Retained ownership

This guest post written by Brian Perillat, Canfax Manager/Senior Analyst, originally appeared in the September 25, 2015 issue of the Canfax Weekly Market Outlook and Analysis (available to Canfax subscribers). It is reprinted with permission.

As we head into the fall run, producers are looking at different marketing scenarios for their calves. While many producers have already taken advantage of high prices by selling calves for forward delivery, a significant portion of the 2015 calf crop will be marketed over the next two months. While calf prices remain well above a year ago, they have been under pressure for most of September.

The reality has been that highly profitable feedlots and a lower Canadian dollar had propped up local calf prices while the US cash market and futures market have been projecting lower cattle prices for the past few months. While calf prices seasonally drop into October and November, retaining ownership decisions should not be about trying to recover losses or hoping for better prices, but deciding whether it is projected to be profitable to feed your calves versus selling them.

Retained ownership decisions need to be based on current calf prices, cost of gain, and Continue reading

Next time you process cattle, pull tail hairs

DNA Sampling and Application in the Cow Herd

This is a guest post written by Sean McGrath, a rancher and consultant from Vermilion, AB.



DNA is the genetic code that determines how an animal grows, performs and interacts with its environment. Every animal inherits DNA from its parents with ½ coming from the maternal side and ½ from the sire. The building blocks of DNA are four base pairs: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cystosine (C). DNA is arranged in long ‘double strings’ in which A and T are paired and C and G are paired. A ‘gene’ is an area of this double string that codes for a specific function in the animal. By substituting one or more base pairs in the gene (i.e.: replacing an AT pair with a GC pair) a different function may be expressed in the animal (i.e.: red coat colour vs. black).

Technology to examine DNA in cattle has been around for several years, however in the past it has been cost prohibitive. Newer technology called SNP (pronounced “snip”) has changed much of this and made DNA testing a viable option for beef producers, even at commercial industry levels. SNP technology looks for Continue reading

Vaccination: Can you afford not to?

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



Vaccinating your cattle is a lot like having car insurance – when you’ve been in an accident, you’re very glad you’ve got it. Similarly, if a vaccine-preventable disease shows up in your area, you will be very glad you vaccinated your herd.

No one vaccine program is perfect for all operations, but vaccination is a critical component of any herd health plan. Protocols must be matched to an operation’s specific needs. They are best developed in collaboration with your veterinarian, who will know which vaccines will provide the greatest benefit for your herd.

Sometimes you’ll hear Continue reading

Innovation and competitiveness at the House Agriculture Committee

This is a guest post by Ryder Lee, Manager of Federal and Provincial Relations at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.



On April 28 Andrea Brocklebank, Executive Director of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in Ottawa. The committee of Members of Parliament have dedicated a series of hearings to examining the issue of innovation and competitiveness in the Canadian agriculture and food sector.

Over the course of several weeks the committee will hear from many witnesses representing different parts of Canadian agriculture. These witnesses Continue reading

Cost of Production First Steps: Production Indicators

This is a guest post written by Kathy Larson, MSc, PAg, Beef Economist with the Western Beef Development Centre.

Last month’s announcement of the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program (WLPIP) is welcome news. This spring, cow-calf producers will have the opportunity to lock in prices for their 2014 calves. When deciding which level of coverage to take, it would be useful to know what price a producer needs to break-even. The break-even price on weaned calves is also known as the cow-calf unit cost of production. Continue reading

5 ways to prepare to meet future sustainable beef requirements

This is a guest post written by Fawn Jackson, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Manager of Environmental Affairs.

The market appears to be sending a strong signal that consumers want sustainable products, and furthermore, they want proof. Last week McDonalds announced a commitment to source verified sustainable beef by 2016. A&W currently claims their beef has been raised by producers at the leading edge of sustainable production practices and Walmart continually promises to deliver more sustainable agricultural products.

Beef producers in Canada and abroad are left wondering: Continue reading

Focus on productivity



This is a guest post by Canfax Research Services.

The feedlot and packing sectors have been very successful at driving productivity and efficiency gains through larger carcass weights, average daily gains, feed to gain ratios and yield in order to decrease per unit costs and maximize profits.

Are things really so different for the cow/calf sector?  Continue reading

Johne’s disease and the ethical dilemma

This article written by Dr. Steve Hendrick, from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Connection magazine and is reprinted with permission.

Ever wondered why some cows remain thin while the rest of your herd thrives? Although there are lots of possibilities for this, Johne’s disease is becoming more commonly recognized in Saskatchewan beef herds. Cows with Johne’s disease are typically in their prime (3 to 6 years of age) and often have evidence of diarrhea on their tail. What most producers don’t realize is that Continue reading

EPDs: What do all those numbers mean?

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

Bull buying season is upon us.  If your house is anything like my family’s, most available surfaces are now piled high with catalogues advertising the next great herdsire. There are many factors that play a role in choosing a new bull for your operation (visual observation, breed, pedigree, actual birth weight, residual feed intake (RFI), weaning weights, breeding soundness evaluation, etc.), but one tool that can aid in herdsire selection has led to a lot of confusion since its first use over 40 years ago. Let’s decipher this valuable tool so you can expertly evaluate potential herdsires as you flip through those sale catalogues. Continue reading

Shipping Cull Cows: Responsible Welfare Considerations

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers, in collaboration with Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director.

With cows and calves coming off pasture in the coming weeks, some of these cows will likely be going to market.  Producers are reminded to be very cautious when facing a temptation to market thin, weak, lame, or sick cows that are unfit for transport.

Some auction markets will refuse to accept cows that are unlikely to sell, and some sales yards and packing plants will bill producers who deliver cattle that are condemned.  Moreover, producers, cattle buyers and transporters have an ethical and legal obligation to ensure the well being of the cattle under their care. Continue reading