan to Continue reading

Pasture Blends

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Most forage seed companies offer a pasture blend. Some customize their blend to the customer’s situation, but others use a least-cost formulation to produce a more attractively priced blend. Ideally, the blend should contain grasses and legumes that grow well together, are well-adapted to the environment and soil type they will be seeded in, will tolerate grazing, and produce good animal performance. Seed companies often don’t have all the information they need to formulate these ideal blends. As one example, forage breeding plots are typically far too small to graze, so forage yield is evaluated using a plot harvester. This means that forage varieties are being selected for their ability to produce and recover from mechanical harvesting rather than grazing. Forage improvement programs that integrate the breeding, agronomics, and grazing management research programs to gather the data needed to develop effective pasture blends take a long time and are very costly.

To help address this issue, Continue reading

Growing forages for soil health: Webinar February 20

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

Producers are keen to promote soil health in their farmlands, but defining what that means and how to achieve it is not always easy. Join this webinar to learn more about what soil health means, the role of soil organic matter in advancing soil health, and the importance of perennial forage systems in improving health.

When
Tuesday, February 20 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 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here.

Continue reading

Maintaining Momentum

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

Canada’s pasture and rangelands have drier, colder, and shorter growing seasons than many other beef producing areas in the world. The forage varieties that perform best in Canada are generally the ones that have been bred, selected and developed to germinate, grow, survive and thrive here. Forage varieties developed in foreign countries are sometimes marketed in Canada, but they weren’t developed under our climate and may not perform as well as home-grown varieties.

A total of 144 new perennial forage cultivars (grasses and legumes) were developed in Canada and registered between 1932 and 2017. Although private or not-for-profit companies often sell these seeds, these companies rarely did the actual breeding and development work. Nearly all (98%) of these 144 cultivars were developed by public (government and university) breeding programs. It is critically important that universities and governments continue these breeding programs, because when a program stops it takes years to rebuild its momentum.

Here are a few examples. Continue reading

Understanding and managing forage diseases: Webinar December 12

Update: Missed the webinar? Find the recording and check for future webinars on our Webinars page: http://www.beefresearch.ca/resources/webinars.cfm

There are a number of pathogens that can result in diseases in forages which impact yield, quality, and profitability. This webinar will provide an overview of those pathogens as well as some management strategies to help prevent disease.

When
Tuesday, December 12 at 5:00 pm MT

  • 4:00pm in BC
  • 5:00pm in AB
  • 6:00pm in SK and MB
  • 7:00pm in ON and QC
  • 8:00pm in NS, NB and PEI 

Interested but aren’t available that evening?
Register anyway! This webinar will be recorded and posted online at a later date. All registrants will receive a link to the recording and additional learning resources. By attending the live event, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and ask questions too.

Register now:

Find and register for more BCRC webinars here.

Watching on a tablet or mobile device?
If you plan to join the webinar using your tablet or mobile device, you will need to download the appropriate receiver. We recommend that you join the webinar 15 minutes early Continue reading

Abnormal weather doesn’t grow average forage

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

Averages are useful statistics, but sometimes averages can be misleading. As the University of Saskatchewan’s late Iain Christison said, “the average human has one breast and one testicle”. Canada’s rainfall may be close to average this year – but much of the country is experiencing severe drought, and most of the rest is soaked. Either way, low yields, unharvestable or spoiled forage mean that winter feed supplies will be below average in many places, and nutritional value likely won’t be average, either.

For instance, drought-stricken pastures and forage crops have lower levels of carotene, which cattle need to produce vitamin A. A recent paper from Cheryl Waldner and Fabienne Uehlinger of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (Can. J. Anim. Sci. 97:65-82) looked at 150 beef cow-calf herds in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Calves born the spring following a drought had a much higher risk of vitamin A deficiency, and calves with severe vitamin A deficiency were nearly three times more likely to die than those with higher levels. Continue reading